Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Change

Life was horrible until 2005. There was absolutely no time for anything personal. Work was the most personal thing in life. Though I am calling it horrible today, it wasn't that horrible to be drowned in work then. I only hated those who talked about work-life balance then for their inablity to go the extra mile, which gave me many frequent hikes when I was badly in need of them.

The career change that happened in 2005 promised a lot of time for things that I love to do. Got excited with the concept of blogging and started off very happily with it. It continued for some time in some or the other form. Then there was a lesson that said no job is peaceful for too long. There are places that do even the easiest jobs in the toughest ways. The same role that promised so much of free time took away all the time that was available.

Some players prove themselves by providing the best possible outcomes whereas there are others who do the same thing by putting in the best possible efforts. The former does more of expansion whereas the latter does both expansion as well as reductions. Needless to say, the focus gets split in the latter case. But, it is justified for them because that is what is their USP. And, the relationship between effort and outcome is mostly proportionate. More focus on time management, time sheet entry, leave rejections, micro-management, operating margin, cost cutting, conservatism, etc. yield great results year on year but they surely take their toll on their employees' work-life balance. This certainly has an impact on one of the long term aspects, employee morale. On the other hand, it is not to be justified that too much freedom and lack of control are paths to glory. That has the risk of filing bankruptcy, too.

From personal point of view, getting into that kind of a loop always reminded of looking for a better place. Some people do not like asking for permissions, leaves, breaks, hikes, promotions, place changes, etc. Thanks to their sheer lack of negotiation skills. For them they should come automatically. They never ask for them. When things don't go the way they want, they quit. They don't fight for rights. They don't question the status quo. They don't have the task of changing the culture or environment in their charter. It's not worth doing all that, when there are easier solutions. Some times, not always, I too fall in this category. It's fun fighting for rights. It's all the more fun when you are sure that you are at the right side. I got this trait of fighting for the right from my 'left' background. But, at times, when the world around doesn't have the maturity to appreciate it, it is not worth it. Some cases have to be settled out of court. Justice doesn't knock your door even if you are chief justice. Fighting for work-life balance has always been like begging. That too, when the personal USP has been the ability to compromise on work-life balance all along, which has also paid back in great degree, it is very difficult to compromise on that.

Now that the change has happened, it looks unbelievable at times that no one looks at my time sheet entry and questions the shortages of few hours. No one cares what time I come in and go out. I am happier even if I get up earlier some days though there is no need for that. I don't have to open the laptop at times when even the moon is tired. I don't even care where the laptop bag was thrown until Monday morning from Friday evening. What do all these signal? Either I am in for a major trouble or even this will pass. I surely don't want to continue like this forever. Nor will I keep quiet enjoying this forever. But, this has given me enough relief and rest. I am ready for the next big game. I can hit harder after this break. I need this once in a while to get better. And, looking back, I also realize that I have been very productive whenever there was spare time. The productivity formula here takes into account the completion of 'useful' tasks, not completion of 'just' tasks.

And, the high beam focus on productivity leads to automation of work using people being treated equivalent to tools. What happens here? Nothing happens to the people. They don't use their intelligence. Their brains start resting and then slowly rusting. They become less intelligent machines who can handle only specific instructions in the way explained earlier. And, this is what some companies are consciously aiming to achieve. For too much dependence on some people's intelligence affects the operating margin. And, we have no time to reinvent the wheels when we can produce millions of them in a designated style. As a growing (present continuous tense) economy, inventing new wheels in different shapes is not what we are expected to do, too. Industrial revolution has just started for us. We need to produce as much as possible on war-footing to get access to sufficient wealth, which will enable us to do the invention business eventually. So, please correct if inventory is misspelt as invention in any of our notice boards. You need good inventory of money and time to do the inventions.

That said, what do I want to be now? I want to be a successful consultant. What for? Want to make good money. Never want salary to be the deciding factor for any of my future job changes. Don't want to look 'up' to my peers for few thousands every month. Don't want to feel jealous of an old-second-level-sub-ordinate's onsite earnings.

Then what? What else? Want to see the world outside our boundaries. Want to feed the passion to know about various cultures. I like other cultures as much as mine and at times more than mine. From the day I got down from a TNSTC bus in Bangalore, every simple observation about the things around have excited me. Need to write a bigger blog on this. Noted that in 2008 itself in the charter. No progress yet. Want to see such things across national borders as well.

Want to do my bit to bring the best practices from there to the homeland. Want to see the Western cleanliness, one of the good lessons that we failed to learn from them while being busy in learning the bad ones. Want to see the color of Sun and Moon in their countries. Want to know why many of our cousins who come back after an overseas trip start hating this holy land. Want to prove to some people that I haven't become anything more than myself after travelling in a few international flights. Want to check out if the RTO offices, traffic policemen, fellow passengers, Govt office peons, politicians, shop keepers, carpenters, colleagues and friends are better than those here or worse.

