To India, an apology

I’m back.

At the behest of a colleague named Lanette Creamer (a fantastic blogger worth following), I just went ahead and decided to just get busy, just get over myself, and just post an entry. 

A few things went through my mind as to what to say after such a lapse, but the ideas seemed shallow — pet peeves, annoyances, ramblings, diary stuff.  Nothing worthy.

Then I thought of Lanette’s reliable, refreshing honesty and openness in her blog, and the idea came out of nowhere. 

An apology. 

To testers in India.

And here’s why…

For years, I put you in a box and closed the lid.  I labeled it “Indian Testers” and shelved it, thinking I knew everything I needed to know about you.  It was easy to do this.  For years when I worked for a local (Seattle) test lab, you were a competitor. I believed what others said about you because it made it easier to believe that the lab could compete with your testing companies despite being lower cost.  Even though I left the lab last year for a bigger company with more challenges for me, I found out a few months later that you were replacing me and most of my staff, taking jobs away from my country when we most needed them.

Nevermind that it was not your fault, nor that the few Indian testers I had worked with in my 15 years of testing were pretty good.  I dismissed that as an anomaly.  Besides, those testers lived and worked in the United States.  I considered them “American”, and let that other folklore rule my perceptions about testers who still lived in India. 

Folklore said you had no passion or skill or curiosity or personality.  Everywhere I went, people agreed.  They said you were too compliant. You appeared to do only what you were told, and you always seemed to agree and understand, nodding your head and saying “yes, certainly sir.”  You only wanted the software to work (not to fail) and your shallow tests only confirmed that.

So like the others, I tended to see you as commodities and machines.  You were only good for running easy conformance tests that required no skill — good for tests that no one else wanted to do. I would see short, strange emails from you that said “Kindly send me a sample test plan for the testing, please.”

This was more evidence for me that Indian testers didn’t think outside the box or have much imagination. They were not critical thinkers. They stuck to the test procedure, even if it was badly written. They wrote bad procedures themselves. They didn’t ask questions. They didn’t take initiative. They said yes to everything and rarely lived up to promises. While very polite, they had the “no problem” syndrome. They did not push back when something was difficult, or impossible.

In May when I last wrote a blog in this space, the company I worked for announced layoffs and told us that we had to train our replacements for the next few months.  In that time, the new Indian staff would have to be as good as we were even though most of my staff had many years of experience with the product. 

As a trainer, manager, and coach, I had fun teaching technical skill and product domain knowledge. But what I CAN’T train is curiosity.  I cannot train someone to have a hunger to learn and discover and explore.  Either they have it or they don’t. After all, remember that the folklore told me that companies who went to India to outsource their testing were coming back because of the poor quality. The trend even had a name — “backshoring.”

When I was told about the layoff and told I had a few months to train my 3 teams before our exit from the company, I knew the transition was not going to go well.  The Indian replacements would surely fail, and my career would go down with them, I was sure.  It was not a good time to be a test manager. There had to be a way, but I couldn’t think of anything.  Maybe by being a son-of-a-bitch boss, I could take these Indian folks and scare them into being good testers.  It was against my nature to do that, but I had no choice.  I didn’t know how else I could turn people who didn’t want to learn into those that did.

A month after the layoff announcement, I was right.  The transition classes for one of my teams’ projects had started, and the Indian testers were mechanical and uninspired.  They asked few if any questions despite the product being complicated. When asked if they had questions, they said no. It was going badly, right on schedule, just as I had predicted, just as the folklore said it would.

Just before the transition classes were about to start for another of my project teams (the biggest and most complicated), I learned about a class available for whoever on the team wanted to go.  It was called “Doing Business in India”, taught by an outside firm.  I was too depressed and burned out from training the previous day to do any real work, anyway, so I figured I go to the class and have an onsite “vacation day.”  The class would surely be full of boring, useless platitudes – a great place to escape for awhile. It was a free day away from the rigors of transition of our work to India, at a time when my great staff would soon be out of a job.

I felt like a problem child in that class.  I sat in the back row and defied the guy to teach me anything. This wasn’t like me at all, but on this subject, I thought I knew what I needed to know about Indian testers. 

But he did a strange thing.  He did not talk about platitudes.  He explained that he had been a cultural anthropologist, having lived and worked in India for 25 years.  He talked about why the generalities and perceptions of Indians were so pervasive. He validated my perceptions, talked about their history and why they seemed to be so complicit.

