thewilltoholdon

As I breathe and think and dream


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Bench-Pressed!

I haven’t blogged in quite a while. There are reasons and excuses aplenty for that. However if we cut through all the fluff of ‘not having enough time’ and ‘baby kept me busy’, we will come to the core of one of my darkest secrets – that is, I used to blog primarily at work when I had nothing to do. Naughty girl, you say! But wait there is more. The majority of my blogging was done when I spent 4 months last year on the bench. Now how many of you do not know what I mean? I am guessing maybe 2% of you. All others know that the meaning of a bench is no longer restricted to “a piece of furniture, which typically offers seating for several people”. The most commonly accepted meaning of the word now refers to those people who have no billable work to do, especially in the world of IT and consulting.
The bench is a place where most people in the IT world find themselves at least once in their life. The IT consultancy companies hire people for working on different client projects – hwoever not all the people are tagged to a project all the time. There are ones who have just finished a project and are waiting for another one, there are ones who are waiting for budgets to be approved and work to commence on a delayed project, there are ones whose areas of expertise are no longer that much in demand and hence placing them in a project is a resource manager’s nightmare. I have been fortunate (or unfortunate – depending on how you are lookinhg at it) to have been on the bench just once in my decade long work career. I had just joined back at work after my six months of maternity leave and I found that the fount of work in my department had sort of dried up. There were few clients and while there was talk of many projects due to start soon-ish, nothing was actually happening. So on the bench I was placed.
The initial few days are fun. There is nothing much to do – no deadlines, no irate clients, not so severe Monday blues. However after the days become week, it starts to appear mind numbingly boring. If you are sitting amidst other people who are not on the bench and busy with work, you have to appear to be busy yourself. Chat sites and even some personal mail sites cannot be accessed from office. Accessing internet sites too is tricky and by that, I am not referring to the lurid contents of the world wide web. Have you tried checking rottentomatoes.com too many times in an open plan office? Awkward! So here was my strategy to survive – Read all those articles about tenchology improvements that I had been ignoring all this while (those look pretty official to the person casually looking over your shoulder!). Blog. Have extended lunches – and complete errands around town. Look for free trainings to attend (no management is going to approve of paid training for an employee on the bench!). Try and work from home when possible. Strive to avoid those managers who are looking for people who help finish their presentations for free. Hound the resource manager for news of upcoming opportunities. Scoot out of the door the minute the clock strikes 5pm.
That lasted for 4 months and after that I has placed at a client site. I was very happy to be back doing billable work as all the good things in a consultancy firm ( think bonus, promotion, pay hike) are linked to being billable. Also everyone knows that if one is on the bench for too long, then it starts to move towards ‘pink-slip’ o’clock rapidly. However I did miss being on the bench on some levels. My blogging and lunchtime personal chore runs took a big hit.
Now I have quit the world of consultancy and the term ‘being on the bench’ no longer holds as much meaning for me. Along with ‘sucking up to the partners’, ‘bullshitting the client’, ‘making high impact documents without any sense in them’ etc. Good riddance or what?


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Goodbye, Ambition! It Was Nice Knowing You

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I have been missing in action for a little while (but I swear I haven’t forgotten you!). It is just that I have been busy.  Verrry busy. Of course the lazy pace of work that I had been fortunate enough to experience for past couple of months was bound to change at some time. In our line of work it is practically unheard of not to feel the heat of deadlines, technical bugs, presentations and audits. Sooner or later (if not all the time!) one falls prey to these and other horrors – namely terrible managers who can never be pleased, snooty partners who think they can walk on water, miniscule or non existant hikes and bonuses,  clients who think they can be as irrational as they want just because they are paying an arm and a leg for our services (Ummm… well … maybe they have a point .. but hey, come on, people,  you should know better than to fall for the whole sales pitch that ‘We can build/mend/deliver anything and everything!’ )

There was a time when I used to love all this (barring the bad hikes of course!). Working against the clock , delivering a solution that, though it was not a answer to the world’s fuel crisis or a cure for cancer, still meant a lot to the client. Wracking my brains to come up with way around that irrtating software glitch.  Feeingl the heady rush of adrenaline after proving a point in intense caffeine fuelled meetings. Each morning I would match my pace to that of the others dressed in suits armed with lattes and iPads and get that heady feeling that ‘I too am doing something important in this place.’ And yes, I loved the feeling that I was coming up in the world just the way I had wanted to and dreamt of when I had been a nerdy teenager swotting for exams that would get me into the college of my choice and then later ambtiously applying for jobs, not only hoping that the prospective employers valued enthusiasm more than experience, but also somehow they chose me out of the hundreds of similar applicants.

However lately the amount of joy that I have been deriving from work has diminished. Actually that statement is not strictly true. Payday still feels wonderful and there is nothing to complain about in my professional life, It is just that the overall joy I derive from work has been eclipsed by the greater joys of family. Perhaps I am getting mellow in my old age but really the feeling of family is the best. Family life is messy, noisy, warm, chaotic and cosy. I cannot help but compare my life as it is now to the one I had just a couple of years back in London. I had a good job there but no family (at least none nearby).  I had lots of good friends and my after work hours would be spent in fun activities. Yet I would look at the couples walking hand-in-hand at a tube stations wistfully. Festive seasons would feel awful and no amount of retail therapy would help. 

Now a little more than eighteen months later, I have a husband and a daughter and I have moved halfway across the world to settle in sunny Australia. My life has changed so much that at times I feel like pinching myself for reassurance that this is indeed real. At the risk of sounding terribly mushy, being married to the one you love is incredible. I still feel the thrill at the end of each day when I am heading back home that K is waiting for me at the end of the commute. Well, of course we fight. However we agree much more than we disagree. Text each other “I love you’s” many more times than we end up not talking to each other. And we have the greatest fun together even while doing mundane things like cooking and grocery shopping.

