Thursday, May 24, 2012

An Open Letter to Mohit Chandra

Before starting on this post I highly recommend reading this piece on the NY Times site.

The venerable NY Times has always been like a great river, meandering across the cultural and political scape of the great nation, city and even the world. Influencing and been influenced by the vox populi. Like any river, however, there are always the flotsam and jetsam that accumulate in murky currents and lately, the open blog section seemed to be playing that part for NYT.

Of course, much could be said about the tone of the article itself. The self righteousness with which a company, whose intake forms a minuscule part of total hiring in India, ridiculously oversimplifies the expectations of all the employers into five bullet points, and how those five gospels were in turn looking like vague generalizations picked up from a classified ad for a B Town "coaching" institute ("Spoken English & American Taught Here", anyone?)

Maybe I should ignore those (Having wasted a paragraph on ripping it, of course!) and concentrate more on worrying about the state of consultancies, in general. The hallmark of any consultant worth his salt is the maniacal focus on data, and the facts that are built over this rock bed of information, statistics and numbers. Data that would stand the onslaught of any analysis. And what do we have here? Stuff that could be ripped apart by anyone with a college degree and a reasonable understanding of social interactions. Of course, I'd still be digressing from my real intent, which is to answer a couple of questions raised in this well distributed article; not for the purportedly massive number of employers who it represents but to the actual massive number of people who this has been distributed to.

English speaking ability.
At the risk of sounding defensive, I believe that among non-native speakers of English, we have mastered the language the best. Of course, there are varying levels of expertise, depending on a lot of factors. Some that can be changed and some that cannot be. My point? If you take a large enough sample-set and evaluate any skill, there will always be far ranging disparities. That is why there is something called a job market, an economic structure and an interview process; to identify the right person for the right work. Dear Mr Chandra, I am sure your article with non-sequiturs peppered all over ("Life is good – except that it’s not." "exhibit behavior like job hopping every year") would decorate the dustbin of any decent magazine but you are (Again, I am assuming) a damn good consultant, aren't you?

Ability to think outside the box.
Gross generalization, which is the hallmark of this article, is used here with an irrelevant example to further shore up the claim. I don't want to nitpick each and every false claim on display but will say this; Along with the employee, the organization too plays a pivotal role in ensuring that independent thinking is fostered. There are millions of examples where this is stifled or buried under bureaucratic layers across all industries. Indeed, the claims made are outdated and the rising wave of innovation that we see today in India is an example of that; the Flipkarts, InMobi's and Notion Inks are born from the "ability to think outside the box" of the same graduates who you so flippantly dismiss as produces of a cookie cutter system, Mr Chandra.

The sense of outrage that fueled me to start this post has seeped out and has been replaced by a feeling of resigned fatality. The "gravy train" we are on, built and driven by people like you runs on our blood and sweat and aspirations too. I am disappointed that you have, with multiple strokes on a keyboard, drawn a big question mark over the collective foreheads of the recruitability of the graduating classes. But you know what I am more disappointed with? That you are being seen as the voice of the organizations that recruit them. Which is a shame in itself as most of these organizations you chose to represent are breaking out of the erudite shackles. Shackles like the "5 point program for better employees" that you are imposing. Orwellian undertones aside, I sincerely hope that this is not taken as a representation of those fine organizations (like the place I work) who looks for in their employees much more than the mere ability to string together an objective statement in their resume.

Much as I believe that this article is not the voice of the employers or represent the employable, I also believe that neither is my post a representation of the absolute picture. There are outliers everywhere, exceptions more than the rule and exceptions that are the rule, a bell curve for every population and a place for every idea. If I were to strongly advocate something it would be this; "All Generalizations are false, including this one!"


Kartikay said...

Well said, I say!

I agree that there have been generalizations and over-generalizations in his article. But look at it from this perspective: is there any other way he could have made his point without over-generalizing? I don't think so: he can't pick and chose and blame single companies.

It's a knee-jerker article that goes too far to prove its point. Something NYT has been doing of late!

Nipura said...

Good take!

My take on the same - you may be interested.

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Ok, so you have shot the messenger. When you are taking about few million people, there is no other option but to generalize.
You seem to have ignored the law of large numbers he has mentioned, of course there are intelligent & drive young graduates (maybe around 5%, as you were looking for stats).
Anyway in this day and age if you are smart and driven and innovative KPMG won't be the first option!
Having worked in IT consulting for 10yrs even now I think it wasn't the right choice..

Markandey said...

Do you remember that line from someone's resume that Mohit Chandra quoted - the one you had to read three times before you came close to understanding it?

That's just what I felt with your article. I finished reading it about two minutes ago and I can't even recall anything from it other than that you used a lot of long words.

But I can recall several phrases from Chandra's article, which I read from the link at the beginning of your article, well before I finished reading yours.

Whether he's right or not (I think he is), he definitely doesn't write just to impress and is consequently much clearer and more understandable.

Harish said...

Thanks for your feedback. However, I have my way of writing and so does he. I wouldn't give it up for anything and oversimplify just to cater to the lowest common denominator. I am sorry you couldn't remember anything from my blog later. And as for writing to impress; seriously? I post on a blog which has hardly any regular readers...