Wednesday, September 26, 2007

IT's a mad, mad, mad, mad world

At one time or another, most of us will come to a point in our careers when we sit on the fence, wondering, ruminating, contemplating if we are really cut-out for our chosen profession. It often results in a desire to take a leap over the fence into a newer field, but it is not without some doubts and anxiety. “ If I get out of this line of work, I have to be sure I’m not coming back.” A vast majority is less inclined to take this leap and try to find comfort in their own professional lives. One of the industries that thrive on this trend among employees in India is ITES/BPO sector.

This also influences many Indians to give up on their jobs (non-software) and take a lunge into the software industry. A mechanical engineer may give up on his job in the manufacturing sector to become a software engineer. Ask him why? “ I think I’ve had more than my share of mechanical engineering, I need a change”. Things may be going well, or not so well, but for whatever reason; they're thinking that it's time for change.
I honestly believe many of us people are not in jobs that we planned and studied for. As a matter of fact, it's pretty clear that many people are in careers that just "happened". They started working at a job thinking it was going to be something they'd do until they decided what they really wanted to get involved in, and then they just stayed around until it became a kind of career. “ I’ll work in a software company for two years. This experience should help me in my MBA interviews”.
In other cases, individuals are in jobs or professions based on the guidance or encouragement of other people in their lives. “ I belong to a family of engineers, so I have to become one”. It is simply the continuation of “ My dad is an IITian, it’ll be an embarrassment if I’m not one” paradigm. Regardless of how they got to where they are now, it wasn't, for most of the populace, a well thought-out plan that was skilfully executed.

Which brings me to the three reasons why people like yours truly should not take up the quintessential ITES/BPO job. You are forewarned, the authors opinion is based on the feedback based on engineers working for various IT companies. This does not apply to software engineers who have taken up their jobs for the love of it. Or those who want to believe they love their IT jobs. By no means am I challenging the policies of the IT world. I just intend to warn like-minded folks of what they are to expect.

All work and no play makes Jack a manager

Everybody dreams of 7 digit pay check annually. But what we fail to see is a 16 lakh p.a job comes with a 16 hour a day work schedule. Are you really willing to make those sacrifices? That’s a question one needs to ask himself. Also the ones who earn such a paycheck are the ones who have rightfully earned it. They’ve missed every F1 race of the season trying to meet deadlines. They’ve planned their vacation, which would coincide with a conference. Not to mention the number of meals skipped to take a client call or to close a sales deal.
I also find subordinates always have a grouse against their manager, who quintessentially, does not have a life. Yet, everybody would love to be in his shoes. Everybody loves to become a manager, but hates their own manager. A universal phenomenon indeed! Being a manager is not about winning a popularity contest. So one is required to kill that desire of being liked if one is to go up the hierarchy in IT company and this could probably be extended to the management in every company.

To err is human; to forgive is against company policy

Now some really interesting facts that is specific to ITES/BPO. I’ll neither name the company or the people who have narrated their experiences to me. The pay in IT is good compared to many other professions, but since they pay you well, employees believe companies often think they own you. And if your reason with your manager on why you think its unfair on you, the reply is standard. “This is a part of your job. You are on our payroll. That's why we pay you the big bucks!” You are left to wonder if a payroll and a parole are more than just homonyms. Or is it a sadistic corporate pun?

Another problem, which employees suffer in BPO’s, is an erosion of dignity and self-respect. A customer always thinks its your fault even if his software doesn’t run because he has accidently deleted his software. A customer rep with a presence of mind will probably ask the customer to check out his recycle bin. But with an avalanche of swear words hurled at you, you are likely to forget your own existence. A call centre is “ The customer is always right” taken far too seriously.

And for a person who is reasonably proficient as a tech support representative in office, he becomes a personal tech support for all the non-tech co-workers in office. As a result you’ll take calls 7 days a week, 5 days for your customers and two for your co-workers. You’ll wonder if your paycheck worth the thankless job.

