Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A life called Infosys - Day Dreaming at MidNights

Day Dreaming at MidNights
A description of software profession would be incomplete without having talked about Day-dreaming at nights... If this concept sounds alien let's just first define day dreaming - "dreaming with the eyes open" i.e. when a person appears to be awake. With that defined, dreaming at midnights still doesn't qualify. Afterall most people would midnight that as bed time. Then why is it different for software professionals. In the next few paragraphs I'll try to answer.

A proper treatment of this concept would require a few definitions.
1. Deadlines - A term used to define a published time line by which a certain piece of work is expected to be completed. Of course nobody dies if this time line is crossed. At worst the company / client may lose a little revenue and / or goodwill due to unavailability of certain system functions at the expected times. If at all something dies then those are "the chances of a good appraisal" for the person involved in missing the deadlines.

2. Esimate - A term used to identify a random number given out by senior management to the customer as expected size of the work. There are whole lot of models and methodologies to try and scientifically justify and rationalize the above mentioned number but I still think that it is nothing but a seemingly rational random number.

3. Resource - A term used to identify an entity who can work for about 8 - 9 hrs a day towards completing some "estimated" work. This term symbolises the fact that people are often treated as nothing more than the number of person-hours they contribute. Especially for the purpose of coming out with an "estimate"

4. Effort - A number used to quantify the a piece of work in terms of time (person hours). It is usually another random number that precedes the estimate and tries to quantify intellectual capital in terms of number of hours it takes to build up a tangible output. This term is often considered synonymous with "estimate" but the difference lies in the fact that effort is purely the size of the work whereas "estimate" might be around cost, time, effort or a combination of above three.

A time line is set by considering the total "effort" and the number of "resources". However often it becomes a dead line when some managers over "estimate" the "effort" or the capbility of "resources".
When something like the above situation happens, commitments are at stake and resources are expected to work extra hours to meet the deadlines. Sometimes the extra hours extend into the midnights and thus that time also becomes equivalent to day time in the sense that useful work is expected to be done at that time.

Having given a serious explaination of deadlines and late nights its time to bring out my own perspective to "day dreaming at midnights".
In my experience, when dead lines start becoming aggressive, there is "effort" over run and in absence of more resources, the existing ones have to put in beyond the standard 9 hours a day.

One time such a situation happened in one of my previous projects. Soon my work timetable started entering beyond the mid night. Gradually my room mates started thinking of me as a nocturnal creature who entered the house in the quite of the nitght and who slept calm when they all prepared to for leave office. I found that my whole time table had soon shifted drastically and that I had started considering midnight as creative time. Naturally if I started having delusions of a working code, they were nothing but "day dreams at midnight".

All said and done I can't end this post without talking about some of the facilities that are provided these days, which are often mistaken as encouragement towards working late nights.

1. Late Night Drops - Special shuttle / taxi services for employees who work until unearthly hours.
2. Dormitory - A concept perhaps unique to Infosys. A place where employees can choose to sleep overnight instead of having to bother going home at uneartly hours. This place even has a proper and well supplied bathroom. I did spend a few nights in this place although I didn't like not going home but I'll always remember one of my roomates suggestion. He suggested that I stay over at the dormitory only and set up some place where I could do the laundry. That way I wouldn't have to pay the house rent. I was anyway not using the house like a house anyways. For food obvisouly there were the canteens and what else does a working bachelor have in life...

Due to some of these facilities some of the younger developers often consider it as a factor of coolness to be counted among the "Day dreamers at midnight" but as I look back it is perhaps one experience which should remain as only a single experience and not be allowed to become a habit.

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