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Article by Mohan Babu


Book on Net slaves and techies

A book on the ‘history’ of the life and times during the dotcom boom and bust can teach a lot. Talking about a book on the techie community in the late nineties, MOHAN BABU says that what we learn during one boom-and-bust cycle is probably going to help us withstand the vagaries of economic cycles better

Every once in a while, a book on technologists and trends, written as a human interest story chronicling the ups-and-downs comes along. A copy of Net Slaves. True Tales of Working the Web (by Bill Lessard and Steve Baldwin), that I picked up at the library was one such book. Although the title claims it has “true tales of working the Web,” the actual stories in the book are still broader, encompassing the techie community of the late nineties. The introduction starts off by saying that behind the industry propaganda and media hype were thousands of individuals trying against the odds to make a decent living while they keep everything going. Based on interviews with workers from across the spectrum of Internet-related jobs, the book offers anecdotes and a glimpse into the real-life grunt-work behind the façade of bonhomie projected by media during the late nineties.

The authors mask the true identity of people and companies in the stories by inventing fictitious names and characters but assure the readers that the stories are true. The book is packed with hard hitting punches including jibes at immigrant Indian workers in the US: “The cubicles around him and as far as his eyes could see were all occupied by immigrants from Russia, Taiwan, and India. Zorn later found out that they were all H1-B workers who had been brought over and sponsored by BDS. To Zorn’s ears, the arrangement sounded a lot like indentured servitude. They were paid less than market rate for their services and couldn’t do a thing about it for the three years it took to gain residency.” Anecdotes like these are sure to resonate with many Indian techies who happened to be in the US during the heady nineties, especially those of us who were stuck in the grind in the hopes of acquiring the coveted greencard. Not all Indians got into the green-card-mill, and instead chose to make the big bucks as independent consultants. Of course, they also experienced the flip-side when the slowdown came hurtling.

Some readers might be wondering what a book on the ‘history’ of the life and times during the dotcom boom and bust is going to teach us. A lot, if you ask me. During a span of a few more decades that most of the techies who started their career in the nineties are going to be working, such ups and downs, some driven by technology and others by economic factors are going to become a way of life. What we learn during one boom-and-bust cycle is probably going to help us withstand the vagaries of economic cycles better. Even if we cannot predict the exact trends, we can at least be prepared for events by observing the directing in which the winds of change are blowing, how people in one boom benefited and others lost out. Of course, such a takeaway is going to be highly subjective, depending on the stage of one’s career and lessons an individual is going to glean.

Even among the genre of Indian techies in the US, we had a huge disparity ranging from the likes of Sabeer Bhatia, who truly personified the American dream to the thousands of “regular”

H1-B techies who happened to capitalise on the opportunities and moved to the US. As we march along the 21st century, the winds of change are blowing yet again. This time, the jobs are being outsourced to India and the next generation of techies are getting to work on cutting technologies, being right at home, without the need to migrate West.

New books will be written on these trends. Of course, chapters on global outsourcing trends are already being added to management books. On a lighter note: One of these days I’m probably going to sit down to write a book like that chronicles my nearly-decade-long whirlwind career in the dynamic field of information technology. Until then, I will probably continue to enjoy reading books like these.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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