Steelworkers of the Information Age

I arrived in Bratislava three weeks ago, tagged just a week before that to assist in top-secret corporate offshore training efforts. Top-secret really only to back office workers in the states who don’t have a clue what the ultimate endgame might be. All we know is that we are getting laid off at a pretty aggressive rate as the company continues to offshore IT services across the Atlantic. For every worker bee offlined in the US, a cheaper, often much less experienced doppelganger is onlined overseas, previously India, and now in Eastern Europe. Obviously, I cannot say who I work for, nor does it really matter: all the big kids are doing it.

But offshoring and outsourcing are old news really. The same thing happened with manufacturing decades ago and we don’t think twice about it today. Conflicted as I may be about globalization, I naturally took this opportunity, which will amount to nearly two months split between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, on the company’s dime, my first veritable international business adventure. If Corporate American IT is well on its way to extinction, perhaps one last hurrah is in order.

Now three weeks in, and currently in Brno (CZ), I have to say it has been an utterly fascinating experience. The opportunity over here immediately reminded me of the late 90s IT boom in America; barely experienced and enthusiastic 20 somethings jumping from company to company searching for the best possible deal. Even the corporate vibe is a throwback to those absurdly exuberant, optimistic, rainbow horizoned times. The growth, the promises, the future is yours…tell your friends…we’re hiring! Brand spanking new half occupied office floors filled with cubicles with dual screen setups waiting for their future tech-savvy tenants. DUAL-SCREEN SETUPS. Gasp…subtle pangs of jealously…

My first instinct is to shake them all awake: FOOLS! RUN AWAY! THIS HAS ALREADY HAPPENED! THEY ARE USING YOU! I can offer this truth because I stand simultaneously at the death of the former cycle and the birth of its replacement. But I don’t. They know this. We all know this. So it’s your time, I say, enjoy it while it lasts, pledge allegiance to no one.

Most of the workforce are young, bright, and hungry to learn, if not inexperienced. Some come from countries in much more dire economic situations than America. They immigrate to these IT centers from all over the EU, something I hadn’t anticipated, and this is precisely the reality that makes offshoring possible. A pool of talent assembled from Greece, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, Portugal, even England. The general low cost of living in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, stable democracy, the integrated EU work policy, and you have the perfect conditions to import cost effective teams of Information Technology go-getters. Only they haven’t been around the block for the most part. So they send us out here to train them. What happens to us after the training is complete remains a mystery. A Great Purge?

Steelworkers of the Information Age…unite!