Monday, January 07, 2019

Corporate Politricks - 8 (chapter 2)

(Use the navigation within this blog site to read earlier episodes)

A recap of the main characters who have appeared till this episode:
  • Vignesh (Vicky) - Team Lead. Hoping for promotion; competing with Karthick
  • Gokul - same team as Vignesh; designation: Senior Software Engineer
  • Merv - same team; hired by Karthick; Associate Software Engineer
  • Karthick (Sir Karthick) - Team Lead
  • Colonel - another Team Lead


Vignesh was disturbed from his work when Sir Karthick stood up and announced, “Guys, we have team meeting now.” When no one from their team spanning across six cubicles reacted, he shouted, “Let’s go to Orion.”
After a delay everyone trudged out; many unwillingly. Vignesh stared at Sir Karthick for a few seconds. He wondered how he stayed in such good shape even though he never did any exercise. He was fair, well built with broad shoulders and smart looking. He could have easily passed off as a model. And to add to it he was getting promoted as well. Everything was going his way. Vignesh consoled himself saying that it was just his bad luck that his boss favoured Karthick. There were numerous reasons that he could come up with. 

They both come from the same place. Karthick had more visibility in the last few months while I was preoccupied with my home construction. Karthick made use of every opportunity to make his presence felt at the top. Karthick was included in all the meetings with the client while I was always kept out of them. Even on questioning, I was told that I didn’t need to attend them since it was a waste of time. And even team meetings are now run by him.

Vignesh joined Merv and Gokul in the elevator.
“What’s in today’s meeting?” Merv asked Gokul when the doors closed.
Gokul raised his eyes upwards while his spectacles slid down his hawkish nose. He spoke in a whisper as if the elevator had ears, “The farewell of course.”
“That I know. I arranged for the cake. What else?”
“Client downsizing. A couple of retirements. And more restrictions for our restricted area!”
“More restrictions?”
“Yeah. Some security thing – they may have heard about other clients and decided to fortify our area.”
Vignesh was surprised since he hadn’t heard anything about the restrictions and he wondered how Gokul knew about the downsizing.
“And our Colonel is quitting because he is attending this meeting.”
“Because he’s attending?” Merv asked surprised.
“Yeah. He’s attending means he doesn’t care any damn as to what happens in this team. Did you hear anything?” Gokul asked Vignesh for confirmation.
That was completely out of the blue for Vignesh. He was out of touch with office rumours lately since he was busy reading about tiles, paints, lighting and discussing daily with the builder on customisations for the apartment he had bought. To add to the list was the depression over his ex-girlfriend. Whenever he felt that he was slipping into a depression he reminded himself of the man in the underpass enjoying his cup of tea.
He responded, “Nothing confirmed yet.”
One of his maxims in corporate politics was that the senior should never be taken by surprise on hearing information from juniors. But the rumour was worrying because if it were true then he was certain who was getting promoted.
Gokul asked, “You know what Orion is?”
“It’s a constellation,” Merv replied.
“Yeah, the Hunter constellation. The people quitting are the ones hunted.”
“Maybe the hunted are moving to greener grass.”
“The grass is always green on the other side. But the hunted will always be hunted no matter which grass they eat.”

            Gokul switched on the projector and the agenda appeared on the screen:
- Project installs & learnings
- Client updates
- Organisational updates
- Farewell

They began with project installs but there was nothing happening for the next two weeks.
Karthick announced, “One update in our team. Basically we will not be allowed to bring camera phones inside our restricted area.”
Immediately there was a lot of murmuring.
“In 2 weeks this will be implemented. Basically camera phones will have to be kept outside in a security locker. Like other clients area.”
There were a couple of basic phones available in the market without a camera; most people in other restricted areas used two phones for personal use.
The murmuring continued but Karthick just increased his voice, “Moving on… err… basically from the client side there are some changes.”
The murmuring stopped. For those who weren’t in touch with the rumours they wondered if there was some impact on their work. They had heard from friends that this was how a contract termination was also announced – start by saying there are changes, then talk about the client organisation and then slip in the bad news.
“Umm... Two people are retiring next month – one is a senior person. Basically they are expected to reshuffle the technology team. Considering the market situation there is a possibility of reduction in the US team size. We will have details in the next meeting. Basically it is an opportunity for us to increase team size... umm... Basically, the pipeline looks good for us.”
The team felt a little relieved. Vignesh knew that even during the recession, managers said the pipeline looked strong.
“Basically it is the culmination of the good work that you all have done. That’s why this opportunity has come our way.”

Why don’t we attribute it to being lucky? Our relative salaries are lower; so our billing rates are lower; and they are in a crunch to cut costs. It’s circumstance. How can we take credit for everything?

