Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Corporate Musings: The Job Switch

                          Corporate Musings: The Job Switch

The Messiah was yet to call me. What started as a wish had turned to sheer desperation in the last couple of months. I knew to earn a call would require tremendous dedication. A call from the Messiah required a pot full of luck as well. I waited. And continued waiting.

The Preparation

I tailored my Resume with finesse. It contained everything - right from being the "bench leader" in Class 5, developing my capabilities to become a "class monitor" in Class 10 ( a demonstration of leadership qualities you see). I prepared lengthy justifications for why my scores fell by ten percent at each level of education.

Days were spent on SWOT analyses that I did and re-did. The tricky part was looking up phrases to fit the scenario. I just couldn't exclude "Ability to think on my feet" and "Not get bogged down by failure". The weaknesses were more interesting. I said "I've not honed my planning skills to the extent I'd like as I'm so good at thinking on my feet". I could remember one of my more experienced friends telling me "The interviewer must feel your weakness is a strength in disguise". (Whatever that meant!)Till then, I was happy stating "I'm a little lazy" and "I lack planning skills" in the face of the interviewer.

The biggest dilemma was whether to include an objective statement or not. Google had hordes which invariably started with "To be a part of an organization which provides me an opportunity to...." and later the statements lost me on management jargon. Given a chance I'd have stated "To quit my manager here and move to a different one...and over a period of time quit that guy as well" Somehow, it was always employee versus manager. May be my manager felt the same way too. I decided to discard the objective statement anyway. It would take a lot of explaining.

The Application was the first destination ofcourse. I entered  keywords even remotely connected with my
 aspirations and uploaded my Resume. And started hoping. I was under this presumption that the moment I upload my Resume, job offers would flood my inbox. It didn't happen that way. I started hitting the "Apply" button on every job that showed up. Initially it was excitement, later a habit and a month down the line, sheer desperation and frenzy.

I diversified my search. Appealed to the entire job portal community to get me a response.  A phone call. Then came the reference part. I texted long lost friends, who never figured in my day to day thoughts or communication. The recipient of the call generally recognized the purpose of my call within a minute. It took a lot of effort to show them I was genuinely concerned about what they were up to in life. (which was never my intention in the first place). As the search reached fever pitch, I wouldn't bother with the diplomacy. After a greeting, I'd jump straight to asking a reference...and the call would end in a minute. I lost my respect, but somewhere I was sure they'd remember the desperate job seeker even if there was a remote chance.

In the meanwhile, I started getting active on something called was not social networks anymore. I'd prefer the "professional network". I pinged a few faithful friends for a testimonial, made a list of skills I'd acquired (starting from Excel and Powerpoint) and updated my profile - a skill a day-so I'd trend all the time on my network. Then came the "Please review my profile" exercise. I'd like posts from HRs and say "Please review my profile" somehow hopeful the HR would notice my profile amongst a couple of thousand likes and comments. And then I'd follow CEOs and COOs to say "This trend you're talking about is a manifestation of the disruptive advances in the industry which preclude development in the long run but can lead to short term capital gain without impacting the market share and consumer preferences" Trust me, I was just there to attract the attention of those big guys.

I did receive a couple of calls. But the telephonic interviewer always would stump me. "Why do you want to leave the brand so soon?". And when faced with someone who actually asked the question, I was speechless. My heart would yell out the true reasons, which were entirely personal. Yet I would blabber some management crap, which never convinced me, let alone the interviewer. I'd sincerely go back home and refine the reasons. I'd convince myself that I wanted to move out for genuine professional reasons...and personal reasons were always secondary. Though I always knew the truth.

The Deliverance

Messiah finally called me. It was four months into the search and only I knew the rising anticipation in the morning and the sinking disappointment in the night.

The job opening had almost everything I was looking for. I noticed that a grade point lesser and I'd never have been considered. "Providence" I told myself. This was probably the most realistic chance in the 4 months. It was back to the drawing board. Back to the fine tuning key skills on the Resume and brushing up aptitude for an online test.

