Chapter 1

MY FIRST JOB EXPERIENCE

 

Written on 2nd November 2009

 

I joined PrisLogix LLC on the 28th of July 2008. It was my first job ever, as I hadn’t even done an internship anywhere: my internship was as a Web Developer in my own university. The first day, Samra, the HR Manager, helped me to set up my own system, giving me a separate id, and a separate email. That was being done by Danish bhai, however, the Network Administrator at that time. I was supposed to wait for my seniors, Zia bhai, the Development Manager, and Athar bhai, the Team Lead of the project that I’d been brought for.

Mr Humayun Qureshi, my uncle and my senior professionally, had had a meeting with me and my father sometime late in June. I’d given my finals and had had my results as well. When I had taken an interview from Sir Humayun for my FYP, my father had mentioned about knowing him from a long time back. So I decided to let them meet again after such a long time. I arranged a meeting with him on a Saturday, in this way, I would check out the Software House he worked in, meet the employees there, as well as Papa would meet him and they can juggle their memories a while.

When I got to his office, we were taken inside. He came out of his small office-like-room, and met my father as if they had been the best buddies. I was glad in a way to see that, since I thought finally my father would have some company. But that didn’t happen. Anyway, when uncle Humayun found out I loved to write and had remained the Creative Director of the first (and last, unfortunately) Student’s magazine of my university, he immediately took a short interview from me. He also then found that I can work on Visual C#.Net as well, as my Bachelor’s project had been in that language. So he immediately invited me to join the software house, PrisLogix LLC, a place where at that time he had a share and was the CEO. I said okay, I’ll try.

When I went home that day, a recurrence started from my parents if I sent my CV or not. Every day they asked me if I’d sent my CV or not and every day I told them I need more rest, until I finally sent it somewhere near 2nd week of July. They called me for an interview after that I think it was on the 15th, I’m not sure. It was sometime before the 20’s because they called me on a Saturday, must have been 26th, to confirm I was inducted. Well, I said I’d be happy to join and would be there on Monday. What were the timings? I remember asking Samra, the HR. She laughingly replied 10 to 6, though why she was laughing will remain a mystery.

Well I went on the 28th July to the company, which is as near as it can be to my house, a mere distance of 3-5 minutes by car. So I went there and while my account was being set up and system getting ready, Samra took me for introductions. First we went to the network department, where there were Danish, Jibran and Kamil, the latter two being the internees, and the former the admin. Then we took a round of the development department, where Sheraz and Savita were the only engineers. My title was Software Engineer, but I was there for another purpose. Sheraz seemed familiar to me, though at the time I couldn’t place him, later I found he had been with me in Bachelor’s. He had been in fact been of Athar bhai’s batch, who was a semester senior than me. I already knew Savita, and Athar bhai had not arrived yet. We then went on to Samra’s own cabin. The opposite side was occupied by two boys. They were the Quality Assurance Department: Faisal, the Team Lead and Business Analyst, and Ahmad, Internee QA Engineer. They were bright and grinning, and that had me nervous: I hate grinning monkeys, J especially the ones who grin without reasons. Anyway, then we went upstairs, and she showed me the dining room, the girls’ common room, and the kitchen, where Raqeeb bhai, the cook, was there too. There are stairs in the dining room leading to the multimedia/ web dept, and we didn’t go there, because at that time it was empty: the upstairs’ people came late. Now that I think about it, I was never properly introduced upstairs. But destiny changes a lot of things, including characters and personalities.

