Cincinnati Bublaboo ….. !

This Saturday Jayam became a Magician!

The magician Jayam

The magician Jayam

Few weeks ago – this new thing begun – which took a lot of our energy – specially of my wife. But all together it was worth it! It was good fun, and good to see what a 6 year old child can do.

Jayam, got selected to represent it’s school CNM for an inter-school competition. This was supposed to be a “Fancy dress competition” – or so were we told. It was decided that he would be a magician. Magic happens to be a fully new thing for both of us parents; It wasn’t enough that he just wears a magician dress, he had to actually perform magic – so that was the first shocker to us. By references, we got to know a young boy slightly elder to Jayam, who had learned such trick and hence he agreed to teach us few things. So finally we had some idea about what is it all about and we learned about “Magic”!

But expectations were high. In the very early review from school teachers said, they were not impressed by tricks that somehow people would have seen it or would be very “simple” – also, it needed a lot of practice for Jayam to master it such that it would look flawless in the stage.

But that wasn’t enough either – we had to have a ‘theme’ with a connecting message – and then needed to do something rather unique. Since it was about message – we had to also do quite a few round of improvising in the script he would use. But as we were searching for theme -“earth” we found almost nothing; of the type we needed including from the places

So all in all, we had to really invent magic! And make Jayam execute it in the audience.  You can all see for yourself – the last trick in the video is what we created hand made…

Indeed, all through out we did find it tough, we did panic and we did got stressed and exhausted; but we learned and we did enjoyed.

So presenting the new magician – Jayam. with his magic mantra:
“Cincinnati Bublaboo… you will be amazed at what I do !..”

Some pics:
Flower Trick Water Trick  Earth is in BAD condition! Get earth very green!

The competition wasn’t really about “Fancy Dress” – it was about magic – so all student were doing magic. And we were slightly off the track in terms of rules as well – in term of using props. Jayam didn’t got any winning position, but I think he was still amongst the top few out of 30+ students.

It was participating in something like this- put Jayam really on a different scale, at least in his school. We were very happy that on the stage he really did all his best.

Back to Life?

For quite some time my What’sApp – status said “I am not a human any more!…” which is now “Back to life!” . Not too many people noticed though and those who did, didn’t quite realized what it meant. Most of my close friends knows I was always “In-Human” anyways.  It is not new that I am an extreme workaholic and remain disconnected from friends and relatives quite often. And as always, clocks keep stretching as I come home.

Yet, this was still a very different time. There was a phase where everything I was doing was ‘in-human’. Being ‘in-human’ was about putting myself to un-natural course which even I didn’t knew why I am doing to myself.

A new endeavor

Sometime in last September – I just happened to connect to one of my colleague in sales. We begun working for an unusual assignment. It was one of a kind meeting even in my organization because being very upfront we knew all symptoms why such sales call would go no where. But the stature of this meeting was so high that it took about 25-30 days of back breaking work between two meetings. What begun from this was a completely different style of working. In a nutshell, we begun using heavy data in sales – and this data driven approach is what we used to call ‘Science-Sales’. As we continued, this created a new space for me altogether and soared my ambitions to new heights. Since I have been interacting with many top Marketing heads, this essentially led me to learn a completely new subject “Media Planning” and many aspects in Marketing.

Of course, we didn’t have to go too far to find critics and nor to find many who did praised but won’t personally want it- we were least bothered. I am sure, it would have created a new type of discomforts in the organization for a few; but nevertheless, this new beginning put me to course in several strategic aspects.

Getting pushed towards business side instead of tech isn’t completely new. Even when we were in Dizzy Research, one of my earlier venture, I was quickly pushed in dealing with business. The reason is very simple – many techies put themselves under the boundaries of tech-scope as their responsibility. Business may work or may not work – and start up always remains uncertain. When things don’t work as sweetly as we have in our wishful dreams, techies feel hopeless and often betrayed. But in true sense if we think that we want to bring technology to succeed, want to make sure it reaches every home, all techies must take ownership in the business side of technology adoption. That is the only way we can create things that work in real life and in turn we create freedom to do more creative stuff.

This wasn’t an outward only path,or some kind of exit, I was pursuing internally in the tech team new avenues and projects. First time, we have had “secret projects” with few team members; at least three of them. In the team, we are strictly open in terms of sharing all ideas, but this was the first time I wanted to generate surprise ideas. And then finally. suddenly something else struck very hard. We had to face audit as part of Rediff.com compliance level and we had really tough job of matching all transaction data with financials. This again was just an opportunity – this process helped us created a full fledged MIS barely out of XL sheets.