If you think at the end of the day you’ll be dabbling with sophisticated software, think again. Majority of your assignments require you to baby-sit existing technologies. Afterall, a software without any glitches is inevitably absolutum obseletum (if it works, its outdated).

There ain’t no thing as free lunch
Some of the companies that rank very high in employee satisfaction employ this tactic. They simply pamper their employees. The jobs on offer are no rocket science stuff, mundane to say the least. The only factor that keeps the employees satisfied is probably the benefits the company offers. The company that boasts of a 1% attrition rate pays for all the Dominos pizzas that are ordered in office. Some offices have a mini-theatre, others have convenience stores that do not charge employees for the junk food they consume. Some companies go one step further, instead of rewarding the most outstanding employees with an onsite project, the whole team is sent on a company funded US trip. Everybody is happy! Also some companies encourage employees to splurge and indulge in luxuries by rewarding them some surprise bonus check. A good shopping spree can help you overcome the emotional void you are starting to experience at work. Says an employee “ It is an ethical way of killing ambition. Employees will dread to think of seeking employment in another company, simply because they cannot live without this culture”.

I personally feel an employee will find many points to complain about. The one point he’ll hate to admit is the fact that he cannot enjoy what he’s doing. He’d rather want to believe he’s living a rebellious life by bottling up all his anger and frustrations during the day and venting it out every evening. It is not very difficult to find suitable outlets. Reading one book a night, voracious blogging, incessant spending will only take you so far as to survive every single day till you fall asleep. But quality life is so much more than a cumulative sum of every single day you live. The only solution is the clich├ęd “ do what you love”. It may not satisfy all your needs, but it’ll surely render you impervious to all the aforementioned horrors. If nothing, it’ll save you the attempt and trouble of liking what you do.

Friday, September 21, 2007

To spit or not to spit !

Have any of you ever wondered what a spittoon feels like?
Wait till I enlighten you with an account of my misadventure last year...
Coming back from work, I was crossing the main road outside lifestyle, which to the uninitiated is one of the craziest roads if there is one in hyderabad. Suddenly this monstrosity( an Apsrtc bus) takes me by surprise. I was not particularly caught off guard by the sudden appearance of this grotesque apparition, but by its excretion!!!I felt this projectile which struck me on my cheek.When I felt it with my fingers, I realised I had a sticky situation at hand. Some nincompoop travelling in that very monstrosity was in a good mood to involve himself in a spat. And spotting a charming pedestrian like yours truly ( accuse me of massaging my vanity, but an apsrtc bus is one of the few places where I turn out to be the best looking chap!) he'd found his victim. He launched his chewing gum for my face and his aim was spectacular.
After debating the legality of the culprits relationship with his mother or sister in a fit of rage, I started rushing home with one hand covering the affected areas of my face. I suppose a bloke running with a thinker pose can be quite an amusing sight. I did see an odd passer-by giving me a very bemused grin. The thought of it actually sent me into sudden fits of laughter myself but being at the receiving end, I was'nt particularly amused. Still I sported a smile. I could imagine Jagjit dedicating a few lines to me
"Tum itna jo, muskura rahe ho,
kya GUM hai jisko, choopa rahe ho"
After reaching home, I could'nt help thinking of the man who I strongly believe changed the face of mankind. My gratitude for one Mr. King Camp Gillette got the better of me. After all the disposible variant of his invention saved my face. I dearsay it was a Shaving grace at an eventful end of a bad day.As for me, having written this piece, I am hoping not to lose or split any more hairs thinking about this incident.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Harmonic Progression

