Friday, June 16, 2006

Apprentice Project Manager

I've always preferred to be docile, laid-back and even passive. I'm very sensitive to the feelings around me, and so try to avoid hurting others. Often, this has made me indecisive, but only now, I'm learning to use this ability to good effect. I do prefer indirect and subtle approaches to the direct ones, but at the same time, I must confess that I'm also known to be undiplomatic and blunt. And whenever I'm blunt and rude, I'm the one who is most affected, much more than the other person.

My EB project wasn't going on as well as I hoped. There was no seriousness, no urgency and to cap it all, there was not much communication either. Fortunately or unfortunately, I've been assigned the task of project management of this project. I take my duties seriously, and I did express my frustration in subtle ways, but it was never heeded. And this Monday night, as I was about to go to bed, something in me snapped. Something had to be done. The solution was simple: someone had to take responsibility for the project and its progress. Doing that would involve rubbing people the wrong way and also, a little bit of experience in doing so. Now, who'd bell the cat ? After deep thought, I realized that I was the best (and perhaps, the only) person who could do it. Being just an intern, it didn't matter much what I did, and I'm not too important to be noticed, anyway. And my work-experience had given me the maturity to head-off difficult situations before they get blown out of proportion.

So, in the end, I decided to drive the project myself. It wasn't easy - under the pretext of drawing up a project plan (that I had to do, anyway), I forced my team-mates to talk to each other. I pushed the mentors to talk all of us together, and hash out the problems, instead of tackling each intern individually. I was also helped, in the meantime, by the decision by our manager to put us all together in a single room.

My team-mates got (and still are) pissed. I know, but I'm wearing a thick skin (and an asbestos suit). I've had words exchanged with them - they just don't want to communicate with each other, and I've experienced first-hand all the problems that arise due to mis-communication. I'm past caring for silly stuff like that. Time for them to grow up. I'm pushing real hard, and annoying them even more by frequently asking them what they are doing. They usually give me an evasive answer, but I'm drilling down and going into the depths of code (I'm not a tyro, you know). That annoys them more than anything. I know - been there, done that.

Then the part came about priorities - I drew up a project plan. And, we are sticking to it. My initial guesstimates have been good. But, more than that, the satisfaction that I see in my team-mates face, when they tell me that they've reached a milestone or completed a sub-task (so that I can update it in MS Project), is worth it.

But, why all this effort - why take the risk ? Why go through all the hoops, when it is easier to do nothing ? I don't know, I just don't feel easy about it. Somehow, when I go to sleep at night, I need to feel satisfied that I've done something. Pity, I don't feel the same about academics :(
I don't consider an EB internship to be an all-expenses paid vacation. I don't want to think about this as a means of bagging a PPO (pre-placement offer). My feelings are very simple: I've been assigned a job to do, and I'm going to do it. I am just doing my duty, and I'm not going to give up, just because I faced a few difficulties. That is worth all the pains that I'm going through.


At Saturday, 17 June, 2006 at 12:28:00 AM IST, Blogger P H Karthik said...

Oh Sridhar, the blog has really inspired me. I also get a feeling of having done no work and this reall makes me feel sick. I am also now encouraged to take up responsibility for my project and do it properly. Really good blog. But do you think all this could have been possible had you not been a good programmer? Like for ex. Google keeps technical tests even for managerial positions. Do you think it is essential?

At Monday, 19 June, 2006 at 12:55:00 PM IST, Blogger Sridhar Narasimhan said...

Maybe I'm biased towards my strengths, but I think unless you have been an employee, you can't be a manager. And in project mgmt, I must modify it and say - unless u've been a programmer urself, you can't be a *good* project manager.

Why ? If you have experience, you won't be easy to fool, regarding the schedules etc. If some ppl complain about hardwork, you can always tell them how you worked 14 hrs a day in a startup, and how you solved your problems - I've found that "been there, done that" usually shuts up most of the people off their self-pitying state :)

Sometimes, you know that bugs are always present, schedule slippage always happens - so you can sympathize with their plight ... because you have faced them before :)
So, you can be understanding when nobody else can be - and trust me, in my old job, both my team-lead and my technical director were very understanding of my problems and frustrations. I blossomed in confidence due their confidence in me.

But, more than all this, and what I see here in IBM tells me that there is usually a big gap between the customer-facing biz people (product manager, mkt'ing, etc) and the tech people (programmers, tech leads,etc) ... and unfortunately, there is no *one* person who can understand both.
Either marketing promises something that can't possibly be done or requires re-write of internal designe or the developers put a crappy UI or modify the feature to suit their wish-list that nobody wants to use ... That, to me, is the biggest problem that IT companies face.

At Monday, 19 June, 2006 at 5:52:00 PM IST, Blogger P H Karthik said...

And that means that there is abundant scope for people like yo and Sujay who are good in both by virtue of you programming experience and MBA.

Thats Good news!

At Wednesday, 21 June, 2006 at 10:41:00 PM IST, Blogger K7 said...

Once a professional always a professional ......

One thing Sridhar: IT-COMPANIES in India still do not know what to do with an MBA !!! A hard-bitter truth which many of us have to accept ....

Secondly, whichever sector which we chose to enter to: we must have sufficient depth of knowledge b4 entering ... Only then can the breadth be increased ....

At Wednesday, 27 September, 2006 at 7:18:00 PM IST, Anonymous karuna said...

nice blog .. didnt read it completely till recently ..


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