Friday, December 31, 2004

The Matrix

I didn't get to talk to my room mate for past few days, so as I was about to board the train I was giving him some last minute instructions as to that I have kept the rent cheque on dressing table and other things there and that he needs to take care of all that now. He told me that he might not go home this diwali as his leaves are not sanctioned.
I have always wanted to be at home on diwali as like many other guys and gals who are away from their home for studies or job or some other reasons. But for me diwali was the most important of all the festivals and may be not in other fests but I have always wanted to be home at diwali. The coziness and warmth of the family can be felt clearly at this time of the year. Winters start at this time and new year is also near by, may be the feeling of working for the whole year comes in and we become so tired that we want to be with our family and enjoy the last few days of the passing year. And for me one more reason could be the Americans, they also enjoy this time of the year with their chirstmas and new year party with their families and loved ones. So when once my boss asked me to work on diwali and take leave on christmas and new year, my reason was, when they can enjoy their fests then why can't we? I wud go on diwali be whatever. May be an acrimonious feeling has set in me from that time which keeps on reminding me that we are also humans and thats what keeps me up against any injustice and to keep us at par with the americans.
Well whatever be the reason but joining the family on diwali is a feeling which has to be felt and trust me, can't be expressed in words alone. I was ready to board this train called Jhelum Express which will take me to my destination (not exactly though). The scene was not much different then last time when I was borading this train that also happened to be a novemeber day and then too I was going on diwali vacations, so yea it has been an year that I wasn't home and after an year again on diwali holidays I was going to my home.
The train was packed though it has good patches of free spaces to keep your feet ( coz at times it really becomes that bad), mostly the crowd was young, students who have got diwali vacations and working professionals who have taken out a few days of leaves to add to their diwali vacations given by their respective companies.
As I entered my coach and looked for my berth I saw a a group of guys sitting on the seats around me. One of them boasted with the infy t-shirt. Just looked around for a few minutes and set up my luggage and then went out as the train was to start after 10 minutes and sitting in a still train is really boring. So I came out and stood on the window facing my seat to keep an eye on the luggage, the good old words of mom always keep coming in mind whenever I travel,"keep an eye on luggagge", "keep the money in different places", "don't go away too far from your luggage" and so on. Though I must admit I don't follow many of them but yea some of them which even my consciousness tells me are right, I try to follow them according to my convenience.
one of my colleague and friend was also travellling with me so that was sort of good as the journey upto my destination from train is around 22 hrs and yea after that i have a bus journey to do.
The train started and I was till then settled on seat, I had a middle berth and so as the train started so I was sitting on the lower berth with others. I had a sneaking feeling that we are more number of people sitting out there than the number of berths. In one compartment we have 6 berths and 2 berths sideways and the number of people sitting there were around 8 -9 and 3 on the side berths. But I knew from my past experiences that these things are common in a train in India and when groups of boys and girls travel along, many of them sit everywhere except their own seats.
So yea I was sure that was the case. As the train moved on, the usual talking started and slowly and gradually it became a usual indian train. While I was standing on the window side on the station, I saw a guy with a C-DAC bag sitting on my side of the seat, some memories did came flying by. This was the third time that I was going to home in diwali from Pune. The first time I went home from Pune was when I was doing C-DAC and we had mid term break and that time I remember taking my C-DAC bag with me. So yea the memories of first novemeber from Pune came back to me. Pune has always been good in terms of weather and in the months of nov, dec and jan also its not very cold. So that bag reminded me of those days and I thought that some student from C-DAC might be going home and then came the feeling might be he is from my institute so I can have a light chat with him about how the institute is going on and what all has changed and things like that.
But now as I sat their and was listening to the talks of people around me, I came to know that mostly all were working professionals except a few who were I guess preparing for CAT - MBA exams. So I found out through the converstation between them that there were around 3 different groups sitting around me and two of the groups were linked to each other through one person.