I went up to him at a break and told him more about my perceptions (listed above).  I eventually said “Listen, I just want one thing from this class: tell me the key to unlock their souls.”  I smiled when I said it, but he seemed to know that I wanted his help to break through the veneer of their politeness and complicity to expose if they had real personalities and talent like the few “American-Indian” testers I had worked with.

I was being glib, but he answered me plainly.

 “Such a key does exist, Jon,” he said with a serious look.  Then he looked away. “I’ll mention that when we reconvene.”

And true to his promise, when class reconvened, he said: “If American-cultured testers are 80% business and 20% personal, flip it when working with Indian testers.  Focus a LOT more on the personal than you ever thought you could stand. You’ll get the productivity you want.”

He was talking right to me.  He almost dared me to try it. 

So in defiance, I did.

When transition started for that bigger, more complex product – ushering in a new group of Indian testers — I took them team to lunch.  It was July 3, the day before Independence Day. I asked them about Indian independence. The talk quickly turned to ideas of freedom and culture and … well, marriage. After all, weren’t all marriages arranged over there? How could that be freedom?

Even though one of them was from an arranged marriage, another was from what they called a “love” marriage. That surprised me. I asked each of them to tell me more about that.  The one in the arranged marriage said “You grow to love them.” Being married for 10 years, I had to admit that I understood that.  There are things about my wife that I have grown to love over the years, even though it did not start out that way.

He later said that his wife was joining him the next day, and what he said next surprised me. 

“From what you said about your Independence Day in the United States, when my wife arrives tomorrow, it will not be Independence Day for me.”

I didn’t understand at first, but then he smiled.  Ah, a joke! 

As a married man, I got it.  And right there, I had my first success.  I saw a personality under the veneer, and I liked him right away.

The next day I went to my other team, the one I was not having much success with.  I decided I would start over.  I gave one of them a task.  I agreed to learn something I thought he might be interested in – cricket – in return for him learning our product – a database for attorneys and other legal professionals to store and review legal documents.  I made him a deal: build me a database (using our product) of documents about cricket.  He learns the product, I learn about cricket – same database. He said yes and that it was a fine idea and smiled. 

I asked the other tester to do the same.  He reacted flatly.  Then I caught myself. 

Ummm, maybe not ALL Indian testers like cricket…! 

So I asked him. “That is, if you’re interested in cricket.”

He said he was not, but that he would do it anyway. As I walked away with the first guy (the one who complied), I said “I guess I blew it there.  I should not assume everyone likes cricket.” 

“Oh no,” he replied. “Anir loves cricket.  He was messing with you.”

I couldn’t believe it.  That little event was yet another key turned in a lock, showing me promise of a personality and productivity, and it happened in an instant.

That little idea started a chain of other small ideas. 

I had a room full of Indian testers who had just flew in the day before. It was 8:00 am in a new time zone. It was hard for *me* to get up early, much less think about flying across the world the day before.

So I put a 3 ft x 3 ft map of India on the wall so they could each tell me where they were from.  As the pushpins were going in, a magical thing happened.  I realized India was a BIG country. Next to it, I put a map of Washington. Then it dawned on me – most of Washington they would never see. Yakima, Wenatchee, Bellingham, Long Beach, Spokane, Moses Lake, Orcas Island, Mt. St. Helens. Politically, Washington is mostly a “red” state, mostly Republican. The Seattle population, however, skews it so that Washington is almost always considered a “blue” state (Democrat) in national elections.  They wouldn’t know that.

Then I thought of Seattle. There are parts of Seattle that are wealthier than others, that have different value systems.  Capitol Hill tends to be liberal. Beacon Hill is conservative, and they are a mere 3 miles from each other.

It stands to reason then, I thought as I looked at the map, that India must be the same way. Maybe a tester from the south is not the same as a tester from the north. Tamil Nadu in the southeast is conservative.  Coimbatore is less so. Maybe this collection of people and their personalities would come out in different ways, but maybe the key toward getting them to show that to me was the same – make it personal.

The next day in a training class I was hosting for them, I brought up Google Maps and projected it on the wall.  I zoomed in on Coimbatore where they were from and asked each to show me on what street they lived. That way, maybe they’d be less homesick, and I’d learn about their city. No testing got done in that two-hour session.  No training got done. Nothing business, nothing productive, nothing measurable.  But all personal.

