It turned out to be a successful and unusual day. I settled down in the townhouse of 3 years old, with a lemonade on a moderately warm and sunny Friday after having finished a busy week filled with deadlines and living circles. It was unusual to have skipped the chores of meetings scheduled on this Friday afternoon to be meeting my boss privately over lunch to discuss the raise in my remuneration. It was over a year and it was time to have the dreadful discussion of having to demand a raise for the service I was providing as a hired consultant with the firm. It never felt comfortable within me to demand such things, but I was in America, and as they say, when in Rome do what the Romans do. But, since I was in America, I was ready to talk like a capitalist and demand some dough for all the code mowing I had been doing at the corporate headquarters of an international chemical company with the software project I had been associated with.
I had been employed for over a year as a software consultant to this client who needed the job to be done. Needless to say, I went with an intention to get the job done. When your intentions are clear, clarity is never a choice in retrospect. Also, “listening is an easy art when you don’t have a need to be heard.” I was clear on listening to the need of the client and it became very obvious that the manager who had hired me through my consulting firm was keen on introducing a concept which he was passionate about and had concluded within himself would be good for his organization. Apparently, he was facing some resistance for his concept in his own organization and had strategized by convincing his management to hire some consultants to be brought in to create a prototype for his concept which he can present in their core meetings, gather support through various dialogues which he apparently was very good at and thus have a much better chance of succeeding in getting his concept implemented in his organization for the betterment of others. That is how I ended up into his field of vision.
It was nice to see a middle aged man who was so passionate about his work etc. It was easy to see the teams which weren’t on his side and weren’t going to play nice. I had a difficult job at hand but that is what they were paying me for and my goal was to get the job done. So, I put my hat of being a “softly ambitious” person, which I actually was, having been raised that way to see opportunities with an element of gratitude over going berserk on fulfilling my wishes when an opportunity presents itself, that wasn’t my style. I knew I had to be cordial with my manager’s team who was supposed to actually implement this work and make them feel comfortable about this whole thing. Along with meeting my manager regularly, to understand his requirements for the prototype, I also made it a point to greet & meet the employed developers of the organization regularly over lunch time or an occasional stopover for an afternoon friendly chat perhaps with that dreadful coffee and sometimes a donut. I ensured that the developers understood, I was not a threat to their job, position or stand in anyway. It was necessary for the developers to know that I was a consultant whose only job was to help the manager realize his goal for the concept via a prototype which he can present to the management. I was also the same consultant with an attitude of soft ambition, whose other job was to make the developers understand that a prototype is not a product which can be launched and profits made an accolades won and that it was all good.
It took a little while but the developers slowly became friends, the manager became a mentor and the management suddenly became interested in the “quick” prototype which was developed in less than two weeks time, which was considered impressive, modest in its look & feel and had the sense of a job-well-done written all over it. An immediate and useful phone call went to my boss sitting some 50 miles away in a busy street of a suburban town indicating that they had sent a very useful consultant to their site, who apparently understands their work requirements and culture well and they wanted to keep the consultant hired for a one year contract to convert the prototype into a befitting product. They also promised my boss the need to hire 2 more consultants for administering the database and quality control of the forthcoming product since they wanted to keep the entire project outside the realms of their daily business affairs so as not to disturb their developers who were strictly involved in managing their existing systems along with two hour luncheons and occasional sick leaves on Mondays or Fridays. This sudden twist of events must have inspired my boss to pick that phone and call me for that lunch on that Friday afternoon before I reached home and had that lemonade as mentioned in the introductory note.
My boss arrived on time in his luxurious and newly acquired Ford Mustang with the top open to feel the fresh air, although warm for an Indian guy but quite refreshing for an American guy who spent most of his life on the east coast. I didn’t mind the breeze as I had a cropped hair cut then and also I knew he had called the meeting for a raise. We toasted cheers over a glass of cold water and he blurted without a pause: “What the hell have you been doing at the client site, they love you?”
I smiled back and replied: “I’m getting the job done.”
He smirked: “Well, let me tell you this much, you sure are doing a heck of a job in getting the job done, because they approved the prototype and are looking to get two more consultants to work with you in getting the product ready.”
It was my turn to call upon the newly adopted capitalist in me, smile and inquire: “So, is the 33% raise which I was anticipating a deal?”
He unhesitatingly replied: “Listen, in my entire career in this field, I have never given such a high raise to anyone in the second year of them being with me. I’m making an exception and hope you understand it?”
I gestured at him in complete faith and told him: “In my entire career, in this field, I have never demanded such a high raise in my salary in such a short time of joining a firm. And that, I totally understand and the only reason this is going to work out, is because we both understand the needs of the client comes first and to get the job done also means to get it done rightly where the client is not only satisfied with the outcome of the work but also is satisfied with the team’s working ethics, moral values and professional culture, which has been going down over the years as corporations get more affluent and the values displayed by consulting firms have been outright unfair, conniving and parasitic”
We both finished our luncheon with a certain sense of peace and admiration towards what was happening and what lay ahead. We bid goodbye with a happy exchange of shaking, followed by waving our hands and that’s when suddenly an appropriate visual from the 1942 classic Hollywood movie Casablanca came into my mind where Rick says to Captain Louis Renault: “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”