Notes from Abroad

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    A few notes I made in the course of my travels to Canada…

    What impressed me about the managers of these IT companies operating in Canada, among other qualities, was this: They seemed to truly value the people who work under them. They don’t hold labor cheaply. Nobody referred to “headcount,” a sure sign, in my mind, that the folks doing the work are nothing more than cell units in a spreadsheet. The managers we met in Toronto and Waterloo and Kitchener can tell you how many tech people work for them; how many came over from the companies that hired them as service providers; how much retention they have; how many interns they have.

    Sybase doesn’t outsource much at all. They have an office in India, but it’s primarily devoted to serving the Asian market, which is a big part of its business. RIM, the makers of the Blackberry (which everyone up there I met seemed to carry), also don’t appear to outsource — not even manufacturing, which is housed in a building by itself near the University of Waterloo, from whence came its founders.

    During both of my longest airplane stints heading to and coming back from Canada, I overheard conversations by other passengers about outsourcing — though they actually meant offshoring. Both sets of speakers expressed fear that the jobs are going and not ever coming back. One speaker mentioned how experts expect other jobs to take the place of the offshored work but that nobody could say what those would consist of. The other conversation referenced “hiring Americans to work for Americans to protect the American way of life.” Coulda been a politician for all I know, though he was probably a sales guy. Even now that the election is over and the economy is supposed to be inching upward, outsourcing still has a bad rap among the masses flying coach.

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