Tech Reaction — walkouts, strikes, overtime in tech industry

image courtesy rockstar games from RDR2

I love the industry I am part of. I love that computer technology is not some unknown mystery to me. Thanks to more than a decade of experience, I can embrace new technology, use it to my benefit — professional and personal.

Exhibit A : Red Dead Redemption 2. An incredible marvel of gaming tech. The world in which Arthur Morgan lives is amazing. As the story progressed, I could not help but feel for Arthur. He was like a real person with real emotions. All of this, achieved through excellent story telling, complemented by fantastic technology.

That’s fantastic. As a consumer of tech, it feels great.

As a producer (developer/programmer/software architect) of tech, I am thankful that there are great employment opportunities in this industry. By the grace of god, I am well compensated. I get to work from the comfort of my home or a comfy hotel (when I am on the move). I get to take time off, read books (and the occasional afternoon naps :P ), meet interesting people, go on vacations.

It feels great to be here. If I could go back in time, I would thank the young 15 something Jay, who decided (after watching The Matrix) to pursue a career in tech and sales.

All is not well, though…

I have read about a ton of problems in tech. RDR2 and Rockstar Games had reports of their developers working ‘100 hour’ work weeks! Riot games had walkouts. Google employees did walkouts. Uber and Lyft drivers, are staging a strike. They keep doing it every now and then. As with most things, these are the tip of the iceberg.

I dont know if these issues were always there and I am only noticing it now. Or, they are only being reported now.

I cannot side with either the business owners (Rockstar Games, Riot Games, Google, Uber or Lyft) or the tech workers (who are doing walkouts and strikes). All I can do is, try to understand why it is happening. Look at it,as a tech worker and also a tech consumer.

I remember when I was younger, just out of my MBA college, first job. I have been at my job for three months. I called in sick. I had like 10 days of paid sick leaves. I assumed that I will be left alone until I am back to office.

Not really.

My boss would constantly call me, asking for information, forcing me to fire up my laptop. Even when I sick, coughing and sleepless and tired, he would still squeeze some work out of me. That would piss me off. Once i was back in office, I was ready to launch a tirade on him. Then, he meets me in my office cubicle, profusely apologizes for doing that.

He is a nice guy. He would take our team for movies, dinner and lunches. He would have tea breaks with us, share jokes. Help out with money. Occasionally acting as a wing-man when the occasion called for it! He also reassured me, he will continue to squeeze work next time I am on sick leave or vacation leave or any other leave.

It was an extremely odd experience. I changed jobs. Changed cities. Multinational companies and startups. No matter where I worked, the sick leaves were never ‘dont call me’ sort of deals. Nor were vacation leaves or festival leaves.

Out of curiosity (or anger and frustration) I would ask them about this.

Me : Why do you do that? Why do you keep disturbing me on sick leaves or vacation?

Boss Man : I dont have a choice really. My boss does the same thing, and I do it to you. Tomorrow, when you become a boss, and I know you will become a manager or team leader soon, you will be doing the exact same thing.

Me : It frustrates me.

Boss Man : What are going to do about it? Leave your job? Well, no matter where you go, this is not going to change.

It is true. Less than 2 years of being part of the work force, and half a dozen job changes, I had proof. He was right.

Over time, i got used to it. Eventually, once I had enough work experience, skilled enough, and I knew I could make it out on my own, I left full time employment. I got out. Became my own boss. This boss (which is myself) wont even wake me up when I am napping.

Even today, after all these years, I bear no ill will to my bosses or these companies. They gave me employment, skills, experiences. My first plane ride was paid for by my company. My best friend, I met him at office. The connections I made, the ones that changed my life forever, happened at workplace. I got a better life which I could not have otherwise achieved.

The earlier years of my life, they are like hot summer. I am not going to keep complaining that the sun is too hot. That is just how summers are. I lived through it.

At the end of the day, it boils down to this.

“What are going to do about it? Leave your job? Well, no matter where you go, this is not going to change.” — boss man (many of them)

That’s the thing isn't it? Where will I go? I need to put food on my and family’s plate. Every time I left a job, there would be an exit interview. I would tell them, I am leaving because you are disturbing me when I am on leave. They would make a record of it. That buxom HR lady would fake smile at me, fake apologise and fake promise to do better.

We have reserves

There could be a large billboard on the outside that says “We will constantly call you when you are on sick leave and vacation leave”. Folks would read that. Perhaps, hesitate for a minute. Then, go ahead and apply for that job anyway.

A common trend in the above tech labor issues, is calling attention of the general public. Except for Riot Games (who make the insanely popular League of Legends games) I use every other of these company’s products. The part about bringing attention, definitely works. It got my attention.

But, what about the effect though?

I read the article that talks about crunch time at Rockstar Games. Did that stop me from buying RDR2 or playing that game? Not really. I will continue to wait for the next game from Rockstar Games, and buy it on day 1 because they are so good. RDR2 was one of the few games I paid full price. I will do it again when RDR3 or GTA6 comes out.

Google continues to be in the news for all kind of employee problems. Does it stop me from using Google Maps or the billions of people who currently use android and search?

I happily take an Uber ride every day I step out of my home. I talk to drivers constantly. Reading an article about uber driver problems while sipping coffee is one thing. Hearing directly from a driver, is an entirely different and personal experience. Yet, I am still taking Uber. The driver is still driving the car.

Why am I still taking Uber? I ask the driver, Why is he still driving for it?

One of my former colleagues, now works at Google at a senior level position. She is something of a social activist, posting about women empowerment, climate change, pollution and politics. She invested (loaned) in my business, back when I was begging for anybody to help. Once my business improved, I offered to pay her back, and she did not even take back the money.

She is cool, close and I like her.

Yet, she does not mention anything about the issues happening in her own company. Not even a retweet of the walk out of her own colleagues. Or follow the official twitter handle or instagram handles of the movements. ‘Like’ or ‘Reply’ to any updates from said handles.

Sometimes, when our paths cross on social media, I imagine bringing up these topics to her. I also imagine asking her about other issues like that 5 billion EU fine last year (and a much smaller fine, right here in India). One glance at her social media feed, its clear, she is intentionally avoiding these topics. I avoid asking her about this. Instead, I change the topic to her latest vacation in the Bahamas or that new dress she bought in Singapore or celebrity she met a Google event.

This is an individual who is wealthy. I am talking bollywood style weddings, expensive getaway and 5-star hotel stays. She is also fantastically talented. She is the very definition of an individual who is empowered.

Yet, her situation is no different than me or the Uber driver or developers. I suppose and assume, she also realizes that, this is simply the way of things. This is how the world spins. All of us (companies, employees, people), are simply making the best of what we got.




an online publication about tech, training, rants and romance. updates every wednesday.

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