Laut Sakte Ho (Somewhat)

In response to this

Could there possibly be a post more targeted at me? -)

It’s midnight here, but I could not resist answering this post…

1) Attitude issues

My wife worked for a couple of years in India and then came here for her Masters. Subsequently, she got an internship with the evil monopolistic company everyone loves to hate. In the interim, she went back to India and met up with her former managers. When she mentioned where she got her internship, the reaction was drastic. The comments were sarcastic and the tone changed. The whole attitude was one of “she used to work here before, and now she is flying high because of being in the US�?. This may be an over-reaction, but how far fetched is it from a common reality? This is precisely what I fear. Is the Indian mentality beyond such pettiness? Another colleague of mine had interviewed with Infosys and TCS in India after having done his Masters here. He narrated how they gave him a hard time in the interviews, aiming to prove a point and boss over him.

This is a reality, but what do you expect. You were earning in dollars there, and they will be offering you peanuts for the same job here, so the defense mechanism comes into play. (Does this person expect the same kind of standard s/he got in America?). Yes, they want to prove a point, that you’re inferior to them, because you did better than they did. At first, I thought this was directed at me. Then I learnt something new – this is how life works in India. In America, the guy sitting in his chaddis, scratching his crotch next to you could be Bill Gates. But in India, the fact that Billy is not living up to his rank is taken as a sign of weakness. If you are America-returned, act it. You may be somebody with only 6 months of work experience, but you went to an Ivy-League. Boast about it. Not melodramatically, but with an assured confidence. This is India. It’s dog-eat-dog. If people sense a reluctance on your part to talk about your background (which you may not mention out of American politeness), they will sense it as some sort of sensitive point, and jump on it. When I joined the company, I kept my entire background a secret. I couldn’t mention the fact that I had a 2500 square feet apartment in a “posh” locality of South Delhi, and that I had two cars, and that my dad paid for my American education (this makes me richer than most people in my company). I thought I couldn’t do this because my boss had a small house in gurgaon, with a small maruti 800 as his only car. How would he feel about having an employee who didn’t need to struggle as hard as he did? But I was wrong. I was just giving my enemies more fodder. I should have been open about my background. I should have stuck it in his face.

That being said, I had a LOT of attitude issues with my boss, in in America. He hated my guts before I ever spoke to him. In India, that would get me a promotion, in USA, it got me fired.

Work Culture

A colleague’s wife works for Infosys in India. When he narrated her stories to us, I was made to think hard. They have to work weekends even though they are off, to the extent that she had to notify if she was taking a Saturday off.

This is what everybody says, but it isn’t true in the big software companies, and I am living proof of it. I worked from 9-to-6 everyday, and if I had to come in on a Saturday – I made a song-and-dance about it. I was one of the rare few. Every other idiot would do as you’re mentioning in your post. But I didn’t get fired, I didn’t get yelled at, I got awarded Star Performer of the Year 2004. The other sheep also got promoted, but while they were always rewarded with more work and more late stays, I got the more juicy challenging assignments, which required less robotics, and more thinking. Everybody in the hierarchy knew that Tarun is going to leave at 6. If there is something which required him to stay after 6, he had better be told in advance. That required planning on my boss’s part. When he started planning, there wasn’t much need left to stay after 6… What your colleague’s wife mentions is most likely specific to the project/manager she is working in/with. It changes from project to project and isn’t the norm – however if you imply that you are open to staying beyond regular work hours, you WILL be exploited for it. Your colleague’s wife should have just given the middle finger when being asked to work weekends. Trust me, there’s not much they can do about it – it is very HARD to fire people who are performing better than bad in their job in India.

There is another thing which is important about the work culture. India has been a Socialist country, where jobs were doled out like lifetime favours. But the market has shifted, and the employers don’t know how to deal with this. They are learning, the very difficult way. Before, there were waiting lists for jobs, people begging to be employed. Now there is a shortage of skilled workers. Let me stress on the word skilled. Skilled here means somebody who knows something, not somebody who has just passed out of Laloo’s Computer Degree factory. But Indian employers are used to talking down to their workers – Naukri, Nauker…So they don’t know how to shift to caressing and nurturing them. So what happens is that Tarun, who was good at his job, also had to endure a lot of shit. So he took it, until he got admission into an MBA, then gave his resignation. The moment you give your resignation, instantly everybody wakes up to how irreplacible you are and then the sweet deals start flowing. “Would you like a shift in department, an out-of-turn promotion,” blah blah. Unfortunately, that is how it is right now, but eventually, the change will happen. The rates of attrition are very high right now, and they are attempting to control those rates..