In last eight-ten months my timings of going back home was getting new records; sometimes later the crossing 12:00 am mark became a norm. So when I leave for office, my wife would greet me “see you tomorrow”.  It wasn’t just time consuming – it was uncertain in many aspects. Succeeding here, was also not a straight cakewalk. And above all, I knew – I am in not my territory of expertise at all.  And when you are not in your comfort zone- do you really upheld your common sense or listen to many? How do you really learn when you listen to too many opinions from so many people – often conflicting? It was tiring yet inspiring, uncertain but fulfilling .

And was it worth it? 

And was it even worth it? and what was I really wanted to achieve and prove? I didn’t really have any aspiration to change designation or raise in salary. And I am in no mood to go out from tech to business side. The management, of course, has given me appreciation in its own way – but for me it wasn’t started with any assigned work nor did it had any deadline or goal to achieve. It was pure exploration. Time and again, we find ourselves locked in systems and knowledge areas of our expertise. So I needed something really different to learn. It was clear that I needed to shake things up for myself – to learn something out of the way and stretch myself to a different horizons. I want to see – whether do I really have a purely internal force that can transform myself? Lot of times I hear about adapting, upgrading to new things – but can I really pull myself with real speed and excellence in an endeavor completely out from my comfort zone? Knowing that I can still go out an impress some of the top CMO’s of the country about media planning, and in the same breath can convince international auditors till the complete depth – and I can still read books with concentration while slogging for 18 hours a day – was some kind comforting… I was really didn’t want to be “Human” to limit myself, rather just wanted to see how far can I fly.

So why back to earth? 

Well, I did loose a lot of stuff – the family did got the least of the time. Many things got neglected – including friends. More than anything, perhaps my primary job itself was coming to the edge. BTW, finally, I lost my Ph.D. enrollment as well – but that was inevitable for sometime. I didn’t win – I didn’t loose – I learned. And when I was getting to good grip on this, we realized this shouldn’t be done to “end” but should now be a part of my sustainable life. So it all has to be streamlined. More importantly, I realized that I don’t quite have to slog just to prove anything. So here, I am back go life!

Last week, after so many weeks, when I came back home before my kid went to sleep it felt really good, and when the whole family created charts for his school project – it was a new fresh feeling.  And finally, I felt nice to get back to my blog.

Let’s see what future unfolds into…

Freedom is what you make it to be!

freedom

In the book WinningJack Welch was asked if you happen to ask only one question to the hiring candidate what would it be? As he puts, it would be “Why do you want to change your current job?”. In essence ‘is the person is leaving because of  work, environment or due to performance? or he/she has too much energy to be held back?’ If it is later, he/she is the great hire!  For many years, I have seen this working spectacularly. It is quite crucial that how and why one enters and exits  jobs you exit holds key parameter to judge what one really stand for. Yes, it is true that many people will give a very polished answer irrespective of the real reasons; but, Jack-Welch test definitely eliminates a whole bunch of idiots who are wrong hire no matter the talent.

But there is more to it. This blog is not really about how to interview people or find best of the people – but over time I have judged that in spite of the equally great potential, why some people make it big and some don’t; and you cann’t make out from the interviews or from this Jack-Welch-test. … finally I found the missing link.

It’s been more than 6 years for me in the current company and not only that, but many among my first team are also about to finish their spell of six years – and still counting for others who joined later. This was the first time I have had such a long spell, and from what I know in many Indian companies this would be a record. This success is something about organization rather than my personal achievement. But interestingly, 6 years tells you a lot of interesting stuff. In 6 years, you do many things, you succeed, you fail and from all these you grow and in the process you change and become mature.

But I had seen that the whole thing applies differently for different people. Some take on with critical project, contribute not only in terms of work but put forward ideas that propel the whole team, over time become critical, indispensable for the team as well as management; and of course grows by the leaps; where as over 6 years some people might jump from one project to another, work, slog and later drag things; in all eventuality might just get stagnated and most likely might have to leave the job because it is boring, not so challenging or exciting. If you put both the people on Jack-welch test – “Why do you want to change your current job” – you will see they both on same ground; that they want more challenges. Unfortunately if you happen to take the type 2 here – it is likely that once again after a couple of years you will see the same story repeating.

Just to clarify, I am not complaining about the people and definitely not talking about work-dodgers. Here are the good folks, talented and willing to do great stuff – and are equally valued in the organization having resources and opportunities; but somehow when you compare people of same great institutes, similar technical expertise, same company, same work culture, and even the very same boss! Why then there are some who grabs opportunities after opportunities and some who just needs to be pulled and dragged and still wait for commands? This is really striking to me.

