Thursday, January 15, 2009

Booms, Myths and Catastrophes of Software Jobs – A Bird’s Eye View From Berth No. 72

Prologue

This is a guest article written by my friend Dada, who is quite popular through his series of aamjunta blog posts. I requested him to write a guest blog for me, which he readily agreed. In spite of his busy schedule, he has written this excellent article. I feel very privileged to receive an article from aamjunta in my blog. This article has all the trademarks of a typical aamjunta article with thorough and insightful analysis of the software practices in India. I hope the readers would enjoy this article as much as I enjoyed. I am indebted to you for this article, Dada!


Article

[...] Oh! you are not a software engineer? My son-in-law is a software engineer and is currently placed in America. Before going to America, he was in France. Recently, he has purchased a flat in Hiranandani, Mumbai :) [...]

That was a casual statement of an old man on the first night of the two day train journey, on my way to Chennai in Dadar-Chennai Express last December. Though it was not that cold in Mumbai in December, it was cold enough to use blankets in a Sleeper Class bogie in the night. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a blanket with me; was unable to sleep due to the cold. I woke up due to the cold and sat up on my berth for the night (side lower, last/first, Berth No. 72). Thought of reading a novel to kill some time, but could not do as the regular lights were off. The casual comments of the gentleman came back to my mind…and time passed on…. At about 1am or so, saw a young man sitting alone some 10/12 seats away from my seat; looking calm and composed (he boarded the train from Pune). So, decided chat with him and spend some more time :) . Since my seat was at the end of the bogie and the side one, it was good enough for two people to sit and talk in the night (with less disturbance of course). Called him “Hi friend, whats up?, come, will have a chat”; he too gladly agreed to come over. He was a Software Engineer, hails from Chennai, joined some 3 years back in Pune. Asked him, casually, “so, you are going home in holidays?No, was his answer, and he tried to change the topic. I could guess he was uncomfortable with that question. I did not repeat the same question again.

After some 30 minutes of our casual conversations, we became friends, started sharing our experiences, life, etc. Suddenly his voice changed, and choked. “I was fired in October, and am struggling to get a job since that time. Going to Chennai, to try my luck there”. He could not speak any more. I could not understand what to say and how to console him. Gave my water bottle to him and tried to change the topic. I offered him my help through my contacts, gave some contact person’s email ids and asked him to send his CV once he reached Chennai. It was almost 5.30am; we decided to go to sleep. He offered a shawl to me to cover. Thankfully, I could manage to sleep with his shawl.

Woke up very late in the morning (around 11.30am) had tea, and biscuits. Bought 2/3 news papers and started looking those. “Satyam Debared from World bank” the headline of The Hindu was not only catchy, was worrisome to me. Decided to go through that news article. I could not believe what I read. How come these things happen? Do they follow some ethics? What kind of industry it is? I could not read much. Stopped reading all news papers, instead stared thinking what could have been done? Why is the problem? And where is the problem?

My last night’s conversation with the young man and the old man added fuel to the fire inside me. Started thinking, went to dream mode and memories started flooding me. I could visualize everything that had once happened to me, my friends and acquaintances: went back to late 90s to compare the situation. During my own campus interview, every one in my college was after software jobs. Hardly any one was opting for a core job. Companies even left empty handed; reason -- they can’t beat the software companies in salary! Time has changed, and so is the situation. But, hardly the mentality of young engineers, professionals, parents and societies at large have changed. Body shopping is very much the reality and so is the craze and fight for software jobs. People spend years and years in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune for a software job. They do all kinds of courses starting from Testing to .Net, Java to Oracle and C to C#, appear in infinite number of interviews, register in N number of placement agencies; spend enough time and money on these.

Not that they fight for a job, they fight for their survival, their future. Some time they get some thing good on their own, some time with the help of some one else and some time they fail. The process of getting a job is not ethical always. Some use false experience, false degrees, and prepare false certificates to get a job. Giving false information in the CV and fooling companies is not a one man’s job though. This is full fledged business. There are many people involved in it. There are agencies operating only for this job in cities like Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, etc. They provide all logistic support starting from giving false experience certificates to false degrees for a certain price. Their charges are different for providing different kinds of services. They handle all calls with precision, such that their clients do not face any problem in showing or proving their last job or experience. But the catch is once you are through and get a job with the false information; you will not be able to leave this, even if you want to go clean. You might be getting a job by some wrong/false information, but that false information will be there through out your life; in your blood. You will have to repeat the same wrong thing again and again while changing a job, while sending your CV; you have to tell more and more lies and do more unethical practices, till you retire or get caught. Tackling such kind of illegal and unethical practices is really a big problem for genuine industries. Some get trapped in the process, and some clear.

