In 2000, I started with the new job in the present company. It was a much much bigger company than my previous company. It was a different job profile. While I was teaching and at the same time handling customer calls in the Hardware company, the new job required me to do customer support.
After a week of looking at all offices in Mumbai, I was assigned to the most busiest of office in Mumbai. Although I had some experience in customer support, I was technically not comfortable with the job. I had never worked in such a big setup and certainly not supported so many users. The users and the job were quite demanding. I was very used to be called “Sir” by my students and everybody would listen to me. Here I was at the receiving end facing customers.
The first thing I notice in the office that it was a complete madhouse there. So many people, three phones ringing continuously, calls being logged and complete chaos and I loved it. It was round the clock support baring the weekends. About three months after I joined, it turned into a 24*7 support but that is for another time.
It took me some time to get used to the team. It was only a month after joining that I started doing the night shift. It was scary at first because I was not that technically strong by that time nor was I confident of handling such a site. Working in Night shift meant working alone and monitoring all the different services. Although help was available from the seniors round the clock, I had to keep my cool during crisis.
However the department relied heavily on a simple policy; based on a famous jungle saying
“If you fall in water, You will learn to swim automatically”
We worked using the “On the job” training and everyday we would learn something new. The first time I installed Windows NT Operating system, it took me more than 4 hours. It normally takes less that 45 minutes. We learned the hard way and knowledge was passed on by experience. The person who had the most experience was the senior person.
The job involved being in charge of the functioning of the office. It included keeping the computers, links and basically the whole infrastructure working. The prime responsibilty was keeping the office running at all time, in all circumstances. Sometimes it would be physically or technically impossible to maintain that too. It was stressful and strangely was my escape route from the boring life I needed.
I felt a great sense of power maintaining the infrastructure. I had everything at my disposal and I could do anything with it even though we never had the time to do anything we wanted as we were answerable to a lot of people but then it gave me a sense of power, however false it must have been then.
It was hectic and we had lots and lots of calls. No matter how much we tried, we never were out of work. Added to it the six day week was tiring. Working almost 12-14 hours was normal. We were young and had almost no social life so staying in office was the most obvious choice and in spite of working so much and living a hectic life, it was fun.
It was fun because of the team we worked with. It was the team which made coming on weekends and working in a six-day week worthwhile. Most of the time we never worked 8 hours. It was always more. The team of almost 8-10 people were the only people I saw. They became my new friends.
Working in 24*7 department meant giving up a lot of things which included many holidays. I remember when I joined and was just 2 months into the job, Dassera was around the corner. We would have the week’s shift schedule declared before the coming week and I was scheduled in the morning shift for Dassera. I asked them “Don’t we have a holiday on Dassera?”
They smiled at me like they meant “Bache you are going to miss a lot more holidays from now”
I gave the same smile to my colleagues who joined after me. It was a smile that we all knew because it was not just Dassera, it was Diwali, Christmas, New year and every festival you could think of. We did not come for all festival as we would get holidays on some days. It was better if you had colleagues from different religion like I would have to come on Id and my Muslim colleague would have to come on Diwali. The political Mumbai band and stops due to rain were the worst days. In Mumbai band, our company arranged for a hotel near the office but obviously no transport. So we had to walk to the office. In situation where Mumbai came to a standstill due to natural reason like rains and if it was a weekend, the person in the office would surely had to do two shifts and sometimes there were instances of three shifts. He was given a holiday the next day.
And we did a lot of holidays, holidays which went to the account of our compensatory offs, compensatory offs which we never took. we liked the office lot than we admitted. We cursed it, we made fun of it but we dedicatedly came to office on a weekend or public holiday when there was just one person on the whole floor and the canteen served just dal-rice for lunch/dinner and cold sandwiches for snacks. There was not much work in weekends except taking backups and other work which was pending during the busy week. Sometimes it was just sitting around and waiting for something to happen.
The first shift which began at 7:00 AM and the general shift which began at 9:00 AM are the most tiring shifts of all the three shifts more because of the phone. Also there is no end to these two shifts in terms of timing. The second and the Third shift had a fixed ending time.
I have great respect for people working in call centers. Handling customer call over the phone is no easy task and it can be quite a tiring experience. The phone in our department room would start ringing just before 9:00 AM and would finally stop just before 9:00 PM. It would still ring after that but the chances of phone ringing after 8:00 PM are very less.
In spite of being in office for most holidays, weekends and even during bands, we were the most hated of all departments. We were always “good-for-nothing”. When I look back at all that, it does seem hectic and I wonder how I did it but then I was young and I did it because of all my colleagues. I understood the concept of “All for one and one for all”. When I joined a new project in Amsterdam, I was surprised to find “Everyone for himself” concept. The focus shifted from “it was our fault” to “it was his fault” Call in camaraderie or loyalty toward our fellow colleague, in all the crisis we knew to save each other’s ass. I knew that If I save his ass, he would save mine. It was less of my responsibility and more of our responsibility.
I guess many of my friends who worked with me during those days would agree that it was busy, it was hectic and it was frustrating and it was one of the best day of my life.
To be continued……………