What really got done in that session was me getting over myself.  I was building a team, accidentally, on purpose, and I was seeing smiles and jokes, and shyness fading.  The next session when we got into learning the product, the jokes carried forth – not always by me.  I set the tone that it was ok, and they slowly followed suit.  It began to be fun.

At the next session, the walls melted a bit more and we played one of the testing-thinking games me and my brother are famous for.

A week of this, and none of them were machines.  They were people just like me, just like my existing teams that were being replaced. 

I saw them thinking more and more above and beyond my expectations.  They were hungry and wanted to learn more.  While still polite, the veneer dropped despite the jet lag and the homesickness.  They learned on their own, as a team, after business hours.  They took pictures of me with them, shared their family pictures with me, shared the pictures they took when they explored Seattle that past weekend.  They went places (in MY city) that even I hadn’t gone yet.

 We got down to business, but it was personal.  That was the key.  They dove into their feature assignments just like my team did.  They loved exploring, were not shy, talked over each other, even gaggled like kindergarteners eager to show each other as if it was show-and-tell time.  It was amazing, and it was as easy as a key being turned in a lock, just like the instructor said would happen.

And, you know, I suddenly realized that I was the same manager I was with my existing staff. This was me, my style.  This is what I had done with my staff well before the Indians came in to be trained. The only difference was my perception that Indian testers were not as capable as my staff.  For that, I was just plain wrong.

So, India, consider me schooled.  I have some keys now that I didn’t have before and my perception is different.  Like a good tester, I ran a different set of tests on you that revealed new data well beyond the folklore. 

Still, let this be my apology.

40 Responses to “To India, an apology”

  1. Zeger Van Hese Says:

    Beautiful post, Jon. Helpfull as well, thanks. I wish I had known all this 10 years ago, would have made things a whole lot easier🙂

  2. Lanette Says:

    Jon,

    This is a beautiful and human blog post. It is not the Indian testers who have screwed us over time and time again. It is our politicians who have been unbalanced and unfair in leading us into globalization. Imagine if the offshoring was just 1/3rd the amount we have now. We could have trained, paired with, and really the best of testing could have happened on both sides. Anyhow, this thought of what could have happened is for nothing. That isn’t what happened, but I think that the testers who are far more like us than they are different have had too much blame put on them that isn’t deserved. Our anger is not for them. It is for our leaders who have set up such an unfair system.

    One of the people I’ll miss from Adobe is Anil A. who is a manager for Illustrator. He came to visit me in the US and started doing workflow testing for the sake of his team. He even made his own version of it to better suit his project. His initiative blew my perception out of the water about the assumed “lack of creativity” that the testers in India had. True, they were not given the chance to show their creativity, but it is there for sure.

    I want to see female testers from India. Not just one. There are smart women in India and the culture needs to change so that the women who want to learn and work in computing are able to. Not just in entry level positions, but managing teams. The inequality is NOT ok and I’ve talked to some of these women. Ok, I’ll get off of my soapbox, but if you find female testers without a mentor in India who need some encouragement, feel free to send them my way. I may not be able to help all of them, but I have some other women in my network who might be able to help. It upsets me to see a testing group of 200 men and 1 woman or no women at all. This isn’t 1930.

    I am so glad to see you blogging! I read your blog before and kept checking and finding nothing there.

  3. Jim Hazen Says:

    Jon,

    I can understand your points and experience. I don’t think you need to apologize as much as you should say you now understand “them”. Bias is a part of the human makeup. We become biased to things and people we do not understand. This comes on both the personal and cultural level.

    I’m not going to go into a long diatribe, but relay a story from my personal experience when I first started out on my career in 1987.

    I had just moved from Colorado, and had grown up in a small suburb of Denver. I went to college there also. So my experience with other people & cultures was limited. A year after graduation from college I moved to Los Angeles for my first “real job” doing programming on an Imaging system at a large Hospital in the L.A. area.

    About 1 month after being there and dealing with some culture shock (big city and lots of different people) I was in an elevator of the hospital going back to my office after a meeting. As I stood there in the elevator I noticed something. There wasn’t another caucasian (white) person in the elevator with me and no one was speaking english. I was the minority at that moment.

