Friday, October 15, 2010

TCS Split Wide Open – Guest Post

This is a guest article by Sai Shankar. The information is solely by the author and has no dependency or knowledge of this blog.

This post is about TCS - Tata Consultancy Services and my experiences with the company.

Before I elaborate on life at TCS - I would like tell you all (I still seriously doubt how many people would actually be reading this!!) that I worked in TCS for less than a month, so you may be right when you think that I have no right to talk about my association with TCS considering the very little amount of time I spent in TCS - but still, I feel sharing my experiences with you all would surely help you. And before you also begin to wonder why I left TCS - it's nothing personal - I quit TCS because I am going for higher studies. For most of you (I really don't know how many!), TCS must be the first company on campus and most of you had to stick to TCS coz your college did not allow multiple placements. Sometimes, I feel India is not a democracy yet!! And folks I belong to the same category - first company TCS and no multiple placements.

It was nothing less than a shock that I got when I got an email from TCS on May 5, 2006 - I was asked to report for the ILP on May 25 at Trivandrum. It was at a time when none of my friends, nor me were expecting it - I was actually looking forward to a long vacation till September - but all dreams were shattered. We had no idea about the documents that were required, no availability in direct trains from Visakhapatnam to Trivandrum - in fact, we were not at all prepared to go for the ILP. One of my friends got his posting at Bhubaneshwar and my other two friends got it at Trivandrum - both of them backed out - one got it postponed and the other was going for his MS. That left ME alone. After a hectic last minute packing, I was off to Trivandrum on 22nd May - in a journey that would not allow me to sleep because I had to change two more trains.

The journey to Trivandrum could only be worse if not worst. I missed my second train - waited for four hours in the morning from 2 to 6 in the railway station. I reached Chennai on 23rd and had to wait in the railway station for another 4 hours for my next train to Trivandrum. Travelling on long train journeys - that too alone, with no one to give you company - sometimes makes you go mad and it was madness that I endured until the morning of 24th May, when I woke up in the train to look at the beauty of God's own country - Kerala. It was raining heavily and being a first timer to Kerala - I fell in love with the greenery and blue back waters at first sight. It was so serene and peaceful and for the first time since I started to Trivandrum - I felt happy to be coming to TCS.

Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum was quite unlike many cities that I have been to. People in this place don't mind rains - even if it rains throughout the year. 100% literacy rate in Kerala means that everyone knows how to read and write Malayalam - and all of them can put in their signature. The autorickshaws charge for both to and fro - if you travel from A to B, then you need to pay double the amount given on the meter, so if you want to come back from B to A - you need not pay anything more. The buses have no numbers and everything everywhere is written only in Malayalam. Everyone in Trivadrum knew about Technopark - that's where TCS is situated, and I later realized that Technopark is the only place famous in Trivandrum apart from the beaches. I was asked to report at the TCS Executive Hostel which is about 18 km from the railway station - and when I reached Kenton Leisure (that's the actual name of the executive hostel), the place was teeming with people. I was alloted Room No. 318 (I don't know why I'm goinf into the tiniest of details!!) and my room mate was Sridhar - he was from GCT, Coimbatore - but in an hour I had to change my room because Sridhar's friend Mohanbabu from GCT wanted to be in room 318 - so I had to move into 319. And my room mate was missing - I could only find his baggage in the room - he had apparently gone out. Now, one small clarification - you cannot change rooms at will in the hostel - it so happened that myself, Sridhar and Mohanbabu were in the same batch.

TCS Executive Hostel has around 150 rooms - each room is furnished with 2 beds, 2 study tables, a cupboard for 2 people, a dressing table, 1 plug point for mobile phone charging and an attached bathroom - believe me, the accomodation can't get better than this. The hostel has two outdoor shuttle courts, a gym (not many facilities in the gym though), a recreation room with a TV, carrom board and Table Tennis table, a common TV for each floor and a restaurant that can seat around 200 people at a time. Each floor gets three newspapers - The Hindu, The Indian Express and ET. There is also a browsing center which charges Rs. 25 for an hour of browsing (half the computers don't work most of the time though), a small utility shop for buying things like from pencils to badminton racquets, two STD booths and a laundry service (called Al-Khobar Laundry service; charges are exorbitant - Rs. 13/- for a pair of shirt and trousers - washing and pressing). The only bad thing about the hostel is the restaurant - the food served is not great - and the fact that the hostel is located in a village and there are few places to go to around the hostel - you do have a number of small restaurants outside the hostel at walkable distance - recommended ones are Hotel Chennai and Veg World.

