Saturday, June 25, 2011

Principles Vs. Professionalism

Every one of us has our own principles, most of which are derived from our religion and from the way we are brought up. When the situations force us to change our long-established principles, it leads to confusion and unhappiness. ‘Professionalism’ (Being an IT professional, in specific) is one in the list which conflicts some principles. To make my stand on this unusual topic clear, here is an anecdote from a book.

Many years ago, a rider came across some soldiers who were trying to move a heavy log without success. The corporal was standing by, as the men struggled. The rider asked the corporal why he wasn’t helping. The corporal replied, “I am the corporal. I give orders.” The rider dismounted, went up to the soldiers and helped them lift the log. With his help, the log got moved. The rider quietly mounted his horse and went to the corporal and said, “The next time your men need help, send for the Commander-in-Chief.” After he left, the corporal and his men found out that the rider was George Washington. Success and humility go hand in hand. Simplicity and humility are two hallmarks of greatness.

These kind of stories sound good to the ears and if they match the pulse of the reader, simplicity and humility can become his/her principles. Professionalism completely opposes the principle of humility. I came to this conclusion in my college days itself. Once, a HR manager from a software firm gave a presentation in an event held in my college. After the event was over, I helped him disconnect his laptop (upon the instruction of TPO) and took it with the intention of giving it to him in his car which was just outside the door of the auditorium. He said in a stern voice, ‘Never demean yourself by carrying someone’s luggage.’ I was into a rude shock. I intended to help him, but he looked at the situation as a 'professional'.

As another example, assuming that we see a housekeeping staff struggling to place the water can on the water dispenser, if we help him, we would be considered ‘unprofessional’. If we want to be called ‘professional’ in this case, we should be like the corporal in the story. People, for whom simplicity, humility and such qualities are principles from their childhood, find it difficult to accept this total contrast.

The next principle here is respect towards elders. Most of us were taught to call our elders as sir or madam or brother or sister etc. etc. (This is as per our nation’s pledge – All Indians are my brothers and sisters… Of course, conditions apply. :D). It is believed to be the way to show our respect towards elders. Professionalism does not take age into consideration. Anyone working for the common goal of an organization is equal. So, we have to address anyone by name, even if he is of the age of a grandfather. :) This is totally out of phase with the general principle.

People with "Be yourself" principle also find conflict with professionalism. There may be more such principles which create the situation of “Principles versus Professionalism”. So, when there are such conflicts, which one should we follow? Should we give up our deep-rooted principles? Or should we be adamant in accepting the change? I don’t have any answer to this question. Keeping personal life and professional life separate, is a compromise between the two. However, isn’t it difficult to ‘act’ as a ‘professional’? Will it not end up in unhappiness? Further, is it not practically difficult to keep them separate? These questions remain unanswered to me.

Recently,I called my lecturer and addressed him by his name. Thank God! I at least realized it immediately and said ‘Sir’ with a slight pause after his name. How would he have felt had I not realized it then? When this kind of incidents happen, when people criticize us for following our principles and when we are tagged ‘unprofessional’ because of possessing ‘Be yourself’ attitude, what should we do? As for me, in the game of 'Principles Vs. Professionalism', I always wish that 'Principles' win, but 'Professionalism' grabs the win at times. :) 6WXQHNBATM44

Friday, April 15, 2011

Freshers in IT industry

Many freshers enter IT industry with varied expectations. For some, lucrative package and onsite opportunities are a priority. Some others (like me) are desperate to get into whatever job comes their way and fortunately or unfortunately, get placed in an IT company. :) For some, just the ‘feel’ of being an IT professional (carrying a laptop) and enjoying other corporate privileges drive them into the IT industry.

When we were school students, elders used to say that it’s the foundation of a bright future and the most important phase of life. When in Intermediate, we hear them say, “This is more important than your life at school. Work hard for these 2 years. Then, you can enjoy your life!” All the time and hard work put in studies till the Intermediate education seem to be pointless after getting admission in a good engineering college. The first 2-3 years of engineering is generally spent towards 'enjoying’ life. Then comes the desire and need to get a job. Finally, after getting placed, (we think that) the time of stress and anxiety is all over! This is the case for most of the freshers entering IT industry.

Everything will be great (at least) in the first few months. The salary getting credited every month as opposed to pocket-money requests to parents, not being dependent on anyone, the pride in saying ‘I am a software engineer in ‘X’ company, I was in a meeting till now etc.’ are few things that fuel a fresher’s happiness. As time passes by and we lose the “fresher’s tag”, slowly disappointments creep in and happiness tends to fade out.