    It was the proverbial 2×4 to the head, and I thought to myself “welcome to the real world.” It caused me to try to better understand other people and their cultures/backgrounds. And after the hospital I worked for other software companies that were culturally diverse. I learned and adapted to being in the melting pot. It was one of the best things that happened to me in my life. Some of those people from different cultures are still my friends today, even after I moved back to Colorado (family reasons).

    Now to get a bit back on topic, I work with people from India in my current work and they are very sharp people. But I know I need to interact and speak with them differently at times, until the “warm up” to me. I don’t blame them either (try not to, but you know biases do pop up their ugly heads at times).

    I look at some of the “business” leaders we have and I tend to put the blame on them for the attitude of “anything for a buck”, especially if it goes into their pockets. Greed is the problem.

    I look back on the late 80’s when we had a similar situation with Wall Street. How fast we forgot the lesson of that fiasco.

    Anyway… enough rambling. Good post, and just remember you’re only human. But by being conscious about this you can be a better person.

  4. Jon Bach Says:

    Thnaks for the reply, Lanette!

    Some data points, re: gender:

    Out of the 10 Indian testers who I trained, half were female. They had the most energy and enthusiasm (referenced above). They were the ones who were the most personable, and made training a lot more fun and responded best to the “make-it-personal” tactic.

    When I taught a one-day seminar for Bellevue Community College here near Seattle in 2005, the ratio was even higher — out of 13 testers, TEN were female.

    When I taught an impromptu class at Google in Mountain View in 2006 (right after giving a Tech Talk), 7 out of 8 were female.

    This is a far greater cultural ratio of women to men than I see here in the States. Why do you think that was? Sounds like another anomaly?

    • Lanette Says:

      Jon, that is so encouraging!

      I’m talking about my experience with my counterparts in QE from Adobe in Noida and Bangalore. Seriously 4 years ago there was 1 woman total for the first team. The Adobe acquired Macromedia and I thought–GREAT now we have more mature teams in India. Met with them for cross-product testing and far more males.

      Glad to see so many women in training, but I want to see them in the workplace to get a better balance. So in my case I wish it was just bias and not experience that told me this. If it changed tomorrow I’d be beyond glad to leave the assumptions and stories of the past behind and work only on how we all can work well and collaborate together rather thank worry about some exact ratio. It doesn’t matter that the numbers are equal at all, just that the opportunity exists so that women can take an interest.

      • Vipul Kocher Says:

        Lanette,
        I do not have exact data but I can assure you there are women testers in India.🙂
        In Adobe NOIDA where I worked till 2004 (I was managing Adobe Reader on alternate platforms and LiveCycle), I think the percentage was close to 15%. It has gone up to 20% in recent times, I think. In my company, PureTesting, we have 12-15% women testers.
        Overall I see this percentage increasing and these percentages are in line with the percentage of women in Engineering courses in India.

      • srihari Says:

        Lanette,

        As a tester from India, and I do not have the statistics, I assure you that there are equal opportunities for women in testing here. And I have worked with awesome female testers and they are fantastic managers as well.

        Jon,

        Touching blog. But I sincerely hope that we Indians should also understand their US counterparts. And it does not need their US counterparts to open them up. At this level the kind of work they are getting should be the motivating factor for them.

        My 1 cent.

        Thanks,
        Srihari

  5. Pradeep Soundararajan Says:

    I am impressed to read the story. This story has strong messages to even many of the managers from India.

    Note that the exciting part for me was not about your apology. The exciting part was that my fellow country testers responded well and started to show sings of delivering value to you. If they could do that to Jon Bach they are likely to be able to do it to others. However many other people there might not have had the learning you have had.

    I can connect to your story from the other side, too.

    When I started to interact with James Bach, I was afraid. I didn’t want to lose the opportunity of being coached by him. While being on the exercises with James, I realized that if I do not ask questions I fall in to traps and so started asking questions. The fear factor still remained and I started overcoming it when he started to show the care he was developing for me outside of the testing context.

    I was supposed to be killed in a train accident while traveling to office but today I am here writing this comment, so you can guess what happened. When James heard this story, he wrote a mail saying he didn’t want to lose me. That comforted me so much.

    Once I gained the comfort level, I used to ask him questions that I would have refrained from. Michael at some point mentioned to me that I am like his young brother and that made me comfortable with him since he mentioned that. After having interacted with more and more people from the western world, I have developed a sense of how to speed up the process.

