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When life gives you lemons …

I met up with a friend of mine recently who is working with this big multinational company.
Lets assign this company a completely random name – just because I am too lazy and don’t want to keep typing it again and again … Umm .. lets call it TM.
Okay …
So this friend of mine – an extremely bright, intelligent and hardworking student from back in college joins TM thinking that its a big company with thousands of people – and he’ll have every opportunity to grow and learn there …
He couldn’t be more wrong …
When he met me, he was completely stressed out – and very dejected …
I couldn’t believe it was the same confident guy I knew back in college …
He was suffering from something I call – “The Big Company Syndrome”.
I’ve had so many of my friends tell me the same story this friend of mine tell me – and about this same company – TM.
Moreover, you can smell something fishy when a company asks its employees to sign a two year bond of Rs. 100,000 (or was it 200,000?) as means to retain them…
Anyways, in bigger “service” based companies such as TM, people get treated as resources.
Most often than not, your superiors don’t give a crap about you and you end up being the extreme end of the tail in which everyone above you is trying to please everyone else above them and as such, don’t bother with those below them.
A very common occurrence in companies such as these – is having no work and ending up on bench for a long, long time.
This might be extremely hard for many to swallow .. but according to me, you are already in an awesome spot.
If life gives you lemon … Make lemonade!
How difficult is it anyways?

  1. Cut the lemon in half.
  2. Get a glass of water.
  3. Squeeze each half of the lemon into the glass.
  4. Add a pinch of salt.
  5. Some sugar to taste.
  6. Stir well and drink chilled 🙂

My friend here, tried his best to get work – but his superiors just neglected him …
All his requests were met with a few peanut jobs – which he completed in a matter of days – and again, had nothing to do.
This, he explained, bothered him a lot – and rightly so …
When you have been hired to work, it hurts not getting any responsibilities …
But the really sad thing is that in such large companies, nobody really cares …
Unless you have a terrific team leader or project manager, you are going to be in the same predicament.
And chances of getting a great superior are very, very low …
If you are stuck in a similar situation, you have two options:
Option A
This is the more ethical and fun option to do:

  1. You type out a nice resignation letter.
  2. Pack up all your stuff.
  3. Delete all the personal files from your machine.
  4. Walk up to your manager – preferably when he is surrounded by other co-workers.
  5. Tell him what a jackass he has been.
  6. Throw the letter at his face.
  7. Storm out.

You’ll definitely get a better job. Don’t worry.
If you were good enough to be hired by this company, many other companies will take you easily.
Option B
Though I agree that this option borders on the unethical side, it is completely justified in such a situation.
Company loyalty can go take a hike.
In this option, the first thing you should do is stop asking your boss for work. That is simply the dumbest thing to do.
Come to work on time, punch in and relax.
You’re still getting paid right?
Do the work they give to you – but don’t be too enthusiastic about it – because honestly, nobody cares!
In your free time – and you’ll have tonnes of it, read, blog, write some pet hobby projects, put it up on the internet for others to use and grow yourself …
If you really get good at it, you can even consider freelancing – but this depends on how good you are hiding it during company hours.
I have heard stories of people running entire software side businesses using the company phone of TM itself.
They work as software contractors – getting work from some people – outsourcing to others – and taking a cut in the middle. They make this money in addition to also getting paid from the company for doing nothing.
This would be entirely shocking to many – but sadly, this is the way most large Indian software companies work.
You just have to learn how to work the system …
If you can’t, you’ll probably screw up your health with all the tension or commit suicide with all the depression, that’s why is important to do activities that release tension.
And if you look at it – in the long scheme of things that is life – a couple of bad years in a bad company does not make any difference …
On the other hand, it just makes you stronger and wiser …
So when life gives you lemons, just make lemonade yaar!!! 🙂
[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 75.]

