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Time to avoid Developement as a career?

Over the past few months we have had several people in college ask "what to study" and "what will best position them for a job."

Is it moot?  Is it as Vivek Paul, president of Indian outsourcer Wipro says "a decade ago we discovered  that manufacturing can be done anywhere, in this decade we      are learning that knowledge can be learned anywhere."

That the American or industrialized nation developer is a thing of the past?  An icon as outdated as the textile worker, whose work is best left to third world countries where underdeveloped economies and  wages allow for bettering America without the price?

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/06/02/BU270141.DTL

collegeStudentsBeware?
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Of course, it may be time to avoid "development" too... B'ah!

:-)

collegeStudentsBeware?
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

my take on this is that all those developers who are inclined to whinge about how unfair it all is will give up....that will make room for those few who prefer to actually forge their own future...

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, June 04, 2003


I think it's just a case of Natural Selection, again.

10 years from now, there will still be a market for guys who can walk into a company and say:

"Process X now takes you 10 man-hours to do - which costs you about $200 in labor expenses.  You sell about 1000 Process X-services a year, for $500 each, for a total of $500,000.

For $5,000, I can cut process X to a one-hour process.  And I can also generate process Y and Z, which are customized versions of X that you can sell.

So you can meet the customers needs better, faster, and more efficiently, charge the customer less - and make more money.

Whaddya say?"

No off-shore consulting firm can touch that, unless they can put a sales person in America that understands the industry and the business.

Of course, you have to know more than just CS to do this. You have to be a business consultant and a change agent.

Nobody said it would be easy - and the lamers will wash out of the system.

In my book, that's good, because it lowers competition, which will be really helpful in keeping rates up ..

JMHO ...

Matt H.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Matt,
Interesting you should mention putting a sales person in America.  About 5 years ago, I was approached by a off shore firm to do just that.

They wanted Americans to be in the companies, making the pitches and then tossing the work to them.  If a company wanted people on site, we were to hire local contractors and still ship the work overseas. 

I passed on that offer, but in the past year have seen several companies that previously did consulting/contracting work, become fronts for off shore development houses.

In short: yes, they do plan to do just that and offer exactly what it may appear they cannot.

Mike Gamerland
Wednesday, June 04, 2003


Currently, I know of 1 company in my area that "does just that" ...

but they really don't.

Sure, they have someone on-site, but that person has to take business requirements (and generally, tech designs), and pass them off to off-shore development.

I'm talking about -writing- the business requirements and analyzing the needs of the business.

Will off-shore companies be doing this in ten years?  Yes, but I don't think they'll be doing it -well-.  Will they get better?  Yes.  It's going to be tougher in twenty years than it will be in ten, which will be tougher than today.

But "Decline and Fall of the American Programmer?" 

Only the weak and lazy ones.

regards,

Matt H.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003


The Hero in the story is ABSOLUTELY Convinced that he can't get a good job, AND he drives a Nissan Ultima.

Those two facts, combined, make me feel not all that sorry for the guy.

Matt H.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

A few years ago I worked in the far east and from what I can tell, anyone smart enough to make high tech products for the G7 market is smart enough to hire appropriately.

While I was there, I met contact many people who do work in such capacity. For example: I met this one guy from Ireland who married in Taiwan; he sole purpose is to give a friendly face for a keyboard supplier. The supplier probably can't speak a word of english, but they know keyboards. In fact, it's the contact guy from the major american computer manufacturer who is responsible for the bad communication half the time: heavy southern cowboy accents. :-)

Although it still gives me the chills to recall how he feels some of the keys ought to be arranged. I like them IBM's or Sun kbs the best.

Li-fan Chen
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Yeah, but what year is the Nissan Altima?  Maybe he is driving a 97 Altima that he paid off when he did have a job.

A Nissan Altima isn't an expensive car, either.  The MSRP price range is $17K to $23K.  I don't believe that this is an expensive car.  Then again, I would never buy a car new.  So, maybe he did what I would do and buy an Altima coming off of a 2, 3 year lease for $10K-$12K (except that I would never buy an Altima!)