    I wish we had met. I wish I was a tester at the company you worked. I wish I had an opportunity to be trained by you. I wish the future would not be as cruel to me as the past has been.

    This is also a story of defocusing heuristic. Imagine the post you would have written if you had not defocused from office work and had not attended the cultural anthropologist session.

    My wishes to the team who got trained by you, the cultural anthropologist and you.

  6. Rabby Says:

    I sorta see “us” (possibly the entire country) in this paragraph

    “So like the others, I tended to see you as commodities and machines. You were only good for running easy conformance tests that required no skill — good for tests that no one else wanted to do. I would see short, strange emails from you that said “Kindly send me a sample test plan for the testing, please.”

    I’m from the Philippines and I don’t think our country on the testing map YET. I do not know such events/conferences held here in the Philippines with regards to testing. We have testing courses here and I attended one but I did not learn anything. It’s more on a school business than actual training. I have a personal goal which is to put the Philippines in the testing map. How to do it? I do not know but I am reading and learning from blogs such as this[yours].

    This is an awesome story and I wish our bosses will look at the map like you did.

    Offshore-ring is popular here… They offer jobs that no one wants to do in 1st world countries.

  7. Jim Hancock Says:

    “And though he tried to look properly severe for his students, Fletcher Seagull saw them all as they really were, just for a moment, and he more than liked, he loved what it was he saw.”

    Nice post Jon …thanks for sharing!

    • jbtestpilot Says:

      Very cool, Jim! I read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” every 5 years or so, but the latest time happened to be just a few weeks ago. That line jumped out at me, too. No coincidence?

      • Jim Hancock Says:

        I thought you might recognize the quote .

        True story …I took JLS to Navy bootcamp and they told me I could only keep a bible when they went thru my stuff. I told them it WAS my bible and they let me keep it. Our bootcamp company flag had a seagull on it traced from the pages. 🙂

  8. banovotz Says:

    @Jon , I am glad you realized nationality had nothing to do with testing. Large firms outsourcing testing to India or any other country whatsoever has to thank their test managers if the job is failing. If one is “ordered” to do the job in an certain manner, one cannot blame him if he does so, especially if “as fewer question you ask, the better” policy is going on. I once read an article by a critic of outsourced testing which was complaining over the fact his firm had to have on site person working full time with outsourced team because they was always having questions. It is the approach of the manager who think testing is brainless activity one should do having lips sealed and be grateful for testing a product with no flaws getting even payed for it.

  9. Vipul Kocher Says:

    Jon,
    Nice post. It will be easy for me to say “you should have looked deeper in the beginning” but that would be an uncharitable statement. It takes courage to accept mistakes and I see you as a very courageous person in this particular respect.

    I am curious though to know why most American testers will not look deeper. I know that I am generalizing but I believe this to be a fact based on my interaction with many American testers who have NOT interacted DEEPLY with Indian testers.

    Another interesting point would be to see how do Indian Testers perceive American testers? It will be a question worth asking because it is likely to reveal as much about Indian testers as American testers.🙂

    Why don’t I answer that question? I choose not to answer that question right now. In a few days time, maybe!🙂

    Vipul

  10. Erik Petersen Says:

    Jon,
    Great post. I have been working with Indian teams for 10 years now. Testers are just as curious, and devs still have the same annoying tendency to focus on bells and whistles! The CEO of a company I worked for thought IT would be a good industry for Indians with their education valuing culture after they had bought an Indian offshoot, so he had a lab in Bangalore start doing some work for the Australian office. The rest, as they say, is history. Good to see you are understanding cricket now. We used to start our phone meetings discussing who was currently the best cricketer in the world, an Aussie or an Indian. Have you been taught about 20/20 cricket yet?
    cheers,
    Erik

  11. Ashish Kumar Jha Says:

    Hi Jon,

    A Real heart touching post .. Thanks for sharing your unbiased thought about Indian Tester.. I am one of them and I got encouraged by this post.

