Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Not a CAKE walk

It was yet another birthday, yet another year and yet another occasion that makes December so special and yes, so supremely depressing!

It was the first birthday when I didn’t even cut the cake. Of course, a certain someone’s rationalization why it’s NOT good to cut a cake on your birthday helped me get over the trauma. Well not really! I LOVE birthday cakes and I definitely want one next time. Hell with wisdom and world peace. My soon-to-be ex roommate didn’t know it was my birthday, nobody at work knew it was my birthday and clearly nobody cared to find out why I was away on the phone every fifteen minutes. But even without knowing the obvious (how can people be oblivious to MY birthday!) they were nice enough to include me in their impromptu evening chai at the tapri followed by pizza. While I missed the tapri at Company D, this is the first time when I really got to interact with some of the people in my team. And I also missed campus: the big deal people made at midnight, the memorable gifts (lack of money definitely makes you creative), the not-so-memorable birthday bumps/garbage shower/cake paste, the extent your room mates went to make it a surprise and the extent you went to pretend it IS a surprise, and of course the CAKE itself: not one, but three! Sighhh…

The day was really a blur: answering phone calls (I had no idea so many people cared enough to wish me), replying to FB posts (now FB explains why so many people remembered it. Next year I should really try removing my birthday from there and THEN see how many people remember), and waiting for the calls which I wanted but which never came. For the best may be.

I left work early and for a change felt like dressing up. So I struggled my way home from Hiranandani pleading with autowalas just to freshen up and put on new clothes, and struggled back again to Hiranandani for dinner. And after ages, I got a little high. We tried to explore a new place which didn’t go too well, as we ended up in a shady pub which did not serve fish or mutton. Hmmphhh! Don’t people care anymore about MY birthday? But the important thing is I drank! And since I am not drinking this new year, this was my last drink for 2010: the most contrasting year EVER!

Also, I got a new gas connection for my new house. And I got free gifts along with the stove and the connection: water purifier, non-stick frying pan and 1 Kg basmati rice! Never thought these things will ever give me orgasmic pleasure, but there you go! Age speaks!!

I started my birthday crying on my pillow, and I ended it the same way. But in between, I had some good times.Not to mention the 1 Kg basmati rice. What in the world am I going to do with it?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

First Impressions

Today I complete one week in my new organization, and as far as first impressions go, it’s been pretty awesome. As much as I love previous organization (it was more than just a company where I worked: it was the company which selected me out of all the students in my batch during Summers- the only time I was ahead of anybody, given my abysmal grades and below average CGPA, it was the company which offered me a job when other companies froze recruitments, and that too AFTER it experienced the pain I inflicted on it for two whole months of the internship, it was the company where I made the best of friends and the worst of enemies, and finally it was the company which changed my life), the differences between the two companies are stark. Company D was already an established player in this field, it was mature, it had set processes (too many of them), it was almost saturated as far as the big ideas were concerned (and hence the focus was on trivial things like formatting, decimal points and team bonding to an annoying extent), it had all the necessary resources that we barely used, and of course, it didn’t pay. But it offered a great learning platform, it made my transition from campus to corporate life a smooth one, it offered a good worklife balance, and it sponsored free trips to luxury conferences in Hyderabad where I met my friends and celebrities (Chetan Bhagat). Most of all, it had a fully functional canteen which served me breakfast, lunch and dinner. And oh, it also offered unlimited access to gmail, gtalk, facebook, orkut and not to mention the job portals, where I spent half my office hours in the last few months. To summarize, it was an internationally branded foodcourt plus internet café, which paid you to learn, surf and eat. No wonder, it ranked as one of the best places to launch your career!

