The idea of writing this post struck me when me and my friend, Mahantesh were having a conversation after long 6 months, while he’s in India for few weeks.
Before I talk about what actually triggered the idea, let me tell you something new! I quit Ness after a long 5 years and 4 months of stay, in Feb. I joined FICO (formerly, Fair Isaac; it’s a new land!) last Feb. While I get an opportunity to work with many varied stakeholders like Scientists, Architect, Product Management, Peer Developers, PMO, Technical Publications and also get to work on a product that does comprehensive mining of insurance *historical* claims data, I can’t forget the experience at Ness that played an important part in getting me there. At Ness, I was lucky to be able to switch to teams where I could be offered a good work-life balance in the sense that I could pursue my Masters in Software Systems(MS) from BITS, Pilani during 2008 and 2010, at least for a couple of years compromising too little on opportunities for vertical and horizontal growth. MS was a very good learning experience for me and perhaps, the knowledge gained and the skills acquired helped me make it through good no of interview rounds with the best of the companies like Google, Amazon, Yahoo etc. I’ve made good friends with few people at Ness that I would like to keep in touch with, for lifetime! There’re highs and lows in that journey during which I was supervised by 3 different managers for 3 different products in CRM, Life Sciences and Digital Media Supply Chain Management domains.
Back to the talk. As Mahantesh and I continued our conversation, he said, “You had rejected 3 offers. Then, you got an offer from HCL for a Lead Role to work on UID project. You also mentioned that HCL would give an opportunity to lead a team of engineers that develop software potentially used by 1 billion customers, something consumed by the common man in India (ideally!). This is Desha Seve (serving the nation, in English). Why did you reject it…?.”
I replied, “(in Kannada) Modalu Matru Seve, Aamele Matru Bhoomi Seve, meaning First serve your Mother and then serve your Mother Land. Ideally, I wouldn’t compromise on either; I would not uphold one against the other, because both are superior to heaven (A Sanskrit shloka – “Janani Janma Bhoomischa Swargadapi Gariyasi…” uttered by Lord Rama in Ramayana, a Hindu Epic, means that). Unfortunately, I was not finding opportunity to serve both mother and motherland at the same time with a very high degree of satisfaction and sense of pride and achievement each day, every day. I don’t claim I’ve found that now. It’s too good to be true anywhere. Ultimately, it’s a balanced deal that matters. After a reasonably long passive job search, I settled for a job that currently offers acceptable levels of sense of pride and satisfaction. Additionally, to provide a very decent standard of living to my parents in the costliest Indian city, I need decent amount of money; Money can buy me a decent amount time for myself and family; I need decent comfort standards for living. Perhaps, this ‘decent’ can be subjective. What’s ‘decent’ to me, may be ‘indecent’ to someone else or maybe, ‘most decent’ to some other person. With due respect to HCL, for its contribution towards generation of jobs and Indian Economy, I rejected HCL Offer, too. What inspired me to reject the offer was based on the fact that I don’t exist without my mother. She exists and hence, I do. If she didn’t, I wouldn’t. This ‘I’ would not be the same ‘I’, if I were born to someone else, too. You can never repay a mother’s debt. He nodded in agreement. We both knew such is the plight of most young Indian professionals. You can never write an algorithm to justify this. There’re infinite conditions and infinite ways in which the logic is executed, to prove this.
Then, we got into little bit of Mythological references and spiritual aspects related to these discussions. I said, “In order to practise true Dharma, even if I lie and kill people, I’m not a liar and am not a criminal. If one practises true Dharma, it leads him/her to state of Self-Realization, the ultimate state of being, at some point in time in his life time. The definition of true Dharma is too hard to grasp by the common man. It literally is so complicated to comprehend when we’re in dilemma or when we need to take a decision under really intricate and complex situations. That’s why we’ve gurus, swamijis, Popes, Seers, Pontiffs, and Mullahs to propagate the knowledge and educate common men, the practice of true Dharma. I’m not an authority on the subject…” But, see Legend below for my attempt to interpret closer meaning of true Dharma.
He wanted us to dwell more on this with mythological references, related to another dilemma that many job seekers face in the recent times. He knew the rationale behind it, as everyone does. He asked, “Why you broke promise to HR or Recruiters in the first company that you had accepted offer from, and that you had told them you would definitely join them after 3 months?”
