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Protectionism via self-improvement

A couple of things have got protectionism on my mind. It comes up surprisingly often because the Bahamas seems to be, by and large, a protectionism nation. That is based solely on personal observation, not on any sort of fact-checking. So I’ll assume everyone out there knows the difference between valid journalism and wild blog-induced accusations based on rumours.

Protectionism is the restriction of trade and industries by imposing regulations and tariffs to protect local companies and local interests. A few industries are already protected here. Lawyers, for example, must be Bahamian as do real estate agents, I think. And rumour has it, the IT industry is under consideration for the same treatment.image

Some of this is understandable, given the country’s small population, proximity to the US, and political history. And with the recent economic downturn, it gets even harder to discuss the issue without emotions running high.

In any case, whether or not that’s true is not something I can talk intelligently about. I am, after all, a foreigner here myself so I don’t know that I could be an unbiased judge. I take some comfort in the fact that I am living and spending money here, but working for companies in the US and Canada.

In any case, one of my goals with the BahaNET user group, which is my current outlet for organizing the software development industry here, is in direct response to this protectionist opinion and it applies anywhere, not just here.

To wit: If you want to make sure your job doesn’t go to anyone else (local or foreign**), then be better at it than anyone else. Don’t give the company a reason to look elsewhere and they won’t do it.

This seems to be lost on many people. The natural inclination when someone else gets a job you were after (or that you had) is that they did something underhanded to get it. Instead of thinking, "Maybe I need to upgrade my skills," it’s easier to assume that someone has ulterior motives and is working against you so that you can maintain the status quo.

The decision to hire someone is usually pretty easy when comparing two people. The basic metric is: which one has more skill than the other? If the difference is obvious, then so is the decision. It’s only when the candidates are relatively equal in skill level that other factors come into play.

It’s naive to assume this is always the case, of course. Some companies are more political than others. But it certainly tips the odds in your favour if you are good at what you do.

That’s why it’s encouraging to see the same people coming out month after month to the BahaNET meetings to see what else is out there and to connect with other developers. Regardless of their actual skill level, it tells me that these people are willing to put some effort into making themselves better. So that when it comes to hiring them versus, say, a Canadian with similar skill level for which you’d need to buy an annual work permit, it’s a no-brainer.

** Keep in mind that when I refer to a local or foreigner, I’m talking about status, not physical proximity. The "local vs. remote" thing is a whole different issue which I mention to pre-empt any accusations of hypocrisy based on previous posts on working remotely.

Kyle the Unprotected

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