Luck and the Software Engineer

05Feb07

Disclaimer: Pointless rant follows…Inspired by a conversation with relatives who think I earn truck loads of money. 

The man who said “I’d rather be lucky than good” saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how a great part of life is dependent on luck. It’s scary to think so much is out of one’s control. There are moments in a tennis match when the ball hits the top of the net and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck it goes forward and you win. Or maybe it doesn’t and you lose.

                                                     -Match Point (2005)

For a long while, I believed that we were responsible for everything that happened to us. Good or Bad. I liked the the idea that we were in control. The concept of free will was so alluring simply because it asserted that we could do whatever we wanted to.

The last few months have turned all those ideas upside down. Everything is so random that no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, no matter how determined we are, the possibility of failure/loss can never be ruled out.  Luck plays a huge role, especially in the Software Industry as I’m sure many will agree. Luck. The devout refer to it as fate, purpose, destiny or providence but it’s difficult to see a divine hand behind everything that happens to a person.

The Indian Software Industry, if you’ve noticed is on a recruiting spree. Every other engineering graduate is being hired to add to the already humongous workforce. The Tier 1 companies alone have close to 4.5 lac employees. Now with such a workforce, I’ve wondered how they turn up huge profits.

That’s where wealth creation and cost cutting come into action. An employee working offshore is billed at say, 35$ an hour. Mind you, that’s the billing rate for an entry level professional. A 10 hour day would guarantee him/her 350$, roughly 15,400 INR! Amazingly that’s what he/she gets paid in a month. Implies the company makes a net profit of around 3,23,400 INR per employee!

Now, once somebody is employed, he/she after undergoing a sorry execuse for training has to ‘wait’ till a project specific to his/her ‘skillset’ arrives. I’ve seen friends lose their minds because of this ‘wait’. People with huge potential and intelligence are forced to while away time (sometimes up to 10 months) with no productive output whatsoever to speak of. Meanwhile, a few get randomly selected from a ‘talent pool’ (in some companies, this pool has over 4000 ‘human resources’!). This is where luck comes in to play. People are asked to learn and un-learn new technologies and are seldom/never given a chance to pursue their interests. Everybody finally ends up in a mad scramble to either get married OR go onsite. The entire process is absurd.

So why inspite of all this, does every other jackass in the country want to be part of the Software Engineer brigade? Is the pay that good? No. Is it the glamour? No. Is it the satisfaction? No.

Delusions, Mr. Anderson. Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existense that is without meaning or purpose!All of it as artificial as the Matr…nevermind.

Listening to I’m Only Happy When It Rains by Garbage

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13 Responses to “Luck and the Software Engineer”

  1. Its not the money. Its not the glamour. Its definitely not satisfaction. Then wat is it?

    Well it may be the fact tat its the most readily available job out there. Even when u join your college a foremost concern of yours is what the placement scene is like. Its mostly the IT companies that come and recruit.

    And when somebody offers you a job , u end up taking it.

    And ,since when did u start listening to garbage. u said u hated that band?

  2. My slight modifications! Id prefer if you call it the “divine bend”, coz it’s definitely not straight. =)!

    Secondly, it’s definitely not the money, unless you are employed in the Tier 1 companies [when it comes to pay and not merely human resources and net revenue]. It’s definitely not the glamour, although you must agree that glamour is something subjective. I know quite a few people who have DREAMT to be a software engineer. [Our own Rajiv being a perfect example]

    It’s definitely not the satisfaction: well then again it depends, coz there are micro regions of satisfaction in your career. Not in the big picture, but definitely in the small picture. A good work letter from your manager. Your product becoming a success in the market place. Etc…

    However, what I think that really makes the IT industry / software engineer position [entry level] more sought after than any other alternative is that the pay and the perks associated with the service companies and the software outsourcing companies, still beats the “equivalent” job profiles in the other industries. [I am not including the electronics industry]

    Compare it with one of _the_ most hi-profile jobs in this country – technically challenging and deeply satisfying in terms of bringing glory for your country – working for the Indian Space Research Organization – an amalgamation of a plethora of engineering streams [yes including the software industry] into building a single working product =)! It doesn’t pay JACK as compared to a private service company where all you do is be a white collared, formally dressed [optional of course] coolie! There’s hardly any innovation, rarely any motivation, and definitely lotta mutilation [to self respect]. Yet, I am sure people would love to kill for a software job as compared to working for ISRO.

    But, then again it’s a valid reason as well. Any mediocre person can write code [or at least seem to] and not be held accountable for what he/she does, as compared to being held responsible for why a 10,00,00,00,000.00 Rupee Government investment on a rocket failed to jettison the satellite!!

    So, well… let’s take the easier way out!

    And lastly, life is a lot easier with all the perks – good food in huge canteens [ok at least hygienic in my case :P], transportation [of course money is cut but comon it isn’t all that bad], excellent working environment [bad for ur health, but AC is comfy], free coffee, @ times – free booze, free dinners whenever the client comes, chocolates galore from incoming colleagues, yada yada yada, u cannot blame if some people _can_ dream of this!!

