~ Archive for October 4, 2004 ~

Two books on the world of the computer programmer


Just finished a couple of fun books by Bill Blunden: Cube Farm and Offshoring ITCube Farm should be required reading for young people considering careers as computer programmers.  Blunden goes from an enthusiastic undergraduate studying Physics at Cornell into a world that claims to be short of technically educated folks but in fact has few jobs for physical science nerds (“Adam Smith’s invisible hand was giving me the middle finger”).  Blunden ends up waiting tables for three years, going back to get a master’s in operations research, and then selling himself as a Java programmer.  He ends up at Lawson Software, a firm that competes with SAP, Oracle, and Peoplesoft in business software.  For young folks who are inspired by Bill Gates and the handful of programmers who’ve crafted popular games this book is a good introduction to the life of the average programmer.

Offshoring IT is a weaker book but it contains some fun facts to know and tell.  For example, we learn that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts spends $86 per subscriber per year on information technology.  And that New York City has stopped relying on India to process parking tickets; they’re now handled in Accra, the capital of Ghana, by workers making $70 per month.

Blunden makes the point that offshoring is a good way for a corporation to circumvent age discrimination laws.  Companies, especially in IT, like young workers.  They’re cheaper, have more energy, incur lower health insurance costs, and don’t draw retirement benefits.  Microsoft, for example, tries to hire the vast majority of its people straight out of college.  A company could not legally fire all of its older-than-50 workers and replace them with Americans fresh-out-of-college.  Yet it is legal to fire an older workforce in the U.S. and replace it with a young workforce in India, China, or the Philippines.

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