Professionally, want to work with clients in their dens. I still remember one of the old boss's comments about clients loving me so much. Want to check if those traits are still alive in me, after working for so long with internal customers that come with different challenges and flexibilities. Want to be able to understand the American and British accents without any difficulty even in unclear telephonic conditions, like the way I understand the tongue that my mother speaks.

Above all, some places give better returns for the same efforts. It is missed out due to the simple reason of not being present in the right place at the right time. And, it may turn out to be the best place for someone with the abc skills and xyz traits, which may not have been the best combination for the current place. If nothing works out, always have the option of coming back to the previous place with the satisfaction of having learnt the best and the worst. Don't want to stay safe in 99 not out till the end of the innings by trading-off the century for the fear of getting out.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Bye for now...

(The mail sent while moving out of MQ team to join the Consulting group in Wipro)

My dear friends,

Every dog has its day. It’s my day today.

I have a dying passion for writing. I am not sure if you have that for reading, especially reading my writing. However, I have got a lot to write. I unusually have a lot of time to write as well. Have consciously tried to talk less of myself in order to get the most of yourselves many times. Don’t know how much successful I was on that, though. But, this time I will end up talking more about me than others, as it happens to be my moving out. So, I urge each one of you to add your bit so that I go out as a happy person with a lot of fulfillment. This piece of scribbling could be taken as a token of appreciation and thanking for all that you gave me during this valuable three years, too.

The journey just concluded has been highly eventful as most of you would know. Each one of you have been part of one or many of those events. Some of you have been just sitting next physically and virtually throughout the journey. When I talk of passion I can’t restrain myself from talking about people. I have all along been a people-crazy professional. I just love the company of people. I love talking to them, interacting with them, kidding them, playing with them, dealing with them and for sure working with them. Touch wood… The status quo continues even after these three years. It is all because of some wonderful people like you.

I was touched by the informal send-off given in Barista the other day. Spoke out my mind as much as possible and tried to cover my feeling about the entire experience and moving, too. My sincere thanks to each one of you who gave that opportunity. There is another opportunity around the corner, but it would be a formal one. Hence, will have to be politically correct in making each statement. And, I am not sure if I would get such long hours to talk about everything that I want to talk about. So, let me start rolling the ball from here…

As you would all know, I had a better time to leave than now. But, somehow it didn’t appear to be an obvious choice for me then. The passion for people didn’t allow me to walk out that freely. Some battles had to be fought. When it is nobody’s turn, sometimes it becomes your turn to take on things. It is the same conventional wisdom that tells “take more responsibilities to grow”. Took it up, not just to grow myself, but also for a god-forsaken unit of people. In a larger sense, an organization. Not to hide, during the course, I grew too. Not just professionally… as a person, in confidence, and in many more senses. And, this certainly doesn’t mean that I was not aware of my inabilities during a recession period or the others had no role to play in the entire mission. As I said in the disclaimer, it is my moving out, so you will only get my version of things. Leave it to you to tell yours. But, note this… I want yours.

Any moving out has a reason. I have mine. When I moved out of a people-friendly company to join Wipro, there was a reason. The company was good, but I didn’t like the job. So, there was no reason for me to continue there. Let me honestly say, I loved the job I did in MQ until I got bored of it very recently. I was a machine in the previous place where everything was well-defined and people were just tools used to automate assurance. Then, where is the place for passion for people? But, here… there was more work for intelligence. More than that, there was more scope to use intelligence. Variety is spice of life. Thanks to the size of the organization and complexity of work we do, there are many organizations within the organization. There is more grey to make it black or white. There is more to learn than to implement. There is more theory to know so that you grow. And, having seen this place, no one would dare to say implementation of anything is impossible. OK. Why am I moving out then? It has a reason.

Sometimes we get what we want and claim credit for it. And, many times we happen to get what we want and claim credit for it. It is a mixture of both in my case too. I always wanted to be a consultant for many reasons. When I left the previous place, I told my boss that I was joining HP. He asked me “what do you want to be 5 years down the line? 10 years down the line?”. I told him “Consultant”. He shot back, “then why HP? There are only three companies who do process consulting. Infosys, Wipro and us. You should join them or stay here”. I didn’t talk much and didn’t tell him that I was joining Wipro. Smiled and nodded my head, but went ahead leaving the company to join Wipro. Today is the answer.

I should thank those who gave me all the freedom to have my lunch at home and spend good time with family (despite the 9.5 hours mandate) during my first one year, which was needed the most at that time. I could work with the kind of people I wanted to. Some of you have become life-time friends. It is all the more heartening to know that I have become a life-time friend for some of you. The number of account numbers in the payee list in all my bank accounts is an evidence for that. I should thank most of you for all the lump-sums you transferred to my account whenever I was in need of it. Without that, I would not have realized some of my big dreams so easily.

