3 January 2010

The Great Indian IT Worker

I am reading a lot of blogs these days. It’s amazing to see the amount of wit and humour in the blogs. Some of them are on my blogroll and belong to those whom I know personally, who are as witty in their real lives as they are on their blogs.
And I realized that my blog is not only under-nourished (in terms of number of posts) but also a tad too serious and extrapolating the finding to my life, it seems that I am taking my life too seriously these days. I guess that’s the way it has always been. :)

So, this is my attempt to put some non-serious stuff on my blog. Something amusing, if not rib-tickling. And what can be more amusing than The Great Indian IT Industry. However, this post is not about the industry but the denizens of this world of syntax, logic and effort estimation.

Although I am a bit skeptical about stereotypes, I can’t resist the temptation of creating stereotypes out of IT folks (otherwise known by the ubiquitous name of ‘techie’). The following observations have been made by yours truly after being a part of this fraternity for more than 4 years as a coder, as a tester, as an analyst, as a consultant and many such titles found only in this strange world. Moreover, the following comments are applicable only to men in the age group of 21-30. The standard disclaimer applies and it must be noted that these are typical stereotypes and as with everything else in nature, there are exceptions here as well.

1) IT guys who can think for themselves (well, that percentage itself is miniscule) are not proud of what they do 5 days a week, 8 hours a day.
2) Those who can think for themselves either have their priorities clear i.e. Onsite -> Dollars -> Lap Dance or start preparing for CAT. Quite a few of the ‘another brick in the wall’ types also join the CAT bandwagon.
3) Among the CAT wallahs, some get through the IIMs. Some compromise. And the remaining file their H1-Bs. Well that was before the The Fall of Lehman.
4) IT people love reading books but mostly pirated ones bought from pavement stalls (not second hand but pirated). They love Chetan Bhagat. You may find an odd one of them reading ‘The Argumentative Indian’ on 500C Volvo bus in Bangalore but again it’s a rarity. Most of the people who read Ayn Rand are either CAT aspirants or mavericks. You know Ayn Rand’s philosophy makes interesting discussion points in GDs.
5) Most of the IT folks can’t remember the last movie they watched in a non-multiplex theatre.
6) Most of them end up buying a Pulsar 150/180 or Karizma within 3 months of starting to get a full salary. You see the stipend during training period forces many of them to ask for money from parents. I-pods and high end mobiles follow soon after.
7) Onsite returnees are not only sought for chocolates but also for their tall tales on lap dances and beyond.
8) Most of them have crushes on some cute girl in their training batch. Many of them end up having a steady girl-friend/a-special-friend etc. But again most of the affairs don’t see the light of the day (no pun intended).
9) The Girlfriend wallahs’ mobile and credit card bills (adjusted for PPP) are generally more than the monthly per capita incomes of more than 70% countries of the world.
10) Many of them work for NGOs during the weekend. Some have a genuine desire to do something meaningful after what they have done throughout the week. Others are GMAT applicants who either have the dough (mostly after a long term onsite stint) or have given up on CAT and need the certificate to show some diversity/social work in their experience.
11) Most of them don't bargain or look for a cheaper alternative, whether it's with auto wallahs or while buying second hand refrigerators. They believe that saving money is not worth the hassle.
12) All of them dread the word ‘bench’. If you want to know, how to spend 8 hours without doing anything, how it feels to arrive office in the morning and wondering what to do, ask an IT guy who is on bench. There are complete forwards and dedicated blog posts on the innovative ways of killing time which range from sending mails to oneself to reading old mails to dozing off in library. Well, sarkari babus are a different species altogether.
13) All of them hate the mandatory QA activities like filling up the defect logs, timesheets, periodic audits etc. and by extension hate their project managers and vow that before they end up being like him, they will either be an I-banker or kill themselves.

