Microsoft IDC (India Development Center), Hyderabad is one of the important location for Microsoft, as far as I know even though Microsoft have offices pretty much in every major country in the world, the product development happens only in 4 major places US (Redmond), Israel, India (IDC), and Shanghai.
BizTalk Server is one of the product that’s been built out of IDC. I’ve been to IDC multiple times in the past, in fact my in-laws live in Hyderabad just 5 kms away from Microsoft office and it normally becomes a casual visit for me to visit the BizTalk team every time I visit the city or I’ll visit them for a short 1 or 2 days official visit.
But this time it’s special, it was more of a formal engagement on something we are going to work together. We received invitation to come and work with the core product group for a week as an ISV (Independent Software Vendor). Most of the stuff we have done are under NDA and I cannot disclose anything. But I just wanted to write the experience of working with the core PG team for the entire week, being part of them.
Three of us from our team (me from London and my colleagues Arunkumar and Gokul from our India office) planned the visit. For me there are two objective one on the Microsoft engagement and another working with our core India team members to plan and sort out our priorities for the next few quarters.
I landed at Mumbai airport on 11th May (Sunday) and rushed to the domestic terminal to catch my internal flight to Hyderabad. The surprise started there, Jet Airways is the official partner of Mumbai Indians Premier League (IPL) team and the entire Mumbai Indian team (current champions) is going to travel on the same plane to Hyderabad. Cricket in India is big, getting this close to the team is nearly impossible. It’s a incredible experience standing in the security line with Kieron Pollard in the front and Jonty Rhodes in the back.
We booked a service apartment with 3 bedrooms about 4 kms away from the IDC. If you are visiting IDC with your team, this is something you can consider. There are lots of lots of these apartments now due to the growing demand. It works out fairly cheaper and more than that it gives us opportunity to collaborate together.
Local commute and Food
The quickest mode of transport (not necessarily safest) is taking local auto rickshaws. Catching a cab for short visit every day was not practical, since you need to book them in advance. We normally pop out of our apartment in the morning and took an auto rickshaw in front of our apartment every day and we did the same thing on the way back from Microsoft IDC. It cost roughly about 100 rupees (£1) each way (probably I won’t recommend taking an auto rickshaw if you do not have someone local travelling with you). Driving in India is insane, you simply shouldn’t compare it to the West. For those of you visiting India for the first time, it may be scary experience. But you don’t need to worry too much. Every driver on the road is vigilant, they always expect other drivers will make mistakes. If this mutual understanding is not there, I’m pretty sure the level of accidents will be higher. Here is the fun video I recorded, the driver is actually travelling on the opposite side on a highway, you can see there is no special reaction from other drivers, it’s quite normal.
Food is something you cannot miss at IDC, at somewhere mid of the week we couldn’t take any more. A full floor is allocated for variety of food. India is a country with vast culture and in a company like Microsoft you see people from across the country working there. To cater for this requirement, the food court has all kind of variety from North to South and East to West. Our team thoroughly enjoyed it. In addition to that we had lot of other product group lunch and evening dinner parties. By end of the week we are kind of start to run away from food.
Work culture at IDC
The competition for acquiring top talents is immense in India. All the top companies in the world have their foot print in India now and they all wanted to attract and retain top talents. You can clearly see this reflected throughout the campus, they just wanted to provide all necessity to the staff and not worry about anything other than work. There is clearly a big gap between IT industry and other sectors in India, and I feel the gap is even bigger when you start to work for some big names like Microsoft, Google, Facebook etc in India. Their life style and work culture are miles away from reality (in India). The campus is pretty much self contained, once you are in, there are no reasons for you to go out of the campus for anything. One thing I noticed, it’s very hard to find people above 30 years of age. The basic trend you can see here “Work hard – Play hard”
Challenges for small companies
We attended couple of meetings where group of interns were also present. When they got introduced you can see they are from all over the country and from the top institutions. I guess the situation must be similar on other companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. The challenge here is it’s nearly impossible for a small company to get those talents. First of all the brand value is not there for the small organisations, and second small organisations cannot match perks and benefits what they receive from big MNC’s.
But the small organisations can tackle this situation by going to the tier 2, tier 3 colleges not necessarily engineering colleges and find some raw talents. Those kids didn’t get chance to get to top universities for some reason (may be they didn’t do well at school, family reason, financial reason, language barrier etc.), but we have seen enormous talent in that sector. The only challenge here is identifying them takes time. This is exactly what we are doing at our India operations, it takes anywhere from 4-6 months to find the right person.
Our business as usual
One great thing about Microsoft, they allocated a complete private room for our team during our visit. This helped us to continue our regular BizTalk360 operations as usual. Thanks to the modern technology. We were able to carry our mobile conferencing system, along with the high speed mobile internet, wherever we go. We continued to attend our daily stand-up scrum meetings, able to respond to customer queries, interact with our team back in UK and Coimbatore (India) all seamlessly. The days were pretty long, we had couple of late night burn out cracking some hard-core code. To great extend I didn’t wear my business hat for the week, I thoroughly enjoyed some hard-core stuff we have done. I believe one of the below picture was taken somewhere around 2am in the morning.
Overall the trip was fantastic, it strengthened our relationship even further with the BizTalk product group. It was great honour when Vivek Dalvi (Group Program Manager) mentioned to my team members “We do not see Saravana as outsider, this guy is one among us“. As I mentioned in the beginning this article is all about our experience staying and working at Microsoft IDC for a week, under the hood we have done bunch of things which are under NDA, hopefully I should be able to talk about them within next few months.