As India’s IT industry grapples with the challenge of reskilling employees towards digital technologies, the impact of this workload shift has not been easy on the workforce, who are using memes and ‘confessions’ on internal social media to poke fun at the status quo and to laugh off woes.
For instance, a popular meme depicts a courtroom scene from the 1991 Tamil movie ‘Thalapathi’ starring Rajinikanth, caricaturing the problems faced by those who possess limited digital skills.
Rajinikanth is being questioned by a police officer – “What coding languages are you proficient in? What are the development methodologies you have worked on?”
To this, a distraught Rajinikanth replies, “I do not know, I do not know, I do not know! Within three months of joining, I was thrown into support roles!”
With digital-led revenue becoming the focus area for growth, the software services providers’ increasing fixation on full-stack developers has spurred such memes on unofficial social media forums of IT services providers such as TCS, Cognizant and Wipro, among others.
Parthiban*, a software test engineer with Wipro and meme creator who also manages a page that cross references content from various IT social media pages, said full-stack developers have been highly sought after over the past few months.
“In the current environment where technology gets updated very frequently, full-stack developers are in real demand. They are supposed to know every technology in their area. People need at least 7-8 years of experience in different domains to be full-stack developers.”
A meme on a popular page with over 200,000 followers depicts an eager, but evidently unskilled candidate, rattling off a memorized list of technical skills he possesses — “ASP.Net, Java Script, Angular Node JS, React JS, Azure, SQL Server” — to an irate and disbelieving recruiting manager. The moral — develop real competencies or switch careers.
Arun Prakash, founder and CTO of GUVI, a company that offers technical courses through videos in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, said the memes reflect the frustration of employees who have not up-skilled themselves in the past ten years. ”They are expressing what they go through. A backend developer has never had to care about user interface, but with clients wanting the same developer to work on different aspects of the project, they have to become fullstack developers.”
Prakash added, “Testers also face problems because they have to compete now with freshers to get jobs in automation testing, which involves some amount of coding. The number of learners for courses on full stack development from mainstream IT companies via weekend classes, has really increased in the last year.”
IT leader TCS has reskilled more than 315,000 employees in new technologies and trained over 361,000 on Agile methods. Infosys, apart from reskilling employees, has developed over 75 new courses to equip employees in digital competencies. Cognizant has also up-skilled more than 110,000 people through its Cognizant Academy, in areas like data science, design thinking and cyber security, among others.
The demand for advanced skills has, however, made employees increasingly vent their frustrations through such forums.
Referring to the pressure from managers for technical staff to amass more certifications, Subash*, a full stack developer employed with Cognizant in Chennai and who manages a page on the company, said: “Developers are not happy with their managers. Every week, I get memes from employees on their managers…sometimes they just throw their frustration on the message.”
Meme makers have been hard at work, turning anonymous grievances into funny memes.
Popular comedians in Tamil cinema have been depicted as ‘SQL Sekar’, ‘PERL Perumal’ and ‘Big Data Balu’, and in the process, content creators have found ways to make light of the stress that the up-skilling curve has caused.
A meme on a Wipro page shows a man trying to play snooker on a table tennis board with the message, “When you start coding in a new language without reading the documentation.”
Ravindran*, another full-stack developer employed with TCS Mumbai who creates and manages a popular memes page, said: “Our company is a source of inspiration for such funny memes. There are quite a few frustrated souls around.”
Come appraisal season, jokes on disappointing salary increments also dominate these pages.
He explained, “When companies hire from the market, they are ready to pay a good package, whereas someone within the company who has served longer has half that salary. All of this is expressed through memes where employees can have a laugh.”
However, what’s evidently missing from these pages are jokes and memes submitted by those higher up the corporate ladder. This doesn’t point to a lack of interest in such content though, a meme maker said. Talking about mid-management executives with 8-10 years of experience, he said “There are lots of such managers on our page who enjoy the content by liking and commenting on it.”
Grievances of those on the higher end of the pyramid do not get as much traction because followers do not relate to the posts as much. “Even they have grudges, but they (people) are very few and are not very active on social media. We get less likes and comments for those types of posts,” Subash of Cognizant said.
On their part, companies do not discourage meme creators or the sharing of grievances over social media in the form of jokes, said employees.
There are pages with followers and content accumulated over 5-6 years, and administrators ensure a level of self-censorship so that company reputations aren’t greatly impacted and privacy is ensured. “We haven’t heard anything from them restricting memes. We are very careful before posting memes. We don’t share any confidential data on the page. No personal information,” said Parthiban.
A meme maker said the meme is often kept vague in cases where a message has to be sent without getting on the wrong side of the management. “In public, it will look like a normal meme, but only the employee can understand its real meaning,” he added.
Differentiating between the official social media pages of companies and unofficial meme pages that have thousands of followers, communications consultant Karthik Srinivasan said, “Most of the IT companies’ memes tend to be in regional languages, alluding to Telugu, Tamil or Hindi movies. Brands can’t use these officially because of copyright issues…Companies mostly create social media pages from the hiring point of view alone, but even here memes can come in handy. If the people look at brands as funky and fun to engage with, they may think more positively about it as a place to join.”
To be sure, companies like Infosys have invested in efforts to create interactive, funny content to ensure skilling exercises are a more fun experience.
A section on the company’s website, called ‘Infy Toons’, introduces concepts like Agile, Cloud, blockchain and cyber security through comic strips. In one strip on blockchain, an employee tells another, “Yes, you DID borrow my stapler. Check the blockchain.”
A spokesperson for TCS said the company also has internal forums to post and share content at leisure. “We have an internal social networking platform called Knome. It allows employees across the globe to connect via posts, discussions and blogs. They share their views, thoughts, feedback etc.”
The informal message from managers to content and meme makers is: ensure confidential and sensitive messages are not leaked on social media. As long as this is adhered to, they can continue to make people laugh, meme makers say.
“They (IT companies) are constrained by the kind of voice they have defined for themselves; they probably need to loosen up a bit, at least on Instagram and Twitter. In their brand communication, they need to expand their scope of ‘fun’ from having foosball tables or celebrating festivals, to more aspects to appeal to more IT employees,” Srnivasan said.
Source: Economic Times