February 20, 2014

Despite H-1B shortage, Zuckerberg not yet broke

Mark Zuckerberg lobbied Congress all last year for more immigration to keep himself from being driven into poverty by having to pay crushing salaries to American engineers. Yesterday, though, Facebook somehow scrounged together the scratch to acquire a small startup called WhatsApp for $19 billion. A reader comments:
Steve, Nothing to do with Ukraine. Instead, immigration and Silicon Valley. Yesterday, Facebook announced it had acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion. WhatsApp had two founders, both former staff software engineers for Yahoo. Amazingly, both tried to get jobs at Facebook, and at least one at Twitter, but neither was hired. Zuckerberg wants to re-engineer the American population in the name of a supposed shortage of "qualified" domestic engineers. And yet Facebook's hiring system is so screwed up, it can't even recognize superb, highly experienced, U.S. citizen software engineers when they walk in the door asking for a job. They could've had the founders for maybe $100K/yr each. Instead, they ended up paying $19B. And we're supposed to trust this guy's opinion on whether there are enough good engineers? Unbelievable. Please write about this. Spread the word.

Actually, it does have a connection to Ukraine. While Brian Acton is American-born, Joseph Koum was born a Ukrainian Jew and came here 22 years ago as a teen. 

Perhaps one reason these two guys couldn't get hired by Facebook is because they are so old: Koum is 38 and Acton 42.
 
You might almost think that America isn't quite as bereft of talent as Mr. Zuckerberg's flacks tell Congress it is. If Zuckerberg doesn't get more H-1B visas out of Congress, he might even be forced to hire as programmers Elderly-Americans like Koum and Acton, or even Female-Americans, like corporations did back in the 20th Century.
    

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

>>Steve Sailer ended his post with:
""" If Zuckerberg doesn't get more H-1B visas out of Congress, he might even be forced to hire as engineers Elderly-Americans like Koum and Acton, or even Female-Americans.""""


Female engineers? Is that some kind of joke? Is it a new trend on the horizon? WOMEN engineers, you say?

Silicon Valley fossil said...

Just an hour ago, NPR did a piece about Indian engineers in Silicon Valley and how there are now actually quite a few of them and isn't that great. Left unsaid is that Indians are the overwhelming majority at many companies, including mine. And while the first wave of Indians, hired by American managers, spoke and wrote good English, the newer wave, hired by Indian managers, includes a lot of people you really can't understand.

vandelay said...

Is Zuckerberg even 30 yet? He's pretty much the front-runner for the 2028 presidential race at this point, if not 2024, isn't he?

SFG said...

"Is Zuckerberg even 30 yet? He's pretty much the front-runner for the 2028 presidential race at this point, if not 2024, isn't he?"

God, please. NO. The standard businessroaches are bad enough.

Anonymous said...

And Koum is an immigrant. See, that makes him exactly like a Mestizo from Honduras...

Anonymous said...

"Is Zuckerberg even 30 yet? He's pretty much the front-runner for the 2028 presidential race at this point, if not 2024, isn't he?"

If Steve is ever short of topics to write about, maybe he could cover this one: why has America never had a billionaire president? I think Bloomberg wanted to be president, but concluded that people wouldn't vote for him. Perot lost. I don't know if Joseph Kennedy ever had a billion in today's money, but that doesn't matter because he didn't make it to the presidency either. There have been lots of wealthy US presidents, but I don't think there's ever been a super rich one. I'm assuming that TR and FDR were simply wealthy.

Italy had Berlusconi. Saakashvili was just replaced by a Georgian billionaire, who took the position of Prime Minister and made the presidency relatively powerless. Maybe Mediterraneans are more willing to vote for billionaires than are northern European egalitarians. How about East Asians then? I can't think of a super rich head of state there either.

Anonymous said...

Zuckerberg is 29.

Tom in Va said...

Poor MZ probably had to cash the savings bond his Nana gave him for his bar mitzvah to raise that kind of money. Maybe we better let him have those H1B visas after all.