I cleared the test and waited for the dreaded telephonic interview. "So why do you want to leave the brand so soon?" And for once, I was honest...or nearly honest. At the end of five minutes, Messiah only said "We'll let you know".

The "We'll let you know" hung there a couple of days. It then was a week. Was he not the Messiah after all? I wondered many times. And then the mail arrived. Inviting me for a day long process at the company office. It triggered a new set of problems. Right from sneaking in that "sick leave" to attend the process to shelling out a bomb to book flight tickets at a short notice. "Is the offer worth the effort?" I asked myself. I'd have to compete with people I'd never beaten - from places whose names were intimidating on paper. And then the Messiah's voice echoed through the darkness "You have nothing to lose my Son". I made my decision.

The D-day dawned. There I was, in front of a mirror in the restroom of the company office. I had recently read about self talk and affirmations. "You can do it" I told that me in the mirror. "You have to" punching the air with my fist . I noticed an other candidate entering the restroom, smirking. He probably overheard me. The self talk ended there.

From then on, the day was a blur. There were times when I had to summon the last ounce of energy to make myself heard at the group discussion. I also had to be at my creative best to conjure up instances to demonstrate the behavioural traits I claimed I had. All this while continuously sizing up the fellow candidates who, I'm sure, had got this opportunity after their journey between anticipation and desperation.

It was nearly evening when the peon finally said "The Messiah will see you now". This was the moment I was waiting for. It meant I was at the final step after crossing all those obstacles, hopes and disappointments in the last few months. I had to just ensure that this was not an other case of so near yet so far.....

I entered his room and the Messiah asked me to sit. He glanced through my Resume for a formality and then  looked at me. Something said he was reading more from my eyes and face.
"So...tell me about yourself" he asked. I started off with the well rehearsed answer which I'd memorized months ago. But he was never bothered in rhetoric. He cut me three sentences into the answer.
From then on, the interview was in a different trajectory altogether.
He needled me personally, probed areas of my life which I never thought were topics of discussion in an interview. I was visibly agitated. "Why are you so flustered?" he asked, with a piercing look, clearly enjoying the stress he was building on me.
Was the Messiah supposed to be that inconsiderate? At this rate, I knew I was headed only one way-out of the door. And then came those bouncers "How can I be sure you'll stick to this company, you seem to have a tendency to switch?" "What are your weaknesses?" "What are you doing to overcome them?" No amount of preparation helps under those circumstances. My mind was like an open book to him. He deliberately put me under pressure to see how I react. And I was reacting terribly ofcourse. All my answers were top of mind - there was no thought behind those answers - and hence there were absolutely genuine. Towards the end, he merely said "You are too impulsive." My mind blanked out at the statement. It was a quality someone else had pointed out a couple of years earlier. I had lost something big at the time too.
The Epilogue....Or Prologue?

It turned out that the Messiah liked me. Somehow, my efforts had paid off. I didn't know what he liked. Was it my earnestness...or my forced integrity...or my impulsive answers that bordered on aggression? Or was it just his instinct that I might do well? (In which case I still have a long way to go) Or did I happen to be at the right place at the right time? I still keep pondering about all this, even as I receive calls from friends now who want to switch and ask me how to go about it. (Life comes a full circle see).

The honeymoon has now ended and I've discovered the organisation isn't perfect as well. I've kind of started to appreciate the beauty of imperfection. (In case the Messiah comes across this piece). And I always wonder where my next Messiah is going to come from!

                                                                                                    - 30th March 2016

A job switch is commonplace. Retold here with drama and creative liberty.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Corporate Musings: The Friday Syndrome

                  Corporate Musings: The Friday Syndrome

Whenever I find myself reflecting deeply on life or searching for that "bigger purpose" or my "true calling" or such jargon straight from a Paulo Coelho work, I discover inevitably it's Friday. Sometimes, the week has trundled along. Sometimes it has whizzed past. And there have been occasions where the week has remained stationary for several weeks. Yet when the week halts on a Friday, aspects of routine life which remain conveniently hidden (or blended) in the background, suddenly take foreground and force introspection.

