Home > DBA, NoCOUG, Oracle > Where Have All The Jobs Gone? (Part II)

Where Have All The Jobs Gone? (Part II)


As editor of the NoCOUG Journal, I have interviewed some of the best Oracle minds over the years. One of my recurring themes is the flight of database administration jobs to overseas locations. The consensus appears to be that “offshoring may push some of the less-qualified positions out of the country, but that plenty of opportunities will remain for DBAs that are skilled, experienced, and intelligent.” And, as Karen Morton says, “if you love what you do and enjoy being good at it, then it’s not time for a job change; it’s time to work harder, learn more, and prove your value to your employer.” I couldn’t agree more but would be very interested in hearing what you have to say.

Click here for Part I of this article.

 

FRESH PERSPECTIVES

An Interview with Karen Morton

(May 2009) (Click here for the full interview)

Will there be any jobs left for me in five years? Should I move to Bangalore? Are the Indian shops any good? How should I adapt? One of my previous employers suffered wave after wave of layoffs. I personally know many IT professionals who have switched careers: a PeopleSoft engineer became a police officer, a project manager became an insurance agent. Should I plan on a career change? I’ve always wanted to be a beekeeper.

My experience has been that outsourcing may provide a low-cost way to quickly build an application, but it is not a solution for optimally performing and easily maintainable applications for the long haul. IT staff will still be needed here in the database trenches, where they will have to provide ongoing real-time support for applications. Since lower costs and speed of delivery are often the only criteria placed upon foreign outsourced vendors, that leaves lots of room for in-house staff to be needed to monitor, fix, and improve what arrives from these outsourced shops.

What that means to us is that there may be fewer jobs available in the short term at least. So, it becomes imperative that people are on top of their game as far as their knowledge and skill sets are concerned. I know of one company who outsourced their entire development staff and sent the work overseas. They had more performance problems than they could count, very disgruntled users, and ended up spending more time and money in the end. Within one year, they’d hired back about 50% of the original staff to try and fix the work that was delivered from the overseas vendor. Within two years, they’d hired back 95% of the original staff (in terms of the number of developers). They found that if they’d just stayed fully staffed to start with, they would’ve actually saved more money!

I don’t think anyone can make a blanket statement about the quality, or lack thereof, of outsourcing. But, I believe that well-trained in-house personnel can get the job done better and with less need for re-work than people who are thousands of miles away with no personal stake in the company that hires them.

Personally, I think if you love what you do and enjoy being good at it, then it’s not time for a job change. It’s time to work harder, learn more, and prove your value to your employer. But, if you’re not doing something that makes you glad to get up every day and go to work, then that’s the best reason to change jobs that I know of. Perhaps for those who aren’t in IT because they love it, when times are tight and layoffs occur, it may be time for them to re-evaluate where their heart is and move on to something else.

And, by the way, a friend of mine was a beekeeper and that’s one job I can easily say that I’d never want to have! I’m terrified of (not to mention allergic to) the little creatures!

Karen Morton has worked in information technology for more than 20 years, starting out as a mainframe programmer and then growing and changing with the times to do development, DBA, and data architect work. She has been using Oracle since the early 1990s and began teaching others how to use Oracle over a decade ago. She has authored several Oracle training course books, including leading the development of the Hotsos and Method R SQL Optimization curriculum. Karen is an Oracle ACE and a member of the OakTable Network.

 

GAJA UNLEASHED

An Interview with Gaja Krishna Vaidyanatha

(May 2008) (Click here for the full interview)

Will there be any jobs left for me in five years? Should I move to Bangalore? Are the Indian shops any good? How should I adapt? One of my previous employers suffered wave after wave of layoffs. I personally know many IT professionals who have switched careers: a PeopleSoft engineer became a police officer, a project manager became an insurance agent. Should I plan on a career change? I’ve always wanted to be a beekeeper.

Hmmm … a beekeeper … you surely have given me food for thought about my own future! Of course there will be jobs left in five years. The Indian shops are as good as you manage them. The same goes with the other IT outsourcing nation. With the large time differences between the U.S. and those countries, and various other issues that one faces with outsourced entities, offshore application development and system management is a mixed bag with lots more than what meets the eye—cost savings. Now whether or not you move to Bangalore is your call, but if I were you, I would stay plugged into the projects that are going overseas and make sure that you play an integral part in their design and development. The role of a DBA and a developer has changed in the past few years. I don’t believe there are fewer DBAs and developers today when compared to five years ago. So there is my one bit of advice for adapting to the new world: Survival of the fittest. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the Americas, the Middle East, Europe, Australia, or Asia.