The hostel rent is Rs. 110 per day, so you need to pay Rs. 3300 every month from your HRA. Technopark is about 1 km from the executive hostel and TCS is about 2 km from the hostel. Technopark also has other companies like US Technologies, IBS and many unheard ones. Technopark has other things too - it has a hospital called Ojus, a State Bank of India branch, a SBI ATM, a small departmental store, a place for junk food, a courier office, a dress showroom, an internet browsing center - these are the things that I can remember.

Day 1 at Trivandrum went on well, slept a lot to gain on all the sleep i had lost. The next day - May 25, 2006 was my first day at TCS - we were provided with vans and buses to reach TCS - the transport cost is Rs. 17 per day (to and fro) - which is to be paid at the end of the month from your Vehicle Allowance.

First day at work - in part II..........

First day at work

TCS ILP center at Trivandrum was just like how it was in the pics I had seen. We went inside and there were around 300 guys and girls - all of them trying to have a glance at a notice board kept at the entrance. The schedule for the day was put up - I was in batch T08; our batch numbers were already told to us at the hostel reception when we checked in. There were 8 batches - T02 to T09 and batches T02 to T05 were asked to gather in an auditorium and the remaining batches from T06 to T09 were asked to gather in a class room - shouldn't be complaining but already a discrimination - T02 to T05 were the CS/IT ppl and the remaining were the non CS ppl.

So around 150 of us gathered in the classroom alloted to the four batches. The schedule for the first day was induction - from the admin, HR, MATC, ILP and finance (I don't remember exactly - forgive me for my poor memory) - after breakfast. TCS canteen is run by a private contractor. Let me tell you that the food is bad - but quite cheap; you get -

Bread and butter (two slices of bread and butter @ Rs. 6/-), Bread and jam (same price as above), Vada (Rs. 2/- each), Idli (Rs. 2/- each), Puri (a plate @ Rs. 10/-), Dosa (Rs. 9/- a plate), Milk (a glass @ Rs. 10/-), and some more stuff - some days there is channa batura, some other days there are other dishes as well. TCS gives free tea/coffee coupons - which can be used any time of the day - mind you, you cannot exchange the coupons for milk or any other beverage (some of my friends tried doing it ;))

The daily schedule will have 4 slots with 2 tea/coffee breaks and 1 lunch break and it may typically be like this

9 to 11 - A Slot 11 to 11.30 - Break 11.30 to 1.15 - B Slot 1.15 to 2.00 - Lunch 2.00 to 3.30 - C Slot 3.30 to 4.00 - Break 4.00 to 5.30 - D Slot 5.30 to 5.45 - Submission of feedback forms/meetings

The timings could vary but not a lot - it may be around 15 minutes either way. Each batch has two coordinators - one technical and one life skills coordinator (will tell you about technical and life skills later). Our technical coordinator was Koshy and for life skills it was Nisha Dev (the faculty insist that we call them by their first name :) - no more Sir/Madam formalities).

So, after breakfast, we proceeded to our induction sessions. Let me tell you what Induction actually is - it is nothing but a formal welcome by all the departments of TCS - the admin induction was by Col. Nair, who is the admin incharge of TCS, Trivadrum. He's a very lively and jovial chap - he welcomed us to TCS, Trivandrum and then he went on to talk about the rules and regulations to be followed in the hostel as well as work - like for example he said, guys ought to be back in the hostel by 10 pm and girls ought to be back by 9 pm. And also that, no guy must be found in a girl's room and vice versa. The admin department handles things like accomodation, transport, food in the TCS canteen and so on. And then we had the other inductions - by HR, by MATC - which is Manpower Allocation Task Committee who handle our allocations after training (it was by a female named Sheena - she's one ruthless lady - the first thing she told us was that WE WOULD NOT BE ALLOCATED TO PLACES NEAR OUR HOME TOWN for our project - so you know her character now).

