Life of a typical IT professional (read Drone) in a ‘Big Company’

After being in the software industry for over 5 years now, I can confidently say that the quality of service/software sucks and most of all the work culture sucks big time. (well, most of it at least). I know that I will be hounded by the nationalists and india shining maniacs. Sadly, patriotism doesn’t change the truth. I have worked at one of the big 3 ‘ IT companies’ for a considerable amount of time. The modus operandi of such companies is the same. They hire thousands of freshers from colleges. Then they take them through a rigorous ‘training program’. It is nothing but more of what the grads already do at college… classes and exams. Most people sail through the exams… because that’s what they have been doing all their lives (Don’t get me started on the education system in India). So after wasting 1-3 months (6 months during recession)… the fresher … sorry a bunch of freshers are put into a project under a project manager. The rookies are then bullied around by the seniors (who were rookies last year) and the project manager. They are given menial tasks, without telling why they should be doing it. The fresher is a very enthusiastic animal and picks stuff really fast (including the bad stuff) and life goes on for a year. The project manager is very happy because the deadlines are being met without even a hint of a whimper from people who work 12 hour days including weekends. The project managers take this for granted and plan for work on weekends. The managers themselves don’t come on weekends, since they are ‘family folk’  and they have done their share of hard work when they were rookies. There are 4 types of rookies (or people in general) in the IT industry …

1. the skillful and passionate  : These people were destined for better places to work, but destiny has decided that they’ll learn the bad stuff first. They continuously try to learn new stuff and  solve difficult problems . They are the manager’s go to people when there is a crisis. They help other people, and try to put sense into the managers. They get good reviews and ratings, because the manager needs them.

2. the skillful but laid back : These guys are decently good at what they do, but they are stoic in general. They do their best for whatever is assigned to them and that’s it.. period . Get ok ish  ratings and they don’t give damn about ratings anyways.

3. the mediocre but passionate : These are the hard working variety who may not be blessed with super powers, but they are committed at what they are doing and end up taking crappy work (Since the manager knows that they’ll do whatever it takes to finish the work assigned to them).

4. the mediocre and lazy : These people are the laughing stock of the entire project. Everybody knows how incompetent they are (they know it too). There is absolutely no skill and commitment whatsoever in these people. The project managers are too lazy to fire them. The processes in a big company are so complicated that it is easier and less cumbersome not to fire them. They get the rock bottom ratings and are happy since they have a  job.

5. the mediocre but shrewd : These are the people who take pride in the statement ‘I don’t work hard, I work smart’. They learn only rule and that is to delegate work to somebody else and then take credit for it. These people have excellent inter-personal skills but this is reserved only for the managers. They are the manager’s pets and end up getting good ratings and are the first to grab an onsite opportunity.

It’s not that I like to discriminate between people, but to be fair most people in the IT industry are in the wrong career and that is what makes them mediocre. They could have done very well in some other career. It’s peer pressure that lands people in to IT (it did for me too… thankfully I liked it)

Coming back to the story of the freshers. A year passes and the smart ones realize that they have hit a glass ceiling of learning. No matter how much they read online and evangelize, nobody listens to them. But now they have become indispensable to the project. They can demand their pound of flesh from the managers. The single most common wish across all categories is ‘going onsite’ (Fair sentiment… because the money’s good… never mind the work … and living in a room with 6 people). The good ones and the shrewd ones are the first to grab the opportunity, which leaves the others fuming (Hey, I’ve put in more hours than that shrewd bum). Most people realize that they have been doing the same thing for the greater part of 2 years. Discontent starts to spread in the project. People ask for roll offs, but hey…. the managers need the drones and more importantly the smart and experienced ones. The people who rebel get their reviews and ratings screwed (pretty hard to stage a comeback from there). The smart ones (who didn’t go ‘onsite’) start looking for other jobs and they jump jobs. The others just fume in their seats and finally when the client decides to pay no more, they are magically rolled off. The cycle repeats, they find a new project and life goes on. The single biggest ambition which people have is to become a ‘Project manager’. I had it too. If you work in a conglomerate with 15000 people, and the only way your pay is gonna go up is if you become a manager. Plus you control the ratings and destinies of so many drone developers, QAs and others.

I spent three years at this place and I can write reams and reams about what sucks there,  but to be fair such companies,  give a launch pad for graduates from small towns and small colleges into the IT industry. Plus every experience  (good or bad) helps you in your career. After joining Thoughtworks I had to unlearn a lot of stuff, but I can handle a cranky client better than most people who started as grads at Thoughtworks because I have worked with crankier people. I intended this blog to be a little more technical and professional, but I ended up writing a bollywood masala post. 🙂

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