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Another last day…

Last day as a school going kid. Last day as a teenager. Last day as a nonchalant unaffected come-what-may college girl. Last day being single. And now last day as a working IT professional. These last days are really something aren’t they?? Some last days are inevitable. You are bound to face your last day as a teenager someday. You are bound to ‘live’ your last day in the world someday. But certain other last days are forced on us. Like my last day at college when they literally had to drag me out of the hostel and throw me out. I even regretted back then that I didn’t have an arrear or two so that I could prolong college life for some more time. And then there are these last days that you make by choice. You think when you decide to let go of something out of your own will and choice, you will never regret it. You think it wouldn’t hurt at all. No, not one bit. But then, as I just found out, it does hurt. It does pain. You may just brush aside the nostalgia and memories that rush up like fizz on a cold drink, to a corner of the heart like rubbish being swept away, but leaving back a routine that you are so used to for two years at a stretch does seem to be daunting.

I key in my username and password to unlock the PC only to be reminded that this might be one of the last few times I’m typing in that password. This PC which I’ve cursed a zillion times for being the slowest stupidest thing on Earth doesn’t seem to be as slow or stupid any more. Now, it only seems to be one of my most faithful and loyal companions for over a year and a half. This PC on which I typed most of my blogs, snatching away chunks of time between work. This PC which has all my mail threads, some of which had me doubling up and going under the cubicle laughing, some of which had me reduced to tears. This PC which has seen me slogging away at bug fixes and bad code, muttering under my breath. Something heavy tugs at my heart when i realise that this will the last post i’m typing on this PC. This PC, the most important part of my work life for so long, will be formatted and wiped clean of all my memories tomorrow. Fresh for someone else to start a love-hate relationship with it. Sigh! If only the human memory was so editable and uncomplicated!!!

I run my eyes around my cubicle. My official work environment. A coffee mug, a few porcelain show pieces that came as birthday gifts, headphones, the PC with a stick-on magnet on the CPU that says ‘Of al the things I’ve lost, I missed my mind the most’, a voip phone. And me. My battleground where I’ve fought a thousand battles hour after hour, with bugs, issues, managers, back ache, stress, hunger, sleep, boredom, what not? I look up and see my name plate pinned to a corner of the cubicle. I make a mental note to somehow flick it when I leave home today. As a souvenir from my cubicle.

I wander aimlessly around the office building. I pass the library where I spent all my time during the bench period reading The Week and Outlook. Walked through the cafeteria whose walls resonate with the sound of endless cups of coffee, gossips, cricket matches and friendly table tennis games. Paused for a few seconds at the no-smoking zone from where I’ve had verbal shout fights over the phone with mom. Looked wistfully at the parking lot where I’ve argued countless number of times with the security over scratches on my bike. Then I thought of the few but precious friends I had made at work. All the fun, laughter, banter, chat conversations, eat-outs, birthday celebrations, treats, weddings… Only when I’m leaving I realize that I haven’t really had a miserable time here. Yes, I hated the work, but had grown to love the place and people over the years. Amidst all the professional back stabbing, mind numbing work and a thousand other negatives I could come up with, I had settled into a comfortable and comforting routine with the work and the workplace that I was getting reluctant to let go of it now. But all things, good or bad, do come to an end. And so does the Software Engineer chapter in my life.

Another last day has come.

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Work or no work??

I’m amazed at the superficiality of the IT industry in India. I can only talk about India since I’m not sure if this is the same way things work elsewhere in the world also. There is a primeval hierarchy for survival. The Presidents above the Vice Presidents above the Technology Group Heads above the Technology Managers above the Team Managers above the Team Leaders above the Engineers. Phew! It’s more a stylized jungle with people at each others throats and vying for each others positions constantly. The money is good and more the money greater the ego, attitude, self importance etc. There’s so much professionalism around that you’d almost drown in polite words and Thanks-and-Regards mail threads. Hushed whispers, code reviews, bug fixes, unending meetings, to-do lists, calendar schedules, everything is done to clock work precision. But I realized the futility of the entire thing about a week back. My entire team was working in break neck speed for a release, fixing and coding and meeting and the whole circus, receiving polite butter-coated threats from the animals higher up in the ladder every other second when we got this meeting invite which was scheduled in half an hour. A round of murmuring went around that meetings were the last things we needed on the packed schedule right now. But the Manager drove us off (with a polite ‘you will be required there’) to it and then the Raymonds suited man (the head of our tech group) cleared up his throat and started talking. None of us were paying attention in the beginning. He started with recession, down time, focus on goals, long tem planning, needless expenditure cuts and then when he came to project wind-ups across the world and lay-offs all of us jerked up as if electrified and sat staring at him numbly. With one hand inside his expensive suit pocket, he showed us some parabolic graphs (the parabola stopped growing somewhere around 2008 end and stood tentative hovering dangerously close to the X axis) and said very smoothly, “As you can see, the interface for a venture capital like project with focus on sustainability and development rather than scope for immediate growth is not a viable business option in the current scenario which requires rapid growth and revenue generation.” English please, our minds screamed in red alert. And then, “The ABC project would thus be integrated with all its current features and latest revisions with the earlier XYZ project which in effect would put a permanent and lasting end to the viability of the ABC project in terms of customer perspective options.”

English translation: The project for which we had been working nonstop for days together has been dumped/dropped/killed without notice. By the time we had even translated his funda into English and registered it in our minds he was off with a wave and ‘Good Luck.’

All our work of two years, the hundreds of thousands of lines of code, the endless code reviews, testing, politely vicious mail threads everything down the drain in precisely five minutes. Without a foreword, without a warning. It took just five minutes for us to go all the way down, from well-placed-software-engineers-drawing-hefty-salaries to no-project-do-I-still-have-a-job-here nervous wrecks. It was then that I realized how futile ad artificial the entire workplace had been. All along we had knowingly fallen into a false sense of security. People who were in the thick of work were benched suddenly without reason. Each second is spent worrying if we would still be employed the next day. Each day is a fight for survival when the sole bread winners are employed in IT industry. I know government offices with crumbling buildings and moth eating paper work filling the tables but they do not have to butter talk to each other to save their jobs or be sent home suddenly without sense, without reason. They have a job and they have it. Period. No wonder Government jobs and Civil Services are in demand once again.

As for me I’m technically in a project but with no real task assigned its as good as being benched. Gone are the days of coffees on the run and hurried lunches to meet the End of Day deadlines. Now I have all the time in the world for a one hour coffee break, the entire afternoon for lunch if I wanted and cricket matches in the cafeteria. I know most of the articles in the Outlook, The Week and India Today by heart. What fun, I thought at the beginning. But I’ve just discovered that being useless and jobless is the most boring thing in the world. It is mind-numbingly BORING. Sigh! Will somebody give me some work please???

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