As you compare half a decade long careers the real difference between the two types is that the later don’t quite evolve that much rapidly. As the Type B guys fail to evolve – they find themselves doing same old stuff repeatedly than growing; The senior management would always wish that people get matured and take on a higher responsibilities on their sleeves. And many think that a new jobs, new environment or even higher designation will solve their problems- it would but only to a limited extend.

The 5 or 6 years mark is no magic number. Yet, shorter the average span of the person’s tenure, the more serious is the problem. On a first glance, you will see that these folks would pass the Jack-Walch test; they would say “I am looking for more challenging job, more growth”. The real question (for me) is, if they are really so serious about doing challenging stuff – did they really ask your bosses before  hunting for  jobs? Does their existing work show that they are apt for taking up challenging work ? Have they even been recognized by their bosses in the form of scaling up of responsibilities (not just salary) in a single tenure? and ever ended with a home run? What we really need to judge is not whether person is willing to work hard – but if you give him/her all the freedom and resources – can they really make it big? So in all, people’s claims and desire needs to be validated against the past work. This is not to say that Jack-welch-test is wrong, rather, I feel I now understand it a bit better!

In my last company I never really notice this phenomenon; primarily because most people churned-in and out rather quickly, but more importantly that organization had a rather restricted exposure to things and much less freedom. I have seen good people every where, yet very few in that organization had command and aura to drive stuff. The balance guys looked up to them and always thought somehow they were the fortunate chosen ones who are entitled to hold beacons; and more importantly many thought who-are-we-to-take-stance. In reality it was not particularly hard to seek freedom and drive your stuff. But most middle level management would happily disdain and carry on with their life rather than doing deep retrospection. What I realize from this, is that those chosen few are not from the heavens; they just know how to use freedom, make more value for the organization and in the process how to gain more freedom as well as power.

The difference between getting into a commanding and indispensable position vs. keeping yourself dying in the waiting zone is to know how to use freedom.

Even to the best of the employees, quite often they don’t assume that freedom exist for them. This nice article Claim Your Freedom at Work, shows that sometimes people actually find that “aha” moment as you tell them that freedom exists – where as it would have existed all along. While the article references someone who took freedom with great happiness and drive; there are also some who would be rather clueless about what to do with it or may even stifle! This is a serious challenge that all bosses face.

I distinctly remember my “aha” moment came in 9th standard when I made a very strong decision to join an extra curricular program without even asking my parent. When my parent weren’t surprised at all, and appraised me. Not that my parents won’t stop me from going wrong – but that day I discovered that I was always free to make my own choices. This has helped me to drive through my journey from graduation, IIT and of entrepreneurship. Most bosses I worked under also never hesitated to give me freehand most of the time.

Only through self driven challenges beyond your limits, can you stretch and evolve yourself for bigger stuff. Repeating the same thing wont ever scale you!

Today, I find it rather surprising that in spite of coaxing people to  turn on their freedom flag – some may be just more comfortable being passive followers. Some are just far more happy for being content and obedient or are wary of  end-up-disrupting-something. Some people knows how to make good use of  that, but will still wait until that “aha” moment when you tell them to go free!  May be some of this is just hardwired in people or they got it from their childhood days. Whatever the reason, these are really the great career destroyers. People don’t realize this because as soon as they feel stagnated they move on, and start things all over again, but they don’t quite unlock their wings and until they do that, they don’t even realize their true potential.  And I am only beginning to ask my self as to what is the bosses should do so that people learn how to unlock themselves.

Freedom is part of every job and it is the ultimate element that can get the best out of your talent. Some organizations might be relatively strict but most good organization give you the natural freedom; some part you freedom with your rank. Ultimately as you end up on top brass things are almost always left on to you to achieve results all by yourself.  In that sense, your destiny lies in your own hands, and hence knowing how to capitalize on this asset and do useful wonders is just as far important career trait than your talent itself!  Learning to use freedom effectively is perhaps most important career training for all!

Freedom is what you make it to be!  It can take you places, or it can potentially make you suffocated.  

What’s your opinion? 

Sachin – a match winner or a selfish legend?

sachin2

So finally Sachin retires from ODI. Its a remarkable moment for great many of his fans – and a moment to chill for many of his critics. After all, the much awaited retierement is here.

There is no disagreement, whether you are his fan or the critic, that he happens to be a legend across the history of the game. For the mountains of unparalleled records he has made, wikipedia has kept a dedicated page of Sachin’s records apart from his own page. But all these records are still in vain in the light of one criticism against Sachin, that he doesn’t plays for the country rather only for the records and if he is truly not a match winner. Is this really true or just an allegation?