Coming to the sub-species of married IT folks, here stereotyping is a little more difficult because of their spouses. I mean wives who are more often than not belong to the same fraternity. In fact, this industry has brought a new meaning to the word ‘financial independence’ for a whole generation of women. I (as a single) have attended get togethers of IT couples where men discuss about rising EMIs and women discuss about playschools and maid issues. Contrary to popular perception, a Datawarehousing husband and a J2EE wife don’t discuss tech. Again the following observations are applicable only to IT couples (either DINK or with kids with age less than 5-6 years).

1) In many cases, both husband and wife work in the same company, often in the same department (known as SBUs, Service lines, Practices etc.). There’s a certain convenience in this arrangement like it enables both of them to go ‘onsite’ on the same project.
2) Most of them have literally mortgaged themselves to a bank for the next 15-20 years of their lives by taking housing loans to buy their ‘dream home’ which is often not more than a 2 bedroom apartment at a price which can buy a palatial bungalow in any of the tier 2 cities of the country.
3) Many of them have become richer beyond their wildest imaginations (especially those who joined this industry before 2000) and are living a consumerist lifestyle which, at best, was unthinkable to their previous generation and at worst, is opposite to all the ethos of thrift and conservatism imbibed in them since childhood.
4) Many of them plan their onsite assignments is such a manner that they can sire a child in any of the developed countries which gives their children a choice of phoren citizenship when they come of age. They are convinced that India holds no future for their yet-to-be-born and having a phoren (in most cases The US) passport is definitely an asset for which their kid will be eternally grateful to them (at least they think so). But ironically, they themselves are dead against surrendering their own small blue book. Call it family ties, love for a land where everything is chaos but still there’s a method in madness, or just the plain belief that earning in hard currency (which is often below the average salary of that country) automatically makes them economic elite in a country fraught with glaring income disparities and a society thriving on feudalism.
5) The birthday parties of their kids are held only in Dominos and McDonalds and the expenses will be equivalent to the once-in-a-lifetime wedding expenses incurred by the lower middle classes of this country. It’s also a kind of outsourcing where Dominos makes all the arrangement, of course at a price.
6) In public, most of them prefer to talk to their kids in the language of our former masters in a manner which would have surely made Macaulay proud. I don’t know whether vernacular languages are a chi-chi within the four walls of their homes as well.
7) In general, the lives of IT couples are governed by a mind boggling number of variables and constraints which can give jitters to any seasoned expert of Linear Programming.

This list is not comprehensive and I know these are not earth shattering observations. Probably, these are just a condensation of facts which we all are aware of. The problem with this industry is its sheer mediocrity which in itself is a self feeding cycle breeding more mediocrity. Most of the people in this industry can’t think beyond the narrow confines of their work and life. They believe in the story of India’s emergence as an economic superpower and acknowledge their humble contribution in this quest but tend to forget that they are not creating anything of sustainable value or the fact that any growth which doesn’t touch 80% of the population is an illusion and in fact, detrimental. Although I am no expert in socio-economics, I understand this much – it is dangerous for a people and race to take pride in doing cheap work which others won’t do. Perhaps this is what the western countries want i.e. throw some crumbs to these perennially hungry people, give them a false sense of intellectual superiority and make sure that they remain in a perpetual cocoon of ignorance. Isn’t this just another form of slavery and oppression?
Here's wishing everybody a Happy and Peaceful Twenty Ten (You know it sounds more cheeky than Two Thousand Ten:)). Have Fun!


Hasan said...

Bandhu, visited your blog after a long time. In fact I am reading a personal blog after 8 months of what-seemed-like-eternity hiatus in my life.

Pretty good observations on one of the most discussed topic amongst the "IT-wallahs" (I guess, this rhymes with more respected sustainable value creators - the "dabba-wallahs").
Especially liked your cringed-yet-frank comments on the whole foren-conundrum.

Way to go mate, keep the creative juices flowing.

Rajarshi said...

@ Amir,
Thanks a lot for dropping by this almost forlorn blog. Update your blog a little more frequently. And a shorter hiatus which will be much appreciated because you are one of those still-loyal visitors of this blog:)

Amul Kumar Saha said...

Loved it... getting to see the other side of Mr. Unvanquished Roy, is a privilege in itself.