Sunday, September 25, 2011

Off-Shore? What?

Today I more or less lost it when I got tired of hearing people referring to off-shore. Yes, I know what they mean and I know that money talks and I understand that. But we’re not talking about some undefined place or undefined people. Of course the ones talking about off-shore here and off-shore that generally don’t talk about people either. It’s all about resources to them. 

I don’t use the word resources about people. I think it’s disrespectful and I feel like live stock or office furniture or a server rack when people call me a resource. It can get worse, and it does occasionally, and you are referred to as unit. Well, people, I am not a resource, I can be resourceful but that’s something else, and I’m definitely not a unit! I am, believe it or not, a human being, a person, a tester. So, can I do anything about it? Can you? Yes we can, as someone said. We can stop referring to people as resources and we can stop referring to India, the Philippines and other places as off-shore. We are talking about countries and people in those countries. Sure it’s easy to keep going until some new buzz word shows up but like a wise man said: You must be the change you want to see in the world. He was an off-shore resource in philosophical and political thought.

I will not use off-shore anymore; I will say India, Estonia, the Philippines or whatever country I mean.  I can do it if I remind myself often enough to do it and make it a habit. That’s a change I want to see.

As a student of psychology I don’t think it’s strange in any way that we do this, use a label that gives us a bit of distance from the complexities of dealing with other people. It’s a very natural thing to do. That doesn’t make it right, in an ethical sense, and it also leads us towards stereotyping. That’s also an easy trap to fall into and I haven’t seen anything good come out of that behavior either. Yes, I am opinionated and I believe in my convictions and I will let you test them if you please.

Does it really matter what words we use? Of course it does. We are human beings all of us and emotional and sapient beings. I described earlier one kind of reaction to being called a unit or a resource. I tend to get mad also. I respond emotionally to the words used to describe me. Since I don’t think I’m all that different from other people I will not refer to them as units or resources either. If it hurts me it may hurt them to. It also serves another purpose. It’s a way for me to try and describe the complexity of the world. It’s easier to make it look easy and simple when you just use vague description like “off-shore”. It’s easy to forget and be blind to the fact that working with distributed teams has its own set of challenges and they are a bit different than the challenges of working with a team where everyone is in the same building. I enjoy working in distributed teams because I like working in new constellations and I learn a lot from working with new people. There are all sorts of good things that can come from working in teams that distributed around the world just as a lot of good things can come from forming a great team where everyone is situated in one place. It all comes down to people and how we interact. I believe that using the right names for people and places is a good start to getting a good start when forming teams. It’s easier to get off on the right foot, as it where, if we start with this pretty easy way of showing each other some respect.

These are my opinions and I stand by them. You may disagree and that's fine to, it means you also have strong opinions and that's a good thing in itself. It's when we don't care that we stop learning and stop evolving.

(This post was also published on the EuroSTAR blog)