Category Archives: Work

The client who doesnt know

Clients can be very intimidating at times. Being part of a startup sees me do a range of activities from Business Development to Project execution to Client servicing. While I am largely comfortable with the other aspects of my job, client servicing stands out as a thorn in my otherwise peaceful job.

The worst of the lot are, however, clients who dont even know their product very well but are out to market it. What is worse, however, is that their profile refuses them to even admit their ignorance. 

A recent episode saw us presenting a full fledged plan to the client, assuming she was well aware of the product. A series of emphatic yeses saw us implementing the plan as per the scope of work defined and agreed upon. The creatives were approved and the project ready to be rolled out. 

A final user acceptance testing assured us that we were on the right track. We were, however, sadly mistaken.

4 months into the project, the client’s seniors suddenly woke up one fine day and decided that the design, layout and the feel of the product was not upto the mark and wanted changes.The plans that we had shared initially seemed to make no sense to them and the client chipped in as well with her share of concerns over a product approved by her.

We soon relaized that neither did she have a sense of the product nor had she bothered to clear all grey areas with her seniors. This resulted in a product that was probably not what they wanted in the first place!!

All she seemed concerned about was a call that she had with her senior every tuesday, after which a string of panic calls would ensure that documents upon documents be sent with timelines, revised timelines and other details. Her limited knowledge of the e-mail service ensured that she just couldnt figure out where our mails disappeared resulting in us sending it all over again.

Thus started an entire cycle of redevelopment, taking up expensive time and resources and another round of client servicing which sometimes included a haughty exchange of words. Every call simply added more undue pressure and distaste. As such, over time I have only disgust for the client.

The project isnt over yet and so isnt the problem…Have a thought on how to handle such clients?…write in

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Striving to live the patient life

It’s been a month since I ever attempted to feed my blog. In a self imposed exile of sorts, I decided to do away with the privilege of being ‘always connected’ for a month. The experience has left me saner and in control of a habit that was threatening to drive my very being.

A host of factors contributed to me being off the net all this while. While office errands were chewing their way right into valuable personal time at home, my reliable Dell Inspiron was also slowly succumbing to the pressure of exploitation. It’s hard disk soon crashed, never to recover again. Currently, it lies by the side of the study table, usually in service as an arm rest.

My impatience, as the new Airtel 16 mbps ad suggests, was seeing me spend hours at home on the web, idly signing in and out of my mailbox, sifting through an umpteen social sites and mulling in deep thought as to why some clients behave the way they do.

And so with the hard disk crashing, the net connection was also done away with, leaving me at the mercy of books and family and friends to go out with. Not having a tv only accentuated the situation, giving me even more time.I started looking for chores to do around the house and soon felt some responsibilities sinking in.

A day for me has many more fuller elements to it now. It involves 8 hours of sleep, Fuller and healthier meals and a lot of time to read and explore

I now realize the wisdom of our elders in maintaining that balance. It is important : to live your life but not to abuse it.

Impatience is not my new life!!

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The Resignation Saga

Submitting a resignation is like giving the last exam of the boards. On the other side lies freedom and a few days of self declared ‘deserving’ break from the pain and trauma of the past few months. The road to freedom, however, is never easy and never straight and my case was no exception…

There were 3 of us from the same college who had been placed in Iniquus. Mohit, the 8.0 CGPA class, Saurabh, the 6.0 CGPA class and me, the 5.0 CGPA class. Saurabh and I had been best of friends since school and the trivial difference in our CGPAs ensured that we remained professional pals as well. With Mohit, however, the story was slightly different and he continued to surprise us, all through his stint at Iniquus. 

a) Initially Mohit had refused to work for anything under Rs. 12000/-. He finally settled for Rs. 8000/-

b) Mohit rarely fell ill in college. However, at Iniquus, he took a break for 15 days owing to a certain illness

c) Mohit was intelligent and logical and could grasp things quickly. at Iniquus, however, he managed to mess up an entire project he was working on and was forced to redo it again

The above few surprises resulted in complete disillusionment for Mohit. His only chance at salvaging some lost pride was to quit or so he thought. 

d)Mohit never took rash decisions. One day, however, through a mail to Sid, he announced his resignation and vanished.