Dave Pinsen said...

Here are three tweets about WhatsApp and immigration from last night:

Credulous:

NYC WABC talk radio personality John Batchelor

Credulous:

LA Venture Capitalist Mark Suster

Ironic:

Jokeocracy

Anonymous said...

I don't know why Steve insists that Zuckerberg is worried about employee salaries. Is there any evidence of that?

It seems more likely that he is a true believer in opening the door to "the best and the brightest" by skimming the elite of foreign populations. He has a Wired-cum-Thomas Friedman visionary-globalist outlook (coupled with standard-issue Jewish sympathy for Hispanic immigrants, although this is mostly a sympathetic afterthought).

Dave Pinsen said...

OT, Steve, but I'm watching the women's free skiing half pipe now and they just had a girl start her second run with "a trickle of blood from her nose" from wiping out on her previous run. Another girl landed so hard it took her a while to peel herself off the snow/ice.

I wonder if there's a similar issue with this and the ski jumping, in that being lighter helps you get "amplitude", but being lighter also means you have less muscle to absorb the impact when you wipe out.

Incidentally, before this event started, they had a tribute to Sarah Burke, the young lady who died a couple of years ago doing this sport.

Anonymous said...

"Paul Walker's dying wish fulfilled as dad is named executor of his estate - but still no word on who will raise daughter Meadow"

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2564315/Paul-Walkers-dying-wish-fulfilled-dad-named-executor-estate-no-word-raise-daughter-Meadow.html

"Nearly three months after his death in a fiery car crash, Paul Walker's will is finally being settled.

Today, a judge in Santa Barbara court appointed the actor's father, Paul Walker Sr, as executor of his estate - just as Walker detailed in his will.

Also in the will was Walker's wish that 15-year-old daughter Meadow be raised by his mother, Cheryl Walker."

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

Perhaps one reason these two guys couldn't get hired by Facebook is because they are so old: Koum is 38 and Acton 42.

Seriously? I just watched a cool documentary about two old dudes who against all odds got hired at Google. I was drunk at the time, but it seemed pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

And while the first wave of Indians, hired by American managers, spoke and wrote good English, the newer wave, hired by Indian managers, includes a lot of people you really can't understand.

That hasn't been my experience. Most Indians at the tech companies I've worked for speak decent English. The Chinese on the other hand...

Anonymous said...

Does the rule apply more generally? I mean that: can you improve everyone's IQ by paying them more, or does this just work for computer programmers? (What about doctors, for example?)

ben tillman said...

Good post, Steve. And kudos to your correspondent.

Anonymous said...

Actually--forget doctors, let's talk about mathematicians. Can we end the reign of Eastern European mathematicians by paying Americans more? (The French had a project to end the Anglosphere mathematics hegemony by paying French mathematicians, for example.)

But the real question, I guess, is how much you have to pay someone to turn him into Ramanujan, so you can avoid importing the Indian variety. .

Steve Sailer said...

"I don't know why Steve insists that Zuckerberg is worried about employee salaries. Is there any evidence of that?"

Zuckerberg _could_ announce that to prove his disinterestedness in his belief that this is good for America, Facebook promises to never ever hire another H-1B employee. That would be a smashing propaganda victory for his side in the immigration battle. For some reason, though, he hasn't done that.

Anonymous said...

Some reason besides it currently being illegal?

Anonymous said...

"That would be a smashing propaganda victory for his side in the immigration battle."

Not really. It would concede that Citizenist concerns about harm to domestic workers are legitimate and thereby spark more conversation about them.

Anonymous said...

...hired by Indian managers, includes a lot of people you really can't understand.

I've seen this also. Pretty clearly, the objective is for you not to understand. The manager understands and their little circle understands, that all that counts.

A lot of the Indians these Indian managers hire are direct from India, not graduates of US universities. Often they are from the Indian branch of the US multinational employing the Indian manager.

