Eight Stages of a successfully Lost Engineer

From the day one of my professional career one thing that kept shouting to my soul is that ‘’you are already late for this story, somebody have already achieved this in earlier age’’. This voice is still looming in my mind while writing this. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade is a well-known quote for depressed people but this is not story of a depress person but a journey of paper ship driven by water lead by wind and direct by stones. It’s not important now that how I became an engineer what important of how master plan works for me. How it translated my dreams into practical reality and how it teaches me the art of swallowing that heaviest truth i.e. life. I am still young enough to have a fresh start but stubborn mindset I got from my family and culture is keeping me from it.

Telecom world is divided into Customer, vendor and subcontractors or subcons for short. Starting from customer they are the money bank or the higher authority which is always right. Then came the vendor which is the solution provider to the customer and customer is nearly a god to them. In the end came the subcons which vendor uses to fulfil customer requirements legal and illegal no matter what they ask for, customer’s wish is vendor’s command to a subcon. I am a telecom engineer by profession and staying vigilant while on working on live network is telecom creed. Working in such condition makes us more serious towards our profession and on the other hand every other thing becomes a joke to us. In-short our work life is our social life we talk about our work at lunches, our jokes are always about our work, our political thinking is highly manipulated by our work life. We are unable to interact with the people of other profession because our normal behavior is abnormal for other people. This is not achieved by just working on live network this is achieved by passing through eight stages of getting lost in life.


Young and Naïve


After graduation I thought that in reward I deserve some free time sitting idle and spend some time back in home like a Knight who came after winning a battle, unfortunately this thinking became a habit of mine. After a month I have realized that there is a tough competition outside in the market and getting a job is not a piece of cake. At first I started looking for private jobs as I thought government departments works with obsolete style and there is no grooming while working with them. After three months past I was applying for every single job that pops up. Unfortunately I got no reply from anywhere not even internships. Hastiness made me so desperate that instead of looking for career counseling and setting a goal I was begging for opportunity any-where in the market whether it is related to education or not, all I needed was an opportunity. Some of my fellows found jobs, few started to study further and few left the country in search of better opportunities.

So after six months I got a call from a senior to report him in Lahore (Central Pakistan) as there was an internship waiting for me. I took the opportunity without any delay and thinking it through all I know was that I am already late for this, somebody has done this earlier.


Molding Phase


So I was welcomed by bunch of engineers who are my valuable asset of mine now. They tried their best to teach me how telecom works and culture around, and honestly they have done a great job. As they have taught me what they have experienced. It was a hardcore training session for me. In a week I was able to climb on a tower without any safety and perform every activity possible on a telecom tower. My seniors have shown what is Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) guidelines but also encouraged to violate them and teaches me how to feel proud of it. So in a fortnight I was speaking telecom terms and living a genuine telecom life, sleep deprivation and abnormal eating patterns were part of this job. We have been told that management is not paying salaries on time because they want us to remain under their debt. We became insurgents of telecom world just because we have started from grass root level of telecom industry. In my first interaction with a vendor I was told that they are the holy entities to us and no matters what, we have to follow their instructions. I was already glorifying them along with other colleagues. I started to imagine how easy their jobs are in comparison to ours e.g. their air-conditioned cars, their high tech personal laptops and their salary packages. So it became our goal to struggle hard and join some vendor to earn those luxuries. As always I was late and someone has already done this.


Following the shadows


After three months of internship again a senior of mine calls me and provided me a ticket to travel towards capital in that very night and report to another senior in some other subcon and start my first job as a field engineer. Although in comparison to current situation what salary I was offered was a joke but it was my first job and market situation did not offer any such facility of salary negotiations. Job was in North region and most of my work experience is in this region. Now was the time to learn more technical stuff and become a key resource for the company which lead me to every corner of the North region and I got the opportunity to learn technical stuff and perform activities of every kind by my own hands. Later I got promoted to a coordination job and my coordination with Operator/customer starts. Now I am hastier than ever before as customer employees were more authoritarian than vendor, same like a diva on a red carpet and last but not the least they have done this before and I am already late.


