left pristine Colorado and gone back to work in Bangalore
. Some reality tips from the returnee.
spending nearly six years in the U.S.
, most of it in pristine Colorado
, I recently packed my bags and decided to
head back to Bangalore
. As is to be expected, the move was wrought
with trepidation and involved some bit of soul-searching.
I was giving up a “nice” job with Compuware, a mid-sized S&P
500 company, where I had spent over five years working with
some great people, and was heading back to Bangalore
where I had begun my whirlwind career in IT
nearly a decade ago.
It’s been a little over four months since I moved back and
things are finally getting into a groove. I am enjoying working
with some of the brightest and driven people at Infosys’ SETLabs.
Along the way, I started receiving my paycheck in rupees.
Looking at my paycheck, intuitively converting it into dollars,
I was not surprised at why all the multinationals are flocking
: the paycheck is indeed a “fraction”
of what I would have received in the U.S.
for a similar job. Once settled, I
started fielding calls and mails from friends in the U.S.
, most of them of a similar genre
and questions about my move and life now in India
. Here are some of the most common
questions and a few of my thoughts.
How are you coping with the crowd, traffic and pollution?
It hits you the moment you step out of the international airport
(maybe even during the immigration queue) that things are
different in India
. The level of pollution and the amount
of traffic are definitely more than one would see in most
cities in the U.S.
However, for those of us who were born
in India and
spent the majority of our youth here, it takes just a few
days to regain one’s bearing. Even after spending years cruising
along interstates and driving on the right side of the road,
it took me just a couple of days to hit the road in our Maruti,
and I realized that the “Indian road sense” hadn’t really
is unquestionably polluted. However it might surprise
you that the level of pollution has reduced in the past few
years thanks to the new ring-roads and flyovers. I don’t want
to give you the impression that things have turned utopian
overnight, but they are definitely moving in the right direction.
I hear from friends that the same is the case with other metros
including Hyderabad ,
the other major silicon hub.
What is the job market like?
The job market is quite vibrant, definitely more than in the
is especially true because of the influx of software giants
including IBM, Accenture, EDS, Microsoft and others. Requirements
for technical skills range from demand for programmers with
knowledge of wireless and embedded systems to mainframers.
Yes, surprisingly, mainframes are making a comeback in India
, especially because of the number of
large legacy systems being outsourced. Companies like IBM,
Microsoft and Intel are also hiring professionals for their
R&D initiatives. Call centers and BPOs are the other niche
How senior where you in your U.S.
job and what seniority are you at
Interesting question: Many organizations in the U.S.
have “flat structures,” especially for
people in the technical track with the billing rate/salaries
being the major differentiator. Compuware had a dual-career
track for people in the services side: technical or management
(read marketing and account management). I was in the technical
track during my tenure with them—managing projects, architecting
solutions and so on.
Infosys, I got a lateral move as a project manager with their
SETLabs (Software Engineering and Technology Labs) which involves
a mix of research and “consulting to consultants.”
How is the cost of living, versus the salaries being offered?
I cannot give you an exact amount, even an “average” that
a techie in India
earns since it is highly variable and
depends on a number of factors including experience, technology,
company, location, and so on.
With an average Project Manager or Senior Architect’s salary
you will definitely be able to rent a two or three bedroom
house in a fairly decent locality (like Indra Nagar, Jayanagar,
JP Nagar in Bangalore), pay for all the essentials: food,
clothing, servant, entertainment and so on.
However, the affordability of a good chauffeur may be questionable.
Even when drivers or chauffeurs may be affordable, most techies
prefer company buses to being driven around in chauffeured
cars. (Personally I love the convenience of traveling by the
Infosys chartered bus that leaves from a stop about 10 minutes
walk from home)
Perhaps the key is to learn NOT to convert back to dollars
what you earn in Rupees because even though the amount may
be about a third of what you were used to, a Rupee still goes
a long way, at least in India. Saving potential will take
a hit on moving back, especially since the salary package
will go down considerably.
there be a way for you to continue your greencard if you don’t
get to travel here?
My lawyer advised me to apply for a “re-entry permit” before
I left the U.S.
, which I did. I am not sure of the legalities
involved in continued stay out of the U.S.
if I don’t get to travel there. However,
given the vibrant market and global opportunities, I don’t
consider lack of travel opportunities a major deterrent.
How is the work culture in India
(as compared to the American work
Although it is too early in the game for me to form an opinion,
the atmosphere at Infosys does live up to some of the hype.
The atmosphere around the Electronics
City campus is
classically collegiate. In a way, I guess I am glad to get
back to a “campus” after WORKING for over nine years. I hope
to spend some time here experiencing the much hyped “great
culture organization” that they have created. The organizational
culture, policies and work environment is definitely global.
Work culture is similar to that I have experienced in the
west, probably because most of the seniors and managers have
been exposed to work culture in the west and they are comfortable
“importing” the best practices.
Thinking in Java (apologies Bruce Eckles) is what Java programmers
do whether they are in Bangalore
or Boston .
Another way of looking at it: shorn of all the jargon and
buzzwords, the underlying “mechanism” a.k.a building-blocks
in most technologies remain the same. At the end of the day,
technologies and techies are there to solve the business problems
faced by users and the “right” technology is just a tool.
Bottomline: Work and technologies, project cycles, implementations
and systems are still universal, especially since the clients
of Indian software companies are predominantly American.
Article, originally published in Silicon India (October 2003)