No Mom .. it’s not a call center!

Thinking Outside the Box
Pic by sun dazed on Flickr

You have to be very careful while choosing some jobs in the cities these days. And after getting it, you need to craft what you tell someone about your job.

Envy, happiness and sympathy are part of three reactions that people will give a person who tells them that he or she is employed at a BPO – one of the most successful outsourced Indian jobs.  Envy because of the pay packet, sympathy because they work graveyard shifts, and/or happiness because they’re not loafing around blowing their parent’s money.

A few years ago, a new type of offshore job also arrived in India called the ‘back office’. The general job description prevalent in that time was that of a computer technician – the ones whom you call when you’re office computer or program malfunctions. This was because of the IT companies who set up back offices initially.

Very recently I too got into a big offshore bank in the back office. They gave me a very limited job description. Mum and dad, like any prudent, cautious and loving parent quizzed me on every aspect of the promise of a job. We three began to ponder if the job at hand was a call center or not.

Here’s why we wondered if it would be a call center:

  • The job application explicitly said that the candidate must be ready to work in shifts. Call centers are the only one’s everyone knows who want people to work in shifts. (of course my mom who’s a senior official in the airport also has night shift.. but you get what I mean)
  • They had pick ups and drops. There again, a call center feature
  • My recruiter said ‘there would be some calling to do’.. was it lots of calling compared to call center.. less than that.. or more than a normal bank job?
  • I was to deal with the US clients. Our knowledge meant that it was customer service.
  • The interview had great emphasis on English speaking. They asked to stand and speak up for about a minute.. and they had a pain in the neck aptitude test a fourth of which had Grammar questions. Now why would they go over the top in picking good English speaking candidates if it wasn’t a voice process?
  • The location of the bank branch was in Mindspace, Malad. What is Malad known for? Companies like 2G.. sorry 3G, Wipro, Intelenet.. all have set up their BPOs and KPOs there.
  • They were hiring fresh graduates from any stream : when I was waiting to give my interview there were many there who had come from B.A. , BSc IT etc. . no one had any exemplary accomplishment in studies. I know my friends who work in banks like Deutsche and Axis, had to slog it out to clear some Banking Entrance Tests to work in bank. If a bank like the one I am in, didn’t want us to have passed that test.. surely the job wouldn’t involve any core ‘banking’.

My recruiter finally told me that it was a back office job that I would be getting. Much to my surprise that did not allay their fears either. My family and friends weren’t aware of the concept of Back office. That created a whole new set of discussions for me.

To convince them and myself too I called the HR and did some research, and as it turns out, a back office is the spine of most banks. Not because they fix computers.. in fact not at all.. but because they perform many of the central and core activities in a banks’ day to day functioning like reconciliations, transfers, KYC checks etc.  I was glad that something was cleared… but some doubts still lingered on.

Work began. One week later I was fully convinced that this job was a neat banking job. I guess I had to convince my self more than my parents. My job involves receiving trades from exchanges in London, consolidating bank reconciliation statements i.e. making it easy for clients to read, then pushing the executed trades in their respective client accounts (You play around with millions of pounds every time you do that). Did you doze off halfway through that statement? 😉

It’s so difficult to convey this to people. I mean personally I too am guilty of thinking of my friends in the back office as mechanics or sort like that. Guess you only know when you do that job. That’s why I wrote down this blog. Plan to print it out and give it to anyone who starts debating about the type of job I’m working in. And also to serve as a reminder not to judge people on the basis of their jobs.

What questions have people asked you regarding your job?

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