Monday, July 31, 2006

SE - Laborer Part I

Industrial Revolution changed the world in the 18th and 19th centuries. Even now, a country’s development is based primarily on the industrial development achieved in the country. India is no exception.

Still, many people who start their work on the blow of siren in the factory early in the morning, work in shifts and leave home to spend happy time with their families in the evenings.

The late 1990’s and the early years of this decade have seen a major IT revolution in India – a lot of software companies emerged as major sources of employment in the job market – with every youth trying to enter the IT field irrespective of the educational background – be it a mechanical engineer or an electrical engineer or a graduate in biology. The author is one of them, working as a software engineer in a famous IT services company for the last 2 years.

After 2 years of working as a robot with no scope for personal life, staying 100s of kilometer (or miles) away from the family, I thought to make a retrospective of myself and the kind of living I live. It has lead to a comparison between me, i.e., a software engineer who earns a hefty 5-digit salary per month and a labourer who earns barely 1.5K – 2K pm. The results are quite astonishing as well as depressing for me.

An ordinary factory laborer has fixed shifts. He works only 8 hours per day.
A software engineer has no fixed timings (even though they are, they cannot be followed practically).

The laborer can claim O.T.s (overtime allowance) for the time exceeding the 8 hours.
No such luck for an S.E. It’s quite natural to work late nights, 10-16 hours per day on a regular basis.

The laborer has ample set of fixed leaves per year.
An S.E. can boast an average of 10-15 leaves per year – But rarely a PL approves a leave (You know, project deadlines is the standard reason).

A laborer has an employee union which takes care of his/her needs in the organization – to protest against any policy which questions his/her rights.
SEs are not that united. They never unite and involve themselves in such things.

A laborer enjoys the life with very few tensions holding a carefree attitude – He spends the day earnings in food, movies and drinking.
An SE views a movie only if tickets are available online for the 2 or 3 multiplexes in the city – that too on a weekend. Rarely, gets a chance to view a movie on the weekdays. Eats whatever he/she gets or relies on sandwiches/puffs/burgers/soft drinks… He too spends bulk of his earnings on food, drinks and movies, but rarely enjoys them.

A laborer has only one tension – whether he’ll get work the next day.
An SE has a lot of tensions – indifferent attitudes of boss and teammates, cell phone, SMSs, credit card and mobile bills, taxes, reports, presentations, follow ups, blah blah – but none of them is really a tension.

Well, the comparison goes on, but my feeling and my experience as a software engineer says that an SE is same as a laborer – he’s a software laborer, majority of them, leading a life worse than that of a normal laborer – except that he works in A.C. and earns a five digit lump sum salary at the end of the month.

I’ll continue the analogy in my next blog.


  1. hi is up to the person to take the chance. most of the ppl choose IT inpite of knowing all these is the rat race that lead to this.. if one is not worried about rat race(competaion and promotion) the things could be much different..but seldom ppl will come out of this virtuous does we.. i have seen few girls mostly married and have kids they take it light and they work 8 to 5. their promotions are slow..PMs also ensure that they will get mostly this kind of work.. though the other ins the team might have to accept extra work...

  2. Hi JB
    I found the comparision one sided. You just mentioned the negative sideeffects of being an S.E. You haven't mentioned the positive ones(may be in Part II u will include them).
    You live a life which is far more luxurios than the labourers u talked about. By luxurious I don't mean a satisfactory one..mind you. :-)
    You can save your earnings for tomorrow, which will hardly be the case with labourers.
    And much more..I might write a blog of my own on that. :-))

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  4. Build adequate savings. When vexed, you can say good bye. But even this will be painful. I lost a million by kicking out my job. The thing is: we cannot save the cake, and eat it too.

    I saw some employees enjoying long hours. It is like enjoying rape, when it is inevitable and inviting the rapist: 'Come on! you rape me again!

    Some employees have a knack of avoiding work and yet get away unscathed. How, I cannot say, hence this is called knack. Develop it.

    Develop creative talents which provide at least some temporary relief from pain. Read what Krishna has preached!

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  8. Yes, I can't agree with you more. We're just sitting here and churning out whatever is asked of us. And there's no scope for thought that's out of the box, if you know what I mean. I think the situation for the SE in India is better when compared with what he experiences at the proverbial 'on-site'. Clients pay crap loads of money there for the SE, and expect the moon from him. I know of instances where in a well known credit card company in the US, the management openly propagates to its employees that they must not think twice before sucking the blood out of the vendor, and here it's not just the SE... a vendor is a vendor irrespective of the hierarchy within the vendor organization. To top it all off, the 90% of the work one gets to do there is even more mundane and tiring compared to what most of us do there. Here it's software labor. There, it's slave labor.

    Why is it that we continue to bow down to even the slightest whim and fancy of the Westerner? While I was working at a client location as a consultant in Bangalore - at one of the world's best investment banking corporations, it was unnerving and enraging to see their own Indian staff mete out differential treatment to their employees compared with the five star red carpet welcomes they gave to their western counterparts! Why? What does close to 60 years of independence mean to some of us? Why do some of us still have the same crappy slave mentality?! Wake up, you morons! There's absolutely no reason to suck up to these people. Thou art an Indian and there's nothing that's out of your reach today.

    To a large extent, I strongly believe that the misery most of us suffer, or claim to suffer is a result of this mentality - to bend as far back as possible for the westerner, so far back our backs almost break. This really needs to change. And not just in one organization, it needs to change across the board. It needs a pradigm shift in attitude.

    And thus I speak.