Why do we lose our happiness at work? Why does the stress begin from the scratch again?! Sometimes it’s because of the circumstances and sometimes it’s because we are not mentally prepared for the circumstances. Workload, job satisfaction and career path are very important points which generally a fresher misses out to consider. These are the points which may lead to one’s disappointment at a later stage.

High workload is obviously what almost everyone hates to have, since it is stressful. Low workload is what many prefer to have, but can have a very negative impact on one’s career if it is at all times. Money is certainly a very important thing to consider, but job satisfaction is equally important. After all, what’s the point in making money, when we hate what we do throughout the day! Also, what’s the point in being satisfied with the job, but being totally underpaid! :)

Now, coming to the next point namely career path. This is the major mistake which a fresher can make. In the hurry to get out of bench or for whatever the reasons, generally a fresher accepts whatever the project he/she is assigned. That could turn out to be either way. Firstly, we ourselves should have clarity on what we want to become, on which platform we want to work on, etc. Only then, we have the chance of defining our career path.

Work culture is relatively less important when compared with the previous ones, but needs to be taken into account. The stricter a company is, the lesser the happiness. It’s common to be discontent when we don’t get what we deserve, but it’s also unfair to expect recognition for all the little things that we do.

Besides all these, there are certain 'trends' in IT industry which can either add to one’s excitement or disappointment. Every company desires to have 100% employee retention and 0% attrition. However, many companies give lower hikes to the existing employees when compared to the ones recruited from other companies. I somehow cannot digest this policy! If all companies stop giving major hike to employees shifting from other companies, at some point of time, the thought to ‘jump’ from one company to another will cease in the minds of employees. Instead, they can give relatively higher hikes to existing employees, thus increasing the probability of 100% retention. (But, this may never happen. :D)

Each job will have its own pros and cons. A government job will have the highest job security, its own privileges but it also has few disadvantages. For example, as rightly said by one of my family friends (an elderly man), government job is the one where a donkey and a horse are considered the same. No offence meant! What it means is that the one who works very hard and the one who works as lazily as possible will be rewarded the same way, based only on experience and not on excellence. This is not the case in IT industry. There will be at least a slight difference between the two! :)

If freshers can focus at least on the aforementioned points and tune the frequency of mind appropriately, I believe they’ll have no regrets of entering IT industry nor will they be disappointed at a later stage. If anyone has any regrets, I shall only say, “You may not be able to change the circumstances, but you can change your attitude to the circumstances.” :)

P.S: This is not intended to defame IT/anyone/any organization. This is just my view on IT industry and felt that it might help someone somewhere somehow sometime. :D :P

[This has ended up in a lengthier blog than I expected. :)]

Thursday, March 17, 2011

As an organizer...

My B.Tech friends know the best about my abilities and inabilities in organizing events. The first event I organized was the farewell party to seniors in Intermediate. (I was just the anchor for the event and a sort of co-organizer.) From that event till the recently organized Table Tennis tournament, I have been making some mistakes or the other while having new experiences.

The tour in B.Tech, which I organized along with my friends, was the biggest in terms of the budget (Rs. 1.6 Lakhs), time (10 days of tour & 2 months of planning), responsibility, risk, mistakes, learnings and enjoyment. Organizing such a big event was an achievement in itself. (It was after 4 or 5 years that ECE students from my college were going for a tour and I was the main organizer for it!). Focussing on what went well and covering up the mistakes will be another mistake on my part. :) So, here are few things I learnt from the mistakes I made as an organizer.

1) Knowing when to discuss with everyone concerned and when to take a decision independently is a skill. I wish I’ll be able to acquire and master that skill.
2) Transparency and honesty are required, but (over-)sensitivity should have nothing to do with an organizer. Others may doubt our honesty, but we should remember that none of us have any certificate of honesty. Till the event is over, we don’t have any way of proving ourselves.
3) Patience is one more trait required for an organizer. It’s nothing wrong for others to be impatient with an organizer. After all, they are the ones who may be the victims of poor organizing. :D
4) We should not get disheartened when things go wrong. It’s very easily said, but very difficult to follow. I could not enjoy the first few days of the tour as I was dispirited with unanticipated criticism.
5) Before committing to organize an event, we should be mentally prepared for what might happen even if the event is unsuccessful. However, we should be positive by considering the satisfaction and the happiness we get if the event is a success.
6) Organizing an event should not be considered a burden. It’s a responsibility that we have to take up willingly.
7) Organizing an event involves lot many constraints, the main ones being the budget constraints and the time constraints. Focussing on one aspect and ignoring others is a mistake that usually one makes.
8) Plan your work. Work your plan. Be ready with Plan B or be set for ad hoc planning in case plan A is unsuccessful.