“Any questions?”
When no one replied, Sir Karthick continued, “Ok then. We will have the farewell.”
The farewell was that of the cadet, the one person whom the Colonel liked in the team and whom he had mentored. The team had to wait five minutes for their manager to appear. According to Vignesh’s theory of corporate politics, the more senior the person, the more accommodative others are when the person comes late. If someone junior came late, then they would be looked down at. If it was someone senior they would say ‘He is very busy.’

When their manager arrived he was lost in a different world. He had a 1-on-1 meeting with the Colonel before lunch and then two back to back meetings after lunch and they all drained him mentally – one was with his boss, the senior manager, and the next one was with the HR manager.

On seeing their manager, Merv started, “As you all know, today is the last day of someone special in our team. Everyone can share their thoughts and we’ll have the farewell speech after that.”
As expected, the Colonel was the first to speak, “I have enjoyed working with you. You were focussed on work. Your deliveries were perfect and you did exhaustive testing. Onsite also had confidence in you. I wish you the very best.”

The manager gazed at the Colonel and wondered if he had suddenly found peace. The Colonel was known to everyone as a disciplinarian who got worked up with the smallest mistakes; he was always full of complaints about everyone – associates coming late, associates wasting time chatting, associates spending too long in the cafeteria and how their team was facing the end of days. Today when he asked for a meeting, the manager wondered if he would complain about him – no one would dare complain about their boss directly but with the Colonel anything was possible. But instead of complaints, he calmly told that he was quitting.

“Thanks. And thanks for all your support and being my mentor,” junior replied to the compliments.
Once the starting trouble was taken care of, others shared their views. Merv said, “All of us will miss the technical tips he shared. We will miss the sort master.”
A lot of times during crisis situations, the tricks he did using the sort tool helped them fix issues quickly.

Sir Karthick said, “Adding to what others have said, actually I was very sad when he said he’s leaving. Having someone of his caliber is a great asset. Basically the client team is very happy with his work and they always liked him. I always liked having him because he would come with alternate ways to solve problems.”

Vignesh tried hard to control his sarcastic laughter; he still remembered a time when both of them had a heated argument over a problem. Junior was arguing that a simple sort was all that was required while Sir Karthick was saying that it could only be done by a change in the code. In the end junior quite literally pushed Sir Karthick and went ahead implementing his idea.
“When you have someone like that, you broaden your scope of thinking. Unfortunately due to personal reasons he has to move. All the best.”
“Thanks Karthick,” he acknowledged.

When the room fell silent, Merv looked in junior's direction and said, “Now it’s time for your farewell speech.”
He delivered a rehearsed speech. “MegaSoft has been a great learning experience for me. I was lucky to work with some great people and there are so many things I learnt. I’d like to thank everyone for their constant support.”

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Corporate Politricks - 7 (chapter 2)

Prior episode

A recap of the main characters who have appeared till this episode:
  • Vignesh (Vicky) - Team Lead. Hoping for promotion; competing with Karthick
  • Gokul - same team as Vignesh; Senior Software Engineer; married
  • Merv - same team; hired by Karthick; Associate Software Engineer
  • Karthick (Sir Karthick) - Team Lead
  • Colonel - another Team Lead

Chapter 2 - Another one departs


            Vignesh spent the night wondering what might have been the security breach. He reasoned that if Bob wanted him in the loop then it had to do with Lestitude’s customer data. Was the breach due to someone from Megasoft? If that were the case, Vignesh knew that things would go downhill for the company – even if one client were to raise a security concern, there would be a ripple effect across the firm.
Did Bob already know who caused the breach? 

The next morning Vignesh informed his manager he would be late to office since the meeting today would extend past midnight. But he knew he couldn’t sit idle at home till evening; ever since his ex-girlfriend got married he avoided being alone. After his roommate left for work, he headed to the Government school where a chess tournament was in progress.

With black’s first move itself he knew what the seventh grade player was trying to do. But the older opponent didn’t realise it. He played the wrong piece and on black’s next move, the game was over. The opponent was stunned when the kid excitedly announced, “Checkmate!” 
The older kid took a while to grapple with the defeat.
Vignesh commented, “That’s the shortest game you can play. It’s called Fool’s mate.”
“Sir, when did you come? It’s Tuesday. No office today?” the little kid asked with a wide smile.
“I bunked office to see you play.”
“Sir. Stop joking.”
“Just took a break. I’ve been working too much. Too much for the sake of others.”
“Fool’s mate is to fool the other person?” the boy asked while arranging the pieces on the board. His opponent surely didn’t like hearing the word fool.
“Yes, two-move checkmate.” Vignesh had played against the boy many times and had lost to him as well.
“How’s your girlfriend sir?”
“She’s doing good. But she’s not my girlfriend now.”
“Try again Sir. She will like you. Go to her house and ask again. Take a guitar and sing a song.”
“Na; she’s married.”
“She’s unlucky sir.”
Vignesh smiled; he still found it hard to console himself.

