Immigration : America’s Superpower

Subramonya Ayyar watching his Son Graduate from UC Berkeley. He arrived in the USA in 1958 with 22 dollars in his pocket.

H1-B and F-1 Visas are the lifeblood of the tech industry

Donald Trump has made a huge mistake by massively limiting the H1B visas granted to foreign born engineers who want to work in America and also in eliminating the F1 Visas for college bound immigrants that wish to study here. These are the  world’s brightest and most hard working young students that wish  to come to study here at our colleges.  In the technology driven information age we live in  — this talent is the raw material of greatness.

We live in a time where tech companies are the largest companies in the world by market capitalization.   Companies like Google, Microsoft, and Adobe are actually run by 1st generation immigrants into the USA.  There is no denying that immigration has helped create the greatness that is America.

In fact one might argue this is  the secret sauce that has made America great — the fact that the world’s smartest, most ambitious, most resilient young people want to come to America to study and work. Certainly this is true during the last thirty  years of the Information age.

I was born in America but my father came over from India in the early sixties from India on an F1 visa.  He washed dishes at night while going to school to get several masters degrees from SUNY Buffalo (I was born in Buffalo) and started a PhD at UCLA  (which he never finished) as he went to work as an engineer for ITT.   He was a brilliant hard working man who escaped an impoverished village in Kerala to come build a family and future in America.  He came over on a third class boat ticket with literally nothing but ambition in his pockets.  The American dream personified.  He had a 40 year career working for some of the most legendary engineering companies on the planet.

I learned the immigrant hustle for him and was destined to be an entrepreneur from an early age –founding four different technology companies. One company  I started.  in the late 90’s, was  a global consulting and engineering firm known as Karna Global.  At our peak we had over 350 employees in 4 countries. Over the 10 years from 1999 to 2009 we brought to America  (mostly from India) 200+ engineers on  H1B visas and sponsored many of them to get green cards.  These immigrant engineers have been making top wages in Silicon Valley and beyond since they arrived in the US. They  have paid tens of millions in taxes as well as being great law abiding, kind and generous neighbors, teachers, friends, and officials.  A substantial contribution to American society. 

The ability to get the world’s brightest, most ambitious, and most resilient humans to want to come here to study, and work and build a family has been  America’s secret weapon.  To lose this would be a brutal loss.

Sadly we have changed both parts of the equation  — Because of the current administrations’ decrees we no longer welcome them and most hurtful because of our positions and stature in the world and many decisions we have made (leaving the Paris accord, our handling of the pandemic, xenophobic backlashes)  the world smartest and brightest and most ambitious have less of a desire to come make America their home.

When you are a successful technology start-up you always worry about brain drain.  That is another technology company raiding your best employees. America has, up until now,  had a huge advantage over every other country –  that is a reverse brain drain.  Where the smartest people alive all dreamed of making America their home.  If this changes it will be traumatic for the technology industry and America in general. Lets work to change our policies so these great future citizens of America  will continue to want to be here, study here, and work here  in the future.

.

Should I Lease or Should I buy Tech Talent

When talking about a car, this decision comes down to your cost of capital, and other considerations like the amount of miles per year you drive and your desire to have a new ride every 3 years or so.  But what if you need a convertible one day, an SUV the next and on certain days needed a flatbed truck. It would be hard to buy all three, and if you leased them you would need very short leasing periods- days not years- to make it effective.

Limited tech bandwidth is the top challenge for 90% of companies

Enterprise companies have a similar decision  when they invest in designers and developers as full-time employees (FTEs).  The truth is custom software is still needed despite the hundreds of packaged software vendors and SaaS offerings. This makes tech talent, especially very experienced freelancers that specialize in mobile, more in demand than ever. There is a serious skills gap and backlogs are large. 

Without access to on demand technologists, companies face great challenges. It is difficult to scale resources to match technology experts demand.  Rapid proto-typing is a necessary practice and requires specialized resources, and on demand technologists allow for innovation in new fields with emerging technologies.

It’s no secret that you have to invest in your technical team and have developers, designers and dev ops people on staff and focused on your problems.  But as the world of technology evolves and gets prohibitively expensive, is the full-time employee (FTE) mentality still relevant?

Hiring is getting harder

Recruiting top tech talent costs time and money.  For certain jobs, after factoring in time and fees of recruiting, it can cost up to one years worth of salary to fill key jobs, and take six months or more in some instances to find the right fit.  Also, the FTE model requires a 30-40% uptick on base salary for benefits and variable compensation in this incredibly tight labor market. Factor in ongoing re-training costs to make sure people are skilled in relevant technologies which is constantly changing, and the investment continues to grow.

