I have received some queries from a reader about my experiences in the corporate world, particularly, with Infosys. I am sure this will be of particular interest to a lot of people looking to join the IT bandwagon, and to others in general. So here it is.
During my corporate life, I worked for 3 different companies and 4 different clients. Most of my time was spent in the Infosys campus in Bangalore and in the New York offices of Goldman Sachs.
My time at Infosys gave me an experience like never before. I had no idea what was it like to be in a job, what was the corporate world like, and how to get what you want in a such a world. I got a lot of answers in Infy. I had had an awe of the big MNCs earlier, came as I did from a remote, North Eastern Engineering college where we had never seen anything remotely like Infosys. I finally got to see one from the inside and it was a big shift for me personally.
A chronology of events
I cleared the Infosys entrance test on December 26, 2004. I remember the date because this was the day when Tsunami stuck India and a lot of other countries. The offer letter came within a few days. Although the offer letter mentioned that I would be asked to join within 3 months, I was finally asked to join 5 months later. I later came to know that some people even had to wait for 7-8 months before joining.
I also remember that we did not get to do the 1.5 month training in Mysore. I remember this because I went to Mysore with the single minded purpose of getting myself a girlfriend during the training period. Infosys training was famous for finding romantic interests, apart from the fact that people get to learn a lot. We were also told that Infosys was raising the salary for entry level employees and we would get more than was mentioned in our Offer letter. It was raised from Rs 14,000 to Rs 18,000. This cheered me up a bit!
The infrastructure in Mysore is beautiful and the best I have ever seen.
I was told that I was to report in Bangalore DC(Development Center). Couldn’t help feeling it was related to Washington DC in some way! I landed in Bangalore and joined the project I was assigned to.
I did not feel very good at my first project. I had to work long hours, sometimes even weekends. I did not like the manager there because, even though I specifically asked for coding and development work, I was made to do testing. He kept telling me that I will get to do coding but, for the greater part of a year, every other fresher in the project seemed to have gotten into development, except me. I did get some interesting work towards the end of the year. About this time, I was moved into another project. I liked the manager here, and the team too. I had lots of fun, although, I was still working long hours.
After about 2 and a half years of employment, I was moved to the US, into another project. The project was in a bad shape and I had to work insane hours! I was asked to work in something I had never worked with and it was all very urgent. It did not go very well with the manager there. I was asked to leave the project after only a month, which I didn’t feel so sad about. The bad part was, they did not have any other project for me. They kept me there for a month but did not find a project with the same client. They asked me to come back to India immediately. I asked them to get me any other project, with another client, even in another business unit. I was told there was nothing. This I didn’t believe. I was told my ticket had been booked. I left Infosys and joined another consultancy firm there.
This new firm was based out of Virginia. They got me my first client, a Belgian Bank by the name of KBC Bank. I worked with them for 4 months and then moved to a new client, Goldman Sachs(GS). With GS, I stayed for 2 and a half years until I left the IT industry and moved into my current activity, blogging on personal development.
What I feel about Infosys
The infrastructure and facilities are very good in Bangalore campus, just like Mysore. The place seemed very crowded, especially as they kept recruiting more and more people.
The work they have is mostly maintenance, testing and production support. Some people were OK with these things but some, including me, did not feel satisfied. We had this urge to code and create something on our own, rather than maintain and fix what someone else had already created. It depends on personal preferences. I suppose there is nothing good or bad in this one.
I felt there was little freedom at Infosys for a fresher. We were not offered a choice of which Business Unit we wanted to join or which type of work we preferred. The interview process does not address this. This is something the Management decides for you.
Management. I had a mixed experience with my managers. While managers in my second project were mostly very supportive, respectful and understanding, the ones in the other projects were not so. Management hierarchy, after having been through GS, looks a little aristocratic. It had, what Indians will call, a Desi touch to it. Although it is still far removed from the aristocratic setup in Indian Govt offices. There was less regard for personal time and work preferences. I understand that I had a limited experience in just one business unit and with 3 projects. Infosys is a big company with many Units and hundreds of projects. There are many sub cultures and sub-sub cultures there. What I say is what I, and most of my friends experienced. Some one else might have a totally different experience.
Opportunities to learn. There were opportunities to learn technical stuff, once I was in my second project. I added to my own value by taking up 2 Sun certifications. The company paid for those. There was also some client exposure.
Salaries. Compared to the rest of the market, the salaries they offer are on the lower end, both in India and abroad. They are still enough to maintain a decent life style. They somewhat compensate for it with better facilities at their campus. I, for one, would prefer a higher salary than a better campus.
The ‘Infosys is best’ idea. While managers never ceased to impress how good Infosys was, I found that most employees I knew were not very satisfied with their stay in the company. People felt they were paid low and were constantly looking for an opportunity to go onsite. If that didn’t seem possible, they would start thinking about leaving. Technical competency, as compared to what I saw in GS, was low. I still wonder how they showed up as the company with the ‘Highest Employee Satisfaction’ in a lot of magazines. Probably I never met the satisfied employees, or probably…
The ‘Client is God’ culture. There was a phrase that the managers used often, ‘Client is God’. We were asked to be very careful with the clients. I felt that there was a collective tendency to over appease the clients. This feeling was more pronounced, and, in a way, cultivated and encouraged among the junior employees. I did not realize this as much until I moved out and worked elsewhere.
One thing I particularly disliked was, our managers over stated our experience to the client. The client asked for people with 4-5 years of experience. They would put us up with 1-2 years experience, and say we had been working for 5 years. We were supposed to keep our stated age in mind for the rest of our tenure with that client. I have a feeling that the client probably knew all this, they knew that people with less experience were being used to do the job of senior people. They don’t do it themselves, as I saw in the US, but they let our managers do it, by feigning ignorance, probably because they were getting their work done for cheap. This did put a lot of pressure on the employees, who had to do the work of a much senior person. The clients were happy, managers was happy, the employees.. well, you know…
Client Exposure and Onsite opportunities. The client exposure, and the subsequent onsite tenure can be a good learning experience, provided you don’t stay chicken for ever, doing just what your manager asks. You have to make the effort to learn. They won’t ask you to learn more than what is required for the project. If you want to learn and grow further, you will have to make the effort, and create some space yourself. Onsite is where you make a lot more money and can lead a much better life style.
Don’t count on client exposure and onsite opportunities though. Some Business Units don’t have onsite opportunities at all. And, as I mentioned earlier, you don’t have a choice in selecting your Unit. So you may not get to go onsite at all. While some Business Units and clients had generally better gradations, a lot of the others had very strict and low gradations, which meant lower salary than those in other Units.
How was my experience with Goldman Sachs? How did it compare with the Infy experience? What do I make of all this experience now? What would I suggest to people who are looking to join the IT bandwagon? I will continue the discussion in the following posts.
To be continued…