Apr 30, 2011

Stuck in the box in chop shops

I had a good conversation with some foreign guys about technology, outsourcing etc. Interestingly they never had something great to talk about India. But, more interestingly, whatever they said did make sense. Mediocrity rocks everywhere. The delay in processing anything. To get anything done by officials, it's a tough job.

An American senator called Infosys chopshop. There must be something why he said like that. We must understand he is a senator and was talking to a crowd. He wanted more jobs in US and never want us to grab it. Whatever it is, he wouldn't say the same about IBM, which was a great engineering firm some years ago, now just consultants. Only money matters, everywhere.

What most of the the IT folks are doing here in India is some mediocre tasks. As long as vast numbers of mediocre companies hire mediocre engineers for mediocre jobs, everyone in the system is thrilled - from here. Engineering is the discipline, art and profession of acquiring and applying technical, scientific, and mathematical knowledge to design and implement materials, structures... - this is Wikipedia's definition of Engineering. If it doesn't involve R&D, its not progressive. Mediocrity start to rock in college where we are supposed to acquire skills. We call somebody's source code our project. Awesome!

Some years ago a report said 40% of the staffs of Infy and TCS are in testing. I  was forced to ask myself 'Is testing the most important phase of SDLC?' If you say this is assigning someone dedicatedly to work on some process for quality's sake, I disagree. Programmers can write and run tests, everyone in the team running everyone else's test cases synced by the central repository will make the app definitely production quality. This is true for most of the tasks we do. For some exceptionally challenging projects we can have a team for quality. But 40% is not acceptable.

The reason is, companies in India don't really care much about individual quality. But, rather hire more. 100s of people doing little tasks everyday (as that foreigner said). They are earning good in our terms (and cheap in theirs). There are many technology conferences in every IT cities across India. I have been there to some of them in my locality. I have never seen a single guy from the Indian giants like Infy or TCS delivering a speech on emerging technology, giving training or jump-start sessions on anything. All these things are done by some guys (or gnomes) belong to some not-so-popular firms or even start-ups! They don't care about the social IT status. May not be proud to say I work with a giant. They are not much into money making. But they do different things differently. They collaborate in projects that earns them nothing but does it for 'technological humanity'. They are gnomes for rest of the hours after office, than party animals.

Here is an example. Some years ago when I had no idea of mainframes, but always heard somebody talk about it as a bleeding edge technology. What exactly they meant is, this job can pay you more. One of my friends who was working with Infy told me the story. He was on mainframes. He runs lots of batch files to send emails to his client's clients during office hours with some kinda COBOL scripts. Later he resigned and joined another firm that I never heard of. He said Infy's contract with the client was for few more years and he will be doing the same thing for all those years. After many such years, once you stand up and take a look outside your cubicle, you'll come to know the world has gone far beyond the box you stuck in. But, still that job will pay you and you'll be able to say 'I am an engineer'.

Later, virtualization was the buzz. I'd say it's purely a business trick to impress the non-techie business folks by saying we use most modern techs, none really cares, and the buzz gets noisy along with time. That sucks. Among the top 10 hot certifications of 2010, as techrepublic found, about 4 of them were VMware's.

Then came the cloud. I can tell you many of the folks around me talking about cloud don't really know anything about it. The cloud has been there even before the term 'cloud computing'. We need some new terms to keep the business running by fooling the idiots by all the new words. Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison (awarded the CEO of the past decade) said "Cloud Computing is nothing but a computer attached to a network." He knows it under-the-hood, he wasn't as boastful as those guys are. I have seen my guys talking about cloud. Whenever I asked 'do you know what exactly you're talking about?' nobody has ever given me a satisfactory answer. My point is, we are not doing something great. If we think we are, its only because of the tech-illiterate people around us. And if we go on like this, the impact will be, we won't advance any further. So let's play it down.


GASP3R said...

pretty sound argument.. mediocrity sucks!!
the idea of engineering in the current scenario breaks me down!!
We do good number of application development too, right?
The most pathetic thing and interesting argument in the discussion is sixth paragraph about mainframes.. That attitude of payment as measure is condemnable.
Interesting read as your sketches.. :)

pMan said...

We do not have much application development in India, what we do is mostly IT consulting, except few products like Tally, Finacle.

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