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How to spot a bad company ...

In another thread, I posted a link to the Programmers Guild, which has this article on how to spot a bad company:

http://www.programmersguild.org/Guild/howto.htm

It includes things like: the programmers work in open plan while the managers shun the communication benefits of open plan and have offices.

Also, interesting quote on Tom De Marco's site (referenced from Joel's front page):

http://www.cutter.com/consortium/consultants/tdbio.html

...Companies that are stuck on the idea that, "Well, a software person really shouldn't cost as much as a young lawyer for the corporate council's office," are simply not getting the people they need and ... they're just not able to hire.

Hugh Wells
Thursday, May 02, 2002

ask what is percentage of H1's working in company if it is high ("high" is different in different areas of country) it means everyone who could leave has already left.

Daniel Shchyokin
Thursday, May 02, 2002

Or ask how many H1's are working in the company to determine whether it puts its value in finding the right workers for the job, or in "Rah Rah Buy American" patriotism.

Nationality of workers is as much a non-starter as "gender balance" or "ethnic balance" or "average height" of workers.

G. Groat
Thursday, May 02, 2002

>>>"Nationality of workers is as much a non-starter as "gender balance" or "ethnic balance" or "average height" of workers. "<<<

It is interesting that Tom seems to think that age balance could be a problem and that younger workers might be biased against working with older workers.

I wonder when this was written.  If there was a date on it I missed it.  That shortage he is talking about seems to have pretty much vanished.

mackinac
Thursday, May 02, 2002

G. Groat-
I was not talking about nationality, I was talking about the fact that it is much much harder for an H1 to leave a job and remain in the country/find another job, than it is for a non-H1. It is a fact that because of this most H1's will put up with a lot more bullshit/less pay than US workers. Thus if H1's (who are basically like indentured servants under US Law ) are the only people left at a company's engineering department, it means everyone that had more freedom to leave already has!

Daniel Shchyokin
Thursday, May 02, 2002

I think the Guilde article is more joke than fact.

James Ladd
Thursday, May 02, 2002

G Groat, H1Bs was not the main interest in the Programmers Guild piece, as far as I'm concerned. It was the other pointers to poor management.

However, I have to say that H1Bs is not a race or ethnic issue at all. It's about a profession being systematically screwed. There's ample evidence that these people are underpaid and that the skill shortage campaign was about not paying higher salaries to developers.

Read Matloff's description of the orchestrated PR campaign,

http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/itaa.others.html

and his testimony to Congress:

http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/itaa.real.html

Hugh Wells
Thursday, May 02, 2002

Have you ever seen 2 items for sale, and picked the cheaper one?  (Like when buying a can of beans, or getting your carpets cleaned.)  If you have EVER choosen an item based on lower cost, then you are no different than the firms you disparage.

I have no facts,  but I think hiring cheaper labor to cut costs has been in practice since building of the Pyramids. 

It's called running a business. 
Profit = revenue - expenses. 

American firms have cut costs since before you were born.  For example, they exported most manual labor manufacturing tasks long ago. 

Cost-cutting is considered "screwing" when *you're* the one getting screwed.  But it's all good and well when it results in you getting a lower price for an item.

Bella
Friday, May 03, 2002

Bella,

the issue is about the screwing of the H1B foreigners.  Read Daniel Shchyokin's earlier post on how they're treated like indentured servants.

Companies like Intel push for more VISAS, not more rights.

Kenny Bloom
Friday, May 03, 2002

Bella, you are correct. However this type of "cost management" disproportionately affects software developers.

We don't see calls to import more lawyers because their fees are too high. Or more MBAs.

What's more, this cost cutting - hiring of cheaper H1Bs - delivers bonuses to the managers and shareholders who do it. That is, management does not cut the costs of their own salary, and indeed, no-one would expect them to.

But most discussion on this subject assumes that what's good for big business is good for employees too. It's not always. Other professions - older, smarter, know this. They fight for rights. For some reason, the software profession doesn't have the same consciousness about this.

Look at the Screen Actors Guild at the moment. Concerned that films in Australia and elsewhere will undercut pay rates - as they will - they require that studios pay US rates.

Hugh Wells
Friday, May 03, 2002

Acouple of issues:

1. I am not against the H1 program, specifically because If companies do not control costs here the jobs will be moved overseas entirely (as Sun recently did with the teams that devlop and maintain the net,io,and lang packages) so in a way H1's are a good thing WHEN WE DONT HAVE A BALANCE BETWEEN EMPLOYER LABOR DEMANDS AND AVAILABLE EMPLOYEES. Right now there a plenty of good candidates, (including H1's and FOrmer H1's) on the market right here in the US.

