Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A life called Infosys - The Halo of Dalai Lama

In my article - A life called Infosys - The Dream Company, I mentioned about the fact that the announcement that I got a job at Infosys drew various reactions. The reactions ranged from surprise and amazement to happiness and praise. However all those reactions didn't quite come close to the reactions that I saw when I came home to Mumbai for the first real vacation. This vacation was about 8 months after joining Infy, so there were lots of changes in me and also the perception of me among other people (relatives, neighbours and friends).

I have always been among the worst dressed guys in college so as mentioned in "The Dress Code" I was now counted among the most improved gentlemen in terms of dressing. I received a few compliments and chose to take notes in my head so that I could mention those in blogs like these. I think the best of those when one of the good looking females from my college mentioned "Vishal - you are looking smart" ....To all my critics - notes in head of course have not been amplified here and that is an actual comment.

However none of the compliments even come close to the "The Halo of Dalai Lama" reaction. One my roommates once told me about a conversation between him and one of his distant uncles ("door ke rishtedar"). The conversation went something like this.
Uncle: Beta where do you work?.
My Roomie (with a look beaming with pride): I work at Infosys.
Uncle: (With a look on the face that signifies respect, appreciation, praise etc). Ooh Mr Murthy's Infosys. Its a great company .. blah blah ... How do you think should I ask my son to become some one like you?

Of course the rest of the conversation mentioned above is inconsequential. The look on my friend's uncle's face is what matters. My friend described it to as "He looked at me as if I am an enlightened soul with the Halo of Dalai Lama behind my head" This description stayed put in my head and I learnt that it was so very true when I went home on my first vacation.

Suddenly I was no longer the guy in the grey T-shirt and muddy blue jeans who stood for all things that college students (guys) are not supposed to do. I am referring to things like bunking lectures, hanging out in canteen, ogling at girls, sleeping in the occasional lecture that I attended, copying assignments and so on ..... an no I didn't do drugs or ciggarettes so please don't imagine those in the so on list. I was now the guy who had made it to one of the most successful and respected companies in India. I was now seen as an ambassador of the company. I was now seen as the one with "The Halo of Dalai Lama"

So you might ask what's so special about this look... to site a few things I'll use a approach better known as then and now. The "then" here is when I was in college and the "now" here is when I came for a vacation after joining infy.
1. "Then" Mom nagged me about the fact that despite being bright (all Mom's think thier kid is bright) I couldn't stay above the 60 % mark consistently during my B.E. She wanted me to reduce my involvement in all the extra curriculars (refer to the so on ... list above) "Now" she was convinced that I was doing all of that with a purpose. I pretended that I had it all planned :)

2. "Then" some of my neighbours would think (I guess) this guy is spoiling the kids by hanging out in the playground during the exams (I did that a lot). "Now" the same set of neighbours were appreciative of my intellect. The suddenly started believing in "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".

3. "Then" I was the person who barely scrapped through the exams and didn't seem to be good enough to make it to a job in the campus placements. "Now" people would ask me for advice on career advice for their kids and they would actually listen to me.

4. "Then" My college teachers viewed me as an "outstanding student" - a student who always stood out of the classroom. "Now" my college teachers viewed me as an "outstanding student" - a student who worked for Infosys.

With the "Then" - "now" approach I believe I have really highlighted "The Halo of Dalai Lama" and its significance. I have to put some disclaimers out here. I wasn't actually all that bad in college. I did manage to clear all my semesters of engineering in first attempt in Mumbai university and that is a feat that only a small percentage of people (I guess that percentage would be as low as 20 %) manage to perform. Of course this feat was known only to a few people (my family and close friends). Most of my neighbours and relatives had kids who did the same feat but with an average which was much above 60 %. (Some of them actually had managed a first class every sem). Thus it was not that I was all that bad in the eyes of my neighbours, it was just that I wasn't too good enough :) ... Infosys for the first time changed that from not bad to "The Halo of Dalai Lama"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A life called Infosys - The Dress Code