This debate of non-match-winner and defense existed for quite some time; but this debate was heightened ever since media was tracking Sachin’s 100th 100. This landmark became quite a jinx to him. He finally finished his 100th century after facing so many nervous 90’s; and that too against Bangladesh. Not only that, we lost the match in which Sachin broke the record! So putting all together – it was inevitable for people to believe that “Sachin only plays to make records not for a country!”  This record put him to a new apex in the game, no matter who you are, this could be the worse insult one can get after putting such a flawless and heightened career anyone can get.

So is this really true that master blaster is actually selfish only worrying about his records and for the interest of the game and country?  

Wait, I didn’t tell you – this blog is not about Sachin, and not even about cricket. This question isn’t quite a new one. While there are hardly few people like Sachin’s legendry status, but I have seen many people – in sports, administration, politics and in work receive an uncalled for criticism or don’t get to the credit to their merit. This blog is neither from Sachin’s best fan nor from a critic. This blog rather tries to throw some light as to why our thinking, over time, has grown to undermine the true value as a legend. The phenomenon is definitely not rare but quite a commonplace rather. I am just listing here, in my view, why this happens – and what is the root of it all!

This problem actually belongs to much larger pattern; but since we started with Sachin, let’s first look at that. Sachin has perhaps every possible record as I could imagine. But we are not really compiling Sachin’s records- so many people have done this. See [1], [2], [3] and many more. Sachin of course is highest run maker and highest century maker (by any statistics) with a nice average and strike-rate; so when you pile up a lot of run for the side, and do that everytime that itself stand that his contributions have always helped India.

The question really is, “Is he a match winner for India?” To make a small point – most Indian cricketers are only good in Indian soil. Few batsman have shown the charm of defeating foreigners in their land – while that being true, Sachin is actually the highest in the tally to have performed extremely well on the foriegn soil. He has played against all countries on all grounds equally handsomely not just on weaker sides. His highest centuries was against Australia. What is even more important, if you follow the detailed stats, his batting avg when India won (56.63) is much higher than when India lost(33.25) – so if you believe this analysis you can actually say that whenever he didn’t play India lost! And I remember the same critics of Indian team once cribbed that we are just about Tendulkar and not team India! Another important and rather most decisive record he holds is that he has bagged the most Most Man of the match” (62) and “Most Man of the series” (15) awards. By that token not only he is the match winner for India, he is probably the best match winner that any cricket playing side has ever got! Many people have iterated upon these points. In fact you go to this site they actually try to give a point by point of defence for sachin’s critic. So why does than people get the feeling that he doesn’t play that matters to the countries’ win?

The answer is rather deep. And this pattern of perception mismatch is rather widespread. First off, cricket is a most funny game. It boils down to the fact, that most matches which becomes significant (and what we remember in our long terms memory) have nail biting finish rather than a onesided quality play. Things will keep swinging till the last moment and last ball. You could play all well till 99 overs of the game and loose the match in last 5 balls. And if we go back and recall how many matches we remember ball-by-ball, you will see that they all will be where there were last moment wickets or sixes that makes the match rather decisive. To be fair, it takes a huge courage to be just on the pitch for those last decisive 6 six balls. But however interesting, dramatising, heavy TRP and memorable we find these matches, by all means, many wins of this kind are actually more of fate or accidents preceding the talent. And if you try to recall, you may find it is here where Sachin scores the least; How many matches you remember which went till last ball while Sachin is both the man-of-the-match and the hitter of the winning ball. Whenever, sachin has been the match winner, he has probably also made it a handsom touch and we win, chances are that the match didn’t quite reach that memorable state. Matches where Sachin’s contribution has caused a match win would probably have lesser occassions of this nail biting finishes.