One need not wonder if he/she comes to know about the fraud or unethical practices in companies. Some one takes telephonic interview for some one else, some false CV is being made with a purpose, mostly to click a client side offer. There are people hired by the companies specifically for this kind of job, to attain telephonic interviews, to prepare CVs, to clear on-line tests required by the client. To beat that, some time the clients make video conferencing, instead of telephonic interviews. But, people on the other side are very clever. Some one stands behind the camera and writes the answers in the white board in detail; enough for the person to answer to the client. Poor client, pays for an expert and gets a ...... :(

Even then… the software industries flourish, pay maximum salary in comparison to other industries; which is good for the people, for the employees, and for the country’s economy. But, if you see the other side, it creates a disparity in the job market, between the core job and the software job, between the manufacturing industries and software industries, which is bad for the country’s growth and for the future. Since the capital requirement to operate or to start a software company is very low, many companies take birth daily. Like opening, the closing or the failure is also very easy, leading to catastrophes. The rise and fall of a software company is really a mystery. The successes are sometimes myths. Unless balance is maintained and have checks, the booms and the catastrophes will continue giving birth to more e-frauds/frauds, unethical practices, greed and lay offs. Some kill them selves (like one of my friends did in last May), some kill their families, some become psychos, some fight back and the cycles continue. Even then, people still feel crazy about this, girls prefer software engineers the most (as boy friend or life partner) so also the would be father-in-laws. Poor hard core techies… :(

Suddenly my phone rang. It was 7.15pm on my watch. I woke up from the dream, from the subconscious musing of 5 hours. Started packing my belongings to get down, was refreshed, and recharged a bit, after thinking a lot. Thanked IRCTC for berth no 72.

Aamjunta... what do you think? Dreaming for a software job? Be careful; don't get into any of the unethical practices. I'm sure, you will get a job. All the best :)


8 comments:

DK said...

Well written. People sitting in the bench are most of the time the exploited ones.

Keep writing. Best wishes :)

Anonymous said...

As a girl... I will (not) fully agree with you. You are right... most of the gals are fascinated with software engineers, but not all. The FILs want money and power, and of course the software engineers have (money at least).

Interesting analysis and quite pin pointed. Thanks... at least I came to many things about the true picture of software jobs after reading this.

Iris said...

I read your post thrice before writing a comment. As a girl, I can tell you that you are right, many (in fact) most families want software professionals as their daughters' husbands. In Orissa, it has become a pattern where either you are a SF engineer or you are nobody. My friends who have soft ware engineers as boyfriends still have a superior market value in the University circle.

I can tell a long story on my own life, my impression and my interaction with software engineers. You can see an interesting difference between them and us -- they have a glamour quotient which we don't have. I wonder why there is a difference in the attitude and life style of SFs even from MBAs (from reputed institutes)? Maybe because the SFs earn a lot at a very early stage in life. They don't even need a Masters and yet they are earning 5-6 lakhs per annum. That's a lot of money for a 22-24 year old.

I think you have touched the pulse of this job and unravelled the myths associated with it. People are researching on the professional and personal life patterns of SFs for their doctoral dissertation. They are interesting models for a study of the drastically changing nature of Indian society, its moral, ethical and interpersonal values.

Good work! Both Aamjunta and Gutsy Gibbon have to be thanked for the realities that they have brought forth of our professional aspects. :)

Gutsy Gibbon said...

Thanks DK...

@Anonymous ... Thanks.. This article is written considering the common situation in India. There may be a few exceptions here and there as you mentioned. I think aamjunta will also agree to this.

@Iris
Thanks. Similar situation exists in most of the parts in India. This article by aamjunta is definitely an eyeopener for many.

Anonymous said...

Hey, software is my bread and butter. You cant say like this. Yes, I agree, there enough illegal software practices not only in India, but also in USA and other countries also. In USA, there are agencies, which are involved in these kind of activities.

All big software companies are involved in these activities. But, even then the software industries flourish and so also the economy of our country.

In my opinion, these kind of activities can be be controlled, if we produce quality software engineers, not every one as software engineer. Also, the demand and supply needs to be controlled.

Anyway, good one.

sham said...

Right post at the right time. Ya, I agree with aamjunta, iris and the anonymous(s).

It is the software industry which has changed the life style of average Indian in both positive and negative direction. So, you can't deny that. We should support that. But as aamjunta said the unethical practices and body shopping should be stopped and controlled. In my opinion, India should produce more quality software engineers, not like the present type.

Aamjunta's observation on the job fight at Bangalore/Pune/Hyderabad is because of the mentality of the software companies. No one wants freshers, every one wants experienced people. Then where will they (freshers) go? How will the survive? How will they get experience? Exploiting that... by unethical practices? I wonder....

aamjunta said...

Thanks to all of you.

@Sham: you are right. The attitude and the mentality of software industry needs a through check and change. You are absolutely right on the freshers' case.

@iris: The average Indian (boy/girl/father/father-in-law etc) is mostly behind money and some pseudo foreign return. That has to be corrected too,

@Anonymous: Good observation. Thanks

@gutsy: Well done. Thanks

Swapna said...

Nice discussions here.