Big battles for big talent
Employment prospects brightened for computer programmers and engineers in 2005, but some troubling trends continue to cloud the outlook for the high-tech workplace.
On the hiring front, Google is the name on the lips of many job seekers and recruiters. With its soaring stock price, booming ad business and legendary perks, Google is
a recruiting machine that's touched off a hiring frenzy of sorts. Yahoo, Microsoft and scores of others are wrestling with the search juggernaut for cybertalent, raising the premium on prized skills.
The battle for talent has turned up the tension between already fierce adversaries, particularly Microsoft and Google. The rivals are suing each other over Kai-Fu Lee, a well-connected executive from China whom Google hired away from Microsoft. Microsoft has charged Lee and Google with violating a noncompete agreement, while Google charges that such agreements are invalid.
The pretrial hearings offered an intriguing glimpse at how much Google has rattled executives in Redmond, Wash. According to a sworn statement from a senior engineer, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer hit the roof when the engineer said he'd accepted a job at Google. Ballmer launched a chair across the room and swore he'd "kill" the rival company.
Courtroom drama and fiery tempers aside, things seem to be looking up for techies, and it's not just because of Google. A new crop of start-ups in Silicon Valley and other high-tech centers are on the hunt for talent. While many are tapping overseas staff to keep costs down, they're hiring at home too.
Yet the picture isn't entirely rosy. Companies continue to outsource tech work abroad, making workers in the West nervous about losing their jobs to lower-paid counterparts in India, China and elsewhere. Meanwhile, big mergers in the information technology and telecommunications industries mean companies are shedding jobs by the thousands. In addition, businesses' appetites for technology seem to be shrinking, keeping IT suppliers under pressure.
Perennial concerns in the industry about work force diversity, guest workers, and math and science education continued to stir controversy in 2005. The president of Harvard University created an uproar by suggesting that aptitude, or the lack thereof, is a factor in low numbers of women engineers. Women across the field condemned the speech, yet the controversy brought fresh attention to the subject.
Computer executives sounded alarms anew over math and science education in the U.S., warning that the country risks losing its global edge if it can't produce enough tech-savvy workers. They point to ominous signs, such the faltering performance of U.S. universities at an international programming contest and declining interest in computer science degrees across the country.
More immediate concerns over worker shortages continue to fuel debate over highly skilled guest workers and their H-1B visas. Congress is currently weighing a proposal to boost the annual allotment of H-1B visas by about half--from 65,000 to 95,000. Critics of the program charge that the abundant supply of foreign workers suppresses salaries and takes jobs away from qualified Americans.
Harvard president's comments reignite debate over women in computer science, with reformers trying to reverse guy-centric patterns.
Grad students, professors call for Yale's president to condemn controversial comments by Harvard counterpart.
Chinese students win an international programming competition, while U.S. schools' performance hits a new low.
Arrest of former call center workers in India for account theft reignites controversy over shipping sensitive data overseas.
Young companies are getting ahold of seed money and hiring--yes, hiring. Just don't expect to hear any booms.
Building on its success in outsourcing, India is ready to become the next technology powerhouse in Asia.
As rivalry for talent heats up, company tries to address its reputation for arrogance in recruiting.
Lawsuit is response to defection of Kai-Fu Lee, who has been focusing on new search technologies for Redmond.
Workers drowning in e-mail, cell calls and IMs are finding ways to break free--and software makers are trying to meet their needs.
Two sides of a court battle paint very different portraits of ex-Microsoft exec hired to head Google's operations in China.
Papers in a case involving Google's hiring of a Microsoft exec say Microsoft's Ballmer vowed to "bury" Google's Eric Schmidt.
Senate committee boosts the number from 65,000 to 95,000, but some technology groups say the move still falls short.
The search giant is stocking up on engineers and more as it races to keep pace with its own ambitions.
Indian companies are looking to outsource to more expensive Dubai. It's a way to keep employees on the job.
Behind the headlines