I replied, “Otherwise they wouldn’t offer me, in the first place. We tell recruiters or the HR that we’ll definitely join your organization after we’ve accepted their offer, to avoid all the unpleasant talk back and forth during notice period. They indulge in this kind of impractical talk, rather than just releasing the offer letter, which stands void, if candidate doesn’t join them. This is so true when the notice period is like 3 months or so. Very few employers would accept the candidate joining them after 3 months from the day the offer was made. The dynamic nature of the industry, the volatile nature of assignments in most private companies, the democratic nature of applying for a job (this is needed!), IT companies, in particular have attributed to such shift in mindset amongst job seekers and employers. As I retrieved the related info from ‘mythology’ part of my brain, it reminded me of a story in Mahabharata, a Hindu epic, where Lord Krishna would have promised that he would not lift any weapon during the famous Kurukshetra War between Kouravas and Pandavas. Actually, during the war, when Arjuna, the only capable Pandava, to compete and defeat Bheeshma and make enough wounds on his body with his arrows that the latter would not be able to lift weapons anymore (Bheeshma couldn’t be killed by anyone because he had the boon of “icchamarani“, someone who dies on his own accord – whenever he wants; none could kill him), becomes weak enough to not do so, Krishna breaks his promise, and readies himself to kill Bheeshma with his Sudarshana Chakra (exercises Veto power; Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu is the supreme Lord. He’s bigger than the biggest and smaller than the smallest). At this point in time, Arjuna realizes his true Dharma as a Kshatriya; realizes that Bheeshma is on the wrong side of true Dharma. He interrupts the Lord and pledges before Him that he’ll lift his weapons to fight against Bheeshma and that he would not become too weak to not perform his true Dharma ever again. “
I said, “With due respect to the Companies that follow true Dharma (invest in development of their human resource, follow professional standards in their Employment Practices etc), let me generalize this. Companies are like Bheeshma; I’m not trying to actually compare both of them. Many parallels can, however, be drawn. It’s an attempt to do so. Bheeshma knew that he was on the wrong side. He thought that because he’d got his bread from Kouravas, his only Dharma was to protect Kouravas. Bheeshma was only concerned with the protection of Kouravas, just because they give him his bread. Bheeshma forgot that if following true Dharma calls for being disloyal to someone, it’s fair enough to be disloyal. More often, Companies know that they’re not following professional standards, they’re not actually investing in development of their people; most of the times, they’re dancing to the tunes of investors, different stakeholders within their workforce. They can revoke offers made as per their whims and fancies, and they can fire employees whenever they wish citing reasons like restructuring or reorg even when they’re not doing badly. That’s nature of the job market. Sometimes, it’s genuine; some other times, it’s not. Company can exist as long it wishes to; even it can exist until it’s deregistered. Company dies only whenever they (shareholders) want. Why cry and stop applying for other company jobs? If I’m applying to another job, after I’ve accepted an offer from one company, then I’m basically seeking a better path of true Dharma; seeking a path that leads me to Self-Realization, my ultimate pursuit in life. If I don’t get a better offer, it means that somehow, I’m not yet qualified enough to take that route to Self-Realization. Or, I’m not lucky enough to get that offer. When you’re following true Dharma, you mayn’t be successful at each intermediate stage; you may undergo lot of hardships. In the end, you’ll emerge as the winner. In my case, I was strongly convinced about my true Dharma, before I broke my promise to the first offer I got. I’ve no regrets about the decision I had made then. “
To be continued….
True Dharma: Everyone is born with a certain nature. The individual’s personality is shaped by many external factors, apart from the value system that he inculcates and the traits he inherits from his family. Education, peer influences, social setup, environment have their own influences on his thinking and his actions. He can choose the path in life by virtue of his physical and mental attributes. This path can take many deviations in one’s journey as the individual’s goals, aspirations, motivations evolve over a period of time. True Dharma is taking deviations but being strongly convinced about those deviations, for the good of the things. The principles of Practice of True Dharma should override everything, every other principle on this earth. Being Loyal is acceptable, but not at the cost of true Dharma.
Iccha Marani: Iccha – Want, Marana – death; Marani – The one that dies