Thursday, 30 July 2009

Those who can, Do.

I once interviewed with a consulting company. Yeah, I know. A bit crazy of me. But it was a technical consulting place, very good guys, and they sort of insisted I go up and see them. I told the person who was visiting my university that I was not sure, considering my leanings, but he said something like 'Young people should not close doors' - yes, I was a young twenty-six or twenty-seven year old girl back then.

Anyway, I thought they were a bit screwy from the beginning. For one, they refused to reimburse my hotel cost, although I was a starving graduate student and all. I persisted and I think they finally coughed up the hundred bucks it cost me. The car they sent to pick me up was late. I had made the (cardinal) mistake of only having the landline phone number of my contact person in the company. Of course it was early morning and he was not yet at his desk - this was in downtown Boston so he was probably caught in traffic. Somehow, after talking to a billion assistants and feeling thoroughly hassled (not to mention very warm in my suit), I reached the place.

I did some deep breathing in the car and walked into the office. All swank buildings and all, like I was not at all used to. I walked up to the reception lady and stated my case and she, thankfully, knew about me, and herded me over to the various people I was supposed to meet. I also had to make a presentation (of course), and eat lunch with one of the guys, these were said to me as if I should be stressed out (equally) about both. Of course, I eat presentations for lunch, and am the queen of small talk (at least I used to be before the pre-occupations of adult life and No TV Week Celebrations and further sliding into Kenny Bubble World made me into Madame Dork), so I was like 'Oh how wonderful.' I was already hungry so I was hoping some coffee or something would be offered soon, and also that bathrooms would be easy to find.

The day went pretty well, I met some of the standard people, including one or two Indian guys. Of course I had gone to college with one of them, a fact I discovered then and there and was most pleasantly surprised about. I had my presentation, the room was dark, some guys used the opportunity to nap, and all of them asked questions. Lunch was a standard issue sandwich at the office (which is good, one thing I absolutely hate is a working Indian lunch as defined in the U.S. and involving going to the local Indian joint and coming back with your jacket smelling of curry and a superlicious look on the guys face that says 'Your food smells').

The final interview was with the main guy, some sort of V.P.(Research) or something like that. Same one who insisted I come all the way over to see them. The minute I walked in and the preliminaries were done with - 'I am really happy I came, you have wonderful facilities, I surprisingly discovered Sethumadhavan, a guy I went to college with in Chennai Yada Yada.' 'We have completely renovated this building, back in 1992. Our chemistry division is being pumped in with funds for computational work now. Yada Yada'

Then the guy asked me, what do you want from a job, now that you are almost done with grad school. So I answered that I want the opportunity to learn everyday. Then he cut in with 'We don't have time for that here, we are responsible for delivering results, and cannot sit back like academics thinking and learning, we need to DELIVER RESULTS' Of course then I said, 'Okay then perhaps this is not a good fit. I do thank you for your time. I will carry on then and go to my post-doc gig.' He actually smiled then! I mean, I suppose I COULD have at least had the decency to express disappointment, and hope for something in future or whatever. I mean, really, the place was fantastic in terms of facilities and people, and they were surely doing some cutting-edge research, and clearly a big part of it was my cockiness that I had a position already to look forward to, that I was real excited about. Nevertheless, I do wonder at times. Oh yes, they would have paid me bucket loads of money compared to the other choice - a small matter that rarely, if ever, enters my line of vision.

But all these years later (it has been what, eight or nine years now I guess), I was reminded of that day in my brown skirt suit in Boston at a consulting company. I think all things considered, I found myself in the right place, after all. In the past nine years of my working life, I have learned all sorts of sorts of things, and nobody has once stopped me and said, 'Stop learning, start doing' It counts.

19 comments:

choxbox said...

loved reading this.

Serious Lounger said...

ah i can understand the urge to be in academia and learn and learn and learn and learn.. when earn, you dont learn much :D:P.. atleast my classes these days are on how to write emails and such stuff.

kbpm said...

sl-
you still learning to write emails? are you kidding me?
(and earn? whats that? just the most irrelevant part of any career choice, of course).

chox-
yo.