I don't think you have enough information to judge him on that.

William C
Wednesday, June 04, 2003


It's not that the car is expensive, it's that it's foreign.


In other words, he buys out-sourced cars, but thinks SWDev shouldn't be outsourced.

There's something wrong about that ...

Matt H.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

I just don't see outsourcing as this huge evil thing that will wipe out the American software industry.

Sure, outsourcing will always take some American jobs, but the problems of outsourcing are well documented.

My clients, like many companies, have no interest in outsourcing because they just don't see the long-term savings. They don't want to fight the language barrier, they don't want to fight the time-zone issues, they want to be able to sit down and talk to someone. They want face-time.

There is no doubt that some people will lose their job to an overseas programmer, but I don't buy into the doom and gloom that they nay-sayers are predicting. Many of them are folks that jumped into the industry when salaries were skyrocketing and are now disillusioned that reality has set in.

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

I was just talking to a friend who works for a company that does all its development in India.  What he, and the other US workers do, is gather requirements, sketch out screens, and fax them to India.  The next day, prototype screens are created on their web site.  Then, they spell out detailed requirements (we're talking pages and pages of documentation), and the code is done in India. 

We both feel that the future of the American developer is that of understanding the business, gathering requirements and putting together specs, developing the architecture, etc.  Programming (Coding) in the US is dying.

GML
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

I am so tired of hearing the 'foreign car' argument. Most of the Nissam Altima is manufactured in Smyrna, Tenn. Nissan has invested nearly $1.5 BILLION in creating jobs and manufacturing plants in Tenn alone.

Face it, EVERYTHING is outsourced, and that includes outsourcing from Asia TO the U.S.

cheapo
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

I guess if you think coding and architecture/requirements
are seperate then it will work. But they aren't separate.
They inform each so intimately that they can't survive
a master-slave relationship.

valraven
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Face it, EVERYTHING is outsourced.

That's true. I live in the US and contracted for an Indian company that had a contract with a US company.

If coding is being outsourced and all that's left for the US to do is gather requirements then I suggest learn marketing and salesmanship. Read all the threads on this forum about bad management and incompetent consultants and DUPLICATE those practices.


Wednesday, June 04, 2003

In the US, software development is a manual process that is expensive and tedious. Neither .NET nor XML nor Agile development will significantly impact this situation.

Therefore it's pretty natural that, like US manufacturing and other industries, companies will seek to export software development to places where resources (i.e., intellectual capital) are cheap/plentiful. Barring some high profile meltdown, this trend already has momentum that can't be stopped

Maybe after a while, we'll see software dev jobs return to the US, obviously once the cost/benefit disparity around has levelled out around the globe. But I fully expect to see this trend continue well into the future; after India it'll be Russia, then China, etc.

Our primary languages & technologies are C, C++, C#, Java, Perl, Oracle, SQL Server, and various byzantine platform APIs. Let's face it: As sophisticated as these tools are, they are fairly crude and require a high level of training & experience to use effectively.

All of this specialized training/expertise is reflected in the cost of development, plus a healthy multiplier for the standard of living in the US. Just like the lawyer or doctor who has certain salary expectations, professional programmers with the right skills (.NET, Java, SAS, etc.) expect a premium for their skills.

Basically, US developers have started to price themselves out of the market. When you factor in poor software reliability and usability, and the cost to maintain code, offshore development is starting to look pretty attractive.

Edoc
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Its not the mobility of the jobs that is a concern for prospective students, but the fact that the technical bar to entry is being raised all of the time. Employers are being more selective about the skills they require (ridculously so in many cases) in prospective candidates and much less willing to trade off experience for raw talent.

Many of the nursery employers (large companies like telcos who hire lots of graduates and train them up) are in trouble, and seriously curtailing their hiring.

Ultimately its gettign harder to break in, and the skill combinations are gettign very specialised. Java used to open doors for you, now its j2ee with all the bits on before they will look at you (actually a particularly difficult area to break into - with nearly 5 years Java experience, I am practically ineligible).

