Life

Human Capital Obsolescence

This post’s title was inspired by an article in TechCrunch.
Go read Silicon Valley TechCrunch Job and Age It’s All About Age.

The author’s focus is on tech talent (particularly software programmers) in Silicon Valley but I think the lessons apply to almost anyone in an IT tech role and based in the developed world.

Note the advice he offers within points 1, 2 and 3.
I imagine these are well-known by IT Pros in their 30s and 40s, but I often wonder how many are actively planning to do anything about it before events force their hand?

By events, I mean: economic black swans such as the Lehman Shock (as the global 2008 financial pandemonium is called here in Japan), corporate outsourcing to developing countries, and technology changes.

For me, the wake up call was reading Ashutosh Sheshabalaya’s book, Rising Elephant, around 2005/6. He was very clear that big changes were coming for both the US and Europe as India’s offshoring juggernaut built global momentum.

With the perspective of hindsight, here’s a very prescient interview of the author in 2004. Remember that the debt-fueled boom of many Western nations was in full swing at that time, and minds were not alert as to what would happen when the inevitable bust arrived.

Author Says Offshoring Real WMD For US: itmanagement.earthweb.com/career/article.php/11067_3422581_1/Author-Says-Offshoring-Real-WMD-for-US.htm
(Aug. 2014: Broken link?)

And now that many countries are still in the economic doldrums, two years beyond the 2008 debacle, you can imagine the pressures to cut costs, to do more with less, mantras that are fueling corporate planning.

Excepting a major and unexpected geopolitical event (e.g. resource wars) that might derail the ;global playing field, the outsourcing trend (in my opinion) is likely to accelerate in the years ahead. Driven not just by skills and wage arbitrage but by technologies such as telepresence, it will be easier and cheaper to create, monitor and manage virtual office environments. (Although time differences will always suck!)

A small ripple in this economic pool are the changes to the ex-pat population in Japan (mainly Tokyo). A lot of people have apparently disappeared, as this article in Japan-based entrepreneur Terrie Lloyd’s ezine of 24th August reveals:

…many of those missing 4,700 people are in fact foreigners. We are hearing repeated stories of luxury apartments going
for 50% or less of their pre-Lehman shock rentals.

You can probably guess what’s happened to the missing sacked, repatriated or relocated (in many cases to Singapore).

This can happen to anyone, at virtually any time.

Be prepared.