    Ashish
    — A Test Enthusiast from India

  12. Thomas Ponnet Says:

    Hi Jon,
    very interesting post on many levels. When I read
    “In May when I last wrote a blog in this space, the company I worked for announced layoffs and told us that we had to train our replacements for the next few months.”
    I immediately expecte there to be problems. The “bosses” = greedy people as someon mentioned in the replies made you redundant which is usually perceived to be a bad thing and then ask you to sharpen the knife that was (verbally) put in your back by training your replacements.
    In a situation like this many people would have refused to do that, or, maybe more likely, done a substandard job to set the replacements up for failure to show the “bosses” that making you redundant was a bad idea – a bit of payback if you want.
    NOT going down that route is something that sets you apart from the crowd in my eyes. Taking this situation as an opportunity does take some strength.
    My own insight about the vastness of India as a country came when I talked to someone about vegetarianism. If you go to an indian restaurant in the UK the menu is 90% meat. However that’s either because the restaurant owners are adapting to the UK’s tastes or because theyre from the south of the country. Apparently the north is less meat heavy. A generalisation, I know, but something I wouldn’t have expected looking at the menus…
    I worked with the testinggeeks at Michael Bolton’s course and they are not only very knowledgable and professional but also very charming and nice people. If we get more of those a lot of jobs in the UK (and other countries) will be at risk. Again, this could be an opportunity or a threat.

  13. Justin Hunter Says:

    Jon,

    Great, thoughtful post. It was really enjoyable to read. I’m with Lanette; please post more good stuff!

    – Justin

  14. Geordie Keitt Says:

    What a moving post. Thank you Jon. And thank you Lanette for dragging it out of Jon.

  15. Shrini Kulkarni Says:

    Jon,

    Your narration is fantastic. Your post should be an eye opener to all those who do business with india, indian people. This also says how a manager who is sensitive and open to learn can transform the project, organization and the community.

    Good post .. keep writing more on these lines

    Shrini

  16. Yvette Francino Says:

    Beautiful post. You’re a gifted writer.

    I, too, am a QA Manager who lost her entire staff due to an outsourcing effort. It was very difficult to see the staff that I’d grown to love, be so devalued. Not only were they losing their jobs, they were expected to train the people that were replacing them. Though they were understandably demotivated, I have great respect for the professionalism with which they carried out this task.

    I’ve learned that they key to successful teams, regardless of nationality or culture, is through the heart. Underneath, we are all people who want to be valued for the unique talents we bring to the table. As a leader, if you take the time to discover those talents and build mutual trust and respect, the team will do great things.

  17. Fiona Charles Says:

    Jon,

    Beautiful post — thank you!

    It reminded me of a project a few years ago where IBM had brought half a dozen programmers from India to work in Toronto for a few months with a mostly local team of programmers and testers. Apart from being seriously cold in our winter, the visitors were homesick and suffering from culture shock. Yet I remember that on two occasions, when a team member returned from a brief visit home, each brought back a little present for everyone else on the team. It was both touching and an eye-opener. Not at all what we Canadians would have done in the same circumstances, and it helped us to connect in a way we hadn’t before.

  18. Xavier Shedlock Says:

    Have you read any of Cem Kaner’s books? He is such a great author, I have read all of his books and learned so much from them. I was fortunate enough to see him give a presentation a few years ago on his methodology. He is as good a speaker as he is an author. Do you know of any other authors of Kaner’s reputation?

  19. Jacob Stevens Says:

    Very enlightening point, and very humbly presented. I think this might be a major breakthrough in relations throughout the industry.

  20. Farid Vaswani Says:

    Jon,
    A great post. Being a migrant myself I have been on the other side of fence as well. We do take a while and look for that comfort zone before freeing ourselves.

    I have worked in places where migrants have been managed differently and I did notice that it made a direct impact on my productivity.

    Now after almost 7 years in the new country (NZ), things are definitely different. I have got a team of 5 testers form 5 different countries and the rule of personal(80%) : business (20%) really works for me. The other advantage I have here is that kiwi culture is a bit on the perssonal side as well. That in a way makes it easier to maintain the balance and have similar working/managing style for both.

    Thanks for the post.

    Merry Christmas.

  21. Viru Says:

    Hi Jon,
    I liked your article.

    Equation of being (80%) personal: (20%) business really works well when there is culture difference.

    Merry Christmas and New Year greeting!!!

  22. wasim Says:

    Jon,

    Very nice blog. I appreciate your efforts to understand indian people. India is a country with people coming from different states, cities, culture and heritage. They put nearly 23-25 years of their life in schools learning different technologies and these “varied” schools teach them a different view towards life and buisness. Hence you might see some indian people being shy, some very friendly and some to be reserved.