Richard
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

"Then, they spell out detailed requirements (we're talking pages and pages of documentation), and the code is done in India. "

Yeah, I see that working long-term....What happens when requirements constantly change? Oh, I know..you're gonna have requirements nailed down in the scoping phase, right? LOL.

And maintenance?

I've only done corporate work, but in my projects there is simply no way that we could work this way.

Huh?
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Hmmm, I liked working in Taipei, maybe I should ring some people.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

That's exactly what's happening at my job right now. The majority of testing and developing was recently shifted to Eastern Europe and Asia. The real kicker is that minority of us remaining have to hold their hands until they're up to speed enough to totally replace us. Needless to say, I'm working on my "exit strategy".

jbr
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

My clients, like many companies, have no interest in outsourcing because they just don't see the long-term savings.
and
I've only done corporate work, but in my projects there is simply no way that we could work this way.

I see off-shore companies offering us services at $10/hour for development.  These are people with four year degrees in CS and several years of experience.  We can get masters+ for $14 to $18/hour. 

These numbers are what made me post the question.  How can a college graduate in the US compete with someone making near poverty wage?  As for the quality, etc. these people are not incompetent.  How many times can the work be redone for an eighth the cost?  Four times? six?

While we can expect some will be successful, as a curriculum does it make sense to recommend to your son or daughter?

collegeStudentsBeware?
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

The company I work for previously outsourced the entire IT operation.  Then they realized that sometimes when they said "jump" the reply was not always "how high?"  Then they contracted out a major project critical to the business to contractors.  After that, another developer and myself were hired full time.

Now, the people who know the business requirements sit in the same cube block as the developers, and can communicate and verify the requirements face to face, at a moments notice.  And being direct employees, we always say "how high".

The code the contractors wrote sort of barely did what it was supposed to, but was performance deficient, almost undeciperable, and contained roughly an order of magnitude more code than necessary.  Over time, the entire project has been rearchitected to perform dramatically better and reduce the turnaround time for fixes and enhancements. (</OwnHornBlowing>)

So no, outsourcing is not a panacea.

Two more thoughts:  1. A rising standard of living in places like China and India will also increase demand for products and services from the West in those countries, which is good for western economies.  2. The U.S. was scared to death of the Japanese economy in the 70's and 80's but seemed to do OK; I think we're more resilient than we give ourselves credit for (speaking for Americans, at least).

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

jbr and college's last post are perfect examples of the future.  As developers and/or consultants we can claim anything, but in economics is winning.  It is very difficult to cost justify a person out of college versus a person with college degree and experience at half the cost.

I made a few calls since my earlier post and in a totally unscientific survey, 6 out of 9 places were either using or in the processes of piloting off-shore work.  Cost being the #1 reason.  Two mentioned that they could get "better" people overseas.  (Better meaning more advanced degree, more experience and less cost.)

I have been doing development work for nearly 20 years.  11 years at a fortune 2 outsourcing firm, nine on my own.  Even the Fortune 2 is hiring off shore help.  I cannot believe that 10 years from now this is going to be a large career opportunity, short of developing shrink wrapped software in hopes of creating the next Microsoft.

So I do not recommend doing this as a high paying career to my children.  Fun, education, and entertainment, certainly.

Mike Gamerland
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

"We both feel that the future of the American developer is that of understanding the business, gathering requirements and putting together specs, developing the architecture, etc."

Once that's done, there's really not much work left.  Also, if the person who was in on the req's spec's and arch is also a developer, at that point it's probably more efficient for her to just write the code than to explain it sufficiently to a third party (explaining it well probably takes about as much time as writing the code).  That leaves debugging and testing.  And it probably makes more sense to have the person writing the code debug it and...

See a trend?

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

So then they move spec'ing and req'ing off-shores too...

jbr
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Actually the car may have been made in England. Nissan have a big factory in Sunderland.

Most European cars are made in about three or four different countries each car, and then you get the question of cross-ownership. Is Mazda American or Japanese, and is Ford Japanese or American?