The sequence of surprises were to have a strong bearing on my resignation as well. The immediate consequences of Mohit’s resignation however included

a) Sid calling us ‘You Chumps’ yet again

b) 3-4 sessions on why Mohit had made a foolish decision

c) Sid being angry and agitated on the rest of the staff

d) Us getting scared of Sid and trying to be invisible whenever he passed by

The stress of it all, which included me never being able to understand code, was slowly taking its toll. I could not picture myself building and testing websites for the rest of my life. The MBA bug had also bitten me and the prospect of a better job and a better life slowly extended its influence to the point that I finally took the decision : To Quit

I had meticulously planned the resignation episode. I was to approach Sid and tell him of my decision. He would probably shout at me for a while and then agree, after which I would be free. I had also booked a ticket to Kerala, along with my parents, to savour the well earned break.

Mohit’s terrible exit however played spoilsport and I, in my Sid-o-phobia was too scared to approach him.Sid always referred to Mohit’s resignation as a case to prove that the brightest always had high aspirations which kept them far above the ground while the dumbest ( read Saurabh and me) were grounded from the start anyway.

As the day for departure drew closer, the prospect of seeing and walking through green paddy fields and coconut trees gained precedence over going through the ‘trauma’.

I, however needed to inform Sid and for that, I needed to hatch a well thought of plan and the plan was this:

I was to draft a ‘resignation letter’ and save it in my inbox. I was to take a sick leave till the time I reached Kerala.On the day before I reached Kerala, Saurabh was to use my inbox to send the mail across to Sid. I was so mortally scared of Sid’s anger that I was willing to take no chances on the day I intended to leave for Kerala. 

Saurabh, the ever faithful friend did just that: Send the resignation mail out on a friday morning while I was lazing in the Ac 2 tier compartment of the Kerala Express.

The shock waves were intense and immediate. Sid deduced that I couldnt have sent the mail as the train takes 2.5 days to reach Kerala from Delhi, so it could only be a friend who could send the mail, which by obvious choice, was Saurabh.

The consequences of my resignation included:

a)  Saurabh being called “You Chump” yet again

b) Saurabh being interrogated for his role in the ‘crime’

c) Saurabh being sympathised with by our colleagues

d)My mail being circulated across the office ( which did win me a few accolades)

The story doesnt end here, however, and the sequence of events that followed still continues to amaze me and respect Sid a lot more…

Update: Saurabh my partner in crime has posted his take on the episode through a comment

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My First “Resignation” Letter

I was or maybe I still am a confused personality. One who constantly tries to figure out throughout life as to what is it that interests him. Its tough when you’re a jack of all trades because you can work in all domains but the nagging doubt lingers as to whether you’re meant to do it in the first place.

My first “resignation” letter, as I read it now, clearly displays my goals and motivations at that point in time. 5 years on, I know that the goals mentioned are no longer in priority, although I would love for them to be so.