We went back downstairs and I found my system ready for usage. I also found Athar bhai present. Samra introduced us. I asked him about my task, and he asked me to wait till Zia bhai came along. I spent my time browsing the internet and teasing Savita. At that time, there was no other girl there, except Samra, and she was in another part of the department. After some time, when Zia bhai came along, he and Athar bhai called me and had a meeting with me. And one heck of a meeting it was. Athar bhai and Zia bhai explained to me what they wanted me to do for their project. They wanted me to make a help manual for their product, FAMS, Fixed Asset Management System.But how they wanted me to go about it was the main task. I was supposed to make a help manual creator. Using XML and Visual Studio .Net Web Developer. And how? I had no idea. And they asked me to find out. Okay, I said, I had no idea about XML, but I can always try and learn and experiment. I wanted to, too. But to learn something from a scratch, it was a big issue. How much more am I going to learn? I asked myself; I’d done my Bachelor’s as well as my Master’s degrees. What was I here for? I asked myself. Internship, Traineeship, Permanancy. It was hard to learn something you don’t have anyone to help out with. Especially for people who’d been spoon-fed books, like students like me. But, I thought, there’s always a first time to everything, and you never quite stop learning till your last breath. So I started out to make a help manual creator using XML.

Two days later, another girl joined us, Hira Nasar Internee QA Engineer. We had a great time together, laughing away like monkeys. I remember warning her about Faisal, using the words “incoming”, and calling him “bhoot” and “shaitan”, for his habit of appearing suddenly out of the blue. Those were the finest days. They were even our best days: we worked as hard as possible to make a good impression on our seniors, as well as came as early as 9-930 hrs, though the timings were 1000 hrs.

It was through Hira that I was introduced to the main product of the company the HMIS- Hospital Management Information System. When I wasn’t able to understand something in XML, I’d message Hira on our Vypress messenger, and ask her what she was doing. She always gave the same reply, “HMIS”. One day, I finally asked her what it was. She called me in her cabin, which was in fact Faisal’s and Ahmed’s cabin, and showed me the software. I was impressed, but not for long.

It was a few weeks later that I realized it was not possible, at least for me. I was no genius. I stopped. I asked for a break. I asked Athar Bhai if I could use his software for a while to take a break from the task I was unable to perform. Still I had the same reply as before: No. then I thought why not try the main product? During my first few weeks, Sir Humayun had also held a presentation on HMIS, telling us new people what it was about and how we can earn a commission if we could sell it off. It then became a critical time for me, as my senior, Zia Bhai was about to go on vacation to Lahore, and I had doubts he’d return by the way he told me about it. I was told he is going on vacation, and during that time, I shall be under Murtaza Bhai, the QA Manager. I was going to have to make a decision now, if I had to make one. So I asked him the permission to get HMIS installed on my system, and work on it to better understand it and make a sample help manual too. This manual would help me in making the FAMS help manual in future. Zia bhai said okay, of course. I went back to my seat, happy, not knowing what a headache I’d inflicted on myself. J I was happy to get rid of the XML project task. It was something I could never understand all my life, if I’d tried. I got HMIS installed on my system, having a bit of problem with the server, which was installed on Ahmed’s system.

So my task started of making the HMIS Help Manual. I made the simplest manual possible, without any main things as the glossary and index, and it took me more than 3 months. The HMIS help file that I made in word, says 23 August as creation date, though I don’t remember when I started it. Somewhere in September, I completed it, and was happy again. It was Ramzan when I was included in the team to complete the SRS of HMIS. The SRS was already there, we had to include the screenshots. We went to work, with two teams, one consisting of Hira, me and Faisal, with Faisal as head, and the other with Ahmed and Sahar, with Sahar as head. As usual Faisal was missing during the time we worked. We worked and worked like donkeys, but still the document wouldn’t finish. Then we were suddenly told that the work we had done was all wrong and we’ll have to redo it!! We were astonished. This had not been told to us. We were supposed to take screens with data in them, but we’d taken shots without the data. With minds full of tension, (yes, tension, as in ‘me’!!) and hearts full of worries and tiredness, we restarted the work. Now came our team lead, Faisal Farooqui, asking us the status of our work. I remember it was Friday, and we had all decided to work late to get it over and done with. Being a bit cheeky at the time, and having newly gained confidence, and also tired and fed up of doing extra work, I asked him instead where he’d been and left his team without the head to do all the work. He didn’t show it, but I’m sure I’d made him realize he was not considered a good team lead, at least not for that task. Though I was scolded in return, I made my point, and it gave me even more confidence. I was asked about my work, and I replied that I don’t know when it’d be completed, as it was still a lot. Meanwhile Murtaza Bhai called him and he was given quite a long lecture for leaving his team. We were all very happy.