Ram Tekumalla said...

Curious - which company was this? I once had a big company in Hartford where some of our friends worked, claim reimbursing local transportation to and from airport was out of policy!

choxbox said...

kenny, was ruminating over what you said while sorting laundry in the morning - know what, i think i learnt far more when i started to work, much more than all those years in the classroom. i mean the practical part of stuff. like i might've put an A in accounting but only when i did monthly closing of books did i actually understand it etc. then there is 'working efficiently with people' fundae - its a big part of what-they-didn't-teach-you-at-bschool.
net net i think you do learn constantly in a corporate environment too.

kbpm said...

Chox,
I cannot agree more. And the things I have learnt since that interview are not necessarily at work even (despite the obvious connection with teaching and so on). In some sense, I found sloch's response surprising, because I was thinking something else.

For e.g. I see my husband as a consultant, and boy! is he constantly learning new things. Despite working on such crazy deadlines and so on.

I think the lack of fit was more with the person than the industry. Here is a guy who thinks that you can do something without learning, I mean, that is not okay to me. I am sure I could still have worked on that job and found my peace with it, but since I had a choice, it seemed like it was best avoided...despite the glamour and the money!

I *dont* think we have to be in academia to ensure we are constant learning, we just have to be in a motivating environment.

But you are right, I should not have conveyed the impression that the industry was such, it was just that guy there heading that research division that time.

Anyway, I think already it has helped clarify my thoughts somewhat..

kbpm said...

RamTek- This was in Boston, not Hartford, so probably diff. place. But I can imagine how annoying that must be, now I would not care less, but back then it would have been real tough!

Sands said...

lovely read. I coldn't agree with you more. But I give a different spin on it to be able to get hired. I always say it is just as important to to me learn as it is to contribute to the organization that I work for. That seems to fly much better and honestly I learn something new every day :)

Ram Tekumalla said...

Delivering results and learning are not mutually exclusive. But I can see how academic leanings can come across with their ivory tower :). I am sorry the conversation ended - there was an opportunity to learn from each other I think.

maidinmalaysia said...

i am SO pro-teaching. If I got any louder on the subject I would be a billboard.

you have my vote!
and my ma's as well (even though you seem to miss her at bookfairs)

kbpm said...

RamTek, Not much ivory in my tower! Of course I totally agree, but the guy was quite adamant so I could not see how I could work with him (or learn to work with him). I mean, I am reasonably flexible and if I needed to, I WOULD have done it, but hey! happy where I am!

Sands, good call, thankfully, don't think I am going to need to use that bit of hypocrisy any longer!

MiM, missed her again, at Higginbothams today. Assiduously avoided all the fiction/children's type sections as I had to come into work (and respond to blog comments. :-))

wordjunkie said...

Ditto Choxben. The guy was probably trying to sound smart and savvy or intimidate you.

Anyway, I think youre job right now is pretty damned exciting. The two years I sent as a full time techie consultant were full of endless meetings, talkfests and unbearable politicking.

kbpm said...

wj,
yes, he was a good solid guy with impeccable performance, just not my type.
and believe you me, i am in an endless set of meetings, talkfests with pompous asses, and a good amount of politicking myself, every single day.
you know, grass is always greener...
dont mean to complain, of course, doesn't matter..

maidinmalaysia said...

she was there at H'bothams!
in the tamizh section --
she also bought a henrycecil?

dipali said...

Loved this post. And the comments!

Diwakar Sinha said...

Good post! loved reading it..

wordjunkie said...

Of course, dealing with the Imp is also all about endless talkfests, much networking over playdates and unbearable politicking over homework and TV time. So things much the same, only payday nowhere in sight.

d said...

wordjunkie!!! lol!!! how true how true!!!
- d

Serious Lounger said...

advanced email writing 201 is part of our corporate learning lessons. On how to garnish the email so you are politely teling someone to take a hike to pluto. Very essential in my part of work :D :P..