I have long heard about the “problem” of outsourcing and the dilemma of the United States. However, before reading Thomas Friedman’s book, I didn’t realize a few things, namely:
- “Outsourcing” is an overused term, applied to a host of issues, both causes and effects.
- The forces that drive outsourcing, and the resulting conditions, are not coming, they have already come, and they are here to stay.
- The causes and effects of outsourcing are not bad in and of themselves. Rather, they are simply elements of the current world-wide economy.
This new knowledge enables me to intelligently view my position in my profession, both locally and globally. I no longer have a passive attitude towards my career. I need not be subject to the wisdom and whims of my employer. Through the flattening of the world, I have become enabled to compete with other individuals throughout the world. Of course, they have been enabled with the same power, so I need to make sure that my skills are truly competitive.
Outsourcing. This one word has become the embodiment of a host of changes that have and are taking place throughout the economic world. This one word deflates the security of employees for large U.S. companies. At the same time, it encourages millions of people in so-called “developing” countries to hope for something more, something better. “Outsourcing” is the excuse behind which some executives hide during “corporate reorganizations.” Third-graders have heard this word at school, at the dinner table, and on T.V. It is thrown around in political circles to rally votes and sling mud. Despite the ubiquity of the word, it is too frequently misunderstood or overused. Consider the following, simple definition: “A formal agreement with a third party to perform a service for an organization” (Austin Community College Internal Auditing Department). Friedman proposes several terms to discuss the various forces and effects of the new, global economy. Terms such as “offshoring,” “insourcing,” “in-forming,” etc. However, I will simply use the over-abused term “outsourcing”, to maximize my audience. Plus, it will boost my Google page rank (grin).
When I was in elementary school, I remember the adults talking in fearful tones about “pink slips,” “lay-offs,” etc. Even then I knew that all these terms were simply euphemisms for losing your job. Thankfully, my father was never “touched,” as they called it where he worked. Growing up in a suburbs south of Denver, Colorado, I was surrounded with occupations ripe for outsourcing. However, I refused to believe that it was a problem here and now. By reading Friedman’s book, I realized that the world is not about to change, it has changed. And it will continue to change in a significant way, especially for those of us in computer-related professions.
Outsourcing is not bad. For employees who don’t understand it, outsourcing can be frightening. For executives who abuse it, outsourcing can be a tool of mass destruction. But from an objective standpoint, outsourcing is simply an feature of the world that should be anticipated, not feared nor abused.
What am I going to do about it? I plan to learn how to interact with people from different cultures, different upbringings. I plan to remain at the forefront of my field, maintaining membership in the IEEE professional organization and reading materials, both from IEEE and other technical news sources. Thanks to Friedman, I am no longer terrified of the new, global economy. Rather, I see an increased opportunity and an increased responsibility, both to provide for my family and serve many people, not just in my local community, but truly throughout the world!