Admit it: If you could get away with paying someone a fraction of your paycheck to do your job for you, you probably would. Telemarketing firms, IT companies and major manufacturers have been pulling that stunt for years now by cutting out the middleman (you) and shipping jobs to places where people work for way less pay--often to China and India. Americans often get upset and point the finger at these transnational corporations for undercutting our economy, taking food and health benefits away from our workforce.
This, at least, is the story of one guy, Bob, who attempted to wield the power of the corporations for his own personal use, and who got burned. Before Bob lost his job last year, he worked as a developer for a "critical infrastructure" company in the US. He also held several other development gigs at various firms and companies. And he was good; his performance reviews painted a portrait of a hard-working, efficient and thorough worker. In fact, one of his employers named him the best developer in the building.
Each day, Bob would get up and start his day promptly at 9 a.m. Here's what his typical work day looked like, according to Verizon's Risk Team assessment which outlines Bob's Internet browsing history. It's familiar, but with some conspicuous absences:
- 9:00 a.m. – Arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos.
- 11:30 a.m. – Take lunch.
- 1:00 p.m. – Ebay time.
- 2:00 p.m – Facebook updates. LinkedIn.
- 4:30 p.m. – End of day update e-mail to management.
- 5:00 p.m. – Go home.
You're right--he has a work-free work day. And that doesn't make sense. Apparently, Bob had struck a deal with a Chinese development firm wherein he paid about $50,000 per year--roughly 20% of his annual six-figure income--in exchange for clean code he could submit to his employers. It's a pretty good scheme -- good enough for some of America's largest companies, anyway.
Bob got caught after a U.S. company contacted Verizon with a query: Why did its VPN logs show an active connection feeding in from Shenyang, China? Bob was at his desk, but someone in China was logged into his company's system. A Verizon investigation showed that Bob's China connection had been active every day, all day, for six months. The investigation report, which The Next Web got hold of, described Bob like this:
Employee profile –mid-40′s software developer versed in C, C++, perl, java, Ruby, php, python, etc. Relatively long tenure with the company, family man, inoffensive and quiet. Someone you wouldn’t look at twice in an elevator.
The company fired Bob shortly after learning about his work habit. I mean, we don't want employees outsourcing their jobs to companies in China! That's the company's prerogative, and it shouldn't have to pay guys like Bob to do it for them. According to a forensic investigator at Verizon, the company is headed in that direction already.
"This organization had been slowly moving toward a more telecommuting-oriented workforce, and they had therefore started to allow their developers to work from home on certain days. In order to accomplish this, they'd set up a fairly standard VPN concentrator approximately two years prior to our receiving their call," he said, according to the BBC. The company's problem, it seems, isn't the telecommuting or the outsourcing, it's Bob's wiliness in using a classic company cost-saving strategy to take advantage of the company.