I’ve always enjoyed sorting out my music on the computer. I don’t even need an excuse to get started. Every track on my computer has some sentiment attached. Every album sends me to unique imaginary realms. There are some tracks that are preserved only for the nostalgic value it provides, even though over the years my musical tastes have changed as drastically as I have as a person. Which is why this vocation (sorting out music and compiling play lists) turns out to be as refreshing as a vacation.
Last month I decided to organize my Hard disk and, it was an impulsive decision. July was particularly characterized by some anxiety and loneliness. My books and my music were my only bedfellows. Once while discussing my music collection with precocious perf(a friend whose name is not to be revealed), I began this odyssey which lasted nearly a month. As various songs played, they formed a soundtrack to the memories they invoked. It was a photo album for my ears; certain songs are inextricably attached to events in my past and when I listen to them, memories return.
My Columbine Voyage to the Newer world of music began with ABBA and Boney M. My sis plainly dismissed these as silly nursery rhymes when I played some of these numbers. She wouldn’t have guessed. I used to hum these tunes even before she was born. “Ring Ring ”, “Super trooper”, “ Another Town Another Train”, “Hasta manana” “Belfast”, “ Rasputin”….
Never understood the lyrics then, but loved the tunes. I subconsciously attached these tunes to all those days spent in Matunga, Bombay. And I’d sing those as any four-year old would.
I’m nothing special, in fact I’m a bit of a bore
If I tell a joke, you’ve probably heard it before
But I have a talent, a wonderful thing
coz everyone listens when I start to sing
I’m so grateful and proud
All I want is to sing it out loud

Circa 1989.Those were the days of the tape recorder. Most Indians in their post-colonial hangover would say “You don’t have to pay at Spenser’s to meet your needs”. As Indians, we’d always found cheaper and more convenient ways to indulge in luxuries. Now, we didn’t need to buy album tapes for just a couple of good songs. We could always record our favourite numbers on blank audio tapes, and pretty good quality tapes ( the red cover Sony tapes) at that. So the music I listened to were not labeled. I had all these songs memorized on School bus trips between Chembur and Ghatkopar in Bombay (if you wondering how, my school bus was one of the very few that had a audio system). Only many years later would I make a serendipitous discovery of the name of the artist. When I listen to these tracks I’m often amused at the fact that as a six year old, the subjects that these numbers addressed were obviously beyond my comprehension, and yet we’d have a careless bus driver playing these in a school bus. “Papa don’t preach” and “la isa bonita” by Madonna, “I just called” and “part time lover” by Stevie Wonder, “Notorious” by Duran Duran, and a few by Foreigner, Boston, Tina Turner, USA for Africa, Berlin to name a few. Music and I were inseparable, and it was beyond my imagination that there is a whole world of music awaiting me. It was heavenly!
Such a feelings coming over me
There is wonder in most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky
Got the sun in my eyes
And I wont be surprised if its a dream
Everything I want the world to be
Is now coming true especially for me
And the reason is clear
Its because you are here
You’re the nearest thing to heaven that I’ve seen

The '90s were mostly disappointing. Some excellent music completely overshadowed by syrupy shit! What I never realized then was the fact that my only source of music was MTV, and understandably music was sold based on visual appeal. This was the time I was starting to be really disillusioned with music. I did find some uplifting moments though.
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never going to
Keep me down

I never really deciphered the “uplifting” pun in most songs and never figured out the drug or sexual connotations in the songs. I guess innocence and blissful ignorance did go hand in hand in my adolescence.
In the late 90’s I’d reached a point of giving up on music. Thought it’d just not be the same. I was probably one of those misguided by what music channels had to offer.
I ain't saying you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right

Napster was a boon. It restored hope for a better tomorrow. I started discovering some new music, or some music that was lost in the sands of time. Suddenly my relationship with music took a more philosophical turn. Started believing I’d already missed out on some really good music but thanks to the internet, I did have some access to it.
I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song.
I’m twenty-two now but I wont be for long
Time hurries on.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown

And we now have torrents. So my musical tastes start traveling on auto pilot. First there’s metal, then all genres of classic rock, some rock and roll, then some world music and more blues, and even more jazz…I could probably write a book on all the music I’ve listened to ever since.
Some love stories never end. This one has just begun.
So dear bloggers, I implore you to check out your collection and enjoy the trip.
So I say
Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me