This was going to be the nightmare of my project life. I had to finish off the SRS, review it, merge it, review it again, update the Table of Contents, and correct any and all formatting and other mistakes. I remember working fervently on the document on a Monday, and returning home at 1600 hrs, instead of 1400 hrs (Ramzan, remember?). I also remember reading my name in the review section 4 times and laughing later on. But that’s all I remember of the assignment once I completed it and submitted it. This project had come in between my help manual, so I quickly went back to it so that I could complete it. It was almost complete, when I was transferred to the Web/Multimedia Department. Though I was transferred, my seat did not change for quite some time. It was somewhere in October that I was transferred upstairs. A lot of changes occurred downstairs as well after that, and I chatted less frequently to Hira. It was a little difficult getting used to the new place, and new companions. One of them was Mahrukh, whose humming had me mad. The other was Kulsoom, a young girl who’d done only her A Levels, and had lived most of her life in USA. Two more engineers were Mazhar and Zulfiqar. Zulfiqar had been downstairs when I joined, and he’d also given me an assignment related to HMIS, then he’d “disappeared”. Now I knew where he’d disappeared to. Then there was Haseeb, the project manager of the Web Dept, recently promoted. Mazhar had also been made the Team Lead recently, and this had been because of the successful completeion of the project of Star Marketing Online. We had had a dinner for it as well, in which the main guest (Haseeb) was “too casual”, and us girls were “too dressed up”. I was under Haseeb, who was also the Business Analyst of the different projects the web department got, and he told me everything that I was supposed to document. My first assignment was an SRS made for the project of KOL, Kuwait OnLine, a web portal somewhat similar to America OnLine (AOL). The first two portals we would work on was the Car portal and the Real Estate portal. I worked on the SRS first, then on the wireframes of the two sites, which I made using MS Visio.

During November, I had to go for my Haj. I was still on internship at the time I told Murtaza Bhai (by the way, during the time I worked there, I could never call him Murtaza Bhai; the personality is such that the only word that leaves your lips while talking to him is ‘Sir’) that I would be going on Haj, and I asked him if I would be rejoining. At that time I was still downstairs, though I was working on KOL SRS, and I went to him with the leave form and asked him fronthand what the future held for me. I wasn’t told if I’d get the promotion to traineeship, but his reply that of course we’d have you back, told me that I’d get the promotion. I did get the promotion, in November, some time before I left for the big trip.

This was also now a critcal time for me, as it was now that I would be evaluated. Well, I was, and I was promoted, but now I was in a different department with a completely different work. First I was given different tasks, including a bit of Web development, in which I designed the screens. I designed two or three screens for the KOL Real Estate and the Car portal, and decided I didn’t want to continue that. Haseeb is a very good guide if you know how to communicate with him. I found the way to talk to him was completely straightforward and honest. So I got along with him very well, though I remember being slightly nervous during the first project, I guess I’ve always been that way in dealing with new people. Over time I found him to be straightforward, honest and supportive of his team members. I also found, to my utter surprise, he never let any of his team members get involved in politics of the company. Whatever happened, he defended his team to his utmost ability. But he is also particular that the team members work. I saw him have a real nasty discussion with our one and only graphic designer once, because she wasn’t working hard enough. She did work hard, she wasn’t good enough on 3D, something she wanted to pursue because her final year project had been in it, and she thought she was good. To amateurs she would have seemed excellent, but to an experienced person, she was an amateur herself.

The time came nearer when I’d have to go on my Haj vacation. Till the last day I was still working on the KOL project.

