Software Executive Magazine

December 2017

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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ance pay, making a mockery of the claim that the H-1B program was filling technology holes at either company. Rather, the clear goal in both cases was to replace highly skilled American workers with more cheaply paid for- eign workers. From a PR standpoint, both initiatives were disasters, with the Trump campaign focusing at- tention on the plight of the laid-off workers in certain venues, while the Clinton and Sanders forces were large- ly silent on the issue. Sources within the Republican Na- tional Committee claim the H-1B topic was a significant contributor to Trump's narrow victory in Florida. Another problem with H-1B is it raises the issue of what is the ultimate value of free trade. High-tech is dominated by liberals and progressives, who were over- whelming supporters of Clinton and are the loudest voices calling for expanding H-1B. Trump effectively used this issue to help him win an improbable presiden- tial election victory, and protectionism, tariffs, and sim- ilar measures against foreign involvement in U.S. hiring and free trade practices reentered the national debate. The traditional argument in favor of H-1B and free trade is that the efficient market eventually rebalanc- es industries by opening up new job opportunities in spots up the employment food chain. But, in the eyes of most people, the Disney workers were already close to the top of the skills ladder. It's one thing to tell burger flippers they need to obtain more skills, but what are highly knowledgeable IT specialists supposed to do? Obtain jobs at Nerds to Go? All become Ruby on Rails or JavaScript coding cowboys? Not that Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, or Tim Cook will hire them, as age discrim- ination is rife in high-tech. And can the U.S. support the process of stripping away the employment layers of workers who listened to their parents, focused on the industries and skills of the fu- ture, and are now expected to hold down jobs at food courts in local malls? It's one thing to turn critical rare earths production over to the Chinese, but quite anoth- er to turn over maintenance of the country's technology infrastructure to outsourcing. THE FUTURE OF H1-B VISAS In Silicon Valley H-1B is quite popular, but when you raise the issue of the Disney and SoCal firings, lips purse and eyes begin to focus on distant objects before program advocates wander away from the discussion. Regardless of Valley opinions, the opposition arising to oppose H-1B is a potent and growing political force. Some of the most significant reforms proposed for the system require that visa applicants be paid top-tier wages, thus removing the incentive to use the program as a cost savings opportunity. Other reforms recom- There's been a great deal of speculation about the ex- tent of H-1B employee usage in the software industry. We had originally thought the number of companies reporting "Yes" would be lower than 26 percent, some- thing in the range of 15 to 20 percent. ON A YEARLY BASIS, WHAT PERCENTAGE OF YOUR EN- TIRE EMPLOYEE BASE CONSISTS OF H-1B EMPLOYEES? ▶ 1% to 5% – 80% ▶ 6% to 10% – 20% ▶ 11% to 15% – 1% ▶ 16% to 20% – 0% ▶ 21%+ –0% The low percentages seen here are not surprising. H-1B visas are limited in number, and we believe will become increasingly difficult to obtain. FOR WHAT POSITIONS ARE YOU MOST LIKELY TO RECRUIT FOR H-1B PERSONNEL? ▶ Product Development – 73% ▶ Sales – 16% ▶ Other – 7% ▶ Marketing, Product Mgmt., Administrative – 0% The "other" answers all centered around technical and customer support personnel. We thought the 16 percent reporting they recruited H-1B personnel for sales po- sitions was very intriguing. The fact that the primary target of H-1B hiring is software development positions is not surprising, but we would have predicted a higher number than 73 percent. THE INCREASING CONTROVERSY OF H-1B VISAS H-1B was originally designed to allow U.S. companies to hire employees who possessed skills not easily found in the pool of available U.S. applicants. In 2015, a total of 348,669 applicants filed for H-1B visas, of which 275,317 were approved. The program was initially not very controversial, but this has changed. The actions of companies such as Dis- ney and SoCal Edison, wherein entire IT departments were gutted of U.S. workers and replaced by foreign workers, have radically altered perceptions of the pro- gram in the public's mind, and have attracted intense in- terest by some in the media (Patrick Thibodeau, senior editor at Computerworld, provides some of the best on- going coverage on this issue). At Disney and SoCal, the laid-off workers trained their foreign replacements under threat of losing their sever- DECEMBER 2017 13 SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM

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