H-1B Incompetence

By John Miano, March 24, 2015

On my last project before law school, we had an H-1B database administrative, Uma. Uma did not know the first thing about databases and struggled to learn through books on the job. Sadly, she had no real computer talent and would never become very good in the field.

So why was Uma on the project?

The company put in place a policy of only allowing contract workers from H-1B bodyshops to save them about $10 an hour.

The project manager was in the position of either taking Uma or no one -- which would have been the better choice. While the project manager is tearing his hair out over not being able to get qualified people, the Harvard MBAs in finance are boasting to the boss how they think they are saving money by using H-1B workers.

Many people are unable to understand why companies clamor for more H-1B workers when these folks are so inept. For example, recently Rush Limbaugh was incredulous when his caller explained this.

It is easy to explain why H-1B workers are so incompetent.

Assume for the moment you are doing the hiring for a programming job. You have two candidates that both have 10 years of experience. One is a computer science graduate and the other is a history major. Which one is most likely to be the better programmer?

Easy! The history major. The only reason a history major would stay in programming for 10 years is that she is pretty good at it. She probably did a little programming on the side, discovered her talent, and moved into the job market.

If a computer science major cannot program, what else is he going to do?

Collectively, computer science (and related) majors make the worst programmers.

If you look at the incentives, the reason for H-1B incompetence is obvious: We have told the world “Become a programmer and you can come to the United States.” Thus, the H-1B program attracts people with no computer talent who persist because of the immigration opportunities.

Which gets us back to coverage of the hearing. The Indian trade group NASSCOM is in defense panic mode now that Palmer has drawn attention to the industry’s collective incompetence.

I especially like this headline: "Nasscom rubbishes Jack B Palmer's charges of poor skillset of H-1B visa holders".

The reality here is that Southern California Edison, Northeast Utilities, Cargill, Walt Disney World, and all the others are not going to save a dime hiring incompetent Indian offshoring firms.

Sadly, the incompetent CEOs responsible for these decisions to offshore are going to collect quick bonuses and be out the door before disaster strikes.

Customers of SCE and Northeast Utilities (now Eversouce Energy) might now want to consider buying that backup generator.

The reason the incompetence Jay Palmer describes is not as well known as it should be is that there is no money to be earned from that message. There is money to be made from outsourcing management consulting. There is money to be made from holding outsourcing conferences. But there is no need to hire a "why you shouldn't outsource" consultant.

Few people remember the two companies that launched the outsourcing wave, companies that the experts held out as the model for other companies to follow. They were Enron and Kodak - the former no longer exists, while the latter emerged from bankruptcy two years ago a shadow of its former self.