Monday, September 05, 2005 

The Nerd as a Commodity

I'm still jet-lagged enough :-) to say something extreme: the nerd who simply knows all the in&outs of a specific technology is becoming a commodity. Need a Java guru? Go India or Romania. Need a Linux expert? Go China. If you're any good at screening, you'll find excellent workers, way more motivated than western developers (although somewhat less likely to stay with you for more than a couple of years).
Why aren't nerds a commodity, yet? Because software development is a knowledge acquisition process. Language barriers, and even more so cultural barriers created by implicit, unexpressed knowledge, are still protecting the unaware techies. This is not going to last forever, and even in old-fashioned Italy I've seen more than a handful of people losing their job to equally skilled (and much cheaper) software developers from India.
Now for the bad news: technical excellence alone is not the answer. Sorry. Someone had to say that.
Want to stay out of the pack? Bring together technical excellence and a strong understanding of business. No, I don't mean understanding your business rules or process. I mean Business. Economics, marketing, management, product chain, ROI, real options, negotiation, whatever. Understand how to bring value to business through technical excellence and creativity. Outgrow the nerd. Speak viral marketing one moment, jump into a UML diagram the next, land to nitty-gritty platform details, switch back to business again. You'll find yourself a long, long way from being commoditized :-).
And by the way: what about losing any religious attachment to a language, operating system, technology or tools while leaving the nerd behind?
Che dire... Solo gli stupidi non cambiano opinione!
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