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27 April 2012

What could have been...

Last week I had been to a place called Cupertino (check out my blogpost about my impressions on Cupertino) near Sanfrancisco, California. My brother lives there.
My brother has been in US for more than 12 years. In the last twelve years, he has been thru multiple technology companies including and a technology startup. Currently he is setting up his own Startup and doing technology consulting on the side. 
We Indians are known for our preference for job security. From all that I knew, my bro was having a good position at Amazon. His resigning from Amazon to join a risky startup was counter-intuitive to an Indian psyche.
I asked him why he left Amazon for a startup.
"It was in the year 2007, I was sitting in a technology group meeting in Amazon. That was the time Youtube was starting up (can you imagine, it is 5 years and now we can't live without Youtube. How fast the things change?!!) and people were starting to use Youtube. It was the beginning of Enterprise 2.0, as it were." said my brother.
"In our technology meeting", (bro continued) "someone mentioned Youtube. To my surprise, one of the participants in the meeting asked "What is Youtube?". I was totally impacted by this question. E2.0, one of the major technology revolutions starting right under our noses, and here was a member of a high technology company, in Silicon Valley, saying that they did not know Youtube"
"This incident left a deep impression on me. I realized that sitting in the comfort of a day job, I was as likely as my team member, to let technology innovations pass me by while I stand as a bystander watching others stealing a march over me in the prime of my career. I was not about to let that happen. Almost immediately I quit my job at Amazon and joined a Technology Startup. And here I am" my brother completed with a dramatic pause.
I was impressed by what my bro told. Suddenly something stuck a chord. Similar incident had happened to me. Through the comments of one of my friends, I had seen what I would have been had I not changed my career path.
This was how it happened.
At the start of my career, I used to work in a Steel Plant, in town of Durgapur. in the eastern parts of India. I was working as a mechanical engineer. I had joined that company in 1987. When I joined there there was nothing called IT. Computers were not allowed in the offices at that time since the powerful labour unions branded them as 'Job Killers'.
I worked there for about 11 years, in Operations and Maintenance areas and was growing reasonably well . I had dirtied my hands tightening nuts and bolts, and had learned to use the welding machine and how to drive a Dumper. The job offered a well defined career path. I could retire as a 'Deputy General Manager' or a 'GM' one day.
Then in the year 1998, due to a combination of circumstances, I changed my job and joined a Business School as a Faculty at about one-sixth of the salary that I was getting in the Steel Plant. I was 35, and as per traditional wisdom, too old to learn anything new. I switched to an entirely new career at an age when others are settling down and start stagnating mentally. 
It was not easy. The future was uncertain, and I was filled with Self-doubts if my decision to leave the Steel Plant was the correct one. 
That was the time IT had started to boom in Bangalore. I picked up some IT Skills (I had none after 11 years of working in Steel Plant. Every time I logged in to the computer, I expected it to blast.. I was so scared to login to the computer.). I attended some training programs, mentioned in this post of mine.
The effort paid off in the year 2000, when I joined a Software company in Bangalore as an ERP Consultant. This meant that after two years in Academia, I had again switched industries and moved from Academia to Information Technology.
I did well in ERP (I found that implementing business solutions was my forte), and in the year 2004, I joined a company called TCS in Bangalore as an ERP Consultant. 
The ERP practice of TCS was based out of Kolkata, the capital of the Eastern Indian State of West Bengal (!), where, till about 10 years ago, I was working as a mechanical engineer in a Steel Plant. As a part of work, I travelled to Kolkota and from there I travelled to Durgapur where I spent 11 important years of my life.
I had many friends there and I stayed with a friend of mine named Kishore.
We spent a good one day, and the next day, as I was leaving, he wished that we will keep in touch.
Previous day Kishore had told me that his daughter had a hotmail address. 
"Give me your hotmail address", I told him.
"I don't know anything about this 'email-shemail'. I have no idea on how to get a hotmail address. Give me your mobile phone number or let us contact thru post." answered Kishore.
I was shocked that Kishore did not have any idea about hotmail (which had been available for more than 8 years, in terms of technology, it was antique) about something that I take for granted. 
Suddenly I realized as to what a good decision it was to have left Durgapur for a risky opportunity. If I had not taken that decision  at that time (there were a lot of people advising me against making that move), I would have been like Kishore, allowing the greatest changes of my generation to idly pass me by, while I sit in my small, comfy zone and decay.
An eye-opener, as good as any, it was.

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