Monday, May 18, 2009

Career Question of the Week

Many of you send me your career queries, and I respond to the best of my ability. But on many kinds of dilemmas there is no 'right answer'. The person asking the question is really looking for perspectives from people who've been there, done that.

And so, every Monday I will throw open one such question to the readers of this blog. Do share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section - it will surely help many a confused soul make a more informed decision.

Software career: the way forward

I am having 4 years of experience working in a software MNC, had onsite oppurtunity, earning a decent salary and had good learning in initial years of working but now i have started realising that i am not moving anwhere, there is nothing much left to learn as part of product i work upon, my work more or less resembles with the fresher that join the organisation, or its about helping/ mentoring them, I will be gradually moving to project management but there also i dont see much learning , i hardly see my manager working they are just responsible for some project schedule maintainence , people management and so.

Most of the projects don't require much technical competence, they are mostly legacy products that continue to evolve by copying code from here/there , Job which most of the people do can be done by traning any plain graduate and that is why software companies had people from all sort of colleges doing the same type of work.

There is hardly any recognition of talent because in reality nobody needs it here . All you need is a good luck to be in right project that can fetch you a onsite for a year or two and promotions. I know i am sounding very frustrated but believe me this is the truth and story of various of my friends.

So as I have explained you my position/frustration and probably many of my other fellows, I want to understand what path we can take to revive our career, what options and stream exist which will probably suit us. Does it make sense to switch to other stream, I want to understand whether it will be worth doing and what risk exist if we opt for change in stream. Also i want to know colleges besides ISB in India that can suit us.

- A K

If you have a career question you can email me on rashmi_b at I will choose the question of the week based on the detail in which you explain your problem. And how relevant/ interesting I think it is to the readers of this blog.


  1. I am also in the same situation but with less exp(2-years).Can you help us out rashmi.

  2. This is a dilemma of many of my friends too. We have a well paid job but we know that this is not where a difference can be made.

    The job satisfaction is declining day by day. But we can't quit as other streams won't offer me a similar pay.

    The answer i think is to take a risk here. I believe that if you are truly passionate about what you do, money will follow.

    I know what some of you thinking.. I still don't know what I'm good at. Even I have been looking for a answer to this question. So, the risk is not justified isn't it? May be.

    This is what I'm upto.

    * I have zero savings with my 2 years of Job. I got a Car and a Bike and that is where it all went.

    So, my POA:

    * Start studying for Entrance Exams (CAT, GMAT, XAT, SNAP, CET)
    * Save around 2 lacs (which would be done in 5-6 months)
    * Get into a MBA course for advertising/marketing
    * Get the skills required
    * Start afresh with the new job

    Lets see how this works

  3. hi AK,

    you should re-read your post. you dont need anyone else to answer anything for you. you already seem bored/ and you think you are not going anywhere in your job. I am guessing you are in a TCS/ Infy/ Wipro kind of a job and if its one of these kind of companies - there are a lot of opportunities to transition to interesting jobs. You need to build the network and reach out to ppl in other areas - biz dev, r&d, corp level jobs. you hv to create the opportunities for urself. (i was there for 3 yrs and i know)

    Other than that there is always an MBA - but reading your post i dont think after 4 years of wrking you understand what you enjoy, where your passion lies and what is important to you. Answer these questions, evaluate your risk taking level and then take a decision. MBA can be an option, so can entrepreneurship, changing your field completely and going into a completely diff field/ sector might be an option. but that is for you to understand. after you have some goals in place, it will be better for you to ask you advice in that direction.

    Rather than being miserable about your situation, be proactive - if you hv wrked fours yrs in a company, am sure if you hv some kind of a mentor or a soundboard - go talk to him/ her .. ask for advice on strengths/weaknesses, learn more about yourself and then ask for focused advice.

  4. Hi AK,

    I can totally understand your situation.. but dont be frustrated, 4 years is just the begining of your professional career.

    Within this period, Im sure you must have identified what part of the industry/process you like the most. Think what would you like to see yourself doing after 10 years down the line. Analyse your strengths and find out what you do the best.

    Once you get an answer to these questions, start looking for opportunities in those areas. You might have to sacrifice the comforts of your current job, but if you are actually looking for a change, you will have to take that risk.

    One of the best options is doing an MBA..but then, you would probably be in the same spot after few years into job after that.

    Another very good choice is Start-Ups. If you think you have the expertise, you can single handedly carry out most technical tasks and looking for technical challanges you might find a startup job as the most satisfying one. It would be a lot different than your regualr job in a big Corporate and would be a lot of fun.

    You can also head the entrepreneur way, and start off your own small business. There is a lot of scope in this area in India as we are still warming up to these ideas and concepts. However there are a lot of programs and organisations who help people with thier new businesses.

