Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Was it worth it?

Hello All! I know it has been long since my last post, but believe it or not I have been really occupied. I have been trying to publish this one for a long time now, and I am doing it finally. But begore I start, a few acknowledgements - The title is taken from Varun's blog and I have decide to complete this today (finally) after reading Akshat's post. Now the story:

This episode that I am going to write about started when I was in Panipath, visiting my parents on a two week long vacation. One fine morning, while I was still in Panipath, my SPM called me and asked me if I would like to work for the project that he has recently undertaken from Pune as a lead and I said yes because it would be something new and I was more or less fed up with the same kind of work in my project. But, then I didn't know what was in store for me.

I joined Mumbai office on 12th March and went to Pune the very next day. From the day I joined it was a battle, a full scale war in the team - war against delivery managers, testing teams; war to defend the project and the team members. Needles to say that the project was in shambles. There were faults galore, coming from everywhere - from SIT, E2E, LIVE. The first instruction that I got from my SPM when I reached Pune was, "I don't need you to get involved technically, but to act as the point of contact for E2E and live faults. I have people to work behind the scene. I need someone who can front-end them, who can talk to people and track things." I thought, "Am I meant for such things - afer all I have been coding for the last 18 months? Nevertheless, it is going to be a challenge, a new one." And, I nodded to express my acceptance.

Later in the day, I got the first tracker sheet which I had to update, and it blew my mind. I couldn't believe the number of faults pending with the developers, and I didn't know what to do with the sheet immediately. But, the quick learner that I am, I got the hang of faults and the sheet in a couple of days. Reaching office by 9 am and leaving not before 10 pm was the order of the day, and I had lost myself in the work. I barely had time to think. By the time I reached my accomodation, I used to be so tired, I used to drop dead on my bed wishing I wouldn't wake up the next morning. Weekends and Weekends lost their meaning, as we were working 7 days a week to catch up with the faults and deadlines.

After three weeks we managed to bring some respectability to the situation, but much was still left to be done. In the next week we were in a much better position, ready to take the next release to Live having fixed most of the faults. During the one month I had attended calls and meetings with my GH/ SPM/ TLs, I had shone a stupid SIT representative her rightful place (in fact she stopped coming to calls after that treatment), and received much appreaciation and encouragement from my SPM and team members alike. My biggest achievement during that month was getting rid of the Delivery Manager. He was just so stupid. One day he pulled me on a call with a BT guy, 15 years experienced and I was there trying to explain the technicallity of things, when I had never looked into the code. And the funniest part is that I sounded so convincing that even I was surprised.

Finally that call ended at 11:00 pm in the night and I was tired to the core. I couldn't believe how I managed to survive that call. But there also I learnt something. There was a guy who was over 15yrs experienced. I was nothing but a kid in front of him. But I was able to convince him more because of my confidence. Not that I was talking rubbish, but it could never have been technically perfect. But what impressed me most was that man's penchant to learn. He kept telling me, 'Please forgive my ignorance, but...' and kept shooting questions at me. He was determined to learn the entire functionality in one night. He budged only when I told him it was very late offshore. On my way back home, I was thinking how we are afraid to ask questions thinking what the other person would think about us, and we keep quite even when we might not have understood one thing on a subject. And there was a guy, who was so senior and had no qualms about asking questions even at the risk of sounding stupid. Actually it is much better to sound stupid that way than when you goof up. Then you might look for cover but you would have none.

One month passed and I returned to Mumbai only to go back to Pune in the last week of April. That was the time when appraisals were the hottest thing. PRDs were on in full swing. I had been so busy working, I barely managed to fill in my appraisal in time. When I returned to Pune, I told my SPM very clearly that i was not happy with my PRD and the ratings that I had got, and he told me not to worry. I got back to work. That was the time when our next release had gone on Production and now we were fixing Live Faults on war footing and perparing for the next release as well.

That was the time when dear Mr. Al-Noor Ramji (CEO, BT Design) announced a 'Code Red' in the entire Billing and Payments Programme' and Milan Gupta was appointed as the Code Red Manager. Needless to say, we were doomed - doomed to be available 24*7 to fix faults, at times stay in office for 3 days at a strech, doomed to stay in the same clothing (underwears inlcuded) for a couple of days, doomed to stink like... like... I don't know what. Those 2 weeks were terrible. But then again it was time for self realization. I realized that my body could take so much abuse. Things got a little better after that, but we were still working 16 hrs a day.

Burn out was inevitable, and my SPM was the first casualty. He sufferd slip disc and was bed ridden for 2 weeks. I fell ill for a couple of days and then decided to take things slowly. i started working more intelligently. There was a guy who had to go on leave for some family function but his leave was cancelled, and he wept in office. The morale of the entire team was on an all time low. I don't know what crept into me and I stood for that guy and confronted another manager (gap-filling for my bed-ridden SPM). I took the onus on me to get the job done so that poor guy could go to his family. And we did it really well.

I finally left the project in the end of June, when things were much better and another release was in the pipeline, having made a lot of friends. Back from there a thought crept into my mind whether all that effort was really worth it. Well here is what I thought:
1) I learnt how it feels to be in the line of fire - being the Single Point of Contact for E2E and Live faults, front-ending my team.
2) I had to lead a team which was very low on morale and experience. I had to be their friend, but had to get the work done at the same time. I dare say, I did fairly well there. I got an insight into the human psyche.
3) I realised that the root of the entire mess was a huge communication gap within the team and spineless leadership and improper planning - in fact there was no planning. If a project is in shambles, it is the manager who should be punished and not the team members. Due to a couple of incompetent managers, 20 people had lost there peace for over 6 months. The Business guys had promised the moon to the client and the team was racing against time to deliver an impossible task, and the managers did nothing to defend or to shield them.
4) I realised how important it is to ask the right questions. If you ask the right questions, you will never go wrong.
5) I got more insight into business and how Tech Mahindra works in those three months than i had in the 20 months before that. I met people while I stayed in the guest house and thus helped me network which is so important today.
6) Above all, I managed to secure an 'Outstanding' rating in my appraisals and got an above expectation increment. Did somebody say, "Sweet are the uses of adversity."

Well, dear readers, I leave the question to you - Was it really worth it?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey.... landed on ur blog site by chance.... it was a nice read....

Keep blogging as they say!! :)