Let me share two things that happened this week to me , the “Indian techie”.
1. Incident 1
Me , a Caucasian friend and another friend who is visiting from India were on the phone yesterday . Caucasian friend has a team that is mostly in India and the rest of his team in US also is majority Indian. He is a first time manager and wanted our advice on some team dynamics . So for some topic he asked “so is this an Indian culture thing?” . I said “no” and our other friend said “yes of course” at the same time !
Dead silence for a minute and then we burst out laughing 🙂
There were four major themes we discussed about that team and three of the four , my friend from India had a different version of what is Indian .
I left the call thinking I must be from Mars
2. Incident 2
I had some spare time (it’s the first week of new quarter and the only time when I get to do geeky things without worrying about deals and stuff ) and offered to help some younger colleagues with optimizing SQL performance . They sent me the code and I did not have an explain log to see what was causing the performance issue . The one thing I noticed was that there were some subqueries in the code that was on the same table as the original query . So I thought maybe I can rewrite it to a self join and get a tad more performance . Except – what should have taken 30 minutes for a regular developer took me a few hours to make it work . I was miserable – including some yelling , screaming and cursing .
Here comes the irony . The code did perform better and my buddies were thoroughly impressed that a suit could actually write production quality code . I on the other hand was in extreme depression that I no longer can even do mundane coding very well . That is a big problem since I think of myself as a developer first and foremost .
So what am I ? Or as I asked myself yesterday in technical terms – WTF am I ?
I think of myself as extremely Indian . I was born and raised in a a small South Indian town . I speak English with a thick Indian accent . I don’t think of English as my first language . I speak Malayalam at home, and can speak several other Indian languages . I cook and eat mostly Indian food . I hear mostly Indian music and I read three Indian news papers every day on my phone . The only sport I follow is cricket . Yet – I no longer seem to be able to relate completely to the folks who live in India .
I am an accidental transplant into the world of management and sales . My identity right from school days has been that of an engineer . I try hard to stay on top of technology all the time . Yet – from an “engineer who also sells and manages” I seem to have morphed into “just an executive who can do a bunch of different things”.
Don’t tell me that “change is inevitable” or “you have to embrace change” . I know it , just don’t tell me 🙂
10 thoughts on “What am I ? No, really ”
Ha, can totally relate to this. Just for fun, few years back I remember a caucasian partner at the consulting firm I worked and I would go about introducing ourselves as tech lead and partner respectively. Reaction from the audience was priceless!
You are another human being among 7 billion people in this world. It is very common to think that way, every one goes through this phase. Some early or some late in their life, it’s just matter of time.
As you are in sales and making deals, you have to adopt or believe in American culture at least from job prospective to make your deals successful. When your mind tuned to this on daily basis for years. When you talk to person living in India, you will see a conflict. As you didn’t mention the topic ..”So for some topic “ i can’t comment on that one.
Work ethics are different in India compared to US. Because things that drive indian work force are totally different, there it runs with fear and insecurities. Here it’s not totally different, but here you have some level of motivation and freedom to do whatever feels right to you, because you surrounded by more productive people. It’s impossible to change these kind of things over night. Ethics and values …It takes time. If you give freedom to indian team, Over night … there is high possibility that things gonna go wrong. So better use … When in Rome, do as the Romans do
It’s not just you, about 90% of indians in US read 3 indian news papers, cook indian food, talk in native language. It’s very common phycology, you do what your mind feels comfortable and easy. If you start eating salad everyday for a year, most likely after an year you don’t crave for indian food anymore. When you are here .. you read indian papers and in team lunches .. go with indian people to discuss .. How people and politics in India are and you keep suggesting the fixes and good solutions to those problems…..<>
Even though you are a core engineer by your heart … as it’s not part of your day to day life… it will take few hours to fix things….not minutes .. it’s still cool though ..after some time .. you are able to fix the problem ….
In response to incident 2-
I find it horrifying that there is typically such a disconnect between managment/sales and development. The fact that it may take you longer than others to write some code is fine, the good thing is that you understand what it is and does. Also that you do not think that it is some sort of magic written by a bunch of propellerheads.
If I was a manager or salesperson in a company that sold custom built closets, I would want to know everything that makes a closet great. I may not need to know how to build it myself, but I would like to know what is the process used to make it great and know how to distinguish between a good or bad one. I definitely would not want to just consider the process by which closets are made to be some for magic.
When it comes to programming you don’t need to be an adult (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/12-year-california-app-developer-wins-award/story?id=16230236) let alone have a degree in computer science (https://www.codecademy.com/). So in my opinion, there is no excuse. Sales/managers should at least learn the basics and have an interest in the technical background of the things they are selling/managing. I believe that would allow managers to give better feedback and sales people to lie/exaggerate less.
Hello Vijay , I was reading your blog when i was about to leave home from my work at sap labs montreal . I guess you are the Indian Martian 🙂
You are Vijay. You are a unique set of skills, experiences, and capabilities. If you look at the current generation and what they are fighting for, it is all about the accepting of poly-culture, poly-language, poly-gender, etc. I admit, I’m still struggling with gender and sex as continuum, but I acknowledge it is real even I don’t have a good way to express it in our language. On a personal level, I have Irish, German, Danish, Czech, Jew, and non-Jewish ancestry. I’ve done everything from gardening, to grease monkey, to vet tech, to pulling wire, to coding, to network design, to SAP, to DBA, to Unix Admin, to IT Architecture & Design, and these are just some of the jobs I’ve got paid for. Now throw in what my parents, my friends, my girl friends (probably the only reason I have any manners), my spouse, and my kids have taught me, and it becomes real multi-dimensional mess. Maybe we could use some graph theory here to map it.
You, and I’d argue most successful people, are no less complex in their make up. Enough complexity, experience, and the ability to make decisions and command authority, makes you an exec. While individuals with a singular focus excel wildly, it ignores the fact that only works 1 in billion or so. Being diverse in your being gives you so many more ways to succeed. So enjoy it. You are Vijay.
beautifully put Chuck !
Probably in the process of doing various things, we unlearn few things. Since I became a product owner in IBM, I’m deliberately trying to unlearn a developer perspective on every business requirement.
I have fought the good fight and lost….even when i make exec decisions, I do one view with a dev hat on 🙂
Vijay – it is such a coincidence. I had a recent “get-together” where I had this exact feeling to the last word. I keep having these moments every couple of months with someone from my past life visiting or I am talking to. This could have been a post I would have written myself 🙂
Guess all desis in our situation have to deal with identity crisis at some point 🙂