Friday, July 09, 2010

9th July - 9th Year

Pic of 2nd Golive - after 36 hrs

Today I have completed my 9th year in IBM and started the 10th.

Now I am sitting in a customer Go-live room for local plant roll outs with my team. It will be successful. The CIO is next to me, chatting with other directors in a relaxed way. So, I got some spare time and thought to use it in a better way (by writing this blog post, as I neither can surf internet in front of him, nor can gossip in the war room).

It was a long day, I slept last night after 2am (had to prepare couple of status and transport list for go-live) and then started working in the morning, have to be in office tonight, but was feeling sleepy a little while ago. Had couple of raw coffee and diet coke to keep me awake. It reminds me of the 2nd go-live (in last Feb) where few of us (Satya, Saby and I) were awake for 36hrs straight and slept 10hrs in a slot of 72 hrs. But this one is not that tough, its simple roll-outs to local sites, no conversions, no mass move of config and codes, no legacy activity. Only few activities like setting up batch jobs for those sites which are going live so that they can operate in the new business transformation mechanism.

These are official information, sometime sensitive and confidential. So, I can not write everything here. I can reveal a half of it in my “Half Life Unfolded”.

But today I am really feeling to express couple of viewpoints of our career. These may be biased, evaluated from my viewpoint and my own perception, but this is what I felt during my tenure of almost a decade in IT industry.

When I joined IT, I was little scared about whether I could survive, the constant learning, the technological challenges, the dynamic demands of customers and services.

But I was gradually confident and took charge of my career in a short while, started achieving the milestones, But I lost the pace afterwards due to many reasons. Now, I regained the pace and position, but lost the progress to some extent.

I am being personal here; I should write from a generic viewpoint on what I think about IT career.
IT career is never safe, if you want to grow in project management.
At the same time it is neither safe being a technical/functional consultant, if you do not update your core skills or you are a real techie.

One might find my views contradictory. So it needs better explanations.
I was in touch with two top IT leaders of India. They were the ideal role model for many of us and all project managers of today’s industry. But unfortunately they didn’t survive long in IT.

The situation is even worse in US. Our project manager of last project lost the job in middle of the project; same happened with many big shots of US MNCs. The reason is simpler, the higher the position we are in; more is our cost to client and responsibilities to organization. We might fail to deliver because of many reasons or the rate we charge may not always be acceptable by clients. The common factor I have observed is the age. All who left IT were around 45.

Last year one of my US colleagues made me realize a different perspective. He was reluctant to opt for higher band and still working in lower band. When I asked the reason – he told “I want to keep my self employed as long as possible”. That means we can survive more as long as we are close to the technology and work in core requirements. If we grow in the management path, we can never come back to technology, its just one way. But in India we always opt for bigger position and roles without thinking about the side effects.

Am I trying to establish the fact that - 45 is the age when IT life ends or Career is not sustainable in management path?

No, I am wrong. It all depends on what we want and what is good for the IT giants.

Let’s take a different perspective of the equation. Why we work in IT? I am rephrasing the question, why I worked in IT?

For faster growth in terms of money and position.
For white collar job in elite industry.
For abroad trips to work in different culture and visit different countries.

And I achieved almost all of these to some extent. But, at the same time it took us to the saturation level very fast. We need to think and justify why we are working in this industry time and again. Does this industry give the value for our time and efforts? So, it automatically raises another question - What do we want, what should be our call?

I have to keep myself employed as long as possible for my family and steady career.
I have to reach to the top to feel the dynamics as I am capable of being a true leader.
This job is worthy of me and I want to keep doing it in the same way, this is my place; so sometimes I may like it or not, I have to work here. I can switch my job but not my profession.
Sometime ORs can be ANDs by our confused minds.

Which category is more risky? The second one. As the industry is getting more mature, more and more people are getting redundant. That’s causing trouble for the people who want to grow at the same time for those who are not that capable in those positions.
Again, I am not telling that the management role always has risk, there are many steady leaders/managers who are working for long time in a steady career, but it may happen that your fast growth may not be good for organization or your growth is not good enough.

What about the age 45? That is when people get a little slow and cannot take the client pressure or delivery pressure; but can very well leverage the experiences in different way. It depends on us and the company on whether we want to continue this job.

This analysis leaves me to a basic question. What should we do in this industry now, after few years of experience?

I have some simple answers. If you like this job, keep doing – whatever you are doing now. If you do not like – find out a role you will like. If you have other dreams bigger than this, make and shape your career in a way which can help you to fulfill your dreams. If you have an ambition to reach the top, keep trying, but do not keep the expectation people had from IT few years ago, it’s no longer booming and fast growing. If you feel you are not a good leader, keep in touch with technology. If you are scared about your future, travel abroad and make money to be in safer side. If you want to contribute to the technology, shift to product industry. If you think this is not something you should do, change your profession. If you do feel your expectation is not fulfilled in your company, you might think about a switch, but do not keep the same expectation as all IT companies are the same.

At the end, my conclusion is, no matter whether you retire (or have been fired) as Country Lead, Partner, Director, Project Manager, Team Leader etc. its all the same for everyone after that, so enjoy your role as long as you can - believe me survival will be much tougher in the coming days and if you wish to retire from the IT industry at the age of 60, your growth has to be very slow or you have to be real smart. The trick of the smartness is to keep yourself aware with the changing trends of the industry and keep doing other work (apart from IT job) to keep yourself inspired.


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