The Fallacies of ‘The Good Life’

Posted on July 21, 2011 in Education

By Siddhartha Roy:

They say that IT holds tremendous potential. Skyrocketing salaries, abundant opportunities to fly abroad, higher stature and maybe even being the ‘preferred’ bridegroom with ample suitors. Yet something seems amiss. With thousands being recruited in herds and your Bachelors’ education deemed redundant and unnecessary for getting into a reputed firm, a new flux of teeming engineers seems to be directed towards the IT universe.

For starters, the services sector contributes about 57% of India’s GDP in revenues and IT is a huge chunk of that number. Undoubtedly, India — the world’s outsourcing backyard — is generating new jobs at a rapid pace and a large number of college campuses play host to IT firms and hence the alluring placement figures of 90% and above of every second engineering college.

Companies pick up hundreds, sometime thousands, from the same college and take them along on their “bandwagon”. Those who are not from Computers/IT no longer worry about landing a job. A few worried lot (parents) do exercise caution and advise their wards not to enter the IT territory as they feel that a non-IT background might prove to be a hindrance but such cases are fewer than perceived. And students are allured by the pay packages, the brand image, the big cities and the almost-foreign infrastructure.

As I sit here writing this, I know a lot of people are going to disagree with the point of view I am putting forward. And I appreciate that. Sure, every one of us likes watching reruns of ‘The Social Network’ or talking about the work life at Google. Or how IT is transforming rural governance and financial transactions. Or how the internet is the ultimate Oracle to all questions of humanity. At least, the working class. All this and not to mention the cutting age advances in technology, programming and Artificial Intelligence. Undoubtedly, our future rides on IT. No exceptions.

Except. Except maybe the lifestyle.

It’s not about R&D. Or building something new. It’s about what a significant part of the sector is working on in India. Providing/enhancing/sustaining software services where they stretch long hours. Often, humongous long hours! For years.

Fat pay cheques (sometimes). Flashy iPhones and laptops. And in three-four years, even getting one’s own four wheeler in addition to a stint in the US, UK or Australia. And moving up the ladder, maybe with or without an MS/MBA. Then a home. And then?

But that’s life flashing by. That is not every day. While Narayan Murthy advises people not to stay late in offices, how many adhere to it? Less than those who should. Because if your biological clock gets badly shaken, your health goes for a toss and even weekends seem drab and worth only completing your sleep, you’ve got to question if you are going right.

Don’t get me wrong. I strongly adhere to the fact that those in love with computers and technology should work hard at it and enjoy its fruits. But prioritizing is important. The work culture can be ruthless sometimes. I am not painting a sad picture because there are huge upsides too. Yet you’ve got to question how much of your time you are willing to put in. And at what cost?

Because in your quest for a life, you might be squandering it. Every day putting in 10-12 hours. Coming home exhausted both physically and mentally. I mean, Come on! Sure you might have got a pack of friends, as thick as thieves, at your workplace but coming home regularly when it is past dinner time is a sheer waste. Once in a while wouldn’t hurt but making it a routine is definitely a problem. And if the only hobbies you have are watching movies in the theatre or on your laptop and earphones ‘adorn’ your ears 24×7, you might have to question if you are living life in 1-D. Long commuting hours, strenuous work and little time for oneself, let alone family — make sure you are not one of them.

At the end of the day, it is a personal choice. For those wanting to be/already are computer professionals, growth prospects are huge. But if you want to live the life, make sure you choose how you live it – when to stay and when not to. As someone said, ‘When you are on your death bed, nobody would reminisce the codes he wrote or the presentations he made’.