    So there are a lot of options available, as I said earlier, its just the begining... sky is the limit. :) dream on!


  5. Hi A K,

    I have gone through the same situation 4-5 years back. I was in Cognizant for 2.5 years.

    The problem with these type of companies dependent on outsourced projects are -
    1) The quality of work is quite poor and uninteresting as most of it is maintenance and or minor enhancements/bug fixing. All these don't require superior brain-work.

    2) As an individual one is jacketed since that person is working in a particular vertical in a particular domain/technology.So after 2-3 years your skill sets are limited and so also your employability. Moreover, these companies in general don't encourage people to shift domains/verticals.

    3) Only enticement is onsite trips, good savings (in dollars)and a better lifestyle. There is not much of personal growth.

    4) Project management is also a big joke in IT - most of the PMs prepare data, fill up charts, some amount of people orientation is required, decision making is minimum - once again work involving minimum brain power.

    I personally feel that a human being spends the most productive time of his/her life in the workplace. So to get job satisfaction one should utilize his/her inherent skills and education. In India most of the engineers are working in unrelated fields predominantly IT.

    Since you have not mentioned your background I am assuming that you are an engineer. The options before you are quite limited as you have already spent 4 years working in IT.
    1) The most practical option is to go for MBA from a decent college.
    Herein you will get an opportunity to reassess yourself, develop new skills and the best part is you can go for a job in a different sector. When it comes to placement there will be two broad possibilities -a) in IT - as a Senior Business Analyst or Project Mgmt which means you will be back to where you are (of course at a higher salary) or b) Non-IT field -maybe FMCG, Banking. Be clear that your previous work experience may not count for much and might not be considered by your new employer.

    2)If you have other interests/hobbies/skills e.g. writing,etc. you can try for a career in those fields. It will be difficult to make your mark.

    As of now get rid of the past baggage, analyse your strengths and weaknesses and take a call.

    Please keep in mind that only you know yourself better than others.Be prepared to slog it out for the next 4-5 years.

    As far as I am concerned, I did my MBA from a good B-school, currently working in sales and marketing in a mid-sized organization at a very competitive salary. The amount of learning in the last 2 years have been huge and I am ready to take up bigger profiles anywhere. And yes I had to start from scratch post-MBA but I don't regret it as I have covered enough ground in the last 2years.

    So be optimistic, decide fast and take the plunge.

  6. I work in business development for a software products company. AK, you have a lot of good advice above. I want to add my 2 bits:
    The industry is in a slowdown, in fact part of the H1B market might die out completely. It is only natural for companies to call all hands on board, while steering these so called massive ships through troubled waters. You may not gain much in knowledge from your daily tasks, because a lot of these companies will not chart fresh territories for a while to come.
    Ask yourself early on: Do you love coding for the sake of coding? If yes, stick around. The industry will see a lot of focus on reusability, SOA applications,
    If not, what is your calling? Don't be boring and opt for the safe choice (an MBA?). Think out of the box, seize the right opportunity even on a salary cut. Be one of those who actually like what they do at work. All the best!

  7. A K,

    If you still love working in technology, go ahead, learn new things which have come up in last few years. You will find at least one area which is suitable for you. Polish your skills in that technology. There are companies in India which are looking for serious technology skills. Though, the number of such opportunities may be lower due to current economic situation. And when you find the right opportunity, don't look at it from the prism of compensation. Spending your day working what you like has its own perks.

    All the best!

  8. One area you can definitely look at is Software Product Management. You can move from a services oriented company to a product oriented company where you work to figure how to make the software products more relevant to markets etc. Your knowledge and IT skills will be used but in conjunction you can get an opportunity to do out of box thinking as well.

  9. I have done MBA from a well known institute in western India , and joined a consulting followed by product management role in the states ( this was back in the dot com boom days). I dont have a lot of complaints.

    If you do choose to go for an MBA, the only thing I ask is that do some research and know what you want from the MBA and what kind of role - finance, marketing, operations etc you would like irrespective of the dough you make. This will make your time there much more productive.

    I know of some people who went through the motions and ended up in a very similar position.

  10. Go for KPOs. They would surely satisfy your soul.

    If you are actually a thinker, KPO is a place where you thinking would be utilized.

    Specially Technology - Move to IPR. Patent Research.

    You would love the joy of working with latest inventions. Working with inventors and CTOs of the companies.

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  13. I want to understand what path we can take to revive our career, what options and stream exist which will probably suit us. Does it make sense to switch to other stream, I want to understand whether it will be worth doing and what risk exist if we opt for change in stream.-

    Quick question. Do you like creating software/writing programs? "Assuming" you got "good" work and decent money, would you like to stick to it?

