…Every three weeks the project I’m managing awards someone the title of ‘Team member of the iteration.’ It’s a nice idea – whoever wins receives the adulation of their peers and has a photo taken for the board in which they smile whilst holding an item associated with the company’s brand – an umbrella. This time around we decided to give the award to a group of people – the offshore software testing team, working out of an office in Chenai, India.
In the last week Chenai has been hit with the worst rainfall in over a hundred years. The city has experienced flash floods that submerged whole suburbs and turned its river into an ocean. In the face of this hardship the testers were literally forced to flee for their lives and relocate to another city hundreds of miles away. With the very real possibility that their homes had been destroyed they nevertheless focused on making up the time they had lost and diligently worked through the weekend and evenings to catch up…
…and then we got them to pose with umbrellas and took photos of them.
Travelling to work the next morning I imagined the train being derailed, waking up in a hospital bed having had both legs amputated and my first priority being to balance a laptop on my stumps so as to pick up wifi cos that progress report wasn’t gonna write itself, to later have a grateful colleague present me with a Thomas the Tank Engine duvet and a card declaring ‘You’re a Winner!’
‘Oh my God, we’re monsters!’ I announced to the office. The general consensus was that it probably wasn’t that bad. I unleashed my Thomas the Tank Engine analogy, but not being aficionados of Ringo Starr’s difficult second album the cultural reference was lost. (At the risk of appearing too heroic I should point out that I wasn’t that vociferous in my assertions as they are keeping my project on track).
Over the years I’ve worked with many offshore teams, and the two things they all have in common are i. Uber-politeness, and ii. An insane work ethic.
I met an old friend for coffee and the subject came up.
‘Do you think maybe we’ve (I’ve) been monumentally insensitive?’
In clear earshot of the baristas, all of whom are either African or South American exchange students he replied, ‘That’s what outsourcing’s all about.’