The antithesis of a seemingly perfect life.
While I was still at college I happened to visit an organization where my uncle worked. There was nothing unique about it but that visit shaped what I’d do for the rest of my eventful life. I had for the first time met a Manager. He was suave, cool, authoritative, and around him things just happened. Or maybe my uncle introduced him the wrong way, “This is the guy that hired me, can fire me, and can increase or cut my salary, almost everything that happens to my career here… this guy holds major sway over it…” To this the manager says that HR Manager held a sway over his life…
The imagery was vivid. He had several people working for him and everybody recognized him and wished him a “Good Morning”, “Good Afternoon” or something to that effect. He had his personal cabin that even had an air-conditioner… the icing on the cake was that he had lot of women around him to whom he used to bark shout orders at!
These were the images which stayed. They were there when I first walked the imposing corridors of MBA School. I had long ago decided that I wanted to get one of those things… During the admission process one of the questions that I was asked was “If selected, what stream of management would interest you the most?” I answered immediately “Human Resources”, this surprised the interviewer and he questioned as to why I wanted to go in that particular stream… Now, I wanted to share the gory details of clout, lush surroundings, and hobnobbing with who’s-who… but I was not sure he’d understand let alone egg me on… So I reverted with a somewhat textbook answer… which must have made a good impression since he immediately confirmed my admission. My mind was working overtime about how, very soon, yours truly would be hobnobbing with who’s-who and prancing around all the desirable women and not to forget the unnatural hold over people’s career. Further, it was thinking, once this hobnobbing begins, who knows what may happen next (these were still the times when all you sought from friends was an intro to that girl with curls, with the cool airs of being able to handle the rest yourself with panache – all you felt you needed was a cool bike!).
Two years hence having slogged hard and starry eyed, I walked into this domain. First few weeks were all about understanding how the domain functioned – inane things like resources, bench management, transactional HR, campus recruitment and even more inane things like how we help the company make money.
All this just didn’t seem real. But then, I consoled myself that I am new. Surely, once you put in some years in the domain, all this will change, and magically all that I imagined will just appear in front of my eyes.
While all this was happening, some more ‘stories’ about a senior at work started doing rounds and the imagery was making its way to my dreams… And that was further reinforcing the belief, that surely the dream I had when I joined the domain, was lurking somewhere just around the corner.
The wait of weeks turned to months, and months unto years. Every passing day was filled with increasingly drier stuff like competency management, utilization, and recruitment numbers. I came across all kinds of models – like the Ashridge mission model and the capability maturity model. What kept eluding me were the models, which were shapelier. Not that I didn’t go for recruitment trips, or off campuses, or events; but then, all such visits to locations and functions were mired in extreme stress about requirements, deadlines, recruitment budgets, joining ratios etc.
Though I can boast of a decent IQ, but the thought never crossed my mind that probably this industry is really all about such stuff and not about unnatural power over other people’s lives… I continued to wait for the next turn, where the scenery will change, and suddenly the cool climes which I had always associated with this domain, will sooth the otherwise stressed out default life one lives, being a part of this domain.
But while I was waiting, something strange started to happen. For some masochistic reason, I started to enjoy it all. The little dream hadn’t died, but while it wasn’t coming true, I started to enjoy just the wait, and all that was happening during the wait. I was somehow reminded of a saying I had once heard… Life is a journey and death is the destination… and what happens in the journey is what makes it worthwhile. I started to love the irrational demands being made from me and I started to become true-blue human resources junky.
The next requirement, the next impossible target, the next irate employee, became the things I started to wait for, and not the next comely lass! And believe you me; these became more fulfilling than the dream that brought me into the domain in the first place.
Now the dream seldom recurs. And the hope of that dream coming true has completely vanished. A new dream has replaced it. The dream of understanding the employees even better, creating even more single-minded, even more persuasive human resource system, a dream of creating a unique strategy for some unique problem some company is facing. And strangely, I am a lot calmer, as a result.
Working hard at achieving this new dream has become extremely rewarding – both literally and figuratively. And now, when someone asks me that if I had a choice of making my choices all over again, my answer is – “My choice will be the same, albeit for different reasons.”
I am telling this personal story for the benefit of all those juvenile, starry-eyed people who possibly are waiting to enter, or have entered the domain of management for all the wrong reasons. Enter they must, but they should do so with their eyes wide open, and making their choice with an eye on the right reasons. And, most certainly, they will be rewarded as I have been!