Sunday, March 04, 2007

Unrealistic Expectations

Last week, we had a situation on hand to deal with which is painfully becoming a common scene in the IT industry. Satish Kapoor* who joined the company just 3 years back as fresher wanted to quit because he was assigned bug fix tasks. Mr. Kapoor didn't like the 'mundane' job and wants to 'move up' in the food chain to something else even though the bugs he was asked to fix were the ones created by him and the team during development. HR guys were more worried about loosing Satish Kapoor and wanted the team management to do something to keep him happy.

For a person who has been close to code till about 7 years back, this doesn't make sense. Everyone wants to be a Chief and not an Indian. This model where everyone will be Chief and no one as Indian is not sustainable. I have been in this game for 23 years now and have NO qualms in doing any job to get the work done. But, the new kids who have just arrived are extremely finicky and quit at the drop of a hat.

This may be sign of times.. but doesn't augur well for the industry. If everybody moves away from the code after 2 - 3 years who will code? what will be quality of the code?

I understand and acknowledge everyone has aspirations to move up, but the kind of expectations we see in the industry is unrealistic and unsustainable (If I were to quote Alan Greenspan out of context here.. - it is irrational exuberance).

What is your take?

*Name Changed

22 comments:

  1. What is your company name sir?

    Different people have different aspirations!

    What I know HCL Tech has the quarterly reviews, which actually can track what is in the mind of the resource, giving a 3 month heads up. Good HR work.

    Of course, I have seen different companies, that play up the loyalist thing, for who have stayed with them for a long time, and pass the newcomer for promotions etc.

    -Vijay

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  2. Ram,

    Very interesting, I am from a very different age group than yours, I guess I am one of those finicky moody kids :). Seeing it from your eyes it does feel unreasonable to want to move up the food chain at a very high pace. But looking at it from my eyes or the eyes of people my age,... I feel the need to move up the chain even if i like my current job profile because I am scared of being left behind.

    In my opinion India is a very competitive place where inches count and not making the right decision at the right time can cost you your dreams. Indians are so driven and make several sacrifices to get ahead. I did not realize this while I was in India or even when I studied in the US but living in Portugal for the past 1.5 years has put this in perspective. People here really value their quality of life. If a professional decision will cause them to spend less time with their family, or interfere with their weekends, cause more stress then it is a bad decision (I guess they have the luxury of doing so). We in India don't even have that concept. Our mindset is geared towards the sacrificing everything (health/family/pleasure) in order to achieve the top spot.

    As far as the unreasonable part goes... well "monkey see monkey do" . Coders are making such demands from their companies because they see their friends or someone they know moving up the value chain quiet quickly and they want the same for themselves.

    I am returning to India in a month and I am looking for work there. During my search a couple of HR managers have called my aspirations unreasonable. Ram, you are a very reasonable person, I will really appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to take a look at my resume and give me some professional advice. Maybe I am being unreasonable! Don't worry I am not asking you for a job, just some advice from someone who knows the industry. Is there anywhere I can send you my resume? OR maybe you could even make it into a blog post where you can take my resume as an example and critique it, but thats totally up to you.

    Thanks,
    Gaurav

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  3. Simple.
    Pay the 'Indian' more than the 'Chief'.
    Penalize the guy who creates the bug and his leader (can be found by root cause analysis) and reward the guy who can fix the bug in the shortest time.
    Outsource the HR dept. to Namibia and the debugging to Phillipines.

    It depends on the 'Chief'. Chief can have many wives! without any 'Indians'.

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  4. Ram,
    if someone wants to do something..(or not do something).. i don't think its anyone's business to judge. Its their life. If after 3 yrs he wants to be CEO .. he has the right to apply/ ask. you give it to him or you don't give it to him is left to you.. but sitting in judgement is wrong on your part. He asked. you should have said sorry.. you don't think he is qualified. if he quits its upto him. end of story. If HR has a problem, its their problem which you need to explain to them, why you think he is not a fit.
    -Patrick Manoj

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  5. Self interest satisfaction takes priority over social interest satisfaction. This is universal and Satish was not an exception. I will blame the management for not taking care of this young gentleman who needed recognition and motivation. With my exposure to Indian management style, Indians shy away from recognizing and motivating. Money is not everything when it comes to job satisfaction. Abraham Maslow hierarchy of demand is still true.