Gaja Krishna Vaidyanatha is the founder of DBPerfMan LLC, a performance consulting firm that focuses on optimizing Oracle systems.  He is the primary author of Oracle Performance Tuning 101 (McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, 2001) and one of the co-authors of Oracle Insights: Tales of the Oak Table (Apress, 2004). He has presented many papers at regional, national, and international Oracle conferences and is a member of the OakTable Network.

 

ASKING JEREMIAH

An Interview with Jeremiah Wilton

(November 2007) (Click here for the full interview)

Big companies are sending all the jobs to offshore sweatshops. Are they really saving any money? Has quality suffered? Isn’t manageability an issue? Do I need to worry? Will I have a job in five years?

There are a lot of forces at work in the offshore DBA job market. The quality of offshore DBAs in India and China is increasing every year, but so are their salaries. Their salaries are still a fraction of U.S. salaries, but it is not just about money.

Only a small number of companies are willing to use remote DBAs at all. Most still prefer the DBA to be sitting at a desk in the company’s offices. Those who do use offshore DBAs still rely on offshore DBAs mainly for overnight on-call work. At the very least, most maintain a core team of local professionals to drive direction, engineering, and standards. Most companies have a primary DBA team in the U.S. and a secondary one overseas.

I think that offshoring may push some of the less-qualified positions out of the country, but that plenty of opportunities will remain for DBAs that are skilled, experienced, and intelligent. I think the positive outcome of overseas competition will be U.S. DBAs striving to achieve excellence in areas where they once might have too lazy to bother.

Jeremiah Wilton is has over fifteen years of Oracle database administration and systems architecture experience. As Amazon.com’s first database administrator, he helped lead Amazon.com’s database group from the pre-IPO period through the company’s years of exponential growth. He now directs education programs and emergency support services for Blue Gecko, a leader in remote database administration and managed hosting for Oracle, Oracle Applications and MySQL. Jeremiah is a recognized expert in scalability, high availability, stability and complex recoveries. He also teaches the Oracle Certificate Program at the University of Washington and independent seminars on a variety of Oracle subjects. In 2001 at Oracle OpenWorld, Oracle Education honored Jeremiah as one of the first Oracle Certified Masters in the world. Jeremiah is a member of the OakTable Network, has presented at numerous conferences and user group meetings including OpenWorld and UKOUG, and is the author of a variety of technical whitepapers and articles.

 

FEUERTHOUGHTS

An Interview with Steven Feuerstein

(August 2006) (Click here for the full interview)

All the jobs are going to India, Russia, and China. I know veteran IT professionals who now own health food stores, sell teddy bears on the Web, sell insurance, and patrol the streets of Berkeley on bicycles (bicycle cops). What’s your advice for IT professionals? Should we give up and find other professions?

How do I feel about friends, coworkers, and others I meet in the U.S. struggling, when previously everything was golden? I feel awful about it.

I also feel great about people in India, Russia and China finally able to participate in the great world of software development, and thereby improve their own quality of life and those of their children.

Software programming is a great profession and I think that anyone with training in the field should work hard to stay in it. Where else can you get a company to pay you to sit around and think about stuff, and write it down?

Yes, but how to hold on to those jobs? Speaking from my own experience, I would say that the trick is to specialize, to find a niche that fills a need that either not too many others are filling or know about, or is particularly challenging to do. If you can make yourself indispensable, you will find valuable and rewarding work.

Steven Feuerstein is considered one of the world’s leading experts on the Oracle PL/SQL language, having written ten books on PL/SQL, including Oracle PL/SQL Programming (O’Reilly Media, 2009) and Oracle PL/SQL Best Practices (O’Reilly Media, 2007). Steven has been developing software since 1980, spent five years with Oracle (1987–1992) and serves as PL/SQL Evangelist for Quest Software. His Oracle PL/SQL Best Practices column is one of the most popular pages on the Oracle Technology Network and he writes regularly for Oracle Magazine which named him the PL/SQL Developer of the Year award in 2002 and 2006. Steven believes that code testing is one of the most critical challenges facing PL/SQL developers and has been developing software to meet that challenge.