Sachin, is not the only person who gets undermined credit for the work. If I remember someone like Chetan Sharma – I only remember it for the “last ball boundary by Miandad, due to which we lost the match and the sharjah cup”. I was too young otherwise to remember Chetan Sharma’s contribution to Indian cricket. I also remember (know) Kapil’s landslide 175 which remained the world record for so many years; not only because it was a highest score, but India lost some 4-5 wickets and then Kapil’s innings was a great turn around. And ofcoure many do remember 6 sixes of Yuvraj and 45 of 22 from Ajay Jadeja. I am not making an exhaustive list here; but only making a point that of the hundreds of the 100 centuries that Sachin has made – how many we remember because they were last moment turn around? It is not empty but probably much fewer. There is an interesting impact analysis (and a commentary here) , which claims that of the 5 best (from ODI and tests) are some such turn around moments – but these most impacting innings doesn’t include his innings where he made his highest 200 knock. One can make endless analysis in favor or against Sachin, but the point I am trying to make that our perceptions are more influenced by dramatized situations rather than where India would have rather safely win, and safely win because of Sachin. In fact, Sachin being the opener and a quality player, whenever India got Sachin’s influenced victory (perhaps so many of them) would still have made India on an easier to home rather than to put India to nail biting finish with Sachin hitting a sixer on the last ball to make the victory. Contrary to that, people like Yuvraj, Dhoni, Pathan brothers, Kohli would be quite a bit more on such spots to be remembered in such a position. It’s not just the last ball victory but the turn around impacts just happens to be a relatively lesser than the other. If that is all the reason why we don’t quite count Sachin as a “match winner” that’s quite unfair.

We won’t forget how we got very late due to heavy traffic and lost out in a job interview or exam. But we don’t quite remember how often the road was such a nice drive without any congestion, and we always remain biased if not completely blind. Our disability not to recognize daily consistent work, but only remembering a few heroic activities – I called here with is firecracker-blindness, ones blindness not to recognize efforts beyond firecrackers.

Good many people, in sports, politics, administration and in organizations, keep up the good work. When people are disciplined, well managed it is more likely that things are well taken care of, and there won’t be need for a hightened drama. If all is done well, you don’t quite need heroic contributions from people or need turn around innings great many times. As a matter of fact Peter Drucker says, “A well-managed factory is boring.” (Effective Executive). But all these good and regular moments gets out of our memories very fast. When trouble strikes, some special talent also shines out. And it is great that people fight on critical moments, but over my career I have seen that many people realize that the trick is only to perform in the emergency. Keep quite and then grab the opportunity of visibility only when everyone know there is trouble. Event after event, management would have your contributions very very visible and memorable! And all those who keep digging everyday, who are the real heroes to pile up the greatest amount of work, gets no applause. Even worse is that, when the time comes to identify who are the match winners – we only name those who have been out-shined with glory on those glamorous moments of tragedy. Sounds all the familiar? Which is why I said the case with Sachin, is actually all too common place. And mind you, if I really want to use single statement to defend Sachin, “the person who has relentlessly made 100 tons and more than 18k runs for the Indian side” if you think has no contribution to winning matches for India, you have just got firecracker-blindness. Nothing can be answered to you! But unfortunately, if you are sitting in the selector’s team, or one of those management teams who decides growth of people, over looking people’s consistent performance over few herioc moments, you are ready to make life doom for yourself and for great many others, only not to realize the cause of it.

Sachin, of course, do have good many fans. But there are many, who put more of consistent work of mountain and would still not find any fans.

Life is unfair! But we don’t have to be.

The Rudraksh story

It’s been sometime that i have wrote in blog; actually i wrote quite a few things but didn’t finish it. But one big phase in went through in life since then and i guess it has changed many things forever.

It was only incidental in the last post, where i was soul searching and asking what fuels life; since then i saw a couple of deaths and then a death that wasn’t. It was about 1:30 AM on the eve of our marriage anniversary, in the night a call came up from my sister-in-law about my shadubhai (husband of my wife’s eldest sister) being hospitalized. It was probably a co-incident that phone came in just on the night of our marriage aniversary. It was also a great co-incident that the very night I was getting prepared and headed for one of the biggest evaluation for my product in the current job. I had the flight to Delhi while all rushing the A’bad. Life was full of moments.

The medical emergency was getting under control quite well, quite fast. However, what unearthed consequently was the severe financial situation and a whole set of issues in the family that marked a phase of unsettling and devastation to the family; something so strong and unforeseeable that would disastrous that would leave movie scripts and TV serial stories make run for its money.

It was 3 years since my shadubhai had started a business, the only business we have in my in-law’s family. Like most businesses, it of course started with bank financing. For so many years, we were told the business was running fantastic and it has grown leaps and bounce. Product after product and market after market – they were expanding. From pharma, to cosmetics to boutiques – there was nothing that would stop them. There was a great function for all to witness the grand success of everything. There was a luxurious lifestyle for them, and he was a great example for anyone to get inspired; albeit only till we got on to discover on the 31st Jan’ 12.