You have to start suspecting that one reason the CEOs argue for H1-Bs is to keep their line managers in the US (all those Indian ones in the engineering divisions) happy. Happily pipelining in their Indian community, that is.

One reason things came to this is that a lot of the large US multinationals in silicon valley had C-level execs from ethnic groups that had no intrinsic loyalty to the US (many of these were US citizens, many born here). Undercutting those troublesome engineers was easy for them to do, most probably didn't even think about it. Engineers were expensive and didn't directly bring in the money, unlike salesmen.

Power Child said...

My understanding of H-1B, on paper at least, is that a company cannot hire an immigrant unless they can prove there was no equally qualified American applicant.

My guess is that in practice a lot of companies are able to somehow fudge their way around this, so it'd be interesting to learn how they do it.

Anyway, my (admittedly limited) observation since moving back inland from California and switching careers into software development is that the whole H-1B issue Steve writes about is mainly happening as you get nearer to the coasts. In flyover country, software firms are comprised mostly of white American guys (plenty of whom are in their 40s), and when they do hire Indians they tend to be very Americanized.

Granted, there aren't any Googles or Facebooks in the Midwest, but there are some pretty advanced companies out here doing incredible stuff. I think some of them are even fairly large.

Anonymous said...

The large American software companies all have large development offices abroad: Canada, Mexico, India, etc. When they cannot import workers, they export the work.

The problem with this strategy, from the workers' point of view, is that (as VW's German union is discovering) workers in one country have very little control over their company's workers abroad.

Anonymous said...

LOL My mother uses Whatsapp!
Facebook is so uncool...

Anonymous said...

The people at the NSA are all smiles!

Dave Pinsen said...

If you're fluent in English and know your stuff, you can write your own ticket in software programming. I know Lion/Half Sigma complains about the field but I've got a contractor that does really well running his own programming business. He's a crackerjack developer and being an American guy who's fluent in English saves him and his clients lots of frustration. I just finished a big, complex project with him that would have been impossible to get done correctly overseas.

Plus, he lives in an inexpensive, rust belt city, so he probably makes more after expenses than most Silicon Valley developers.

Anonymous said...

My understanding of H-1B, on paper at least, is that a company cannot hire an immigrant unless they can prove there was no equally qualified American applicant.


My guess is that in practice a lot of companies are able to somehow fudge their way around this, so it'd be interesting to learn how they do it.


Nothing very difficult about it. They put an ad in the paper asking for somebody with a laundry list of improbable qualifications who will work for peanuts. Then, when they can't find such a person ... viola! They NEED that H1b visa, and their tame Congressman agrees with them.

Anonymous said...

If facebook is anything like google anybody can get hired at any age. You have to take a stand up whiteboard test involving computer algorithm questions. No computer, no notes or books, a white board is all you get. Your code has to compile later when they copy it exactly. Each question takes about an hour. They tell you in the first phone call that you need to study.

The question is not just "reproduce this random sorting algorithm or graph algorithm." It is a question whose answer will use such an algorithm, so you have to be ready with a head full of memorized algorithms for all sorts of situations going in because you wont have time to "just figure it out."

I am curious if google looks at your search history or the trail of websites you have looked at that they have through adsense.


ben tillman said...

Some reason besides it currently being illegal?

I'm sorry -- what?

Semi-employed White Guy said...

Outstanding post. I am a software engineer in my 40s but I get frequent unsolicited e-mails from Amazon recruiters. So I suspect they hire a little differently.

Never received any interest from Facebook, not that I'd ever work for weasel-boy.

Arnold Willis said...

"Some reason besides it currently being illegal?"

Not hiring H-1Bs is not illegal. Businesses have to apply TO hire H-1Bs.

But I don't think refusing to hire H-1Bs is the right way for MZ to prove his cred. If they're really valuable, make the industry pay for the privilege. Limit H-1Bs to 65,000 (the current level), auction them off to the highest bidder, and start the bidding at $50,000. What's that you say? This genius who you absolutely must have isn't worth an extra $50k???

