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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Page 13 of 43

happens to be? We're unaware of any objective tests, and it would be interesting to see some. One thing becoming clearer as the Trump adminis- tration further develops its immigration policies is that H-1B as it's now constituted will undergo extensive revi- sion. Increased focus on American firms such as Carni- val outsourcing its IT departments in order to cut costs is reaching increasingly sympathetic ears in Congress, and with the active support of the White House, several initiatives are underway to completely revamp the pro- gram. While high tech has been a reliable supporter of the Democratic Party and its candidates, support for IT outsourcing is a PR and political nightmare. The increasing usage of contractors and temporary workers also presents a challenge to critics of H-1B. Software companies, particularly startups and newer firms such as Snapchat and Slack, are not easy, soft po- litical targets in the manner of established companies such as Carnival and Disney (if you're IBM, Microsoft, or even Facebook, your PR exposure is much higher). Startups are expected to be small, scrappy, and cheap. By nature, software development is becoming increas- ingly international and distributed. A Ruby on Rails coder hired in Islamabad to help produce a new online collaboration app is not going to attract negative press attention, and attempting to police and limit such hir- ing would be a pointless exercise. Ultimately, the battle against H-1B may simply drive the increasing growth of virtual companies. We believe it prudent for software companies to plan around the possibility that the availability and costs of H-1B personnel are going to change radically. The cur- rent administration has announced far-reaching plans to change the current structure of the country's immi- gration structure. We believe it politically inevitable that the U.S. will adopt a "points-based" immigration system based on the Canadian and Australian models. In both of these countries, this approach has helped import more high-tech talent, though local complaints from high-tech firms about the difficulty of finding tal- ent are persistent and ongoing. S mend an auction approach to granting the visas. Re- gardless, the Trump election ensures the program will stay in the public eye. One startup we're aware of is attempting to deal with the issue of the U.S. workforce lacking key technology skills by creating a new vocational partnership of lo- cal industries, educational institutes, and government. The concept revolves around creating new two-year colleges, with the first schools located in the country's principal technology centers: Silicon Valley, Austin, Boston's 128 corridor, and possibly centers such Re- search Triangle Park in North Carolina, Silicon Alley in New York, and others. The curriculum would focus heavily on teaching stu- dents the latest and most in-demand programming, de- sign, and engineering skills. During their matriculation, local technology companies would offer extensive in- ternships to students, and would actively recruit grad- uating students for their companies. The educational infrastructure would be created by partnering with local schools augmented by distance learning systems. The price for attending these new colleges would be a fraction of what it costs to obtain a liberal arts B.A. at a typical four-year college, and the degrees would receive official state-recognized accreditation. Looking beyond just the H-1B controversy, while it's not surprising that software companies rely on H-1B primarily for developmental talent, in our survey 24 percent of our respondents reported that their key developmental resources were staffed externally. We would have predicted a percentage between 10 and 15 percent. What accounts for this? One major factor is that as applications leave local servers, the idea that that software code can be main- tained and upgraded internationally becomes concep- tually easier for companies to accept. Another driver is that in SaaS and mobile, the concept of domain special- ists creating online software systems has gained trac- tion. In this model, a person or group expert within the business processes of an industry (e.g., a cosmetic sur- geon), in developing an application to schedule surgery consults remotely, dictates product specifications to a hired group of developers. This is a different perspective from the traditional mythology surrounding software, where software is created by boy genius programmers (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Bobby Murphy, et al.). A final question swirling around the issue of H-1B and development ties back to Silicon Valley's pervasive age- ism. There has been a great deal of skepticism directed at claims made by major firms such as Microsoft, Apple, and many others that there is an actual shortage of pro- gramming talent in the U.S. Is it true that a 50-year-old C++ programmer can't be quickly retrained to code in Python? Swift? Whatever the latest wonder language R I C K C H A P M A N is the managing editor and publisher of Softletter, an information hub for SaaS, mobile, OEM, and on-premises software firms. He is the author of "In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters" and "SaaS Entrepreneur: The Definitive Guide to Succeeding in Your Cloud Application Business." SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM DECEMBER 2017 14 By R. Chapman KEY H-1B EMPLOYMENT DATA IMPLICATIONS OPINIONS & CHALLENGES Index

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