Lost in the middle of hundreds of facebook comments on a fairly contentious topic, I found a really insightful comment on one of the reasons America is having a tough time competing with other countries.
A lot of good points made in the comments here. I’d like to share my thoughts on this.
1. One good point is that Americans get unemployed when foreign workers are being brought in for new jobs. Instead of just fuming, Americans should ask themselves why this is happening. I’d like to share my perception on why this is so:
A lot of Americans I’ve worked with perceive their job as something that occupies 9am to 6pm in their lives, it is NOT the main part of their life, the family is. They like to keep colleagues and friends separate for the most part, put on a “professional” mask when going to office, and don’t like to be asked questions about their personal lives. To them a job is something that they must go to, to keep bringing the money in – and which company doesn’t really matter.
Indians, on the other hand, find it new – this whole concept of jobs being actually available. In India, a person’s identity (especially in case of males) depends mostly on the job, which company he works for, how long he’s been with the company and what position he holds. They take a lot of pride in being very loyal to the company, working overtime, being so super-involved in work that often, the team / work / process starts depending on their accumulated knowledge and skills. IMHO Indians are NOT smarter than Americans, in fact a lot of the time they are a lot less smart. But this tendency for deep involvement / commitment / loyalty is what keeps companies coming to India & Indians – not just cost.
I’ve noticed this stark difference in the way a project gets executed in the US and in India, in some cases different modules of the same project. The level of commitment and hard work that goes into the project is just different. Management does notice this. In a lot of cases, unless the project is a deep scientific R&D type of work, the commitment adds more value than actual smarts. Managements get the best of both worlds by hiring a Russian architect for the brain and send the rest of the bulk work to India.
Let me illustrate with a small example:
Q: What’s the status on the X component of the Y module in the Z project?
American developer’s reply: Yes, there was some email thread about some incompatibility, I need to check and get back. I’ll get back to you by end of week, I’m held up with other things right now, going on My Vacation tomorrow and I’m not answering phone calls or emails until I’m back.
Indian developer’s reply: Oh yes, I saw that email thread, BB team are trying to incorporate this feature in their CC project by passing the parameter as part of the constructor, however this component was developed in parallel without that parameter being considered, therefore it has to be modified to suit that – and the bone of contention is who is going to do that modification and fund it. Hold on, I’ll send you more details by tonight (may be late tonight). I’m going on vacation and wouldn’t be back till end of week, but you can still call me anytime.
Indians have no problem working extra hours / weekends / being called for meetings etc. There is a saying, “the deer runs for its life and the lion runs for its food, so the deer runs harder”. Indians are shit-scared of losing their jobs so they work frantically. For Americans, if not one company then another.
2. (A lot of) Americans study and then try to find a job. Indians try to study what will fetch them a job. Americans are serious about pursuing their dreams – whether it is scuba diving, cooking, learning Chinese, mountaineering… whatever. When going through the process of education, they are very optimistic and they first try to focus on equipping themselves education-wise and knowledge-wise to achieve their dream in terms of occupation. A lot of times, reality hits (and hits hard) only after they graduate. No one wants those skills. There just aren’t enough businesses along those lines, and there are no jobs where there are no businesses. They become cynical and go into some other line of work, and then they don’t make great employees for obvious reasons.
3. It is not about intelligence! This is in reference to the points made about IQ etc. I don’t know which country / race has the best IQ etc etc, but my point here is that it doesn’t matter! In most jobs, people don’t HAVE to use their brains so much. It is more about presence of mind, staying connected with reality, people skills, responding quickly, quick grasp of situations, accepting company policies, team work, attitude and a whole host of other things.
The Indian employment scenario faces different kinds of problems (much, much bigger and more complex than the American scenario) but this discussion is about America, so I will keep those out of this discussion.
Sorry no link. Not sure I want to link to facebook anyway, but the main reason is that I couldn’t find a link to that specific comment.
And here is my reply:
As one of the rare Americans that take the “Indian” approach to work, I totally agree with Natarajan Shanker. Americans blew the doors off of Europe last century because they were willing to do whatever it took to succeed. Now Americans are getting left behind because they do not have the same attitude about work that their grand-parents had.
And it is not just work/career. Americans, in general (not everyone, thankfully, but way too many) have a bad attitude about everything. Sure we have optimism, but misplaced optimism quick turns to rot.
If Americans will stop complaining long enough to really consider what it takes to be successful, they will do really well despite all of the forces lined up against them. As a matter of fact, extreme hardship seems to be a necessary ingredient of spectacular success.
What do you see as the most important ingredients of success? Comments?