    Of course, you should also account that “the grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side”!! =)!

  3. Your are bang on target about everyone trying to pursue their interests- http://mypyp.wordpress.com/

  4. Ha! Wat a post! Been readin al dat stuf about free will and illusion again? Beautifully ritn… Hey, it’s only wth gr8 difficulty dat I’ve sumwat managd 2 get out of dose depressiv bouts… Aftr readin al dis, I’m sure dey r goin 2 start again! Jus kiddin! 🙂

  5. Once a great man (known as Bipin) said to a not-so-great man (known to some as GBCD),
    “When you are frustrated, it shows.”
    Same with you my son 🙂

    I also made a frustu entry today. You can read it on my tech blog .

  6. 6 Prashant

    >>So why inspite of all this, does every other jackass in the country want to be part of the Software Engineer brigade? >Is the pay that good? No.

  7. 7 Prashant

    **So why inspite of all this, does every other jackass in the country want to be part of the Software Engineer brigade? **
    I ask why not? Name one other sector where the recruitment numbers come close to at least 50% of what we are seeing in Software today.

    **Is the pay that good? No.**
    I would say most of the so called “chest beating” software engineers(including myself) should ask overselves
    – do we innovate – NO, we are given some specs and all we do is mechanical coding.
    – do we add value by creating new products or offer better solutions – NO
    most of us do not do any of the above. So just for a change why don’t we ask “Are we overpaid?”
    In short I believe the equation is…
    Cash-you-get-in-hand per bead of sweat(read it as effort) is highest in Software industry and probably that explains the mad rush.

  8. Woah! 😐

    @daedalus Homie, I agree and concur! 🙂 But then again…you do realise what I did right? 😉

    @Guru As always, I’m amazed at how articulate you are dude! 🙂 Rajiv dreamt of being a S/w Engg???

    I agree with you on micro satisfaction etc…and I do feel we are overpaid. See, a 3 year stint in the software industry will make one too expensive t manage which in turn WILL make the companies hire more freshers!

    As opposed to ISRO, WE have ZERO job security in the long run!

    @Indisch Depression again?? I’m going to kick your a…:-|

    @Bips I’m not frustrated dude…I rarely am! 🙂

    @ Prashant I totally agree on the fact that S/W coolies are overpaid and underworked. I’m sure millions would want to disagree but face the facts…as opposed to what our parents had to go through…we have it far easier!

  9. @ PS

    I think the answer lies in what are the options and what professional courses lead you to it. The two most booming sectors IMO are Retail and Software. While Software has been in existence for a while now, Retail is just coming into the mainstream fray. There are plenty of quality educational institutions where you can study computers, but when it comes to Retail or Mall Management the choices are very limited, if at all. I think the same goes for various professions. A while back, people were happy to graduate and apply for a government job through Bank exams or Railway exams where you typically don’t have to work and inflation doesn’t or career growth are alien concepts.

    The young workforce wants to climb up the career chain and want to see a growth in their earning potential. The monetary appreciation definitely grows over time in Software compared to other sectors. Thus, the primary reason would come down to, IMO the options available versus the opportunity that that choice will provide.

    Does it make sense?

  10. 10 Ravenent

    Dude, you’re the Prestidigitator, right? Just conjure up some (Annoyed Grunt) 🙂

    [Confused? You should be… After all, that’s another one of my obscure references…

    Do some work for once! Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%27oh%21#Episode_names for more…]

    Also, before you get into a suicidal (or homicidal?) mood after being pushed off the edge by your depressing work-life, listen to the following song and know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE (insert suitable creepy background alien music here):

    [audio src="http://www.lifeaftercoffee.com/wp-content/upload/my_cubicle.mp3" /]

    Lyrics here:

    http://www.lifeaftercoffee.com/2006/06/14/my-cubicle-song-lyrics/

    Enjoy!

    P.S. Now that Sanjay Dutt has been acquitted, can we all lobby for a “Bring-Your-Assault-Rifle-To-Work” Day please? Pretty please?

  11. 11 bugtracker

    My theory is, there are many who lack the courage, motivation, will or talent to peruse their dream( That is, if they have any ). The skilled ones who motivate themselves to do something different — compromise on their dream and eventually buckle to the sense of security which their peers enjoy and find themselves caught up in the bandwagon.

  12. It seems like the internet is where it’s at. I studied Computer Information and Film/Video at school, but I’m not too shabby with a keyboard when it comes to writing interesting stuff. Does anyone know of anyone (aside from Drudge and Arianna Huffington) who has been able to make a few bucks by blogging on a site from home?.

  13. Im curious about how much it costs to start websites such as Facebook or Twitter. I have been thinking about starting a website for a while now, but i feel as though the initial prices that website design firms give you are for a very low tech and sparsely populated website..


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