Kathryn had spent her morning cracking the whip and denying overtime wages for the subcontractor actually migrating the communications equipment. She planned to spend the afternoon talking with the first group of twenty-somethings who had just gotten back from Bangalore. They flew the first set of backup tapes over to the new data center and restored them onto the machines. Once there, the systems managers from the data center being phased out was to spend time tweaking startup and shutdown procedures.
A temporary high-bandwidth connection had been created so there could be one last data migration during the evening of the cut-over. A handful of staff from the bank’s data center had been given operations accounts on the new system in case there were any problems. A few consultants had been contracted by Big Four Consulting to actually partition the machines allowing only enough of the machine to be visible to this client as they would need. They also created the accounts for the bank’s employees restricting their access. The meeting in the afternoon was to try to find out if there had been any problems in getting the software loaded to both data centers.
It was odd to have time to kill before lunch. Kathryn had always been in the mode of flashing her body and smiling to clients over lunch trying to find one dumb enough to actually use this firm. Today she had no lunch plans. Kent was out of town for weeks and Margret didn’t appear to stare at her legs or look down her top. Besides, Margret couldn’t sign any contracts or take them to the board. Kathryn had always been in the mode of working three to five clients at a time trying to close a deal. All of that changed when she landed this contract.
Getting the data centers operational was considered vital to the cash flow of the company. Every moose with ears was buying, partnering, or otherwise whoring out Indian programmers to U.S. And foreign clients. Only about one in a hundred brought into their offshore business was actually worth hiring, the rest were help-desk script-reading people passing themselves off as programmers. Margins were so low that nobody was making squat off the commission from getting that type of work. The only way you could boost the rates was if you already owned the client lock, stock, and two smoking barrels. The only way to ensure you owned a client that completely was to get them into your data centers.
Margins were very high for this contract. The data center in India was roughly a football field in size and cost less than the cramped little data center First Global Bank had on a quarter floor of a high rise near where the Twin Towers had been. Running numbers for the board had been easy. Padding the hell out of them had been even easier. Because this contract was going to bring in so much money over the next five years, Kathryn had been removed from all other accounts. She didn’t mind the reduction in work, but had gotten very used to expensing her lunch in posh restaurants.
Today she was eating half a sandwich and some soup from the cafeteria downstairs and checking email over lunch. There were the usual pleas for help from the younger and newer account managers who inherited her other projects. She sent off a few sympathetic messages and informed them they already had all of her documentation for those accounts. Had any of them thought to buy her lunch today she would have given them her insights on the fetishes and weaknesses of each person in charge at their client site so they could close the deals. No lunch equals no unwritten information. You could never write information like that down, not even in your PDA. It could turn up during an investigation.
Finally she got to the message Kent had copied her on. At first she wondered what she had done to piss Kent off. He knew damned good and well that Margret didn’t like Big Four Consulting. After his previous email with respect to the follow-on project she thought they had a good rapport. True, she hadn’t been there much the past couple of weeks. Communication was mostly via email and phone calls, but she did leave a bunch of young skirts and heels around to keep his libido going. Apparently they weren’t flashing enough. It was back to slit skirts and see-through blouses once Kent returned.
Maybe things wouldn’t be quite as bad as they seemed. She could bring some young hunky guys over to meet with Margret and offer to leave them there for additional information. Perhaps she could even take everyone to a late lunch tomorrow and pump a few glasses of wine into the girl to loosen her up. Only one way to find out, she thought as she picked up the phone.
“Hello Margret, this is Kathryn. I just got done reading Kent’s email and it sounds like we are going to be working together.”
“It would appear so.”
“I have some assistants working with me on this to help coordinate all of the details. Perhaps we should all get together for lunch and make certain everyone knows what everyone else is doing?”
“A restaurant is probably not the best place for such a meeting,” responded Margret.
“I was thinking you could come over to our offices and I would have lunch catered. There is a great little Italian place which delivers here and we will probably need access to overhead projectors, white boards, etc.” responded Kathryn. “How does tomorrow at 11:30 sound? If we allow for two hours that should be more than enough time to cover everything.”
Two hours to tell me what your subcontractor is doing? You really do know how to work it! Thought Margret. She looked at her calendar and it was open, so she agreed. If nothing else, at least I’ll get a lunch. Kent had been bellying up to the free lunch trough since he got here. The only free lunches Margret got were catered in conference rooms during working meetings. Kent usually stopped by long enough to get some food. God forbid he actually participate in the details of his project. Margret wondered whether she was going to be shown the same tits and legs Kent had been drooling over, or if there was going to be something provided for the straight side of her life.
