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Mid Career Blues

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I am 36 yrs old with more than 12 years of experience in software development and maintenance projects with 4 of the biggest names in Indian IT organizations.

I started out as a Java programmer way back in 1999 - 2000 and have travelled to various countries for short - medium durations as programmer , onsite lead etc . Subsequently , I had matured as a Java professional and went on to become a Java architect with many Sun Java certifications under my belt. I was the proverbial 'Hot Property' simply because of my experience of being in so many Java development projects. I could easily spot 'stock' mistakes , rookies make and was able to put forward the common hygiene factors such as - test driven development , code quality check , configuration management etc ...
3 yrs back I got very tired of this whole 'architect' stuff by watching how project and delivery managers only call architects for petty troubleshooting and for lack of good architecture work in all these so-called big organizations.
Since , I had good SDLC knowledge and have seen projects from start to stop for many years , I thought being in the Project Management role would probably help me get out of this rut.
Unfortunately , this has turned out to be a disaster ! My PMP , ITIL knowledge + certifications mean nothing to my senior management. Also , almost all the norms of project management are overridden by the overarching quest to show a strong profit margin. Tremendous politics of talking about me behind my back and nepotism with scant regard to people's abilities. I am also seeing people who are completely out-of-touch with technology calling the most crucial shots and are being treated as the godfathers of business units. People with very bad people skills become the champions of employee centricity. Managers who are ruthless , with no regard for employees , are termed as the best of the lot.
This has been an even bitter 3 years as a PM than my disgust as being an architect with nothing substantial to do.

Wanted to know from my fellow colleagues , friends and advisors as to what are the potential ways of coming out of this mess.

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Welcome to the wonderful world of commodity software services!

It sounds like you have worked your way up the totem pole "with 4 of the biggest names in Indian IT organizations", gaining valuable skills and experience along the way, only to find that the people in charge of those organisations are mainly interested in the bottom line, not quality or good management. Well, that's how a lot of large companies operate, and as somebody who's seen the impact of offshore outsourcing on projects here in the UK, I suspect that the Indian IT services market is especially cut-throat in this respect, because many of these companies rely on cost-cutting as one of their major selling points to their customers in other countries. In all too many cases, regardless of marketing hype, they are basically selling "cheap" not "good", so if your concerns over quality conflict with the quality they think they can afford to pay for, you're going to lose every time. Meanwhile, politics is a reality in any workplace, but it is usually worse where people are unhappy, under pressure and often competing to keep their jobs.

Companies like this are successful because they can throw lots of disposable cheap resources at a problem, but as you have seen, it's much harder for them to deliver quality with this approach, and they can be dismal places to work in. Unfortunately, because they're making tons of money surfing the global outsourcing wave, it's hard to persuade them that their approach is not sustainable (or advisable) in the long run. You can complain about poor management, nepotism and ignorance of technology, but they're making money like crazy, so why should they listen to you?

To be honest, from what you say I doubt there is much you can do to change the situation in your current workplace, so it might be time to look for a different working environment. You have a combination of great technical skills, solid experience, and a broad range of qualifications and training that ought to make you an excellent recruit for a company with the intelligence to use your strengths. Look for a smaller/mid-sized company, ideally one that is technically oriented, perhaps a software house specialising in a particular business sector or technology that you might find interesting. Smaller companies are usually more agile, because they have to be, and they are often keen to find multi-skilled individuals who can fill multiple roles in their projects as necessary. Approach them informally if you can, and start talking to them about the work they do and the kind of people they hire, and presenting your own skills/experience in a way that matches their needs. Don't bad-mouth your current employer, but make a positive case for why you want to work in a more varied/agile/technically challenging/whatever environment.

Anyway, I expect your fellow Indian Ranchers can help with advice geared to your local market, but good luck!
author & internet detective
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What do you like best about your career? Coding? Designing? Helping people (mentoring)? Management? Think about what you like and see how you can do it.

When I'm frustrated with my job, I write extra code at home and it makes me feel better. Then on Monday, I am fine.
If you have a bad day in October, have a slice of banana cream pie. And this tiny ad:
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