When I came back in December, I was welcomed as a trainee. I found that Hira had been promoted as well, and we both now tried to work our way to permanency. I found also that there was a new induction in our departent, Amanullah, as web developer, and Faisal had left the company for USA. Kulsoom had also decided to leave and now was worried about her future: she wanted to do her medical but her father wasn’t ready to let her, and she had also misled her father to believe that Iqra University was an Islamic University and not a normal one where she had taken admission in the Bachelors for Media Communication. I wished her the best of luck as she prepared her resignation letter and blabbered about Ali and her work. Ali was actually the Business Development Manager and he used to sit in a cabin upstairs. He used to be the one giving all the tasks to Kulsoom. Well, some days later Kulsoom left and I was left with Mahrukh and her hums. It wasn’t easy at all. I was still supposed to work on the KOL project a bit, and I learned that Haseeb had completed the SRS as well. It was a little hard for us to maintain the project though, because the agent through whom we were communicating to the KOL project initiators was nowhere to be found and she was very hard to communiucate with. She used to bluff a lot and mislead us into believing a lot of things, which made it hard for us to stop the work or to keep working.

Then we got another project, the BBSYDP, from the Sindh government. At first we got the task of data entry. We had to enter data into our own made databases: the forms of people who wanted to take admission in the program. And that was the first I came head to head with corruption. We used to get files and files and files. Many of them were unmarked, except for the course code and the request form numbers, but many had a star marked on them as well. Some even had two or three. These were the ones which were supposed to be prioritised. It was then I realised I had become a part of a corruption – injustice – indirectly and which was not in my hands to handle.

During this time we had also induced a new internee. Her name was Tabassum and she had come in the HR department, under Samra. Kamran Siddiqui had been transferred in the start days of my time upstairs, and he now sat in the place of Zia bhai, the Development Manager. Zia bhai’s resignation had also been confirmed by now. The cabin that upstairs belonged to him had been given to Haseeb. He used to spend a lot of his time upstairs and I also remember an event between him and Kulsoom, whose details I shall not mention, though I’d say that they were not of the standard of a Development Manager. It changed his impression upon me a great deal though, and I tried to steer clear of him whenever possible. He had nothing against me, though and I made it a point not to let him have anything against me either. During the time that we were doing the BBSYDP forms, Tabassum was given the task of making the Help Manual of HMIS. When she told me about it one day during lunch, I was quite shocked. I mean, I thought, how can she do something I’d been working on for such a long time? Every single person on the ground floor knew about it. You can’t just give a work of person A to person B when person A is still in the company. At least not without the knowledge or consent of person A. that’s what I feel. And felt at that time. When I’ve already made the manual, what are they thinking? Displacing me? I was even told that this would be used as an official manual for the next project. The next project had come now, and my task was given to an internee to make the manual from a scratch? Well, I didn’t feel good about it, and I talked it out with Hira then I went to Haseeb and told him about it as well, I even remember going to Murataza bhai! Well, when I’d made myself known to half the world, in comes Kamran Siddiqui to ask me to help Tabassum! That made me mad but confused at the same time. Then he had a meeting with the ground floor, and made a team for the help manual, with Hira as team lead and me the main writer with Tabassum as our internee. So I started working on the manual again. I’d already made the manual so I said what’s the problem with this one? But Haseeb asked me to use some product which would make the simple MS Word document into a real help file, the .chm format. Okay, so we started the quest to look for help manual creators. The first month was spent this way, and I remember it was January. We were called for a meeting every week to ask our progress, and at first Kamran had given us only 1 month to finish the whole manual. I told him it was not possible, since it had taken me almost three months to complete only a simple word document. We had to change the screenshots as well and add more text to the explanations. But he still gave us time of one month only, and I said I’ll try. I was the one and only Technical Content Writer there, and most of the work would have to be done by me. As we decided the dates of the submission of the manual, Shafiq Bhai, the then Project Manager of HMIS, was skeptical about it and did not believe we could do it. How would you manage it? he’d asked. We’d just shrugged in return. The work continued, with us also working on the foms. At the time we were all also working on the BBSYDP website and I was working on a video tutorial of it. Haseeb used to go to government offices and give training to them quite often as well, and come back and make comical remarks, copying the Sindhi government officials. He was never happy when he went there, as he did not know Sindi, and they always spoke Sindi with him, but when he came back he had a way of making fun of them in such a way that all of us would think it’s not as hard as it seems.