ILP induction was by Mr. Koshy Vaidyan (who later became Koshy - our technical coord.) - he told us about the ILP in general. Let me digress to tell you in detail about the ILP at TCS. From this year on, i.e from 2006, the ILP pattern has been changed - it is for 50 days for all branches (earlier CS ppl had ILP for 33 days and non CS for 44 days) - now mind you - 50 days means 50 working days - which would mean that the ILP is for 63 days (9 weeks), coz we would get around 12 or 13 holidays (Sundays and alternate Saturdays - TCS works on alternate Saturdays). So, this 50 day ILP schedule is broken up into two phases - 1. Induction 2. Integration

The Induction is the same for all the batches - it basically deals with the fundamentals of software engineering and other courses. Here is the unofficial TCS schedule for Induction phase -

Induction phase 25 days
------------------------------------------------------

HR Induction } LS Induction } Admin Induction } Finance Induction } 2 days IS Induction } MATC Induction } Library Induction }

Technical

Process Models 4 slots Requirements Analysis 5 slots Design 5 slots Testing and Debugging 5 slots

Good Programming Skills 3 slots UNIX and C 4 slots Data structures and Algorithms } 3 slots Programming Techniques } Operating Systems 3 slots

Life Skills

Oral and Written Communication 11 slots Professional Grooming and Etiquette 6 slots

Business Orientation 10 slots Systems Thinking 3 slots

Ultimatix and IPMS 1 slots TBEM 2 slots IQMS 3 slots ISecurity 2 slots Business Continuity Planning 1 slots

-------------------------------------------------------

The integration phase is also called the project specific training - about which I shall tell you later.

At the end of the first day, I could make the following observations -

1. You should be proud to be a part of TCS and generally as a part of the TATA brand - because that's the aim of the first day's induction schedule.

2. TCS has an ERP tool called Ultimatix which can be accessed at https://www.ultimatix.net - you cannot do anything with it now though if you are not yet a TCS employee. Ultimatix is the ultimate ERP tool - it is through Ultimatix that you will have to claim your reimbursements, apply for leave, view your paycheck, fill in your time sheets (this is after training i.e during your project after allocation).

3. TCS also has a global helpdesk through which you send all your requests - like activating your TCS mail ID, or reporting some problems with the computers and so on.

4. You cannot access public email clients like yahoo, gmail, rediff, hotmail and even sites like orkut and many others from any computer in TCS - they are all blocked by the server.

The first day at TCS ended - it was a stress to the mind - listening to the history of the TATA group and that of TCS - during every induction made us feel bored to hell. Overall, it was a good day - my first day @ TCS - came to know a lot of things. The next day, we had our documentation scheduled - which is the verification of certificates and collection of the service agreement among others.

The 2nd day @ TCS in the next post - sooooooon..........

Day 2 @ TCS

First day at TCS ended with us knowing more about our batchmates - there were lots of colleges from Andhra Pradesh like Andhra University, JNTU Kakinada, SVU, GITAM (that's my coll) , GVP, GNITS, Srinidhi, SRKR, NBK - looked like 50% of the guys and girls selected from Andhra Pradesh were there. The other colleges were VNIT Nagpur and GCT Coimbatore - the VNITians were the most enthusiastic lot and GCTians were equally lively. There were also some MCA ppl from Indore. So basically, it was a cultural mix - everyone was eager to know everyone else - I remember the names of all my T08 batchmates (partly because I was the ILP CR). That brings me to the topic of CRs or Class Representatives. You may think that ILP is like school - believe me, when you go to your ILP, you will surely find out that ILP is like going 'Back to School'. There are 4 CRs selected for each batch - 1 for HR related issues, 1 for the Library, 1 for the IS (which is Infrastructure Services - they handle issues related to the computers in the lab, network connectivity, login problems etc.), and 1 for the ILP program (I was ILP CR for T08 :) ). At the end of day 1, we had with us a notepad, a Reynolds Bold blue ball point pen (forgive me for the intricate details), a temporary ID card and a personal file given to all of us by TCS. New notepads are given every 15 days. The important thing is the Personal File. The personal file is what you need to submit to TCS by the end of the second day. The photocopies of all your certificates (attested copies only - you can get attestation done at the SBI branch of Technopark), your offer letter, your joining letter (photocopies without attestation will suffice) and a copy of your passport (in case you have one) - these are the documents that have to be attached to the personal file. The file also has a lot of documents - which you need to fill in - some of the documents I remember are