I actually think high-skilled immigrants make a huge, irreplaceable contribution to US technology. Two problems, though: first, a lot of very smart Americans are discouraged from STEM due to the low salaries that high immigration allows; second, illegal aliens aren't high-skilled immigrants, and never will be.

Anonymous said...

>>>>The lack of Power coming from the Child said...
""""My understanding of H-1B, on paper at least, is that a company cannot hire an immigrant unless they can prove there was no equally qualified American applicant.""""


Ah, Power Child, Power Child. You're missing it.

There are over 300 Million in the US. For anyone to seriously suggest that there simply aren't enough native born American applicants out there to fill the job within Silicon Valley and/or their counterparts is simply laughable, farcical, and nonsensical.

And total BS.

By pushing for increases in the H1-B Visa program, Zuck knows exactly what he's doing. Don't like the smell that's being emitted from NoCal because it certainly stinks.

Anonymous said...

Nothing very difficult about it. They put an ad in the paper asking for somebody with a laundry list of improbable qualifications who will work for peanuts. Then, when they can't find such a person ... viola! They NEED that H1b visa, and their tame Congressman agrees with them.

Actually there is truth to this. In 2007, the legal firm Cohen and Grigsby had an immigration seminar and a video of it came out. In it they advised clients how to circumvent the rules for hiring Americans and how to get foreigners instead.

The killer quote from the video is: "our goal is not to find any qualified US workers".

Here is the youtube link.

Portlander said...

Not only is H1B visa fraud more perverse than you imagine, it is more perverse than you can imagine.

http://www.cringely.com/2013/07/18/so-thats-how-h-1b-visa-fraud-is-done/

Cringley is an honest red-blooded citizenist and writes often on the matter of H1B fraud. Cringley was also the one that broke (to me) the news of Steve Jobs' illegal conspiracy with Google, FB, and Adobe to keep engineer's salaries down.

BurplesonAFB said...

I would vote for Joseph Kony before I would vote for Joseph Kennedy

Mike said...

Power Child and Portlander:

See my post H1-B Visa Scams.

You need to learn about the "body shops" that are very numerous here in fly over country.

The relevant part: The are many companies in the H-1B business, called body shops, that operate as temp agencies. They bring a worker to the U.S. and then they farm them out to other companies on an hourly rate. If they are idle, they don’t get paid. Hence the term benching. What is never mentioned is that the workers are often charged on the front end a substantial fee to get the H-1B visa in the first place. That’s right a body shop will charge the worker a fee to come to the U.S. and then only employ and pay them sporadically. Eventually, if everything goes right for the worker, he’ll (and it’s always a he) get a “permanent” assignment with a U.S. company. It might take one or two years, but that is considered a success. Also, if anybody cares, the corporate manager that hires this H-1B visa worker into the U.S. company is always of the same “ethnic” group and collects a fee in direct violation of his corporate policies.

(Steve, please excuse my linking back to my own blog)

guest007 said...

A way to evaluate immigrant's language/communications skills is by determining how much English they speak outside of work.

I have always found Indians to be in the middle of English use outside of the office when compared with other immigrants. My experience is with Persians being the best about using English outside of the office and the Chinese being the worst.

I find it amazing to having meetings with immigrants from China who have MD/PhDs from U.S. universities who can barely communicate in English but then quickly realize that they do not speak a word of English outside of work.

BB753 said...

Even under British rule, most Hong Kong students you met in England could barely speak English. Presumably after studying their A -levels in English back home, and after two years of residence in England.
Needless to say, they only socialized among themselves, but still I expected them to be able to speak at lest in a bookish form.
Only the most extroverted who managed to bridge the cultural and ethnic gap spoke good English.

Anonymous said...

One time I accidentally came across the job posting my company had to put up when a coworker's H-1B was up for renewal. It was actually pretty funny. You had to have the guy's exact educational and work background. One of the qualifications was that you had to be proficient in all of our company's internal software.

