Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Work Hard and Work Smart – Formula for Success in IT Industry

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It is raining IT jobs in India. The software companies out there are in a recruiting spree that in most of the engineering colleges over 90% of the eligible candidates are already placed by campus recruitment, four to five months before they graduate. Getting a job is one thing but once you get into IT industry how is life there? To understand that I interviewed couple of my friends who have over 12 years working experience in IT industry. Here is the part I of the interview series. 
My friend A, who does not want his name to be revealed, speak to “Scaling New Heights” about his 13 years of life in IT industry. He got placed in one of the top companies by campus recruitment in 1997 and worked in the same company till 2008 and from then on he is working as Project Manager in another company based on Chennai. Here are the excerpts of the interview. 
You joined IT industry in late nineties even though you major was not in computer science. How did you cope with it? 
In late nineties being from non computer science background was very difficult. The nuances of handling a mouse, the different features in Power point, Word and Excel baffled me (now everyone knows the basics). I had friends who helped me understand. Also where others worked for 8 hours I had to put in 12 hours. The training and trainers were good. Once work started I was treated the same as others and could not afford to make mistakes at clients expense. But yes initially my work was reviewed and slowly the confidence was built. Hard work, ambition and zeal to perform helped me cope. 
You have been in the IT industry for so many years. Do you see a difference in the work culture in IT industry then and now? 
The resources who came into IT years ago were a lot more committed and hardworking. With there being more opportunities today resources are having an upper hand and ready to jump companies. Today you find a handful of good resources and the entire team runs on their efficiency. In the nineties the work culture was more open and inclusive but as the company grows this disappears. 
Lots of my friends working in IT industry tell me that it is boring/monotonous to work in IT industry after a few years. Any thoughts on that? 
No IT industry is quite challenging. You have to constantly reinvent yourself. If you stay   in the same project for a long time you get stagnant. One has to constantly be on the lookout for what is happening around. You can always do more than what your role demands .But it depends on the individual on how interesting he makes his work. Also this is an industry where 70% of the team is made of resources just out of college. Interacting with enthusiastic youngsters rejuvenates you. 
You may have to work extended hours most of the day especially when you are a Project Manager and the client is in US. How did you cope up with that especially once you have a family and has kids waiting to see you? 
This is extremely difficult once you are married and have kids. It is a very fine balance. You need to have the support of your extended family. Sometimes career does take a backseat. It is very difficult to see your counterparts who do not have such restrictions climbing the corporate ladder faster but one cannot have the cake and eat it too. You catch up with the kids on their studies and school over weekend.
Any advice to fresh graduates aspiring to make it big as software engineer? 
Be patient. Do not only work hard work smart also. Always keep your creative side active and do not hesitate to come out with new ways to do a routine task. 
Tell us about your typical day when you joined 13 years back as a developer and  now as a Project Manager. 
As a developer I was a bachelor and worked, ate and slept at the office. Responsibility was a lot lesser I was only responsible for my piece of work.
As a project manager I am responsible for the entire project. I have to tactfully handle my team which consists of people with different caliber. I also am responsible for helping my team members meet their career aspirations. The responsibility as PM is higher. 
What are your fond memories in this profession in the last 13 years? What are your worst memories? 
Fond memories are of appreciations accolades and awards I have received. Few close friends I have made. The knowledge I have gained. 
Worst memories are when someone else tried to take credit of the work I have done. When team members get angry for not giving them the rating they expected. 
Working with clients overseas is always a challenge. Is working with clients based on different geographical locations different? Who is more demanding? 
I think the experience varies from client to client. I have worked with US clients only. But yes my counterparts mentioned that Asian clients are more demanding. 
You have worked in US in the client side for a good number of days. President Obama and American public think that Indians are taking away the genuine jobs of Americans. What is your view on that considering the fact that you have worked in H1B and other visas in the client side? Also you may have worked with lot of American software engineers and project managers in the client side, right? How do you compare them to the Indian counterparts? 
The work gets outsourced because the overall cost of the project comes down if it is outsourced so it is good for the company which is outsourcing. 
When work is outsourced it also comes with many contractual agreements and penalties. If you miss deadlines, cause more than permissible defects, if defective code results in loss of business   the company to which the work is outsourced have to pay penalties Again it is a win-win situation for the outsourcing company 
One cannot make a generic comparison between an American and Indian software Engineer. The skills vary from individual to individual irrespective of nationality. When work is outsourced the skilled (performers) from client side are mostly retained as architects, technical leads and managers. 
Outsourcing has become a part of the corporate culture. Even big Indian companies outsource some of their routine recruiting/administrative/testing work to other smaller companies. Here also all the reasons for outsourcing applies. 
In the Indian software companies also every year after the performance appraisal cycle few of the resources who are under performers are laid off. So it is a global phenomena. 
While working in the client side, have you ever subjected to racial discrimination or any discrimination of any kind?
A fresher who is just about to finish engineering gets recruited from the campus to a software company. Little use of common sense will tell you that all those cannot be writing codes and most of them will be doing stuffs other than coding. Can you throw light into the kind of jobs the new graduate will be doing in a software company? 
The recruits are provided training for 2-3 months. You will be surprised they do start coding after training. The code is always reviewed and corrected by experienced resources in the team. When a project starts the PM with the help of technical lead divides the work   based on the capability of the team. The experienced resources get the toughest code and freshers easiest ones and their code is always reviewed. Also there are a few freshers who produce much better code than the experienced resource. The graduates, fresh out of college, are always known for thinking out of the box. 
If you get a chance to start again will you become a software engineer? I mean assume you have recently graduated and you know how the software industry works, will you still go for a software job or try for some other job? 
This is a difficult question. I would love to join the Software industry because of the opportunities and challenges it provides. Thinking on personal front the extended hours it demands may prevent me though. 
Every one who joins a software company cannot become a Project Manager. Throw some light into the typical growth ladder for the majority in IT industry? 
There are different paths which a software industry has. One is the management path where you mature from a developer to leader to manager and senior manager. Other,   the technical path, where you mature from a developer to technical lead to an architect. The resources are given an opportunity to select the path they would like after they finish their role as a developer. 
Now about salary…lot of my friends use to jump companies and they tell me that one of the main reason for doing that – joining a new company you can negotiate a better pay. What is your experience? 
Yes the lateral hires always get a better pay.
How satisfied were you with your pay at the start of your career as a software engineer, after 3 years, after six years, after 10 years and after 12 years? 
At the start of my career I could not comprehend what I would do with so much salary. After 3 years I was satisfied. After 6 years comparing my salary with others in industry I was not satisfied. 
Anything more to add? 
Software industry is very challenging industry. If you have the skill and the zeal you can climb the corporate ladder very fast here. This is one industry where the work culture is very open. But it is also a very demanding industry. 
Thanks A for the interview. Hoping this interview is useful for those who have just joined and those who will be joining in the near future as software engineers.
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Blogger Sateesh Chandra said...

