Thursday, July 19, 2007

Welcome to the real world. We've done it.

Those are the words from Morpheus to Neo and Trinity when they are able to bring out Neo from The Matrix into their ship Nebuchadnezzar in the real world. When I entered into corporate world along with my other fellow college mates, I could almost equate my feelings with this awakening, this enlightenment.

Back in college I was the absolute king of my domain. Nobody disturbed me in my stupor and nobody cared, for everybody around me was in the same state or maybe greater. Oh, I enjoyed the discourses that I gave to my disciples (seniors, juniors and fellow classmates). Put me in control, brought a newer understanding of the basics and more confidence in self. The fame, the adulation, I lapped it up all.

I began differently from others in my batch in that I knew more about certain aspects of academic life that others didn't and took some time to realize. For example, attending classes that too sitting in the front row was not going to fetch anyone any marks. For example, completing all your assignments before time was a mark of nervousness on your part. For example, last moment cramming was of no use. You just got to know the brief description of the lessons, which you can get anyway if you apply your common sense to it. For example, you don't need to be a genius to complete an experiment in the physics lab. All that it takes is a bit of patience and perseverance. For example, every senior knows that you need to earn the respect of the junior to really be called a senior behind your back.

Anyways, armed with what little experience I had, I started a little ahead. So my full concentration went in catching up with my reading which had been languishing a bit. Obviously reading "The Economic Times" had an attached snob value in the first year. Am a bit boisterous in the fact that I don't easily make acquaintances. But with my skills and obvious disdain towards a structured environment, I attracted people filled both with acceptance and curiosity with what I was. With this I participated in fests, organized them and in general went around doing pretty much what I liked. Alongside I started with a bit of experiments on robotics, programming and design.

All above just goes to show that I grew quick and enormous within the span of four year in college. Armed with more knowledge about technical and people stuff, I became confident in being able to deal with the big bad world outside. Why bad?? Because every senior I talked to would be cringing that it not a bed of roses. You needed to trudge and plod to make your way, and there was no fun in it. But in my mind I was this super being who would just blow away walls of rock with a small breath.

That was until I actually stepped into the corporate world. One thing that I must say before I proceed is, from day one I was treated like a true professional. No longer was I a student who would be spoon fed lessons and excused for mistakes and shortcomings. There was no sympathy, only praise and encouragement.

It all started with what is called as "boot camp". A overall training in all technologies that I would be dealing with during work. It began well with me trying and succeeding in capturing the lessons, asking the right questions and completing the practice problems. Then as it gradually built on the previous lessons, it took more effort on my part. By the time it was the last few days of the training period and the last series of lectures, I was ready to give up. Even the instructor then informed us, "Even the most experienced programmers take away lessons from only the first 2-3 days of this lecture series." Notice the change in the outlook from college. Where in college I was onto ideas at a higher level of abstraction here I was trying to unveil the abstraction of Java and Oracle Application Framework classes.

But all was not that bad. Along with hard work came parties, mostly on a fortnightly basis. People unwound over dinner and drinks. Talk varied from the current movie to the hottest gossip in the team. Realization dawned that these people working with me were just another bunch of normal human beings. Only the level of commitment was higher and focus was stronger. I was among a group of go-getters. There was one nagging doubt. I had made my path laterally, in that I had never participated in the direct race path but still managed to come up tops, getting what I wanted and beating others to it. Here there was no such scope. There was just that one thing that you did and no other way. Then while talking to someone and reading more, I knew work was not life. Work is what provides the fuel to run the vehicle of life.

The team that I joined had recently faced a lot of attrition, so a major workload befell us new employees. Workload from my perspective and that of people fresh from college. It took some time, patience and struggle to do all that was given. It helped that I had an amazing work environment. First names for all (a trend that I started in college, although some preferred otherwise). People coming over to your machine to show you the works. Personalized training for the new employees on the working of the product. Most of all free internet (althought I kept it at a minimum by choice).

Now after almost 9 months (significant, yes??) I have settled down. Work is fun and life after work is all relaxed. I have been traveling around a lot. Based in Hyderabad, all major cities in the south - Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Goa, etc. - are within overnight travel. My company pays me enough so that I buy books whenever I please (my roommates are worried at my thrift in this).

Conclusion: There is no conclusion. The journey has taken a new turn and is starting to be fun. For all people in college: come, see and absorb. Initially it will just as if you are in the first year of your college. But with the maturity that comes with age things will settle down quicker and then all the fun begins. Yet there are time when I wish I was back at college and the lounging around all day, reading, thinking, talking, dreaming. Someday maybe again, but not yet, not yet.

A small anecdote to end:

Looking for the Best!!!!

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university lecturer. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the lecturer went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups : porcelain, plastic, glass, some plain-looking and some expensive and exquisite, telling them to help themselves to hot coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the lecturer said
"If you noticed, all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the better cups and are eyeing each other's cups."
"Now, if Life is coffee, then the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, but the quality of Life doesn't change." "Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee in it."

So don't let the cups drive you...enjoy the coffee instead.

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This post was written for the digital edition of a publication from my college, around Mar 2007 with the current student and alumni as target. Cross-posting it here.
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