Should You Outsource Your Software Development Job to China?
When we walk past the desk or cubicle of a slacking coworker, we tend to roll our eyes and grit our teeth, muttering to ourselves about how they continue to get away with this and then “I better not get stuck having to pick up their slack.”
But in the case of “Developer Bob” (anonymous—for now), while he certainly was slacking off and absolutely did let someone else do his work for him, he’s being heralded by some for his ingenuity. What was Developer Bob doing with his free time? Nothing too special, it turns out—mainly surfing Reddit and watching cat videos.
Bob is, or was (he’s been terminated, much to the dismay of many of his new supporters), a software developer for an unnamed “critical infrastructure company in the U.S.” For at least the past six months, Bob had been having his daily coding tasks completed by another developer in Shenyang, China.
For only 20 percent of his six-figure salary, said to have been several hundreds of thousands of dollars, Bob received the following HR reviews:
…he received excellent remarks. His code was clean, well-written, and submitted in a timely fashion. Quarter after quarter, his performance review noted him as the best developer in the building.
Hopefully newly-unemployed Bob hung on to a large portion of those profits for however long he was running this scheme.
So, how was Bob caught? He presumably could have kept his outsourcing gig going indefinitely had he not been working for such a critical infrastructure company who will no doubt make every effort to ensure its identity is never revealed.
Verizon, who performed a security audit of the company, detected VPN traffic from China, something that should have been impossible since developers were required to use a “rotating token RSA key fob” to access the company’s highly secure coding infrastructure. Bob simply, but really not that smartly, shipped his key fob via FedEx to his Chinese stand-in.
Aside from the obvious security risk that Bob exposed his company to, which alone could be grounds for his firing, many are wondering what exactly he did that was so wrong.
Outsourcing is carried out at the company level all the time, almost always to save money—essentially what Bob was doing. Time remarks, “It’s sort of the basis of capitalism itself.” It’s that “sort of” where you run into the whole legal aspect of outsourcing work that’s not really yours to outsource.
The immense popularity of this story online isn’t surprising. For many, the American dream is to succeed without really trying, and the jury is pretty split on whether Bob was smart to do what he did. I’ve read comments that said he should never have been fired but should have been promoted instead.
Would you outsource your own work if you were sure you could get away with it? Feel free to remain anonymous in the comments section below!