Hi Sid

This letter will probably upset you but I feel that if
I don’t take this decision now, I will never be able
to do so.
Due to some urgent reasons I have to go to Kerala.It
is an unavoidable situation.
Meanwhile I have also given a serious thought to what
I want from life.Sid, in my class I was the first
person who decided to do an MBA and the only person
who wanted to do Rural Management. I feel Rural
Management is a field wherein you give more and take
less. For me the motive has never been money.
When I was in class 8 I had gone for a visit to an
orphanage with the rest of the class. It is probably
one of the most touching experiences in my life. I
still remember the faces of the children light up when
we interacted with them. What was more touching was
the fact that when asked who did they like the most,
most of them said the guy with the grey muffler (me).
From that day onwards I had it in the back of my mind
that I needed to do something for the not so fortunate
of the society.
In college, I thought of this way (coconut
cooperative) which would generate employment for many
and enable them to move further in life without having
to rely on someone. I have thought of some products
which have not been introduced in the market also
until now. I will share them with you once this
becomes a success story like Amul.
Sid, one of the things that struck me while talking to
you was when you asked us the question–What are you
doing at Iniquus if you want to do Rural Management?
I have thought over it seriously and have decided to
join an N.G.O.I will not be drawing any salary in this
job. I have already approached them and I will be
having a meeting in July.
Meanwhile I have also contacted Amul and asked them to
give me an opportunity to have a look at how it
functions. I hope to receive a reply from them soon.
What makes the trip to Kerala more worthwhile is the
fact that this is where I will be setting the base for
the co-operative.
Please do not misunderstand me. I do want to pursue my
dream and I’m glad that I joined Iniquus. At Iniquus
you made me understand that nothing is impossible.
Everything has a solution and you need to apply
yourselves fully. I may not have started applying
myself fully but I have definitely started thinking
and doing research. You have been a great boss to me
and I will always, throughout my life, cherish what
you have taught me. Believe me, am speaking from my
heart and I will always be proud to have been
associated with Team Iniquus.
I know you might not be as proud as I am.
I will not be sending a resignation letter as I would
always like to remain associated with Iniquus.Thank
you and thank you very much for your invaluable
guidance.
Yours faithfully
Robin Jacob Abraham

There is a story to how I “resigned” also…the next post probably

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Running the Marathon

“In the process of trial and error, Our failed attempts are meant to destroy arrogance and provoke humility.”

Everyone’s first job is a myth buster. The huge thought palaces of luxury, comfort, status and money come tumbling down within a month itself. After my engineering, I was placed with a web development company called Iniquus (greek for not equal) as a web developer.As expected,the daily downloads  on ASP.net, Jscript, Java and HTML and reprimands on not being able to meet deadlines only bogged me down and disillusionment started to sink in.. Late nights and early mornings were the only moments I spent at home. I spent many a weekend in office, struggling with miles and miles of code. In short it was a perfect job to get real.

The Boss,Siddharth Lalwani( Sid, as he liked to be called) however, is a man I continue to respect today..a man who was a perfectionist ,one whose experience of life saw frustration in the manner we worked and lived, and a man who knew how to teach.

One of such lessons happened on a Friday evening on the last day of the month. Every month end we had an office party, something all of us looked forward to after a really hectic month of learning and reproaches.

This particular day, as I was waiting for my colleague , Sid approached me and challenged me to a sprint. Now, sprinting runs in my veins and I was both amused and enthused by his challenge. Amused because I was confident of my athleticism and enthused because of the opportunity I got to show him that I was better at something.I immediately accepted the challenge.

The referee ( another colleague) blew the whistle and we were off. As expected, I was miles ahead of him, confident of an easy victory.As i was crossing him on my way back to the finish line, he challenged me to another round. Tired but self assured I said yes. In my arrogance however, I had failed to factor in how breathless I was. Soon my legs started cramping up and every movement only released more lactic acid causing pain and frustration.

I fell, feeling like Goliath, watching in frustration as the thin and frail frame of  Sid passed me, reached the finish line and came back running to me. I was badly bruised but my ego and my arrogance had been butchered. I tried to hide it in the pain of my wounds but it was unbearable.

Sid bent over and held out a helping hand. As I clutched his scraggy hands, his words were ” Anyone can run a race, run the marathon”.  

Running the marathon is what I am doing today. The race is far from over.

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Not another Office Friday

Fridays are usually distinguished by anticipation that lifts up spirits all around and smiles that otherwise bounce off our grumpy, tired faces. Work efficiency decreases to an all time low if postponement can work or it increases to an all time high in the hope of not letting go of the two days that we all slog for through the week.

Last Friday (the 21st) was no different except that our spirits were at an all time high (Monday was after all a holiday too) and postponement could be afforded. It all started during lunch when a foil ball, ketchup packets and a tiffin box (or bucket?) was improvised for a game of “Boxball”. This invention of ours has everything that a world sport ought to have…emotions, competitiveness, addiction, passion, skill, dexterity…its all in the game.

