Monday, August 16, 2004

Business world

I am interviewing for jobs these days and there seem to be 3 kinds of interviewers. The first is the Google type companies that only hire people with Masters, Ph.D. degrees. The second type is Microsoft like companies that ask mostly logic and analytical reasoning questions during interviews. And the third type, which is mostly small startup companies, only ask how much one knows about the particular technology they are using; the reason probably being that they want the new hires to hit the ground running. I have interviewed at companies of the second and third type (I don’t qualify for the first). I had fun solving the logic problems, however I tended to solve them more mathematically than logically. The companies of the third kind irked me. I feel that anyone can learn a particular technology after a week of reading. They should be testing to see how smart a person is and whether they have in-depth knowledge of programming concepts instead of drilling on one technology or language.

Software engineering is a male dominated profession and most of the people I interviewed with were male. I was surprised to see no Indian interviewers since the Bay Area has a lot of India technologists. The reverse flow of people moving back to India seems to be more apparent now than ever. In most companies I went to there weren't any Indians or women for that matter. Another company was exclusively white American. My previous company had people from all over the world - Russian, Israeli, Indian, American, Canadian, and Asian; moreover the engineering team had equal number of men and women. It was an exclusive combination of people; it was the best team of people I had ever worked with.

While interviewing at one company, the interviewer mentioned that they were outsourcing to New Zealand. I had to ask why not India and he said that he had tried that before but had problems. In India people would say they understood things when they really did not. I guess I could see his point, there does seem to be a more “yes, boss” attitude in India.

Besides the interviewing process, the process of negotiating a compensation package is excruciating. Whenever I'm faced with the question of my salary expectation, I always end up specifying lower than I want to. My friends always tell me that I should not sell myself short because in today's market there are little chances of getting a salary raise while at the same company. So changing jobs is the only time one can get a salary raise. One company actually had the audacity to offer me less than my last salary, especially after I had mentioned in my first interview with them that my salary expectations were between a certain range and I would not accept anything less. When I refused the offer, they tried telling me that what they had offered me was what I deserved. So according to them I was being overpaid for the last 2 years; this got me hopping mad. I read in a woman's magazine that one of the reasons women are paid less than men is that they are not aggressive while negotiating. My men friends always tell me to ask salaries that seem outrageously high to me and I never do ask for that much. My whole weekend was ruined thinking about the coming Monday when I would have to talk to all the companies and negotiate a salary.

The art of negotiating seems to be important in other aspects of life too, like friends, family and other self-imposed relationships. There is a constant struggle to get one's way in relationships. Each person feels that what he or she is saying is more reasonable. I have spent many sleepless nights thinking how my boyfriend at that time can be so callous and not understand how reasonable my demands were. Life seems to be constant arbitration- I'm getting a headache just thinking about the day ahead. The only time haggling is fun is in the Janpath market in CP (Delhi).

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