The Need for Employees Who Think Like Hackers-Or Are Hackers

Don Tennant

A former Infosys manager from India who spent six years working in the United States on an H-1B visa has described an institutionalized pattern of discrimination against American college graduates recruited by the company. According to the former manager, the recruitment effort was put in place by Infosys's top management as a means of promoting a more culturally diverse work force, but has been systematically stymied by middle managers who want no part of any such inclusiveness.

 

The former manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity, worked at Infosys from 2000 to 2010. In 2008, he served on a panel that interviewed graduating college students in the United States as part of an ongoing recruitment drive initiated by "visionaries" among Infosys's top brass, including Co-founder and Chairman Emeritus Narayana Murthy, to create a more inclusive work force. The former manager said he interviewed students from some of the most prestigious universities in the country, including the University of Chicago, the University of Texas, Boston University, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Syracuse and Purdue University.

 

Such a recruitment drive would yield 200 to 300 new employees, who would be sent to India for four months of classroom training, followed by about two months of work on an actual project in India. The new recruits would then be sent back to the United States, where they would be available to work on projects at Infosys's various client sites around the country. The problem, the former manager said, is that the recruits would just languish on the bench because the Indian account managers were convinced that the Americans would be unable or unwilling to conform to the Indian employment culture:

The utilization rate for these people was extremely low. Whenever there was a staffing need in the U.S., HR would say these U.S. employees were available, and the account management was absolutely dead set against that. The reason they always cited was, "This person doesn't have experience." Most of the people in India will be trained, they'll work in India for two to four years before they come to a client location in the United States. The way they devised the system is that the Americans only complete their [four months of classroom] training and do two months of project work in India, which is pretty much as good as nothing, and there are no development centers in the United States. So how on earth do you expect these people to have any kind of experience? But the real reason was the account management for the most part was just not comfortable having people from other nationalities [on their projects].

A key issue, the former manager explained, is that it's the norm for Indian workers in the United States to work all day on a project at a client site, and to then spend their evenings on the phone providing information downloads to their teams back in India:

It takes time to dump information and resolve issues with a team of 10 people sitting 9,000 miles away. [The account managers] were convinced that no Americans would be willing to do that. If they had an American on the project who wasn't willing, that would disrupt the model. So on the pretext that the Americans had no experience, the real reason was they just didn't want to have any non-Indian employees, because you can ask Indian employees to do all that stuff. What drives it is that there are people in India who are willing to come to the United States. If [an Indian employee in the United States is] unwilling to do [everything that's expected], there are five other people in India who are willing to do it. So [the account managers say to any Indian who is unwilling,] "Take the next flight back. It's a little bit of an inconvenience with the transition, but no big deal. We'll live through it."

The Americans, meanwhile, are just left to sit on the bench, and the vast majority leave the company within a year. According to the former manager, if 300 people were recruited, there would likely only be around 20 left a year later. He didn't hide his regret for having played a role in the deception:

I was interviewing them, and I was telling them all the great stuff they would be doing at Infosys. I felt so bad, because I was lying to them. They're going to join Infosys, and nothing of that sort is going to happen. Obviously when you work for a company and you're on the interview panel, you can't go up to a person and say, "Hey, you know what? I'm lying to you. This is a terrible company, so don't join it." I can't say that.


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