Slave Labor 2

Subject: Slave Labor 2
From: Andrew Plato <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 4 Aug 2002 11:45:26 -0700 (PDT)


Okay, this was the thread that really grabbed my attention. Somebody forwarded it
to me weeks ago and I checked out the entire thread on-line.

<bryan -dot- westbrook -at- amd -dot- com> wrote

> Threads like this one make me wish Andrew was still around here
> to tell people that the purpose of a business is to make money
> and not to supply jobs.

And right you are, Bryan.

The purpose of a corporation is to create value and wealth. Wealth for the
investors/owners/shareholders and value for brands, products and services. It
accomplishes this end by developing something, marketing it, and making a profit.
People are tasked to do the work to make all this happen.

So much for the Business 101 lesson.

People and institutions invest in companies because they want to see a return on
that money. Or in the case of non-profit corporations, they have a mandate to
fill a certain role in the market as established in the incorporation articles.

When markets change, companies must respond in some fashion to accommodate those
changes. If they fail to respond, they will go out of business or fail to fulfill
their mission. There are many things that can drive a viable company into
trouble. And like all living organisms, a company must respond to those changes
or it will die.

Specifically, companies must have a workable revenue model that offsets the
company's expenditures. Labor is one of those expenditures.

Its very trendy right now to criticize corporations because of the criminal
activities of a few. But the core purpose of any organization is to serve its
mission. And in the case of profitable corporations, part of that mission is to
make a profit and create wealth for the owners/stockholders.

How an organization responds to market conditions says a lot about their
management, goals, and employees. Some company's stick steadfast to their
products and services, even when there is virtually no demand for them. For
example, on-line digital media portals were all the buzz in 1998. But there
simply was not enough demand for them and there was no workable revenue model.
Therefore, it doesn't matter how brilliant, amazing, or interesting the
technology is (or was), without demand these sites were doomed.

Other companies pay attention to the markets and evolve with them. Rather than
blindly stick with an unworkable model, a company will abandon that model and
create a new one that is more profitable. This usually means firing the people
who were the stewards of the old model and replacing them with people who can
steer the company through a new market.

Everything that I have just described is equally applicable to individuals.

Technical writers are facing a similar fate. The profession is simply not in
demand as much as it used to be. Moreover, the demand has changed (and is
changing). What got you a job in 1998 simply isn't going to work today. The
market for documentation has fundamentally changed and as such, technical writers
need to fundamentally change.

Now...as for slave labor.

The reason companies relocate labor overseas is because a particular job or task
has become "commoditized." That is, there is overwhelming supply,limited
demand and minimal difference in quality. Why hire an American to complain about
fonts and attend STC meetings for $75,000 a year when you can out-source the same
work to a dude in India who will produce the same quality documentation (or
better) for $40,000 a year?

American's (and Europeans) are notorious for pricing themselves out labor
markets. Tech writers are no different. Just because you made $75K last year,
doesn't mean you are worth that same amount this year. Markets, including job
markets, change and evolve. What is in demand one week, is a glut the next week.
This isn't some conspiracy to push down the common man and enslave people of
color - its economics. Its the way our capitalist societies function.

This process of shifting commoditized labor from rich nations to poorer nations
and evolving markets has gone on since the beginning of time. Its just that in
the past, these changes were slower and less pronounced than they are today. Our
information gathering mechanisms are considerably better today and therefore we
can spot trends with greater accuracy. Hence companies much change their methods
more quickly.

Also, morons ramming planes into buildings can have a dramatic and rapid effect
on economic vitality. What took 10 years to change in the past now can happen in
6 months or less.

What does this mean to you? You have choice. You need to exercise that choice and
stop seeing yourself as a victim.

You can either stick to your guns and remain where you are and eventually your
job and skills will become commoditized and you'll be out of work or paid less.
Or you can evolve with the markets and advance your skills and career to stay
ahead of the commoditization. Your career is under your control. If you decide to
remain where you are, then expect that what you can do will eventually become
worth less and less.

Moreover, if you continually rely on others to have your best interests in mind,
you will be consistently disappointed. Either you stake out a place for yourself
in this world, or you get trampled by the rest of us. Its unfair, its mean, its
cruel - that's life.

If you and I are being chased by tigers, I am going to make damn sure I am
running faster than you! If that means I have to sacrifice my beloved shirt to go
a little bit faster - believe me, its coming off.

You are in competition with other people all over the world. Competition is the
driving force behind all capable economies. We cannot close our borders and stop
competing with the world, that would be suicide. History is filled with examples
of countries closing their borders and economies to foreigners and then rapidly
descended into poverty.

If it bothers you that your job is being transplanted to India, then maybe you
should consider getting some skills that make you more employable right here in
the US. A company does not have an obligation to go out of business and collapse
just to make sure people in the community have comfortable jobs. If your employer
cannot make money off your labor, they have an obligation to either restructure
so they can.

And yes, investors/owners/shareholders who put up their own money to fund a
business do have the right to decide what they will do with that business. If
this bugs you - start your own business and run it your own way.

You are not "entitled" to a job just because you happen to be a US citizen. You
have to offer the world something if you expect something back. And you
have to offer something that people (companies, organizations, etc.) want.

Lastly, remember that just because you think something is useful and valuable,
does not mean the rest of the world does. This goes for skills as well. Be
careful what skills and experience you cultivate and in which industry. You may
find yourself with 15 years of experience in a market that is rapidly
disappearing.

How do you do this...see my next post.

Now, don't let me catch you people being racist morons or I'll come over to your
house and sit on your bed with my laptop and play Counter Strike all night while
eating Cheez ITs and drinking absurd quantities of grape juice.

Andrew Plato


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