The Dress code
I always found one aspect of Infy's policies amusing. This was regarding the Dress code. The HR gave us a suspect story line as a justification to the dress code. The dress code is simple yet discriminating. For gentlemen, Mondays and Tuesdays it is full business formals with Tie. On wednesdays and thursdays the tie is not required and they may opt for half sleeves. On fridays casuals are exceptable however shoes are a must and shorts are not allowed. Guys anyways do not have many options and such dress code restrictions only seek to further bring about the uniform look. The dress code for ladies accepted almost anything other than T-shirt and jeans as formal wear and that is applicable for the "Formal" days of the week. On fridays they may choose to wear pretty much any ladies wear under the sun (I guess mini skirts are excluded).

Having defined the dress code, I would like to bring out the fact that wearing a Tie while coding is like wearing a Hangman's knot to work. That's just my perspective though. The HR people would rather say that it makes us look like gentlemen and professional. Their story was that infoscions before introduction of the dress code were a pack of badly dressed geeks who made a mockery of the infosys brand in front of clients by their geekish dressing sense. They even quoted us some supposedly true story. Thus the dress code was introduced with an intention of turning us geeks into gentlemen and professionals. Interestingly during nearly 1.5 years that I spent at client site, I never had to wear a tie.

Funnily however the definition of dress code for ladies is so vague that almost any type of pants they wear below a western formal shirt is acceptable as a formal dress. I have even seen some of them wear jeans on mondays and it passes off as formals. Whereas for guys even wearing sports shoes on Mondays is considered an offence. If you ask me the origin of the dress code would lie somewhere in a tea time chat between two HR females. It would have been a conversation which could go like this
HR female 1 - "These software people look so damn dirty and intellectual in their green T shirt and muddy blue jeans."

HR female 2 - "Ohhh .. .my! They look so awful, but they are smart within aren't they. How else would they have cleared that aptitude test. I would find it difficult to clear it even with the cheat sheet in hand"

HRF1 - "Yeah.. that's true. The apti is tough, but then shouldn't smart people also look smart. I bet one of these guys will look like a real gentlemen in the correct formal clothes"

HRF2 - "Those black boots, those well creased shirts"

HRF1 - "Those smart ties. Like the complete man that appears in those grasim suitings advts"

HRF2 - "How about we get them to wear formals..."

HRF1 - "No way. These geeks won't do it. There is no way that we can convince one of them to change their dressing style"

HRF2 - "We can't .. but a dress code policy can"
So the conversation must have gone on for another half an hour and the rest of course, is history.

Having critisized the dress code at length, its time to see the bright side of it too.
1. It is easy to recognize infoscions on Mondays and Tuesdays and hence help hitch hike to office courtesy the infoscions who own Cars.
2. The gentlemen actually look gentlemen and the dirty green T shirts and muddy blue jean are unheard of in office.
3. After college it is exciting to dress up in formals on a daily basis.. at least till the paid vacation is on.
4. Most importantly .. This point is based on a true story. .. People appreciate your dressing sense.

Before I end this post, I have to elaborate on the true story just mentioned.
All through my college life, I have been considered as one of the worst dressed guys. Worst dressed is not a compliment but unfortunately I was too comfortable (read as Lazy) to change that. Thus when Infy dress code grew on me, I actually started wearing clean and decent clothes even on weekends. This transformation was more so because my wardrobe suddenly had a higher percentage of formals and even my choice in informals was now affected by a formal mindset. After several months in Infy I happened to meet some of my female class mates and for the first time they appreciated my dressing sense. I chose to bask in the glory of that compliment but I guess I owe that compliment to the Dress code.
Like it or hate it, I think the dress code is in Infy to stay.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A life called Infosys - The Paid Vacation