It invariably starts with blaming the Bangalore traffic. I'm sure it has been the same on a Monday or a Wednesday. But somehow it draws special attention on a Friday. It is probably because it serves the first reminder of how mundane and monotonous yet hurried and complex our lives are. (read corporate lives).
Thoughts start intruding at the work desk too. Probably because Fridays are a lot more relaxed at work than the rest of the week. It usually starts with "Why do I have to do this?" and ends up at "Why am I doing this?" I look back at a fledgling career of two and a little years, as though I've spent two odd decades. And because I have the luxury to reminisce on a Friday, I look back at those unfulfilled little dreams: starting with a novel I have a vague outline about to a membership at the gym that has been lying idle for the last couple of weeks to an unplanned trip to the Himalayas that has been long due. Everything seems so possible if and only if I was not spending most of my life working and shaping a career.
The "Shaping a Career" takes a different connotation as well on Fridays. Having been forced to think along the lines of well set processes in an organization, I start to crave to do something creative(Forgetting that the most creative I've been in the recent times is writing crap about Puppets that talk all of a sudden) I want to solve a "Real World Problem." It sounds too cool. Thanks to the morning, Bangalore traffic takes first place again. Then I read a report on Modi and my mind drifts to agriculture. A farm hundred kilometres from Bangalore, a chance to be my own Boss and employ a few people. A serene life with green all around - what more could I ask for?
After meandering on the web for a while, the browser lands on the inevitable these days:"Start -Ups". Nah..not about starting a "Start-Up." There are people who can afford the risk. I suddenly want to be employed in a startup. I convince myself I want a more dynamic environment where I face "challenges" each day. (The last time I faced such a challenge, I had a verbal battle with my boss and quit the job a week later). I open LinkedIn and hit numerous likes. Also say "Please review my profile" to a stranger's post which already has two thousand seven hundred and thirty nine people doing the same. I lookup key people from a few organizations and endorse their posts - sometimes adding  a cryptic two lines that seem extremely knowledgeable yet completely unfathomable. The Friday drowsiness helps all this.
The week ends. Finally. After shutting down the laptop for the last time in the week, I trudge along the dusty roads - still engrossed in a weekly battle, trying to figure out where my life is headed. I pass by a few street-side vendors, with little kids who often smile and wave at me. That is when the "Friday Syndrome" hits its peak notes. My heart goes out to those kids. I want to quit my job, go to a remote village in some corner of India and start teaching. I would start teaching first, then gain the trust of the village and revolutionise the village. That village would be a model village for the entire country. Centuries later, it would still have my statue - with a laptop in one hand and a sapling in the other.
I get into the Metro, still thinking about in which region of India this village would be. Somewhere in the Himalayas would be my preference. I try to find out if I have enough savings to last me for a while - till I get to the village, start teaching and the village pays me. I make a decision to quit worldly life and pursue my goal of educating India. "Educating India" would be my TED Talk which millions of people would Google after a couple of decades. My mind starts painting a picture that convinces me this is the route to take. I plan to tell my parents tonight, convince them over the weekend and hand in my papers on Monday.
I play and replay the dialogues of that conversation, starting from "I hate corporate life" to  "I need to discover myself" to "I want people to remember me", as I sink my teeth to the delicious Golgappa on  MG Road. The Golgappa vendor's marketing plan that I started working on a couple of Fridays ago seems so mundane now. He asks me about ideas for improvement I had promised that Friday- after a bout of that week's Friday syndrome. I say "I'm working on something more important."
I climb onto my two wheeler and ride back home. All the way playing the conversation with my parents that would happen once I reach. I would want to travel second class to Delhi and then on top of trucks and buses. I remember Bollywood movies along the way.
While excited about finally pursuing my dream, I feel a little heavy about leaving home. It wouldn't be the same again. I press the doorbell and Mother opens it. Once I freshen up, I start checking my messages on the smartphone. One particular message catches the eye. "An amount of....has been part of reimbursement..." it goes on. A different part of my mind lights up now. And the conversation is eternally postponed.
For this is no ordinary Friday, it is Friday the 25th!
                                                                                    - 18th March, Friday
Disclaimer: The thoughts and ideas in this page.....are not just mine alone :P

