Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Split Personality Disorder of Engineer-MBAs

Friday Morning:

Operations Management Class:

 The course is taught by a professor who has written a text book on the subject and has consulted for many companies across industries in Banaglore. He talks about streamlining processes, predictability, quality etc. I don't just nod in agreement. I am totally convinced. Words like "process" not only sound reasonable but inevitable.

"Process is paramount. How else can you manage a company with many different products and thousands of employees?" he asks.
"Yes sir" I think as I listen to him.

"Documentation is important"
"Completely agree sir"

"Metrics are critical"
"We would have it no other way sir"

On other Fridays and Saturdays, other professors lecture us about objectives, numbers and hierarchies. It all seems to make sense and most often looks like the only way right way to do things.

It is not as much about agreement as it is about belief. And the concomitant imagination that as a manager I would do the same thing.

And then...

Monday Morning:
I return to office as an engineer. To the world of system engineering built on Unix and C code. A world built by long-haired hackers, programmers who never went to college, start-ups, all-night coding, the thrill of breaking programs by testing...

A world in which "process" is an anathema. Build something you truly care about. Code for fun. Break it for the adrenaline ride. Do it all over again till you get it right.

In this place, words like "hierarchy" and "metrics" have little meaning. In this place, a program doesn't just solve a problem. When written well, it is a elegant piece of craft and is as much about a programmer's passion as it is about his or her technical talent.

I love this world. I would rather live in this place than any place else.

Looks like my beliefs are tuned into one thing while I enjoy doing something else.

And so the story goes. Between management and engineering. Between t-shirts and suits. Between hackers and bureaucrats.

Are these 2 worlds truly dichotomous?

Can companies not innovate and yet be process-driven?

Can they not ensure quality without taking away the creative freedom of their engineers?

Can they grow to 3000 people and yet tolerate the mavericks?

The two of us continue to search for answers...!

1 comment:

rubalsabode said...

I see your dilemma. Very few companies have been able to strike a balance.


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