The ups and downs of blogging …

There have been umpteen number of times I have really stopped blogging.
And being the really lazy person that I am, I always tend to post some crap as to how I will start blogging (regularly) soon – and then eventually, I stop again.
There have already been some failed attempts.
Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C.
But then I met an old college friend of mine today who asked me as to why I had stopped blogging all of a sudden.
I sheepishly replied that I had no time nowadays – even though I know how wrong that is …
I have lots of time – its just that I prefer to do other things then.
Also, somehow this proves that I am doing atleast some work at my new job.
The reason I was blogging regularly at my previous job (apart from the fact that it sucked so bad – it would be a wormhole to another dimension) was that I didn’t have much work…
Now that I do, I generally prefer do catch up on some reading everytime I switch on the computer at home.
Either that or I am chasing some other billion dollar idea which just cropped up my head.
Anyways, in view of this and the fact that the blog limit I had set sometime ago for me needs work, I intend to start blogging more regularly …
I promise 😉
[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 76.]

Umm … How bout a few billions?

This post comes as a result of some musing after watching the movie – Notting Hill recently.
Apart from being an extremely well made, highly entertaining romantic comedy which I thoroughly enjoyed – an incident from the movie struck me …
If you have seen the film, it’s at the dinner (William’s (Hugh Grant’s) sister’s birthday party) at which Bernie (Hugh Bonneville) asks Anna (Julia Roberts) how much she made in the last film she worked – and she says “15 million dollars”.
Hmm …
So I pondered …
How did it all start? I mean – how did movie stars start getting paid so much.
If you think about it, every job comes with an upper and lower limits of payment – which are pretty much well defined for a period of time.
Like, for example, it is an accepted fact that most of the bigger movie stars make millions of dollars for a film. If you think about this a bit more – you can say that this is justified as the distributors of the film eventually rake in enough money which justifies them being able to pay their actors.
This finally brings us to how much we end up paying for a movie ticket.
Here in Pune – a night show in a decent enough hall costs anywhere from 150 bucks – 200 bucks ($3 – $4) a ticket which even though is kinda on the higher side by Indian standards – I don’t think people seem to mind paying it nowadays (by the number of shows running housefull even on weekdays).
And finally again, people don’t seem to mind because the standards of living have gone up.
So indirectly, the more money we tend to make, the more money those actors tend to make :).
I know this is a dumb metaphor – but there is a definitely connection there (I can sense it :)).
In the end if you think about it, (even though I haven’t got the faintest idea about acting) – does it warrant a sum of 15 million dollars to be paid for a film?
I will consider the next case – that of a software developer which I can more relate to.
Again, in India – it is a well known fact that software developers (or Computer Science / Engineering graduates) tend to make more money than most of the other faculties when they start off.
Even further down the line (couple of years), a software developer is likely to make more money than a similarly skilled mechanical engineer working in an automobile company.
And if you think about it – all software developers do is sit in front of a monitor all day long and type code. You don’t actually need to be a genius to do it – just about any human being with a normal level of IQ and will power can do it.
Furthermore, in most of the projects – major parts of the code which you need, can be found somewhere on the internet by careful searching – which makes it more of a jigsaw puzzle assembling job than actual, smart work.
So what do software developers do – which results in them getting higher salaries, air conditioned offices and the like?
Where did all this trend start?
And how do we go about accelerating it … ? 🙂

Does cheering actually help?

We’re having a table tennis tourney going on in the company with lots of people participating in both the singles and doubles matches.
This is directly proportional to the reduction in the amount of work done by the people – those who are participating and those who come to watch the matches and cheer their friends.
In table tennis, unlike outdoor sports, you are not allowed to cheer / jeer while the game is in progress. Therefore, except the occasional “wooos” and “ahhs”, there is nothing going on during the game play.
However, when a point is won, people do come out and encourage their friends.
The more popular you are, the more support you have during the games.
However, even though we are a very small company (the numbers in the range of 40 – 50), we do not know everyone well.
It’s more or less like a typical office.
You have a few close chums, some people good friends and others acquaintances whom you share a very casual greeting relationship.
Anyways, the point I am trying to make here is that you don’t know everyone decently well.
During one of the matches in which a friend of mine was playing, it got pretty close – even though she had just learned to play recently and the other guy played decently, but looked somewhat nervous.
At that point, I wondered, that if we all got behind our friend and cheered her (she had more support definitely), it would break the other guy down and she might win the last round – and thus the game.
However, the cheering actually never happened and thus we will never know – but this sparked a debate between me and my team mate whether cheering actually makes any difference.
I was of the opinion that it always definitely helps and he was of the opinion that it doesn’t – and sometimes even is detrimental to the player.
After countless minutes of debate, we finally agreed on two points – which I definitely feel does not do complete justice to the entire topic of “Does cheering actually help?”
One point was thus:

I’d like to refer to my previous post here “That moment of giving up” in which my boxer friend told me that he gives up sometimes when he’s fighting it out in a god forsaken place where no one cares about the result of the game – he wonders whether getting all beat is really worth it.
Thus, the point here is – that when you are down by a few points, having no support whatsoever, makes you wonder whether it is worth it – and you end up not fighting back as best as you could.
On the other hand, if you have people behind you egging you on – no matter what the result, you atleast fight till the end – which is a good thing!

The other point made was:

This takes the case of Indian cricketers who enjoy the status of demi-gods in the country.
Many of them comment that playing a game in India, draws huge crowds, and thus an awesome support which can create quite a lot of pressure to perform. Many players feel that they enjoy and play a more natural game when they are abroad as they don’t feel the heat of the pressure the crowds bring in. So in this case, all the cheering and support is a bad thing.

So, in what conditions is cheering a good thing or a bad thing?
Is it always good? Always bad?
Does it always depend on the individual in question? Does it depend on the way the crowd is cheering you?
Do players who are trying to be something they are not, fear the pressure that crowd support brings? And do underdog players thrive on cheering and perform that extra bit because of it?
A very open ended debate and I’d really like to hear your thoughts on it!

Two donkeys …

I received this story via email recently and would like to share my musings on it …
Please excuse the english, because it has been a percolating forward ….
Anyways, here goes

A good story for all of us to follow in our careers and social life………… very true
Once upon a time a Washerman was bringing up two donkeys.Let us say Donkey-A and Donkey-B.
Donkey-A felt it was very energetic and could do better than the other. It always tried to pull the washerman’s attraction over it by taking more load and walking fast in front of him.
Innocent Donkey-B is normal, so it will walk normal, irrespective of the washerman’s presence. After a period of time, Washerman started pressurising Donkey-B to be like Donkey-A. But Donkey-B unable to walk fast, got continuous punishment from washerman. It was crying and told personally to Donkey-A “Dear friend, only we two are here, why to compete with each other?
We can carry equal load at normal speed “.
That made Donkey-A all the more energetic and next day it told to washerman that it can carry more load and even it can run fast also.
Obviously happier washerman looked at Donkey-B.., his BP raised and he started kicking Donkey-B. Next day with smile, Donkey-A carried more load and started running fast. But it was breathtaking for Donkey-B and it couldn’t act that way….But the washerman was frustrated, so he harassed Donkey-B terribly, and finally it fell down hopelessly.
Then Donkey-A felt itself as a supremo and happily started carrying more load with great speed. But now the Load of the Donkey-B is also being carried by Donkey-A., and still it has to run fast. For some period it did, finally due to fatigue it got tired and started feeling the pain. But washerman expected more from Donkey-A. It also
tried best, but couldn’t cope up with his owners demand. The Washerman got angry with Donkey-A also and started harassing to take more load… Donkey-A was crying for long time and then tried its best…
But it couldn’t meet the owner’s satisfaction.
Finally the day came when due to frustration the washerman killed Donkey-A and went for searching some other Donkeys.
Its an endless story……….
But the moral of the Story in Corporate and social life is……
“Think all colleagues are same and that everyone is capable…. Always Share the Load equally….. Don’t ever act smart in front of your Boss and never try for getting over-credit. ..
Don’t feel happy when ur colleague is under pressure.. ”
It doesn’t matter if u r A or B, for the Boss u shall be always DONKEY