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Ford & Mazda cars are 99% identical. Just a different nose & dashboard really. Well, maybe not the "zoom zoom" sports cars, but that's what I heard from my neighbor who worked for ford 10 years ago.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

So basically, we'll have the following careers left in the U.S.:

1. Doctor.
2. Lawyer.
3. Professional entertainer (singer/actor/athlete/etc.).
4. Walmart associate.
5. Middle manager.
6. Phone sanitizer.

Is that about right?

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Matt H said:
"It's not that the car is expensive, it's that it's foreign."

Oh. Oops!  Now that I am clear on what you meant, I feel that you are comparing apples to oranges.

What is happening is that american developers make $X/year because of the standard of living here in the US.  Offshore developers make $y/year (with X being much greater than Y).

I don't see Nissan's being $5,000 compared to $25,000 for a Ford.

William C
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Can we kill one idea stone dead.

---" What is happening is that american developers make $X/year because of the standard of living here in the US.  Offshore developers make $y/year (with X being much greater than Y).---

Nobody cares less about the standard of living when they pay a salary beyond the reproductive cost of labout.

The reason a programmer can get more money in the US ia because of supply and demand. If there was an oversupply of programmers then salaries would go down to minimum wage levels because some people would still prefer to program than to work at Macdonalds.

One thing that keeps the number of programmers down in the US is the fact that there are alternative  jobs which pay a "living wage". A teacher, or a sales rep, or a prison officer. In India those jobs get much lower salaries and so the programmer can be paid $600 a month and still be better paid than in any other job.

The only things that are cheaper in India than the US are real estate and servants and clothes. Many other things are much more expensive.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

As Jim Rankin asked what jobs are left in the US? I, too, would like to know. Banks are outsourcing their research and back office operations, manufacturing has already been outsourced, telemarketing is outsourced or automated, doctors and dentists salary has come down alot.
??


Wednesday, June 04, 2003

I love the anonymous post just above this one, because I think it highlights how silly this thread is getting.

94% of the American population is employed as of April 2003, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Doctors and dentists?  Over ten million people work in the health industry.  Manufacturing?  Sixteen million people.

There are plenty of jobs out there, that haven't been outsourced; it's just not as easy to find them now as it was five years ago.  The employment pains experienced by the health industry right now, for example, have almost *nothing* to do with outsourcing.

Brent P. Newhall
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

"Manufacturing?  Sixteen million people."

But what's the trend?  How many people used to be employed in that sector, and how many are likely to be employed there in the future?

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Dear Jim,
              How many people were employed in agriculture at the time of the Great Depression and how many are employed now?

                Job wise, which period do you see as better?

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

No, I don't think we can kill that idea "stone dead".

You say this:
"The only things that are cheaper in India than the US are real estate and servants and clothes"

The only things!  The ONLY things!!!

Come on now.  Real Estate is a HUGE part of the equation.  You can't lump that in with "servants and clothes".  Especially since the one big purchase in my life is and will be my house (mortgage).  That is why it is my goal to pay off my house as fast as possible.  I don't go buy fancy cars, expensive stereos, expensive wide-screen tv's, etc.  Every penny that I can save goes into a bank account that I will eventually use to pay off my mortgage (as fast as possible).  I feel that once I have no mortgage to pay ... I can work at Home Depot and still make a living.

Real estate in the United States is expensive and I need to spend that money.  I can choose not to buy fancy things, but I can't choose not to buy a house (or rent) -- I'm not going to live on the streets!

Also, what are the tax implicatios over in India?  My property tax and water/sewage taxes aren't cheap.

William C
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Now why is real estate more expensive in the US (and be careful here because it is not always so; a colleague of mine has just bought an acre of land with a five bedroom house on Long Island for $350,000, which is actually the same price I have just seen 5 bedroom houses advertised for in India).

The answer is because people earn more. Note; you don't earn more because you pay more for your house - you pay more for your house because you earn more and there is more competition for housing within commuting distance. If you find somewhere in the middle of nowhere you won't be paying much more for land than you are in India.