Like everyone else, I was an organizer for just few times for different events, but was among the audience for umpteen times. There are few points which are expected from the audience as well.

1) It’s human tendency to focus on a small black dot on a big sheet of white paper. We generally blame the organizer for the mistake which he/she makes and totally ignore the other successfully completed ‘modules’ of the event.
2) Different people have different wish-lists. Something which is of high priority to few in the audience may be of low priority to many others. We can blame the organizer only if he/she ignores something which almost everyone in the audience considers to be very important.
3) Most of the times, it’s easy to criticize but difficult to improve. When we put ourselves in the shoes of the organizer, it’s only then that we realize that this statement is true.
4) We should be proactive in helping the organizers if we think that we can really make the event better than how it goes on.

To conclude, for an event to be successful, it depends not only on the organizer but also on the audience. So, whether we are in the audience or in the organizing committee, it doesn’t matter. It’s WE together who have to make an event a success. :)

Monday, January 10, 2011


We come across many quotations everyday in the form of forwarded SMS, emails etc., but only few of them last in our memory for a significant time.We often fail to recognize the power of quotations in influencing people’s mindset. If we can remember and put forward good quotations at the right time and in the right context (in our speech, written communication, casual conversations etc.), it will be really great of us and useful for others.

My interest towards collecting quotations began after a small incident. It was sometime during my second year of B.Tech that I received a very pessimistic email from one of my best friends. (Don’t wonder why he emailed me instead of calling me. Both of us didn’t have cell phones then.) He was very disappointed with his first year results, was struggling in hostel, was finding it difficult to adapt to city life even after a year and was frustrated with many more such unpleasant circumstances.

Seeing that email, I didn’t know how to react. I knew that I was helpless. What I could do was to motivate him with my reply. I wondered how it was possible. I myself was disappointed with my first year results (I was not satisfied in spite of getting 85% - this is a typical case of bookworms :D ) and was only then slowly adjusting myself to hostel life. After thinking for sometime, I replied with a quotation, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” I then added few more simple statements like "Don't worry. All the best." etc. etc.

After a couple of days, I received a reply from him, this time an optimistic one. “Thanks for your support and encouragement. I hope I’ll be able to do well this semester…” I was very happy that I could make a difference. It was in fact, the quotation which really made the difference.

This incident enabled me in finding a new pastime. I started noting down the quotations which I liked and, found themselves in the list of the few websites I browsed whenever I had access to the internet.

Apart from the aforementioned incident, there are many more such small incidents that take place often and keep my hobby of collecting quotations alive.

Among the quotations in my collection, here are a few which I came across at a perfect time.

1) “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure” – This was the quotation on my orkut home page (Today’s fortune column) during the time when I was afraid that I might not be able to complete the assigned 3 mini projects on time.

2) “Near or far, dear ones are always close to heart” – This was the one I read when I was little disappointed with few close friends leaving India to pursue their higher education and career aspirations. (I don’t know whether I was disappointed because of friendship or because of jealousy. :p)
3) “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” – I don’t remember when I saw it for the first time, but for people like me who keep worrying about petty things, anytime would be a perfect time to read this quotation.
4) “We generally miss the people whom we never want to miss”.

5) “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts.” – The above two quotations came as a forwarded email and the image made the quotations even livelier.

If above quotations can be categorized as ‘Perfect timing quotations’ (for me :)), there is another category of ‘Inspiring and thought-provoking quotations’. Few such quotations which I liked are:
1) A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. (Help others.)
2) Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. (Gear up for challenges.)
3) It is better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for what you are not. (Self-explanatory. ;))
4) Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. (This is an important point to remember.)
5) Argument wins the situation but loses the person. (I am sure that some will hate this. :))

6) Nothing in this world is impossible to a willing heart. (Positive attitude!)

The list of quotations is never-ending. A quotation liked by some, may be detested by some others. Further, a quotation liked at a certain time, may appear silly at some other time. Just because we do not like a quotation, doesn't mean that it is useless. We need to realize that each quotation is useful and can impact the thought process of someone or the other.

But, why do I collect quotations? Is it only to use them at few incidents? The answer to this question is the quotation, “Many things in life will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue those.”

P.S: Please keep forwarding me quotations. :D I feel that over the past few months, I am losing this hobby.