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'4-hour' work guru on China outsourcer: Bad karma

Saturday, January 19, 2013 - 5:15pm

CNN readers had a mixture of admiration and disdain for "Bob," the anonymous U.S. programmer who outsourced his work to a Chinese firm for one-fifth of his paycheck.

The incident was investigated by Verizon after a client company noticed the firm's computer system was regularly being accessed from China. Investigators found the employee had "physically FedExed his RSA token to China so that the third-party contractor could log-in under his credentials during the workday," according to Andrew Valentine, a senior forensic investigator for Verizon.

"This guy must have read the `4-Hour Workweek' book. He was doing exactly what the book recommends," wrote one CNN reader, a sentiment echoed elsewhere.

"Heard this on CNN this morning and thought the same exact thing -- he must be a Tim Ferriss fan!" wrote a reader identified as Sarah Avayou.

Ferriss, however, isn't a fan of the tactics of "Bob."

The author of the blockbuster time management book series -- which advocates personal outsourcing as part of his formula for earning more in less time -- said subterfuge and allowing someone unauthorized access to the company computers is not the way forward.

"Productivity should benefit the collective, not put it at risk," Ferriss told CNN by e-mail. "As much as I love cat photos, creating security breaches isn't a good career move. It's also bad karma."

An average day for "Bob" included watching cat videos and logging into eBay and Facebook. He would then send an end-of-day report on the work he paid a company in Shenyang, China, to do for him.

"The 4-Hour Workweek is about maximizing your per-hour output -- increasing personal effectiveness. It's about creating abundance and not about screwing your employer," Ferriss said. "This is why I work with some of the fastest growing start-ups in Silicon Valley (Evernote, Uber, etc.): they want maximal leverage."

Is there a way "Bob" could have done this without jeopardizing his job?

"If you want to structure a remote-work agreement, voluntarily work several consecutive Saturdays and measure your output increases (e.g. deals closed, client hours booked, etc.)," Ferriss said. "Use data and a logical argument to show your bosses that you can contribute more while being location-independent."

Ferriss also advises: "If you want increased power and negotiating ability within your organization, increase your per-hour output. Focus on the 80/20 Rule: identifying the 20% of activities (also products/services) that produce 80% of the results you or your bosses want.

"Track (or create) metrics that allow your supervisors to measure your performance improvements and contributions," he said.

Still, many readers admired the unknown -- and now unemployed -- programmer.

"It reminds me of a quote from 'The Night Of The Generals' that went something like 'What is admirable on a grand scale is abhorrent on a small scale'," commented another CNN reader known as Davidji, referring to the 1967 movie about a Nazi murder investigation during World War II. "CEO's do this every day and they get stock options and their picture on Forbes front cover."

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