As evidence of our claim to the game, I am posting a video of the same

The day didnt end there though. Our inner competitive self had risen and  he wanted more. The chance finding of rubber band by one of my colleagues led to the idea of a war of paper bullets and the natural divide of the gender ensured that there was an equal distribution of human resources. And thus began the war, the culmination of man’s instinct to kill, to hurt, to destroy and to occupy. Our battles were simpler though and after 2 casualties ( one in the eye and one on the upper lip) we had had enough. The war footage is, however there for all to see

And thus ended another memorable Friday, one that is forever embedded on the net through text and video.
Our able videographer has her take on the entire affair which you can read here

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The Choices I made: Oracle

A good placement, not surprisingly though, is the primary driver for any MBA student. Getting a job of his choice or rather, getting a job of good social standing, is important to each and every student who walks through the gates of any b-school in this nation.

I was clearly a 5 point someone in college. My understanding of the post graduate course was limited to working for the placement committee, participating in inter collegiate quizzes and generally looking for an excuse to travel the world. For some reason, text books and formalized education were things that I abhorred and yet I felt that it was a drill that every Indian needed to go before entering the ‘corporate’ world’

Well, as a five point someone, a combination of my inability to rote learn and laziness, I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive of whether I would even be placed. This apprehension continued on till the first company came on campus.

Oracle: a coveted brand and one of the fortune 500 companies had agreed to come to campus and it wanted to come first. The profile was that of a Business Development Consultant and I believe the prospect of getting into the company itself shaded our ability to think straight. I was ecstatic, especially so since the company was from Bangalore, my region of operations (for the placecom).

In Delhi at that time, the pre placement talks and the interviews were to happen the next day. I booked an early morning flight to Nagpur and by mid afternoon was on campus.

That evening, the entire batch assembled together to hear the suave Oracle guys talk. The session lasted for an hour and the profile sounded like nothing but fun, fun and more fun. Yes, this was the profile I had dreamed of…to be able to lead a lazy life at the helm of affairs (atleast some ) and yet rake in lots of moolah…Only a few fortunate ones had ever managed this nirvana.

The session was followed by a round of telephonic interviews, which i cleared with flying colours (thanks to railfanning…it always works) and I was called to Mumbai for some further interviews.

A final batch of 15 out of around 60-70 applicants left for Mumbai a week later. We were the fortunate ones and here was a chance to be the first guys to be placed since since, well, last year.

Mumbai, the land of dreams, had always fascinated me. It’s beaches (or beach?), its people ,its autos and cabs and its trains have always been awe inspiring. My best friend also studied in this city and more than the interview itself, this was a chance to meet him and spend some ‘quality’ gossipping time.

It is this ulterior motive that kept me motivated through my entire stay. So much so, even a day before the interviews, I was sitting with my friend at Marine Drive, pondering on where our life would take us ( Nothing much has changed…we still do the same).

The d day had been scheduled at the Le Meridian, Andheri. I am not sure what made me more nervous?…was it the interview? or was it the prospect of displaying proper ettiquettes in a five star setting?Around 200 odd students had managed to make their way here from colleges in Mumbai and Pune.

After a rather sumptous breakfast, we were all ushered in for another lengthy brain washing session which involved fun videos, some games and lots of goodies. Soon after the session we were distributed across 3 interview rooms.

Well, my interviewer was a lady, dressed in Oracle colours, including the heels she wore. A seemingly tough lady, she seemed all geared up to swat the insignificant flies (us).

“Everything without God is nothing and nothing wih God is everything”, a chant that my mom taught me, was to me the last bastion of hope as I made my way into the room. The questioning started and I somehow wriggled my way through, gaining in confidence with each passing question. 20 minutes later, I was out of the room, all beaming:Indian Railways had done it yet again.

