Back when I still cared about this kind of thing, I was browsing through the job boards just to see what was going on out there in my specific field of work — you know, just to keep abreast of things — when I saw a want ad for my job.
Upon further investigation, it wasn’t for my actual job — the advertiser was a different company from mine — but it could have been:
Database management and report design / writing, competent user of XYZ software, able to make effective management presentations up to Board level, five years experience minimum, seven years industry experience.
That, in essence, was what I’d been doing for about the past ten years. All well and good. Then came the kicker:
Considering that I was on a salary in excess of $95,000 at the time, and I knew at least half a dozen other guys earning about what I did (small industry, we all knew each other), this ad made no sense. Either they were going to get a glorified data entry clerk who couldn’t really do anything close to what the job needed, or the job had been filled already — inside job, nepotism, whatever — and the company was just going through the motions to satisfy some government hiring regulation.
The point was that I knew how much experience and know-how was necessary to do that job properly — I had it, and so did my contemporaries — so I was curious to see how the thing would shake out.
Some time later (maybe even a year, I don’t remember) I called a friend who was a corporate head-hunter, and asked him to find out what had transpired. He did, and found out two things: the company hadn’t found anyone to do the job for that compensation (as I suspected they wouldn’t), so after nine months they’d gone overseas and hired not one but two people from India or Sri Lanka to fill the position.
Now I know what some people are going to say: the position was paying far more than the job was worth, so that’s why the company ended up getting cheaper labor. But that wasn’t the case at all: for someone to have acquired the experience necessary, they would have had to have spent a minimum of two years in a junior- to midlevel management position in the industry, and then at least three years experience with complex database management, and another year or two on the report design aspect of it. (This was a very complex skill set to have to acquire, and it wasn’t taught in business schools either, so there was no shortcut.) Considering that the new hires were in their mid-twenties, there was no possible way that they could have filled the experience/expertise requirements of the job.
My head-hunter friend told me that what the company had essentially done was lie on the H-1B visa applications, or at least show that they hadn’t been able to fill the position domestically, in order to get the visas cleared. In essence, the company had hired two trainees for the job, thinking that they’d be able to get at least one of them to perform the function, eventually.
Fast forward about four years. I’d since left my job and hung up my shingle as a consultant in my field, with a reputation as a guy who could fix things and get programs to work as required. So one day my head-hunter buddy calls me up and asks me if I’d be interested in taking on a yearlong project with a company who’d run into serious trouble with their management information systems. They’d gone to the usual suspects (Andersen, PWC, McKinsey, Bain etc.) and were told that the fix would take over two years and well over two million dollars to fix. The company had neither the time nor the money to do that, but they were being crippled by the broken system. Rock, meet hard place.
Well, you can guess who the company was: the cheapskates who’d gone H-1B rather than hire someone like myself to run their program. The H-1Bs themselves had long since disappeared (either fired, or quit after no doubt seeing what was coming), leaving behind a poor guy promoted from within, and who through no fault of his own was completely out of his depth.
Of course, I went over to see the company to scope the project to see if what the Big Dogs told them was true; and it was, except for the cost and the time. You see, most consultancies don’t know shit about specific industries, and their people (freshly-minted MBAs from Harvard, Cornell and Wharton) know absolutely nothing about anything — so they need training just to get them up to speed (paid by Client, duh), and only then can they begin to address the client’s problem — and it always takes longer than the period quoted. Always.
If you knew what to do, and I did, the fix was radical but simple (I told the company): it would take about nine months to a year, a new software package (which, ahem, I’d helped the software house to design) and would require firing the people responsible for the screwup.
So I got the gig, fixed the system, trained the guy and got the whole thing working in eight months, then arranged an “oversight” consultancy — part-time hours, full-time pay for another year — to monitor the operation and ensure that the system would keep working.
I have no idea what the screwup cost the company in total (lost productivity plus my repair job), but just going on my bill, they would have saved well over half a million dollars if they’d just hired someone like me at $100k at the beginning.
My advice to you all is that if you see a company doing stupid shit like thinking they can get ten dollars’ worth of output from a one-cent investment: short the stock.