Not Prepared

There is a country, which I will allow to remain nameless, that receives a lot of “off-shoring” of software engineering from US companies. I teach a fair number of engineers from that country and, for whatever reason, I have to say they seem to be grossly under qualified. By and large, in the classroom they ask few questions — that could be a cultural thing, I admit — and in the labs they have more problems than others in following the detailed instructions — again, that could be a cultural issue.

I say “cultural issue” because I know, for example, that the Japanese educational system is quite different from that of the US. And I’ve learned that students from Japan almost never ask questions — because to do so in their educational system is taken to indicate they have not done their homework. It admits ignorance, so students trained to the Japanese tradition do not ask questions.

This other country about which I am writing, which is now obviously not Japan, may have something in their educational system or culture that leads to the poor performance of these students in our classes. Maybe there is something in their upbringing that discourages the asking of questions as with the Japanese. And perhaps they have learned a style of behavior that discourages, or makes unusually challenging, the following of written, detailed instructions. And it’s also quite likely that a language barrier also exists that makes it all the more difficult for them when taking a class written and spoken in English.

But regardless of the reasons, it is very clear to me as an instructor that, after class is finished, these individuals are not going to be able to use our product with much success.

That’s the down-side and, for the individual engineers, I feel sorry.

But it is also true that for US companies who “off-shore” to these same individuals, they are going to have to pay several times over for that work because, well, because it isn’t going to work and they’re going to have to pay to have it done again, and maybe again after that.

For that, I’m not sorry.

Many companies have learned that some things can be “off-shored” while other things cannot, or at least not without additional costs that remove any advantage of doing so. Those companies have learned that, for the highest quality in critical items, they should hire the best expertise they can get.

So on the other hand, I don’t feel bad that the area of expertise that I teach — which is often software used in the most stringent and critical of environments such as flying an aircraft with passengers on board or traveling between planets of our solar system — for that kind of expertise, I don’t particularly mind that companies are finding they must use US-based engineers.

I’m a US engineer and I’ve been out of work when it went “off-shore” in the first decade of 2000.

That work is coming back more and more, and I don’t mind it one bit that the companies have learned this “the hard way”.

You get what you pay for.

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