    If the answer to above question(s) is No, my suggestion would be to move out of Software Industry and take a shot at something else that excites you more at this point. If you say "I don't know what excites me", don't worry, still move out, study if you can, and see where it goes. (This sounds very laid back but it ain't.)

    And if you answered yes to the question of whether you like creating software/writing programs, here is a quick and a naive breakdown of kinds of companies where software is developed/murdered. (Please note that when i say creating software, i am including the other important facets apart from programming itself like marketing/program management etc).

    1. True technology companies that build technical software products. e.g Google, Amazon etc

    2. Startups - Fast paced world where one might be donning multiple hats at the same time. 'Typically' work is good, and having that sharp focus helps.

    3. Software Enablers - (Sorry can't think of a better word this late at night) - Companies that develop software products to solve needs of other domains - Financial/Telecom etc. There is a good chance that after a while, things get pretty boring technically and it all becomes corporate drudgery.

    4. IT Services Companies - Will do any kind of software development work for money. Onsite visits, time on bench, and 7 day workweeks all co-exist here.

    In my opinion, Options #1 and #2 work the best "most" of the times for people who like creating software.

    Having said that a lot of people are also happy working for #3 and #4, as it provides them a rewarding and fulfilling career (by their own definition).

    How to move from #3 & #4 to the other two kind of companies (especially in India) is another story, and i don't want to write a comment longer than Rashmi's post itself. :-)

    Good luck with whatever you do, and just don't forget to enjoy your life, having good relationships, having a fun hobby if possible.

    p.s. Rashmi, Long time reader of your blog, probably commenting for the first time. And to mention the obvious you write very well. :-).

  14. I am also in the same boat with 3+ years of experience.
    I tried to get in to MBA and attended GMAT classes but discontinued becoz of the hot-issues we get everyday. But all that work is same as what we were doing from the past two years.

    Thisz really frustrating me and not leaving any bandwith to go to some class or read something to learn new things/technology.

    Please dont say that "you have to create time", its big joke in corporate industry as you will always be there in hot seat to address some serious issues which is a repeated work.

    This time I strictly decided to attend GMAT classes, but I am not sure when I will get an hot-issue to discontinue the classes :)

    Being optimistic, I would preer to go for MBA and get in to Non-IT field(bored with IT field that too with MNCs).

    I jst shared my experiece and thoughts.


  15. Walk the talk people!

    There are thousands of people in the same boat - and I'm betting things wont have changed much for them 4 years down the line.

    Just one question to you guys -

    Would you be willing to work 80 hours a week in a startup (no job security, no free cola, no gym discounts, yada yada) for 50-70% of what you are being paid now??

    Thank you, I rest my case.

    (Just in case you're crazy enough to have said 'Yes', let's get in touch..)

  16. Rashmi I wish that guy/gal who asked you "Whats wrong with being mediocre and happy" question is reading this post.This post answer one part of his/her question.

    I am in similar situation from quite a long time and I had a thought on many options already suggested by readers of this blog . And I am still a software engineer.

    The Delimma of SW engineer is weather he take a low on everything ( excitement, motivation, creativity,risk) but high on social quotient (respect + money + status + rewards + lifestyle) or should be take road less travelled.

    Nobody outside industry understand that SWITCH companies are sweatshops, serving bootom of the pyramid in software industry using most abundant & cheap resource available in india :underskilled unemployyed young graduates. I am not complaining. If there is some one to blamed its's our education system and ministry of HRD. Business is about making most of what you have.In a nation with 26 % population living BPL giving a decent standard of life to lakh of janata is commendable job by all measures.

    And I think nobody had any issue till last few years. So what chnaged in last few years?

    A lot. We had two technology boom and busts.Then reality boom.Stock market boom n bust. With indian economy clocking 7% from past many years we have seen rise of many other sectors.There is follow of money in market and standard of life in india has improved for many. We have witness rise of indina middle class.

    Whats this ushed for software engineer ? Decline in social qoutient. Earlier they had class of their own much higher in hierarchy. Now slowly but surely loosing that status. SW industry is maturing and with that benefits enjoyed by sw engineers.

    For me this deliemma is not just about quality of work (creativity, motivation, risk- reward equatio) but many other variable are involved.

    Talking about MBA and startups.I think both are faddish. I meet many MBAs haveing same issues as discussed by fallow SW engineer.

    Startups need different kind of people.And we know most of us do not have right startup DNA.Talent, risk appetite, belief in delayed gratification, I-do-not-give-a-damn-what-society think attitude and lot more.Have some tag iit/iim/isb) only make life little easier but will not gurrentee anything.

    So whats my suggestion?

    I am afraid to say I have none.Generic advice serve no purpose.Everybody want different thing from life.You have to decide what you want.Make sure you do not do not compare your inside with somebody's outside.


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