The Paid Vacation
If the heading makes you feel that infosys gives a paid vacation to each of its employees .. It almost does. At least the fresh entrants get to go on one. For all those infoscions who read this and say that I am joking .. please care to recollect your memories about the entry level training.
The training is basically a period of time when fresh entrants are considered bright and talented but not quite ready for being put into projects. To hone the talent they are put through a period of training which varies from 2 months to 4 months (depending on the educational background). People who haven't had this opportunity might wonder what this training is about and how can it be a paid vacation. Lets see ...
  1. All trainees are typically given accomodation in 3 star hotels or equvivalent (Mysore training facility has a hostel equivalent to 3 star hotel) for the duration of the training. Some trainee batches in past haven't got this but mine did. With a batch of around 100 or more trainees it is like staying in a hostel but with luxury of a hotel. The fun of hostel life does not need a second mention. Additionally the boys and girls hostel are not in two separate buildings separated by special security.. Need I say more on this.
  2. The campus has lush green lawns, a health club and various playing fields (basket ball, Lawn tennis etc). All this for a very small fee. The whole thing is extremely well maintained.
  3. There are lectures (like college) for half the day on weekdays. People like me like to think of that time as the time catch up some pending sleep. The second half of the day is dedicated to practicals. Put simply we have access to a PC and a mail box and some assignments. In typcal engineering style some of us managed to sneak out for numerous tea breaks and strolls in the Campus. Additionally the mail box is used for little more than sending out official mails. I almost used it like a tool to chat with other trainees.
  4. The company pays the trainees a handsome salary and not a meagre stipend.
Net net .. We got paid for being in college and that too a good looking one. Well there were the assignements and tests to spoil the show but as long as one managed to spend enough time mugging up the Champak (the study material given by the education department) they were never a problem. Thus the training was more like getting paid for having fun at college. Additionally being just out of college meant that the corporate life didn't yet have the opportunity to rob us of our sense of mischief.

For me training was a simple routine.
Get up in the morning to catch the office bus. Getting up early meant that some of my sleep was cut short so I used the boring lectures to catch up on the rest. The practicals was the only time I seriously did some studying (apart from chatting and mailing on other windows). Evenings were spent taking long strolls in the campus or trying some baskets at the basketball court or just chilling out at the canteen. Finally we used to catch bus back to the hotel. At the hotel my job was to coax every one among my new found friends (batch mates) to play cards or to plan for a trip on the next weekend. I did end up studying in typical Mumbai University style. i.e the night before the assignment which of course was group study and for me just hearing the discussions was good enough to get me to the minimum passing criteria. I chose to let the hard studies be things the batch toppers did and I associated myself with them so as to gain from their hard work. Some might say how mean ... but if clearing the test was the only aim .. why bother wasting the paid vacation.

Unfortunately my paid vacation lasted only 3 weeks after which Infy decided to pull us into real projects. I still curse the EnR department for robbing us of our paid vacation, but I guess times gone cannot come back only memories like these continue to remain as cherished ones.

A life called Infosys - The Aptitude Test

Shakuntala Devi is really popular
I had always heard about the lady Shakuntala Devi and her puzzle books. They said that her brain works faster than a Computer. I guess with the computing speed of the age old 86 family processors any body with good arithmetic and analytical ability could do that. With the kind of test that Infosys has, for filtering aspirants I could almost argue that even my brain runs faster that the Computer. ... Ok I am blowing my tumpet ... It seems that there is a remarkable similarity in the puzzles that infy tests the candidates against and the ones that feature in Shauntala Devi's books.. With my habit of clearing most aptitude tests and then failing interviews I did not worry about going through those books. However the others who joined with me swore by this book. In fact to date if any person asks me the secret behind clearing the Infosys aptitude test, I say pick up Shakuntala Devi's puzzle books and solve it in its entirity and you should be good.. Given that a huge number of people appear for Infy's tests I guess it is safe to assume that the sales of the above mentioned books are driven by Infosys' recruitment ...

