techies and travel
travel requirements are driven by a client’s need, it is therefore
a highly contentious issue beyond the control of most techies,
says MOHAN BABU.
It is generally billed to individual projects and paid for
by the client
interactions and travel for work still remains the prime focus
in the field of technology consulting, even with the advent
of tools and technologies of modern communication like cheap
VoIP phones, videoconferencing, etc. During the mid-nineties,
before the advent of widespread outsourcing and ‘global delivery,’
staff-supplementation, that is body-shopping was the most
popular model. Companies that wished to augment their IT workforce
would contract a body-shop that would, literally, go halfway
across the world to look for suitable candidates, process
their visa and paperwork and make sure they landed at the
the end of the nineties, management and technology gurus began
to predict a total shift in paradigm with the advent of newer
technologies to enable remote meetings and communication.
This theory got a boost with tightening immigration and security
laws in the West after 9/11. The current trend of global outsourcing
and geo-political changes notwithstanding, travel continues
to be an integral part of a typical IT worker’s landscape.
Though travel is not as widespread as in the mid-nineties,
Indian professionals continue to crisscross the globe.
glamour of travel to exotic lands aside, there is a human
angle to all the travel. Let us take two extreme cases. The
first involves a mid-level guy, let’s call him Raj. He has
been angling for a foreign trip for a while and was elated
when his manager asked him to get ready to travel to Can-ada
for a fortnight’s technical requirement analysis for a client’s
project. He throws a party for his friends, packs his suitcase
and heads for the airport with his family there to see him
off on his maiden foreign trip. After Raj bids adieu to his
folks and is ready to check-in, there is an announcement on
the public address system, asking him to report to the customer
relations officer who says there is a message from his company
asking to call their hotline. On calling the number, he is
told that the client has shelved the project and he has to
scuttle his travel plans. Raj is mortified by this turn of
events and drives back home with his family.
case is that of a manager, let’s call him Kumar, who manages
three projects out of a multinational company’s offshore centre
in Bangalore. Having been in the industry for nearly a decade,
Kumar has literally been-there, seen-it, and is not exactly
keen on getting yet another immigration check stamped on his
passport. Kumar also has a few personal issues, including
the expected addition to his family, because of which he is
not excited by the prospect of travelling. However, the ‘problem’
is that he is one of the few people in his division to hold
a ‘coveted’ US H1-B visa. Every time an onsite requirement
comes up, his bosses look to him. After dodging the bullet
a couple of times, Kumar feels that he is really under the
gun and is torn between his personal obligations and the expectations
of his employer.
is one common thread running through both the stories that
travel remains a highly contentious issue, beyond the control
of most individuals. Though individual developers, architects
and managers remain in control over most aspects of their
work lives and careers, aspects related to travel remain out
of their control. There are probably several reasons for this.
Most travel requirements are driven by a client’s needs. Travel
is generally billed to individual projects, in turn paid for
by the client. To further complicate the matter, are issues
related to international travel, including visas and immigration
control. It is not surprising to find individual techies bemoaning
their total lack of control over travel.
posed a question on issues related to travel to several managers
at Indian companies known to me and most of them just shrugged
their shoulders and accepted these anecdotes as a way of life
for techies. Many also indicated that larger software houses
are beginning to make serious effort to mitigate the need
for constant travel by prodding wider adoption of technologies
including video, voice and teleconference.
however, also conceded that adoption of such technologies
is still at a nascent stage. Individuals and clients still
seem to prefer the comfort of eye-to-eye meeting and the ‘touchy
huggy feeling’ of shaking a hand and explaining a system problem
to an architect and to see him/her design the system.
more of us technocrats and managers begin to push for adoption
of remote meeting technologies, the Kumars and Rajs will continue
to be on the tenterhooks.