I don’t know who really started this email – I have heard this kind of story before – something that encourages you to be average (or even below average) so as to not get killed by your boss – or more importantly, give your weaker colleagues at work, a chance to survive.
Somehow, I have never been able to relate this story to actual human beings.
The first impression that you’d get after finishing the story is … “how true” … and … “yeah ! this is what happens to people who act smart … ”
But if I’d permit myself to be a little cynical, I’d say – that what we are talking about here – are donkeys – and not humans.
Donkey’s don’t get paid by the amount of work that they do – nor do they ever get promoted for doing better or efficient work.
I guess what I am trying to say here is that – if you are doing the work of a donkey, then:
1. You are a fool to be doing it anyways
2. You should probably not try to show off – coz its basically not worth it
However, if you are working in a ‘REAL’ company – where your intelligence, talent, ethics and determination (and dedication) are merit to success, the earlier story is just pointless and baseless and I for one, cannot try to get into the mind of the person who must have created it.
Trying to be average – and just flow with the crowd is probably the most dangerous thought that one can get – and yet people do it – day in and day out – diminishing the difference between people and sheep.
This is in short, how a similar situation would go with ‘REAL’ people – and not donkeys

There are two employees – Employee A and Employee B
Employee A is always energetic while Employee B is just another average guy who is happy to get on with his work.
Employee A being the more enthusiastic and energetic of the two, finishes his work much before time and hence has time to take up some other initiatives.
He does his work to the best of his abilities.
Now, after a period of time, two things could happen.
1. The boss is extremely happy with Employee A.
He gives him a promotion and a big fat raise.
Both the employees A and B work the same hours, however, employee A makes 1.5 times the same amount as Employee B – even though they both started at the same time with the same qualifications.
2. The boss thinks he can take advantage of Employee A and starts loading him with extra work.
Now because Employee A is human (and not a donkey) and because he is not tied to a rope around his neck – and also because he very well knows his worth …
He tells his boss to kiss his ass, quits the job and gets a better one (because he is good and can get another job)
Either way, the better employee wins.
In the end, I guess, its the attitude which makes all the difference – no matter how talented you are or whether you were born with an IQ of 220. Unless you have the attitude and actually want to go ahead and do something, nothing is gonna get done.

This might be only slightly related to the original story, but I’d like to end with some very powerful lines that I came across in “Atlas Shrugged”
It goes something like this …

“I swear by my life and the love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine”

Job and life as it stands !

Today was the “big” day – apparently – when you go to work on your first ever job – and all the works.
At home, everybody except you is excited – calls keep coming from distant relatives who are all like – “Your first day at work? Best of Luck !!!”
And though you were pretty excited at one particular point of the time in the distant past, you fail to see what all the big deal is about.
So there, amidst the worst rains of the season, I stepped out of the house to go to – where else – WORK ! (Sounds pretty funny now …)
So, in as few words as possible – this is how it went …
Well, reached there almost on time at 9:07 a.m (can always damn the traffics and the roads!) but nothing seemed to be happening till 9:30 – thats when we have our Day Start meeting.
Being the first day, all the freshers had to come out and introduce themselves and also tell a funny to make everybody laugh.
After everybody had their turn, the day kicked off officially.
Lots of stuff was going on today – from setting up your workspaces to tonnes of meetings in which each of the project leads came and explained the projects they were working on.
Couple of forms to be filled up – setting up of company email accounts, working environments and stuff like that.
We also had an interesting coding challenge – which I managed to figure out partially – which was followed by an excruciating open book C# test – which I must admit was extremely difficult.
This test took most of the day – along with the occasional meeting and some formalities to be completed. And the pace of answering the test questions came to a crawl towards the end …
Towards the end of the day, there was a birthday party with two awesome cakes – so it was fun. Then we helped out going through some papers before finally heading home at 9.
But even now that life has taken a huge turn with 10+ hour working days under artificial lighting and temperature control (with no bunking possible whatsoever), the place where I am working at is a darn good place to be.
The thing that hit me just as I was leaving was that – I have to go home now, hit the sack, get up and come back – aaaaarghh !!!!
All said and done, this is probably one of the coolest places to work.
All the people are young, in our age group and extremely friendly.
You don’t have to bother about wearing a T Shirt which does not have a collar or that your jeans are blue in colour.
You can walk in wearing floaters and steal one of the many bean bags lying around to work on.
You can have all your instant messengers running throughout and even catch up with friends elsewhere – as long as you get your work done on time.
So it begins … I guess :p

Of education and jobs and you know … money !

