Change - How Well Do You Handle It?
My first ever job was with a market research company.
Fresh out of university, graduating as a mechanical engineer after a challenging four years of rigorous study, I expected to be flooded with job offers. That didn’t happen. So, when this first offer came along, I took it even though I wasn’t keen on working in marketing. I wanted a traditional, hard-core engineering job.
The job lasted only a few months. The salary was poor even by 1980s standards, and the manager wasn’t the friendliest guy! For instance, when I broached the subject of reimbursement of petrol expenses since I was using my scooter to visit companies for market research, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I pay you a salary, that’s it. You decide what means of transport you use. Most of the staff use public transport. If you choose to go by helicopter, do you think I should reimburse you for that?”
Despite my first job being a forgettable experience, there’s a reason I haven’t been able to forget it - the subject of my market research.
My topic of research was – “Use of computers in offices”.
Computers were just being introduced in India. Most businesses still relied on typewriters and stenographers (remember this profession?) for their communication.
My job involved interviewing staff and customers of a Government bank where computers first made their appearance. I used to visit the bank’s offices and conduct surveys on the use of big and bulky desktop computers that hogged the space on the desks.
The general feedback reflected curiosity, apprehension, and a feeling that this experiment was temporary. Using computers was obviously way outside their comfort zone, and they felt this was a fad that would fade away soon. They could then return to the familiar click-clack of their typewriters and the big, bulky manual files.
Forget about being ready for change. They were convinced there was no chance of change!
In just a few years, computers became ubiquitous in business environments. Those who accepted the change and adapted accordingly survived. Those who refused to accept the entry of computers into their lives…well, you can imagine their plight!
During my student days, our college had one mainframe computer - the huge dinosaur ancestor of modern-day computers! It was installed in a room that was sacred and mysterious, like the sanctum sanctorum of a temple. It was the only air-conditioned laboratory in our college. The mainframe beast had privileges that none of the machines in the other labs had!
Very few people were allowed entry into this room. The professor of this department was like the head priest of this “temple”, and the lab assistants were like assistant priests. Students of the newly introduced Computer Science Engineering branch were the only ones permitted in the room, and that too at restricted times.
Today we have thousands of times greater processing capability of that mainframe computer in the palm of our hand! And all this has happened just within the past 30-40 years.
The reality is that we often have little control over the change that we are faced with. Sometimes we may not seek change, but change seeks us! We can either embrace this change and adapt ourselves to the new situation, or we can be carried kicking and screaming into this changed environment, or we get left behind.
In which of these categories would you like to be?