April 25, 2008
Today, independent information corroborates that the layoff affected staff outside the Santa Cruz office. Staff in the Mountain View office were also affected.
The magnitude is not yet known. VeriSign is apparently attempting to keep the Apr 16, 2008 RIF (layoff) very quiet. Makes sense, since they are attempting to “divest” areas of the business, including the LightSurf portion. Might spook a potential buyer, or a potential investor.
April 25, 2008
Another part of the labor costs solution … H1B visas. Here’s the game
- Write a job description so demanding that *extremely* few people would qualify
- Perform the job posting step required by the INS. The posting is displayed for the minimum required time and usually in an obscure area of the building where it was quite unlikely to be generally seen.
- Perhaps, actually interview a couple people locally, who of course will not qualify. The requirements call for someone who walks on water.
- Present an Indian worker who does “qualify” for the position. Oh yes, it will be necessary to inflate the education and accomplishments to meet the position requirements. This person is an “expert” in the field. Get it? wink, wink, nudge, nudge
- Bring the Indian worker to Santa Cruz to fill the position.
Effects on the Indian Workers
Indian workers are little more than indentured servants in this system. They deserve our pity for the practices of companies such as LightSurf. Why? Well, a company “sponsors” them in the visa application process. Once the visa is granted, they arrive in the US. It is difficult for them to change jobs and find a better employer, who is willing to assume the H1B sponsorship. It is possible, just not likely. In the Santa Cruz office, the H1B salaries were generally quite a bit lower than comparable US staff. Recall the original objectives. So, they were stuck with LightSurf and stuck with poor compensation. They always live with the threat of being deported. They suffer in silence, or in conversations amongst themselves.
All the while, the 6 year clock is ticking. The H1B is only good for 6 years. When the time is up, they must have a green card to stay in the US. If not, they head home. Kinda tough after establishing a new life for 6 years.
Individually, most H1B staff are fine people. They like, most of us in the US, endeavor to improve their family’s quality of life. Working in the US software industry certainly helps with that objective.
April 24, 2008
The US visa game has been abused. Primarily by LightSurf, prior to VeriSign’s acquisition.
Shekhar Kirani and Norman Chang wanted to avoid hiring local technical talent to keep payroll costs low. Their solution? Have an office in Bangalore, and continuously cycle Bangalore staff through the Santa Cruz office on “training” assignments. Of course, pay them Bangalore wages. There was frequently 10 to 20 Bangalore staff present in the Santa Cruz office for the purpose. Sometimes more.
The “trainees” would usually stay for a little less than 90 days, which was the maximum allowed for the training visa being used. They stayed when project demands required them.
April 18, 2008
The acquisition spree that resulted in VeriSign purchasing LightSurf seems to have cost the former president, Stratton Sclavos, his job. “Unfocused and excessive” describes the buying spree. To correct, the board named Bill Roper as President. Evidently the board seems to think the best action is to divest itself of LightSurf, and other areas of the company.
VeriSign to sell business units, return to basics
Little wonder. VeriSign’s “core” business of certificates, DNS administration, credit card charges clearing, cell phone charges clearing, etc, is a very high margin business. The revenue/employee is very high. Seems LightSurf’s PictureMail business is more of a professional services business performing custom engineering for a small set of customers. The revenue/employee is much, much lower. Easy to see how the LightSurf business doesn’t fit in the VeriSign model.
April 17, 2008
Philippe Kahn, of Borland fame, founded LightSurf in Santa Cruz, CA. Verisign bought LightSurf in 2005.
Now, Verisign wants to get rid of the LightSurf portion of the business and is attempting to package LightSurf with some other Verisign organizations and sell them as a bundle. Or, perhaps some investors will be willing to fund an independently operated company.
We’ll need to describe how LightSurf abused H1B visas to avoid hiring from the local workforce and keep labor costs low. It is quite likely that this dynamic is frequently exploited in the high-tech sector.
April 17, 2008
In an 16 Apr internal all-hands meeting, the management would not provide numerical data or names of those affected. They said the layoff is not isolated to the Santa Cruz office and is a Verisign-wide action. Staff in Santa Cruz are skeptical that the event is wider than the Santa Cruz office.
You see, Verisign is now attempting to sell the Santa Cruz office.
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