Transformation – How the Mouse became Mouse Again

There is a story in Panchatantra of how a mouse became mouse again. For the sake of completeness and for the benefit of those who haven’t heard it, let me briefly recount it here.

A little mouse once fell from a falcon’s beak into a sage’s hand. Considering the life of a mouse to be precarious, the sage, through his mystic powers, transformed it into a girl and brought her up as his own daughter. When she was of marriageable age, he wanted to find her the greatest husband and requested the Sun god to marry her. But the girl was not impressed by the Sun whom she found to be too hot. The Sun suggested that the cloud could eclipse his brightness and was thus stronger. On seeking out the cloud, the daughter was again not happy with the dark, cold being for her husband. On enquiring about a stronger being, the cloud pointed to the wind that could take the cloud anywhere or even scatter it into bits. The wind, which turned out to be too capricious for the girl’s tastes directed them to the mighty mountain that could easily block even the strongest wind, and was thus even stronger. The mountain, however, conceded the title of strongest in favor of the mouse which could bore holes in its body. Finally, when the king of mice was presented to her, the girl was pleased and wanted to be turned into a mouse so that she will be able to live with her husband. The sage turned his daughter back into a mouse and gave her away in marriage to the mouse king.

The way the mouse got transformed into a mouse alludes to how we try to make our situation better through a change. While each of such changes may seem logical and appropriate at that time, at the end we may find ourselves in the same situation where we began, though with more experience and wisdom that will enable us to be happier there! The many transformations in my career have a similar story to tell.

I started my career as a developer working for a leading IT services provider. After working there for some time, I came to know how the growth of such companies is typically linearly dependent on the number of employees. This meant that the revenue per employee was more or less bounded, which also effectively put a cap on the salaries that these employees could be offered. Product companies, on the other hand, could easily make more copies of their product and sell to more customers, thereby increasing their revenue manyfold without a corresponding increase in headcount.

So I moved to a product company. I didn’t work there for long. The thought process and effort that goes into making the product better, why not put it into MY OWN product instead of somebody else’s?

Thus, I started a company with a couple of friends and we wanted to build our own product. It wasn’t long before we found out that taking the product to a level of maturity where it has many takers takes time.

During this initial period, we decided to offer technology consulting and application development services to bring in the money necessary to keep our business afloat. With much of our focus diverted to these efforts, our product idea did not get anywhere, and our startup ended as an IT services provider catering to small businesses. But running such a company was much more challenging than working in a bigger company where you only needed to focus on your core work while the management, sales and support functions took care of everything else for you.

As we winded up that dream startup and went our different ways, I joined another bigger IT services provider and took up a role that was not significantly different from what I did before I left my first company. However, my experience has helped me appreciate how the effort of so many different teams go into winning projects and making it possible for delivery teams to work on them efficiently. And thanks to that, I now see my employer not as a cunning manipulator or middleman that profits from my hard work and abilities, but as a benign enabler who is giving me an opportunity to make the best use of my skills.

The benefit of transformation is not necessarily a change in our situation. It can very well be a change in our perspective. Many a time, that is all that is needed!

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