The type of talent you need– Mobile, Web, Front end, dev Ops– depends on the current project priorities and seasonal influences.

A better strategy as an Enterprise is to focus on customer connections, business goals, and planning. Rent all platforms access to help achieve these goals. Do not hire computer programmers and dev ops talent full time.

The future of work is remote

Younger generations are rethinking how work is done. In fact, younger generation managers estimate that 2 out of 5 full-time employees will work remotely in three years.

We call this the Fluid Contract Model. This provides you with focused expertise without having the overhead of FTE’s. It has made much progress over the last 3 years. This allows you to Pay by the drink for design development and project management talent.

Technology has made the world truly flat.  Because of great technologies like trello, asana, and jira for project management, GitHub or Gitlab for source code check-in and control, with automated CI/CD workflows and communication tools like Slack, Google docs, twilio and video conferencing tools like zoom, uberconference, and hangouts, these projects can be driven in a smooth and predictable way.

Fixed prices and outcome-based contracts

Full service firms provide a management layer for this great engineering and design  talent along with Dashboard, KPI’s, Governance, scheduling and Escalation. They have regular reporting with weekly project progress calls, and monthly service level assessment meetings.

Once a partnership is established, this allows for fixed price contracts and outcome based engagements.  This greatly reduces risk to the enterprise.

Smart enterprises are using  freelancers to increase productivity, access specialized skills and drive cost efficiency–  and doing it with the help of full service consulting firms with deep expertise in software projects to achieve great results.

Kannan Ayyar has overseen 100’s of mission critical software projects and is CEO of Grand Design Systems,(www.gogds.net)  a next generation consulting firm using highly accomplished freelancers and software experts.  Follow him at @kayyar1. 

————————

China – Land of Contradictions

I just returned from a very interesting week at ICANN’s conference in Beijing – I have been to Hong Kong many times, but this was my first visit to mainland China. I had no idea what to expect, but visions of communism and martial law kept dancing around in my head. Arriving in Beijing, however, I was amazed at how vibrant, bustling, and – dare I say it – capitalist the city was. Entrepreneurship and its associated vitality were everywhere.

ICANN had a VPN that circumvented China’s national firewall, allowing conference-goers unrestricted Internet access. At the hotel I saw some two to three hundred people wholly unrelated to ICANN, and realized word had gotten out: these people were taking advantage of ICANN’s network to escape the firewall! It seemed particularly apropos considering ICANN’s role as an organization seeking to promote access to an autonomous internet. Continue reading “China – Land of Contradictions”

If You’re Not Cheating, You’re Not Trying Hard Enough

Lance Armstrong. Bernie Madoff. Barry Bonds. Raj Rajaratnam. Ray Nagin. Whether it is sports, business, or politics, it seems in every walk of life, people are playing fast and loose with the law, with ethics, and with morality. Even in the software business we have some shady practices and some shady business models. Continue reading “If You’re Not Cheating, You’re Not Trying Hard Enough”

“Marissa, Can I Work From Home?”

In high school, I was unstoppable. I was high school valedictorian. I was the best athlete, and I was homecoming king….

Did I mention that I was home schooled? A great joke from a funny comedian—but in all seriousness, working from home has some significant advantages, even if Marissa Mayer doesn’t think it’s right for Yahoo. While I think there are definite pros to having a team in close proximity—the official term is “collocated”—a company Continue reading ““Marissa, Can I Work From Home?””

Free is too Expensive

Working at the Internet Systems Consortium, I feel I have a somewhat privileged look into the open source business model, which I’d like to address. We face the unique challenge of developing and maintaining BIND, the most-installed nameserver software on the planet, which some estimates place on 80% of all DNS servers. We’re proud of our open source heritage–one that began with the first iteration Continue reading “Free is too Expensive”

Richard Sherman: What you Lose when Winning is Everything

Richard Sherman had a great game. He in fact made the game ending play. 30 million people saw it. In his post game impromptu interview he drilled it home and screamed his greatness to all, like he was creating a rap song — in addition he insulted his individual match up, Michael Crabtree. And it was wrong. Wrong for sports, wrong for the NFL, wrong for the Seahawks and wrong for every young athlete aspiring to greatness at her sport.

I get the backstory grew up in Compton, went to stanford, academic and athletic all-star. If you are really that great and are secure in your greatness, you don’t have to bring it up. Let someone else do it for you.

When I was an investment banker working on Wall Street just out of college on the largest trading floor in world, one of the senior traders gave me a tip “Those that say don’t know, those that know don’t say”. If you have to remind the world how great you are it masks a deep seated insecurity.

Continue reading “Richard Sherman: What you Lose when Winning is Everything”