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Naresh Jain's Random Thoughts on Software Development and Adventure Sports
     
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After 6 Years We’re Still Struggling to Establish Any Sustainable Community/Special Interest Group in India

For the last 6+ years, few of us in India, are trying to establish a sustainable Agile community. The truth is that we are still struggling to have a self-sufficient, self-driven community.

We don’t seem to be hosting regular user group meetings. Our sporadic events seem to attract mostly new people each time. Next meeting we rarely see them. Huge number of people sign up, but only a fraction show up.

Its not just the Agile community, we’ve tried many other communities like .Net User Group, TechCamp, GeekNight, BarCamps, etc. Except the Linux community (FOSS now) I don’t think any other software community has really sustained itself.

This is very contrary to what I saw when I used to facilitate the Agile Philly User Group and the Philly GeekNight. People used to drive 2 hrs to attend the meeting. We had the same set of people coming every meeting. We all had this sense of learning and growing together.

What do you think is different in India?

IMHO the biggest problem I see is that there is so much “mediocre job opportunity” available, that frankly software professionals can be in demand for many years without learn anything new. With many people I sense a “there-is-no-need-to-stretch-ourself” attitude. Necessity is the mother of innovation and action. People don’t see the necessity. Period.

There are very few people I know who care about learning and exploring and growing.

Some other problems I see:

  • For most people, there is no end to mediocre opportunities and they are happy with it. “This job sucks, but its OK, I get a decent salary.” kind of attitude. The ones who want to purse big dreams mostly move to US or other places. (There are always exceptions to the rule.)
  • With all the personal, social life & society obligations and working late to catch up with counterparts in other countries, there is very little time left for user groups and other initiatives. Even if one is interested, the traffic and other logistics make it next to impossible to motivate people.
  • There is country culture, but the biggest culprit is the Organization culture. At certain places I’ve worked, if you are not learning new stuff, you feel like a piece of shit. But in many other companies I’ve visited, that’s not the case.
  • Indian Software Industry is unfortunately very “brand conscious“. If its a big name speaking at an event, people will walk a whole day to attend the event. But if its a local speaker presenting, it doesn’t appeal.

I’m sorry if you find me ranting, but I’m disappointed with the attitude. I’ve almost lost hope, but may be you can show me the light.

  • Very true. 

    Today I visited Landmark book store and ventured into the technical book section to see if there are any interesting reads on technology that i can pick up. But all I could find was books on popular programming languages, certifications, college course books and other regular stuff. Hardly any on new stuff that industry is buzzing about. To my mind this also has same roots as what you mentioned. I completely agree with the reasons you have outlined.As with a lot of other things in India, most people are in this profession for money. It is not a bad thing to be in for the money but one should also be passionate about what ever they choose to do.  A big chuck of software people are just a sleep walking herd which do not care if there is a better pasture on the other side of the big wall. 

  • Kalpesh Shah

    Naresh,

    You are spot on.
    Here is what I would like to add

    We don’t have work-life balance. People work crazy hours & they expect it of other people.
    The (wrong) expectation that my employer will provide me with training.
    I studied that demand = desire to buy + ability to pay + willingness to spend. Most people (me too) are stuck in either or all of these 3, when it comes to learning.
    Shallow learning. To be honest, I want to be impressed by speakers & help me get the full subject. Treat me a kid & help me understand concepts in a bit by bit fashion.

    I am not criticizing those who give presentation & help people learn things, at their own cost, time, effort etc.
    Probably the focus (in private companies as well as universities) is, whats the next buzzword, lets get certified, lets get that master title, pmp blah blah.

    And the kind of work we do doesn’t demand that sort of a thing. We are driven by where money is than the other way round, which I don’t think is bad. But, it is the thing for now.

    EDIT: I would say a few percentage of people in US (techie crowd) has seen ups/downs in their career that they are ready to go back to college, learn things & drive a few hour to attend a UG meet. And that doesn’t mean they are not willing but it has become a need to learn/re-learn in a job market slump, outsourcing, people coming to the country on different types of visas etc.

    I hope we learn from it & don’t wait for this to occur to us.

    Thanks!!

  • Vijay

    In India you cannot easily find a motivated programmer who has more than 6 or 8 years of experience. People who usually attend communities are in this age group. If they have moved on from hands on programming I don’t think they will be interested in attending interest groups. 
    I will tell my experience in my company itself. There is lot of encouragement from the company to conduct events. Still attendance is very very bad. I truly understand your frustration. I feel the same.

    Probably building good software is not seen as necessity for a good career in India. It might also be kind of work done in India does not warrant this kind of knowledge sharing and building.

    • Great points Nikhilesh, Kalpesh and Vijay. Appreciate your insights.


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