When we all came up to know about financial problems, first it was sighted that the partners have committed some frauds which has brought down such growing business. We looked at the deals, the pending bills, mounting outstandings with banks and talked so many people associated business. It was almost impossible to trace anything really, but what was even shocking was that there was hardly any revenues and much of that show was out of borrowed money. Somehow the borrowing was always easy – but when it stopped, everything collapsed. Everything was lost, and there was a threat all around from people who were yet to collect outstandings. Bank had been actually quite troubled with this accound for more than half a year or so. But the biggest shocker and life sucker was something else – my father-in-laws’ house along with his own house was actually mortgaged for this debt! Yes, it was mortgaged about a year ago. No one knew this! My in-laws’ family who all have been one of the best users of telecom networks, who has habit to share everyday proceeding across all sisters and mother. Everyday they discuss who cooked what and who went where, somehow never discussed that there was a mortgage of house. My father-in-law was actually called upon to kind of sign some papers as “witness” – but what he and our eldest sister signed was actually a mortgage of the father’s own house and consequently they also became the bank guarantor for this loan which would never get paid. Everything was done so cleanly for this signature, that the father, mother or no one in the family had any doubt or objection and had no clue what is he getting into. The hospital environment after the collapse when finally everyone came to know about this mortgage and the realities of this business, was perhaps the most sympathetic and as some says, well planned stage for such great revelations.

There was nothing in left in the bank account, nothing in terms of property. An aging stock hardly had any value, and whatever was left was long back illegally eaten up by the ex-employees in liue of the salary. Bank managers who had earlier eaten up money to grant much higher debt without much less security, and was also part of the consperancy where someone part of the company earlier who’s house was mortgaged was freed to book my father-in-law’s house, are now all behind the borrower because their jobs are under pressure; but no one could help.

There was no way we could cover up the losses – and then came a great lessons of our learnings from so many lawayers in much great depth about how big mistake we have all made – only after the post effect where we had left with no much route left. Father-in-law not only would loose the house which was mortgaed but he was also a gurarenteer so he was equally libable and payable for the huge mess – an amount of size that he has never seen together.

The principle borrower, my shadubhai, had no answers as to how such big mishap happened. He blamed a few key employees, but in much shorter time we could all make out it was not their fault really. And worst of all he had no clue how he is going to work out from this. He has quite a few promises but it didn’t took anytime for anyeone to realize that all these promises, hopes and strategies had no value. The market had understood this long back and there wasn’t anyone who could pull him out.

Didi, the eldest sister, (wife of this shadubhai) who was also a partner in the business, who was a director in the second firm, who holds a post graduate degree in commerce – says she was unaware of the mounting debts, and the coming collapse and she had no idea a prior that such hidden mortgage has happened. She was angry and deeply upset about the fiasco, or she acted that way. But it was a huge toll on the family in the argumentation as to whether she did this consciously or indeed she was innocent. All sisters had great fights and quarrel which was quite understandable but yet dramatic. There was a great agony about how come she let this happen to the father, and a deep anxiety as to how will father now live with his only property lost.

But the minds of mother and father were in a different direction. While they did curse the couple for their wrongdoing, more than thier own well being, they were worried about the culprit daughter and the marriages of their only grand daughter. This was quite shocking to everyone and there was a deep conflicts and contradictions in almost every act and gesture of parents and the sisters. Not only the past, but the present tense was filled with hyper real emotions due to this double views – and all the difference of opinions between everyone. There would be dozens of phone calls, conference calls and lots of discussions every day, poured in continuous anguish and cry. And not only that, it took a great bit of digging up of past. Apparently, this was a third stint of my shadubhai’s financial disasters causing the family being put under trouble; and everything that has gone wrong in past, the issues that everyone had, people who had unfinished fights in the history everything came out in the center stage with these debates. It was stressful for everyone to remind everyone else about their faults in the past. It broke relationships and then stitched back when another external event would happen. Nothing would stop the emotional blood sheds. The word turmoil is a very insufficient word to describe all these.

Somehow, we focused to move the parents some better place to settle; but it was far from being straight forward. In situation like this, people can’t think straight and can’t take simple decisions. With final notice of bank, not much is left for thinking and doing, i guess. But I hope we, the other three daughters, keeps the composure to sustain the emotionally and financially broke parents for the rest of the life. As I am writing this in the truck, with the packers-n-movers, Rudraksh Appratments, the home where all the grandsons and grand daughter of the family once grownup is now empty – and the eldest sister who is otherwise so keen to leave her husband, is still living with him with hopes of recovery, while he hasn’t earned single rupee in last six months!