You have to get to work before your manager gets there and leave after he does

Not true at all, but regular conventional wisdom. One day I was questioned about this – and I replied “You are my manager. You manage more people than I do. Obviously, you have more work. So obviously you will stay longer than me – unless you want me to be the boss?”. That was the end of that conversation for good…

Services versus Product industry

To me, this is the single most important factor. I work for the largest software company in the world. I work on delivering a product that millions of people use. To me, that is a terrific experience to have. There is continuity, there are familiar processes, familiar stages (Software Development Life Cycle, if you remember your Software Engineering class). The impact I as a single employee can have is tremendous. The services industry is a different ball game altogether. You keep getting shifted from project to project, have to sit on the bench when you aren’t on one, and be too mobile for you own good. There is another issue. in the services industry, the emphasis is on knowing as much of new technology as possible. Everything from SAP to SOAP. The more you know, the better. Out here, even though we develop the technology, we are isolated from knowing a million technologies. I even wonder if I’d get hired back if I go back today.

Yes, these are two different industries, with different requirements. But you know what, there are lots of product industries here too. Microsoft has an SDC in Hyderabad, Google, Yahoo, Adobe, many others. So you don’t have to work in the Service side. That being said, working in the service side wasn’t so bad. Indian software companies DO follow processes, despite what anybody says, and they are better about it than American companies. I have worked for, and I have worked with Unisys and Citibank. When I joined HCL, I was pleasantly surprised by the kinds of processes they had in place for software development, as opposed to Amazon. Me and my HCL colleagues were then horrified to see how Unisys/Citibank were doing their stuff. HCL had been called in to clean up their previous mess! (mercifully I am unemployed now, so nobody can fire me for saying these things). Note these are BIG American brand names I am mentioning here..

Management the only way up?

e have the concept of an individual contributor here. You can spend several years in the company growing in your role of your choice. Not everyone is good at managing, especially the uber-geeks we have in-house. The good thing is, you don’t have to be an manager if you don’t want to. You can make progress in life otherwise too. In India, the concept of growth is to do a few projects, and become a lead. At least this is what I gathered.

No this is entirely false. There are lots of different positions and ways to get noticed. The only way up is not become a ‘lead’. There are technical positions as well (technical architect, e.t.c). The thing is, in India, because there are 1 billion people, you have to do the equivalent of yelling to get noticed. In America, do a good job, and there is a bit of a chance that your boss will automatically notice. But here, you need to be vocal (i.e. confident and assured, but not rude and boasting) about your achievements. If you’re aware of what you’ve done, your boss figures it out too. There are many people in India who are waiting for their boss to notice them. They will just have to keep waiting (or will quit, grumbling). I stuck my achievements in my boss’s face. In HIS boss’s face, and in THEIR boss’s face. It worked 3 times, but the 4th time, I was facing a different bunch of folks. So I had to resign. Hey, you win some, you lose some.
BTW – the title ‘Project Lead’ is there for HR purposes. Not all people with the designation Project Lead will be leading!

No IT in Mumbai?
This IS a problem. Many have ventured out of their hometowns, and that wasn’t much fun for them. Gurgaon is as far as I ever wanted to go (or NOIDA). I refused to work in any other part of the country.

As a a final recommendation, despite the tone of my post, I strongly suggest to most of the people in America to stay there. None of them seem to have had the miserable time in America that I did. When I came back to India, I was HAPPY to be back. I enjoyed being back here.

I enjoyed meeting the Country Manager of Bank of America, or Rahul Dravid, wandering around New Delhi,
or walking in to a Barista and seeing Zohra Sehgal sitting there with her family,
or being defamed by a Delhi Times reporter,
or racing down Raj Path,
or not having to depend on my bastard boss for my residency in this country,
or being able to get a haircut for 40 rupees,
or not having to contemplate buying a sex doll due to my loneliness(almost bought one in Seattle),
or not having to have somebody learn how the fuck to pronounce Tarun, EVERY SINGLE TIME(eventually, when ordering a coffee in Starbucks, I would give my name as Steve, much to the disbelief of the barista behind the counter),
or not having to eat hormone-fattened chicken,
or being spied on by some of the women in HCL as one of the most eligible and marrigiable single men in the company -)

I was a nobody in America – rather, I was an anybody there. What’s so special about me in the land of immigrants? Why would an American-Indian woman, who now has access to Italian/Spanish/White men, who are a lot less hairy, and know how to do the Salsa, choose me in America? That loss of identity was too much to bear for me.

But that’s me. I don’t lead the life of an “Average Indian”, or the Life of The Common Man. But I WOULD have led the life of an Average American.I didn’t want to end up in the suburbs with a mortgaged house and a Honda Civic/Odyssey, or Toyota Camry. I don’t want to be Average, even if being Average means that I get to earn $40,000 p.a. straight out of college (I don’t know if this is high or low by prevailing American standards), and that my new shoes won’t get ruined by cow dung.

It really comes down to what compromises you are willing to make.

Aap Laut Sakte Ho, yahan pe, but not everybody can….Note: this applies to Indian Men.

Indian Women…will never come back once they leave India. I have been witness to this one time too many. I don’t blame them. For Indian women, this country sucks. I wish it weren’t so – it would make life easier for me….(but that is a whole other post..)


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