Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Ongoing H1-B visa debate with an Open Source twist

Yesterday, I read a great article from by Jim Romeo about how the H1-B visa issue is affecting the world of Open Source. This is something I have harped on for a long time. In my opinion, we continue to be in need of increasing the number of H1-B visas that are allowed on a yearly basis. From our vantage point, there is clearly not enough talent to supply the demand that revolves around Open Source software. And, the fact that around 80% of the Open Source talent resides abroad, we should welcome those that are interested in coming to the U.S. to further their career.

Not only that, as the article points out, there is a potential need to loosen the standards when looking at H1-B applicants. I believe that to be a very crucial point. It is not newsworthy to note that a lot of very talented, well respected Open Source engineers might not have attained a higher education degree. However, it is very difficult to get H1-B visa acceptance without it. So, are we hindering our chances at furthering our technological landscape by this nearly mandatory requirement? I believe that is indeed the case. As with everything, it needs to be analyzed on a case by case basis. But, there sure is a strong argument to make on loosening that particular standard in certain circumstances.

Lastly, I really like one specific point made by Elizabeth Charnock, CEO of Cataphora, in the article. Primarily because it affects us as much as it appears to be affecting her and other organizations. That point is that there is a huge number of the yearly allotment of H1-B visas going to consulting companies abroad. The likes of Infosys, Wipro, etc. are eating these things up. Thus, they are putting the companies in a predicament whereby they need to look to these consulting companies to get the work done. Needless to say, it is a smart move by these large outsourcing outfits. However, in the end, it dampens the overall Open Source landscape and the number of entities that can participate. At the end of the day, if companies are not interested in working with these outsourcing firms and can not find the necessary talent, they move their technology base to where they can get the necessary talent. And, that may result in a situation away from Open Source and to proprietary. None of us want to see that happen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dice LinuxWorld Job Fair Report

I just got back recently from spending a week in the Bay area attending LinuxWorld. It is very interesting seeing the changes in that show over the last seven or so years. I am not sure how many more years it can last, but my primary objective was to go out there and witness Dice's job fair that they were putting on.

Being a Dice client over the years, they were interested in having us attend the job fair. Seems like a legitimate thing to do. However, we decided against doing so. Over the years, we have been fortunate enough to have a booth on the big show floor a couple of times, as well as give a presentation there in the past. Bottom line, our return for doing so was not very great. For some rhyme or reason, it is tough to attract knowledgeable Linux candidates to San Francisco for that show.

Well, truth be told, it was no different this year. Thus, a wise move on our behalf. We had a few clients that decided to have a booth at the job fair. I decided to keep my mouth shut for most of the day. I did not know at that time if I was going to be correct in my assumption or way off base. Toward the end of the day, I traveled around to the different booths to get the verdict. Nearly everyone of them was disappointed. I wish I could report different. It would have been wonderful if they were able to attract a number of good candidates. We would have been a shoe-in for next year.

Bottom line, it is tough to get good people to show up for a job fair in this environment. I do not see that changing. Job fairs are yesterday in the world of recruiting. I applaud Dice for giving it a go. In their defense, it had pretty good attendance. They just were not able to attract the right type of candidates. And, I think they were trying to climb a never ending mountain in their attempt to do so. It will be interesting to watch if they attempt to try it again next year.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Another Doom and Gloom Article on the State of the Open Source Developer in the U.S.

Just got done reading an article from Datamation written by Rob Enderle entitled, "Will Google Kill Open Source (And do Open Source Developers Have to be Underpaid)". A link to the article is here . I am not really interested in the Google killing open source phenomenon. I have heard both sides of the story, as there is always a lot of debate about this, but I do not really lean one way or the other.

What interests me of course is when he talks about Open Source developers being underpaid. I want to focus on one particular paragraph in the article. It states the following:

"In addition, those that have adopted Open Source generally find line managers focused like a laser, not on getting down hardware or software cost (which is already as low as it can go, and you can’t get blood out of a stone), but on getting down labor cost, resulting in off-shoring or foreign labor being brought in at discount rates. There really is nothing to support the compensation for OSS developers like there generally is in the proprietary world."

I know I have discussed this in the past, but from my vantage point, I am not seeing what he perceives is happening. First of all, we are seeing salaries for Open Source developers in the U.S. increase at the present time. In my over seven years in recruitment of Open Source developers, I have yet to see them go down. There was a period during the "bust" that we saw them level off, but we have yet to see them go down. Currently, it is simple economics of supply and demand. The demand far outstrips the supply, therefore, there is no place for the average salary to go but up. Companies have really realized this and started to put it to work in the last 6-12 months. We have probably seen on average an increase of 5-10% in the level of base salaries in the last 12-18 months.

Now, I must admit, this does not account for the below average salaries that international based consulting firms initially bring their consultants into this country. But, the developers generally transition away from that arrangement and end up receiving the mean salary level once they do so. Therefore, if you want to argue in favor of his point of decreased salary levels, that is the only place that we have ever seen them, but that is the case whether it is open source based work or proprietary.

In addition to his compensation point, I am not too sure I agree with the off-shoring of positions as well. Do not get me wrong, it still takes place. But, I believe it does not take place anymore now than it has in the past. And, I would bet that there is even a decrease in off-shoring that is currently taking place. The two primary reasons behind this are increased salary levels of international talent and the quality of the end product. On the salary level front, you can just examine the financials of the Wipro's, etc. of the world to see that they continually are under pressure due to the increased salary levels abroad. They continuously have to look to a new venue to attract talent at an attractive rate. But, if you believe in the freedom of open source software, I would hope there are people that believe in a free market. If that is the case, this is just globalization continuing to take place.

Overall, I still think the future is very bright for the Open Source developer. There continues to be heavy demand for their talents, and thus I predict we will continue to see a steady climb in compensation levels for these individuals until the supply can catch up. And, I am not seeing that happening any time soon. Thus, no worries at the moment if you are an Open Source developer in the United States.

I am always happy to hear people's thoughts on this subject matter, so please feel free to either write a comment on the blog or send me a note, I will look forward to hearing from you.