1. Profile - details about you, your educational qualifications and so on.
2. Nomination for Super Annuity (this is for nominating someone - mostly your parents, to get compensation in case of your untimely death - don't worry - that will not happen).
3. Nomination for Provident Fund (for this and for Super Annuation - you need to mention the name of the nominees, their date of birth and the percentage of nomination - for example, if I want to nominate my mom and dad - then I may give 50% to my mom and 50% to my dad as percentage of nomination - so the point is decide beforehand the percentage of nomination and also know the Date of Birth (as in records) of your nominees.)
4. Passport Details
5. Non Disclosure Agreement - which says that you should not divulge any information about TCS. (which is exactly what I am doing now :D )
6. A document which you need to sign saying that you have no conflict of interest with TCS - if you have any, you can mention it (I don't think any of us did).

There are some more documents - I don't remember exactly. There are a lot of signatures required - you also need signatures from two witnesses who can be any of your friends at TCS. And make sure you have sufficient number of passport photographs - you will be needing them.

The schedule for day 2 was a movie (that's right - a movie whose title I have forgotten - it is a biography of Jamshedji Tata - a 1 hour movie - most of the guys slept throught the movie), the documentation (this is different from the personal file), library induction, finance induction and bank account opening.

After the movie and the break, we had our documentation. This is where TCS collects your service agreement, your surety verification form and verifies all your certificates - actually all your certificates from class X to your Course Completion cert. of engineering/Provisional Certificate are verified, but to make matters easy, the HRs asked us to show the originals of the last semester we finished - in our case, the 8th semester marksheet - they just look at it and give it to you back. Other documents verified are the -

1. Birth Certificate - lot's of queries here - you cannot show your class X certificate as DOB certificate. TCS is asking for your original birth certificate issued by the municipal corporation of the city of your birth. If your name is missing (which is my case too) or if your birth certificate is in your mother tongue - then I suggest you to go to a notary or a lawyer, get an affidavit stating your date of birth, your parents' name and the place of your birth. It should not cost more than Rs. 80.

2. Course completion certificate or Provisional Certificate.

Just make sure that you have all marksheets from Class X onwards. If you have any doubts on filling up the service agreement, you can find this information useful - http://www.careers.tcs.com/GuideStamp.doc

The documentation was completed in express time - the HRs were very efficient. Following the documentation, we had the library induction. Now some details about the library -

TCS library is cool - you get 4 copies of 8 different newspapers, and of course there are a lot of books - mostly technical though. Everyone is given a copy of Software Engineering by Pankaj Jalote which can be kept by us until the end of the training. Other than this, we get handouts for each technical course - the courses which I mentioned in Part II - it is the duty of the library CR to collect the handouts before each course starts. Now you can issue three more books from the library - 1 technical, 1 non technical - which means wither fiction/non-fiction novel and 1 foreign language book (which you won't be taking in the first 25 days coz foreign language is a part of the integration phase). Now, one very important thing is the non technical book. You have to present a book review at the end of the Oral and Written Communication course. So it's better you issue a good non technical book - i.e a novel from the library on the second day itself - so that you don't lose out on the good books. It's important because Reviews need to be presented on books taken only from the library.

The finance induction was boring - the person dealing it Mr. Matthew told us many things other than the salary and whether there was any hike. He told us a few important things though. You need to get a PAN card within 60 days of joining TCS - otherwise you need to pay a penalty of Rs. 10,000. But worry not, TCS has a contract with an agency - you just need to fill a form and pay Rs. 72/- and submit it to the finance department - all this will be taken care of by your HR CR. If you already have a PAN card, then there is no reason to worry.

