To the editor:
I wish to add my support to the opinions and experiences about offshore engineering expressed by Ben Roberts and Axel Kloth. Although their personal experience far outweighs mine, all of the experience and opinion I have encountered, all of it, without exception, supports the experiences and results in the opinions and facts-based conclusions expressed by Mr. Roberts and Mr. Kloth.
I have not worked for many companies who used offshore engineering. My own companies have not been in a position to need more engineers than we could hire locally, and the travel-communication costs and overhead of offshore engineers would have added so much to our engineering costs that it was clearly not advantageous for us to use them.
My opinions are based on first-hand information from those who have tried offshore engineering, especially in India.
The experiences and opinions Ben and Axel exactly match those which have been related to me by [others], who had experience with Indian offshore engineering as well as offshore engineering in other places.
I doubt my small companies will have a need to engineer offshore, provided the world of the future is not radically different from the present. Also, I doubt I would be willing to risk using offshore engineering given what I have learned about it, no matter what the perceived advantages. All owners of small companies I know as well as senior managers of other companies I have discussed this with [agree]. Although I have found that the larger the company's engineering workforce, and the younger they are, the more enticing offshore engineering becomes. Not because of the availibility of so many success stories and the lack of stories about problems, such as those illustrated in these letters.
It is because the monetary gains for their companies are made to look so good that they are tempted to "roll the dice" and try offshore engineering. Since most of them do not have [adequate] accounting methods in place to discover the exact costs in all the other areas of the company affected by a failure in offshore engineering, it is possible for them to "bury" at least some of the losses. Others are simply lost in the maze of accounting we often see in such cases.
When there are many opinions, few facts and little objective information, the result is not usually one any of us would like to take credit for.
In the long run, the world [may] become less and less nationalistic and more homogenized. This may eventually change things enough to make [offshoring] efforts less problematic. Or, the world may not change, and these issues could change in the other direction. Whatever happens, we will always be better off with more information than with a few biased opinions.
I fervently hope the engineering community as a whole will see that we must undergo a change in our general attitude [towards offshoring]. Engineers are the least active in guiding and protecting their professional status in the workplace. It seems to be more a case of "every man for himself" than one of unity and cooperation. Engineers are also prone to the "head in the sand" syndrome when confronted with issues like these. When any creature handles threats by putting its head in the sand, casual observation readily reveals which part of the anatomy gets bitten first!
I have seen several attempts by a few engineers to organize the engineers they work with to protect their professional "rights." I have not seen any attempt succeed.
While the IEEE does do a lot of good, I have not seen it push through any changes of significance in the overall status of the electrical engineering profession. It is hardly known outside of the EE community.
When I voice these opinions and feelings, the first response I usually get is, "OK, you think you're so smart. Why don't you go start up an engineering professional association?"
I am an engineer, so I just put my head in the sand and hope they will go away soon.....