"Some birds aren't meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright"- Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption. This blog is from one such bird who couldn't be caged by organizations who mandate scripted software testing. Pradeep Soundararajan welcomes you to this blog and wishes you a good time here and even otherwise.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gifting someone a life and they f****** it up

Oh my! I was reminded of this story. It is a hard to digest story for me but I can't just hold myself from telling it.

About two years back, I did work for a client in India and they had to pay me about a couple of thousand dollars. Meanwhile, a fresh college graduate who was trained by some testing institute came to me seeking help in getting a job. He convinced me that I should help him. I was emotionally touched by the way his parents struggled to help him complete his engineering bachelor degree course.

His parents were daily wage farmers in some village in Andhra Pradesh. His parents were getting paid something like 3 to 4 dollars per day and they used to save as much as they could in that money to help this guy study.

He also seemed to express interest in doing some creative style testing and thinking. Convinced that this guy needs an uplift in life, I called up my client and said, "The money you were wanting to pay me is important to me. It would make a small difference to my current life style but God has helped me be happy with what I have right now so I need to ask a favor from you. I know this guy, XXXXX , who needs a job to help his family in basic shape. So if you could give him a job and pay him what you owe me, I'd be more than happy to engage with you again"

The client was very open to the idea but checked with me that I am not making up my mind to gift him life because it comes at a cost. I thought I knew how much it would cost.

With a couple of thousand dollars, you could buy lots of things or be happy having it in bank. My wife and parents were proud of what I did. This guy thanked me for gifting him a great opportunity. I told him that he is being given an opportunity with his parents in mind and he needs to work really hard and learn to do very good testing. He nodded like a doll.

I was constantly checking with my client of this fella's progress. The client said he was good and I was happy that he was doing good. A couple of months later when I tried to check again  I found that this guy had not been performing as good as he used to be. He seemed to be enjoying his life more than learning and improving skills. I wrote to him about it but the response didn't seem to suggest to me that he was serious. We then watched him for a couple more days and I called up my client to ask them to fire him because they didn't do it thinking I'd be offended.

He was fired. He lamented about his mistakes over a call with me but it was too late. I lost my money and possibly the reputation I had built with this client. Its sad that I lost money and faith about people asking my help. It reminded me of the stories I read in Panchathanthra. They are so true even after 5000 years.

Well, it helps me become wiser but makes me nervous to help somebody who brings up the emotional angle. Decisions in life are always based on emotions or the lack of it and they are heuristics.

I am not telling all I have helped have done this to me but even if one does, it creates an imbalance to the way I was dealing about helping people. Passion to foster good testing and good testers continue to guide me take decisions like the one above. I hope I have enough strength and money to pursue my goals despite such cases. You never know how much your decisions are going to cost you. I am not pained at having lost couple of thousand dollars but feel sorry for that guy's parents. The last I heard from that guy, he still wasn't able to find another job. 

Reminds me that sometimes opportunity knocks only once. Other times, we have to create it. If we aren't skilled, there is no way we can create opportunities.

Amen!

25 comments:

Jesper L. Ottosen said...

Pradeep,

By offering the lad an opportunity, by reviewing it and failing it - you do hard but also great stuff. Please do continue :-)

Thank you for sharing your story, as a lesson for all.

Simon Ejsing said...

Thank you for sharing your story.

I think its a great personal trait to selflessly risk your own reputation for others.

But I can't help but wonder why not call in a favor to give this guy an interview instead of a hire? This way the company would still be accountable for the quality of their hires.

Of course, everything is always more clear in retrospect.

Simon

Anonymous said...

You hae done several mistakes IMO.

1. You recommended someone to your client without checking if he has the right aptitude and attitude for software testing just so that you can feel good about it.

2. You expected gratitude for what you have done.

3. Just because you helped someone to get a job, that doesn't mean you own the person's career. You have no call asking a comapny to fire someone, that's HR department's job.

4. You bragged about it here (of course, it is your blog, but you are virtually abusing that person here).

You got this person a job because you were worried about their parents. Now just because you didn't like what the person was doing, his parents deserve to go back to povery?

