Outsource yourself

October 1, 2009


Managing Technology, Oct 2009

Here we are in late 2009, and like every other business sector, the media companies are feeling the effects of reduced revenue and subsequently looking to reduce workforce. Historically, engineering departments seem to come under the most scrutiny when budget cuts are mandated. Instead of completely turning over the engineering duties to an outside contractor, some are now entering into “sharing” agreements for personnel with other stations. This is a real contrast from the past when many station managers/owners were skeptical about engineers sharing there “scary” formulas for success with other engineers in a market.

The point here is that good broadcast engineering jobs will be scarcer than trying to land an NFL quarterback position. Even the suppliers and manufacturers are cutting back due to reduced capital spending. It is probably time to start thinking about how to morph this hobby and the experience you gained on the job, to something perhaps completely different, maybe another industry?

What fulfills you?

There is no cookie cutter answer to the question of “how do I move my career to the next level?” as we all have different backgrounds, educational levels and experience. Perhaps the most important initial decision you should make is what is most interesting, fulfilling and pleasurable about your current job? I find that very few people really give this any thought at all, possibly because they get wrapped up in day-to-day tasks and do not allow themselves the time to think about it. What is perhaps more interesting is that many workers are feeling extremely stressed by the economy and the possibility of a layoff. It is easy to understand that anxiety, but consider this is largely a result from having little control over an uncertain future. Essentially these people have lost control over their destiny. Jack Welch, former CEO for GE once stated, “If you don't control your destiny, someone else will.” Taking control of your destiny should be high on everyone's priority list. The time to start taking control is not when you get your pink slip; now is the time to create your “plan B” and maybe “Plan C.”

Outsourcing yourself

Outsourcing broadcast engineering services is not new, many markets, particularly the smaller of them, have been using contract engineering services for years. I would expect the trend to continue. I think there is still tremendous opportunity to create multifaceted service companies that can handle not only broadcast engineering functions, but perhaps take those skill sets into other public and private sector projects. If you are willing to take some risk, outsourcing could be an excellent path to your next level.

There tends to be a correlation between bad economies and an increase in outsourced labor. We have all heard about or experienced companies that moved certain business processes offshore for cost savings. This is referred to as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). tatistics indicate that the use of offshore outsourcing has grown nearly 11 percent each year since 2004. While this represents a large amount of job losses, keep in mind that the bulk of these positions were typically handled by less-skilled workers. The point here is not to minimize the impact BPO has had on the affected employees and their families but to consider that most of the specific skill sets you have in your current position would be subject to some type of BPO. I say most because you should expect that any IT-related management/operations could be easily outsourced offshore.

You should also be aware of another trend called Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), as you would gather from the title, this model provides higher-level services to be performed from offshore entities, these services could include Web development, server hosting, certain engineering/scientific/medical support, etc.

On a smaller scale, there is no rule that outsourcing is done exclusively from an offshore company; in fact, there is a great deal of opportunity to tap into that market.

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Managing Technology, Oct 2009

Getting involved

There are three different approaches one can take to realizing outsourced opportunities. They each have specific benefits and risk levels. The great thing about the outsourcing path is that you can control your involvement. In my opinion, getting involved with outsourcing is the best way to enter a new industry, if that is your desire. It allows you to gain recognition, experience and most importantly, contacts in a particular field.

The first and least risky approach is to find a vendor who has job requisitions for specific projects. Many of these positions are marketed and managed by specialized recruitment companies. In some cases, they will hire you as a temporary employee (contractor) to work on their clients' project, typically at the clients' specified location. Pretty much like a real job, but they have a limited assignment timeframe, typically a year or two. Some of these include certain expenses and sometimes offer benefit packages and vacation.

The second approach is to work with a recruiter as a subcontractor. In this arrangement, you could be subcontracting for the recruitment firm, but working with the client directly. Recruiters call this arrangement a “C to C” or company to company. Generally you will need to form a legal entity (corporation, LLC, etc.) maintain required insurances and provide the equipment needed to perform the task you are contracted for. This arrangement typically only covers your services, but some contracts allow you to include other employees (yours) if necessary. The advantage of taking this route is that these recruiters are typically large companies with established relationships that open opportunities you would otherwise not have.

The final option is to subcontract directly for a client. In my experience, you will likely be working with a prime contractor who was brought into a company for the purpose of completing a specific job(s). These projects can last several years. Again you would need to form a legal company and obtain all the necessary insurances, etc.

In general, this type of on-site outsourcing is becoming more prevalent. Largely these are project-based assignments, but we are seeing more of a trend toward outsourcing entire operations. For example, Sprint recently entered into an outsourcing contract with Ericsson to manage its cell network operations nationally. Many local, state and federal government agencies are taking the same approach to handling specific projects or certain portions of their infrastructure.

As a starting point, search the Internet for contract positions. There are dozens of sites that market these opportunities, including Monster and Career Builder. Many sites are targeted at particular industries; find the ones that cater to technology sectors. Make sure you join as many of these site as possible and post a resume and specifically note you are looking for contract positions.

Hopefully this gave you some motivation to perhaps take your hobby to the next level.


McNamara is president of Applied Wireless, Cape Coral, FL.



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