Sunday, October 13, 2013

Indian IT 101: Survival Guide

This guide is for you if..’re stuck in a job you don’t like for reasons you cannot comprehend. Morning after morning, the shuttle is taken to work, breakfast had, coffee gulped down, desktop switched on and chair adjusted. Some emails to look forward to, tickets to be resolved, a meeting, perhaps a status call. You constantly dream of spending a day outside your work place..just one day, and fondly remember the last time you called in sick to pursue activities more meaningful than fire-fighting over emails. This yearning slowly translates to a desire to pursue something else for a living. You’re not ready to quit your job yet—clarity takes time you see—and there’s that service contract as well. Things need to be sorted and priorities need to be assigned without compromising on current career prospects and this guide has been developed to help you maintain a comfortable status quo. Hence the name ‘Survival Guide’ as opposed to ‘Learn to Love Your Work Guide’ or ‘Get You On-Site Guide’, which must also drop a hint or two on what to expect as takeaway.

Steps for Survival

Arrive at work as usual, earlier if you can. But make no mistake of physically turning up at your workplace earlier than your boss:  befriend technology. If your team starts coming in at 11 am, the first mail you send out better be at 10:20 am, just before you go to brush. Arrive at your desk a little after 11 am, sans bag, pretending to be fresh from a coffee break. It helps a great deal if you start going to work empty handed. In fact, a friend of mine used to place a dummy bag on his desk and quietly sneak in and out of tech park premises at will. But then he also lived within 90 seconds walking distance of said tech park premises so you may choose to weigh various options before taking a call.

Now, the tricky part: work. You do not like it, do not want to do it but see no way out of it. The challenge here is to do minimal work yet make your team (more importantly, manager) not notice the lack of balance in the universe. If you’ve been around long enough, you may use the services of an enthusiastic protégé and get some work done on pretext of ‘mentoring’. When such enthusiasm is unavailable in resources around (tch tch), careful delegation and seeking help is the way forward. However, stay around to observe and contribute to important developments that involve your work. Be alert in sending mails (never delegate this activity), scheduling calls and meetings, conveniently keeping your presence virtual. Volunteer to take up chhota-mota initiatives that may ‘add value to deliverables’: this is a fairly certain way of acquiring those brownie points during appraisal. Note that all of the above must be performed in a clever manner else you’ll end up doing more work than usual which is out of the scope of this guide.

General workplace behaviour must also be altered while you take your time to measure priorities. Adopt the ways of an enthu cutlet. Contribute to team building activities and general work atmosphere..basically anything that can ‘make your presence felt’. About once a week, stay back late, even if you’re doing nothing in particular because face-time is desirable. Use this time to talk to people around you and place building relationships over the highly-abused, flinch-inducing term ‘networking’. Hear their stories, share yours, try and collaborate and for all you know, your work may just start generating appeal.

And finally

How you spend your time during this status quo maintenance is up to you. Most people seek alternate employment, prepare for competitive exams or browse matrimonial sites (notice the avoidance of mentioning gender here). I used it to figure out the general direction in which my career could head, gathered information, worked towards some short and mid-term goals and finally ended up in a happier place. And if this post has got you thinking even a little, things are probably not going well for you and I do hope you take a leap in the direction you desire and sort things soon.


This guide is based more on observation than experience. Potential employers may kindly not use it to judge my professional ways or brand me as trouble.