Friday, September 01, 2017

The Great Indian IT pros - and their cryptic code of connivance and convenience

Our faith in information technology is laced with fairy-tale beliefs. No one can dispute the internet’s democratizing power, nor the first-rate collaboration and co-creation of the open source movement, but the dark side of software development, factory of a different mould, can’t be overlooked either.

On the face of it, many Indian IT organizations, start-ups in particular, are flat organizations with radical morals but peep inside their code labs and you’ll find the same old hierarchies of power distances, ruthless ambition and narcissism at play, where a handful of smart and wily operators merrily rule over a veritable but vulnerable majority. Given this environment that thrives on orchestrated mediocrity, it doesn't take time for the best of tech wizards to become the worst of political lizards, way faster the the actual Time to Market of their deliberately elusive products and services sold in the name of 'lowest cost of ownership' whatever that means!

Many ‘genius’ founders are now keen only to trade their innovation, rather than nurture it, at the first given opportunity and a host of globe-trotting tech professionals are faking work, day in and day out, on their cell phones, tablets, excel sheets and word documents even as the bulk of the inarticulate programming tribe goes through the grind, inevitably falling prey to Machiavellian tactics and the bell curve nonsense at the workplace.

Who’s going to reduce the besmirching carbon footprints of the IT industry that pollute the social fabric in many ways – where hyped on-site-off-site-offshore models don’t necessarily mean better working conditions, where performance measurement is invariably unscientific, where egos run sky-high and tempers fly high, thanks to the variety and vanity of designations: the perfunctory coder is keen to call himself a developer, the developer genuinely believes he’s an architect and the architect is thoroughly convinced he’s God’s gift to mankind. Talking of the positively disruptive open source movement, it attracts as many opportunistic users with profit motives, thriving on an erroneous reading of the ‘free’ tag, (For many programmers, open source is hardly about selfless contributions committed to the larger cause of the faction but only a license to make a mess of development and leave the cleansing job for the community akin to a Swachh Bharat Abhiyan sans the photo op)

While a section of media is busy citing doomsday predictions by futurology experts, of mass-scale human elimination from the ongoing automation spree, we should in fact rejoice the new trend that would hopefully make Indian IT more agile and aware about the evolving paradigms of tomorrow. That more and more IT players are turning to automated intelligence to reinvent themselves is, beyond doubt, a great development.

The fast-changing scenario should help Indian software professionals move from being perfunctory coders to becoming prolific programmers. If that happens, the popular IT word ‘resources’ would be consciously used in the context of developers (and would not simply imply the human tag) and career planning would assume meaning and substance unlike the hackneyed and programmed voyages through the winding project-bench-project route interspersed with default onsite placements, partisan performance appraisals and the commotion of promotions that come bundled with the typical managerial power perks - authoritative abuse exercised through the impotent office of Words, Excels and Power Points.

The coming era of innovation-led growth demands ability and agility in the same breath and in equal measure. The re-skilling that Infosys has smartly managed to brand as a productized offering would need to happen on the job as well as in the mind. Learning to tame disruptive technologies with authority and responsibility alone will help our IT professionals avoid the otherwise looming disruption in their personal and professional lives.