Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Code Coolie

Recently I was talking to my old colleague, we both worked for an India based MNC in IT, he onsite and me offshore. After all these years, we accidentally met on this messy maze of internet and obviously our conversation turned to work life.

In general we b!#@hed about how expatriate Indian IT workers are treated. ‘We are treated worse than slaves’, was the common opinion or the conclusion we reached.

I started to analyze why we are in this situation that we are in. Here are some reasons that I could gather.

1) Usually managers are not from IT background.

The general trend is for the MNCs to get guys from marketing or sales background to make them in-charge of the practice. This is done under the impression that the person has good marketing ability and he can do some wonders to the practice.

Yes, it is true. Wonders are happening. A new head will bring with him a fresh approach and fresh lease of life into any practice, new policies, new clients (because he would have sold them the idea that ‘Blah blah can be done by our guys’).

Then the actual reality dawns on the techies, the foot soldiers of the practice. The general has promised the client, some impossible tasks. Some thing that normally takes say X amount of time, this dude has gone ahead and accepted to do it for 0.8X amount of time. The result, long hours, budget over flows, what not, yet things are delivered on-time, if not in-time.

For the manager it is just a sale of 100 washing machines this month, so next month I need to sell 120 washing machines.

Why, because the foot soldiers, like in any war (corporate wars included) are the ones who sacrifice for sake of some notion like national flag (practice pride), which is absolute bullshit. What difference does it make to the person dead, as to what happens to his nation after he is dead, like wise, what difference does it make to the practice, if someone misses out important events in his life, once the project is done and money is transferred to companies account.

What difference does that make to a corporate once the client transfers the currency and the manager’s targets are met, if the techie is in hospital for stress related illness, or happens to miss out his marriage/engagement?

In my own life, I have seen many of my friends fly to India for a week and get married rush back to work, because some manager has not sanctioned his leave for more than 5 days. (Courtesy: approaching deadline). This despite the fact that he would have told his manager about his impending marriage two quarters in advance and the manager/practice leader would have blissfully said, ‘Oh, you are getting married. We all will be expecting treat. Regarding your leave, take a forth night off and go to here-and-there for your honeymoon’.

After the party is thrown at the beginning of the new month and half the salary is blasted off, the remaining salary is spent in calling cards to call his would-be life partner for long hours.

As the d-day fast approaches, this bloke goes and asks for leave, that is when the marketing talk comes into picture. ‘As you see, the project is in critical stage. You are a senior most person in this practice. If you leave, the client will lose confidence in us. Blah.. blah… blah.. You are important and needed for this project to be successful”.

This guy somehow gets married and then one day says to manager that he is not feeling well. The truth was, his newly wed wife might have given a strict warning that if she is not taken to that amusement park, and she will leave for India for good. So he cooks up the story that he is not well. Presto, the ever concerning voice of his manager comes on the curse of 21st century, the cell phone. Once in every hour he calls to find out how he is feeling, much to anguish of the wify material beside him. Every time the call comes, he ducks to a quite corner, least the manager listens to the background noise/music and tells him of his slow progress. That day, this jonnie is lost. Boss is annoyed that he was sick and wife is annoyed that he was physically present but mentally at office.

Some how his life moves on and wife returns to India, pregnant, vowing never to see this fellow again on-site. He makes frequent visits to India to see his new born.

1st visit is for three days duration, 15 days after the kid is born, to name her. Lots of snaps to adorn office table and again half salary is gone in entertaining the team and the manager about the new arrival.

2nd is made after 6 months that too for few days, because his wife threatened to divorce him if doesn’t show up his face.

3rd one is very late, say one year later. As wife is now busy with the kid and stop to think that she way ever married to someone. Once in a while a phone call is all that she needs to do as a wife and our jonnie dear calls her often just to find out if every thing is alright.

4th one happens says after few years and this guy is back. You know why? Now he is almost 35 and no longer can keep working late hours, cant run around, cant do things as fast as he could.

When back home, he sees the ground realities.

a) His daughter doesn’t recognize him in flesh and blood and always shows the snap that is on the wall, when asked to show daddy.
b) She can’t even recognize him, as the snap was taken when he was young, trim as compared to his obese, balding, burping self.
c) His manager is no longer interested in his stroke detected in the mandatory ECG. There are no hourly phone calls, no updates. When he calls to say the same, ‘Hey jonnie boy, am busy now. Call you back later’
d) Practice is not bothered about his ulcers as once it was bothered about his afternoon off due to stomach ache.
e) His bank balance is worse than the bloke next door, who stayed back in India and worked for some non-IT company. (After all those meaning less parties, calling cards no wonder he has deep burnt holes in his pockets)
f) The cost of living is exceptionally high as his relatives and friends think he minted money in IT somewhere abroad so he can afford to do certain things, which he has to do now. At least for their sake.

Now the jonnie boy is wondering, were all these things necessary??

2) Usually the expectations are based on previous expatriate workers

This is another kind of scenario, where IT workers are treated the way their previous colleagues wanted them to be treated. In those days when the millennium doom/boom was not there, scores of our jonnie boys went to other countries for greener pastures. The moment someone has greens in sight, they tend make more of it and set some high expectations to the client. By working long hours, bending too much backwards and all, these guys are real culprits in setting some unreasonable expectations which is still now seen in the way the current generation workers are treated.

The general idea is that an IT laborer from India puts work first above all else. Don’t now get some ideas that work is done in a professional way, but they just slog. May be at times I wonder if the 250 years of colonial rule has changed the genetics of the entire nation. The moment we see some other skinned boss, we simply boot lick them and bend back as much as possible. Or at least they expect the current generation to do.

This kind of expectations result in setting unreachable target dates, where in every one is burnt out.

