Knotting Techies

Date:   Thursday , June 01, 2006

If you thought, “Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity,” then you have just concurred with George Bernard Shaw. Temptation, whatever the master dramatist meant, is a different topic to discuss. While, opportunity in all sense has ruled the roost in today’s matrimonies. Recently one of the leading newspapers organized a matrimonial event called Swayamvar (marriage fair). And its tagline read in a caustic tone: For Software Professionals Only.

Over the last decade Indian tech professionals have irrupted close to 1 million in number, and their growing riches have made them very choosy. A perfect tech-couple in today’s India is not matched on their once worshipped kundali (horoscope) instead it’s now salary-matched. Or should it be called the match of equals? Some argue the equality is stationed on intellectual measure of their would-bes versus the monetary measure.

Intellect being the root of every married techie couples; bedtime conversation of a neo-techie household is being prehensile: “Honey, the QA and measurement process composite model that we were working on got patented today,” says husband. While the wife, “Wow! How many common elements does it incorporate?”

Welcome to the world of IT couples! With nearly 20 per cent of techies (employees) in every MNC having married to another techie—may be or not in the same company—the Indian tech-world is leading the way of emerging knowledge professionals tying the nuptial knot. While tech-couples are inventing new solutions to compliment each other scaling the career pole, HR managers are still baffled with this new trend. Some are afraid, “employees who come in tandem, might go in tandem.” Some others just don’t like the dynamics behind co-working couples. Some else, perhaps, need a pushing from the couples themselves.

It is a 9 A.M. As soon as little Sachi enters her school van with her usual ponytail hair-do, her schoolfellows laugh at her. It is an indication that her mother is not in town and her father has messed with her hairdressing. Nivruti Rai and Sumit Tyagi, Sachi’s parents who work as Senior Manager of Chipset Group and Director of Microprocessor design at Intel India, are the new age tech couples fighting hard to bring balance to their work and personal life. In the Kannan household, their 12-year-old son greets them every time with “So, what’s the PoA for the day?” or “Whom did you fire today? Vandana Malaiya and Vanamamalai Kannan, Director of Trianz and VP of Engineering at C2Silicon, are embarrassed at their son being fed with professional jargons at home. Some few miles away is the house of techie-couple Ganesh Raj and Rashmi Vasudev of Tata Elxsi, who recently relocated to Bangalore to reside together in the same location, after a year at different locations. And they are already discoursing about a stable grounding for their yet-to-be-born child.

This is the scene at some 1-lakh houses of techies in the country. Alternating between changing diapers and attending official calls is a “transitional generation” of families where husbands actively involve in parental duties. Today’s marital partners are on their way to invent new solutions to compliment each other scaling the career pole. Nuptial knots to them are mere partnership for relation and not for a person’s career gains. However, such knotted techies enjoy the fruits of their marriage: professional mentoring, financial stability, mutual compatibility, combined networking.

Kannan’s family is a typical example of the reaping-the-fruits-story. Kannan and Malaiya fell in love with each other during their days at DCM Technologies, New Delhi. Though they had nothing much in common—theirs was a typical north and south Indian families. Kannan was an introvert and Vandana an extrovert. He was technical guy and she a businessperson—their love seemed to have stemmed from the famous theory of opposites attracts. But it was the mutual understanding, which made space for every walk of their life. “What has worked well for us is that both of us know each other’s space, and we do not get into each other’s way,” says Vandana. Her first compromise with Kannan happened 10-years back when the couple moved to Bangalore from Delhi, as he was placed in a good paying job at Hewlett Packard. His high salary gave Vandana some solace in terms of the financial stability at home and she went ahead to unleash her business instincts of founding a company called EximSoft. But his regular travels at HP made him consider for a less traveling job, so he moved to Sun Microsystems. However, it was Vandana’s networking skills that Kannan always craved for personally and wanted to do something similar of managing organizations. “Her prodigious contacts was a little hard to digest,” confesses Kannan in retrospect. Today, Vandana having sold her company to Trianz and Kannan managing an organization in a small company like C2Silicon have enjoyed their 14 years of marriage. And Vandana’s art side has surely attracted Kannan’s science.

Such real life, mentor-protégé relationships are not a rarity in today’s tech driven India. Techie couples are finding haven in each other’s aptitude. With diverse career choices and job opportunities in the tech-world, employees have a propensity for building portfolios of experience and developing a network of contacts. One contact just ends up being your life partner.

Rai and Tyagi, wholly credit each other for their scaling up the career ladder. Rai always found an advantage with Tyagi’s expertise in microprocessor. The Tyagi couple working for the same company could learn lots of things from each other and apply that in work. “I could do well in the company. I had an extra advantage that whatever problem I have, I could discuss all those at home and apply at office,” says Rai. “Complementing each others’ skill sets would make life celestial.” When she moved into Tyagi’s life, it was his willingness to share his prowess in physics, and hers in mathematics that has always been a powerful bond between them. However, both of them agree that each other’s networks have helped them scale the career ladder faster than any of their peers.

