Only a few decades ago, computers were largely considered to be slightly glorified calculators. But soon enough, and quite organically, they became essential to progress of humankind, much like the “wheel”, a few more thousand decades ago.
And then came the boom of computer literacy and specialization- whether studying for some diploma or a more serious degree in Computer Science. Of course, there were the ones who took it even further to get a Master’s in the field, proving their mettle as software engineers.
Software Engineering is a dynamic field, evolving everyday. So you can never get too comfortable and have to be constantly up to date with the latest. While that could be challenging, it is also what keeps software engineers, like your next door IT guy, swimming in a sea of opportunities.
While not being quite as glamorous like that of a movie star, it still does appear plenty exciting to any aspiring ITian, with its globe trotting ways and high salaries. Sometimes big employers like Google and Facebook even offer as high as nearly 1Cr starting packages. Kching!! And that is excluding the stock options and performance bonuses.
And as if that is not enough of an impetus, you can always magnify your gains by working your way up the IT food chain, to bigger managerial roles. You might also find yourself getting an MBA degree to enhance your big bossy skills.
So, enchanted yet? Don’t be. There are also some downsides of being a software engineer in India. Here are some insights.
IT consulting companies lead the pack when it comes to campus recruitment drives. They hire by the dozen, expecting projects for them to work on. The initial euphoria of landing a job with a reputed consultancy fizzles out once the job starts.
For many of them, there is this endless wait to land a project. They are supposed to clock in the number of hours worked every day without really having a project to work on.
Many software engineers who have worked in an IT consulting culture say the quality and quantity of work depends on the whims of the immediate manager. Things are slightly better for those at a higher level, but really, when is it ever not!
Software engineers often need to communicate updates and plans between various teams and clients. That implies a revolving door in front of conference rooms.
And don’t ever think that you can sneak away through the back door to get to your cube and get actual work done. Meetings are where employees do their best to shine, among the multitude of similar profiles. You want to get noticed, you better showcase your talent in front of an audience- at meetings, on conference calls, in the elevator or at the annual company talent show!!
In between the meetings, presentations and the never ending calls, whatever little time you get, you have to do your actual work. And you thought you could just get away with playing the harp!
You are a commodity. Call it IT tough love but if you don’t keep yourself relevant and constantly aching to move up the ladder, you will be replaced in a wink. If you refuse to slave for the company (here are some tell-tale signs that you may be a corporate slave), you will be probably shown the “Exit” sign.
You see for every redundant “experienced” IT guy, there are a hundred fresh eager hopefuls who are ready to jump in, perhaps even at a lower salary.
Remember, they come with the knowledge of updated technology, which you missed out on because you were too busy supporting the outdated one.
You have to code, code and code some more. Not just on your project but sometimes even on someone else’s. Anyone who has ever been a programer may know how painful it is to clean up after someone else’s code, a debug nightmare!
Of course it never helps that your manager, who probably knows bupkis about coding, will be the one breathing down your tired neck. Good luck explaining to them why it won’t be a cool idea to deliver the code two weeks in advance. No boss! It’s a code, not a pizza!!
As if the deadlines are not tight enough already, you will also need to use whatever spare time you get to update yourself with the latest developments, in your field. You don’t want to sound uninformed when your manager starts talking about the new thing in town.
Working in shifts for clients located outside India will have you working their hours. This means all your evenings, when your family and friends would be socializing, you’d be glued to your monitor. So good luck ever seeing any weddings, birthdays or even eclipses.
Whatever time you do get, you’d rather use it calm your ever busy nerves and de-stress (read this).
And don’t expect to work less if you have clients from the same time zone either. Work will always somehow spill over to your free time, thanks to the demands.
You may just be reduced to converse, if at all, in tech jargon.
As a software engineer, your laptop will be your best friend for life. And if you work on projects that require you to interact with offshore clients, then you are sure to lose on your sleep, and disturb your body clock.
Thanks to the ergonomic issues of being hunched over a small screen all day long, long term professionals have been known to suffer from Carpel tunnel, tendonitis, back and eye aches. If allowed to get severe, they may even need surgical attention.
So the next time you see a geeky dude with baggy eyes and heavy glasses, be sure to stop and give him a sympathy nod, for he could be a software engineer taking a walk in the open for the first time in three weeks.
Okay, so you are sufficiently traumatized. Well, don’t be. This is a peek at the potential dark side of the glamorous IT life. There is also hope for a life and scope of growth for a software engineer, in India. Take this as a checklist to avoid the pitfalls in your journey to become a successful software engineer.
After all, what good is a success story without a few challenges. And for every story of despair, there are also ones that inspire.
Image credit: easyuni.com