Kathryn finished out her day meeting the team that had gone to Bangalore. They were all positive about the experience, mainly because they had stayed on the campus and few had ventured out into the squalor of the surrounding streets. They did report some of the contractors treated them like idiots and beverage fetchers while they were working, but that everything had been installed, and reports from the U.S. Systems managers made it look like everything was a go. They had even tested both a full month-end and quarter-end job cycle, so all jobs would run. The remote printers and email had been blocked to capture the output and avoid a nasty media story.
Judging from the sheepish grins she saw and some of the meeting comments, at least a few of the guys had ventured over to the red-light district. Kathryn made a mental note to get them terminated before they got diagnosed with full-blown AIDS or passed it on to some of their female coworkers here. Nothing would kill the “sex for sale” marketing tactic like an outbreak of AIDS at the firm. She had seen the reports about how over 80 percent of the brothel girls had full-blown AIDS and were still working. Anyone who did the math could see that shipping IT jobs over to India would effectively halve the population inside of a decade.
IT workers were paid more in a day than other workers made in a week. The culture there was such that you didn’t need a big house or any car to have prestige, so the male workers spent much of their money in the red-light district. This was the main reason they had partnered rather than buying outright. Inside of seven years the bulk of the IT workforce would begin dying off from AIDS. Already there had been some quickly hushed reports from companies that had been there the longest. Few still had any senior people. To hide the truth, everybody blamed it on talent poaching. The talent poaching scam worked pretty well given the 200 percent plus turnover rate most companies had. Still, it was only a matter of time before the truth started coming out.
One day ended and another began. Kathryn had a morning meeting with some of the upper management types at her firm and actually had the gumption to mention that they should begin partnering with an offshore firm or two in South Korea and in Russia. China was already being priced out of the market with Wal-Mart and other companies setting up factory towns. The influx of cash had Chinese companies and the various Chinese mobs snatching up IT workers as fast as they could be found. There were still places in Russia and Poland where college education was almost as high as the poverty and land was cheap.
The first reaction from some of the management had been they didn’t have the Indian operation turning a profit yet. Other companies had tried going the Russian route and failed. Kathryn responded that offshoring wasn’t being marketed then, so it was unfair to judge by that history. Back then you had a major uphill battle to sell offshoring. Now all you had to do was be cheap.
Perhaps it was the fact she had overslept. Perhaps it was the fact she was now going to be making more money than some in this room. Maybe it was simply because she had to deal with the coffee from the cafeteria this morning instead of her usual nine-dollar quart of heaven, due to oversleeping. Kathryn pulled out the documentation showing the epidemic rate of AIDS at the brothels. Then she went into the story that most of the single male IT workers spent their extra cash in the red-light district. Finally, she dropped the bomb that she suspected several of the male twenty-somethings they had sent over to India had visited the brothels near their campus.
People were getting irate with her while she went into her oration. The men assumed this was a severe case of PMS and began doodling on their legal pads, trying to make it look as if they were taking notes. You could have heard a pin drop after she dropped the last bomb, though. Every man in there knew those horny jocks they had hired were swimming in whatever pool they could find. They all knew that the “sex for sale” marketing tactic would be decimated if it ever got out that one or more of their barely-old-enough-to-shave crowd went public with AIDS, not to mention the cost of their insurance plan.
Kathryn sat there drinking her nasty coffee from downstairs and let that bomb burn its way through their brains. Finally one of the married guys with absolutely no skills piped up that this was an event horizon they had to consider. Another volunteered that he had two clients with locations already in Russia, so could probably pump them for some information about IT skills in the area near them. One more said they had a manufacturing client in South Korea already and he would make some inquiries there as well. Finally it was determined that they would quietly investigate building operations in all three of the countries Kathryn had mentioned. Even if they didn’t lose their entire IT staff every few years in India, the resulting talent drain would push salaries up to the point it was cheaper to do the work in the U.S.
The morning meeting ran long, but ended in time for her to check email and round up the troops for their lunch presentation. She wasn’t sure why, but she decided to use the guys who had been to India in this meeting. It made sense given that they had just gotten back from there, but she doubted Margret was dumb enough to get turned on once she found out that horny bunch had been to a country with legal brothels and little in the way of health care or prevention.
Margret arrived right on time. Lunch was just being set out in the conference room and they all stuffed themselves while chit-chatting about quasi-work-related things. The guys had strategically placed themselves around Margret as they had been trained to do and the girls fawned over getting lunch allowing glimpses and brushes. Kathryn still wasn’t sure which way Margret’s door swung, or if she even had a door. It was difficult to tell.
One thing which she made mental note of was Margret’s prodding to find out who had ventured outside of the campus in Bangalore. Those who admitted to having gone out at all she suddenly had little interest in. The woman wasn’t stupid, thought Kathryn. Lunch allowed for the team to provide glowing reports about how the backups had been installed and how well Margret’s people worked with them during the process. No real details, but few were needed. Margret had already talked with the systems managers who had done the testing. This was just a little time for mutual appreciation and bonding.
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