Russia Developers @ $12,000 USD per Year
An experienced developer in Russia earns $12,000 to $14,000 per year. Wow.
I'm not sure what I expected when I signed up for the Spring Meeting of the Mass Software Council, which was held a couple of weeks ago. I just knew that Mikhail Gorbachev was the keynote speaker, and it's not every day that you get to hear a Nobel Peace Prize winner live with 700 of your closest pals.
As it turns out, the broader theme of the meeting was collaboration between Russia's budding IT industry, Mass. software firms and the U.S. software industry more generally. This meeting was a culmination of several years of conversations between the Mass Software Council and RUSSOFT, a Russian association that is committed to promoting the region's software industry.
A mainstay of the Spring and Fall Software Council meetings is the "two-minute pitch," when CEOs of new Council members get to tell attendees about their startup in a nutshell. In keeping with the theme of the meeting, eight Russian software companies -- all outsourcing firms -- did their pitches. You couldn't help but be impressed by these executives -- all demonstrating that spark and fire in the belly that we know and love in U.S. entrepreneurs.
These presos were followed by a short speech by Gartner's Joseph Feiman, who gave us an overview of the Russian software market. He spelled out just how well trained and how cost effective external service providers (Gartnerspeak for outsourcers) can be.
At a rational level, I understand that if U.S. software companies don't tap low-cost programmers, other countries will, and our software industry will face a slow demise. But there's something that's still a bit unsettling about all these firms cheerfully telling us by just how much they can undercut the salaries of U.S. programmers.
Luckily, Gorby was next up, and one has to give the guy credit for capturing a room, even through a translator. Better than any of the other speakers, he brought the collaboration theme full circle, reminding us that if we don't share the job wealth, we'll have bigger problems.
Some memorable excerpts from his speech. These may be paraphrased in a few cases, as my shorthand leaves something to be desired:
We are one world; we are all interconnected. How do we make this world liveable, good for everyone? With three billion people living on one or two dollars a day, you have a delayed bomb. If we ignore this, it will be suicidal for the human community.
IT cannot work just for the benefit of developing countries while the rest of the world leads a pre-industrial life. We live in a world of globalization, but it has divided the world even more. If we allow this to continue, we'll have social darwinism. We hoped the money freed up by the end of the arms race would be used to address poverty. But much of the world still lives in poverty. If we fight terrorism by military means alone, we will not succeed.
The primacy of univeral human values -- the environment, avoiding war -- must bring us together.
Let us think not only about maximizing profit, let us think about future generations, or the price will be too great to bear. There is still some fear that Russia will be reborn as a military power, that it will use its educational resources to come back. This could happen if Russia is not allowed to move forward as an equal. If Russia feels that others want to keep it down, Russia would disobey in a powerful way.
What our two nations need is trust. We should leave the trenches of the cold war. We should say farewell to that outdated philosophy. This is an important moment. The choice that the U.S. is making is a model of leadership. It is undeniable that the U.S., given its wealth of democratic traditions can claim leadership in the world. Will it be leadership through domination, or through partnership?
The model of domination is not being accepted; the model of partnership will be accepted. There is tremendous historic potential between the U.S. and Russia. Russia will not accept the position of a junior partner. The future of our relations is to secure a just and democratic world order. The state of global chaos is good for no one.