Now Company C is the exact opposite. While a big name in the banking industry, it is just starting off its research division, it has no set processes, no internal bottlenecks, no hierarchy, no review process, and no resources. Heck, it doesn’t even have a fully functional cafeteria. In fact the expansion is happening as I post this blog. Two days after I joined, we were moved to a different floor, which is still under construction. As I battle my way over plastic sheets and the smell of fresh paint, as I run downstairs when I want to use the washroom or get some water/coffee/tea and as I try to come up with new ideas, the autonomy somewhat overwhelms me. Suddenly, I am asked for suggestions, suddenly my opinion seems to matter, suddenly my experience is taken seriously, and suddenly, I am treated as a grown up. No trackers to track my leaves/trainings/projects/hours, no SMS and DTE to make me “accountable”, and definitely no birthday parties to keep me entertained. It surprises me that the mundane products which seemed useless in Company D seem to make sense now (and I have introduced similar prototypes, something I swore to death previously), it scares me that here I am the only person in the team, and it also makes me nervous that may be I am not ready for this responsibility, that may be I am not matured enough, that may be I do need constant supervision, and worst of all, may be they misjudged me and I cannot live up to the expectations. From a college kid who was used to spending half the time in the café and the other half on IM/gtalk and whose document went through four rounds of review before being sent to the US manager, I am suddenly the only person in a new team and working directly with a director, suggesting databases which the company subscribe to and new products and services it can introduce.

Things I like about my new company:1. The freedom, the complete creative liberty, the challenge
2. The management or the lack of it
3. The work culture and minimal non-work related frills
4. My India director, who interviewed me and who I could look up to as a role-model (something I lacked in company D)
5. The obvious operational stuff: location, brand, money, work-life balance

Things I don’t like about my new company:
1. The complete lack of social life (unlike company D, I don’t have the campus recruits to hang out with and being the only person in the team, I don’t even have work-related interaction with people. Plus the non-existence of internal IMs and gtalk has reduced me to a social outcast. There are days I spent without even talking to anybody. So, it’s a lonely life here, which is why I get more work done)
2. Blocked access to my favourite sites (no more salivating at front end consulting roles or branding profiles and wishfully applying on iimjobs)
3. No canteen (I have been living on biscuits and cornflakes for a week now)
4. The lack of resources (unlike Company D, where I had so much to read but was too busy socializing)
5. The lack of warmth and that’s what I miss the most about Company D

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 11: Another One Bites the Dust

I hate December 11… it’s that damned date which ensures that my roommates/flatmates give up their single status and get into unholy matrimony. Last year it was my roommate from Symbi who tied the knot and this year it was my flatmate in Mumbai who did the same. While we are given ample notice and enough time to get used to the fact that things are going to change, you never quite believe it until it dawns right in front of you. In this case, I knew the wedding date almost a year in advance, I heard my friend argue/fight/discuss the details over the phone, I saw her shop for unnecessary things she will never use again, I saw her fretting over little things which I never thought mattered, I listened to her patiently as she cribbed, and we were well prepared for the grand event, or so I thought!

And it was a typical Bong wedding with all the familiar rituals that I had grown up on (and forgotten in the last few years) and things were supposed to be great. To some extent they were! Most of the CKB group managed to make it and we were meeting after a long time, it was in Kolkata, the weather was just perfect, the setting too, for a change, my sari was in place (my mom was there to help me get dressed) and unlike the couple of North Indian weddings I have attended last year, Bong weddings are less painful and less demanding (though one of the members who went red in the face carrying the bride for 15 minutes may deny it). But somehow, I can never get used to the ‘shock and awe’ feeling that overcomes me when I see a close friend get married, irrespective of how expected it is. And there is something about weddings that make my friends (the brides) glowingly beautiful- trust me, I have lived with these girls, I have survived their bad hair days and facial disasters, and I have seen them trapped in ghastly clothes (point to be noted: the distressing yellow pyjamas and the ancient blue chappals), but when I saw them dressed in their wedding ensemble, I could hardly believe my eyes.

Irrespective of how much I dislike December 11, it still manages to reinforce my faith in love and that relationships do survive the test of time and everything else. As I survive yet another cold December wedding, as I witness yet another close friend happily tie the knot, and as I come to terms with this new phase in our lives, I try to convince myself that I want it as well. The girl in me is tempted by this grand celebration of a lifetime called the “wedding”, but she is immediately silenced by the woman in me, who wants a “marriage” but is too scared to trust.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Real(i)ty Check!

In the last six months, I have had the most trying time to find a job. But what I didn’t know was finding a job was a cakewalk compared to the nearly impossible task of finding a house for rent in Mumbai: by house, I mean a decent house with decent furnishing in a decent area within a decent budget. Thanks to recession, I had the luxury of a perfect house at a very reasonable rent, and since the PPO already took care of a job, I kind of enjoyed the benefits of recession, as selfish as it may sound.