Gaurav, if I correctly remember his name was that linking person. These two groups were having berths in our compartment as well as couple of berths after 2 compartments. So one person from their was sitting on our side as he was friendly with a few of them. The usual chat started as where are you going and how many days of holidays have been sacntioned and all that stuff. The guy told that he has just left KPIT and joined Geometric a week ago, the reason? got bored working their so tried in geometric and got through. Technology?? the next question, I thought must be dot net but the reply was VC++. A sense of respect came within me for that person as in this tech field we have been inculcated with the habit of respecting the people working on VC++ and geomertic was a good company after all and I regularly see its building as it is just opposite to my company's building and moreover they are getting their new building up which he also confirms. One day I went to that construction site of geometric and had asked my friend that we can put up a few stones and our names will be in the foundation of geometric.
Another thing that I was amazed was he has just joined the company a week ago and he is going on a 8 -10 days vacation, that was unusual for me coz I have always thought that its not good to ask for leaves initially in company but then geometric is a big company then mine and may be they are having different rules and regulations towards the leaves.
The chatting around me was now in full flow as mostly all of them knew someone or the other around. Subject: company's performance, new technology and the projects.
There at the extereme end of the seat I was sitting on, was that infy guy with a blue infy T-Shirt on with the caption "A billion dollar company". Their was a time when respect generated within me after looking at such t-shirts but now that I am into this industry and know the ins and outs after interviewing many of the fellows these things don't impress much and rather it seems like a show off.
The voices from within comes like 'who the hell are you telling you work in infy?', 'you won't be able to answer simple things if I ask you'. But yea then there is also an accepting voice, oh yea he got through infy and he has all the rite to wear that t-shirt and boast of that achievement.
But fact is also that this is sort of trend in Pune to wear t-shirts of the colleges and institutes you are studying. The first time I was going home in the same train 2 years back there were these students of symbiosis who were donning their colors and so proud as if they have achieved great heights in their lives. Some how I have never liked wearing the organization accessories out of the organization premises or in contests where your are representing your organization.
So this infoscion was talking to this other guy consistently and during their conversation I came to know that the other was also an infoscion though not in infy t-shirt and both were roommates. They were discussing on the proposition of traveling by air rather than train. The other infoscion without t-shirt one was arguing that you people were not decided on the date so he could not fix for air tickets and also they reserved the seats so late that they got one waiting.
What man we are getting 25-26k in hand and still we have to travel by this train which takes almost 2 days to take to our destination, had it been air we would have been their within 3-4 hours, he argued. I smirked at them thought they didn't seemed to notice it. It was true, harsh but true. Eight years back when I used to go to dehradoon for my SSC then also i used to travel in trains and with reservations and now after eight years when I am earning then also i am travelling by trains. The only thing that has changed is that previously dad used to pay for it and now I used to pay myself but other things remain same, the trains, the long time they took, the late schedules of trains and the jostle and fight to get your reserved seat. I also didn't liked this proposition but still didn't had much of a choice. Have read in the newspapers and all that airfares have reduced and all but by how much and how many flights do we have to reach to my place these are the factors that were still hanging in the middle and that’s how we were left with no choice than to travel with train.
I had heard from some one that in mumbai that a person earns 4000 or 40,000 all have to travel by local trains. This seemed true to me for those guys and me too. As I was in these thoughts that I was questioned by someone, 'Are you in cybage too?' I turned my head to see a short, stout and a happy go lucky sort of person asking me that question. No I replied, 'oh many people sitting here work in cybage so I thought that you might also be in that company', I smiled. "Then where do you work?", I was expecting this one,"Digital infotech". " Where's that?" bang on target. Every time I have answered the former question I have been thumped with the latter. I tried to keep it short and sweet and replied "Hinjwadi". No further questions. I have always hated the situation when you have to tell the location of your company after telling the name. I guess that was pretty ordinary, every techie wants to work in such an organization which has got a good name and when someone asks where you work the name should be enough to stop further questions. So that has been my idea too but by and large I was coming to terms with the reality that brand name isn't everything. It was all coz I came to know people working under big names and working on something timid and some working under big names and fetching package far less than me. Initially when people used to insist that brand name is not everything I as a fussy child used to reply ok let me go into such an organization and then I will also say that. But yea when you really come to terms with reality many of your beliefs change and many of your dreams get molded. Today I was more than happy to sit in my company and getting to work in what I was working on but yea still questions like that do bother me till date, so I mostly try to ignore such situations.