You are not responsible for a person's life or career. Let people make their own decisions.

F

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Anonymous,

How do you know so much about what happened?

By the way, the client wanted to fire him but was holding on because they thought I'd feel bad if they do it. I helped them learn that I would do fire him right away and so did they.

Prabhat Nayak said...

@Anonymous

I have been reading comments from this "Anonymous" in almost all the posts of Pradeep. And they are not words of accolades but profanity. I don't know whether this is the same guy everytime or not but looking at his comments, i presume he is.

I have a question for you. Why do you hide? Don't you have an identity?

As far as i know Pradeep, he enjoys and accepts every crticism (note he approves all types of comments including your's and reply) on his work. Probably this is why he is a reputed name in this craft. He'd be happy if you disclose your identity and then criticize his work. May be then we'll get to know about another great mind in testing.

@Pradeep

You aren't that kind of a person who when someone asks for a fish gives him a fish. Rather you are of a kind who teaches him how to fish. This time you gave a fish to a person who was in need of it at that time as well as at a later time. Anyway, we learn lessons from our mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Pradeep,
I am your friend but would like to remain anonymous. Of course, you would know who I am as soon as you read it but let this name be unknown for rest of the world.
What the other anonymous wrote has a ring of truth. Learn from what he wrote. Don't get rattled by it, don't think he has done injustice to you. BTW, I liked your cool response to him. You have changed!

One more thing - don't let one person's mistake or for that matter don't let ANYBODY change your outlook, your nature to help others and your nature to trust others. It is their problem if they break your trust, it is not your problem. Remember the story of the Sadhu and the Scorpion. Since I have faced somethings similar and I changed and then changed back, I thought I will share my experience with you.
Another Anonymous (does that make sense? Can there be ANOTHER anonymous? :-)

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@The mysterious anonymous,

You are asking me to change based on someone's feedback whom I don't even know. I can't do that.

First we build respect for people and then we respect their words. I am considering to disable anonymous comments on my blog but I am willing to give people what they want to write about me or others.

I am surprised that you and the other anonymous didn't bother to care to ask more about the story. Do you think I wrote everything that happened. I just wanted to share this story without comprising the set of events.

Also, the decision taken was on a emotion basis. If your mother asked you to do something that maybe stupid but on an emotional level you may have done it to make her happy. So, if someone advises you to be logical there, you may not want to listen to the anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Can the mother of anonymous....BE anonymous??

Ask the scorpion. He will tell youl.

Lightning Sky said...

One more time pradeep has done it!!

Note only his blog post but also his comments and response from other great testing minds teaches lots of things.

And about this particular post : "There are always three stories yours,theirs and the truth..." So can not comment on any person's behavior.

But its important to give it back to society. And without any doubt you are doing great( not telling this due to this story but ) your blog also has made many tester's life better.

Keep it Up :)

Sandy said...

This must be a learning to all of us working in software field ... We must always work hard and put 100% effort and must never let down the interviewer who interviewed us in the first place...

How would an interviewer feel to know that he has selected a wrong candidate? It must be a real bad feeling.. A lot of guys fake their attitude during interviews...

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Sandy,

If you don't let yourself down, that will just be fine. Most interviewers don't care about how the chosen ones perform. As a matter of fact many organizations are losing out because of that.

Sandy said...

@ Pradeep

If I ever interview a person and that candidate does not turn out to be good , I would definitely be unhappy with the choice I made...

Gaurav Khanna said...

Hi Pradeep Sir,

I have been waiting for you new posting and as a result, another good blog.

You said correct that opportunity comes only one and I agree to this.

Just continue your good work and keep helping :)

God Bless You.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Sandy,

Well, oh boy. That is not the goal of interviewing. Please get hold of the book Hiring Technical People - Johanna Rothman and you will be doing very well after that.

Anonymous the First said...

