Not an ordinary Monday

It was a Monday. But not an ordinary Monday. Not from the vantage point of a relatively junior employee in the 250 people organization. The year was 2002. Cybage had recently implemented Formal Mondays. The reason mentioned in the policy announcement email was, ‘everyone deserves to look good once in a while :-)’, smiley included. I walked into the Cybage bungalows (our older campus) wearing my favorite blue tie over a white shirt. In those bachelor days, there were no family-centric morning routines to slow you down. I used to get into the office early, and it must have been about 8 am.

Arun (our CEO) was standing near the Cybage entrance, and it looked like he was waiting for someone. After a quick customary exchange of the morning greeting, I proceeded to the reception to sign myself in. Back in the day, we used to log in our arrival time in a register – on a real, hard bound paper register, with a ballpoint pen. As I was walking back towards the Altiris room where my workstation was located, Arun, who was still standing there, asked me if I had a busy morning and whether I would like to join him for a leadership training session he was going to attend that morning.

I was naturally quite excited at the prospect of accompanying our CEO for some offsite event and immediately indicated my interest. The other person who was expected to join (Cybage’s QA Manager at the time) also arrived and we hopped into Arun’s maroon Honda City. The destination was not far. The training session was taking place at Hotel Sun and Sands (which I believe is now the Holiday Inn).

The session itself was part of a series of sessions and the topic that day revolved around stress management and work-life balance. Most of the people seemed like senior executives. Their respective organizations had nominated them for this training, and I felt excited to be part of this elite group of about sixteen people. The trainer randomly called upon the attendees to share their de-stressing techniques. I was also called upon to share my de-stressing formula with the audience.

That is where it got momentarily tricky for me. What was I going to say? In spite of working long hours and sometimes weekends on many occasions, I had never felt stressed. It must have been the love for coding, the colleagues many of who were friends first, the even friendlier clients, the Cybage bungalows campus that always felt like a picnic spot or a combination of all of these. I found myself facing these senior executives, who were expecting some de-stressing wisdom from a twenty-three year old who had yet not experienced work-life imbalance. My life had happily revolved around work. And
that day in front of an eager and wiser crowd, I knew I had to find something more intelligent to say than a simple “I have never been stressed”. (In hindsight, that spotlight was probably one of the first stressful moments of my professional life until then!)

Anyhow, what I said was both funny and true. I said I enjoyed cooking for myself, and then proudly elaborated on how I had prepared that morning’s omelet breakfast. I saw that the audience was smiling. There were even a few chuckles. The trainer attempted to qualify my statement by deriving deeper meaning. He explained that I tried to enjoy whatever I did, and that I was focused on the present moment. Perhaps he was right. At that time, I did not even realize why I felt cooking was a de-stresser for me. Certainly it was not in a way that it really is for most people. In retrospect today, I think it reinforced for me the fact that I was living independently, away from the family cocoon where I had always been taken care of by parents and older siblings, but that is beside the point.

So what are the morals of this story? I guess they are:
a. When the boss invites you in for a joy ride, be prepared there will be more than you expect! (smiley please)
b. Stress is an invention of the mind, and luckily the mind is our own baby. We really can de-stress by focusing on the lessons of our achievements, howsoever small they are, rather than worry constantly about the unknown tomorrow.
c. Sharing in the cooking chores at home, is like a Cybage team with its various moving parts, all working to make a stress-free release, and deliver a quality product.

Happy cooking and happy coding / working everyone!

(This is the original unedited version of my article that was published in Cybage’s Monday & Beyond series in July 2015)

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