Sanjay Manaktala was born and raised in America but spent 10 years working with an IT company that rhymes with Baccenture. He spent 5 of those years in Bangalore and knows what it takes to be selected for H1 sponsorship. He is now a stand-up comedian, podcaster, evangelist for IT people across the world, digital filmmaker and author of the Harper Collins book “My Beta Does Computer Things, Your Guide to Love Success Rock and Roll in India’s IT Industry.”
Updated August 2019
So You Want To Get a job Onsite Huh?
Do you want to know how to work onshore or get some overseas assignments?
Either with TCS, Infosys, Accenture, Capgemini or whichever IT company you work for?
Most people in India or South Asian countries want to experience working and living abroad and the best way to do that is usually in IT or tech or other STEM fields.
In this post, I’m going to explain how you can get a job in America or Australia or Canada instead of being frustrated by fixing support tickets in your job that seems to be going nowhere. Most things online just say “speak to your manager” but so many techies try that on Day 1, and then the last thing their manager wants to do is make it happen for that spoiled brat (sorry for the honesty).
Whether you work at Cognizant, Wipro or Manjunath Infotech Private Solutions Ltd, this is real advice you may not like to hear about what you need to do to get that onsite salary and experience.
It’s a long post, but I hope it helps if you’re serious about your goals.
Onsite Opportunities | How to Get Selected
Every day, for the last 25+ years an influx of software and business professionals make the migration from offsite (India) to onsite.
And by going onsite, or onshore, I mean the basic practice of having your company give you a posting in places like the US, Canada, Australia, Europe wherever.
For a young professional in IT or tech, onsite jobs are often considered the holy grail.
It has its charm…the obvious financial gains, the thrill of traveling and work experience and of course the social aspects of dating, Las Vegas and social media bragging to your friends about awesome your life is.
So naturally, as someone who has worked for years both offshore and onshore, I’d like to give you a few pointers on how to make it happen.
I know it’s on your mind, I know you love India…but I also know you want to go overseas and ironically that feeling isn’t going anywhere.
Disclaimer: This article is not about leaving India or any national agenda. I know they’re some sensitivities around the brain drain train, a term I just coined in my head about people going and never coming back. But honestly, I’ve worked, lived in and loved both places. This is just a general guide on my own experiences in working onsite and offshore. You obviously need to ask yourself what you truly want and what your long-term goals are, but since a majority of you are young, single and will obviously want to mingle, let’s do this.
1. Why do some people get selected for onsite opportunities?
Well, they have a skill they’re good at which is also USED BY CLIENTS.
It’s kind of strange that although so many jobs have been outsourced with advances in communication and collaboration, an increasing number of engineers continue to go work overseas. The simple reality of that is two things at play: Skills and Proximity.
Skills for Onsite
What you decide to learn and focus on during your career will be one of the biggest determinants of getting you on site.
It need not be the current hot skills of big data or analytics or whatever buzzword is trending on nerd Twitter aka Stack Overflow.
Plenty of Java and SQL server admins still get their H1B visa each year, but so many young techies try Python or Hadoop or some tools they have no clue about just because they think folks might be hiring overseas.
In reality, if you’re in an area you truly enjoy you will likely get good at it.
And if you’re good at it, you’ll be the one turning down projects because you’re a stud and have a buffet of options at your disposal.
You want me in Arkansas at Wal-Mart? No thanks, that’s like the veg cutlet. I’ll just head over to these Prawns in San Francisco. Nom nom nom.Offshore Allstar with choices to choose from.
The only caveat in your technical skill selection is that it should be client/customer-oriented.
For those of you in HR or Facilities or internal tech support (e.g reset my password when I logged in too much cause I was watching Game of Thrones and not paying attention), I’m sorry to tell you it’s a lot harder to make a case here.
The majority of onshore roles go to folks who are supporting customers/clients and not internal IT related functions.
Top 2019 Technical Skills for USA according to Linked IN
- Analytical Reasoning
- UI Design
- Mobile Development
- Software Testing
- Data Science
I’m sure it’s still possible to go just like they send people for manual testing jobs overseas even, but if you find yourself in that situation start making changes to get you on the product side. Or switch to a different company where you’re MAKING money for the company (e.g. charging to the client) and not spending it (e.g. coming from their pocket).
“Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until this is true.” – @naval— Naval Ravikant Bot (@NavalBot) June 28, 2019
I have friends who go onsite to America…from India…and then work from home.
Read that again.
You being relocated is a matter of convenience but also part organizational behavior (e.g the company has so many H1B slots to send every year).
Simple Reasons you’re Onshore:
- Clients don’t want to wait 12 hours for an answer on a minor bug fix.
- The client likes you.
- They want personal face to face time to discuss designs and development.
- After having grown dependent on you as their right-hand man or woman during late night/early morning calls, they recognize it would be easier to have you in town.
As you increase your skills and value to your onshore counterparts (e.g. in plain English, do more and more their work) while working offshore, the case for proximity becomes that much stronger and makes a good push to get you on board.
2. Now Learn Additional Technical Skills
Getting good at Java? Cool…now try doing C#.
If you’re doing great on data warehousing projects using Informatica, play around with the other tools out there.
When I used to interview candidates in IT, a lot of people would say things like “Sir I just want to do Oracle” or really only try to master one field.
They’re different schools of thought here, but in business reality, you might have six years of experience in Oracle, two years in SQL Server and then find out the SQL Server role is the one that ended up changing your career. (I really wanted to do SAP, got stuck in Business Intelligence, and I’m so happy I did).
Don’t become a jack of all trades and master of none, but generally once you know one tool/software it becomes easier to learn another, it’s sometimes just a matter of process and where to point and click.
