Thursday, January 26, 2006

Shor off karo, please!!

A silent war is simmering beneath the surface in the IT world. You hear about it through whispers, grapevine and through canteen discussions. But it somehow doesn't make it to the list of open issues that plague the Indian software professional. I am talking about the Big Wide Onsite Offshore Divide.

Each party thinks of the other as the bona-fide enemy. It is not just that "This XYZ person is not doing the job well". Its that "Offshore is moron". It's "Onsite is lazy". Depending on which site of the ocean you are, you get clubbed (with a big one) and branded (the club has metal embossing) into a category.

Sometimes there are things that naturally come to each group, just coz of the location and the kind of work.

At offshore, you tend to come late ( around 10 am), stay late, gossip around a lot. At offshore, you are punctual, coz the firangs expect you to be there by 9 am. But then, you never stay beyond 6 pm. At offshore, you could never dream of scheduling a meeting at 9 am. Onsite, you are not expected to do coding, so sometimes, you have some really incompetent people sitting there and dictating terms about design and development to far more qualified people at offshore. With the time difference as well, offshore needs to sweating longer hours to support the nawabs in cooler climes.

Thus, requiring to pander to the w and f of onsite, especially when, the perks of staying onsite ( read salary in $ or £) are tremendous, offshore is very resentful of the onsite folks. Everyone wants to come onsite, capable or not. No coding to do, give orders to onsite, earn big mullah, put client interaction in bold on resume - the advantages are too many to resist.

But its not an easy thing to handle - being onsite. We, desis, are good at logic and all that, and that makes us good developers/coders. However, our education system is not geared for optimal social skills. English being our second language, talking in English to resolve an issue or conflict, or clarify a requirement is quite a daunting task for us. I constantly see people doing what they are not naturally capable of doing. Issues pile on, and wrong requirements and taken down. But these are soft problems - something that isn't obvious, through statistical analysis of project metric data. Though there are soft-skills courses for conversation skills, conflict resolution, negotiation skills etc, how does one bring out the importance of a skill learnt over a life-time and and only through cultural exposure, in a few hours of training. Just as a case in point, how many Indian managers you know use humour to diffuse a tense situation. Anda.

So, you might be a great techie, but that doesn't validate your claim to onsite. There are many incapable guys are onsite, but we don't need equally verbally-challenged people.

Meanwhile, guys at onsite, should understand, what their primary responsibility is. Learn to talk, handle and manage people well. Talk to client as if you are talking to a friend and not reading an essay. There are some totally insane guys here, who might as well have been ploughing fields with bullocks in UP.

Also, onsite should understand that coding is not something to run away from. Respect the developer for his skills and try to make things easier for him/her. Know your domain well. Get your hands dirty in development, or you will never be convincing enough, in front of the client or offshore team.

And for God's sake, both of you stop fighting. :-))
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