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Caste Structure in the Software Industry

There is a lot of similarity between the Caste structure in India and the software industry! Puzzled? Here’s how!

Level  (top to bottom) Caste

Software  world
1 Brahmin Delivery Head, Top Management
2 Kshatriya Project Manager
3 Vaishya Leads
4 Shudra Software engineers

1) Delivery Lead and Top Management  – The topmost layer in the IT industry!

The main responsibility of these guys is to keep the company profitable and to ensure that a very small percentage of those profits trickles down to the lower layers.

Every entity in the software world in due course of time, learns how to shift the blame on to someone else. This is what I call the ‘The Blame Game’. You may not be a master at chess, nor at carrom or cricket, you may be a moron and an amateur at tennis and soccer, but one game you can master in the software world is ‘The Blame Game’. The game is played with the top-down approach and the softies are at the receiving end. It is played in the following manner:

Whenever a project is not delivered on time, the client chides the Delivery Lead and the top management. The top guys then call for an urgent meeting with the Managers and the Delivery Lead(s). They then ask the Project Leads to investigate the cause of the delay. The Project Leads in turn, delegate the task to Team Leads and they in turn scream their lungs out at the softies and all hell breaks loose. The software engineers’ asses catch fire and they’re asked to look into the log files to root out the cause of the system’s failure or delay.

2) Project Manager

This level of workers was created by the management for the following purposes:

1) To absorb the shock (read angst) from employees at the three levels mentioned above.

2) To convey the bad news (read layoffs or salary cuts) from the management to the lower levels in the kindest way possible.

3) To be a scapegoat who supposedly enjoys giving bad increments to deserving employees.

Here are a few characteristics of any Project Manager:

a) He will come to your desk and ask for an update on your work just 2 minutes before you are about to catch your company bus to go home.

b) He will give you a 5-10% increment in your yearly appraisal and when you resign, he will be ready to give you an increment of 30%.

c) At the same yearly appraisal, he will point out all the small negative points in your performance, but on seeing your resignation letter, he will highlight every insignificant contribution of yours, even stuff like coming to office on time or filling timesheets punctually!

d) He is a person who hated Project Managers when he himself was a softie.

e) He can easily be called the Shakuni Mama of the software world because he knows how to play games with his subordinates!

f) He comes up with fake onsite opportunities when his subordinates threaten to resign and just at the time when the outgoing subordinate rejects a better offer for want of an onsite, he will inform, “Client closed that onsite opportunity. I can’t do anything now.”

3) Leads

This breed was appointed by project managers who were too lazy to take updates from 3-4 different team leads. Something like this would have happened: A very lethargic project manager must have gone up to the Delivery Lead and convinced him that his (Project Manager’s) efficiency would increase if there was a layer of workers between the team leads and himself. That is when the Delivery Lead would have appointed two Project Leads who would look after four Team Leads each, and report to the manager with all sheets updated right till the minute before the ‘Status Update’ meeting with the manager!

4) Software Engineers

People belonging to this stratum represent the majority of the people in the software world, with work experience ranging from 0-3 years. They will do any kind of work that is assigned to them, be it coding, testing, maintenance, production support, making PPTs for project managers, watering the plants at the swanky office entrance…

In their first year of employment, they don’t have a clue what are they doing and why they are doing whatever they are doing. In the second year, they get to know what they are doing, and in the third year they get to know why they are doing whatever they are doing. The day they understand THAT, they think: “My current salary is too less for my potential. I need to start searching for a new job.” Soon, they begin to brag about the the number of offers they have received. There are three ways in which softies (I am tired of typing ‘software engineers’ every now and then and henceforth I shall be using the word ‘softies’, instead! ) get a kick before joining a new job:

1) By collecting as many job offers as possible and then posting a status update on Facebook: Got 5 offers! m confused which one to join! Then people starting commenting “Wow…congo… lucky ass”, etc. The kick that one gets out of showing off the number of offers is just awesome! (I am yet to experience that, though!)

2) By rejecting an offer from an IT firm you had applied to as a fresher and had been rejected. There are many IT companies which set a threshold for admitting freshers. These criteria can range from ‘All semesters above 65%’ or ‘Only NIT or IIT’ to ‘Only B.E’! But when you become a software engineer with about 3 years work experience, these criteria do not matter and experience, accompanied with your interview becomes the deciding factor. That is when you get a chance to prove your worth, get an offer from the company, give a confirmation of your joining and ditch that company on its supposed joining date! I have done that and trust me, it feels really good to say, “They deserved it! They shooed me away when I needed a job and now I will ditch them when they need a resource like me!

3) By showing the middle finger (not literally) to the Project Manager: Now we all know that managers tend to underestimate the potential of softies. They feel that they’re worthless and should be made to slog like oxen. It is very common for managers to say during appraisals, “You don’t have the necessary skills or knowledge. You should have worked harder.” So, when a softie bags a few offers from good companies, it is time for him to show his manager the metaphorical middle finger and blame him in the exit interview!

So, in short, you start at the bottom of the pyramid and then graduate to become Leads and then proceed to become Project managers and many more years down the line you at the top management – listening to all the unsaid filth that you yourself said when you were a fresher!

The writer is the author of the books “LOSER (Life of a Software Engineer)” and “To B.E or Not to B.E”

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