The train moved on, after the T.C. has gone by after checking the tickets, my friend who was in the other coach walked in, made some place for him to sit and while we were enjoying a cup of tea I saw both the infoscions climbing to one side berth
I talked to my friend for some time and the talks mostly related to workplace the technicalities surrounding the project, what does H1B mean and what are pros and cons of a business visa and things like that.
There was this guy sitting opposite to me and talking to the other two guys sitting besides him, initially I thought that he is also a working professional but came to know that he is going home for MBA prepartion and after coming he is going to give CAT exams. The usual jokes between them was about how much are you prepared and will you study after reaching home. I remember being much more serious than him while giving CAT the one and only time but yea still didn't got through and a thought came to my mind that after failing CAT he will get enrolled to one of the several B-Schools in the country and ask his parents to pay the hefty fees and after 2 years he will also be joining the job market.
God knows why but if you give me a situation like this then I can wove a complete story out of it, with my ideas and expriences, I have never questioned myself as to is it right or wrong. May be every person is like this or may be I am the only one like this, but I am sure of one thing we can only wove such a story if we have expeirenced something like that or we have seen such a thing happening.
So at last I was happy someone in that compartment is out of the worries of the projects, away from the tensions of reporting to TL's and clean from the office politics.
The person who asked me my company's name was from Wipro, he was telling someone else. But some how if i had been given a multiple choice then also I wudn't have voted for him to be in wipro. But thats how it is, what you expect the least happens the most. And as he said wipro, a real good scene came before my eyes, those sexy girls working in wipro. Wipro spectramind has its establishment near my office and gosh!! what sexy girls are working in that call centre. I have always believed and told my friends that the prerequisite for getting into spectramind for a girl must be a good figure and must be beautiful altogether. So whenever wipro's name pops up those scenes always come before me.
Well so all in all I could very easily say that was a software train that was taking the techies to their destinations. Techies who involve themseleves working day and night, developing softwares that will make life easy for many and automating the procedures that has been taking too much time. We have made many a things easier in life but is the life really easy for us? We still have to travel days to reach upto our destinations, we still have to fight for our resevered seats, we still have to stand in long queues to get our tickets done, we still have to go down infront of govt, officials to get the work done, we still have to pay bribe at places to get the work done quickly. Still the world is same fighting on caste marriages, murders for a piece of land, use if people for political favours, banners and posters of the politicians thronging all thorugh the city, drains still getting choked, roads still damaging in one rain, minor rape, old age problems, its just that in a five day working routine we never get time to think that there is world outside the company premises also and more or less I never feel bad about being in that premises as my problems are restricted to that premises for 5 days. The day you step out of that premises for a long time you start to come to terms with the realities of the world and I must say they are very tough then solving the technicalities of a project.
As these thoughts were going in my mind I felt the last light going off in my compartment, all the techies were down on their berths(those two infoscions on one and some techies with waiting ticket were sleeping on the floor too), everyone was too tired as most of them including me have to rush from the office to catch up this train and now I was sure no one wanted technology to be discussed for a week or so, all them wanted to return to their real world, out to face real problems, out to feel real happiness which was with their families not with their colleagues, most of all out of the matrix....

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Appraisal

I haven't faced such a big interview panel even at the time of my recruitement so it was a bit of surprise for me but neverthless I expected something of this sort coz some of my colleagues have already been interviewed and they told me that there were 3 of them 2 of them were constants which have already been declared at the top of the page, they include my Project Manager and the HR Manager, the remaining variable was initialized at the run time it was either of the HR Executive.
After a long wait this was becoming a more of a dwindling task then anything else. I was told atleast 4 times that the interview would be in half an hour and then something or the other has come in due to which the interview was postponed. Sometimes they couldn't find me on my desk and sometimes something else happened that they interviewed the candidate after me.
I already didn't had the interest in such a useless exercise and postponing the interview on myriad occassions has got my interest to the rock bottom. I always had the believed that these exercises are just to pacify the top management that the HR and Admin department is working. In a small organisation like ours (strength 60 odd) every person knows the other and atleast the TL's and PM does know about who is working and who is not. It's the same story in all the organisation i guess every one know how much a person has worked, what all good has come out of his work and what wrong he did while working.
