Babies crying in the background and Offshoring
A few weeks ago, I got on a conference call with some of my peers across time-zones. After the meeting was called to order, one could hear the distinct wailing of a baby in the background. The manager chairing the call couldn’t stop himself from grumbling “Can the person with the baby crying in the background please get on mute?”
In an era where many of us work extended hours from home and stay awake at odd hours to take calls from peers and colleagues across the globe, the occasional ‘background notice’ be it the brawling baby or honking of irate drivers in a traffic jam are perhaps inevitable. Going on mute, unless one has to contribute to the discussion is an option but not always practical, especially in cases of animated discussions where one forgets to un-mute before making an important point or argument. The person at the other end of the line may be taken aback by the silence from this end unless we quickly figure out that we are on mute!
Well, juggling distractions of commute and/or domestic life while also productively participating in conference calls is more of an art than a precise science… experience is sometimes a good teacher.
On a similar topic, calls with international teams leads to phonetic spectacle that is not always amusing. The reasons are not hard to see: the accents and pronunciations we grew up with are hard to mask. The Southern Drawl, Scottish accent or the Distinctive South-Indian accents are hard to suppress and becomes a big challenge when trying to spell crucial details (say, an email-address) over a teleconference; for example try spelling my last name Krishnamoorthy, which is a mouthful even for many (North) Indians.
Now, try to get the average Joe (or Raj) to do a phonetic description and he will either begin with K for Kansas or K for Kite depending on whether he is from the mid-west or she is from India….and by the time you get to ‘N’ there will be a couple of iterations over whether it is eMm or Nnn.. Well, why not stick with N for November? So, theoretically, one could start with K as in Kilo, R as in Romeo, I as in India, A as in Alpha (not A as in Apple as most kids are taught in school)…For those curious, check out the Wikipedia entry on “NATO phonetic alphabet” The Phonetics are a tried-and-tested list used by militaries, and those in the business of international communication. This is a tool that requires a a bit of practice, and is not rocket science.