Why don't we, like most countries, tie H1 visas granted to the unemployment rate in tech?

2. (for bellas benefit) I am not against competition as long as it even resembles fairness, if H1's are brought into the country do not make them slaves: give them
1) full power to negotiate with employers, by being allowed to stay in the country even if the choose to quit their jobs
2) Give them all the benefits which their taxes pay for (enemployment, social security, welfare ...)

the truth is that many companies are reluctant to ship development overseas because to really make it work management has to have their stuff together, so they need slaves here!

3) While it is ok for companies to cut costs I do no not believe it is ok for the government to help companies manipulate costs. Why is it for instance that we are helping farmers with an additional 70 Billion Dollars (some of which comes from our taxes) while taking away jobs from developers. are we less "worthy" than farmers?

Daniel Shchyokin
Friday, May 03, 2002

In general, I agree with Bella's comments about H-1B's. The myopic view is that foreign workers 'steal' the jobs of U.S. workers.  The part that is lost is that a lot of immigrants help create jobs for U.S. citizens.  Many Silicon Valley start-ups were headed by immigrants from India and China.

Additionally, many foreign students are more likely to pursue doctorates in high tech disciplines, and there is a strong correlation between Ph.D. levels and economic growth.

I do think that the governments of India and China should be concerned, though. Essentially, the U.S. is able to skim off some of the top talent from these countries, which must have a negative impact on their long term economic growth.

That said, however, I do become concerned when I read articles such as this ... http://www.washingtontechnology.com/news/16_23/federal/17899-1.html .  An excerpt from the article reads:

> "The Bush administration wants to end a grant program aimed at training U.S. high-tech workers, and instead is proposing that in fiscal 2003, the program’s funds be redirected to help foreign workers gain permanent employment status.

Administration officials say the H-1B Training Grant Program, which is funded by the $1,000 fee employers pay for each H-1B visa, does not fulfill its goal of training U.S. workers to fill high-skill jobs now held by foreign workers on those visas. " <

Bringing in foreign workers should not be made a priority over investing in the education of our own citizens.

Nick Hebb
Friday, May 03, 2002

On the topic of H1Bs, I had a strange experience last week. A Chinese born American citizen asked me why I was pursuing my MS-CIS, when all the jobs are being filled by foriegners.

By issuing all these H1Bs, the US government is actually dis-incenting technical education.

I may consider law. I think you need to be a citizen to join the bar. These guys make the laws, and aren't about to legislate themselves out of a job.

Does anyone know if H1Bs pay federal income taxes?

Eriday
Monday, May 06, 2002

H1B's pay ALL taxes including social security and unemployment insurance!
Also, the H1B thing is overblown since at any one time there are only roughly 500K H1's in the US (after 2-3 years they get a greencard, and are amancipated) also the number is actually less than that because some go home in less than two years, and not all of them work in IT

Daniel Shchyokin
Monday, May 06, 2002

He should have been asking why you were pursuing your MS-CIS because it is a waste of time, effort, and money, but that's a different story. Also, there are plenty of lawyers who only make $40K a year...

the whole H1-B "controversy" is embarrassing. Most H1-Bs are doing work that people aren't qualified to do, or don't want to do. Or both. Very few american engineering phds want to work at intel, for example.

H1-B
Monday, May 06, 2002

"the whole H1-B "controversy" is embarrassing. Most H1-Bs are doing work that people aren't qualified to do, or don't want to do. Or both."

NOT TRUE, I have worked with too many unqualified H1's to  agree (Personally I found the mix qualified/unqualified about the same for H1s and none H1's). We are not nearly rigourous enough in checking the credentials of our "Better Qualified H1's" both in experience and in education.

You are right about intel, oracle etc ... competence is not as important to them as servility (and the restrictions of H1 visas do help to insure that) the real question is should a free country be doing this

Daniel Shchyokin
Monday, May 06, 2002

Re-read what I pointed out. Most H1-Bs are:

1. doing work most people don't want - i.e. crappy $20/hr visual basic jobs with long hours and shitty work conditions

2. doing work that most poeple aren't qualified for - i.e. russian math PhD writing hairy numerical flow simulation app

3. doing work people don't want, and aren't qualified for - designing chips at intel, hardcore database internals

I'm guessing your bad experience with H1-Bs was because you were competing for a crummy visual basic job.  I haven't met too many brainiacs with the research gigs complaining that they got edged out by an indian...some stuff is just so hard, there aren't too many people doing it...

