Career Opportunities
A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

Don't make outsourcing easy

March 26, 2004

Discuss High Tech Careers

The most dreaded word to high-tech workers today is outsourcing. Newspapers, magazines and television programs are filled with stories about high-tech jobs moving overseas, to India and other countries, while high-tech workers in the States remain unemployed. While the effects of outsourcing, both good and bad, are being debated every day, the very nature of your work, and the relative anonymity of high-tech workers, can make it easier to outsource your job. If you want to protect yourself from outsourcing, you need to make sure that management knows who you are, exactly what you do for the company – and how well you do it.

Still unknown

Even though computers have been in the workplace for more than 2 decades, it is a simple fact that management often has no idea exactly what high-tech workers do for their company and how they contribute to the bottom line. Worse still, in an effort to keep their jobs, high-tech workers often try to stay “beneath the radar” of management, figuring it is safer to “keep their head down” instead of risking getting them cut off.

This type of attitude has led them directly into the path of disaster, though. It is much easier to lay off, fire, or outsource a position if you have no understanding of what that person does or how it relates to the bottom line. As a vice-president, there is less stress involved in outsourcing “the IT department” than “Douglas, that great programmer who designed our latest product – or even John, that guy who saved my virus-ridden project file just on time for the presentation.” The desire of high-tech workers to stay outside the fray of corporate politics has contributed directly to the outsourcing trend. Sure, money concerns can drive outsourcing, but anonymity makes it easier to carry out.

In their face

Although no job is totally secure, if you want to protect your job from capricious outsourcing you have to stand up and promote yourself and your department. You have to make sure that management knows exactly what you are contributing and how. Even more, you have to do this in the face of disinterested, if not hostile, managers who may be actively trying to ignore these benefits in order to justify their own outsourcing decisions.

First, every departmental success story needs to be touted to everyone who will listen. If you have an internal IS department newsletter (and why don’t you?) make sure a copy ends up in the inbox of important executives. Make it easy for them to better understand your work in a “friction-less” way.

Make a business case for every project, every program, every network. You may know the benefit of these systems to the company, but if you can’t communicate it to management it is going to hurt you in the long run.

If you want management to understand exactly what goes into developing a new order entry system, post the project timeline, with all associated tasks, on a long wall outside your department. Make it easy for management to see the complexity of the project and how you are progressing through it. Take every opportunity to walk management past your “billboard”. Take every opportunity to explain how important this or that piece is to the whole and what the finished project will mean to the company.

If you are working in a customer service/support environment, start distributing transcripts from particularly difficult or special support calls to everyone. This is your chance to show exactly how you and your people directly affect the bottom line.

Make sure you include names on every piece of material you send up the line. Management needs to begin putting names to all those anonymous faces sitting out there in the bullpen answering the phone, writing the code, managing the network, etc.

Anonymity in high-tech work has never served anyone, but today it can easily be a career-ending mistake. If you want to do something to postpone, deflect or dissuade your company from outsourcing, you have to stand up and promote the work you do. It may not be easy to justify your work every single day, but if you don’t do it, you may not have any work to justify at all. Don’t sit still and let the outsourcing steamroller damage your high-tech career. Through simple promotion and communication, you might not prevent outsourcing, but you certainly don’t want to ignore it and make it even easier for management to send your job elsewhere.

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