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Pink slips: 'Learning new technologies is important'

November 6, 2008
Soon after Indian companies started laying off employees to cut costs, we asked Get Ahead readers to share their first-hand experience of being laid off and offer advice to those facing a similar situation.

Our readers Krishnan Sivaraman, Amit Shelar, and Anil Bansal, who went through the painful experience of being laid off by their employees have narrated their experience and advice on how to cope with layoffs.

Today Get Ahead reader Sandeep Das, who currently works as a team leader with Tata Consultancy Services in Bengaluru shares his experience of how he worked hard to get another job after he was dismissed from IBM India because of mental problems.

His advice to IT professionals: Work in at least two to three technologies and then at least one that is popular. Also, if you have expertise in a proprietary language like I had, it is better to get trained in another popular language by your friends so that you never get into a soup in this unpredictable world.

My story is a bit different.

I started suffering from schizophrenia in 1999. I was also under treatment from 2000. Though still suffering from schizophrenia I got a job in IBM India.

I was recovering slowly. I started behaving a bit oddly in office. I had delusions that I was being constantly filmed, and hence stopped working. My father was summoned by my manager and was told I was not performing for the last three years. Because of this I received a rating of just met expectations during my last three appraisals. Another manager told my father that he should take one month's leave and treat me for the disease.

My father, himself an experienced man, asked me to resign. He said he didn't think they (IBM) wanted me to stay in the company given my mental state.

Suffering delusions, I promptly resigned, only to wake up the next morning thinking that it must have been just a delusion. I told my father I wanted to talk to my managers and get back my job. He was okay with the idea. So I went back to my manager but he told me that since I had submitted my badge the day before, nothing could be done about it. I wondered if he could use mine as a special case to get me back into the company. But he didn't.

I felt as if I had been given the pink slip.

Getting another job then was much tougher. I understood later that I had been working on the mainframe technology and it was almost proprietary to IBM. I found only one company offering a position in the same technology and they were a vendor for IBM. Though I cleared the vendor's interview, he later told me I was denied the job since I was not eligible to apply to IBM for another six months. I was in a big soup, and I had myself to blame.

So, finally, I started learning a new technology. But it was to no avail. I couldn't show myself as experienced in that particular technology for three years, and yet not have expertise.

My condition started deteriorating further, and I thought of driving an auto-rickshaw for a living. This was mainly because I had become so depressed, which is quite normal for a normal man when he is jobless. The societal stigma was getting to me too. My parents too stopped socialising. They didn't want to talk about their jobless son. My mother would tell me to remain in my bedroom and not come out during her kitty parties at our home.

My story would have been different if I had expertise in a slightly popular technology like C, Java, .Net, Visual Basic, etc. After all, I was an IITian.

Sometimes, I wondered whether my IBM managers knew that I was working in a proprietary technology and that I wouldn't make it into a job even if they fired me.

Finally after eight months I applied to a start up in Gurgaon. They wanted people for Assembler (a person who writes low-level, basic language for computer programming). By chance, I had read four assembler programmes in IBM, and had converted it to this proprietary technology. I didn't have working experience in assembler. My interview didn't go well. But I was selected, because they were desperate for people from branded companies. Well. All's well that ends well.

But till today, I don't know who to blame for the horrible experience I went through. Me, my schizophrenia or the heartlessness of those in power.

Today, I am a completely normal individual. There are no traces of schizophrenia and I get ratings of exceeded expectations/potential role model.

My advice to IT people, since I am from that field, would be to work in at least two-three technologies and at least one that is popular. Also, if you have expertise in a proprietary language like I had, it is better to get trained in another popular language by your friends so that you never get into a soup in this unpredictable world.

Reader invite

Were you ever laid off by your employer? How long did you remain unemployed? How did you cope with your unemployment financially? How did you get your next job? What would be your advice to those laid off recently or fear the pink slip?

Share your views/plans with us. Write to us at getahead@rediff.co.in -- be sure to include your name, photograph, age, profession and contact details. Interesting responses will be published right here on rediff.com. Illustration: Dominic Xavier

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