Certainly indentured servitude in 2002 is distasteful, but forced labor and indentured servitude is what built america in the first place...

H1-B
Monday, May 06, 2002

"I'm guessing your bad experience with H1-Bs was because you were competing for a crummy visual basic job. I haven't met too many brainiacs with the research gigs complaining that they got edged out by an indian...some stuff is just so hard, there aren't too many people doing it..."


Nope never was edged out, ususally have to turn down work, though not so much anymore (though still employed) ... and I AM NOT AGAINST H1B's. Actually rereading your post, I basically agree with you ... about no one else wanting the job, see my original post,

As for qualification thing, all I am saying is, in my experience, H1B's are incompetent at about the same rate as non-H1B's ... people are not smarter, or better with computers. just because they came from Russia (like me) or India, the major difference is that they are generally willing to put up with more BS (see original post)

Daniel Shchyokin
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Nick Hebb, it's not true that most H1B's pursue higher degrees. That is one of the myths that has been deliberately fed into the media by the PR campaign. Most H1B's are average. There is evidence some are not even average.

I became interested in this area after working with a H1B who had NEVER used the tool in which he was supposed to be an expert.

Again, read Matloff:
http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/itaa.real.html

To H1B, your point about doing crummy jobs is exactly the point. It's great for large employers if they can find someone to work for $20 per hour. Not so great for locals who might have invested a lot of time and money in their career.

Hugh Wells
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

>Nick Hebb, it's not true that most H1B's pursue higher degrees.

Hugh, if you re-read it, what I said in that line was "foreign students".  I was not referring specifically to H-1B's in that line.  And I have read (and seen first hand) that PhD programs are disportionately filled with foreign students.

nick
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Nick, you used foreign after talking about H1-B's, without making a clear distinction.

There is no dispute that foreign students do lots of higher degrees. They are not the issue here; it is the systematic importing of people on H1-B visas as part of an industry campaign to depress wages.

Hugh Wells
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

In response to Hugh, Matloff's article is a straw man.

Someone who has spent considerable time and effort developing career skills should never be in a position where they are competing with an H1-B visa holder for a crummy coding job.

Certainly, age discrimination is rampant. But the reality is, most programming work requires about 1-2 years of experience to do adequately. Someone who has been programming C for 25 years might think he's better than someone who has only been doing it for 2.5 years, but I'm betting that either one can finish any given task in about the same amount of time.  Certainly experience counts for a lot when it comes to overall project management, but it does not count for much when it comes to coding.

H1-B
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Hugh, you're right. I didn't make a very clear distinction. What I was really trying to address was the more general "them thar fer'ners is stealing our jobs" issue.

Talented or not, exploited or not, H-1B's are brought in by companies to help fuel economic growth.  And they do.  So the argument that H-1B's and other immigrants have flooded the job market can be countered by pointing out that they have also helped stimulate the economy, leading to job growth.

So, when the link listed a lot of H-1B employees among the criteria for how to spot a bad company, I had to call b*llsh*t.

Last week, I saw a listing of the top 10 H-1B employers in the US (sorry, no link), and most of the companies on that list are considered pretty good places to work.

Nick Hebb
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Re: 25 years vs. 2.5 years

The difference between 25 years experience and 2.5 years experience, is that the programmer with more experience probably knows another way to solve the problem that doesn't need as much code to be written.  Which means the programmer with more experience ends up costing less, even though for some tasks he/she will write the same amount of code, in the same amount of time than his/her junior counterpart.  The person with 2.5 years experience will often not know of the shortcut, or even consider the possibility of solving the problem without programming.

When I interview a developer, I want to know if he or she can solve problems *without* writing code.  Writing code *costs* money.  Solving problems helps *make* money.

In my experience, more experienced developers are more likely to understand this.  It's not an age thing, mind you, it's more based on career length, assuming that the "smart" criterion is also met.  :)

Phillip J. Eby
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Question Nick, top 10 by amount or top 10 by percentage?

Daniel Shchyokin
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Also, Nick I did not say "a lot of", I said mostly (as in 80+%)
And I don't think you really can contradict this, since
1)H1's (and this is not a euphimism for foreigners, I mean actual H1's), but since you called Bullshit Nick, how would you explain a company where lets say 90% of the developers are H1's


a)That H1's + you and Joel make up the pool of the 10% of the most qualified developers in America, and that these companies managed to attract them

b)That this is random chance

c)That this is discriminiation

d)That management is so inept/arrogant/bloated that the only people who will work for them are there because they dont have a real choice?

which is the simplest most likely explanation?

p.s. I agree that H1's fuel economic growth, because eventually they become free, and Smart FREE people do tend to fuel exonomic growth!

