While offshoring has taken a toll on many IT workers in the US, it has also opened up opportunities for those willing, interested and able to work with colleagues from India, Russia and other countries. That's because, whether they offshore or set up shop in another country, companies still need technology professionals to oversee and manage the IT work they're having done elsewhere.
So, who are good candidates to fill these IT project-management roles that are growing out of globalization? According to managers and executives involved in these projects, techies with experience in project management are best-positioned, but developers and programmers with business acumen, cultural awareness and communication skills may also find a niche.
Either way, techies who go the global project route will likely be giving up hands-on technical work for management duties. "Someone who has been a technical professional needs to think about whether they would like the management portion of the job," says J. LeRoy Ward, executive vice president of ESI International, a project-management training firm. "They really have to want to make a change in their career path.
This advice can help those interested in making the transition:
Move Beyond the Technical
Companies send work offshore, because they believe the hardcore technical tasks can be handled more cheaply and efficiently there. If your only skills are technical, you stand little chance of working as a bridge to overseas colleagues. "You have to show the initiative to go into roles that aren't purely technical," says Ronnie Ray, vice president of marketing at InfoVista, a global software company.
Communicate with Clarity
Crystal-clear communication is vital when working with overseas colleagues, so if you're the techie everyone understands, your communication skills could help you move into a global project role. "You have to overcommunicate with team members in other countries and be disciplined in documenting communications," says Seth Hishmeh, cofounder and chief operating officer of USAS Technologies, an IT consulting and professional services firm with offices in the US, India and China.
Ray, who has worked in India with American clients, says global project managers must understand and clearly define all tasks. Furthermore, to prevent miscommunication that can result from varying cultural perceptions, they must be able to state verbally and in writing, "Is this clearly understood among all of us?"
Because of the lack of face-to-face contact between project managers and techies, those working on overseas projects must cultivate a degree of trust among various stakeholders -- whether they're US-based executives or project teams and developers elsewhere. Says Alexander Nepomnyashchiy, a Bellevue, Washington-based program manager with Russian IT firm Luxoft: "You don't see them, and you expect them to do something when you cannot supervise them directly. You need to trust them."
Develop Intercultural Skills
Cultural differences, says Nepomnyashchiy, "may seem minor, but they still affect the relationship." Others concur, advising aspiring global project managers to tune up their cultural awareness by:
- Getting trained in intercultural communication.
- Learning another language.
- Traveling widely.
"If you want to be a great project manager for global projects, you need to have a passion for understanding the culture of the countries you are dealing with and how to build relationships with those team members," Hishmeh says.
Be Open to Options
Even if project management isn't for you, you may be able to play a role in global IT projects as a business analyst. One of Ward's clients, which shed much of its IT staff, retained around 1,000 of its top software analysts and programmers, converting them to business analysts who gather and document user requirements. As the level of offshoring increases, companies are expected to need more such analysts.
And don't assume these opportunities exist only with US firms. Companies based in other countries -- in particular, Indian companies, such as Infosys and Tata -- are recruiting US-trained technology professionals to work in their US-based offices.
The economy is truly global, and it takes an open mind to take advantage of it.