Thursday, April 13, 2006

Response to Harshad Oak - Staying Alive in Software Jobs

Harshad makes a strong case for software companies and employees to wake up before too much damage is done to bodies and minds of these young professionals. Staying Alive in software.

I agree with him on most counts. Where I disagree with him is that he makes it out to be us vs. them. Who is "Them"? The leaders of the software companies.

Let me hold the lamp (before the oil runs out) to what IT has done to India:

1. It has put India on the world map. It was there, but no one noticed it earlier, except as a former colony.
2. It has made Indians believe in themselves.
3. It has given millions of young people a better standard of living, allowing them to dream things that would not have been possible before. I ask, how many students in 1980 would have hoped to have a car at 25? Visit other countries at 25? Shake hands and stand tall with the rest of the world? Only a handful from IITs. Now, everybody has the opportunity.
4. It has increased the importance of getting a good education.

Let me specifically answer some of Harshad's points:

>"Working 12+ hours aday and 6 or even 7 days a week is more the rule than the exception."
Do you know why this is so? As with any complex issue, there are multiple facets.
1. Most of these people do NOT spend all the 12-14 hours working. In fact they take work breaks between tea. Anybody honest enough would admit so.
2. Competition is making all of us agree to insane contracts. Feeding the belly will anytime take priority over "work-life" balance. However, I do agree with Harshad that some of us do this to justify our salaries. But many times, we don't have a choice.
3. We are not good at estimates. Any task that actually takes 200 hours, we estimate it as 150 hours thinking that the customers will ridicule it. We also do not have the skills to communicate our concerns in a rational and convincing manner.

>"The reason I feel this culture has emerged, is the servile attitudeof the companies."
After almost 60 years of independence, we have not lost the colonial mentality. We also have taken Gandhi's "Customer is God" too far. God is not biased and is not out to take advantage of us.

>"Has anyone in India ever worked on a project that wasn’t“extremely critical”?"
Try telling any team that the project is not very important or critical to the customer. Motivation levels drop down and people become complacent. I am sorry to say this, but we generally cannot work in a disciplined manner unless a sword hangs over us.

>"How many Indians in India are thought leaders in their software segment? - Very few
How much software innovation happens in India? - Minimal"

Both these questions are related. Indians as an cultural entity hate to take risks. Security is our primary concern. We are more concerned with keeping our jobs rather than innovating. We, like the Japanese, are experts in applying old thoughts in new situations, rather than creating new thoughts. "Whats in it for me? Can I see results today, tomorrow, this week?" is our concern.
Hmm. Another post is brewing on the similarities in older cultures - the need not to change or innovate.

I must say that I strongly agree with what Harshad proposes to change the culture. We cannot remain outside the system and criticize it. We have to change the system by being a part of it. If we are enterprenuers, we have to do R&D; If we are senior managers, we have to say no to insane deals; If we estimate, we should not accept below the belt estimates. Its upto us to effect the change, not to some great leader who sits in the tower.


Blogger c2c said...

Sridhar - Good post and interesting blog. I came following a link from DesiPundit. I agree with most of your observations. Software has done a lot of good to the 'India' brand. However, I still feel we're not thinking big, say, like China does. To change the passive/servile attitudes of our engineers and to foster creativity, we need to make a concerted effort at the primary and high school level and encourage students to think outside the box and take responsibility for their lives. Keep up the good work. Do visit my blog if you get a chance.

April 14, 2006 1:37 AM  
Blogger megha said...

Hey Sridhar..It's really an intersing post. Glad I came across your blog..Actually I got an article wriiten by DesiPundit about srviving in a software arena as a forward through mail, which stimulated my senses that I googled my way to his blog..I didn't land up in his blog, but came across urs..

I couldn't agree with u more in the slave like mentalities we have retained as an aftermath of the 200 years of British rule...

Kudos to ur article...I'm all with u on this one.

May 25, 2006 11:09 AM  

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