Daniel Shchyokin
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

In fact I am hoping to fuel some economic growth with a few former H1's myself!

Daniel Shchyokin
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

H1-B, I don't think you're a H1-B at all. Your messages sound like something a PR shill would say for ITAA. Are you really a PR monitoring this discussion group? (Scary thought.)

Hugh Wells
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

I just thought of something else thats Intersting regarding "competing for a crummy VB job" if a VB job is so crummy, why do you need an MSCS from a foreign country to do it?

Daniel Shchyokin
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Hugh, you caught me, I'm not really an H1-B. (nor am I a "PR Shill")

I'm just a programmer. However, I will say that:

1) Most programming jobs suck
2) Most programmers suck (regardless of visa status)

I'm not so concerned about crappy H1-B's stealing away crappy programming jobs.  Typically "senior architect" positions with good companies are not being filled by talentless H1-B visa holders. 
In response to Philip, I do agree with you that experience has some merit. I'm just saying that _most_ programming jobs are very rudimentary and having 25 years of experience instead of 2.5 years of experience is not going to speed up the process of writing a bunch of nested if statements.

In fact, I have quite a bit of experience and am probably LESS productive than the average college grad, if I'm in the position where I have to write some easy code. I tend to be distracted by ANYTHING which could possibly be construed as more interesting than the task at hand. This would include random bboard ranting, my coffee cup, the sun, etc...

H1-B
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

--I just thought of something else thats Intersting regarding "competing for a crummy VB job" if a VB job is so crummy, why do you need an MSCS from a foreign country to do it? --

Pretending to be a cluless HR drone for a moment, a MSCS from a foreign country who will work for $20/hr does seem like a far better value than a US high school graduate with an MCSE who costs $80/hr.

H1-B
Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Hugh and Daniel - OK, so maybe I am full of shit and argued myself into a corner based on opinion and not on fact. But I'm a big boy, so I Googled around a bit and got some facts.

Salon's got a good article showing the other side of the coin ...
http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/10/19/matloff/index.html

And all the H-1B stats, abuses, etc. can be found at ...

http://www.zazona.com/ShameH1B/

Nick Hebb
Wednesday, May 08, 2002

H1-B, Why are you assuming the HS student wants 80/hr, but once again you are arguing for my case not against.

A company woth working at Will not have Cluless HR drones making hiring decisions, HR is there to process paperwork, and explain people's benefits, and help them pack when they get fired.

So my short answer is if both H1-B MSCS and HSMCSE  are good workers, a smart company would fire the HR Drone, and Hire both for a market wage!

clueless hr drone mistake1: both H1-B MSCS and HSMCSE don't want a fixed number, they want what their skills are worth in the open market, whatever that may be- call me racist if you want but I don't believe people from India or Russia like money any less than Americans. So assuming a true market existed both workers (assuming they were equal) would want (and would get) the same amount of money. But our laws don't allow the H1-B to get a fair market value.

clueless hr drone mistake2: Why are you comparing apples with oranges, might not an American Citizen be willing to take the 20$ if he needs to to pay for rent? But the company won't hire him, because they can't subjugate him like they can an H1

clueless hr drone mistake3: A company worth working at, does not need slaves, If they find a great programmer overseas they will hire him, but because he is a great programmer, not because they ne cheap, compliant labor.

Daniel Shchyokin
Wednesday, May 08, 2002

daniel, it seems like you are simultaneously missing my point, and re-phrasing it.

Any programming job worth having is not in jeopardy of being outsourced away to a cheap H1-B. If you are in a position where you are actually competing with a cheap H1-B for work, you are a commodity, and need to re-evaluate your position in life. 

The people pushing for more H1-Bs in tech are smarter than you think. Most tech work is shit work, and it is really hard to keep ANYONE focused on the task. So, why try to herd a bunch of expensive cats , when you can herd a bunch of cheap ones?

H1-B
Wednesday, May 08, 2002

I am so tempted to agree with you ... except for this: why are the "cheap cats" cheap! it is not because they are inferior, it is because they are denied the ability to be expensive (by the same laws they pay taxes to uphold), it is dishonest, and stands against values congress purports to uphold, to deny workers in the american economy the right to compete.