But this year, real estate rates reached its peak which made it impossible to enjoy the same lifestyle in the same budget as last year. To top it all, my loser flatmate and friend decided to get married (more on it later) ruining our perfect lives. So while she shelled out an obscene amount of money to enjoy marital bliss, I was also forced to do the same, sans marital bliss, simply because I couldn’t imagine myself living with a random girl after I was so used to living with one of my best friends.

Hence began my house hunting spree immediately after my job hunting spree. So placement consultants were replaced by brokers and real estate agents, my “sophisticated and accented” angrezi was replaced by broken Hindi, and negotiations for CTC were replaced by negotiations for rent and deposit: the rest remained the same. After two months of diligently looking through ads on the net, frantic phone calls (my phone bill crossed the one grand mark for the first time), bike rides with strange men (brokers) at odd hours and contributing to the pockets of auto drivers, finally I can sit back and relax, as I smile to myself thinking about my own little apartment, all to myself, not too far from work, not too expensive, and not too obnoxious. Yes, if you have managed to find a satisfactory house in Mumbai, you have reasons to feel proud, in fact more proud than cracking an interview in a multinational.

I made a new beginning last year, I am about to make another this year. I can only hope this turns out better than the last one!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Big Boss's Cabin

Those who have been a part of the corporate life would know the importance of the cabin: that room, usually at a corner, where all the important people sit and the important meetings are held. The size of the room depends on the ego of the person sitting inside or the strategic importance of the meetings. Now this is the room which has the potential to change the direction of your career. Very often, your year-end rating in the appraisal is directly proportional to the number of trips you made to that room, especially if the frequency of your visits increased just before your appraisal.

So when should you visit “the cabin”?

a) At least once a fortnight, it’s imperative that you take an appointment and schedule a meeting preferably after office hours just to showcase your enthusiasm and motivation to “learn from the most respected and senior person in your department.” During these meetings, you should be prepared with your fakest and brightest smile and be your flattering best!

b) Every time you get a new project, you should ensure that this important person is aware about your contribution, and hence you spend time in the cabin, exaggerating your inputs and pretending that whatever suggestion this important person gives will add tremendous value to the project.

c) You changed your team/location/department. The first thing you should do is meet the important person in the cabin and announce your arrival and your eagerness to make sweeping changes to this team/location/department which was clearly not delivering up to its potential before you came in.

d) Always use occasions like you birthday/anniversary/children or spouse’s birthday/ children’s graduation/ festivals/purchase of new house, new car, or even new dustbin (basically any excuse of any celebration) to enter the cabin on the pretext of distributing sweets. Even better, if you can strategically time these ‘celebrations’ close to appraisal. What a blessing that entrance exams and board exams coincide with your appraisal cycle!

e) Every time you foresee a project gone wrong and you were responsible for it, you go inside the cabin before the person in the cabin calls you. You take the initiative, explain the challenges, make the right excuses and blame the right people, and finally when the feedback does come in, you have already created a safety net for yourself!

P.S. In the first company I worked in, the person in the cabin didn’t like me. Once he called me inside the cabin (which was petty big incidentally) and threatened to fire me. Well, that was the only time I have ever been inside the cabin… No wonder my career is going nowhere!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Back Office Babe

So, my one month self-imposed unemployment phase is almost over and next week will witness the return of a brand new me, albeit doing the same old shit in the name of ‘research’.

For the past six months I have toyed with all sorts of profiles in all sorts of companies in all sorts of cities. After one particular exchange with my U.S. counterpart in my previous company I had almost decided that enough is enough, and I will no longer work in a support function supporting people whose cumulative intelligence is less than a five year old. In fact, I had somehow managed to get a ‘real job’ which offered ‘real work’ and ‘real learning’ in an Indian bank. However, unfortunately, the ‘real job’ refused to pay ‘real money’. And greedy that I am, especially in Mumbai and especially with sky-rocketing real estate rates, I chose instant gratification and shallow considerations over job satisfaction and meaningful work. Of course I convinced myself that ‘real banking’ isn’t my forte anyway, that I want to be a writer (which is actually true) and hence this job is more to ensure I have enough time and enough money to pursue my dream career in writing.

Hence I decided to stick to my present industry, as insignificant as it is.
Hence I decided to go with money and lifestyle over quality work.
Hence I decided to remain the back office babe (back office, yes, babe? That’s upto you to decide)