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Talking Puppets: Part 4

                              The Talking Puppets :Part 4

"There would be three demands on our agenda:
  • Total discontinuation of the discarding ritual. Puppets won't be discarded anymore
  • The painting ritual to happen once in a year. And after painting, Puppets would be bathed in sunlight for a whole week before they are part of shows again
  • Puppet consciousness to be recognised and respected. Puppet opinions to be given fair consideration in storytelling "                                                                                                         
It was evident that The Rebel had given the entire Movement a fair deal of thought. The meaning and ramifications were still sinking in when the Aide's booming voice resonated in the background.
"To PuppetLand" he egged the gathering on. And further thoughts drowned in rousing cheers....

The Doctor was summoned for the first time. He had been a passive spectator in the Movement thus far. However, his services seemed critical now. The Philosopher was the first to notice that all of them had started becoming pale. The Rebel initially had brushed this aside. However, even he was forced to acknowledge the growing paleness, after his black attire reduced to almost pale grey overnight.
The Doctor sat down with the Rebel, Aide, Thinker, Philosopher and Historian.
"Could you confirm this paleness never occurred earlier?" The Rebel asked the Historian.
"Not in my memory or my records. And they go back quarter a century, when the Puppeteer first performed. I did not exist then. But I have talked to comrades who existed at the time." "Comrades" was a new word the Movement now used.
"There was one instance though, when the Puppeteer was unhappy with a Puppet called the Merchant. He was not able to use him well in any of the performances. So the Merchant turned pale. He got a couple of coats of paint. I still remember him wheezing for two weeks. And one day, he never returned to the bag. Infact, he was the only one who was never discarded, but just faded into oblivion." The Historian said.
A silence followed. "Could it be that, our paleness is linked to the Puppeteer's emotions. His feelings about us?" The Thinker thought aloud. "If I'm not wrong, it is you and the Aide who have lost most of your colour" He said, pointing to the Rebel. "The Magician doesn't look good either. However, in general, all of us are fine. We have all lost a little bit of color. I assume that's because he is apprehensive about what is going on  right now." 
"Yes...and I don't feel good at all." complained the Rebel.
"We are living on borrowed consciousness...Comrades". The Philosopher said. "Nothing belongs to us. I still feel we need to suspend this Movement, for our own good."
"There is no turning back now." Opposed the Rebel vehemently. "Not after we promised our comrades that we'll bring about a revolution."

The Rebel turned to the Doctor. "I heard you performed a curious procedure some years back, when the Puppeteer wasn't well?"The Doctor shuddered. He knew it was the Historian who must've told the Rebel about the procedure. It was not something he intended to do again - not after what had happened last time.

He remembered those days well. There were a few Puppets who claimed supremacy over the others, because they were the ones frequently chosen by the Puppeteer to lead his stories. The other Puppets were sidelined. It was the first time anybody had witnessed the negative emotions that ruled the human world threatening the Puppet world too. The Puppeteer had fallen ill suddenly. His physical strength and emotional stability were sapped. And as though responding to that, the Puppets started turning pale. The lead Puppets were the first ones to experience this, probably because the Puppeteer attached a lot of value to them. The others experienced paleness, but it was not strong enough to affect their consciousness and depress them.

It was then that the Doctor under supervision of the Wizard (An ancestor of the Magician, in Puppet History) devised a method that restored the health of the lead Puppets. It was a forty eight hour procedure in which the energy and the emotional strength from the healthier puppets was transferred to the lead puppets till the energies of both of them were in equilibrium. And the emotions had to be transferred through a pin sized tube that was connected between their bodies, near where the human heart is located. It was painful and laborious. Most of the puppets who transferred their energies remained depressed for more than a couple of months. It took the Puppeteer experiencing a lot of positive emotions for them to draw energy and nurse themselves back to health. Even the Historian had recorded that event as "The Great Depression" and had added a note that this procedure must never be invoked again, in the interest of the Puppet community.