Well, it went on like this, myself not realising what a headache I’d gotten upon myself again. I kept giving some tasks to Hira and Tabassum and we got on well enough to work on the project, but we had some problems with staying on the same level. We had a hard time because we had different ideas, and Tabassum kept working on a different thing than me and Hira. Tabassum was having a ahard time keeping up with us I guess, because she used to look quite weary when Hira and I agreed on one thing or another. It was hard to co-ordinate as well, because I was upstairs and they both were downstairs. There was an email sent to all the seniors called, ‘Status of HMIS Help Manual’ on a daily basis by Hira and we used to be quite disappointed and frustrated that nobody replied, signalling they didn’t bother to read it either. In the first month we finalised the Adobe RoboHelp to use for the purpose of making the official help manual of HMIS. Thinking back, I know we worked pretty hard to finalise it, though it was suggested by Haseeb, but nevertheless, it was hard enough to get and then install, and I had to look at various others to compare its simplicity and ease of use. It was even harder to get the network department to upgrade my RAM as RoboHelp needed a minimum of 512 MB, and that’s how much I got, instead of a bit more. Anyway, I got RoboHelp installed in the end, and checked it out before starting work on the word files of the help manual. This is how I thought the manual should be made: making the images, the highlighting, cropping, sharpening, etc.; the making of the word documents; making of pdf documents, through the Adobe professional software; importing the files into RoboHelp; making the TOC; and finally compiling the help manual into .chm file. As a backup I made a copy in the .htm version as well, and it looked pretty good as well. It was called the Flash version, since it used Flash plugin, and it was the one that impressed the seniors and in the end qualified for the project.

Well, we kept working on it, and Tabassum even completed her internship and left the company, and we still worked on it, me and Hira dividing the work as much as possible. And though it wasn’t included in her job responsibilities, she worked with me on it as much as she could, and I was quite grateful for the help. She was a pro in HMIS and had had hands-on training by Faisal who was considered the expert of HMIS, and so was a great help in not only making the documents, but also to explain things to me so I sould write down the explanations. Well the second month also passed and there was still a lot of work to be done on the manual. We were still doing the word documents and there were still a number of modules left. We were even made to feel guilty at times that we weren’t working fast enough. But now that I look back, I know I was working harder than they deserved. At least harder than what I was getting paid. I was doing overtime, and the only thing the DM saw was that I used to go and take a 5-minute walk every two hour or so. That was part of a bias that formed against him in my head. Then there came a time when I was contacted on a site called linked-in. it was something official and I had to get help from Haseeb about it. It could have created quite a scandal in the company, if anyone else had gotten wind of it, but since I went straight to my manager, we had the situation under control. Between the two of us, we resolved the problem and as a result our contract had to be broken with the KOL. It was a great loss, but not in financial terms, only in the terms of time and hard work. We’d worked on it a long time before this event. Well, time mends all, they say, what happens is always for the best, and I think this was too.

My manual went on, and I finally finished off with the word files somewhere near mid-March. They were ready, fully reviewed, complete with text and latest images. Now the task was to import them on to the RoboHelp. That was difficult, as unknown to me, it had restrictions on the document size it could import. Well, now the task was to divide the files into smaller files to fit them in RoboHelp. That took me a month again. Somewhere in April, I think it was the 11th, a Friday, when I completed the project. It was a hard task, and it had to be done with speed as well, moreover I had to work late as well. My other tasks were also getting delayed and my headaches were also increasing.

