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Posts Tagged ‘Work’

All in a day’s work…

When I worked for an IT major, I always thought my manager had it easy. We were 42 people under him in 5 different teams. As far as I knew, all he had to do was

1)    Take up weekly status calls with the client who’d ask a million questions (none of which would be answerable unless you are either God or the Solaris box on which the product is running) and get insulted in the most polished polite manner possible.

2)    Call for team status meetings and transfer some of the scalding he got to the team. If the team didn’t take him seriously enough (which is almost always), start using menacing terms like ‘mitigation’. ‘productive competence’, ‘recessive trends’etc.

3)    Make up elaborate AI’s and ETA’s which never, repeat NEVER, are met on time.

4)    Make up excuses as to why the AI’s and ETA’s are never met on time.

5)    Draw up totally incomprehensible bar charts and pie charts in Excel and make PowerPoint presentations with notes copy pasted from Word. Yes, the three technologies my manager had totally mastered were Excel, PowerPoint and Word. Nobody could ever beat him at it.

6)    Take the Client out for coffee and discuss world politics and oil price in Kazakhstan with him for hours so that he’d be too confused and distracted to notice that the latest build we released has a thousand bugs which would never, repeat NEVER, be fixed up.

7)    Take the Client out for lunch to Mainland China and feed him up to his throat. Don’t forget to bill him for the food. Don’t forget to keep all project review meetings ONLY after the massive lunch every day.

8)    Make you work like crazy for 6 months sweet talking about ‘Outstanding’ appraisals and then give you a ‘Meets Expectation’ stating ‘wrong attitude towards work’ and ‘does not gel with the team ’

9)    Join the gang for lunch (reconfirming the belief that God never really listens to sinners’ prayers) and talking nonstop for 45 minutes about all that we despise in the world (stock markets, railway budgets, SEZ, yawn!!!). At the end of lunch we are usually left with neck sprains from all the heavy duty nodding.

10)   Power nap on in the cubicle leaving the rest of us yearning for some sleep but forcing eyes to continue staring at the monitor however bleary it may get.

Now after having such horrid notions about managers (which are almost always true), imagine my consternation when P told me that I’ll be working mostly in a ‘managerial’ capacity when I joined his company!!! An alien work place and culture, a field I was totally unfamiliar with and on top of that a job I know nothing about. I’m constantly interacting with people within the business and outside of it, making decisions, telling people what to do what not to (!!) and now I painfully acknowledge it’s not as easy as I thought it was. It was a zillion times easier working with that piece of overused machinery (read computer) than working with people because

1)    The machine doesn’t talk back. You ask what 2+2 is and it says 4. It doesn’t say nonchalantly  “Depends on where both the 2’s came from” or  whisper conspiratorily “Ummm.. don’t believe 2. It isn’t what it seems to be”. It simply treats facts as facts and doesn’t attach human elements to everything unlike human beings.

2)    The machine does not point fingers at others. Again in the 2+2 scenario, it doesn’t say, “Hell, I’m not the accountant. That’s not my job.” It just does what it’s told to do.

3)    The machine most importantly does not play work place politics which I find is on par with what is played by Mayawati, Mamata and the others at the national level.  You ask the machine what 2+2 is and it doesn’t say, “I always told you that 2 was more attached to 3. If you put 2 with another 2 they’ll start bitching about each other and you can never total it up. What about 3 and 6 instead. They’re very sweet” Or it doesn’t whine, “Why am I always asked to do all this difficult addition and she gets all the easy subtraction. This is not fair.” Or it doesn’t retort, “I can’t work with 2. I HATE it” It doesn’t cry to you saying 3 treats it badly or it needs more pay to sum up to 4. The machine simply adds the two numbers. People do everything else but that. By the end you finish dealing with all the politics and dynamics of who has to what job, who can work/can’t work with who, who can be/can’t be trusted with the job, you end up forgetting what the job was. Like I always do.

4)    The machine does not give you a you-are-out-to-make-my-life-miserable-look every time you look at it.

5)    The machine doesn’t smile sweetly at you and pass nasty comments once you are out of sight. In short, the machine doesn’t bitch.

And the machine doesn’t do a million other unnecessary things that people do. It only does its job. Probably this is exactly how my previous manager felt too but even now I feel managers in the IT field have it a bit easier when it comes to dealing with employees since in IT, there is at least no public cat fighting or open bitching. People at least pretend to like and be nice to each other. Any animosity is not taken up to the managerial levels and is just left to cool off by itself. When asked what 2+2 is, they do all the fighting and bitching among themselves and only tell the manager that it is 4. He is spared of the means! The rest of the world isn’t so hunky-dory and I face new challenges and pressures every day. It’s been a great experience to be fair and I’m NOT hating it. I love playing the ‘Naataamai’ and love discovering new aspects about my work and the people each day. All I want is to hang around and see if that wonderful day when 2+2=4, without any other strings attached, will ever arrive. Hoping it does. SOON!!

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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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