This episode teaches me how trust walks over a very thin line in life – and also that trouble is the greatest examiner in life. In a good normal day no one really has a reason not to be nice. But people get tested by the stance they take on a troubled day. While the financial circus was at the center, it wasn’t the only matter really. Always, when families runs in trouble, it not only exposes the reason for the current menace, but it also unearths the hidden, wounded and disturbed bonds. It breaks these weaker links in the relationships and may be at times brings up some new ones. People can erase some and form fresh new opinions and bonds, but in all it changes dynamics of most families.

Emotions and desires fuels life. Good or evil, it is one of the greatest force that pushes us to do things from within – now and throughout the life.

What really fuels life?

This Diwali i was all at home. I was away from work – relaxed and enjoyed. Yet, it wasn’t like Diwali of the child hood. It was a perfect holiday – but it wasn’t celebration as much! Work has taken away some fundamentals from Life!

For last four and half years i have fully submerged myself into something that seemed what i wanted to do all my life. Something what i always hunted for and finally it was there – it gave me the opportunity to do my best – more importantly it gave me a chance to prove myslef; it had been a mission and it has almost become how i think about the world, think about myself – it has become almost about my identity.

On the parallel, we have got Jayam -a noisy restless kid who will fill the room with his sound. You can never have a silent moment when you are with him at home. There are lot of tamasha we get to see him and things go on like that.

When life puts so many things around us – we quite often don’t realize we are living it! I mean, we hardly put ourselves with a question of what life truly means, what we should have been doing which we are missing and what defines it.

Just recently, i begum to realize that while it gives great satisfaction of marching ahead, slowly lot many things fades away from being important – meeting friends, watching TV, listening to music, going for pilgrimage, celebrating festival, going for a walk, sipping a hot cup of tea, reading a book, driving bike, indulging into night long discussions, watching old photographs -and perhaps many things i don’t remember now. This Diwali, i felt i want to change something – i planned a perfect holiday; didn’t really opened the laptop. But that moment was short lived. the very next day i was alone at my house, and unlike how i planned – i didn’t really bother to pick up the phone and call anyone – and what was even surprising is that it wasn’t really that i went back to work quickly – i didn’t really care about that either.

No i am not complaining! I mean, i didn’t quite like to be in the state in which i saw myself in the mirror -but i know these are results of the choices that i make every day. But it wasn’t really about “why life is so bad or so much suffering?”. It is not much about “have i become a robot?” feeling. But it was a strong deep question – “What does matter to me in life the most?” – yesterday – it wasn’t work, it wasn’t any of my past hobby – it was nothing. Yes, it was NOTHING! It is just a strange realization that something for which we yearn and fight for so hard- suddenly become of no importance.. This is a state when desires and attachments – who otherwise drives us for everything (be it job or family or society) goes on a holiday! If suddenly they don’t exist – we are in vacuum. It’s like a car running out of fuel. It’s is not a bad car – its just doesn’t move. Can life really run out of fuel? It is not lack of energy, health or wealth. It is lack of happiness or sadness – it is lack of purpose.

Amusing Life ? Well, I have been here before. I know this feeling exactly – but I am helpless to know why life takes this shade sometime or other. I am not afraid, I am not worried, I am not surprised, I am not joyous, I am not confused, I am just blank!

“hazaaroN KHwahishaiN ‘eisee ke har KHwahish pe dam nikle
  bohot nikle mere armaaN lekin fir bhee kam nikle”

Dipan.

Inspirations from Steve Jobs

I wouldn’t really claim to be one of the best fans of Steve jobs, but on his demise – the web was full of just him. Probably like many, i learned many things about him only on that day; but yes he was always very inspirational and as explored more about him, it was overwhelming!  read on…

When the news of Steve Job passed away, the whole web overwhelmed perhaps it was like an experience of web as never before. The Facebook news feed has only talk about it – and numerous pages filled with quotes (and here), his success stories and wisdom from Steve Jobs.

We all know that Apple lost a war against Microsoft and Steve Jobs eventually left Apple at that time. When he returned Apple when the company was almost in bankruptcy it was his success of iPod and later iPhone was breath taking for the entire market. While the is list is relatively longer, the crux remain is that few stunning products – all of them iconic – so much so that it revolutionized many markets which many thought was a dieing one. But that was pretty much what i really knew of him.

Being an engineer there are many things i didn’t quite like in apple’s product range which is being very closed in nature. The entire regime of Apple is closed platform. It does allow people to make iPhone App, but restricts many things which for example Android would allow.  Of course, the product comparisons go on forever. But that’s besides the point, Apple is Apple and that is how they wanted it to be.

But on 5th, finally i did go all over the places to learn many things about Steve Jobs as an individual.  Almost everything amazed me. He was the person who can be of inspiration not only for how products should be developed, how businesses should be created and grown, but more fundamentally how we should live our life. It was the last that made me extremely humble and overwhelmed.