How does that make Ellison,McNeally... look, when they justify making 70+ million dollars a year "because the market will bear it", when they activley fight against the rights of their workers to  participate in it, while at the same time hurting thousands of their fellow Americans!

Also, "most tech work is shit work", maybe I haven't been doing this long enough to climb to your level of cynicism, but I don't agree ... and there would be even less "shit work" if companies that "had to have" indentured servants
were quietly allowed to fold ... see capital and markets are intersting things, by keeping capital tied up in bad companies (however you may define it), you are not "preserving American Jobs" you are preventing better companies from creating more and better jobs ... this is why the .com burst was ultimately a good thing!

Think about it "cover story": america does not have enough good [you name it] workers! we need to bring in [] workers from another country!

What they really mean: We have hired so many useless worthless scumbags as Designers, Lawyers, HR, Marketing ... that we dont actually have enough money left over to make our product ... can we have some slaves?

more later ...

Daniel Shchyokin
Wednesday, May 08, 2002

I guess perhaps I am too cynical.
I worked my way through college doing tech shit work, and got paid less than an H1-B would have, until I wised up and sought greener pastures.

Indeed, the plight of an H1-B is a sad one, and it is terrible that large companies are able to exploit these people. however, they could just stay in pakistan or romania...

That said, I thought we were arguing about whether or not H1-Bs are stealing away jobs from talented software engineers. I don't think they are. If they are stealing jobs from anyone, they are stealing jobs from talentLESS software engineers.

America isn't really about good working conditions or fair practices. Americans have historically been nutty workaholics and literally, slavedrivers. The point of the american economic system is that it is possible to become larry ellison, or mcnealy, or steve jobs, or even steve wozinak. Or a leeching lawyer, marketer, designer, etc. It isn't really set up so that everyone is guaranteed 10 weeks of vacation, and 35 hour work weeks, and tea breaks. Whether or not that is a bad thing is always up for debate. But, typically for a USA citizen , if you don't like your lot in life, it is possible to change it. If you can't get a job fixing the billing systems at wells fargo because ranjeev from bangalore's outsourcing firm got there before you did, that's tough. But you can do better than that, anyway. If you want 6 weeks of vacation and a private office, get smarter, learn .NET, start kissing joel splosky's butt, and move to manhattan. If that's not possible, start your own company. Don't whine about how some ubercorp or the government isn't watching out for your personal bottom line. That's your job...

H1-B
Wednesday, May 08, 2002

H1-B
"it is possible to become larry ellison, or mcnealy, or steve jobs, or even steve wozinak"

unless you are an H1

Daniel Shchyokin
Wednesday, May 08, 2002

H1-B, or whatever - it's not programmers who've gone running to government for help; it's large employers who can't work within the existing economy.

"We can't find programmers who'll work for the wages we thing they should. Help, please. Let us bring in lots from overseas."

Hugh Wells
Saturday, May 18, 2002

Also, H1-B or whatever - your argument about talentless software engineers is specious. Neither the job market nor the programming labour pool are binary sets; they are continiuums.

By bringing in a large pool of pliant workers, you anchor the bottom end of the market and thus the rest of it too. The engineers who might have taken the so-called low end jobs then have to compete against the mid-level engineers, lowering the salaries for those, and so on. The effect would peter out at the top end.

However I happen to beleive in justice for all, and fair rewards for all. These imports are not being done to save lives or improve the well-being of third world children; they're being done to bolster corporate profits and end-of-year figures for little financial executives.

Hugh Wells
Saturday, May 18, 2002

I am a recent college grad with a BSCS without a job for four months and counting.  Can somebody here tell me where I can get those low level H1-B jobs ($20/hr) that I keep hearing in this forum?

I am an US citizen and have $50,000 in student loans.  Uncle Sam will be on my tail in next two months.  I will be more than happy to get that H1-B "VB coding job".  Heck, pay me $15/hr or even a minimum wage.  I will content with it.  H1-B visas took away my opportunities period.  Recently, I was appalled to hear that a local company fired its entire IT staff with the exception of project managers and hired H1-Bs.  If anybody here claims that H1-B hasn’t f***ked up the IT market in US, don’t be surprised when you are told to pack and clean your desk within few years.  I haven’t voted in any election so far.  Now I will definitely maker sure that my vote goes to a politician who, at least, brings up this H1-B issue regardless of party line.

Jobless
Thursday, July 03, 2003

if you want to be amancipated, how can you do that if your parents wont sign for you?

Kendra Grieve
Wednesday, November 19, 2003

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