The trend of moving information technology (IT) jobs to low-wage foreign
countries is expected to grow dramatically in the next few years.
This trend is called offshoring. It means that instead of competing with
other job seekers in your own country, you will compete with skilled workers
from all over the world. And many of them are able to work for a much lower
salary than you.
"In today's global economy, jobs are located in the area of the world where
they can be performed the most effectively and at the lowest cost," says Barry
Gander. He is the executive director of a technology alliance.
"This is true in many fields; for example, manufacturing. But it is also
true in IT."
Say you wanted to get your Nintendo Wii repaired. There is a company down
the street who can fix it for $50. There is another company across town willing
to do the same job for $10. Who would you rather hire? If you were interested
in saving money, you would give the job to the company across town.
IT companies are making the same decisions. They're looking all around
the world for the best ways to save money on labor.
Many of these organizations are building centers of their own in lower
cost locations, such as India or China. Employees there take over certain
jobs and do them for a lot less money than a North American worker.
Another trend affecting IT jobs is outsourcing. Outsourcing is not the
same as offshoring, but they are often confused.
Outsourcing is what you do. It's when you give work to a supplier outside
your own organization and then buy the product or process from that supplier.
Offshore is how and where services are delivered. When organizations offshore,
they set up offices in different places to save money.
Not all IT jobs can be done from a distance.
"The IT jobs that should be performed in [North America] are those that
need to be close to the business to be effective; for example, defining the
architecture or business requirements for a new piece of software," says Gander.
"This is because to be effective, the people in these jobs need to have
frequent, detailed interactions with the business people located in North
"Jobs that can be performed overseas are those that are more generic or
independent; for example, converting a piece of software from one computer
language to another," he explains.
"Here, the need for interaction is less, and the economies of doing the
work offshore make this a good option."
Although some Canadian jobs are being sent to overseas, low-wage locations,
Canada itself is a lower wage location for some American jobs.
"While Canadian costs are not as low as places like India, there are many
advantages for U.S. companies who send their IT work to Canada. The cultures
are similar, we are in the same time zones, we are politically stable and
we are easier to get to. Canada also has a wealth of highly skilled and knowledgeable
The fast-paced nature of a career in IT makes it a career for those who
"Change will be a career-long theme for anyone in IT," says Gander.
"IT professionals must constantly be aware of the direction the industry
is taking and the new technologies that will be the mainstay of the next generation.
They must continue to invest in themselves through training programs and
by seeking out the new and challenging opportunities."
Skills are not something that you can learn once and forget about. You
need to keep learning to be an in-demand worker.
"Skilled workers are absolutely essential," says Keith W. Fiveson. He
is the managing consultant of IT Enabled Services Alliance (ITESA) in New
"Individuals should have several skills to compete, in areas like biotechnology,
logistics, medical sciences and so on."
Teams based all around the world are delivering IT services.
"To work well in this environment, people will need to be able to work
with different cultures, appreciate different decision-making styles, and
learn to leverage diversity," says Darren Meister. He is the author of a report
If you're interested in pursuing an IT job, plan for the realities of offshore
competition. Make yourself valuable to your company on home soil.
"IT professionals are increasingly developing a 'double major' approach.
That is, [they are] building expertise in both a technology area and a business
area," says Gander.
"IT professionals must no longer be pure technologists. And they can no
longer be business generalists. They must cultivate their knowledge of a
specific business area with the same intensity they apply to their technical
Meister recommends reading the general business press. Looking for factors
that will affect job prospects.
"Stay in tune with which industries are growing and which are shrinking.
Watch for companies that are being celebrated for their use of IT, then think
how others like them could apply similar technologies," says Robert W. Scott.
He co-authored the report with Meister.
In the end, it is in your hands to find a way to succeed.
"Seek out opportunities to learn about the businesses you serve and new
technologies, and remember that you are competing in a global marketplace,"
"If you are not the best you can be, it's likely that someone, somewhere
in the world will be better."
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