Signs everywhere point to the plight of the laid-off tech worker. Tech consultancy BearingPoint files for bankruptcy. Hewlett-Packard's profits plummet. Silicon Valley employment falls for the first time in several years. With daily layoffs and few new jobs available, techies have seen their careers careening off track -- and now they need to reinvent themselves or get off the tech train altogether.
There's no question the job market is getting worse: Companies are shifting more IT operations overseas, gutting IT staffs, and replacing seasoned veterans with cheap labor, all in a desperate effort to cut costs. Business survival trumps technical innovation. The sage advice that techies should hone their business skills to make themselves more valuable has taken on a chilling sense of urgency.
[ With more than 200,000 tech workers in the unemployment line, writes InfoWorld's Bill Snyder, the H-1B visa has got to go. | As bad as the tech industry layoffs are, Tom Sullivan discovers actual job losses are not as bad as people think. | And a tech career is still safer than many others, Tom Kaneshige reports. ]
So far some 200,000 tech workers have faced the firing squad, according to TechCrunch. Many are still out of work today. I've spoken to a few whose words are often laced with anger, despair, and occasionally hope. They sift through the wreckage of their careers looking for anything to salvage, such as new skills that might make them less expendable at their next gig or opportunities for consulting work to help companies fill the gaps caused by layoffs.
Then there are the downright fed-up techies ready to leave the profession. They don't see an end to outsourcing, offshoring, and H-1B labor trends driving down job opportunities and salaries. They shake a finger at the shady business practices of tech vendors like IBM, which incredulously suggested to its laid-off workers that they move to India, in lieu of collecting severance. They lament the common mistreatment of tech workers by employers.
H-1B and L-1 visa holders feel the backlash, too, as cries of national protectionism reach a fevered pitch. When Microsoft said it would lay off 5,000 people over the next 18 months, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) fired off a letter to CEO Steve Ballmer about Microsoft's "moral obligation" to protect American workers. Microsoft said a "significant number" of the first 1,400 people laid off will be foreign workers here on visas.