Back in 2004 I was approaching my 20th year working as a software engineer. A little over a year and a half earlier the large network equipment company I was working for killed the product line we were on and laid off everyone in my division. The company I was with looked like they were struggling and would be going out of business (and they did). I had finished writing Small Crimes in between being laid off and starting this new job, and this time I wanted to write a book a little closer to my heart; touching on subjects important to me like software jobs being outsourced out of this country and engineers being made obsolete due to technologies they’ve mastered being rapidly replaced by newer ones. Since I was working 10-12 hours each day at this new struggling company, I didn’t have much time to work on Outsourced, no more than a half hour to an hour each night, but it provided a good emotional release to what I was dealing with and what I was seeing happening to friends of mine in the industry.
So what’s Outsourced about? Dan Wilson is a forty something year-old engineer and the small software startup he had been working at went out of business two years earlier, and now he’s finding that the work he’d been doing is being outsourced to other countries, and outside of a short term contract with a bank to design a security system where the software coding was outsourced, there are no jobs to be had. He’s desperate. His middle class existence is disintegrating quickly, and to make matters worse, he’s going blind. Without the long term disability insurance that a job would provide, he’ll be sentencing his family to a life of poverty. Desperate people to desperate things, and Dan and three ex-colleagues come up with what they think is a brilliant plan to exploit a bug in the software code developed overseas for the security system Dan designed. They’re going to rob this bank, and not with computers, but with guns. The plan they come up with looks flawless and no one is supposed to get hurt. Dan and his friends should’ve been reading crime novels, because if they had they would’ve known there is no such thing as a perfect plan.
There’s probably more of me in Dan than any other character I’ve written. Like Dan I was an expert in a field which was quickly becoming obsolete due to most of the development projects being outsourced elsewhere. And while I have a different eye disease than I gave Dan, I’m also mostly blind in my left eye (and knock wood I’ll retain my vision in my right eye). So Dan’s a character I relate to strongly. And what about the oddball group of misfit engineers he teams up with? While none of them are based solely on any one person, they’re all composites of different engineers I worked with, and as they’re written Shrini, Gordon and Joel could’ve been co-workers of mine at any of the companies I worked at. A scary thought.