We had our final practical exams today – which went relatively well.
The external examiner, apart from being a jovial fellow, turned out to be pretty much entertaining also …
Anyways, I did finish my program (assignment we are supposed to code in 3 hours) well before time and was left musing on some issues, which finally resulted in this post.
A recent news article flashed through my memory – one which in 4 ISB (Indian School of Business) graduates were offered jobs which paid salaries of approximately Rs. 10,400,000 – the highest that any MBA graduate from the country.
Now, ignoring the fact, that the salaries are actually in US Dollars (USD 233,800 to be precise) and these students will probably be abroad (where it is much more expensive to live), the salaries ARE pretty high. More so, when you are starting in a company.
Now comparing this to the salaries that we (Engineering graduates) from the Pune University make – which is more or less in the range of Rs. 200,000 to Rs. 450,000, it would take us approximate 20 years to make the same amount that one of these ISB guys make in 1 year.
Which in more harsh and simpler terms means that one of these 4 guys will make more in 15 days of working compared to what we guys will make in a year of working.
A pretty compelling reason to do an MBA, ain’t it?
However, IIM-Ahemdabad, which is considered one of the toughest schools in the world to get into and which is also one of the better IIMs in the country, has a national average package of Rs. 1,000,000 (10 lacs) and their highest Indian offer was Rs. 3,400,000 (34 lacs). I’m not aware of their international packages.
Makes you do some thinking …
Doing some more research on this subject, brought me to this very interesting artice by the Hindustan Times – titled : The Jobs Paradox
A quote from the article states:

They are qualified engineers and MBAs, but they have no jobs. India had more than 60,000 unemployed graduate engineers at last count, according to government figures. No official figure for unemployed MBAs has been published yet.
And yet, India also has a shortage of skilled technical manpower. The country will face a shortfall of 1,50,000 IT engineers in 2010, says a Nasscom-McKinsey report released four months ago.

The article further goes to say that though India produces a LOT of Engineers and other graduates – many of them are “unemployable”.
The only standard body governing technical education in the country is the AICTE – which sadly cannot maintain standards … Most of the institutes certified by them are not upto the standards at all – and it does not take an expert to notice this.
Another problem (which the article also states) that there is big shortage of good teachers. The main reason being that teachers don’t draw a big salary in most of the colleges. Freshly placed students tend to make as much as the teachers – if not more … one reason, why teaching is not such a lucrative option and why there is such a dearth of good teachers.
Even in my college, though we always tend to get good overall results every year, barring a few teachers, others don’t make a case for joining the college.
This is the case with most of the colleges around Pune – even the so called better colleges.
A good teacher is recognised instantly and respected by all the students – so we do get to hear accounts of “good” teachers – but these have been too far and few …
This finally brings us back to the question of how the results tend to be good irrespective of the teachers?
There are two points to the answer – students who are sincere and/or brilliant from the beginning who carry themselves through and a very redundant and predictable education system – the latter of which I’ll leave for discussion on a different article.
Hence, this creates a catch 22 situation.
Colleges, in order to do well, need to pick good students from the starting — and good students only go to colleges that are doing well.
The case with our college is slightly different – its more of a proximity thing.
Our college is located in the heart of the city – and thus is more or less close to every corner of the city. ( The average time of getting to college is about 15 mins)
This draws more or less the good students from around who probably don’t want to spend their lives travelling to colleges – and hence, the college is doing well.
But at the end of the day, all the colleges are failing to produce engineers which companies can use – so much, that the companies, given up all hope of finding good people, have started picking up good students early (before graduation) and training them on weekends – so that, by the time they pass out, they can start working immediately.
Then there is the question of reservation – and with it now poised to reach 50%, I pity the students and more so the companies – because finding good talent will become even more difficult.
One of the recruiters who came to our college mentioned that they prefer “a particular college in the city” over others – because they have no – or very low reservation policies.
Hence, the probability of finding brilliant students is much more there.
Other colleges do have brilliant students, but they are more difficult to locate and generally lost because of such reservation policies.
Something for everone to ponder about …
By the way, do give the original article a read. Very worth it …
Links here : The Jobs Paradox – Hindustan Times