Mutual + Compatibility= Advancement
Interestingly enough, networking is not the actual benefit of any marriage. It is just a byproduct that might avail to a few proactive individuals. But otherwise, it is the understanding of each others demanding professions and a healthy maintenance of their professional and personal lives that hits the nail on the head. The tying is so strong, that some couples like Parijat Biswas, a techie at Synopsys met Prachi Srivastava on work and quit his lucrative offer of relocating to the U.S. just to settle with her at Synopsys itself.

Spouses in the same profession are better equipped to understand the mechanics, demands and duties involved with it. Most couple attributes mutual respect and compatibility as a proven elixir of success, whether it comes to marriage or career. Often, a high performance culture to accelerate professional advancement becomes easier in the tech world with techie couples. Lyndon Saldanha, Senior Manager at Kanbay People Processes, Bombay, believes husbands and wives working for competition are a reality in the industry, which can work as a double-edged sword. But egotism from any of the spouse’s side curbs professional compatibility and disrupts personal relationships. “The changing scenario today finds husbands turning more supportive of their wives who are climbing the career ladder faster than them,” she emphasizes.

To work with your mate…or not to
“There is an egalitarian partnership between co-working couples, probably because of the proximity at work,” believes Rajni Tripathi, HR Manager at Proteans Software, Bangalore. Just a few years back, it was a hassle to have couples working in the same company under the same project. Even today, some companies do not permit spouses working in the same firm. But the ones which do has a strict policy that one spouse cannot report directly to the other.

Sri Hosakote, Senior Director of Routing Technology Group, Cisco, relocated to India from the U.S. in 2004 to head the division. When he moved to India, his wife Sushma was also working on the same project he did. But since he took over the reins at the India office, she discontinued her work on that project and joined a different one as a matter of company policy. “We both were reporting to the same manager in the U.S. It was fine. But since I head the unit here, I would also not prefer Sushma reporting to me,” he says.

Manjunath Puttana, HR Manager of Nichi-in, Bangalore believes that co-working couples stick to the company striking balance of their professional and personal gains. “They understand the work culture and pressures inherent in it. Explanations and tension in their personal life during days that demand long work-hours can be conveniently avoided,” says Puttanna. But Lukos Puthussery Abraham, HR Manager of Tecnode Solutions, Bangalore has an analogous perspective, “If a person wants to quit, he will, irrespective of his spouse’s presence in the company.” But the biggest blow to any company would be to lose two employees in one shot. “Inspired by an improving job market and lucrative opportunities elsewhere, couples may decide to quit together, that could be detrimental to companies,” says Abraham.

Just to match the marital bonding in intensity, companies like Infosys and Motorola are creating options for couples to work simultaneously at the onsite. Infosys, however, gives an unpaid sabbatical leave for married spouses to spend a year with their partners, and then return to work. However, people like Jiljil Mathew a team head with IBM, vetoes the entire concept of co-working. “Social life at work gets restricted to a common group between the co-working spouses as lunches and other free hours are spent together,” she whines. Mathew believes, extrovert interfacing among such co-workers gets restricted, which can curb networking.

Betting on your wife’s salary
Perhaps the best advantage of having double income spouses is the opportunity to bet your last penny on one of the spouse’s long desire. The Shelat couples—Ajit and Radha—have a story about how they professional grew in life betting on one’s salary. Shelat worked in Godrej R&D and Radha at the Veritas Software. Both of them had their careers established for a while and then Ajit Shelat left Godrej to start his own company called the Rimo Technologies. Radha helped him in getting the knowledge base and contacts to establish the infrastructure for his start up, added to the household expenditure she bore for five years. “I kept pumping everything we earned back into the company. For more than five years I really didn’t take back anything. I could take this risk because Radha was in a stable job,” he reminisces.

Soon, a bigger company acquired Rimo (SwicthOn Networks) and Shelat became the General Manager of another start up called Nevis Networks. Once Shelat stabilized with Nevis, after three years, his wife Radha quit Veritas to join Evergrid Software, another start-up. It was a strategy well defined and today she is the Vice President, Engineering and India GM with Evergrid.

Today’s couples, sharing the same profession are more receptive to each other’s demands and requirements; enabling better understanding of professional constraints. Challenges are understood uniquely well and common passions help smoothen the rough paths. This has a profound effect on the professional front, maximizing the good and minimizing the harm of co-professional couples.

Demand, at times, gets so cockeyed that some parents quit their work for family reasons and often wives are the victims—not for stereotypical reason of weaker-gender, but for physiological. So did Sushma Hosakote for her first kid; she decided not to duck her motherhood in any least possible way. She stayed back home until her son was three years old. Chaitali Chauhan, a specialist at embedded system, Tata Elxsi, is contemplating to take a break from work with a baby in the offing. Fathers of infants will have to take up greater responsibilities in running the household. Some techies quit work only to spend quality time with their family. But life is just that, like George Bernard Shaw puts it: A happy family is but an earlier heaven.