Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Story Clip #1: Raman

Raman, everyone is so proud of him, except himself. His mother tells relatives he earns plenty that he could buy a house within another year. His father tells friends that his son is ‘settled comfortably' in a rewarding job. House, car, marriage – plans, plans, and plans they made for him. But, Raman is tired even to feel proud anymore. The attraction has withered away. It is yet another Tuesday in Raman's life, a year after he wore the illusorily shining badge called 'software engineer'. He writes ten lines in the morning and stares at it all of the evening. And still he cannot break through. The brain that topped the class in the final exams doesn't help find that one bug that refuses to let the program run. The boss sends a stinker of an email demanding an explanation and accusing him of being slow. Not again, he broods. The confidence curve falls flat and enthusiasm levels dip. Do I have to do and see this all my life? Can't I ever make mistakes? he thinks. Raman shuts the application and walks out of the office, past the manager who summoned him for an explanation. Indifference for a day, to make up for the peace of mind and smile lost for a while now.


Mysorean said...


Karthik said...

Reminds me of a Peter Keating of "FountainHead".. Btw -the most interesting thing in software sometimes is finding the bug - the rest of it is pretty mundane !! The only time when i am fully awake in office is when i am debugging !!

Anupama Viswanathan said...

Mysorean, ?, short comment for short post?? Will be grateful if you could say what ran in your head when you mumbled that "hmmm" :)

Karthik, Perfect!! Raman is like the Peter Keating of FountainHead. You may be right when you say bug fixing is the most interesting aspect of s/w, but sometimes when you are unable to crack it, you kind of get mad, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

The story does not make any sense...Programming has its own satisfaction..depends for what you are working..for money, inner satisfaction..everyonce cannot be a manager..right..

Karthik said...

Gonna be a long comment - let us see --

Peter Keating - Well that was a given. But u kinda confused the story, let us say botched it up (if it's not too harsh). All the Peter Keatings of this world live in ignorance. And it takes more than a mis-performing piece of code to shake him/them out of it.

"Do I have to do and see this all my life? Can't I ever make mistakes?" - I still didnt understand this portion.

"Indifference for a day, to make up for the peace of mind and smile lost for a while now." - Nicely worded, but doesnt jell with your character.

Ok - coming to the second part of the question - about fixing bugs. Hmm - Why should i get mad when i am not able to fix it ?? Have you read the book - Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintanence ? Well after i read the book, i never asked this question again in my life !! I am waiting for ur reply - cant continue without knowing whether u have read it or not.

Aneeways just a snippet from the book - Gumption

A person filled with gumption doesn't sit around dissipating and stewing about things. He's at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what's up the track and meeting it when it comes. That's gumption.

If you're going to repair a motorcycle, an adequate supply of gumption is the first and most important tool. If you haven't got that you might as well gather up all the other tools and put them away, because they won't do you any good.

Yuva said...

hope raman's father(/in-law) is rich enough..;)

Harish said...

Any work done without passion or interest bugs us at the back of our mind....
Been there...done that...

Anupama Viswanathan said...

Looks like I should have put up a big fat disclaimer saying, this post is not to offend any aspiring, well-settled, happy engineers in the software profession.

What I would like to say through the post is the story of a guy during a day at work, made unhappy because of a dull boss and lack of encouragement,full stop!

Well, am surprised, such a small post of all things is calling for such distaste. Oh My God, sensitive readers I have!

Anonymous, I would like you to understand that I have no personal ideas to offend anybody in the profession. I assume you are in the field and I am dead sure you have seen lot of people cribbing about the work they do. I can see you will lend great advice to your colleagues. But, may I pause to ask you just one question - you talk about the objective of what one works for - flat/car/inner satisfaction. Let's assume your boss one fine day comes and tells you, inner satisfaction being what you are looking for, I am thinking of cutting down your pay from next month. What will be your reaction?

(As a postscript, I would like to tell you, there are people who have moved away from this field to less-lucrative ones in a move to do what they really love to do. You have a personal example before you - which is me!)

Karthik, why drag books into this discussion! Well, I was/am still very clear about what I have written. I would like you to just wipe your viewing lens so that you dont see a distorted picture. I feel you haven't got the purpose of this story. (If you look through my archives, it won't take long for you to realise that I make attempts at various forms of writing. This is one such attempt. I would urge you to look at the post's title "clip"), It's an attempt at describing a minor detail.

There are two angles to this:

1) The story/character in itself

2) My view on such people

I think you have mixed up both.

Let's take it one at a time.

First, the character and the story. I have written this post from what I have seen/heard from people around me. There is no dearth of software engineers in my social circle. You should understand that when a writer creates a character, it need not necessarily reflect the ideas of the creator herself. There are good people. There are bad people. There are sloppy ones too. For instance, describing the actions of a bad man, doesn't mean the author justifies his actions. The villain has a part to play and he will, whether people like him or hate him.