    Also please note that you can always get your work done very easily even though it is going to be tough for that folk, you just need to understand and believe him/her.

    Best Regards,

    Merry Christmas and a prosperous new Year 2010.🙂

  23. Yogananda Jeppu Says:

    A very touching apology. But the misunderstanding is so very true. It is very surprising that even after so many years of interaction it has been difficult to understand each other. I am really sorry about the economic situation in the world today and we Indian do get blamed for the work being taken away. People sometimes comment so to you openly. It feels odd. But then we should also realize that India is also a market for American products like Coca Cola, KFC, Papa Jones and McDonald!

  24. Muthu Says:

    I feel thankful to the cultural anthropologist for helping you understand Indian testers and you to post it!

  25. Vickie Says:

    Wonderful words of wisdom written so eloquently. Thank you🙂

  26. Ruth Marie Nofchissey Says:

    Wonderful Jon!-key to their souls! Wow! For me you’ve given outsourcing a face. My dad,Warren Thomas, had the oldest airplane in Ottumwa one year when I was a little girl. And another year came home with an autographed copy of your dad’s book. I enjoyed your book–Above the Clouds –so very much as I have known many men separated from their children. I applaud this well rounded universal aspect of your efforts to transcend cultural divides with respect and create the whole larger than the sum. My husband is an amazing Navajo Goldsmith. He is the exceedingly technical one in our family. He taught his kids to program the commodore 64 years and years ago. And is highly technical today. I don’t even want a bread maker.
    Sincerely-daughter of antiquer-Ruth Nofchissey, Santa Fe, N.M.

  27. Johan Says:

    It is always humbling to realize that you are human every now and then. No matter how hard we try, we are still flawed. No matter how hard we try to be unbiased, there will always be moments when we fail. No matter where on Earth we live.

    If you take a man/woman from China, India, Japan, Europe or USA that has the same formal or informal education, training and experience, we are all the same, as long as you find the right incentives for that person to care about the product, feel commitment, and take ownership of his/her work. The incentives differ, but the bottom line is that none of us are more special or better than anyone else based on where we live, our culture, or our race. We just need the right incentives to care.

  28. Muthu Says:

    Jon, Who is that cultural anthropologist?

    • jbtestpilot Says:

      Note to all: I found the name of the instructor! He was a guy named Ken Price with TMC (www.tmcorp.com).

  29. Del motorcyclepilot Says:

    A person born today, isn’t any different than a caveman of 10,000 years ago.
    Yet, an adult caveman and an adult of today, are vastly different. What transpires to make that difference ??
    It is the information we absorb. Not just through formal education, but ALL information. Part of that information IS culture, the expectations placed on someone by sociaty, and that includes parents, peers, as well as the larger group. In any group, there are worthwhile people and those that are not. It is the individual who determines which catagory they want to be in.
    There are many examples of people reared in the worst circumstances turnng out to be among the MOST worthwhile members of sociaty. However culture DOES have an influance on the percentage of people who become worthwhile.

  30. Sandeep Sethi Says:

    Hi Jon,
    A very nice article. I have joined an MNC at Bangalore just 2 weeks ago as a ‘Trainee Technician’ since I am just a college passout without any prior experience. During my studies I want be a programmer but the company ‘forcefully’ placed me in the testing department. Nowadays I am finding out what Software Testing is all about and this curiosity has brought me to your blog – very informative, very expressive and very useful.
    I feel bad for 2 things
    – first the general perception and prejudices that all of us have for each other(and we can’t blame any body for that) and
    -the second is about US people losing jobs due to people like us. Anyway India is a huge market for various MNCs.
    During my training it was told to us that US,UK,German people are very professional, they pay us for the job so limit your communication only to the business level nothing personal at all. This can led to perception that you had.