Now the guy in India who earns $600 a month, which is near ten times the average salary will in fact be paying a greater proportion of his income for his vastly inferior accomodation than you are.

Anyway you are arguing with the aside, not the main part of the argument. You are paid more in the States because you can get it, not because your employer, or the global consumer, has any feelings for your difficulties in paying the mortgage.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Stephen:
Consider what would happen if every Indian's income doubled but the price of food and clothing and such stayed the same.  It would have zero impact on a given Indian's ability to afford a bigger home on more land because the price of real estate would skyrocket.
Real estate is a special case in economics because they ain't making any more.  If you like the idea of a house with a yard being available to middle income people, you need to live in a sparcely populated country, like the USA.  And for your kids' future, make sure your country doesn't allow millions of immigrants every year - not like the USA.  Maybe  try New Zealand. 

Ethan Herdrick
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

I think the only way you can reduce outsourcing is reduce the cost of living.

Petition your local representative to drastically reduce taxes and be prepared to phase out several government-run organizations like public schools and public libraries, while encouraging privatization and competition in these areas.

Also, reduce unnecessary subsidies and bailouts to sick companies. I'm not sure if UPS is goverment-owned, but if it is, sell it to the highest private bidder.

Try to reduce the size of the government to what it is really meant to do - like provide security, a judicial system, protect our constitutional rights, maybe regulate shared resources like the environment - and begin taking more responsibility for the rest.

In a few years, the cost of living will come down, you can maintain the same standard of living with a lower wage, and your employer does not have to outsource.

ltarian
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Everything eventually will head to an equilibrium, you can scream and fight all you want, but eventually (a hundred years from now, two hundred, whatever, eventually) we'll all be making the same wages worldwide. Isn't this just the capitalist and free market mantra?  I don't see why it's so surprising or wrong, it's just natural!

le bob
Thursday, June 05, 2003

Its nice to see some Amaricans too understanding the true picture. As for the others  instead of blindly crying against outsourcing, realize that America is a true capitalistic society. American companies will try to cut costs at any rate - and right now outsourcing is just one means of doing so.

As for "letting in immigrants every year" it is a well know fact that America is a land of immigrants. Let's not talk about shutting doors to a place we never owned !

pragmatist
Thursday, June 05, 2003

Ethan, you're actually backing up much of what I am saying. Even though real estate is a lot cheaper it will still be unaffordable. It's a general rule the world over; starter homes are always priced above the income of those who want to start a home :)

Real Estate is a special case in economics, but it certainly isn't true "they ain't making any more". They ain't making any more land, but that isn't the same as residential real estate. If you can improve communications then you expand the supply of real estate.

Also some costs remain stable; the price of bricks, wood, concrete or glass is not any lower in developing countries than developed ones. Often poor communications make it higher. So in areas of high employment the cost of the land is much greater than the cost of the building, but in areas away from centres of employment this is not true.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, June 05, 2003

While on real estae, I know for a fact that some palces in India are the costliest in the whole world!


Thursday, June 05, 2003

Some Mumbai office rents are on a par with those in Central New York. On the other hand rents in Birmingham England are actually nearly double those of New York, so maybe the fact doesn't mean much.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, June 05, 2003

I'm an American that has been enormously blessed over the past several years from working in the industry. Things have been quite good.

However, I've never once deluded myself into thinking this will last forever. This is a problem that I see with many people: They've been making inflated salaries and they have perceived this as reality. It just ain't. Sorry.

So, many of these people lose their jobs and then can't find one that pays the same. They instantly blame outsourcing, the government, H1B's, etc for their woes. The fact of the matter is that they market has corrected itself. Capitalism at work.

These same people then cry, moan and whine about the sad state of our industry and make these gloomy predictions about how we are all gonna be indentured servants to Indians and Asians in the near future. And it's largely caused because they saw their temporary boon as reality.

I'll get stoned for saying this, but I'm actually somewhat happy to see the downturn because it has forced a "thinning of the herd" as well as caused many in the industry to work harder at becoming better developers, architects, etc. The ones that don't want to invest time in learning new skills...well...they don't last.

