When Your Paycheck Comes From India

After a decade of watching U.S. IT jobs get siphoned off to India, we're seeing an interesting turnabout lately: Indian companies are increasingly recruiting throughout the world, including in the U.S. Some claim that the trend is a reaction to a shrinking talent pool in India. But companies such as Infosys Technologies Ltd., Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. (TCS) and Patni Computer Systems Ltd. say they're merely responding to the same strategic and competitive pressures that are pushing other global services firms to find and place employees throughout the world.

We talked with IT professionals at different stages in their work lives about the career and cultural implications of signing on with an Indian outsourcing firm.

The Rookie

Katrina Anderson, 22, of Phoenix, was one of 126 new hires at Infosys who went to India for training for six months before returning to the U.S. to work. She graduated in 2006, earning a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame, where she had had positive experiences in two low-level programming courses. She made the Infosys connection at a career fair and is currently a software engineer.

The career move: "The op portunity to train in India was eye-opening, as I came to realize how respected and prominent Infosys is within the country," Anderson says. "It's exciting for me to work for a company that is up and coming on the global playing field. I was thrilled at the chance to live and work in another country.

"The main goal of the training program for software engineers is to teach us how to read, understand and write code," she says. "A strong emphasis is placed on developing critical thinking skills. The training program started at a very fundamental level. We learned by completing hands-on projects, both individually and in small groups.

"Training was also provided from a business perspective," Anderson says. "We learned how to improve our listening skills and understand business requirements to prepare us for interaction with our clients. We were challenged to probe the clients for questions they may not have considered. In this way, we were prepared to work as consultants as well as software engineers."

The cultural experience: "Because the middle class is burgeoning after years of being virtually nonexistent in India, it appears everyone is fighting tooth and nail to be successful," Anderson says. "Therefore, it's not surprising that I found most of the Indians working for Infosys to be incredibly competitive and hardworking."

Anderson says the experience was very positive. "I enjoyed the friendly people, the food, the weather and the sightseeing."

The Journeyman

Jason Kratzer, 25, of Orlando, has spent eight years in various IT positions, from computer operator to senior systems administrator. He has earned certifications in support, network support, and Microsoft Windows and Exchange. He is working toward an associate degree in MIS from Seminole Community College, a satellite school of the University of Central Florida. He is currently a solutions architect at Patni.

The career move: "Patni recruited me via e-mail and over the telephone after finding my résumé on Monster.com," Kratzer says. "I was hired as an implementation specialist. I'm being trained by my client, EMC Corp., as a solutions architect to design software solutions.

"I was very impressed with the organizational process flow and how [Patni] dealt with its employees," Kratzer says. "I was impressed by the processes they have in place for time management and project tracking, as well as the technical assets that are available. For instance, the system I use to track my project time and expenses makes it very easy to report on current projects. We also have servers available for testing different scenarios and software, so, for example, I can re-create a customer issue in my own environment."

The cultural experience: Those raised in Indian culture typically have great technical skills and a very strong work ethic, and they work at a high rate of speed and are usually very proficient," Kratzer says. "Additionally, they're always trying to improve themselves educationally and professionally. I find that quite impressive and inspirational."

The Veteran

John Dubeil, 59, of Boston, worked for Boston Edison from 1968 to 1996 as an electric power engineer and later in IT application development, quality assurance and planning. He then spent 10 years as an analyst at Gartner Inc. Recruited by TCS late in 2005, he is currently a practice director.

The career move: "Something I always wanted to do was grow a new organization from scratch, and IT services was a space that fit my skill set," Dubeil says. "What I provide to them is the experience of running a consulting practice, plus my architecture skills."

Dubeil says TCS's Indian origins had "absolutely no bearing" on his decision to join the company. "It had more to do with the fact that they understood where they were going and how they wanted to get there," he says. "It's a company with tremendous resources and lab capabilities, and that's tremendously attractive to me. I'm an engineer, and what an engineer likes to do is take known solutions and apply them to problems to arrive at new solutions."

The cultural experience: "I feel like I work at a services company with headquarters that happens to be in Mumbai, India," Dubeil says. "I've been there once in the past year and have a phone call every morning with my counterpart in India at 7:00, which is 5:30 p.m. their time. In terms of work ethic and culture, I can't say that much is different good consultants are good consultants."

Brandel is a Computerworld contributing writer in Newton, Mass. Contact her at marybrandel@verizon.net.

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