Saturday, September 24, 2005

For the first couple of months after I joined my present company, I had plenty of free time on my hands. While the more senior people in the team spent day and night slogging it out to meet deadlines, I would calmly pick up my bag at 6:00 PM and head out of the office. The fact that I was considered a working professional by outsiders was enough. Actually working was out of the question.

My views on work changed slowly. I started to hear horror stories from the guys who I trained with, about crazy deadlines, fanatical project managers and permanently jumpy onsite coordinators. I on the other hand could only narrate with great enthusiasam the menu's of the various restaurants I had dined at with the team.

The people in my apartment complex began to look at me funny each time I entered the building by 6:30 PM. "But my brother comes back only at 1:00 in the morning!" the neighbour would exclaim. To them an IT professional was one who bathed, shaved and ate at the office, coming home occasionally to take a nap and then head back . I proved to be the complete antithesis of a pukka IT professional....and it puzzled my neighbours a great deal.

I began to feel vaguely guilty that I was getting home so soon. I felt like I was letting down the entire IT community. I began to look for ways and means to stay back at work but I wasnt given any tasks to complete. The project was at a very critical stage and they could'nt trust a fresher with bare minimum knowledge of java.

I longed to complain of heavy workloads, crazy working hours and managers who belonged to an asylum. I wanted to be part of that exclusive inner circle, to be part of the guys who'd been to hell and back several times during a project. I wanted to carry two cell phones. One for personal use and the other to get calls from the onsite coordinator at 3:00 in the morning.

My prayers were never answered. I had no work, I left by six and my manager was a really nice guy who kept organising team dinners.

As the days went by, I started getting small tasks to complete. Sometimes testing, sometimes ensuring that quality standards were followed and sometimes looking after bug tracking. Nothing spectacular, I was just doing the work the senior guys referred to avoid. I once stayed back till 10:00 PM to compile a list of bugs. I was gloriously happy that night. I felt like I truly belonged now. The next day I was back home at six.

Things changed when one of the guys who had to code a module left to replace the onsite chap. I was summoned and asked to do his work.

I was pretty pleased. I was going to sink my teeth into some real work now. I opened Websphere Application Developer and double clicked on a java file. It immediately leapt out of the screen and bit me.

I had never seen anything so fearsomely complex in my entire life. Monstorous chunks of code all calling each other and sometimes even calling themselves doing God knows what. A carnal orgy of Mainframe calls, JDBC, MQ Series, Java Beans, Enterprise Java Beans, DB2 and SQL Server hits.

I made about a hundred visits a day to my Team Leader's cubicle. I read the architecture document about a zillion times before the code made any sense to me.

I took slow hesitant steps. The server complained all the time. I encountered warning messages written by come deeply cynical programmer." If you see this more than once,things are BAD". " Hi Buddy! stored procedure failed!" " Hurrah! The value returned by the database is: NULL".

I put my heart and soul into developing that module.As the weeks passed, my code morphed from an innocent collection of hard coded data to a large and clumsy Frankenstein. I looked with awe and not without fear at what I had brought to life. It was large,it was fearsome and it bristled with mainframe calls, stored procedures and Java beans transferring information like no mans business. I began to lose track of what did what. At times I would stop coding and scroll up and down seeing neither end nor beginning.

I started to lose track of time. Time just flew. Before I knew it, I was sitting wearily in front of the monitor at 2 in the morning trying to get the damn thing to work. If I was'nt in the office, I worried over possible defects and bugs. I wrote code in my dreams. I had nightmares of defects being found during the production phase.

I didnt know what was happening at home. I just slept there for a few hours before coming back in the morning to see my inbox full of mails from the onsite chap. The office became my life.

I have finally made that transition from being a jobless professional to a stressed out coding freak who comes home at odd hours. My neighbours are not even awake to see me come home at 2 in the morning.I have plenty of things to complain about and share war stories with the guys I trained with.

I have begun to feel guilty if I'm home on the weekends. My concience is wracked with remorse if I leave the office before 11 PM. Sometimes when I'm home, I dont quite know what to do with myself.

My official life as a software engineer has finally begun.