Next challenge for outsourcing: Ingenuity

Could a staunch opponent of offshoring IT jobs be mellowing a bit too soon?

By Andrew Leonard
Published December 6, 2006 7:53PM (EST)

There's nothing the blogosphere likes to spread around faster than the news of some ironic twist of fate, preferably with a dash of schadenfreude to spice things up. Witness the Indian Economy Blog passing on the news from Cafe Hayek about a little squib in the current issue of Wired reporting the present activities of one Scott Kirwin, the founder, three years ago, of the Information Technology Professionals Association of America.

Wired writer Daniel Pink informs us that Kirwin was the prototypical "pissed off programmer" featured in a Wired cover story three years ago (also written by Pink) looking at the Indian outsourcing phenomenon. Kirwin founded the ITPAA as a lobbying group for American programmers who feared that their jobs were being exported out from under them.

These days, Kirwin still works with computers. He's just less pissed: In June, he shuttered the ITPAA. "I don't view outsourcing as the big threat it was," he says. What changed? Well, Kirwin found better work as an analyst and software architect. And he noticed that the talents that make him valuable -- open-mindedness, a willingness to take risks, flashes of ingenuity -- couldn't be reduced to a spec sheet and e-mailed to Hyderabad.

As noted, the Internet loves stuff like this. But before anyone in Silicon Valley gets complacent about the enduring marketability of those fortunate enough to be blessed with "flashes of ingenuity," consider the footnote added to this story by Nitin Pai, at the Indian Economy Blog.

As for those things that "couldnt be reduced to a spec sheet and e-mailed to Hyderabad" all that can really be said is "well, at least not yet."

Which just goes to show, one Western programmer's acceptance of the status quo is another Indian programmer's call to action.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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