I stood by the kitchen island watching the refrigeration technician take our freezer apart. The door, the motor, the fan, the printed circuit board off the back of the fridge, they all lay on the floor. He worked quietly humming to himself.
With his permission, I took the PCB in my hands and looked at the tiny resistors, capacitors, and diodes soldered in gold color. My nails yet to be trimmed proved helpful in tracing the paths, some veering at 45-degree angles while others made sharp 90 degree turns. It put the board back on the island and turned my attention to Laddu who was looking at me curiously.
Long after the fridge was put back together and the workman had gone, I sat next to Laddu and told her that once upon a time Amma used to work on boards like those I showed her.
In telling her, I remembered the air-conditioned AutoCAD training rooms, the small class sizes overwhelming male. The look of astonishment as I finished assignments and projects way ahead of anyone around me, the proud moment of receiving my AutoCAD R13 certificate, my first ever employer-sponsored training.
The long dusty bus rides to the factory in Perungudi where I sat at the lone computer designing boards on the garish colored screens of software called PC Tango. I remember the long hours, the back pain from being hunched over minuscule details, the angles that were so important to the proper functioning of the boards. The time spent in the room where people actually brought my designs to life and tested them.
In hindsight, that was Agile in action way before it was cool. The continuous iterative feedback and perfecting the product as it was used. The camaraderie, the sense of jugaad that permeated the air, the cups of sweet tea and coffee brought to my desk.
That job lasted less than six months before I left for the cooler campuses of IT parks and yuppie crowds. My first job taught me more than just using software, it showed me how it came to life, how the users interacted with the product and how one-degree difference in the lines I drew could cause a circuit to overheat. Mostly, it taught me the joys of being productive, putting academic skills to use in real-world situations.
Just the memories are making me want to look at the job wanted ads again.