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Employment Grab-bag

07 Feb 2017

There was a lot of reading for this week. Dr. Bui, I did my best to get to most of it, but I might have skipped one or two articles.

Below you’ll find some casual musings and meandering trains of thought about what it’s like to be a professional programmer/ software engineer/ computer scientist, etc.


The first collection of articles discussed the H1-B Visa program, which allows a certain number (65,000) of skilled workers to enter the country per year. An individual’s visa is sponsored by their employer.

The program is contentious. On one hand, you have tech giants like Microsoft and Facebook supporting the program and advocating for its expansion, while on the other, you have skeptics who question whether such expansion is actually necessary for the fulfilment of these skilled positions. Skeptics point to cases like Disney, last year, when the company laid off over 200 IT workers and made them train their H1-B replacements. There are, unfortunately, many more instances of companies abusing the H1-B program to cut costs. The current H1-B rules state that domestic employees can’t be replaced by guest workers, but Disney and others circumvent this rule by terminating the domestic position and creating a “new” position for the guest worker (which, typically, pays less).

These abuses indicate that we may need to scale back, or at least reform in some way, the H1-B program. But to eliminate it entirely would be, I think, harmful to economic innovation. It’s easy to point to famous cases, like Steve Jobs’ father (a Syrian refugee), where immigrants and/or their children started companies that are now household names. To shut down H1-B would be to close the fast lane of skilled and educated minds into America. Furthermore, many of the points given in our class discussion recently for down-scaling H1-B were dependent on their appeal to nationalism. It makes sense that America’s government should be looking our for American citizens first, but to discount the well-being and opportunity for foreigners is decidedly un-American.

The real personal challenge is that I don’t want to compete for work with guest workers willing to work for less than I am. It’s great when capitalism and competition drive down the price and increase the quality of goods, but it’s less fun when it does that to people. I wish I had some solution that would grant equal opportunities to Americans and guest workers, and have everyone working on West coast software engineering salaries, but I don’t. All I think I can do for now is do my best to be as effective a computer scientists as possible, and become nothing less than a non-expendable asset to whichever employer I’m working with.

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