Along with the flow


In third world countries when new technologies are introduced every entity in the market tends to exploit every available resource in the market. When 3G/LTE licensing was in progress in our beloved country vendors were in the race of winning the bidding process and technical teams were hunting for any available resource useful to implement trial sites to win the bids. Luckily I got inducted by one of the competitor among vendors in the market. They have utilized us like we were being sold to them, they took our time, social life and respect all at once and won the bidding. Now when I look back at that time one thing for which we have been sold ourselves for overtime and extra burden was food, there is no doubt that company knew what we enjoy the most even more than our respect. What we have achieved is the potential of working under pressure, short time targets delivery and introduction to corporate slavery. My technical skills were improved along with my communication skills; this got me into opportunity of working in operator/customer when one of my coordinator in the operator offered me a job. I was so much motivated to leave the thrilling environment of vendor that without consulting anyone I accepted the offer. One of my manager forbid me to take such step but all I know was that I am already late somebody has done this earlier.


It was a dream


In the interview for this new job one typical question was ‘’why do you want to join our company’’ my answer to that question was ‘’it was my goal to work for an operator since day one’’. At that time I did not realized that how small my goals were and how much narrow my scope in professional life was. I became lost in the corporate culture and its competitive environment. Job security was a new thing for me, I saw people worried about their jobs. Employee there was always striving to save one’s role instead of enjoying their work. Most of them were searching for opportunities like side businesses. Then I met a group of people who were more or less like me but our priorities were way different. We share our interests but we differ in potential of pursuing them. A man is known by the company he keeps, should also be as a man become like the company he keeps. So I got few new interests also my priorities were molding into new things. I started to keep my fashion up to date instead of my technical knowledge. When people were worrying about low attendance I was worried about the football match fixtures after office. My professional background taught me to always rebel against management as they are exploiting their employees, it is engraved in my mind, and I am a Marxist you can say. After a year and half I started to miss thrill that I enjoyed while working in vendor.


Reality check


With the passage of time I have realized that my life is stuck here and my eyes are blinded by the brightness of this corporate culture. When I tried looking to do something positive I was the greatest hurdle in doing that. My skills were so obsolete that I was ashamed of calling myself an engineer. I order to overcome these feelings I started blaming everything around me e.g. people, work life, culture and even my decisions. I was looking to gain sympathy everywhere but all I got was dead ends and warning signs. Deep inside I was ready to embrace the impact. Moreover I realized how small my goal was and how much narrow my vision was. So I decided to leave this telecom world and search for new opportunities as I am already late and someone has done this earlier.


Pseudo Redemption


The way forward I adopted was more like running away from my responsibilities; basically it was a short cut to achieve the glory what people glorify. I got admission in an academy in order to appear in competitive examination (CSS). I had 4 months for preparation and I have heard multiple stories about people who prepared for four months or less and cleared the exam. It was the not totally a bad decision, I have learned a lot from this experience. My way of thinking was a bit changed by material I used to read. I met different people of different backgrounds, which made me realized that there is a lot going on outside telecom world. One most important thing that I think I learnt while preparing for the exam was that I adopted the ability to express myself. I got words that suits fit to express my situation and people start to understand me more. Although I was unable to clear the exam but it feels like it was worth giving a shot. At that time I knew that I am already late and someone had done this earlier.


Running towards no-where


After the CSS exams I have given many job tests and interviews. I also tried to work on any sort of business plan that could be implemented in low budget. I have searched for any job other than telecom but our country does not offer such facility that one could switch its field after working for 6 years in telecom industry. My technical knowledge is only for telecom and my skills are not so diversified that any other industry would be willing to offer me any sort of role. Well I have chance of working in government sector but at that time there were general elections in progress and all jobs and interviews were null and voided after the government change. So social and financial pressure forced me back to telecom world and I have joined the same vendor for which I have already worked for. Things were different now business models are changed; I see a lot of new faces young and old. Among young professionals I try to guide them through their hard times. Most importantly I told them to broaden their vision and set their goals higher just because with narrow vision and short goals you are not late and everyone is right on their time.


Farhan Ahmed



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