I normally resist adding comments to your post, but could not help it this time. Your intentions may well have been good or the actual story behind the scenes may have been different, but the way you presented the story portraits you as a despotic character watching over his minions, looking for thoughtcrimes.

Here I go again, not intending to sound rude, but get there anyway (but I haven’t used profanity as far as I know).

Well, you don’t have to take advice from a nameless unknown like me, but listen to your good friends (the other anonymous), who are actually trying to help you.

@others who are saying we should live up to the interviewer’s/mentors expectations, I don’t really understand you. You don’t have to live your life to please someone else. If you are good at what you do, you don’t have to go after everyone to check how pleased they are. Btw, it is not the interviewer’s responsibility to look after the new recruit, it’s the line manager’s and the HR department’s responsibility.

F

Sandy said...

@Pradeep

Thanks :) Will get hold of the book soon :)

Rajesh Iyer said...

Hi Pradeep,

Nice blog and nice reply to the criticism.

I really feel pity for the guy who got blew the opportunity that he got into pieces.

It takes years to create a reputation and minutes to rue it.

Regards,

Rajesh Iyer

Savita said...

Your story reminded me a movie "the blind side". The movie line is like how you helped a guy to live his life better way but the end of the movie is extremely motivational. The guy excel in sport and His life changes forever for good.

That guy may or may not understand his mistake but we should not stop ourselves from doing good things. That's what i believe :-)

Ranjit said...

Been there, done that, got a scar (like you) to prove it! My empathies, Pradeep.

I've always remember the saying: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, 'Teach' him how to fish and you feed him for life.

Testing luminaries have continued to do so and that includes you; but you cant always have positives.

The only thing that I wasnt sure of was when you say:

"We then watched him for a couple more days and I called up my client to ask them to fire him because they didn't do it thinking I'd be offended."

Surely, theres more to this than meets the eye. Surely you wouldnt just call up and ask your client to kick him out! Afterall he's their employee.

Also, dont you think the client should also own up to the responsibility of letting this lad continue to be complacent? After all he was their employee.

As a counter argument, was there a reason behind this lad not performing? genuinely suffering or purely complacency?

Anyways, just my tuppence worth!

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Savita,

I too hoped he turns out to be a star.

@Ranjit,

Good points. You know what I meant? It is my reputation at stake. After having heard from client that they feel obligated to continue having him because they think they need to pay him as much as they owe me.

I didn't want the client to suffer because of my request.

I guess I didn't frame this point well because I was emotional when I wrote this post.

Anuj Sharma said...

Hi Pradeep,

Even though you had good intentions, maybe fate had something else written for the chap.

Just curious, once you realised that the person was not serious and had taken the job for granted, didn't you try to help him or coach him?

I don't know the age of that person but it seems that he was young and everyone makes mistakes when he/she is young. Even you would have made mistakes.

It's all about the attitude at the end of the day and maybe you could have tried to change that person's attitude by leading as an example, like you do for so many people. Why not walk the extra mile.

James Jahraus said...

You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed (From The Little Prince, by Saint Ex).

Certainly worth a read, this is from the dialog between the Little Prince and the Fox.

I appreciate all the wisdom you share - thank you so much Pradeep!

Ryan Salvanera said...

Hi Pradeep,

I'm just wondering... do you know why his performance went bad? You mentioned that "he seemed to be enjoying his life" but didn't really emphasize much else.

Anyway, I guess that is really the "risk" of helping someone... it can sometimes become a negative to you especially when it involves you recommending him for work.

Still, I hope this does not stop you from helping folks because I'm sure there are others out there who are deserving of that help.

Anonymous said...

hi Pradeep Sir..
I m your fan...i read ur articals/post daily.
by reading this post i think your sending bad message to new comers in testing field.
before approaching to u each new comer will think about this story..& it makes line between u & them..
may be i m wrong ..but still ur my hero..

Sreevani said...

Hi Pradeep,

Firstly, i pray to god to give you many opportunities to help people b'coz you have that in you.Not many people have it.I appreciate it. I read some of your articles, they are really good. Thanks for sharing it with us.