Talking on those lines, I have attempted to describe the life of a guy in the field in one day. Haven't we seen enough people (without an interest in the field) landing up in the software profession and cribbing about it all the time. Yes, they can do much to come out of it and all that talk is fine, but the focus of this story is not what Raman is going to do after he walks out of the office. He may choose to come back and face his boss boldly or continue to work like this, brooding. I have essentially tried to summarize few things

- how people can fall into the wrong job. Many people in the South just get into engineering and follow the beaten track of software engineering.

- When they step into the job, they think there is nothing in this world to stop them, but slowly as time goes by, lot factors curb the enthusiasm in them and they kind of get tired of the whole business.

Now how much of all this is what I believe in?


1) I believe many people are misled into software because of the money / some with very little choice because they serve parental expectations

2) I believe you can fight the odds and come out if you really demonstrate the spirits. I totally agree with you when you say one has to be proactive and react suitably to challenges

3) However, I also believe that there are not many people who possess this kind of mentality. This is the story of one such guy. What I speak about in this story is just one day in the life of a fellow called Raman. when you say, "And it takes more than a mis-performing piece of code to shake him/them out of it." Agreed! But on a repetitive basis, if you find a discouraging boss and an unfriendly set up, a person who doesn't have a great interest in the job can't pull on for long. Why do you think people constantly look for a change?

4) Bug fixing is interesting for you. That's your belief. But not everyone can be like you. What you like need not be necessarily somebody else's cup of tea as well. There are guys who get a little unnerved when their code doesn't give way to what the problem is. It's basic human psyche, to get a little annoyed if things don't go your way.

5) Not everyone is lucky to get a good boss who understands, accomodates and encourages you to come out of your weaknesses. I won't blame the managers completely. They have their own pressures to deal with, particularly because of the mad race to stay ahead and stay on top. I think its a problem with the industry as a whole. You should be really exceptional and highly tolerant to work with a boss who doesn't understand your position and just keeps putting the pressure to work more and more.

6) Mistakes seem to be considered costly however small they are. The fact that people can make mistakes but they will learn through them is not being accomodated in today's world. Even the greatest minds make mistakes. Sadly, in today's world, one slip and you have to face quite a lot for it. I suspect whether perfecting somebody is the intention of bosses when they scream at you for mistakes. I think its more to do with the fact that it causes delay and finally hurts revenues. I think the whole point is we all have to slow down and the race is mad, really!

7) I really bow to people who work in IT for the love of the job. This post is not meant to offend anybody in the field. However, this is just to say there are also guys who lost their direction and I empathise with them and their feelings. People like Raman can do three things, they can continue to sulk and brood, or try to make things better - by being more proactive or on a more drastic level, decide to completely change their line of work.

Anupama Viswanathan said...

Yuva, His father is definitely not that rich (according to the story) but I wonder about the FIL!! :)

Harish, :)

Vani Viswanathan said...

Way to go with the comment, Anu!!

Aside, one day I'm going to write a post about writers. About how not everything they write is about themselves or by self-inspiration - that they have a mind that can create a character probably from scratch!

Karthik said...

ok - fair enough, i read the whole comment. There are still points where i disagree, but lets not get into them. I too know that the industry is not working well, there are too many people with "wrong" motivations here and to be frank sometimes i do feel bad about it. In fact i quit my first company for the very same reason and am working in a company where coding skills are given more value - and people are treated as people not as "resources". But there are still people who are passionate about their jobs and i guess that's why you got those reactions !!

P.S - Apart from the fact that i dont share your views, i still feel that the story could have been dealt with better. Maybe it's not just the readers who are bringing their emotions into the story :D

To be or not to be said...

A very good post...
Everything depends on how much passion we got towards our work...if not it could get very monotonous...
Imagine a scenario...theres something we always dreamt of as a career wen we were kids..and wen we grow up we manage to achieve we are doing what we love and someones actually paying us for it....DREAM....
does not happen to everyone...

Rams said...

Good one!
"Indifference for a day, to make up for the peace of mind and smile lost for a while now."
That's pretty much I do, still feeling I don't belong to here :)

- Raman

Krishnaraj said...

Hi Anu,

Nice blog. I enjoyed reading your stories. Keep it up.


Hiren Daftari said...

A survey which I read long time back said that an average programmer can write only 40 lines per day in his/her development phase so if Raman is writing 10 lines then there is not much to worry about yet because atleast he is doing something.Well I was just kidding,but what you have explained is almost true in software-service industry.As companies are getting work just to earn money and not for developer's delight and this is again one of the biggest reasons of the high attrition rates in different organizations.But again some can argue that at least this industry has more work than government job but then again the thing is that this industry has highest competition to survive and prove you as the best.

By the way very nice blog and I read your blog for the first time.