Vendors and internal decision-making also change which tools you may use at any given point, so this is an added benefit.
Every day so many engineers cry to their boss or friends “Nobody is teaching me big data, my life is over.” Ummm…for the PRICE OF YOUR LUNCH OR A BEER you can become an EXPERT AT BIG DATA on sites like Udemy so what the heck are you waiting for! I did the same for blogging and here we are.
If I hear another group of techies on the bus going “macha how to get USA opportunity in TCS da” while then just going to get drunk or stuff their faces with biryani I’m going to cry.
3. Build Relationships with Clients while Offshore
IN A NUTSHELL: START TALKING ON YOUR ONSHORE CALLS.
When you start work in Wipro or Accenture or wherever in India, you will likely have a team leader who will be speaking to your own team members and clients onshore.
You will spend the first few months listening quietly while your team lead handles all the communication. A good team leader will slowly integrate you by having you tell the client a pre-rehearsed update on something simple.
Slowly you will get more and more responsibility and eventually that team lead will sit back and shadow you while you handle the call. Eventually, the client and you will have a usual rapport, you can understand the type of person and moods they have and you both will be colleagues. Naturally, when the roles and opportunities open up for who to bring over, those with a steady relationship and a proven track record would be sure-shot approvals as the risk is minimal.
They don’t feel you’ll quit for 15K more over at Microsoft, they know you can do the work well and most importantly you’re a pleasure to be around.
4. Have Social Skills
Often times the guy or gal who gets to go onshore isn’t the smartest or most technical.
But that need not always be the case. The second best DBA might go onshore over the first simply because he’s funny in meetings or has a smile on his face. Or simply because he takes a shower.
Your company and management want to make sure that you’re going to assimilate well with the people paying them.
You not only deliver your work but you can carry a conversation at lunch, can help others who are making the journey, and can handle critical situations (e.g when some angry client lady in New Jersey is right in your cubicle asking you why the ticket is not resolved that you know how to compose yourself and handle it appropriately).
Human beings are generally social beings and being the engineer who sits in the corner with minimal interaction in some IT dungeon is not the best way to live, so put a smile on your face and at least make an attempt to get to know those around you!
Programmers make the product, but powerpoint makes the profit.
How amazing would you be if you can do both?
Software developers can know Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, English, C++, Python, Java, HTML, CSS, and 20 other things. Then you ask them to help with a deck that communicates a product’s benefits in the market and they get a little upset.
5. Be Patient
Applying for an H1 visa takes about a year.
You also need a few years at your company to prove that you’re committed, loyal and oh yeah, do the work well. Nobody is going to spend thousands of dollars bringing over a 22-year-old on all-expenses paid business vacation, so don’t expect it. I’m sure it’s not impossible but for the majority of us…get to know yourself, build your skills, make friends and just enjoy your time in the early years of making a career.
I would say most onsite techies are between 25 and 35. The younger ones aren’t ready yet and the older ones are probably too settled or content in their current roles/personal lives to be interested. Once you accept these timelines, it makes it easier to enjoy each day and improve your own work in the process, which will obviously only make you onshore case that much stronger.
It will also help in passing the time since you know, you’re not just waiting for the next role and feeling miserable in the current one.
6. Talk to People who have Been There
What does someone actually do onshore?
- How is it different than the work you’re doing in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyd or Delhi?
- What is expected of you different from the coding you’re already doing?
- How much are the expenses?
- How much can you save per annum?
- Are you ready for another 2-3 year commitment in your current company?
If you haven’t asked yourself these questions, you shouldn’t be blindly looking for an onshore role.
Most people in any career don’t do the simple task of asking someone “Hey, can you be my mentor.”
It does sound like a marriage proposal, I know.
But to be honest, if you actually ask someone they’ll most likely be flattered and have no issues speaking to you for 10 minutes every three months on how things are going. Don’t go ask the CEO when you see him in the elevator, but it doesn’t hurt to ask someone a level or two above you to guide you over a coffee from time to time. Onshore or not, this matters.
If they say no, just think of it as practice for the next girl you want to ask out.
7. Tell Your Manager You Want to go Onshore Eventually
This is the last point I’m making for a reason (unless you comment a few more additional points you’d like me to discuss). The number one turnoff for an interviewer, when interviewing someone for a job or a project is when candidates ask for onsite roles in the first few months on the job.
It shows an indifference to the actual work of learning the technologies and getting good at your profession and more on the perks and benefits. But obviously, you should let it be known so the whole “Be Patient” thing pays off.
A good manager will recognize your hard work and want to reward you down the road, while also juggling how to ask his or her managers to get the ball rolling on your deployment.
So let it be known, but don’t push it.
A good rule of thumb is to bring it up after 18 months, and then remind your manager or leads every 4-5 months and as common sense dictates (e.g. don’t bring it up in the middle of a crisis but maybe just over a coffee when things are smooth).
Human beings generally want to rewards those have helped them out and a good team leader/manager will recognize getting you onshore is a better alternative to losing you completely.
Going onsite is not rocket science, although pretty soon you might go there in a rocket.
If you do the techniques above, you will have plenty of onsite opportunities at your disposal.
Now good luck with that visa interview.
I know plenty of amazing people who work offshore, and plenty of less than stellar folks who work onshore. And of course vice versa. But one of the most exciting parts of your early career is the travel and experiences which come with it. So I hope the above tips were helpful and comment any questions below!
This post is based on an excerpt from Sanjay’s Book by Harper Collins “My Beta Does Computer Things, Your Guide to Love Success and Rock and Roll in India’s IT Industry.”