The trend of having shadow resources back in Indian offices to do some work that cannot be done even if the entire team is putting up 24X7 also causing the unreasonable expectations. What if some chaps are not fortunate enough to have shadow resources back home? Simple, they are doomed.


This is a straight lift from Boy zone’s song.

No matter what they tell us (You are important to practice)
No matter what they do (Promise you the hike/designation)
No matter what they teach us (You are the brand ambassador for the company, no longer an individual)
What we believe is true (You family first)

No matter what they call us (You are "the" guy for practice)
However they attack (Escalations/poor appraisals)
No matter where they take us (USA/Singapore/China/Pakistan)
We'll find our own way back (to our sweet home)

I can't deny what I believe (Professionalism, dedication)
I can't be what I'm not (bending backwards, boot licking)
I know our love forever (are you listening there in India)
I know, no matter what (I just don’t care if my boss reads this)


SUNIL said...

Too good my pal :)

Anonymous said...

I loved it...This is a gr8 stuff...but toooooo Oooold...Doesn't it seem to be???
I visualized this exactly 4 yrs back... I suffered ulcers, mental stress...(Good enough amount) .. I heard praising words from vice president of comapny and received letters of excellency...
But I've seen Suffered wife...Man she was no good than a dull stick with sleepy eyes whenever I see her at home... Added to this "I dump on her my fears of downsizing at work place..."---BULLSHIT
I returned my home...the teaching field...8 hrs of work...of which 2 classes a day atmost...remaining six hours enjoying...Come home in the evening to see my waiting wife ready with a strong "GREEN LABEL" coffee and my just 2yr daughter running towards me shouting "APPPA" ... We will share some lighter moments...pack lunch for our kid and go to "PAARTH"( "Park" is what I mean in my daughters words) and I play with my daughter while my wife feeds her...WE return home have a same plate...each other feeding the better half...have some sweetest moments before going to bed....

I'm down from 22,000 4yrs back to 14000 today...but u can see how better my life today is...

My parents shout at me...they fight with me...I present a dumb ear...They say that the guy next door's son is earning 50000 and living in some big city they ever come to know harsh reality behind....????

Last but not least...I love that BoyZone song...No matter what....


Lata Dyaram said...

good to see a great reality blog after a long time..keep writing..

Arvind said...

hi Anil,

went through the whole post and if you want my frank opinion, I think all this is a figment of your imagination. the truth is that people are happy and are enjoying their work.


vreddi said...

As regards to the prior comment, sure, people are happy and unhappy at the same time: happy because they have job and they are making more $ than some others; unhappy because they are making less as compared to some.

Spend your whole life making mortgage to a 'stupid' home: and call it happiness!

Rajju said...

I guess almost everyone in IT can actually relate to this post.. offcourse there are these ever blissful souls who manage to remain unaffected!

This stuff might be nothing new or nothing that someone has not already experienced, but by expressing it, you have forced few of us to give it a moment, think of a solution. It's immaterial whether u would find one, atleast u got to start somewhere..

I admire Mr Nattu... all of us wanna spend more time at home with family but how many of us would be willing to let-go of those extra bucks? But then again, what he did was chicken-out. Is that the only solution? hmm I can trust Anil to come up with some aggressive-impressive ideas :-) !

Anonymous said...

commenting on previous posts...its observed that the phenomenon expressed isnt the old one..but truly how many of those IT guys did something about it..rather just expressing the same so called 'coolie'stuff again in a blog which is another stress reliever, image building & time pass exercise for most of these IT guys..take that first step and do exactly what you really feel like doing..than pretending as if some great sacrifice has been done for the sake of 'family' if you let go those few bucks ..

think..think and again long the life will get surrounded just by 'work' for extra bucks,constant superficial netwrking, continuous messaging etc..i really admire those who are out of it...and still could enjoy thier wrk and personal life without any cribs..

nupsi said...

I know it's not right to comment on this topic as i don't work in this field,well i don't work in any field for that matter,but nonetheless can relate to one i'm the "wife" here,reading the comments i see that the "wife's" the perspective was not there,so just decided to add one. Oh by the way,the this blog was sent to me by my friend,who also posted a comment.well getting back to the topic in discussion.

One of the guys who wrote a comment said he opted for another job and is very happy with it. and another "admired" him for that but also said he "chickened out".
my thoughts are, we all have diff perception of happiness, some of us r happy spending time with our loved ones,some are happy with a sense of accomplishment by staying back and getting the job we can't judge or call someone names if they choose either options.nevertheless we must always stop and think about the lives we are affecting,after all how long will your wife spend time painting her nails, she's got only 20 of them...
well u may get some slack once you have a baby coz then she won't have the time to think how late u r.but this only means that you have to be there for 2 people now. so to maintain a delicate balance is vital.

and question yourself, if your are so important for the project and the group or your company that you can't leave it,and only you can do it,why can't it wait for a day or two,afterall if you are so imp u should be irreplaceble,(but we all know the truth here).but yet give same reason to our complaining spouses.

just think if you are so important to a lifeless program of 0's and 1's imagine how important you are to two people with life which revolves around you.i can go on with this.but finally end it with a simple sentence...

the guy who witnessed a crime and did nothing to stop it is as guilty as the criminal.

i wonder if you sent this blog to your wife!!.

Anonymous said...

Anil Please Kindly Excuse the Language im using here , its unavoidable inconvenience here. My TL often says a quote whenever he is pissed off like " Each and every Corporate is like a Tree full Of Monkeys , the monkeys who are on the Top will see only Monkeys below them and the Monkeys at the bottom see only A#@holes above them" i can feel the same after i read your Stuff. No Value for Human. Sorry about the comment i didnt mean to hurt any one please kindly excuse if so.

Anonymous said...

you are a slave...bonded labour...till death