Another round of mind games and another wait for the first shortlist.”Robin Jacob Abraham”, my name was announced, a confirmation of my decent performance in the interview. Among my peers, only 5 of us had managed to make it to the next round

The next round was with the General Manager and it was entirely his call to select or unselect. The questions were simple and this time Robin Cook’s Invasion came to my rescue. I am somehow convinced that the wild swinging of my hands and a bit of  animated talk (reserved only for interviews) had managed to impress the interviewer.

After the interview, we were made to sit in the main conference room. The tension was palpable and the sweat seemed to be streaming across grim faces despite the air conditioning. A full hour and a half later, the Oracle managers walked in. They had finally come out with a final shortlist after much deliberations and discussions amongst themselves and with the hotel staff ( They had crossed their booked time schedule). I was ready to hear the best (I admit, I would have been shattered, if otherwise).The names soon started rolling out…blah blah…and blah blah… and blah blah…and last but not the least from ‘A’ group…Robin Jacob Abraham. Did I hear it correctly…yes I did…I am supposed to stand and I need to hear some loud claps…As i stood, I saw the entire IMT group ( or watever was left of it), cheering for me…I had been placed and to my peers, it was reassuring to know that if a five point someone could be placed so could they. As for me, I had managed to be the first guy to be placed in college which itself was a special feeling.I could almost see the Cadbury’s ad playing in my head…Pappu pass ho gaya!!…Robin place ho gaya!!…I was sure all my professors would exclaim, either in genuine relief or shock.

I was also fairly confident that my grades mattered no more and I could retire to more mundane activities in the confines of my room (read movies, cream rolls and sleeping). The next 60-90 days were spent exactly that way…

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Life as it chugs along

Its been a while since I’ve posted anything. The usual suspects: Time, work and lethargy but a sense of guilt kept telling me to feed my starved blog.

Its been more than 7 months now in the “city of dreams”: Mumbai. The city has been kind to me and I havent fallen ill or badly homesick in these months. Friends have remained faithful and work manageable.

7 months ago I came to Mumbai after having the worst imaginable exit from my past company in Delhi. I have a case filed against me under the “Negotiable Instruments Act” which alleges that I stopped payment on a cheque with dubious intentions and that I need to pay a specified amount.

The amount is trivial but I am fighting for a cause I believe in: that an employer cannot take his employees for granted, that he cannot flout all known laws and ethics of employee treatment. It could be a long battle but all I am hoping for is that I am able to stand steadfast in the midst of all this.The support of my parents,my sibling, relatives and friends has been a source of constant strength.

Work here in Mumbai has been good so far. There is much to be achieved and so little time. I am slowly learning all the aspects of an agency’s business. From operations to technology, from business development to client servicing, from proposing to implementation, it has been all round development. We have been growing steadily and it feels great to be part of the core team.

We do, however have our share of hiccups. There is a lot of streamlining to do in terms of work being done Interacting with your colleagues and other divisions and making them understand your point of view can be a real headache. In my observation, most people just do a ‘job’ and are unwilling to think beyond their ‘assumed realm’ of responsibilities. This can be a real headache as these people will try to ensure that nothing that you wish them to do falls in the purview of the “assumed realm” of responsibilities. Getting these people to work and coordinating with them ensures,quite a few times, that you prefer doing the work on your own.

I have also realized that it is man’s lack of focus that constantly drives him to achieve a focus. I still don’t know what I am cut out for but because I don’t know, it helps me try every domain to its fullest potential.As a result, I am always seeking to answer “what next?”. I hope this drive takes me along a fulfilling career road.

On the personal front, life has had its shares of ups and downs.I am now an engaged man and will be tying the knot a few months down the line. Its a different phase I am getting into but I am not intimidated as many assume me to be. Life has had its share of joys and sorrows before marriage and it will have its share of joys and sorrows after marriage. I have also found new friends and still finding more.Social interactions,the kind I like:playing outdoor/indoor games and going to worthwhile events, has also been on the rise.