    However good news for me is that I start liking testing. It seems to be a creative, thinking and challenging job at an intellectual level. I would love to have a career where I can get some domain knowledge of various fields rather than deep technical knowledge of a couple of technologies.Its exciting.
    Recently as a part of our training we were given a SRS of a dummy project and were asked to find some issues or defect or suggestions for it. Initially the SRS seemed perfect. But on next day when I was going to my office on company bus I read that SRS to pass time of my one and half an hour journey
    I was able to find out various loopholes on the plan and ofcourse some suggestions. Next when we had a peer review of the document at the training sessions more knowledge was shared and gained . That was too exciting.
    So I believe that Testing is my cup of tea therefore happily I am bookmarking your blog. Keep sharing your experiences these are wonderful.
    Thanks

  31. Saumya Says:

    Hi Jon,
    A touching post…it has as much ‘personal touch’ as your effort with the testers…and great work there too.
    I have had the opportunity to interact with my US test/dev team in my previous project and those were some of the best times of my career. An American test lead who was supportive beyond my expectations…developers who were actually fun to spend time with..fight with and laugh with…and Managers whom i still miss.
    All that it took was a little persistence- a smile, some lil jokes…and I even found a fellow Jack Bauer fan🙂
    The negativity that the outsourcing & Lay Offs generate is understandable. Losing our work to someone else and having to do the ‘Transition’ is really tough. I even have had that experience within the same project… and the words of that very test lead to my fellow Indian Team mates who were the last to return closing our project account there, were that the toughest thing is to hand over..and that they did it most gracefully.

    It is just those few steps forward that you took and that any Indian can take too, when it seems that things are turning out badly… opening that closed box… the results, as you so beautifully describe are most rewarding.

    Thanks for doing that…and thanks to Ken too, for the insight🙂

  32. Meeta Says:

    Jon

    A very nice post …I just chanced upon a link today while browsing and it led me here …..though this is an older post by you, I could not help writing a note🙂

    I have been working across borders for all my professional life and find every country and their people mesmerizing in multiple perspective.

    Just like you had perceptions about Indians and their behavioral attitude ….. People in India have some too  …….from the ones that I have found amongst people when I interact with them, I’d like to share some key ones with you…….

    I could take these learning’s and was able to see it visibly effective in non-US-UK…(non English speaking) countries to be similar in many respects …….

    When initially people start interacting….. they face a few challenges like :
    1. They are little unsure on how to maintain the cultural balance during discussion
    2. The language and pronunciation at times are difficult to immediately pick up (Remember – English is still a foreign language)
    3. They feel that if they ask questions, they might be considered ignorant and unskilled

    The above 3 I significantly relate to as a barrier in European countries too where English is a foreign language.

    For India there is a 4th one too
    4. Cultural upbringing that says do not question your teacher upfront. You can initiate dialogues later. Indians strongly believe the saying ” Guru Govind dou khade, kake lagu paav…Balihari guru aapno Govind diyo milaye” that means…. “if both God and Teacher stand in front of me, whom should I bow first? …. It has to be the teacher coz it was he who taught how to understand and unite with God”.

    Family – anyways rules as the first law in india !!

    It is really nice to see that all of us are now trying to break these cross cultural barriers and trying to understand perspectives of others and in return learn something from them as well !!
    ….

  33. Eusebiu Blindu Says:

    Nice post. Besides the story that tries to give an idea, your blog content is very easy to read, to stay connected.

  34. Lalitkumar Bhamare Says:

    Jon,
    This is the best one I have ever read you.

    Let me admit that it was the real pain for me to read and realize what perception about Indian Testers is still there. But what gave me the immense pleasure was your efforts and a conclusion after.

    No doubt it takes courage and purity of heart to admit what we used to think and how we learnt to correct that thinking/view of ours.

    In India , a person remains as Student (attending schools, colleges etc) almost till 1/4th of the Life’s phase. Their TEACHER is someone for them whom they respect till the end of life. The impressions of TEACHER and respect for them in every Indian’s life is so deep that one can hardly think of being arrogant by questioning them back. (Meeta was so correct here)

    I myself belong to family of teachers where am the only Software Tester (taken birth ) so far🙂. What I have been always taught is to Respect your Teacher, Elders and seniors.

    Also as you know, India is a BIG country with wide verity of culture, physic, language and so ultimately the thinking process too. Forget about with Americans, but the intro word behavior noticed by you is what which can be easily found when We Indians meet each other hailing from different regions and culture. But eventually the gap reduces and the things get a go.

    Apart from what KEYs you found at the end, I would request you to add one more and that is “Showing little more faith in their ability & encouraging them with your inspiring words”

    To admit, we belong to the place where a student says,
    ” Sir, just say that I can do it and then see how I conquer the World!!”

    Thanks for the beautiful post.

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