    R

    Raman

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  6. Ram,
    It is the peer pressure. Even if Satish is willing to do bug fixes, he will be laughed upon by his friends, who are in cool development projects. IMHO I have learnt so much in support than in development. Companies should put freshers in the support for 2 years and only after that should they move them to development. If all the companies did that then these people will not jump around cause they know that wherever they go they will be only in support.

    While support vs development is one of the trend, the other trend is shying away from anything that is mainframe related. Everyone thinks that the world tomorrow will be full of Google-like webapps but do not realize that more basic industries such as banks, manufacturing etc still have lots of mainframe code around. IBM, as you would sure know, is seeing its revenue from Mainframes increasing YoY. Apparently Peter Drucker has said that in 2020 if you knew mainframe you would be king (This was told to me by someone else so can't vouch for it). Its very rare to see someone who can talk about S0C7 nowadays.

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  7. Well, I *love* code and precisely for the same reason, I moved west from Bharat...my take is that all freshers do love code, the only reason they don't like to handle it is because of the working conditions. It is an unsaid rule that if you're the developer, its your destiny to attend every design meeting, every review meeting, every audit meeting and on top of that do the implementation which will of course mean you spend all your weekends and every waking hour of your weekday in office while your manager gets to take his kids to the theme park. Hence no kid wants to be the Fall guy for long.

    Ensure there's a ceiling of 40 or max 60 hours and no fresher would think of the managerial side.

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  8. Vijay
    Where this happened does not matter.. It is so prelevent that even Mohandas Pai of Infosys talked about it openly..

    Gaurav
    My post is not just about one isolated incident..but a recursive one that I see played out so often.. There is nothing wrong in wanting to move fast and reach the stars.. People need to dream and do stuff to reach it.. But my point is are these realistic dreams..?

    On a different subject.. about Work Life balance.. Yes.. I agree with you.. this concept is alien to Indian work environment today..

    Patrick
    I hear you.. I would like to submit to you that this not an isolated incident.. I am not talking about a malady afflicting the system that is not good for the budding Indian IT industry..

    Talkative Man
    I hear you about work life balance aspect.. lot can be done there..

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  9. Visu

    I had a few experiences recently. I had put a post requesting for help in COGNOS.

    People who called me wanted to know what I was...and asked me why I was still coding. I had to explain that coding was close to my heart and is my passion. ( Most of them dropped out right away - without helping! ).

    Well, right now there is abundant CHEESE in India. I have a feeling that, this is causing the kind of thoughts you've write about from youngsters.

    I had to face such situations in India a few years back! I felt bad about it.

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  10. you are another cut and paste blogger.

    No creativity in you,

    bye

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  11. Narayanan
    Yes.. there is too much new Cheese to go around now..

    Anony
    Welcome to my blog

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  12. Perhaps you should see what projects Satish has been in. If he's been in the same project, I'd say he's not been learning much about the system. On the other hand, if he's been continuously shuttled between different projects, I'd take a closer look at the resource allocation. My opinion is that everybody will know at least 50% of the system code, if they are set to unit testing the different modules, and can get a good grasp of the software requirements once they are set to system testing.

    I'll freely admit that I understood the system more when I was testing and bug fixing than when I was just reading the requirements and trying to compare it to the code.

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  13. Ram Sir,

    Very Interesting topic.
    I'm one of those guys with 4-5 years of experience.
    :).. I will write a detailed email to you very soon.

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  14. Ram,
    Like you I have been in IT for close to 20 years. The bread and butter of a company is from Donkey's work and not from CEO, CTO and numerous other such fancy positions.

    What would the Chief do if the Indians didn't hunt and gather food ? Probably open a gambling casino in a reservation land ! hehehehe

    Anyway, change will come. The moving up the ladder is akin to the bean stalk. Living up in clouds is al fine until you fall down one day. my two pence worth...

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  15. Hey Ram,

    This is not just about code. This is about deliberaty creating the perception of "been there done that". The same job one was performing not so long ago suddenly becomes a menial task. The thot process being this is one of the essential components of professional growth. The organisation too is at fault most times by allowing/fostering such attitude.

