Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lifecycle of a software professional

The life of a software professional is full of insecurities.
When you start out with your career, it is all about getting into the most reputed MNC. If a college-mate with lesser academic credentials that you got into a better company, with a higher pay, you'll have sleepless nights. Insecurities.

A couple of years later, when you realize that academic credentials have very little to do with who ends up in which company and earns what salary, the angst at being underpaid subsides. The comfort of being part of "the" most famous IT company provides consolation for all the under-achievement.

The next goal is to go to the US, and live there for a few years. When you finally manage to do that, it gives you a new high in your career. You are sitting in the US, and sending mails to all your batch-mates, who had gone past you in terms of salaries and achievements.
"Sup guys, how is our India these days? I am missing it badly, although USA is a pretty neat place to live in"
And then, to your horror, within 5 minutes, you receive 10 replies.
"Hey dude, just arrived eh? Gimme ur number, and i'll call ya. Been in NJ for the past 2 years" types.
Such kill-joys these friends are. And so your years in US are also spent sulking at how everybody else has already achieved everything that you are about to achieve. Insecurities loom large.

Finally, you decided you have had enough, and decide to return to India.Once back, you think of finally getting one up on all those US-based friends.
"Namaste friends, I am back in India now. All those months in Pardes taught me the importance of appreciating my own country. Now I have come back to my home, and am enjoying the warmth and joy that no amount of dollars can buy you in US. Jai Hind" You write.
Within 5 minutes, your mailbox is flooded again.
"Good you are back. Why don't we all meet up this weekend at Vidyarthi Bhavan for dosa?
Just like that, your thunder is stolen. Yet again.And you are back to your ways of wallowing in self-pity. And insecurities.

After a lot of pondering, you decide to completely severe your links with all your batch-mates from college, to avoid being reminded of your under-achievements. So you decide to hang around mostly with colleagues. Since these guys are in the same boat as you are, there is no fear of being upstaged. Or so you think.

Soon, however, most of the guys that you had branded as "hopeless" due to their lack of charisma and attitude, and had ridiculed as people who will remain "techies" all their lives, manage to find jobs as "Technical Architects", with salaries more than double of what you get. The rest, who you ridiculed for being total "no-brainers" when it came to technology, accept positions as Project Managers and go on to earn pay packets several times more than yours. All of a sudden, you find yourself alone and left behind. Stuck in mediocrity, and complacency. As a jack of all, but master of none. The only thing that stays with you loyally through all these times is your fear of under-achievement.

And then you go do an MBA.
You think a B-school education is the answer to all your woes. And after spending all your hard earned money on that B-school degree, you realize how wrong you were.
After all the rigorous schedules that you go through at the B-school, you realize that you are just as clueless, but a whole lot poorer than before. And you are back to square one.
Insecurities: Driving the lifecycle of a software professional.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Term 5: The story so far

It’s been a while since I last did any writing on this blog. The past few weeks have been super-hectic. The elective terms have been extremely busy, thanks to the many groups that I am part of for each of my subjects. Coordinating group dynamics when you are involved in multiple groups is a real test of one’s people and time management skills. Add to that, the added pressure due to the placement processes being initiated this term. Countless resume reviews and case-based interview sessions have further complicated the time-management problem.

Speaking of placements, my initial attempts have been rather disastrous. The un-real application to DB was, in hindsight, totally avoidable, considering I have 6.5 years experience in IT, and absolutely none in finance. Heck, I am not even doing a fin major. But the guy from DB was so convincing in his pre-placement talk that even a staunch non-finance guy like me was blinded into applying. And making a mockery of myself.

Although that didn’t hurt me much, the SAP AG results are a real dampener. If it is any consolation, they had clearly mentioned that they were looking for 3-5 years experience, and anyone with more than that would be considered only if he/she was extremely good, in the areas they were looking. And since I am a total ERP ignoramus, and haven’t worked in Strategy consulting ever, I guess the writing was always there on the wall. But then the eyes will see only what they want to see. So much for wishful thinking, and selective vision.

Much before these jolts brought me down to terra-firma, there was another fiasco during the MAQ recruitment. Although our lunch with the director went pretty well in terms of relationship building, the final pre-placement talk from them left me disillusioned with both the job and the company, and I did a last minute volte-face, and withdrew my application. Considering this was my first application, it surely wasn’t an auspicious sign.
And the stars surely seem to be taking their revenge on me for that.

However, amidst all the disappointments, I did taste some sweet success this term. Some of the results from the 4th term finals came as pleasant surprises, and re-inforced my faith in my exams-cracking ability. How much that will help me in my career is something that can be debated. But nevertheless, it is a feel–good factor, and I plan to savor it.

The other significant success was the PaEV presentations. After our presentation in front of our peers, we received some un-nerving information about competition that we hadn’t bargained for. Not only did that completely catch us unawares, but also seriously dented our enthusiasm about the success of our B-plan. When we were asked to defend our plan in front of VC investors, we were in a tight spot since we knew our plan had lost its USP, thanks to competition that had already done everything that we planned to do. So it was a “back to the drawing board” situation for us. After cracking our heads for hours together, we finally zeroed in a multi-pronged service model that ensured we retained our USP. Although we hadn’t had a lot of time to prepare on the new idea, we decided to go in and face the VC’s wrath, since we had nothing much to lose. But what transpired, once we went in, was pure “magic”. By drawing on our past experiences while making every point in our presentation, we instantly established credibility with the VCs, and at the end of it all, they were all praises for our idea. In fact, they even suggested some new ways to improve our model. The crowning glory was when they commented that if we do a good job on this idea, this could be a multi-million dollar business within 5 years! Now beat that.

So that has been the story so far this term. Exams are once again around the corner, and the emphasis on CGPA, although diminished to a great extent, has once again resurfaced.
And for some personal trivia, I have successfully survived two years of marriage, as of yesterday.
And that, in comparison to all those candidates who have been more successful at the initial placement offers, is no mean achievement!