Our industry has had too many unprofessional Cowboy Coder primaddonas and One-Trick Ponies. Fortunately, many of these folks are finding work in other industries. And that's a good thing as far as I am concerned.

Stone away...

Mark Hoffman
Thursday, June 05, 2003

Pragmatist:  Why do you think that the option to immigrate to the USA is some sort of civil right held by six billion people over Americans? 

Ethan Herdrick
Friday, June 06, 2003

Abundant land and scarce labor have always set America and Canada apart.  But let's look at what happens when open land to build on runs out.  Wages have risen in Silicon Valley for decades, but ever since the the last developable open spaces in the Valley were built out in the late Eighties, the wage to home cost ratio has dropped quickly.

Certainly the pay that an entry level engineer gets in Sunnyvale today at Yahoo is better than the pay that an entry level engineer in Sunnyvale got at Lockheed 30 years ago.  Today's Yahoo engineer wage goes farther in buying a car, food, fashionable clothes, pretty much everything.  Except land.  I don't know about you guys, but I'd rather have the old guy's big back yard with fruit trees and a dog than the improved car and better clothes that the modern guy enjoys in his condo.

Now, in certain places like Silicon Valley and Manhattan, high population densities would happen just from other Americans moving there anyway.  OK.  But do you really want the rest of the country to follow suit?  Let's halt mass immigrantion.     

Ethan Herdrick
Friday, June 06, 2003

Ethan - in a way I agree with what you are saying. But what I'm trying to say is that we shouldn't just blindly say no to immigration (and I'm not talking about mass immigration here).  If there is an opportunity in America and an immigrant is the best guy for it - then so be it. It's not fair to stop immigration and pick the best guy in America - this country was not built that way.....

Having said that, allowing unqualified immigrants just because they are cheap is surely a mistake. It's America right now. But this will be the case with any place with opportunities - be it Asia, Europe or even Africa. Who knows, someday we may all runs to Africa ?!

Pragmatist
Saturday, June 07, 2003

Ethan,
          Land prices go up because there is work. So a lot of people want to live near where the work is, and because there is an abundant source of labour companies relocate. At some time or other the cost of labour will increase to such an extent that companies will move out somewhere else and the process will stabilize or go into reverse.

        Now when land prices go sky high you find that indigenous workers are no longer prepared to take the low paying jobs, because they could never afford even a studio apartment of their own. Equally companies are not prepared to pay $15 an hour for cleaners or fast food waitresses because that would put their prices sky high and continue the inflationary spiral. So there are loads and loads of low paying jobs that will only allow you to live in cramped conditions, and this is what the immigrants take up because they have little choice, and the opportunity to save cash is the most important. And you often see this phenmenum applying to public services as well. A nurse in the South East of England only earns a third of the income necessary to finance a mortgage on a starter home, and there iis almost nowhere in the South East of England a single teacher would be able to buy a small home.

So the choice in large cities is not immigrants and sky high prices versus no immigrants and low prices, but sky high prices plus immigrants versus sky high prices without immigrants and with virtually no public or private services.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, June 07, 2003

Everyone:
Please don't fall for the foolish idea that "Immigrants do jobs that Englishmen (or Americans) won't do."  This is simply nonsense.  Sure, perhaps native born Americans in Los Angeles wouldn't work in a restaurant for $5 and hour.  But for $15 per hour, some will.  Heck, for $15 million per hour, Bill Gates would!  It all a matter of wage level.

This is happy part of capitalism - more demand for unskilled labor with a fixed supply of it means higher wages for unskilled people.  But many businesses don't want to pay that additional $5 / hour, so they support increased immigration to keep wages down. 

We should not let businesses that rely on cheap labor write our immigration policy.  But we have.  We have forgotton that "spiralling labor costs" is a BEAUTIFUL thing!

Exactly the same thing has happened in the engineering labor market, as everyone on this forum knows.   

Ethan Herdrick
Sunday, June 08, 2003

matha fuc yall

BIg PUN
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

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