Thursday, December 07, 2006, sweet trust. Thoughts about global outsourcing, and the micro-ISV

I've been so busy blogging to save America, that I haven't focused much on my recent social observations in other parts of my life. "Scott," you may ask, "tell us what you've been up to."

Thanks for asking.

I started a software company about a year ago, after quiting my day job. Whether I'll remain here or not still remains to be seen, but I'm having a good time.

I'm a product manager by trade, and I honed my collaboration skills at the world's largest software company. When Microsoft began outsourcing development jobs to the third world, the light clicked on: I can do this, I thought. So that's what I'm doing: I conceive software, and then I work with brilliant people in Russia and Ukraine who can build my ideas. They benefit because I'm paying them a very fair wage relative to their economies, and I benefit because now I can a) find development talent and b) afford it. In my local small-town Minnesota, I couldn't hire a developer even if I offered twice the going rate. But I can hire a brilliant mind in Ukraine for about 1/5th the cost, and he/she can live a good life in Ukraine.

I've been reading some of the posts and rants on the internet about how terrible it is that jobs are being outsourced. I read how poor the software quality is when one hires a programmer from the 2nd or 3rd world. That's not been my experience: outsourcing has allowed me to try to build a company, and has allowed me to hire my first U.S. employee (a sales directory). And the quality of the code and products have been superb.

Sure, if I was the American programmer who just got laid off, I would be singing a different tune. But I'm not: I'm the idea guy who doesn't have the technical skills. In today's world, I would rather be me, than the coder.

But outsourcing at the micro level, such as I am doing, only works when there is trust. Trust is the key. T-R-U-S-T. And Trust is something that is earned consistently, over weeks, months, and years. The programmers I work with have come to trust me, and I them, so that this arrangement works well. They know that if they additional hours are required, I will pay them. I know that if additional hours are required, they will work them. When we had trouble with a recent bank wire transfer, my Ukrainian programmer didn't freak out, withhold code and stop working -- he simply said, "hey, could you check that transfer? I think it might be stuck." He knows that I have a long term interest in him, and he trusts that I will pay him.

We have become mutually dependent upon each other. This American, that Russian and that Ukrainian. All working together. Trusting each other. Benefiting from each other's expertise. It works well for us, and the less government interference, the better.

You may call it global outsourcing, but I call it global collaboration. You will see it more and more. The fact that it works so well at the micro-level is truly astounding.

While my local school district is up in arms about the loss of engineering jobs, and saying that we need to improve our student's math scores and that we need more scientists, I must disagree. From where I'm sitting, here's what I see: We don't need more scientists, mathematicians or computer programmers. Why? Because those skills are already a commodity. Trust me: you do NOT want to compete against my man Sergei. I don't care how good your coding skills are, you will never be a better value to me than Sergei is right now. If I was a computer programmer today, I would go back to college to earn an MBA, or an MFA.

What is NOT a commodity in America today, is creativity.

America needs fewer specialists, and more liberal arts majors with "minors" in technology and science. There are so many pieces of technology laying around today, that we do not need more of it. We need more people who can assemble the pieces in ways that solve real world problems.

America needs more creative people, because creativity is an edge that we (speaking as an American) absolutely can not do without. Forcing our kids to learn advanced math and science at the expense of arts and literature, will doom America down the road. Let the rest of the world become the scientists, and let creative Americans hire them.

Yes, America needs more creativity, and trust. Because creativity can not flourish where there is not trust.

Let me conclude by observing thus: the War in Iraq is a perfect example of technology brought to bear, without creativity. Let us hope that, in this new direction that voters have steered America in the 2006 election, America will again become a country that the rest of the world (and indeed, Americans) can trust.

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