Do We Really Need Foreigners to Administer Our Databases?
I have worked in technology for many years. One thing you learn pretty early on is you need to find a company that is a good cultural fit for you. I imagine that in some industries, like banking, it doesn’t really matter who you work for. I mean all those stiffs gotta get dressed up in their monkey suits, right? But tech is a real crap shoot. Working for the flip-flop wearing CEO of a large Silicon Valley startup is nothing like working with a bunch of good-old-boy Hook Em’ Horns fans in Texas nor is it anything like working for ex-jarheads at a government contractor in DC. However, there is one thing that all of the companies I’ve worked for have in common. It didn’t matter if I was in Palo Alto, Austin or NoVa, almost every database administrator I worked with was a H1B visa holder from India.
Now I always assumed that companies did this because they could pay the Indians less. But a few years ago I was having a Tequila fueled argument with the director of a top recruiting firm and he told me that I didn’t know what the f*** I was talking about. Apparently, after all is said and done, companies don’t really save that much money by hiring H1Bs for low level positions like database administrators (DBAs). The main reason corporations like to hire them is because the H1Bs are tied to the company that sponsors them, reducing what HR calls “churn rate”. Apparently it is a paperwork and regulatory nightmare to hire an H1B who is already in the US working for another company, but much easier to get yet another one from India. This leaves the H1Bs with only two career options; they can continue working for the company that sponsored them, regardless of how much abuse management heaps on them, or they can pack up their bags and head back to Mumbai. It is modern-day indentured servitude.
So why do H1Bs dominate DBA positions and not Network Engineer or Linux Admin roles? The simple truth is that being an entry-level or even a mid-level DBA is not that hard. A DBA does not need the breadth of knowledge that network and Linux techs need to do their job. DBA is a very scope limited position. And that is the most infuriating aspect of all of this. Send any black kid from an inner city ghetto or any white kid from a trailer park in coal country to a two year training program and you will have a fine DBA.
For those of us that have to work with the H1Bs, we face a number of other frustrations. Over the years I’ve come to understand that the Indian DBA you hire is not necessarily the Indian DBA you get. Take Anjali for example. A normal day on the job for Anjali was as follows- She would attend a meeting in the morning where she would be given a set of tasks to perform on the database. Before lunch she would corner the project manager for fifteen minutes and have him speak very slowly while re-explaining what was said in the meeting. She would then spend the afternoon on the phone with her husband discussing her assignment. Later that night her husband would use her login account to remotely connect to the database and perform the work. This situation is far from unique.
It really makes interviewing DBAs fun. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen candidates ace a phone interview only to be unable to answer the simplest questions when we brought them in for an in-person. One day my co-worker Mike had enough. He and I were interviewing this Indian dude and Mike didn’t even bother to sit down, he just threw a picture on the conference table. “What building is this?” Indian dude didn’t have a clue. “This is the main campus building of the Indian college you supposedly graduated from.” I f***ing spit out my coffee, “Don’t call us Indian dude, we’ll call you.”
The H1B visa program was supposed allow America to attract elite talent from around the globe- Nuclear Engineers, Biotech PHDs and the like. There is absolutely no reason the US needs to import DBAs. On Monday the politicians stand on the floor of congress saying that they want to help laid off blue collar workers get retrained for the jobs of tomorrow. Then on Tuesday they walk over to K street and collect their bribes for allowing the Silicon Valley globalists to abuse the f*** out of the H1B program. If it were up to me we’d line all the CEOs and politicians up against Trump’s wall. There’s a s***load of gun toting techs who are itching for some target practice.