The first one year with Sailaja, Smitha, Shambu and Prashanth was memorable. Do you know the population of the world? It is 1, according to Sailaja. Her world has only one person, that is Karthik, her only son. If you press more, she might include her hubby also. It is also a problem of having only one. A point of consideration for those who have stopped with only one. Whatever said, I admire Sailaja for having clarity on her priorities, unlike many of us who keep changing the G&Os until the end of the year. She is a rare woman who does not even know her account number and password in this so-called civilized world where women have started entering politics and corporate politics with sky-high aspirations. By the way, the account details are not with her son, but with her husband. It is not that I admire her for not knowing the account details, but for being clear on her priorities. Hope Karthik has started his active pub life by now to give you nightmares. :)

By the way, Aruna is still cursing you for something.

Shambu is surely a guy to be lauded for leading the life of his choice. Not sure if he still leads it that way. He has brought down the power of the saying “not all men are fools; some remain unmarried too” after leading such a promising life for 4 long decades. Any typo in number to be treated as a mistake. You surely made my joining and stay in Wipro a meaningful one. We have miles to go dude!

Prashanth is a rare gem to be appreciated for still being such a good human being. He became more humane after leaving us. Wish you much more accomplishments on the humanity front. We will be with you as much as possible. After every accomplishment, let’s also meet up with Shambu for a party and celebrate. It was a great time having parties with you guys. I also want to thank you both for converting me back to non-vegetarianism, which is out of scope in our humanity discussion. I am reminded of the saying “We love animals. They are so tasty”. :)

I am thankful to all of you for various reasons. I have struck a different equation with each one of you. I am grateful for the extra-ordinary affection you all showed to me. At a time when we all started hating the whole world thinking that it is bad you all restored the faith in it with words, gesture and support. It was the need of the hour, though it was an extended hour. These days I have started thinking that I should work in bad teams once in a while, because that gives an opportunity to build a very good team with amazing unity.

Aruna’s optimism when it was needed, Aggressive Anamika’s follow-up calls, ‘Even more aggressive’ Dharmil’s follow-ups, all of these made the impossible possible. Dharmil has been a great companion at the times of need. I will disturb you forever. I am thankful to Mohan, Sanjay, Binita, Kanu, Kavitha, Mythily and Reshma for giving me the opportunity to listen to you however small or medium the interactions have been. Suguna’s warning messages will remain in mind for long as I get into more and more unknown territories. I will think twice if not more to start passing comments before testing the waters. By the way, reading through the paragraph it sounds as though I interact too much with ladies than with guys. It is just because they have outgrown guys in number. Yeah, that reminds me of the two beautiful girls (Deepika Padukone and Kareena Kapoor) who brought all the colors to the team (this is to make Shambu jealous). The colors came with a stain, but the stain was washed away and the colors lived happily thereafter. Thanks for your photo-frame and photo idea for send-off. Chitu bhai! I am yet to get the photo. I can’t forget or forgive Kedar for all his Friday evening calls on VOIP, which were never-ending until the week-end ended. I will start calling you to spoil your week-ends if I end up landing in UK before you leave. Naresh uncle (along with Sanjay and Mohan during their Bangalore visits) will be missed in all parties and the conference chats. Your cool temperament is a take-away for all of us to grow in life, not just in career.

As I kept on saying, I came back to T18 and sat for more than a year though I wanted to sit for at least half-a-day. This one year was made a comfortable period with the presence of Chitu bhai. Like Prashanth, he is a great human being to be with and unlike Prashanth he is extremely hard-working. (Prashanth! good human beings should understand the intent of the jokes and I know you will understand that jokes have no intents!) I know you will miss me very badly and I will miss you too. It is people like you who make me continue to believe in what I believe.

There are many more friends who are not in this mail but have a place in my unwritten autobiography. But I can’t afford to miss out this one character. Smitha Nair from Kerala, who is becoming Smitha Tiwari soon. I am sure she will be the most affected person by my moving out. I will also miss her horribly in the coming weeks. Our working relationship was extremely ordinary, not extra-ordinary. Rather, she was not very comfortable with me for reasons not in my control :). Like many good friendships (wine is not the right example to be used here!), it matured over time. We stayed together during thick and thin times. Spoke plenty… about everything under the sun. The last one year has been our Level 5 maturity period. For the benefit of others, it is like a feeling of two soldiers losing each one of their friends in the company one by one. I salute your camaraderie (coined the word just to remind your reddish days). And, by the way, I am not the last one getting lost. I am just leaving her during peace, so no question for betrayal. ;-)

Hope the next place we meet is not a battleground. And, in the second time, we don’t need a battleground again to mature our friendship.

Would love to write more seeing your replies. It is humanly impossible to cover 3+ years in an hour, unless I just say “it was great working with you, bye” in a formal tone. At the moment, I am exhausted. Pl write back. In the meanwhile, let me take a small break.

Another note – This mail is meant only for you. Pl do not forward. Generally, my mails bring me trouble if someone else forwards it. Those not in the list fall in different category. I don’t treat them equal. I can’t have casual interactions with them. They are seniors or to be treated like seniors. Pl understand and help this ball roll for a longer time. :)

Regards,
Bharathiraja

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