Sea Change?

A report from the past.

In our April 2004 cover story about the high-tech job offshoring trend ("Into Thin Air"), we quoted a January 2004 study by the consulting firm Foote Partners. It stated, ominously, that pay had fallen for four straight quarters for the tech skills most susceptible to outsourcing. But in February, the same firm trotted out a new study, heralding a dramatic reversal: IT pay was getting a boost, in part because of offshoring disappointments. Said firm president David Foote in a press release: "This is very positive news indeed for tech workers wondering what to do about their careers."

Perhaps. But it's not much consolation for some of our story's 40 offshoring victims. We caught up with three of them recently, and none had found IT jobs. Lisa Pineau, a former programmer in Wylie, Texas, now works as an $11-an-hour office manager while she looks for high-tech work. Some people she knows have found new IT work, but "none of [them] are making near the salary they were making before," says Pineau.

After Debi Null's position at Agilent Technologies was offshored, the Colorado Springs systems analyst took on three jobs: as a T-Mobile customer-care rep, a department-store clerk, and a real-estate agent. The real-estate gig didn't work out, but she still has the customer-care job, despite that industry's heavy move offshore. She has also kept the retail job, which, at $6.50 an hour, she calls "just a workout, really." Null is struggling to hold on to her house.

We did hear some good news. Bill King, whose IBM job was outsourced to Canada, decided to leave IT and reinvent himself as a home inspector. Though he's making only 45% of his former salary, King offers some hope to others affected by the gloomy trend. While recently speaking to an inspection client who holds a similar IT job at IBM, King realized he didn't miss the corporate world: "That reinforced once again that I had made the correct choice."

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