It was a moment of celebrations. And we did celebrate. We had pepsi and chips and I think cookies as well. But Hira and I were the only ones celebrating at the time, because everyone had gone home by that time. That Friday we were also supposed to give a presentation on the manual. It was devised by Kamran Siddiqui to present to the office in general what we had done in 3 ½ months. This news we had received on Thursday, and I wasn’t prepared for it at all. The news came late in the evening when I was just about ending my work for the day, and the relayer was no other than Hira herself.we immediately went to Kamran and asked him what and how we were supposed to prepare the presentation. He told us not to bother with Powerpoint and just show the manual to the audience. Well, we had our doubts, but we discussed how we were going to take the presentation. The next morning, as usual we were having electricity problems in the upstairs department. I had to wait first for at least an hour and then work in the dark on the presentation, as the light above me had stopped working. As I was working, the good news came that the presentation had been delayed till 4 that evening; it was scheduled at 12 at first. Since it was Friday, we were ready to wait as that would give us more time to improve the presentation. We did some work on it and decided it was complete quite early. We were edgy though through lunch, and for the first time, we thought we were nervous as well. As for me, who never took any tension even in my comprehensive exam, I was tense, and I was shocked about it. I had a feeling something bad was about to happen soon. When Haseeb came back from his namaz at around 3 pm, I went to show him the presentation. He made some amendments and gave me some useful advices, but I never got the chance to apply them or use the presentation. At 415 pm Hira came upstairs, as surprised as me that there had been no call for the presentation, and we went down together to snoop. We found to our utter shock that it had been cancelled. Well that was how our project came to an end without so much as an acknowledgement from the seniors. Well, maybe it was my job responsibility and it’s no big deal for a person to do his job, but it is the responsibility of the senior to acknowledge the transfer of a certain official document to him. The only replies we got to our “manual completed” email was from haseeb and Murtaza bhai who both only congratulated and encouraged us.

The email that I’d sent to our managers telling them what files to use and where the files had been stored, etc, was ignored I presume as the next week there was a misunderstanding in the office where the manual was.

Well, I had to go and tell them individually where the manual was and how to use it for the customer/ client.

By this time the Web department had been transferred downstairs, and we all were together. Vypress had also been banned some months back, but we didn’t need it anymore so we didn’t pay attention to that. Though in the beginning, I remember I’d had to ask Haseeb to give me the exclusive permission to use it since I needed to converse with Hira on a continuous basis for the help manual. It had been banned in the web department only in the beginning. And then something happened that had the whole office ban the software. Since it’s something related to someone else, I won’t mention the details, but I would say it had an indirect effect on the attitudes of the girls of our office and a direct effect on one girl in particular. None of girls are there anymore, and one of the reasons is that one event that had Vypress Chat banned.

By this time, we had acquired another project, the ENI workflow management system. I’d worked on it’s proposal, and had had various discussions on it with Haseeb as well, occasionally correcting him in certain concepts he had mixed up, and was then also working on its SRS. Before that, I’d also worked on the survey reports of HMIS-Web project, something that was a bit difficult to do with the handwritings of Tariq and Savita half-unreadable. Then I’d also worked on its SRS which at the time contained modules related to Lab only. But I’d stopped working on it when I’d got the ENI SRS, and at that time it had been almost complete.

While working on the ENI SRS, we also had to go to the ENI office, which is situated in the 5th floor of the Forum, Clifton, to gather the requirements on what they want their product to be. This then also made me responsible to make the minutes of meeting, as it was from here that the SRS would be made. I also made quite a number of questions to ask them in the next meeting from the RFP. And I should say a word for their RFP: it was brilliant. It had a few mistakes inside of course, some ambiguities, but otherwise it was most detailed and thorough.

Fate had other plans for me, however, as I was not able to continue working. I came down with a fever and couldn’t even get up from the bed for a few days in the beginning. Finally, I took a leave of unlimited time and the project was left to Haseeb. He did complain to me that because of me, he had to do all the documentation, from which he used to run. J Well, it so happened that I was taking longer time to recover, and so, after Eid, I went and resigned. And that was my first job. Now I’m in Wavetec, appointed last Friday, 9th October as Technical Writer. Let’s see what the future holds.

See you in the next article!

P.S. Added in Sepia Solutions 17th May 2011:

Now I know that the “one and only graphic designer” was not one and only. We had another one called Zafar Ali, who is also here in Sepia, but I had no idea, since he was hardly ever seen.

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