The first lesson I learned with US clients is how to speak in fact how to ask a question. I always used to use "right" at the end of question which was highly criticized by my clients. They don't know what the question was meant at all. Am I expecting yes for the question or something else ? I was told to remove "right" from my questions, which made me to think and laugh seeing what I asked.

It is a common practice for Indians to use it but the other parts of the world never frame any question with ending "right" :)

Just got reminded by this(no criticism)

EX: Also you may have worked with lot of American software engineers and project managers in the client side, right?

January 04, 2011 9:32 PM  
Blogger Jijo V.G said...

A handy book for those who are trying to know about Software industry as well as those who are in the industry.Hats off to you Brijesh...
Simple ...and deep..

January 04, 2011 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Things to do in Detroit said...

A good source of knowledge and really liked information that you mentioned. People tend to have a feeling that there is always a easy success in the IT field, but it is really a vice versa in the real world. We have success but it is through great hard work. Also the tips that you provided seems effective and would be helpful.
Thanks for the post and really appreciate your writing.

January 05, 2011 12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent work! The questions are almost collectively exhaustive - tough one to do.


January 05, 2011 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good interview covering the details. But I hate the word "resource", sounds like something which is not real and lively. Also just listening to one person cannot be considered as a good guidance for youngsters. There Are always different views ...

I like your writings very much... Keep up the good work.

January 07, 2011 1:46 AM  
Blogger Victor Guerra said...

Good one there Brijesh. I am not on the IT. I come from a functional background (investment banking). I could relate the interview to the MNC world broadly, but for a couple of exceptions. The ingredients for success and content are quite the same on the IT or functional. Nice way of presenting, I'm sure it would surely be helpful to many campus passouts.

January 08, 2011 6:51 AM  

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