Portlander said...

Here's another very telling Cringely article giving lie to the so called IT worker shortage. Memphis, which, obviously, is not any kind of tech hub and so one would think it very difficult to find tech workers, had 1000 people show up for a job fair intending to hire 200.

http://www.cringely.com/2012/06/14/an-it-labor-economics-lesson-from-memphis-for-ibm/

Cail Corishev said...

I don't know why Steve insists that Zuckerberg is worried about employee salaries. Is there any evidence of that?

It seems more likely that he is a true believer in opening the door to "the best and the brightest" by skimming the elite of foreign populations.


There's no reason it can't be both. True, cutting IT salaries doesn't make Facebook as much money as it does a huge employer like IBM. But it does make a difference, and presumably the effect goes up the chain to the expensive geniuses too. More competition for jobs is good for him as an employer; it should even lower the price he has to pay to buy out startups.

But a big part of it is, as you say, skimming the cream off the foreign work force -- not just that, but bringing as many as possible over here where it's easier to pick out the best and supervise and control them. He doesn't need all that many himself, but if he can change the law to allow IBM/Microsoft/others to bring over a million more, that's a nice crowd for him to skim the best couple thousand from. Sure, he could setup a code factory in India, but his geniuses don't want to go over there to run it. Better to bring them over here and lock them into guest worker visas, so they're unable to switch employers as soon as they gain some experience, which happens a lot over there.

And he's probably a true believer in open borders too. Many IT types lean libertarian -- the unrealistic, arrogant, just-read-Atlas-Shrugged-yesterday variety -- and have little to no national or cultural loyalty.

Anonymous said...

Power Child said...
My understanding of H-1B, on paper at least, is that a company cannot hire an immigrant unless they can prove there was no equally qualified American applicant.

My guess is that in practice a lot of companies are able to somehow fudge their way around this...

========================

I'm always astonished at how many people, who actually consider themselves smart, cannot seem to get their pretty little heads around supply and demand, the free market, etc. There's no "somehow" about it; the entire premise is full of excrement. I'll type this slowly, cuz I know y'all can't read gud:

If you "cannot" get a qualified worker to work for what you're offering, then that is a MARKET SIGNAL. Anyone remember the free market? Anyone at all? They need to up the wages/benefits/respect they're offering. They need to mechanise so they need fewer workers. Or they can go out of business.

What Daddy Gubmint CANNOT do is offer them the option of subsidised, seemingly pliant labour. H1-B visas are allowing oligarchs to bypass their fellow citizens, ignore the market and create a huge number of problems that they expect the rest of their society (not least the government) to clean up after. And, after they've socialised all their costs and potential losses, they then bollock off to a tax haven and claim that the people they're screwing over are lazy and stupid.

(Just FYI on the last point: low taxes for all could work. This rabid corporatism is immoral and destructive.)

Anonymous said...

One time I accidentally came across the job posting my company had to put up when a coworker's H-1B was up for renewal. It was actually pretty funny. You had to have the guy's exact educational and work background. One of the qualifications was that you had to be proficient in all of our company's internal software.

Is that really so different from government hiring practices, where every open position needs to be publically advertised, and applicants interviewed, even though from the very start someone's nephew was the choice for the job?

Dave Pinsen said...

Based on the excerpt of that Bezos bio, I wouldn't be surprised if there's more churn at Amazon.

Anonymous said...

I have been thrown out of electrical engineering jobs several times and replaced by H-1Bs who had less experience than I had so the theory that H-1Bs will innovate new technologies is false. Many laid off USA citizen engineers have been selling their expertise and patents to other countries, sort of a reverse technology exchange leading to a loss for the USA. Zuckerberg has been paying top dollar for ivy league graduates even providing them with sign on bonuses. So now he can save $ with more H-1Bs but less results. All USA citizens that have been laid off due to H-1B replacements should consider selling out to foreign competition, they pay well and provide tax shelters.