“Sir, is there someone to note the result?”
“Let me find someone.”

The most active person among the organisers was a middle-age lady with an id card around her neck that read ‘ATS’, directing a few people around. ATS was an IT service providing company similar to the company that Vignesh worked for. There was sweat all over her face but she was bustling with enthusiasm. In contrast to her, the school officials were happy chatting and sipping tea. Vignesh offered his help in the next round with recording of scores.

    At 1pm, after two rounds were completed, lunch was announced. Vegetarian and non vegetarian students were grouped separately; only 20% were vegetarian. The ATS lady stood on the small makeshift stage and announced, “Students please remain seated. We will serve food in your place. Don’t move around.”
The menu was simple: potato gravy, cauliflower fry, roti, chicken gravy, white rice, buttermilk and gulab jamoon. The trays with food were arranged on a table on one side of the hall. The school staff were piling bones of chicken on their plates as if they had never eaten chicken in their life. When Vignesh was about to pick a plate to eat, one boy called, “Anna, can you give me some chicken.”

Vignesh searched the tray but couldn't find any pieces in the gravy. The server said, “They’re getting another tray.” Vignesh was upset that the school staff were so busy eating that they didn’t care about the students. The ATS lady was visibly exhausted. She sat near the serving area with a little curd rice on her plate. She said, “You can eat something. We’ll manage till you finish.”
“It’s okay. No problem.”
Vignesh had an idea on seeing the students waiting for food. He took a plateful of cauliflower fries and went across tables asking if anyone wanted it. By the time he reached the last table it was empty. As soon as the caterer replenished the chicken curry, he picked the chicken pieces before the school staff could lay their hands on it. By the time he crossed the second table the plate was empty. The ATS lady took over from Vignesh after she finished eating. Vignesh was exhausted but satisfied. His lunch constituted of only gulab jamoons – his favourite sweet.

There were three more rounds before the closing ceremony. The ATS lady gave a short speech thanking all the volunteers and students. She added, “I would also like to thank Vignesh who wasn’t part of our volunteer group but still helped us.”
As she stepped off stage, she told Vignesh. “I know you didn’t have lunch but I hope you have a good dinner. I owe you a treat.”
Vignesh smiled.
“Which company do you work for?” she asked him.
“MegaSoft Solutions. Which technology are you in?”
“I’m a HR.”

His seventh grade friend finished third on the rankings. The boy was feeling the shape of each of the pieces and counting them before placing them back in his small backpack.
Vignesh waited in the bus stop with the kid. He was introduced to the boy and his school a couple of days after his proposal was rejected by the girl he madly loved. He used to visit the school on weekends and spend a couple of hours with the kids teaching or playing chess to divert his mind. He would start by reading something from their textbooks but invariably the kids would start talking about politics or technology. Seeing the kids being cheerful and cracking jokes made him happy on weekends. They helped him divert his mind from the rejection.

“Your bus is here. It came before mine.”
“Na Sir. You’re lying. You left your bus for me.”
Vignesh had a sheepish grin. “Go on.”
Before boarding the bus, the boy shouted, “Bye Sir. Come to school.” He used the aluminium stick in his right hand to locate the entrance to the bus. He didn’t need any help; he hardly needed a few seconds to hop into the bus unassisted.
The boy was completely blind.

While Vignesh was waiting for his bus, he noticed an elderly man near him reading the business section of the newspaper. Vignesh took a peek at the main articles – there was one about a European bank doing damage control after some of its customer information was posted online by a disgruntled employee who had recently quit. Vignesh pondered over the Lestitude situation – was it possible that the Colonel or his junior, the cadet, had done something? Both of them were openly in protest of everything that happened. And the Marshal did behave strangely during his notice period; the calmness in him was something Vignesh had never seen earlier. Was it possible?

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Corporate Politricks - 6 (chapter 1)

Prior episode

A recap of the main characters who have appeared till this episode:
  • Vignesh (Vicky) - Team Lead. Hoping for promotion; competing with Karthick
  • Bob - Vicky's client
  • Gokul - same team as Vignesh; Senior Software Engineer; married
  • Merv - same team; hired by Karthick; Associate Software Engineer
  • Karthick (Sir Karthick) - Team Lead

(THE PAST continued)

While Vignesh’s phone was ringing, Merv noticed the instant messenger blinking.
Andrew: Looks like it’s stuck in the database
Merv passed the information to Karthick.
Karthick: oh
Karthick was someone who could talk on any topic for hours but judging by his response Merv realised that even he didn’t have any suggestions.
Andrew: DBA says database is fine. Some problem with the code
Merv: Ok

With the DBA (database administrator) saying nothing was wrong, it meant they were on their own. While looking at dependencies on this job, Merv was shocked.
Merv: there’s an SLA of 11am
Karthick: oh

An SLA (Service Level Agreement) was a binding legal contract between Lestitude and their customers. An SLA miss can lead to monetary damages and even lawsuits. And if Lestitude missed an SLA because of MegaSoft, the consequences would be drastic. Merv went through everything once again in the hope that something would strike him; but nothing did. With no ideas popping and his head aching, he stepped out of the cubicle again. He wished Vignesh were around because he would definitely have ideas. After trying Vignesh’s phone one more time, he took another break. This time he picked an umbrella from the stack that was kept at the entrance to DC3 – every DC had an umbrella stand with MegaSoft umbrellas that people could use while they walked between DCs.

