Wednesday, July 06, 2011

All work and word play makes Jack...

At my previous organization (which I shall call Tota Consulting Services, to avoid lawsuit) any talk about tasks, performance, targets, skills, improvement, career was all considered either heresy, sarcastic humor or burnout. With a library, TT tables, tennis courts and world class food court, gym and no download limits, they kept you engaged all day. Only on extremely rare occasions did you run into the boss. During the post-lunch snack or perhaps during a day-and-night tennis match. And even then, he'd feel apologetic asking you about the task progress. Downright embarrassed even. In fact, on the very first day at work, they introduce you to the bench and call it the talent pool. And that's when you know life is going to be good. Of all my happiest memories at TCS, the fondest are those of the talent pool in which I spent my first 2 weeks. It was pleasure blogging about those times and it still is.

In a similar spirit, I started this post by describing the many things that happen at my current workplace. Amusing things. Weird things. Unusually-seriously-taken trivial things. Naturally, I made some smart-Alec remarks about co-workers, bosses, CEOs and even some clever wordplay on the company vision, mission statements, inspirational HR slogans and the like. A tad sarcastic as usual, I guess, but that's just me being myself. After almost half the post was complete, I suddenly realized this was a permanent job. My permanent job. My bread and butter. And jam and ketchup. And toaster. And maybe even a microwave someday. On a professional level, shouldn't I play safe? Even the B-School lifeline had been used up. And on a more personal level, am I morally (cough) justified in wasting precious (cough) man-hours and brain-hours blogging?

I surely can't profess a scarcity of objets des curiosite here. Like that chirpy sparrow brained HR who knows everyone's birthday but whose birthday no one seems/wants to know. Or that dropped-as-a-child Deputy Manager scorned by the President 8 years ago, who'd rather get his 15th certification in the hope of a promotion than leave the company. Or that forever frowning VP with the Al Pacino voice replete with profound & profuse profanities who probably runs this entire company behind-the-scenes. But shouldn't I actually work for a change?

There I was. One week into the job and midway through a blog post. From across the desk, the words on the logo-embellished coffee mug stared at me accusingly. "Take initiative. Add value to your work."

So that was that. I quickly saved the draft and walked into the boss' chamber. "Good morning Sir." My boss reached into the abyss of his memory. 5 seconds passed. "Oh! Rahul right. Tum aa gaye! Surprised to see you boss. I thought you wouldn't join!?"

"No Sir. I am very much interested in this sector. Consequently I was hoping that if there are any short term tasks that could accelerate my learning curve and help me grow as a professional in the company, do let me know right away. In fact, I did my B.Tech.... (Ed's Note: Author indulged in some self-dabba which the reader shall not be subjected to).... and all this has equipped me with a rich experience. I am sure the work I do will reflect my capabilities and interests in a manner that allows me to perform to my full potential."

10 seconds passed. My boss slowly turned towards his laptop screen and made wiggly circles on the screen with the cursor. Turned back towards me and stared. 10 more seconds passed.

"Yes? Tumne kuch bola?"

"Sir, I want some challenging work to do."

"Accha.... Yaar, that reminds me. I urgently need the contact numbers for helicopter services in India. Fatafat jugaad kardo."

As the image of kids in woolen mufflers and Ma Vaishnodevi's icy peaks appeared in my mind, he added, "The thing is we're doing something never done before. Dig up some data and make a PPT on the methodology for mid-river construction with helicopter support. You'll present to the clients on Friday. Is that ok?"

The ex-IT employee (whose knowledge of helicopters and construction was limited to Discovery Channel Die Hard) gaped and absently nodded his head. The boss continued "At work, you should always feel free to take initiative. I want your learning curve to be vertical. Not flat, you know." And then a sardonic smile.

Of all the #*?$%#^$&^@# things!!!

Dear Reader, there is a moral to be learnt here. In your life, the overall scheme of things may not make sense. You may succeed at some things, fail at others for no apparent reason. But always remember: Never ever take career advice from coffee mugs. They're just to hold the damn coffee.