A life called Infosys - The Dream Company

The Dream Company
As engineering students we dreamt about various options for our future.. Some wanted to chase the great American dream and do their post graduation in US. There were others who preferred doing management in India and there were still others like me who thought that it was time to place the books in the library and start counting money (I mean get a full time job)..
Given the Brand name of Infosys and the Icon Mr Narayan Murthy, Infosys was by far the dream company for anyone remotely interested in pursuing a software company.
Thus when I got my offer letter I was excited to say the least.
Then began my trumphet. I declared to every friend and relative I knew that I would working for Infosys and I was always met with the a reaction that conveyed everything from surprise, amazment and of course happiness and praise. For the next few days till I actually joined the company I chose to bask in the light of my success (even if it was only the start of a much longer journey). I think Infosys still continues to be one of the dream companies for most IT aspirants and professionals in India

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rs 500 and 8 hours on weekly laundry

If you read the heading and imagine that spending 500 rupees on laundry is something that would happen If I were to send my clothes to the laundry of an expensive hotel ... You are wrong. I am a little too miserly to do that. The next few paragraphs just demonstrate how to spend so much money to just get a machine wash at home.

I used to work for quite some time in Bangalore. Living there with friends meant that I had learnt to gaurd my laundry bag and actually do the laundry all by myself. However when I shifted to Pune things took a whole new turn on the laundry front. My hometown Mumbai is quite close to Pune. It is just about 4 hrs drive from my Pune residence to my parent's residence in Mumbai. Obvisouly weekend was a time to chill out at their place. The first weekend my Mom was very happy to see me. Her happiness showed in her eyes ..."as if her brave son had returned from War".

For Lazy bums like me daily chores are no less than a War. Simple things like cooking, laundry, cleaning the house etc take several hours to do and lots of bravery (imagine having to wash the denim jeans you worn for 3 months without washing). A few hours of mental preparation before going to the WAR to actually do the job. I know most Mom's can do the above chores half asleep or while simultaneously attending to other things like "saas bahu" serials, phone etc. However for a sloth like me they really are war. In that sense my homecoming to was like being back from Vietnam war.

First few weekends were really good. I was treated like a guest at home and in India guests are considered as messengers of the Almighty. Naturally my Mom cooked food as per my liking and made sure I had eaten up right until my belly bulged out. My clothes were taken care of on priority scheduling for the daily machine wash. I didn't have to do any chores at home at all and could just lie on the sofa and watch TV all day. Never during my college days did I have such luzury at home.

I guess good things don't last for ever so also was the case with the VIP treatement I got at my home. My Mom saw through my lazy mind's plan reduce work. Being the great Mom she is I still get to eat a lot, the clothes are also taken care of and I still manage to a lot of nothing by warming the upholstery. However things have taken their course. The twinkle in my Mom's eye has change to more like a sigh of relief and and expression of disinterest. Relief because she is able to see me hale and healthy every time I show up. Disnterest because with me comes my huge back pack full of clothes with that manly odour (read as bad odour of sweat). Some of clothes (my socks and dirty jeans) are treated as if they need to go through special bomb diffusal to prevent harm to others in the house but I get clean clothes nevertheless. I get pushed these days do some daily chores like getting stationaries from nearby shop. I am expected to eat whatever is cooked irrespective of my liking. In short I am treated with as much repect as the other members at home.

Despite the lack of VIP treatement, the benefit of getting your laundry taken care of .. free of charge and with utmost adherence to quality is worth travelling for 8 hours and spending about 500 rupees transportation. I guess spending the time and money to go to Mumbai has more to do with visiting the family but I can't deny the fact that the laundry is often a trigger to plan trips to home sweet home. With that quote .. I know I'll probably have to do a few weeks of laundry myself if my dear Mom reads this.. So sorry Mom .. that's just this Lazy idiots outlook .. please ignore me