 

DOWN MEMORY LANE

An Interview with Bill Schwimmer

(May 2006) (Click here for the full interview)

For a long time, Larry Ellison has been predicting that database administrators will become extinct. His words seem to be finally coming true, at least in the case of America, because all the jobs are going to India and Elbonia. Is there any hope that the rate will slow down? What has been your experience working with offshore personnel? What are the challenges? What are the advantages?

You hear a few stories about “backshoring” [bringing work back to the U.S.] but I don’t think it will become a real trend unless U.S. tax laws change and it becomes disadvantageous for American corporations to go offshore for lower-cost labor. I think offshoring will continue and probably accelerate. The skill level of the talent pool of offshore DBAs is definitely improving and it is growing exponentially in numbers. And as salaries in India increase, U.S. companies will look to China and Eastern Europe to find even cheaper labor. There’s no end to it as far as I can see. We’ve worked in collaborative teams with offshore DBAs for years and, although there were initially problems in communication and connectivity, now they’re considered just another part of the team. Clearly the biggest advantage to American DBAs is that in a scenario like I described earlier with a team approach, DBAs on both sides of the globe get to sleep through the night. The disadvantage—job loss—is obvious.

The book Who Moved My Cheese? is a compelling story about people who cannot handle change. With all the jobs going to India, we can either pound on the walls or put on our running shoes and go looking for new opportunities. I know veteran IT professionals who own health food stores, sell teddy bears on the Web, sell insurance, and patrol the streets of Berkeley on bicycles as cops. What’s your advice for IT professionals? Should we give up and find other professions?

Tough question. Depending on what survey you believe, U.S. IT jobs may be either expanding or contracting due to offshoring. I believe that as long as we don’t see a recession in the U.S., there will be an expansion of IT needs, and I think that highly trained IT professionals—especially data engineering types—are probably going to be in demand in the U.S. for years to come. But to be safe, I think I’d advise my kids to choose a career that requires them to physically touch something onshore!

Bill Schwimmer was the first database administrator at Apple Computer and is now a DBA manager at HP.

 

THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF DATABASE ADMINISTRATION

An Interview with Venkat Devraj

(February 2006) (Click here for the full interview)

For a long time, Larry Ellison has been predicting that database administrators will become extinct. Will autonomics hasten that day?

Yes and no. DBA work in the U.S. as we know it today (i.e., the DBA-1 work) is sure to be offshored more and more in the short run and will taper off in the mid to long run because autonomics will replace it. It’s a natural evolution. However, that will still not eliminate the need for a different breed of DBAs—the database architect (DBA-2) because we still need people to use the newer database technologies and features to shorten deployment cycles and enhance service levels. That kind of creative DBA work is not likely to go away in the foreseeable future. Also, it will be a long time before the need for development DBAs and to a lesser extent, application DBAs, goes away.

Database administration jobs are being sent to India (or Romania or the Philippines) all the time. Is the trend increasing or moderating and even declining?

In the short term, I expect the trend to accelerate more until a good chunk of DBA-1 work is offshored. Corresponding short-term challenges such as security concerns and false patriotism will evaporate as DBA outsourcing further matures. But as salaries and employee turnover rates continue to go up in India, the window of opportunity will become larger for other places like China, Romania, and the Philippines. If they play their cards right and sufficiently polish up their English language skills, these places will be in a good position to replace India as the offshoring destination of choice. However, real business issues such as lack of standard operating procedures resulting in inconsistent quality of work, problems with communications and cultural differences, different work ethics and customer expectations, and eventually rising salaries in China, Romania, etc., will lower the offshoring curve again. Autonomics will begin to bridge the gap at lower costs and better quality.

Meanwhile, human DBAs everywhere will continue to innovate and climb upstream, they do not have a choice. Corporations will always eventually do what’s in the best interest of the shareholders. We need to embrace technology to continue adding higher value. As long as we do that, we will always have a job.

What is your experience with the quality of offshore personnel?

