A Day in the Life

A day in my life. Thoughts on leadership, management, startups, technology, software, concurrent development, etc... Basically the stuff I think about from 10am to 6pm.


Software: Visa Increase Rejected

As you have probably been reading in several magazines, Congress has voted against increasing the number of high-tech Visa’s. “Plan to add high-tech visas dies in Congress for 2005”. I have to comment on this because this has been a sore point for me for several years now.

First my reference points:
  1. I had a very hard time when the bubble burst finding work (fact). I was often interviewed by people who didn’t have a firm grasp of how to build commercial quality products (opinion). And didn’t have the skills to interview a high tech candidate (opinion).
  2. I’ve worked with Visa holders who were technically amazing (fact).
  3. I’ve worked with Visa holders who were technically incompetent (fact).
  4. I just recommended a test engineer who I think might be a Visa holder. But she is also the best test engineer I have ever worked with (fact).
On one hand I want to say that we should hire US citizens before bringing in foreign workers. Having been unemployed for so long I was really...angry about the number of rejections I got. I suppose I thought that having contributed to the successful delivery of over 13 commercial grade products I wouldn’t have trouble finding work. I was angry at the rejections and in particular I was angry at the engineers who interviewed me for which English was obviously a second language. To me they represented the Visa holders that had a job that should have been mine.

On the other hand, I got a job working closely with an extremely competent engineer who is a Visa holder. He is very good and worth several engineers because he is so good. I certainly enjoyed working with him and I hope to work with him again someday. This forced me to step outside my anger and frustration and try to see what is really going on.

I think that US companies are trying to cut costs where ever they can. Good for them. But many of them opt to cut salaries instead of actually fixing internal process, planning, and strategic problems. Unfortunately for me those cost cutting efforts broadsided me. Yea, I took it personally. I’ve often been the top dog on the software development team and my ego had a very hard time with the rejections. Especially from the folks who told me that I wasn’t strong technically. Arghhhhh! I wouldn’t mind the number of Visa’s increasing if I knew for a fact that the folks that were being brought in were:

  1. Being paid what they are worth. (Competitively being paid)
  2. Good at their jobs and not just a body. (I.e. if you’re going to take a job I could do, you better be better than me!)
I suspect that if US companies had to pay the Visa holders their real market value, then they would be more selective in their hiring process. If they couldn’t play on the Visa holder’s desires to stay in America. Because let’s face it, there is a very large pool of Visa holders that are being exploited. The Visa holders need a company to sponsor them and quite frankly if the Visa holder is such a better candidate than an US citizen then the sponsorship should be absorbed by the company. I think there are companies who justify the lower wages by talking about the sponsorship fees and because they know that the Visa holders can’t or won't fight back.

Joel Spolksy’s article “Hitting the High Notes” is a great article that talks about how much more valuable a great programmer is to a mediocre programmer. Uncommon common sense. If I knew that the majority of the Visa holders with jobs Americans could do were great, then I would say, “Bring them on!” But I’m pretty sure they aren’t. I’ve seen too many companies that think engineers are like cogs and can be easily replaced. I’ve worked with some incredible engineers and they are NEVER easily replaced. I also think that few companies really measure how much their software development costs in relationship to the quality and productivity of each worker. So few companies really know how much value-add a great engineer brings.

In conclusion...American companies should stop trying to patch a sinking boat with exploited foreign workers and start paying attention to the money they waste by poor planning and bad processes. And since I’m sure that that won’t happen, it’s at least nice to see Congress do something that makes it harder for American companies to screw American workers and exploit foreign ones.


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