    As part of management of a small-mid size services company, I keep facing this all the time. The one way i respond to this typically is by rolling up my sleeves and sometime doing the most menial jobs. Not that i am saying it is the most ideal solution, but it currently seems to work for me :)

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  16. Sriram SrinivasanWed Mar 07, 05:41:00 PM

    Ram,

    Good post. I agree with you. Today in India if one has around 4 or 5 years experience in IT and still writing code he/she is been branded as not good for management. The primary reason behind this is we are in service industry. Either support or write business application, that too now a days getting a development project is very difficult.

    But what these kids do not realize is one can learn a lot in a support project than a development project.And the base to the software industry is writing code. If every one wants to manage then who will code.

    Even campus recruits are coming into the industry with an expectation that within two years of experience they will either do an MBA or move into management positions.

    One kid told me that he is not interested in technology and I told him to get the f*@k out of this industry.

    It really sucks. I do not know why these kids come into the industry without any passion to code.

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  17. This only proves from time and again that the world is flat. Probably the Indian felt that he is better off as a chief, rather than what he is. He wants to sail across as the winds are blowing in a favourable direction. If he can perform at whatever position he is demanding and is worthy of being promoted, better give him a chance. Create a second line, who can absorb, what this person was good at doing. In the end if he proves to be unsuccessful as a chief, the same company should not hesitate to give him a new offer with a different position which they feel he might fit in. If at that time, he doesn't accept, show him the exit, roll up the sleeves and bring up the second line. However, all successful companies which have grown in leaps and bounds, in the last 5 years (at least in the IT sector) were started by young Indians, who aspired to become chief and in the process have actually become chiefs whom you work for.

    Justman.

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  18. Ram,

    I have experienced the same kind of things happening with many of my juniors here. Some times I have felt they are greedy and sometimes I have felt they are right. In general the basic reason could be the comparison mind we inhibit from childhood in our society. As somebody had quoted in the comments already, we keeping looking around always. Time will come and there will be an end to this. I have been laughed upon by many for being loyal and modest to my company. Anyhow each one differs in their thought isn't it? There is nothing wrong in aspiring. But what I could not understand is why many youngsters are succumbing to peer pressures?

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  19. agreed.. but IT industry had create this ugly mess.. and unrealistic expectation.. yes, its peer pressure -- that poor fresher had to.. push himself.

    our company, culture,.. almost very thing - drive us to become chief and non-indian.. bez, we dont credit or respect others..

    its not his mistake.. but the system.. industry to be blamed.

    /Yuva

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  20. Hi Ram

    The comments in your blog are very cool! Nice reading...

    Please consolidate all the comments in a new blog or post, under the title of each blog (one at a time)..

    I am not sure, whether wordpress or someother blogsite, gives and ability to show all the comments, in a tree form.

    Sorry if it too much to ask.

    Regards
    Vijay

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  21. Nirenjan
    Satish has been on the project less than six months and it is one of the super duper projects in terms of technology..

    Barani
    Sure.. you can reach me at rviswana@yahoo.com

    Ravi
    Yes. it is the sign of times in the IT market in India.. changes will come but not without pain..

    Maddy
    Yes.. being a team player and leading by showing is definitely the way to do it..

    Sriram
    The hyper activity and the poaching that goes on everyday has created this kind of an attitude.. and unfortunately, there is no sign of market slowing down anytime soon..

    Justman
    No issues with world becoming flatter.. and no issues with dreaming.. but the challenge I see is quality of skills available to the 'actual' job..

    Balaji
    The market in India is so hot and it creates the these kinds of pressures..

    Yuva
    Market will correct itself.. but my gripe is system is not doing enough for 'soft landing'..

    Vijay
    Will try.. but then comments will always be available as well..

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  22. In the bank where I work in the US, bug-fixing is primarily the responsibility of the Production Support team.

    Working in Production support is considered the domain of the more experienced and smarter ones.

    Bug-fixing is often more challenging and you learn more. I'm actually enjoying doing it.

    BTW, after nearly 20 years in IT, am thinking of coming back to India. However, it looks like I will still have to complete MBA before doing so in order to get a decent job there.

    Here , nobody bothers about what you did in school/college 20+ years ago.

    All it matters is what you know and can do.

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