Email that paved my path
This story takes us back to 2011, the year when I received my appointment letter from Tata Consultancy Services after patiently waiting for 5 months. On the 23rd of September, I became a part of their Initial Learning Program(ILP) along with 500 other participants. My interests or preferences weren't taken into account when I was allotted the Java stream exactly like this.
It was a rigorous training program that lasted over 90 days with the exception of the occasional public holiday. But, as a silver lining, I received an opportunity to get to know my colleagues better, which helped the three months fly by very quickly. My journey began when I was called for an interview by my RMG on the very third day of our ILP. I felt like I had just won the National Lottery.
Though the opportunity had me elated, a sense of nervousness crept inside me. I was asked to wait outside for the manager during which time I peered through the window to see people seriously staring into their monitors. During the interview though, I held my nerve. It got over in a few minutes but the result wasn't exciting. I was assigned a support team called CRLM (Customer relation something...) for the Celcom project, one which I wasn't fond of since the beginning. I felt this could be a chance to subdue my discontent with the project. A month had passed since this decision and I realized that this assignment had only fortified my discontent with the project and made me understand that I don't belong here.
The Seed & Search
My other friends were still on the bench, some of them were volunteers for a TCS event called "Blitz". One of my roommates Mahesh Babu(Not the film hero ;)) was talking about a "long-haired guy will jeans and a shirt (he is the most awesome Krish Ashok, Head of the labs)" with a "cool mac book air" and "web 2.0 innovation labs". Then I started searching about web 2.0 Innovation labs on google ( Google everything you will find something). So the keywords were
"TCS Innovation labs" & go till Page 1, 2, 3, 4
"TCS Research Innovation labs" & go till Page 1, 2, 3, 4
"web2innovation labs" & go till Page 1, 2, 3, 4
"innovation tcs" - go till page 1, 2
"Innovation labs TCS" & go till page 1, 2
"semantic web TCS" & go till page 1, 2, 3
and goes on ...
after many google searches, I discovered that there is something called web 2.0 innovation labs in TCS and it's part of TCS Research and Development. There is an internal portal called "Just Ask" just for TCS'ers to find answers to some mysterious questions. Surprisingly it was also maintained by web 2.0 innovation labs, which is a whole other story. I started searching again
"How hard is to get into web2.0 innovation labs ?"
"How do I get into innovation labs ?"
"How do innovation labs work ?"
After reading those answers, I learned that a person needs at least 2 to 3 years of experience to get into innovation labs (Someone misguided me! dammit! ). I asked a question as well but none answered my question(The funny thing is Ashok, the head of labs answered that question after I joined the labs. And It read "Now you are here, sing the song of triumph").
So I was doing my boring job automating some of the support tasks with my limited java knowledge, getting appreciation from senior managers for minimal and simple UI(Oh! yeah I am a designer) hoping someday I will join the labs moving forward. It was clear that I will join labs someday, and I want to move in that direction.. So, I thought, I will find someone from that project and ask them how I should prepare moving forward.
Any TCSer's day should start with Ultimatix and should end with Ultimatix. Ultimatix is an internal portal where every TCS'er filled the timesheet, applied leaves, HR, ESS, blah blah..etc. There is also an option to search for projects in TCS that lists the people who work on that project. So, to get a result you have to type in the exact name of the project (WTF! then why it's called a search). Again I started my trial and error,
"Web2.0 Innovation labs" - No results
"Innovation Labs" - No results
"Labs" - No results
"Web" - No results
"Web 2.0" - Ahh! success
I found 3 people were working for that project "Deepak Su###an", "Prateek Mi###a", "Dinesh Pothineni" (Yo! Privacy man ;)). And in all the 3 names, Dinesh Pothineni sounded familiar (Its a Telugu name).
I decided to write an email asking him what they were working on and how should I get ready. Here is the outline of the e-mail
Dear Dinesh, I am xyz. I am working in so and so.. I am interested in so and so.. I did this in my B-tech.. these are some papers that I submitted at different conferences.. here is some of my work (portfolio link) .. I am wishing to join the labs some time in my career. How could I prepare for it and what are you guys working on currently. Thanks, Siddhartha
And frankly, I was not expecting any reply from him. However, after couple of days I got a reply from Dinesh mentioning the things they were working on and still remember it was a 3 line email with too much jargon (Which I didn't understand at that time) and at the end it read "Hey we are recruiting, send me your resume if you are interested". I read that email like 20 times, I swear!
Next, I prepared my a resume with my amateur design skills and replied to the email along with my fancy portfolio website (http://sid-credits.com ha ha ha, I thought now why did I choose that domain). I got a reply from Ranjith Kumar (UX team lead at labs) scheduling a phone interview. The interview was at 3 PM, Friday, March 23rd, 2012, and lasted for an hour. Ranjith asked me few tricky CSS questions (I still remember the css counters question). Then on the next Monday I got an email, they wanted me to join the project as soon as possible and I was asked to transfer from Hyderabad to Chennai.
For the release and transfer, I needed permission from my current project manager and RMG. There was an email to my RMG (Sireesha P##o) asking to allocate me to web 2.0. So, RMG called me and asked me "Who asked you to apply for labs?", I didn't say anything but I wanted to say "what the fuck was that question". Then she said, "You created this mess you deal with your project manager". I said, "Ok thanks! Bye!"
And, I asked my project manager that I got an offer from TCS Innovation labs, please release me from this project. Initially, he refused the request and asked me to go back and work. I was just a fresher and I was scared to do anything risky. So I emailed back to Ranjith explaining the situation. On the next day afternoon, my project manager forwarded me a huge email thread and told me that he was releasing me. I was just about to boycott work (which was childish :D). And he spoke to me for some time after which I almost cried (too sent :'( ). He was really nice and wished me "All the best" at the end.
After a week, I moved to Chennai and joined Web 2.0 Innovation labs. I will write another blog post depicting my experiences at the labs.
It never hurts to send an email. There can be opportunities waiting for you.
There is another email that brought me to the University of Washington, I might write about that email as well. Stay tuned. I would like to hear your experiences, comment below and share with friends if you have any such emails.
Game of Thrones gifs are from giphy.com