Sunday, July 03, 2005

      Profits, Not Jobs, on the Rebound in Silicon Valley

Jobs will continue to flow into countries like India and China.

I am currently reading the book
"The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman. What I have read so far points largely to the out flow of lower-level job opportunities to countries like India and China, where human resource cost is dramatically lower. I quote a passage from the book here: "Japanese firms can hire three Chinese software engineers for the price of one in Japan and still have change to pay a roomful of call center operators (at $90 a month starting salary)."

Well given the simple equation where profit = revenue - cost, it's quite a no-brainer to arrive at the conclusion that outsourcing to lower cost resources is the way to go. So where does that leave us?

My friend recently lamented about his job; He's in customer service, and his friends were insinuating that a career in customer service is not bright (at least in Singapore maybe). This seems to perturb him.

Ironically, in India today, it is the exact opposite. 600 job applications are received each day at a outsourcing call center. This call center performs out-sourced customer service for established American names like Dell, Microsoft, Intel. Young indian graduates flocked to take up a job in these call centers cause their monthly income is many times that of their parents retirement both add up. The job also allows them to work in the night (to suit daylight hours in America), and hence they can take up part-time studies in the day. It's shit job, some interviewed Indians said; but it pays well, and they can advance their studies at the same time, so what the hack.

The article
"Profits, Not Jobs, on the Rebound in Silicon Valley" is definitely no surprise to me then. It only serves to validate the observations that Thomas Friedman has so succinctly pointed out in his book.

Being an IT professional myself, this leaves me wondering where does this leave me. Also, more importantly, what does it take to ensure that as an IT professional, we can continue to stay relevant and continue to command a premium that our counterparts in India/China can't offer? Or more simplistically, how can I value-add?

The government has also done much in educating Singaporeans about these behemoth trends that cannot be ignored. We MUST move up the value-chain, they said. Sure, I think. So I will learn to design and architect software. Things that India/China software engineers cannot do; for now, that is... ... But what about 5-10 years from now. By then, the current pool of India/China software engineers would have learnt and experienced enough to venture up the value-chain themselves. Existing engineers would learn what it takes to design and architect software. So what then? Is there a next step up the chain that we can try to move ahead?

In a matter of time, what may happen is that the global playing field will be "leveled", and the world will no longer be one that is led by western powers. Due to advances in technology, the East will catch up with the West, forming a balance in the forces that driving the world today. Forces like technology, political, and economical powers will no longer be held sway by the West. Its a world where the "Ang Mo" is no longer deemed as being superior. Being a Singaporean, is it for the better or worse? Beats me, but I better find the way to up myself, before that happens to ensure that I am ahead of the rest


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