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.


Anonymous said...

I think your analysis is quite dead on... But you know the phenomenon of the grass always being greenER on the other side?? Just coz there are so many opportunities to hop, skip and jump in IT, people have gone pretty color blind


Sudhir pai said...

colour blind???he he!
thats a cool analogy!!why did'nt i think of it before??
[:)] good one HV!

Sandeep said...

Smart inferences Pai!
The fundamental issue is that, in a country like ours with a bulk in the middle class economic strata, the choices are not driven by passion for a cause or an issue..Not driven by individual strengths or a sincere assessment of ones weaknesses..It all boils down to how much moolah can be raked in the least time to step up the economic pecking order.

My own indicator of India's progress in the future, is how many people are doin stuff they want to do and not what they have to do.
My current assessment ....Things are looking up :)

Anonymous said...

What's the color of money... :-)
Is green the new gold??


Varun said...

respect, sudhir, for doing what you love.

Shashi Singh said...

doing what you like...or even having tried and something for which the environment is really looking upto.... I am happy that there are so many mundane jobs in IT and many more mundane ones to come... coz what it really is for me... is the backup plan IF my own plans for glory would fail.....