Overall, offshore personnel in the DBA area tend to be not as experienced as the quality of talent we find in the U.S. and require more training. But that is understandable because countries like India have been catapulted from an environment that had very little IT to the forefront of being the IT custodians for some of the world’s largest organizations. Companies that have successfully utilized offshore resources have invested significantly in training, building standards, and improving communications. The salary difference is still enormous and the time differences make it ideal to leverage offshore locations for follow-the-sun support models. However, the thing that really hurts our company is employee turnover in India. Sometimes this starts even before people start on the job—they accept an offer, request a start date that is a month away (in India, people often are required to give a month’s notice) and then, they don’t show up on the day they are supposed to—no calls or explanations come forth!

India especially is going through a boom that we went through in the late ’90s where a DBA could walk across the street and get a 30–40% raise. Once overseas HR policies strengthen and the demand settles and salaries level out, I expect this will be less of a problem in the next 3–4 years. Either that, or increasing levels of individual greed will cause India to lose its advantage to other countries, like China and Romania, that are further behind as far as IT salaries go.

What career advice do you have for database administrators and wannabe database administrators in this country? (Should we all switch to bee-keeping and other jobs that cannot be outsourced to cheap offshore locations?)

Not at all. On the contrary, I would say there is a shortage of good DBAs in the U.S. One of the reasons we use offshore resources is because we can’t find enough good people here. More people should get into DBA work with both guns firing! Most importantly though, they need to be innovative and business-savvy. The DBAs here often have the luxury of being on-site with the business users. Spend time with them to understand how you can use your knowledge of the database to better serve their current and future needs.

Focus more on being database architects rather than database administrators. Be willing to embrace newer technology and automation. Be the technology champion in your organization by segregating workload into mundane and non-mundane. Don’t be worried about losing your job if the mundane work gets outsourced to firms that specialize in that and can bring economies of scale to bear. Instead, figure out how not to drop the ball with the non-mundane work. Read and understand the new features that your DBMS product gives you; play with those features in a lab or development environment, and work on projects that utilize those features to enhance your environment. Go beyond the command line and the GUI to understand the concept behind the technology. Don’t worry that if you don’t remember the commands, [you] will become antiquated. On the contrary, with your institutional knowledge, proximity to your users, deeper product knowledge, willingness to embrace outsourcing and automation, and your newly nurtured architectural capabilities, you can add more value to your company than ever before.

Venkat Devraj is co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Stratavia in Denver. His focus at Stratavia is driving the vision and strategies for cutting-edge IT automation solutions. He is the author of Oracle 24×7 Tips & Techniques (Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 1999) and a frequent presenter at Oracle conferences such as OpenWorld, IOUG, and ODTUG.

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  1. September 27, 2009 at 9:54 am

    6 items on offshoring:
    1)Vommunicating with someone that is 12 hours out of sync(india) with your timezone is virtually impossible. As a former project leader where buckets of money were paid with little or no validation of work accomplished provided the straw that broke the camels back which caused me to leave because i couldnt manage these overpaid workers in India
    2)At one time I worked side by side with a software engineer from Bangalore who made more money than i did here 60k/annum..so the old argument of cheaper in india is no longer true in 2009.
    3)Managers: are you willing to wait 12 hours (or more to have a simple CREATE TABLE statement issued). Anyone with a rudimentary SQL skills can effect these simple statements in less time and have the additional peace of mind of getting it done right.
    4)Mission Critical Databases and Applications and access to ‘Private Information’ such as contact/HealthCare/Financial information needs to stay put in the US. When someone calls President Obama at his home in chicago and he asks how did you get my number..you (the Indian contractor would reply)..Many offshore companies ‘sell’ your contact information to every telemarketer on the planet
    5)I subscribe to roughly a dozen technical howto lists I have 10 inquiries from supposedly ‘overseas experts’ asking how does something work for every one here in the US. If they’re getting paid to do the job they should KNOW how to do it
    If the foreign workforce is so smart why do they inundate the lists with very basic questions?
    6)At one time we all had high-paying contracts but a manager should say if you want to keep this job the you must be willing to work min wage. Many of us who dont have any other options would take the min wage..really..it beats 0/year which most of us are making now.

    • Iggy Fernandez
      September 27, 2009 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks for sharing real-life experiences.

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