    On the 3rd floor of the food court was a dormitory with 20 beds and a few shower rooms as well. Merv swiped his ID card to obtain access to the dorm. The dim light from the passage that led to the shower rooms was sufficient to identify the occupied beds. Merv had never slept in the dormitory but he had used the shower a few times. The usage of the dorm had dropped drastically after there was a strict policy of governance on dorm usage – in case someone used it frequently, they and their boss were questioned.

Picking a towel from the neatly stacked lot, he stepped into a shower room. Merv always felt better after taking a shower when he had these headaches. He adjusted the shower for warm water. The orange box was still running in his mind and he wondered what could be wrong? 
The code had never changed, volume of input hadn’t increased, there were only four places in the code that the database was accessed and they were never modified in the last few months. 

As he enjoyed the shower, it suddenly struck him.

Vignesh taught me this. Why didn’t I think of it before?

He was careful not to run into the dorm for fear of waking the two employees who were sleeping peacefully. He swiped his card to exit the room and dashed down the stairs. Thankfully the rain had stopped. Merv didn’t ping anyone; he checked the code and the database to confirm his reasoning. In his excitement, he quickly modified the code and tested it. The problem didn't crop up in development with the faulty code because the database had a lot fewer records.
Merv: we should include the new column in the four queries
Karthick: oh
Merv: the database was changed to add this column but this code wasn’t changed
Karthick: ok

He called Karthick and explained the problem. Immediately Karthick began lecturing about databases. But Merv was so excited that he didn’t allow Karthick to talk for long. He told him about the modified code that he created before disconnecting the call. With the help of Andy he got the new program executed in production. The SLA deadline was two hours away. After 58 minutes the orange box turned green. Karthick pinged asking him to go home. The time on the computer read 20:40 and the mess where he ate dinner would close at 9pm.

The roads inside campus and outside were contrasting. There wasn’t any water logging in the pathways in office but the roads outside had ankle deep water even though the rain had stopped an hour ago. This was supposed to be the grand IT highway but though companies were mushrooming on the main road, interior development was very slow. The Andhra mess with an asbestos roof was halfway between office and his home. The mess was packed to capacity even in this rain except for one vacant seat in the centre table. On seeing Merv, the mother of the household put up a big smile. She always liked to see Merv because he was one of the few customers who talked to her. 
Another call to Vignesh yielded a different response – the mobile was not reachable. Merv wondered where he could have gone for so long without informing anyone.

Monday morning Vignesh tried to start his day with a happy face. He reminded himself of how lucky he was; he reminded himself of the poor man in the underpass. There were 40 unread mails in Vignesh’s mailbox and many of them had a similar subject line. The first one was from Merv who had solved an issue and fixed the code; he had kept Vignesh in the loop. The second one was a reply of thanks from Sir Karthick:
“Thanks Merv for researching the problem. I will talk to the client about this.”

The third one was a reply from their client. The client appreciated Karthick and added a note for Vignesh on the last project that was successfully validated a few days earlier. On reading the mail a second time he noticed that Merv was not mentioned; the original mail from Karthick didn’t include him either. The next mail was from their manager, sent today morning, appreciating Karthick and Vignesh and also had their SPM, the Senior Project Manager, in the loop. The final mail on this thread was from their SPM who replied immediately. He was known to stay connected via his Blackberry from early in the morning to late at night all through the week.

A few minutes later when Merv came to office, he excitedly updated Vignesh about his learnings on Saturday.
“Ya, I saw the mail. Karthick was in office?”
“No. He logged from home.”

Did Karthick intentionally not include Merv in his mail to the client?

Karthick soon walked in, shook Merv’s hand and announced, “Well done Merv. The clients were very happy with your work. You ensured there will be no future problem. Good job.”
Merv felt proud as his team mates turned around to look at what was happening.
“Well done. Keep it up,” Karthick repeated.

This is what they call on the spot appreciation! ‘Give credit to your team; put the spotlight on your team; appreciate them.’ What crap; hog the limelight yourself and extract maximum benefits from the situation. This was a coverup.

Vignesh’s mood turned from cheerful to angry; he was furious and as if on cue, someone started clapping and everyone followed suit.