Over the last two decades, the Indian middle class’s dream of securing a ‘government job’ has given way to landing a ‘billable IT project for a foreign client’.
While the trend is possibly on the wane now, there are roughly 1 million people working across IT Service organizations in India today. Despite the general ridicule that the profession seems to bear in popular media, these service organizations have provided stable jobs for a multitude of graduates and elevated living standards. One of the most lucrative perks of an IT job is the opportunity of going onsite, to a foreign land, to work at the client’s campus. This is one of the hooks of this industry, despite the poor work-life balance and relatively meager paychecks.
Blank Slate Chronicles asked around a few techies, who are currently ‘On site’, and heard their side of the story. Is Onsite really a “dream”? Or does it come at a cost? Let us find out!
“Onsite” as a fresher
For a fresher, ‘onsite’ seems to be a coveted opportunity, a dream. It is considered a fast track solution to the Indian dream – a chance to travel international locations, get paid in dollars, boost the resume, what more could a fresh graduate ask for?
There are a few key reasons why an international client site opportunity is so desperately coveted by young workers:
An international gig, in most cases, means additional income or income in a currency stronger than the Indian Rupee. This means a lot to young people, who want to save up in dollars (for example) to come back richer.
The work culture in many western countries is less hierarchical than in India. So, freshers often prefer working with western colleagues, to feel more valued
But, there is a flipside to this. Many young engineers admitted that they prioritized traveling onsite to the actual role on offer. Does that mean that sometimes a talented engineer majoring in electronics, ends up answering client calls for server failure/application downtime? Yes. But for most offered an onsite, it just did not matter at that point in time.
“I still remember , the very first day I was offered an onsite position, after 2 years of working in the same project. I had high fever and was planning to return home sooner that day. But after the news I was so happy, that I felt better immediately” recollects a nostalgic software lead.
Did the actual experience change their perspective?
Yes, replied most. Landing in a foreign land, young, lonely, without any support system, was an eye opener. Finding and settling in a new home, opening bank accounts, doing household chores, and making new friends, was not very easy, especially because work was overwhelming. Almost all of those we spoke with stated that they experienced homesickness – from mild to severe, over the first few months. Thankfully, the latest video communication apps have saved many a heartbreak.
“I Skyped with my mother every day. I don’t think I would have survived the lonely stay without Skype”, mused Sulagna.
The move from a tropical climate to extreme weather also took a toll on few.
“I landed in Norway during the winters – it was dreary and depressing, all the colors were literally gone and everything seemed black n white. It was quite a big cultural shock. It was my first international move, to a place to live on a long term. There were too many day-to-day things to learn and get adjusted to”, said Sekhar*, about his early days in Norway
But, in many ways, the experience opened new windows and broadened horizons.
It does help career progression!
Everyone we spoke with agreed that it did help them progress up the career ladder. Client interaction, combined with independent living, instilled confidence and maturity. The experience looked great on the resume and made them stand out in the Indian job market.
“In terms of work, I was exposed to a “true” international working environment with high expectation from several parties – my offshore team, my managers, delivery manager, “this” manager, “that” manager and last but not the least the “dreaded” sales team. A simple meeting (read “account/project interrogation” session) with the sales team will make you feel that you are doing nothing at all, even after working ridiculously hard for your account. But I must confess that amidst all that work pressure – I really learned to survive and grow in an organization and especially to “take ownership” of any task.” said Rimi*.