If you win, you’ll be happy.
If you lose, you’ll be wise.”
First year (II semester) was about to end and I was looking for a summer internship frantically. I met this guy (who later became my boss) on LetsIntern.com who had just started a new company. We exchanged a few emails and I was called for an interview at Burbee’s Café in Sector 18, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India. I cleared the interview and was appointed as a Tech Intern. Sir was really thrilled after seeing my website at that point of time. An official agreement was signed within a week’s time. All was set and the internship began on 30/05/2015 (on paper from 01/06/2015) at a very good note.
To start with, we were a team of three interns – A backend PHP developer, a marketer and me (the front end and the user interface developer). Within two or three weeks, the front end of the website and the user interface of the mobile application was completed and handed over. At this point of time, my marketer colleague was sacked for reasons not known to me and the company officially began its operations around this time. During this time, I had also set up their social media handles and within the next one week, I also made their blogging website. By the end of the first month (28/06/2015), I received a mail from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company (in my case, my immediate boss), that he no longer finds me motivated enough to work from office as I had denied him to stay after 6 pm in the office (even when the day began at 9 am). Everything was resolved within the next few days but my boss had started playing mind games with me as he would ask me to work from home on leaves and holidays and I even sent him files as late as 4 am in the night / morning whereas the next working day still began at 9 am sharp. This was not only limited to this but whatever I made, my boss somehow found it not up to the mark and I had to redo the same thing a number of times but I did not had any problem. Also, one day my boss made me feel guilty that he wasn’t able to earn a profit of Rs. 2 lakhs a day just because of me. How is a Tech Intern responsible for a poor penetration in the market?
Next, we two, the remaining interns were given a holiday of one complete week with some homework to do. Within this week, I had to come up with the front end of a brand new website that would replace the old one and make a marketing video and a presentation to be shown to potential investors. The work was completed and submitted before time. By the time, we returned to office, we were informed that the company had failed to make its mark and soon the operations will be closed. Another week in office, I was asked to make the graphical user interface of the new mobile application as the business was now being shifted to Dubai, United Arab Emirates with a complete new idea which was miles apart from the initial one.
I started working on the task given to me and suddenly one day my boss stopped coming to office. In the same week, I got the shock of my life. As I was returning home from office on Thursday evening (23.07.2015), my boss called on my landline number which my mom picked and then later he called me on my mobile as I was still in metro to inform me that my internship has been terminated and I need not come to office from the next day (I wish that there should have been a way to express the rude tone in words). I did not tell my mom that something like this had happened but when I told her later, she just said that she already knew about it as he had called at the landline. On the same day itself, the official website was brought down, mobile application deleted from Google Play Store, social media handles deactivated and a public announcement was made through text messages that the company is shutting down the next day and that they’ll be back soon. The drama had just begun.
As soon as I reached home, I started calling him to discuss with him that what went wrong and why was he so angry. He deliberately did not take my calls and replied with a message instead that read: “Dhruv, let’s not play a blame game here. Both I and ****** have tried our absolute best with you. We’ll definitely meet sometime. But you know how busy I keep. We’ll surely try to meet up in first week of August.” I was so horrified that, I called the other co-founder, who is also the tech lead of the company and he told me that he was shocked to know that something like this has happened. He called me to meet him in office the next day to resolve the issue. Though, the co-founder had just left his corporate job, my bond with him was stronger than that with the CEO as he would help me in tech problems that I faced while trying to understand new things. Before leaving for the meeting on Friday (24.07.2015), I had written a letter and left it on my table explaining everything and that if I am found hurt or mysteriously dead than these were the guys to be blamed for my murder. The co-founder did meet me and told me that he would speak to the CEO as he did not had any problem with my work. That day, the meeting went for more than two hours and I left the office crying. Next morning when I woke up around 11 am, after a complete 11 hours of sleep (which was so relaxing but only physically), I found a mail in my inbox saying that my internship was terminated last week on 18.07.2015 and the following are the reasons for the same:
- I was using my talent in his office on some other organization’s project.
- I haven’t produced the expected results at work.
- I create constant disturbance in the office that leads to low productivity.
To which I replied that the project he is referring to was my own website (www.dhruvavdhesh.in) as he himself had told me to build a new website but he told me that he’ll only assign me that task in the last week of the internship. From that point of time, ideas started flowing in my mind and I knew that there is something known as Google’s Material Design which was only limited to mobile applications. I wanted to take this forward and implement the same thing for web designing as well because I saw this as my personal growth since I learned something new and believe me when I say this that, this is going to be the next big thing in the world in terms of design. I was so happy about it that I myself showed it to him but I did everything at my residence and the only time I discussed this in office was with the other co-founder because I frequently got stuck with JQuery and JScript and he has been very kind to help me throughout. My current website which is being discussed here is one of the few websites which run on custom built framework inspired by Google’s Material Design and I don’t think that I did any wrong by staying up for continuous 8 days, completing it at my home. Regarding his other points, I just said that maybe I couldn’t match up to his level of expectations. In the same mail I had given him my account details to which I wanted my stipend to be transferred to.