"Didn't we decide that we were not going to invoke this procedure again?" the Doctor asked the Historian.
"I'm afraid the circumstances have changed, Doctor. We want to rewrite our History. I want to script it when I'm still a part of this Movement." There was a gleam of selfishness in his eyes.
"At any rate, we have volunteers this time round. Comrades who have decided to sacrifice their health for a few days to serve the cause of PuppetLand"
The Old Man and the Son stepped in front. The Philosopher, Thinker and Doctor stood there, aghast. They were sure that the two of them were carried away by the moment and the spotlight it was showering on them.

"But a small change this time. The energy transfer would happen till the donors have just enough energy to survive for a week. I'm sure the Movement would have succeeded by then" The Rebel said.

"That would mean almost killing them!" The Doctor exclaimed. "A minor fluctuation in the time period or the emotional intensity of the Puppeteer could kill them."
"Sacrifices are necessary. If my death can free PuppetLand from oppression, so be it!" said the Son with passion.
 "This is insane. Why don't you tell them that this is not right?" The Doctor shouted, looking at the Philosopher, Thinker duo.

"There are no right or wrong actions. There are only consequences. And those  consequences would already have been set in motion by destiny" The duo walked out of the gathering.


 The Rebel, Aide and Magician felt invigorated. They felt the forty eight hours of pain worth the energy and feeling of positivity now. The Old Man and the Son lay in a corner, almost unconscious. But they had served their purpose.

"We need to get the message across...strike fear in the Puppeteer's heart. Only then will he recognize our existence" The Rebel said, still looking at himself in amusement. The black of his attire had returned and he felt cheerfully angry....which was his natural state.


The Puppeteer's nights were getting increasingly uneasy. He could not forget that night when he saw or dreamed about those eyes without a face. And his own voice speaking to him saying he cannot discard Puppets anymore.

The discarding procedure of the Son was proving to be tough as well. He never remembered having spent so much energy on chiseling out the hand of a puppet, like he had to with the Son. And every now and then in the night, he could now hear squeaks from the Green bag. Once or twice, he opened the bag immediately after he heard the squeaks. But there seemed to be nothing in the bag apart from the Puppets. He noticed the Rebel was turning pale. He could still not fathom if it was a smile or frown on the Rebel's face originally. But the smile now put him off completely. He was not willing to accept that puppets could have a consciousness of their own. He would be the laughing stock if he even hinted this to people around him. He himself felt it was an impossible idea. But then, recent events made him question his own beliefs.

 It was a little past midnight when the he heard those war cries again. The Puppeteer broke into a sweat. He tried to get up from his bed and check the Green bag. But he discovered he couldn't. He couldn't move his arms or legs or get up from his bed. There was nothing binding him. Yet he could not. He then focused on the war cries and realization dawned.

 "Yes. The Cry of Immobility" The Magician drawled, as he walked on the Puppeteer's chest. The Puppeteer realized that it was his voice. Only it was the Magician who was speaking. The Cry of Immobility was a cry used by the Puppeteer as part of his narration. In his stories of war, the cry immobilized the opponent's army, giving the troops enough time to invade and destroy the enemy. Only a select few Puppets were capable of this Cry and the Magician was one of them.

 "The last time we spoke, you ignored our existence. Do you still have doubts?" The Magician asked, maliciously, his red eyes now not just menace, but pure evil. The Puppeteer was forced to accept and acknowledge Puppet consciousness now. For the first time, fear triumphed over his defiance and he was forced into submission. He wanted to get out of this episode. He wanted his movement back.

 "What is it that you want?" asked the Magician.

"That is more like it." The Magician said sarcastically, as he whipped a parchment out of thin air. The parchment already contained all the clauses the Rebel had laid out in the agenda.

 "Sign it. With your blood. We'll come back midnight tomorrow". In a single jump, the Magician disappeared into the depths of the Green bag.

                                                                                                   - 17th March 2016,
                                                                                             (To be continued)