Friday, November 14, 2008

Daily Report: Dodging The Future

I've been studying and calculating and analyzing what effect all of the recent changes in my job has had on my workload and how much I earn. After two weeks on the speech recognition, I've calculated that it represents a 12% pay cut for me.

I work the night shift in America, and I've mentioned that I've run out of work a couple of times this week, but it is either right before I start work, which quickly remedies itself, or right at the end of work, when it doesn't really matter. Using speech recognition is faster than typing (albeit not so much faster as to offset the lower pay that goes with it), and thus more work is being done by each transcriptionist. There was a balance in workload before the S.R. came along: There was enough work to keep everybody busy... as busy as they wanted to be.

That balance is now off.

It's mostly during the daytime. Before going to bed last night — at about 11 a.m. on the East Coast — I checked the work flow, and at that particular instant in time, there were 40 transcriptionists in my little department and 110 jobs available. Normally, there would be 3 to 5 times that number of jobs.

I'm lucky that transcriptionists are mostly stay-at-home moms who want to get in 5 or 6 hours of work before the kids come home from school and in between housekeeping obligations. When 5:00 rolls around, most of them are done for the day. That is when I start working, and that is also about the same time that doctors start dictating their reports for the day. (Also, as I work overnight, all of the emergency room doctors are dictating their emergency reports, and give me a pretty steady flow of work.) I generally have enough work to last me through the night... and certainly much, much more than the each person during the day is currently receiving.

So it seems that lots of people at my company have very little work to do... and they are getting paid less now for what little work there is than ever before. It's an awful time to be a transcriptionist, and I'm just lucky to be on the night shift, and a very gung-ho worker, or I'd be in the same boat as the rest of the transcriptionists... only I'd be half a world away from any alternate job opportunity.

To further improve my situation, I've started volunteering to take on the most daunting dictations and the most difficult accounts: Accounts that transcriptionists with no experience, transcriptionists who live in India, or computers that are designed to replace transcriptionists will never be able to do. It's a little bit slower at first until you get a data file built up for each doctor, and you learn their own peculiar jargon and prosody, but eventually (a) I'll be back up to speed with those doctors, and (b) I'll have pretty solid job security for the next five to seven years at least.

My company constantly sends out Orwellian bromides about how important "we" are to "their" success, but as I see it, as soon as my company can find an additional 2,000 Indian transcriptionists to do that speech recognition work for one third the cost, that is where it will go.

Five years ago, my company used to say, "We'll never ship your jobs to India." Now they say, "You'll never lose your job to India." It's true: They never will lay any employee off. They'll just have thousands of employees who are making no money, who will simply quit. (Then, eventually... maybe in a year and a half... with a vastly reduced American workforce, a balance in "work to do" and "transcriptionists to do it" will be re-achieved, and things will settle down.)

Anyway, keeping myself up to my neck in work by improving my transcribing skills is the short-term plan... 6 months. The medium-term plan over the next 3 years is to create a supplemental income that will take some of the pressure off me due to the persistent decline my industry seems to be in. The long-term plan, looking up to 6 years out, is to increase the supplemental income, and slowly migrate my work skills to a more stable industry.

Anyway, as for the rest of my day, Epril and I went out to Spooks tonight to visit with our usual circle of friends. After that, we went over to Chris MacQueen's apartment for pizza.

Chris and Andy were playing "World of Warcraft" on their computers, which I had never seen before. As much as I like fantasy adventure games, I'm not sure it's quite my style. It's almost certainly not a game that someone who wants to spend 8 hours a day at work (and 4 hours a day with his wife) would want to get involved in.

After that, it was back home for a bit of TV before going to bed.


TheMindFantastic said...

Its still probably better than being best temp in the department, or the other work you did while in NYC (though I am sure you had fun with it at the time). Though your not safe from the potential curse of india but then no job tends to be.

Jungle Jil said...

That's true.

Basically, there are only 2 kinds of jobs which cannot be lost to "India" (as in, anyplace with cheaper but equally-intelligent labor): Such jobs which require direct contact with customers (culinary, healthcare, transportation), and such jobs where the location/building/land is the principal factor (agriculture, construction, maintenance).

Every other job, language and experience being equal, in this modern world, can be moved overseas.

Issarat said...

Of course political figures will always have job security (and lawyers)..right?
I wonder if there has ever been a succesfull nation of only consumers with no real exports?
The arab countries have many foreign workers to do their bidding but with the oil exports, they can afford those luxuries.

Do you think the fall of the roman empire echos in the near future of america?

Jungle Jil said...

The Roman Empire lasted for over 500 years. If America stays at the top of the cultural/industrial/military heap for another 300 years like that, I'll be impressed.

charish said...

Jobs are becoming scarce everywhere. I work for a company that has gone from 140+ to now maybe 60 people. This resession is hurting everyone

Peter said...

Good idea, Jil, migrating to a more stable working situation. I'm making similar contigency plans myself.

One word of advice, don't get into Oracle coding (as I did 10 years ago during the golden YK2 time) or you're back in the same "we'll never ship your job to India" situation...

Jungle Jil said...

It's funny Peter. I actually studies Oracle in New York City back in 2000/2001. I made it halfway through the course before dropping out. I realized (a) it was monumentally boring work, and (b) I'd never get hired anywhere if I didn't speak with a Russian accent.

Peter said...

Funny that, Jil. A few weeks ago I was talking about Oracle jobs being shipped to India and that's exactly whas has happened last week. Well, not India, but Eastern Europe...

Anyway, not fun obviously, but they maybe did us a favour as it might get us started on "plan B", the return to China, and leave this country where 50% of my salary disappears to a corrupt and incompetent government (they're shipping Dubya over here next year when Obama takes office).

I got quite a nice severance bonus so we won't go hungry for the time being and it'd allow us a start in China. Watch this space for junglepeter ;-)