Finally, we had the bank account opening - the ICICI ppl came and addressed us - they said that the account we would be opening has some special benefits for TCS employees. But personally, I don't think so. We had to fill in a bank application (make sure that you have a black ball point pen with you - it's important when filling this application). And then we were given a cheque book, a ATM cum Debit card and of course our account number and Customer ID. They said that the account would be created and activated in a week's time.

That ended Day 2 - another mind - stressing day - all of us were really looking forward to the next day - which was a Sunday :). We needed some rest - coz the actual ILP started from the following Monday.

The ILP in detail in the next post...........

ILP, Life and Fun..........

Day 3 @ TCS - Monday, May 29, 2006

Unofficially it was the first working day for us - the schedules had been put up. We knew that we had a tough day ahead. TCS is not so strict about it's dress code, but it's better you follow the dress code coz probably you won't be following it after training. We were supposed to be in formal clothing from Monday through Thursday which meant - A formal shirt with formal trousers, with tie, belt and shoes. We were told in detail about the dress code in the first class of Profressional Grooming and Etiquette course. It seems it is better to wear light colored shirts, preferably plain as formals. Some other things - which most of us knew were that the belt and the shoe should be of the same color and that brown shoes are generally not considered formal. The socks should match the color of the trousers. The whole class was about the ways of dressing for guys and girls. It really was informative but became monotonous after a few minutes.

TCS ILP Center at Trivandrum has around 4 labs - which are in the top floor each having around 90 computers. There are around 12 classrooms - including 2 classroom having 35 computers each. All classrooms are fully air conditioned (this is for those who demand specifics). And there is an auditorium which could seat around 150 students.

In a day, you may have 2 technical sessions and 2 life skill sessions, or in worst cases - you may have all 4 technical sessions - which can be very taxing coz you tend to fall asleep what with the AC also on ;). Technical sessions can get really boring. We had most of the fun during the life skills sessions. Life skills mainly includes the written and oral communication and the professional grooming. Our faculty for communication was Minnette Mathew - she was a very sweet lady - and she really made us feel good about the ILP - coz somedays the technical sessions become so unbearable that we need atleast one life skill session to literally wake up from sleep. Believe me, when you attend your first Oral and written communciation session - you will realize that you are back in school. You are taught about tenses, about writing skills, about speaking skills - let me warn all those who have a problem speaking before an audience that you really have to prepare yourself coz in almost all sessions of life skills, you are required to speak. For life skills, TCS follows continuous evaluation which means that you are continuously evaluated - there is no exam for life skills :D. In our ILP, there was one session in which we were asked to introduce ourself in the communication course and we were evaluated for it. Evaluation means that you will be given individual feedback on the way you speak (believe me - I always thought I spoke well, but to my shock - I got a lot of constructive critcism in my feedback - really made me aware of the areas where I was lacking). The last two sessions for oral and written communication are for the book review which is also evaluated. So, this is the second time I'm reminding you to prepare yourself for the book review. PG & E, which is professional grooming and etiquette was taken by Nisha - she was good too. Like I mentioned earlier, PG&E is all about personality development, the way to dress, the way to talk, about the importance of global culture and last but not the least about Dining Etiquette. We also had a practical dining etiquette session. A proper business lunch is supposed to include 7 courses - and each course has it's own way of being eaten. So I got to know of many things which I was previously unaware of!! PG&E is really enjoyable.

The four main courses in the technical section are - Process Models, Requirements Engg, Design, Testing and Debugging. Depending on your luck, you could have a proper teacher teaching these or a TCS employee who is on bench teaching. All these courses can be found on http://elearning.tvm.tcs.co.in

Frankly speaking, very few technical sessions are really interesting. Almost all these 4 technical courses have a minimum of 2 case studies - which has to be worked upon by you and your team. Team members are decided by the HR or your life skill coordinators. My team had me, two other guys - Shreyas and Amit and two girls - Aishwarya and Divya. So, each batch (my batch as I mentioned previously was T08 - had 40 participants) is divided into teams or groups of 5, with whom you have to work on case studies and projects - during the evenings after work. We used to crowd the restaurant in our hostel after dinner to work on our case studies - it is really a sight to watch - each table being occupied by a group of 5 - trying to work together. It is really a good team building exercise. There were teams which worked until 1 in the morning. Fortunately, my team did not!!

