Friday, November 18, 2005

Offshoring caveats

Offshoring high-tech workers to developing countries is a hot trend for big business. It saves companies money in labor costs, while giving more bang for the buck. As far as competency goes, foreign tech workers are up to par with Americans. Foreign workers are also willing to work longer hours. These all make offshoring a very attractive alternative for businesses concerned about cutting costs while increasing production.

Before considering offshoring, however, a company should ask itself whether it can deal with the communication hurdles that come as part of the package. These barriers are: having to deal with thick accents, developing a tolerance for poor phone connections, and scheduling around the half-day time difference.

On several occasions, I've had to get on conference call at 9:00pm to India, straining to pick out what they're saying through their thick accents on top of a poor phone connection. Whether the problem is India's phone infrastructure or a weakness in trans-Pacific phone lines, I don't know. All I know is that I had to strain my ears to compensate for the low volume and muffled voices. I spent half my time asking for people to repeat what they said. It almost drove me crazy. (It should also be noted that, from the Indians' point of view, I was the one with the accent.)

For some companies, offshoring will be worth the 90% savings in labor. The company I work for is majority Indian, so most of the company is comfortable with the accent. This company flourishes on the offshoring/outsourcing model. They still have to deal with the time difference and the poor phone connections, though. As a Chinese-American raised in California, I've found working in this environment to be very difficult.

Basically, with offshoring, the added frustration on American workers shouldn't be disregarded. In your company, how important is communication? If you can get by with minimal communication, then offshore and watch your costs shrink. If communication is crucial, please think twice and also consider the sanity of your American employees.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Chinese military buildup

Americans typically look at China's military buildup and become alarmed. This should not be the case. Looking at the numbers and looking at history will help us understand why it's sensible for China to have a strong military.

Let's take a look at the numbers. With 1.3 billion people and a million-man army, that's less than one-tenth of one percent of the population in the armed forces. China recently stated her intentions for peaceful development. Why do we have trouble believing this? If you want stability and peace, you will need a deterrent against external forces which threaten that stability.

There are also historical reasons behind the Chinese government's desire for a strong military--reasons which Americans may not understand. America has never suffered an invasion on the scale China has suffered time and again. China's long history, punctuated by foreign invasions from the likes of the Mongols, Manchurians, and most recently the Japanese, has taught the Chinese people the lesson that a strong national defense is necessary for the safety of China's people. The Chinese government would be irresponsible if it didn't build up the military.

Chill out, America.

Monday, November 14, 2005


My name is Joshua Go. I graduated Tau Beta Pi from UC Davis in 2005 with a B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering. I also picked up a minor in history. I'm currently paying the bills as a firmware engineer for a small company in Rocklin, California. My biggest claim to fame would probably be writing the bulk of Josh's Linux Guide while I was in middle school. While in high school, I spent a couple of summers working for Penguin Computing and VA Linux Systems (now VA Software).

During my college years, I organized protein and DNA sequences in a campus research lab. I'm still helping with those efforts in my spare time, since the project leader has moved to Nairobi to build up Africa's capacity for research endeavors. These days, though, I am mostly interested in financial markets and global economic affairs. I remain a big dreamer. My current research interests are health care and infrastructure development.