So I did not have much interest in that appraisal interview as I was sure that the top shots must have decided by now who all should get how much. It was like I was watching a yesteryears drama on doordarshan where before going in the interview room lalaan singh used to knew that he has been selected as his uncle knew the member of the interview panel or coz he is the son of such a such person.
So it was more or less similar to that situation, the only change could be today this was an appraisal interview of a software professional. This was only the second time in my career that I was going to have an appraisal interview, the first time it happened it went a bit sour and the result I left the job. It's like the candidate always feel that he is delivering more to the company then he/she is paid and on the other side of the road the company thinks that he is paying the employees more than the other companies and providing its employees world class eminities and that its employees are always demanding.
The only thing I had interest in was the interview, I have always liked to present my views and when its like the PM sitting there and listening its sort of good. Not that I can't go and put forth my view other times but its like presenting the views at the right time and when asked for and I loved to have cross questions and answering them shrewdly. It was like I also knew that the question asked is tricky and now I have to dodge somehow. You can't always (or I wud say anytime) call a spade a spade in a working environment. Your views should not hurt anyone and also you should present your views, thats the trick because the people sitting out there have big egos and there ears are programmed to listen to some pattern of words.
Whenever you want to present your idea against your superior, "This is a fantastic idea you have put, if I may only add this point to your idea...". For a completely useless solution use, "The solution is good in short run but it may fail in the wrong run.."
So with all those ideas in my mind and with a feel to have some fun I moved on to the conference room after 5 minutes of intimation by the HR himself. It was a chilly day of november, we were going to have our company's party latter in the evening and I was preparing for it too and after that I like many others was looking forward for the diwali vacations. I moved inside...
We have this round glass table in our conference room that I have always liked and have at times thought that when I will have my house in pune then I am gonna put that table up. So the two constants were sitting on the other side of the table and there was a vacant chair on a bit distance from my PM, I soo realised that chair was for the variable and I moved on to the only other vacant chair in the room exactly opposite to the two constants, ready for a half an hour joy ride.
I must admit as they were prepared with some of the questions I was also prepared with some of the answers at that time and I knew where they can catch me and I was also thinking of the points where I can get them grounded, believe or not it was going to be a bull fight, who was the bull remains to be seen.
I still remember my first appraisal procedure it was also my first company. As I completed my one complete year (there was a flat appraisal across the board in first six months and thats why I was in that company) a formal appraisal was due and on my colleagues and my consicousness insistance I went on to the boss to thank him for all the support he has shown me and all the opportunities he has given me to work in the organization. I asked him to provide me the feedback of my one year's work and most of all to remind him of the appraisal through all these talks.
Boss was also shrewd as all the bosses on this earth are, I guess it is one of their attributes, "I will talk to you in sometime about your performance". 2 days passed , 5 days passed, 1 week passed. After 15 days the boss calls me and apologises for the delay, "sorry I got stuck in some work so your appraisal is a bit delayed. I am sending you this document, fill it up and get back to me as soon as possible.
I went on to the desk and opened my mail, I hated all these things as to tell others what all have you worked on and what all have you achieved for the oragnisation. That form was not much different. The questions those followed were very much similar to appraisal questions of any other company.
1) Give a breif description of the projects you worked on and the leads and project managers you have worked under.(Though for me only PM has been my boss and the question presumed that I have worked under more than 1 PM's and I had worked on 2 projects which my Boss was well aware of. So the question seemed to be like I am one of the thousand employees of the organisation that my PM don't have a clue about).
2) Deliverables to the company and the quality of the deliverables.( Do we ever write deliverable quality bad and full of bugs and what can come in case of a programmer in the deliverables section except the code I could never understand why there were so many rows in that section)
3) In which other ways have you beneiftted the company apart from what you are supposed to deliver.( Other ways that I have benefitted company now that was a real tough one, I started thinking for a moment leave aside the company in which ways have I benefitted myself by being in this company, the answer didn't came till long and when it came it wasn't convincing enough so I stopped thinking about my part and meditated on the other ways I have benefitted the company. After a long thought process the answer was 'none', yes 'none' I didn't benefitted company in any other way. It was only I stayed and worked here for 16-18 hrs a day for the company and
4) How do you see your progress in this organisation?(I guess no idiot is going to answer it in negative even if he/she feels it strongly but yea I try to answer this question with utmost sincerity without letting the person sitting on the other side get any bad feel about me.)
