The San Jose Mercury had a whole cluster of
articles Sunday and Monday on tech support jobs moving from Silicon Valley to India. It warned onerously, “The moves are fueling anger among displaced American workers. And they are raising fundamental questions about the Valley’s long-term future as the global center of technology.” A related editorial warned against xenophobia although it seemed to me the article’s authors were fomenting it. The Mercury also seemed to miss the irony that Monday’s paper also contained a special section on wireless technology and how “observers see [the] Valley as having critical role in future of wireless,” implying that jobs are moving here from Scandinavia, Japan, Texas and Southern California.
It seems to me that just because the Mercury thinks local it doesn’t need to be myopic. I would have thought a “global center” included places like India and perhaps even Texas.
Not to split hairs but more jobs are moving to India from Stillwater, Okla. than from Silicon Valley. Tech support left this area during our bubbling gravy days when Valley residents considered the average tech support salary of $35 K a year to be chump change. Now, the Mercury reports Indians perform the job for as little as $2800 a year, which I guess is chump change in Stillwater. Silicon Valley’s biggest contribution to this is twofold: (1) We make products that require silly amounts of time-eating tech support, and (2) We live in a global center for the $550,000 fixer-upper bungalows and people need salaries that adjust for that craziness.
That’s not my main point. My main point is that what has happened in Silicon Valley may be painful to those who have been sitting out the recession for over two years, and for those who staked their retirements to stock option programs, but what is happened is what should have happened and the overall world will be a better place for it. The Mercury may despairs that the Valley will never be what it once was, but neither will you or I. Does anyone still recall when most things cool in cars and music came from Detroit?
What has in fact changed is that the Valley has outgrown its geographic perimeters. What began 40 years ago, as a vertical niche is today massively global and horizontal. IBM recently announced that since more of its revenue was coming from places not North American, then that’s where its workforce would be developed on all levels. Wall Street thought that was a good idea and so do I.
It’s not because I like the new ease of traffic on the highways near my home, or the paucity of start ups in the Bay Area, historically my primary source of revenue. (These days I’m talking to early phase tech companies in Rochester, Columbus, Minneapolis and Houston.) Where I live is still the world center of technology. It is home to an astounding concentration of brains, experience, attitude, culture and finance. What has happened, that I think is such a good thing is that we have become a Silicon Valley without walls. What was cultivated here has burst beyond the natural boundaries of the Freemont Hills and Santa Cruz. We are the epi-center of one very Big Silicon Valley. Our core industry today now “inter-depends” on professionals on colleagues in Austin and Boston, Bangalore and Bangor, China and Finland.
We wanted global customers and we got them. Now we are a global industry. And it seems to me that is good for what every candidate for Miss America says she wants—world peace. Countries that do business with each other, cultures that trade across borders simply don’t go to war against each other.
In that light, I look forward to some day seeing tech support centers in Iraq, Iran, Sudan and the Congo. This will go far, I think, to offset anti-modernist cultures who detest Western technology, using it only as weapons of harm.