by Arun Nathani on April 3, 2012
The Predicament of Choices
I intently watched the lean figure standing in front of me. I had known him for a long time now; this was his thinnest version. He had always been a self-assured good-looking chap from the day of his induction through his subsequent journey of evolvement into one of the finest professionals at Cybage. But not today. Today, he looked pale and fragile. Unless, of course, you peeped closer into his eyes… for they exhibited the same assertive illumination that I had gotten accustomed to over the years. I finally spoke, “So tell me, what is it gonna be…”
Mr. X was one of the first friends I made in my brief professional stint at Ruksun. I was his manager. Then, when Cybage started, X referred his younger brother Y to me for employment. Y was a fresh graduate from Pune Institute of Computer Technology, and clearly the brighter of the two siblings. A complete package deal—very quickly, he spread the tremors of his arrival to all@cybage! In those days, we used to measure technology professionals on six parameters (The basics have stayed the same )—Technical skills, IQ, Process, Sincerity, Communication and Attitude. Y exhibited equal radiance in all of the above. And since the company was small, his multi-traits didn’t go unnoticed and were leveraged to their full potential.
Y, the Engineer: Those were the nascent days of Java. The world was trying to figure out its choice between Microsoft, Java, and LAMP platforms (it still is)! Y had language agnostic talent, and thus became a defacto choice for all multi-technology-flavored projects that were abundantly making rounds in the offshore industry. Clearly, he was a first-rate technologist who exhibited the CTO traits for ‘Cybage of the future’.
Y, the Manager: As expected, for every project that Y would get assigned to as a Project Leader, the role of Project Manager would become a mere formality. You see, his crisp, clear communication and level-headed thought process, along with great interpersonal and process skills, did not leave too much scope for an official PM to provide any significant value-add. Little wonder then that the idea of grooming him towards delivery management roles started gathering momentum.
Y, the Salesman: In late 90’s, Cybage was not big enough to afford seasoned sales professionals. Yet, the organization was not that small either where it made sense for the CEO to make solo new prospect calls. So, this called for a “shared” senior resource to step into the business development role. Mr. Y fitted the bill perfectly, and started tagging along in my overseas business trips. Soon, his contribution became so invaluable that I started wondering whether his real calling was the Head of Business Development at Cybage.
The years flew by, and the 3-way bond between Y, Cybage, and me grew stronger. While I met him almost daily in Pune, the US trips presented great cementing opportunities. One of the early believers in Cybage, Y insisted that we should shy away from low-hanging fruits (small projects) and redirect our growth focus towards capturing larger, complex accounts. Around this time, we got our first major breakthrough appointment with a business group within Microsoft. But, unfortunately, after a series of presentations and lengthy due-diligence, Cybage returned empty-handed from the opportunity. I was naturally crestfallen. But it was Y who encouragingly reminded me, “Just give this a thought—the world’s largest software company found Cybage worthy enough to consider for partnership. Isn’t that by itself an incredible achievement?!!!”
Of course, it was not “all work, no play” times that we shared together. We had our moments of roaring laughter. Once even in the presence of a business prospect!! You see, in those shaping years, Cybage marketing presentations didn’t have much juice. So they needed to be spruced up with witty one-liners. One of my favorite ice-breakers was about the pre-inception days of Cybage: “I lived in Chicago for many years, and one day I decided that it was too cold for me and moved back to India.” The one-liner always managed to solicit a knowing smile from the prospect . Y, of course, had heard it a zillion times, and was more amused each passing time. And in one of those new prospect meetings, he couldn’t control himself anymore and just let go… he burst out laughing, and I joined him… and we both laughed until tears threatened to roll down… the prospect just stared at us perplexed!
No doubt, Mr. Y wore multiple hats at Cybage—from corporate strategist to granular level executor to a well-wisher and a personal friend! And as he started getting further closer, a worrying realization began to dawn on me. You see, his dependency on so many different roles had gotten so interwoven that he was slowly but surely drifting in the direction of “jack of all”! I understood that the time had come to give him clear career direction lest he ends up getting lost in the blur completely. But unfortunately, his intricate technology, management, and sales dependency made it almost impossible to weave him out of the web! Then it happened—a life defining moment in Y’s life that made the ‘weaving-out’ easier. You see, Y fell sick—terribly sick—and was forced to go on a sabbatical for three months. Cybage had no choice but to eliminate his dependencies in all realms of his contribution. And eventually when he returned from his illness, I had the golden opportunity to push him afresh in one of the three directions.
I finally spoke, “So tell me, what is it gonna be… which path do you want to pursue—management, technology, or sales?” No sooner had the words escaped my lips, I realized that this was an inconsequential exercise. I already knew his answer. So will you all shortly— his answer, his subsequent story, and of course his true identity—but after a short bloggercial break.
In the meantime, I am very curious to know which field would today’s mainstream professional choose if the professional shared Y’s talent and were to be placed in the same predicament. If you have it all, where is the future perceived brightest in the Indian IT service industry a) technical field; b) managerial field; or c) sales field?