Life has moved on and it has given me its share of experience and wisdom…it will continue to do so in the future.
This is a snapshot of my life: As it chugs along

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The “Photo Shoot”

Weird things happen when you go for a photo shoot with a battery less digicam, an N73, a designer who believes he has the potential to be an ace photographer and an enthusiastic team who just want to have some fun!!

We’re getting a website prepared for ourselves and required some ‘cool’ pictures of ourselves. So off we went to Versova Beach in the boiling heat of the day.

After an initial round of poses with a Sony Digicam, our eyes looked yonder towards Madh Island and felt it would be the ideal location for a photo shoot.

And so we crossed over to Madh island in a ferry streaming with people across a black mass of water which was supposedly a creek meeting the sea.

The Madh island Beach is quite clean and its hard to believe that it is part of Mumbai too!!

Anyway, the digicam had given up hope by this time and it was left to my N73 to do the honours. We managed to get some pics of ourselves but an N73 camera in amateur hands can have some comical results.

Here are some of the pics that help us pass some tiring/frustrating days

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Readying ourselves!!

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10…9…8…7..6…5…4…3…2…1…

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Up up and Away!!

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That was supposed to happen in mid air!!

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The team stands together…We managed to do that quite well much to the designer’s delight!!

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The Black Sea!!

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Last but not the least!! Our able designer…he refuses to reveal his identity though!!

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The Kawasaki Tweetup:what I liked and what I didnt

Well the mandate was from above and so it had to be done. Besides it was a chance to see the twitterati from Mumbai and a man who’s been associated with some truly amazing ideas.

The tweetup was at 7:00 and we left by 6:00…one auto and a superfast train later we were in the lobby of the Oberoi by 7:30. The meeting had been organized in the business center and apart from our team of 4 souls, there were 22 other individuals including Mr. Guy Kawasaki.

The discussion…well it seemed to take the usual track of geekiness which seems to get more than its due share in all conversations involving Social Media. The war seemed to be between the Mac lovers and the Vista lovers and it seemed to me,given Guy’s association with Apple,everyone just wanted to talk Apple..the macs were covered and so were the iphones. Twitter was bound to come up in the conversation and while we do have around 4,500 members(as opposed to the 2500 mentioned at the tweetup) on it, I kept wondering why is it only a Geek’s paradise in India.

I guess its the adoption of the medium which has been slow. Any web technology that comes out in the market is adopted first by the enthusiasts. I am a keen web enthusiast and so was one of the first to signup for Twitter. I found it to be an interesting tool to be in touch with people in my field,Social Media and primarily use it as a proffessional tool to understand and gauge the industry. However, in India, where primary adoption of Social media is by the teen and early twenties crowd, is there a valuable proposition that Twitter has to offer? I think not.

A large part of this population roams around with the likes of 1100 in nature, the web? well thats to be done from a computer? and staus messages? well doesnt Orkut and Facebook also allow you to do that apart from the hundreds of other features they offer?

I was disappointed with the way Orkut was brushed aside at the tweetup. Well, for one,it’s the most popular networking destination in India. As sophisticated or web savvy i may be, I daily check Orkut.It remains to be my primary communications tool.

Facebook..well I guess its the branding. Every Marketer claims that his/her target audience resides on Facebook? How do you know that? and on what basis do you say that yoour target audience doesnt reside on Orkut?

Most people, I have come across do have an account on both and use both with passion.
The twitterati is in no way a representation of the Social Media in India.It goes much beyond that. It covers forums like a Pagalguy or a Jatland or a tv Masti…it covers networking like an Ibibo,Orkut,Facebook or a Bigadda , it covers blogs and it also covers review sites where thousands of consumers express their opinions on products)brands and services.

I still havent got a chance to attend a discussion where Indian Social Media is talked about.Would love to attend one.

Well, the tweetup did manage to convince me to restore my Twitter account as well as take a look at alltop.com which seemed to be the buzz of the day.

This one’s specifically for my blog’s audience. Follow me on Twitter and do comment here on why or why not would you have an account

My Twitter id: http://twitter.com/robinjabraham

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