Exactly a week later (01.08.2015), I myself had to call the co-founder to confirm that what happened to my certificate and stipend. A meeting was fixed with the CEO on the same day at 4:45 pm but the co-founder couldn’t attend the same as he had some prior personal commitments. What happened next was even more shocking.
The meeting started at 6:30 pm with the CEO making some more false allegations. And even other staff members agreed to that his tone had changed drastically from being extra sweet to unimaginable. Firstly, he told me the same three points – I was misusing the resources of his office; I didn’t work properly; and I created lot of noise in the office. God knows what his definition of noise is and that too when there is nobody in the office. Secondly, he told me that I intentionally deleted the blog from the server on 23.07.2015 which is obviously not true as I never logged on to the company’s server after setting up the blog and when I asked him to share the logs of the server with me, he flatly refused. Thirdly, he further went on to say that he’ll pay me full for the first month and half for the second month and from this he’ll further deduct some amount based on the leaves I had taken. Officially, my internship got over on 25.07.2015 but he wasn’t ready to pay. He added that he will only take into account 50% of the leaves I had taken forgiving the rest which amounts to 8 leaves (total being 16). I was so devastated on hearing this. I never took more than 7-8 leaves in total and for them also he called me to the office on Saturdays and remember I started a day in advance. So, by this time, I had full attendance, everything was compensated. When I told him this, he said when did I give you in writing to come to office on Saturdays? He further went on to say that in the stipend promised, I should work all seven days of the week and I should accept whatever he was paying as I even did not deserved that amount of money. He told me to get out of his office, if I didn’t wanted what he was offering. Horrified, I left. I had covered around one-third distance between the office and my place when I decided to go back. I went back, he was still there. I just reminded him simple facts that according to the written agreement he cannot decide any date as termination date, it had to be formally conveyed to me in written which only happened on 25.07.2015 and that I can easily prove in the court of law that he gave me work until 23.07.2015 and he received all replies without fail. I also asked him whether he can prove anyhow that I had taken sixteen leaves since he himself told that he hadn’t given me in writing about working Saturdays. We both were standing in one room when he told me to come near him to which I denied as I felt he might hurt me. After that, he just said that he is not going to pay anything now and I left thinking that I would actually have to knock Judiciary’s door to get justice. I was half a way back when he again called at my place and then mom called me to guide me and to order me not to go back at any cost. I did go back but this time to bring him back to his long lost senses and by this time, I was motivated enough to fuck the shit out of him. When I reached, he just asked me what do I want? I replied stipend till 25.07.2015 and certificate till this particular date. After a lot of further nonsense, I had to agree that he’ll pay me my full amount till 23.07.2015. He issued me a cheque which hopefully did not bounce but on a xerox of the cheque he took my signature saying that this is the full and the final payment and that I don’t have any dues with the firm. I left as soon as I can (and reached back home only around 10 pm) from the office but before I left he warned me, I’ll write to your college and beware of me, and even if he does so, he has no clue of what I have for him in store. When I was back at home and was narrating the whole incident to my parents, my dad only said one thing in the very end of the conversation – Was this a fish market that you can bargain to any level?
In the end, the question is not about the fucking money he had promised me. The question comes down to that does the corporate world has any work ethics or not, or is it that they can go down to any level just to save a few bucks of money. My parents had warned me very initially about the cheating that happens in such small companies and this is the primary reason why I forced the CEO to sign a legal binding document. But somehow, my parents were proved right and now they have an additional reason to crib about not working in startups. Does this mean that every startup or firm is like that? Of course, NOT. Down the lines, even I would hopefully have my own startup. Does the happiness of employees of a company mean anything to the bosses? I see it as shear corruption at its best.
And to be 100% honest, I see this whole matter as experiential learning. We only learn when we experience it and each one of us experience something like this at some point of time in our life. Who does a full time internship after completing the first year in college? I did, out of choice and today, I am happy that I did it as I wouldn’t have got such a nice experience. The ultimate thing here is that I didn’t even realize until the very end that I was being mentally tortured and harassed because I thought doing what I love will never bring heart aches and everything is fair when you do what you love. But I was wrong. I cannot even imagine while typing this blog that I was so mentally disturbed with all that was going around my life that I had to leave a letter on my table which I have discussed above.
In the course of life, we face failures regularly and it is very important to learn lessons and move ahead. YES, I failed to complete something that I loved doing. But I am way wiser now, a lot actually. Life is all about failing at things and celebrating them later. Hence, it is called “Experiential Failure”.
I am thankful to god for having me go through from such an experience at such an early age, so that I am even more careful from the next time and for giving me strength and knowledge in the testing time. I would also take this opportunity to thank all my close friends who stood up by my side in the hour of the need.
Today, I have achieved something and that is increased levels of life skills and is, way bigger than any amount of money.