Monday, March 30, 2009

Trip to Shimoga

Find the actual post here.

An Ugly Duckling in the Ugly Corporate World

It's one and a half years now in the Corporate. And I find myself having learned a lot about what industrial research is all about. How they get funded? What people want out of them? What people perceive them as? and so on. There's been some disillusionment as well as enlightenment.

One of the interesting disillusionments has been that PhD is not just all about being called Dr. Sujit and being respected for the knowledge and depth of thinking. It's also about managing people's perceptions and insecurity. In the initial days, I observed with some perplexity that I occasionally used to get into trifle conflicts with many people around during discussions. The matter of conflict could be as trivial as the interpretation of terms. Slowly, the nature of the conflicts started unfolding when they showed themselves in more significant moments -- when the charter of a research project was being drawn; when deliverables and timelines were being decided; when the very process of conducting the project was being figured out.

There are people in this industry who are around my age and have worked their up to a very respectable and powerful position in the organisation. I unwillingly learned to understand, and was also pointed this out by some, that my entry into the scene creates a very unsettling effect on the ecosystem. What existed before me was a fairly stable ecosystem, with well-defined power-hierarchies. In this place where most people have achieved success not through a degree from a premiere institute, but through the more difficult way of proving their mettle in the ugly corporate world via a prolonged struggle, I figure as a foriegn particle. I gradually learned to recognise the look of threat in many eyes, as if saying: "Don't you try throwing about your weight around just because you have got a degree." These days, when I introduce myself, I make sure not to mention anything about my academic background. My business card, my nameplate, and any other communication has my name, but no mention of my PhD. It's easier for acceptance here to mingle in the crowd and work one's way ahead as one of them. Being singled out as an alien ousts you from the race in the first lap itself.

And yet, I understand that the way I can add value to the organisation is not by conforming to the pre-existing culture, but by bringing in fresh ideas. It's not got so much to do with my PhD, but by the fact that I have struggled hard elsewhere, have learned things apart from those which can be learned here, and am able to raise questions which a person having spent his life here might have learned to ignore.

It's a tricky struggle. And perhaps the fun lies therein. Let's see how it shapes up.