5) What are the 3 bad and 3 good things you like about the organisation? (Good things are x,y,z and I still have to find some bad things coz what is bad in my view mite be good after all and it could be my inexperience that I find it bad so I am still not sure about the bad things. Isn't it at good one?? I believed it was when I first answered it and as soon as I completed that answer I said bravo!!. One thing that is to be kept in mind always is that when boss or a person sitting above you asks about the bad things or the weaknesses of the organization or himself/herself, he/she doesn't really mean to listen to your well thought views. Boss has some preconceived idea about that answer and would always love to listen to any answer on those lines, you try to differ by telling them the real weakness and they will rip you apart by asking myriad questions on that one simple answer as to why do you think so? what could be the reason for that weakness? what steps can we take to remove that ? and most important of all you think that is a weakness but is it really a wekaness? After half an hour or may be if your bad luck is really bad then after an hour the boss will make you feel that the weakness you have mentioned is really not a weakness but a mirage created by you and offcourse you will bow down to it and if you will bow down that time then why to waste time bow down initially at least that will save your time.
Once my boss was sharing a smoke with me (offcourse that is a dangerous proposition never take initiative in that unless and until you are compelled to do so) and he said Man!! we are growing at a fast pace much faster than the biggies like Infosys and Indus and I knew at the outset that he is talking about his growth when he said "we" but I didn't mind much as he is also a human after all and he can also get emotional at times without not knowing what he is saying....
6) How has been your relationship with the clients and how did they like your work?(Has any employee remained in a company without having a good relationship with the client....???? hahaha...literally i am laughing guys .....just think for a while about the extent of stupidity of this question. If an employee is not able to keep good relationship with the company's client then can he/she be retained for even one day? You can spoil relationship with anyone in the company and can still afford to be retained in the company but when it comes to the client no one can help you out. You win for yourself and you also loose for yourself in this case. So this question as to how I have been keeping my relationship with my client is complete farce.
Getting back to my current appraisal when the bull was yet to be decided I had taken the seat and was ready for the onslaught and believe me it was all the same as has been the case several times in several lives. Some excerpts:
What are the three things that have helped you grow in the company and three things that have hampered your path of progress?
I must say I didn't give an idea to this question and just went away with what all was their in my mind.
What are your expectations from this appraisal? God I had been dying for this expectations, my expectations as similar to those of any other employee working here would have.
Cross question: what amount you think is suitable ?? I must admit I wasn't ready for this one coz I thought that company would be decent enough not to ask this and moreover ask this to a person like me but now that the googly was thrown so I had to play somehow keeping my wicket intact.
"This is for the organisation to decide as to how good I have been to the company as a resource, I can't quote a figure, it's for you people to decide. "But why can't you quote a figure?" coz if I did and I didn't get that amount then i wud be disappointed, as these words went out of my mouth I knew I am grounded and this has paved the way for further questions and yes they did come and man I played them well enough according to me. "What if you don't get that time?" Now the question was about does money matter to you or not and offcourse it did but to a certain extent and that extent was extreme at this time. If I don't get that amount then i wud have to compromise on some aspects and the organisation has to compromise on some fronts. And I was in no mood to comment on the latter part of my statement but I knew now this is going to be discussed in great deal and it did. I felt like I am walking a tight rope and I have to keep a balance, it was not as though if I will fall everything will end for you but at times you just want to mantain balance for living upto your reputation.
A few other stupid questions came my way which I can promise you had no relation whatsoever with this appraisal, it is like if you have come up to this room let us have some or the other chat. It's like : "Huzoor aapka bhi aehtaram karta chaloon, idhar se gujra tha socha salaam karta chaloon".
Then the last words went up, you have any other question for him? "no I don't", "neither I have something to ask, except that if he wants to ask something himself".
"No, none at all"
Thank you and I walked out....