Maybe because of my career focus in my twenties, I neevr felt that I was never a particularly maternal female. Research says that 70% of women feel an outpouring of love for their babies as soon they are born (there are  a lot of supporting medical facts about hormones that back that theory). Well I belong to the other 30% of the population who are confounded and not just a little scared of the tiny screaming creature who suddenly comes into their life.  It took me a while to come to grips with motherhood. My goal oriented mindset where doing X guaranteed a result Y did not know what to do with a baby who was irrational and unpredictable. But somehow the magic still happened and love bloomed. Soon coaxing a giggle from the little one became the most important task on the ‘To Do’ list.

I had written in an earlier blog that my friends love posting pithy sayings on Facebook. Recently one that caught my eye was “No one remembers their job designation on their dying day”. That sounds a little bleak but it’s true, I am sure. I can definitely vouch for the fact that the all-important deadline loses its relevance within days if not hours of it being met. This year’s performance rating becomes stale within a few weeks into the new financial year.

So with that thought in mind, I have decided so give Careergirl a little bit of a rest. Well, she isn’t really riding off into the sunset but the work suits and power pearls will be out only a few days in the week. I have decided to cut back on my working hours. I am going on a long six week sabbatical in a couple of weeks’ time and after that I will be deadline chasing for only 3 days a week. On the remaining four days you will find me strolling in the park, dealing with messy spills, trying to cook up a storm, reading out stories of fairies who live in the garden, doing some yoga, watching the tv (might be the cartoon channel but still…). I am so looking forward to all that. Well, I am not naïve and I know it will be a lot of hard work. But then who’s scared of hard work? Certainly not me!  If you do not believe me, just check my utilization stats at work for the past few years.

 


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In The Land Of Corporate Free-ze

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Who does not like free stuff? Almost everyone on this planet is a sucker for free offers and that is why all those irritating ads abounding on the internet announce ‘You are the 100000th visitor to this site. You have won a free iPad. Click here!’ There are a large number of websites who are devoted to helping people locate ongoing free offers. There is even something known as ‘freebie marketing’. People love their free samples, free ecards, free quotes, free  trial versions and they also love their tax free and gluten free. I am no different from the general populace and I confess that I love freebies – especially ones at the workplace.  Well, some of you might say a freebie is a freebie is a freebie – what does the workplace have to do with it? Ah, you see I am amongst those who do not love their work too much – we just keep at it for the sake of the pay check at the end of the month. So when you get free goodies at work, it definitely helps sweeten the deal for us. It does gives me some additional motivation to haul my ass out of bed on a rainy cold Monday. Now if you ask me, I would rather have frequent pay hikes and bonuses as my motivation – but let’s face it, that ain’t happening! So I will settle for whatever I get.

Now the funny thing is my own firm does not give away anything for free. Oh, no! No! They are one of the Big Four consulting companies who cheerfully rip off clients in the name of providing quality advice (incidentally their recommendations most times are totally useless or things that a ten year-old with common sense could come up with). The unspoken mantra in the consulting world is charge as much time to the client as possible. Be they lunches, coffee breaks or loo breaks, charge one – charge ’em all !  So they definitely are not the type to distribute largesse. However as part of my job, I have to regularly work at client sites, dishing out aforementioned advice.  Some of those companies are an absolute delight when it comes to the free benefits they offer their employees. Of course, as externals we cannot really avail all those ourselves but clients are generally kind enough to let us take our share of all the free stuff being distributed on office premises.

For instance, right now I am doing a piece of work for a major diary and drinks company in Australia. In their offices, they have well stocked refrigerators on all floors that hold attractively sized portions of gourmet cheeses, 12 different varieties of flavoured yoghurt, 5 to 6 types of fruit juices, plain milk, flavoured milk, soy milk, puddings and other desserts. All of these are of course the company’s own products and they let employees enjoy these on the premises. Yummm – I so look forward to raiding the fridge each day!

My husband is also a consultant working for another firm and his life is far sweeter than mine. He has been working for a particular client for quite a while now and they are one of the largest chocolate manufacturers worldwide in terms of gross revenue. So his workplace is always littered with all kinds of chocolates. The company in question also regularly gives away all things chocolate-y when they have special promotions or major holidays. For instance, the week before this Easter, each employee there received a big goodie bag filled with a dozens of Easter bunnies and eggs. Well, I can tell you, we sure had a sweet Easter.

However my personal favourite remains the company that I had once done some consulting for in the UK. This organisation was a large multinational which owned some of the best known household brands in the world. There was a shop inside the office premises where employees could pick up most items on their supermarket shopping list at about one-sixth of the market value. But the best part was that the office was equipped with large freezers located at strategic corners and these were full of ice creams of all varieties and flavours. Can you imagine a better way to beat the stress of a looming deadline and an irate manager than escaping to a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Cookies and Cream? Sadly my assignment for that particular client was pretty short one and so I was gone before I  could have had enough ice cream to feel satiated, which perhaps was a good thing otherwise I would have reached record obesity levels.  

Outside the world of perishable foodstuffs, I have not really had much experience with corporate giveaways in offices. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Louis Vuitton offices had handbags to give away and Jimmy Choo stocked the latest designs in all sizes for their employees to pick up? Maybe those happen already. I just haven’t experienced it yet. Perhaps I should try and angle for a consulting job at the House of Versace as my next assignment and see what happens there. Until then I will comfort myself homemade cheesecake flavoured yoghurt.

Whoever said the best things in life are free sure knew what they were going on about!

Does your office give away free stuff? What corporate freebies do you get or do you want to get? Let me know!