Systems Thinking is an OK course but business orientation is really pathetic - if it is taught by someone who can make even the dullest of classes enjoyable - then you are lucky. Unfortunately for us - we had 3 faculty members (some courses could have more than 1 faculty teaching - happens when one of them is busy with some other work) teaching us and all made us go to sleep during the course!! Systems thinking is about how to be a good consultant. You will learn about the views of different stakholders that have to be considered when you come across a real time situation. Business Orientation brushes you about business concepts like marketing, finance and so on. I feel like yawning when I talk about business orientation!!

There are other short courses - like good programming skills, OS, programming techniques and UNIX. If you get a good faculty teaching you, you will really enjoy these courses. We had one guy called Rishi who actually was a TCS employee with 2 years experience. He was too good in teaching - he taught OS concepts to us and believe me, he was an amazing teacher. The other courses are 2 session courses like iQMS - which is Integrated Quality Management System, TBEM - which is Tata Business Excellence Model and others, which are not so great - but they might make you go to sleep (just warning you!!).

About the CRs - as I said there are 4 CRs and it is just voluntary - if you want to become the CR, then you just have to volunteer. If you have tough competition, then the HRs may decide who gets to become the CR. The HR CR has a lot of work in the first few days - like collection of personal files, collection of PAN card forms among others. My batch had Vignesh as the HR CR and he was really patient enough to do his work. The library CR has to collect the handouts for each course before they actually start. Mostly, all the technical sessions have handouts - which are nothing but a copy of the PPT of the course being shown to us. The library CR then has to distribute the handouts to all the participants in the batch. The Infrastructure services CR literally had no work - if your computer in the lab doesn't work, you know who to contact - you should contact your IS CR. And finally, the ILP CR (yours truly was one) has work related to the ILP. And among many works, one of the works is to collect the attendance sheet for each course from the faculty room, take signatures from all the participants in the group for each slot, then take the signature from the faculty and then keep it in the faculty room (tough job, :( really). Then at 5.30 in the evening everyday, the ILP CR must collect the feedback forms for all the courses that have been completed by that day and ask all the participants to fill it and then submit them the same day!!!

Please switch off your cell phones when you attend the sessions in the ILP center, or atleast keep them in silent mode. Some of the faculty members take this seriously and if your cellphone rings in the classroom - then you will have to generously contribute to the MOBILE FUND (TCS named it like that) - you have to shell out around 100 bucks for the first time and if you are caught again, then 300 and if for a third time you are found with a ringing cellphone in the classroom - you need to contribute Rs.500/- only. This affects the PVA of your batch.

PVA - Professional Value Add is something you have in TCS - all batches are evaluated generally on discipline, on prompt submission of feedback forms, on active participation in any particular course and on many unknown criteria. Each week, each batch is given points on how they have fared for the last one week. And at the end of the 9 weeks of ILP, the batch which has the highest PVA is awarded the best outgoing batch.

At the end of 25 working days - you will have a test on the technical courses - the test would be for 50 marks and would contain around 30 to 33 questions with each participant getting a different question paper. This is the only exam we would have in the entire ILP. After this exam, you finish with the Induction phase and you go on to the Integration phase. The integration phase is where you will have project specific training - it could be J2EE, mainframes, .NET and some others which I am not aware of. Along with the project specific training you will also be taught a foreign language which could be German, French or Japanese.

I was with TCS for less than a month but the experience I gained was really good. I miss my batch - even in that less time, we all really gelled together. It was a great batch and I am sure it would be awarded the best outgoing batch. Guys and girls of TVM01/T08 - if you are reading this - cheers to you all........

When I submitted my resignation - I really felt bad to be leaving TCS - as it was my first job. I had to submit my ID card and my smart card, and on going out of the ILP center, I was asked to sign the visitor's register because I was no more a TCS employee - but just another visitor.....

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