It looks like hell just froze over. The head of an Indian IT company's operations in the Americas says he has dozens of job openings in the United States, and he can find all the skills and talent he needs right here in the U.S. work force. Equally eyebrow-raising is the fact that the individual is a founder of the Indian company - and that he's a U.S. worker himself.
Scott Staples is a co-founder and president, Americas, of Bangalore-based MindTree Ltd., an IT services provider that's considerably smaller than the likes of Infosys, Wipro and Tata, but does a lot of the same types of work for clients worldwide. Staples, who works out of the company's U.S. headquarters in Warren, N.J., told me in an interview last week that he has about 55 job openings in the United States at the moment, and he plans to fill them all with local hires:
We don't need to bring any workers from India. We prefer for them to be local hires, because it makes it a lot easier for us from a training and communications standpoint, and things like that. The problem we're having right now is the job market for tech workers has gotten very good lately. I'd say over the last five months or so it's really picked up, it's become much more competitive. In the past we used to fill roles rather quickly; now we're going to creative strategies in order to fill them. We just signed up a couple more recruiting agencies that we use around the country; we've just brought in a full-time recruiter to our New Jersey office; we're bringing on another recruiter in June. So we can definitely get all these folks hired from the local market. I just need to work a little harder at it and get creative as to how we're going to get them.
According to Staples, MindTree has about 650 employees in the United States. Less than 15 percent of those are Indians here on H-1B visas, he said, and that percentage is trending downward as the company continues to hire locally:
We're a company with 10,000 people. With 650 people in the U.S. and the vast majority of those 10,000 people in India, our model is pretty much to have the folks who are on site with our clients be in customer-facing roles. If you take that general sense of what the current 650 people are doing, we're looking for the same types of people with those 55 requests that we've got out right now - project managers, program managers, business analysts - front-end consulting people who can interface with the client and help manage the actual work that's being done offshore.
Staples said MindTree had always been a low filer of H-1B visa petitions, preferring instead to bring Indian workers to the U.S. on B-1 visas for short-term training:
It's important for us to be able to bring people on-site from India in short terms. So they'll come over for some knowledge transfer and training and that kind of stuff, and then they'll be able to go back and retrain and teach these larger teams in India. We also see B-1s as a great way to keep attrition down in India. When you can tell somebody you're going to be on a project for a year or two, but we're going to bring you to the U.S. for a couple of weeks to give you exposure to the U.S. and learn more, that's very attractive to people. So H-1Bs are not a core part of our business. Obviously we want some people on H-1Bs, but the vast majority of our hires are U.S.-based.
This, of course, is how the H-1B and B-1 visa programs were always intended to be used. The shame is that since there has been so much abuse of those programs over the years, the U.S. government has necessarily had to crack down and make it a lot more difficult for foreign workers to obtain visas under those programs. That, in turn, has hurt companies like MindTree by making it harder for them to carry out the legitimate and necessary training and knowledge transfer that Staples spoke about.
We don't need to shed any tears for companies like MindTree - we can save those for the individuals and families here and abroad that have been the hardest-hit victims of visa abuse. But it's important to be aware of this additional dimension of the damage being created by the abusers.