A. Originality and believing in it.

No one can say things about design than what Steve Jobs can say; and here is how he puts it – “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.“.  All his greatest strength, and which is why people call him artist,  are his original way of thinking. I am sure it is not that suddenly one day he got his wisdom. But because he persuaded unprecedentedly and believed in his ‘love’ of things, even when world might have different ideas, that he achieved a sort of a stage where he is now.  In fact he goes on quotes that Apple never really goes on to make products by doing market surveys’ rather the team decides what they want to do and puts their commitment to reality.  In his words “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”.  Honestly, that is quite a guts specially if you are in consumer market!

B. Passion and Inner voice

As he said “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” i guess, it sounds great typical sentence that any billionaire would want to say; but it’s just true of him. He also had dark days after bright ones – and on those days he continued the same path for creative work. When Apple threw him out – it would have been death nailed anyone; but his pursuit of passion and excellence give to world things like Pixar and Toy Story. It is easy to understand why he was very demanding and perfectionist.

And there are many people who do believe one should pursue passion but then find themselves loosing it. The best lesson as he put it,

“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”Fortune

and,

“.., you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

C. Death as an inspiration

When i was reading many of the quotes, death was one of the prominent subject and while it looked interesting, i questioned why would he talk so much about death? “. So more googling made me realized – he had cancer. That too, since 2004. Even after being diagnosed cancer, he went on – to live – rather went on to make history after history with iPhone, iTunes and so on – and till he resigned, made Apple to see a day of business that few could imagine. Rather than being deterred from an inevitable death in front of him – he rather capitalized his urgency to create history!

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”  Now that is something!

As he puts it – “Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

There are real gems – from his speech at stand ford (can be found here). And that is not limited to how genius creates legacies, there is something for everyone here – and we need to make good use of that for our personnel life.

An Excerpt from that speech – his ultimate message to all of us:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” [Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

How (not) to write Resumes

In my current company, i have been recruiting people for a long time. I don’t make mass recruitment here, but prefer to select people with some specialty. Most of the times it takes more than 100 resumes (and a factor more that doesn’t go through the first shortlist) by the time a person joins in.  So by far, i would have seen few thousands resume and i would say a great lot of it is quite irritating.

When i see so many resumes, all those hoping that I would have done justice to you by reading all details, I am certainly sorry for them. And the way most resumes are written, even if i wish, I wouldn’t be able to.

Here are the most typical annoyances from the resumes: [Of course, i am primarily biased by resumes of engineers over other professions, so others may excuse me if you don't agree.]

1.  Typesetting.

When i was doing my M.Tech, for one of the reports i submitted, my guide has slammed me with dissatisfaction “In the age of advance word processor and spell checkers, if you still can’t do proper type setting or leave spelling and grammar mistakes, it is unacceptable”. I see that very true and specially if it is for the resumes. Typos, irregular flow of typing, sentences poking out of margins, nested tables that blocks cursors, all add to annoying clutter. True ,that, in today’s world it is hard to let go of a good programmer just because he had spelling mistakes in resume; but nevertheless, it does tell me volumes of mediocrity built in each of ones creations; and that would continue in the work you would be potentially do in a new job.

2.  The Objective.

Wow! Most engineers are bad poets- you can make out. Here it goes “I want to work in a dynamic organization with great commitment and work towards benefit of customer such that i make best utilization of my talent and grow along with company!.” Sounds familiar? This one comes as is with probability of 50% or more of all resumes! First of all, in today’s world who doesn’t want to be in a situation you described above? This stated objective would fit any one from a junior engineer to CEO. This would fit anyone who is a line worker or a researcher or a sales guy. Does this tell me whether you are the person i am looking for? No. And the worst part is, most people copy this from their friends resume. When i read such “Objective” on your resume, it doesn’t move me with “Wow, here is the guy who want’s to grow”; but rather i classify it as “here is the guy who doesn’t know what he wants from his next job”. Of course, there are few honest guys who doesn’t waste real estate in their resume page with such junk. Ideally i would have liked to read some thing like this: “I am a good (java/c++) programmer, and now i am looking towards more algorithmic/design problems”. Or, “I have been a tech lead/team lead for 2 years and seeking to become a project manager” or better still, “I want to work in a start up company now to face new challenges”.  These tells me whether you are the one i am looking for (or not). And some thing simple but attracts the attention of someone.

3. Experience -

So how long you have been in the industry ? A very simple questions isn’t it? But i get super precision answer in most resumes. People put years of experience like 2.7 years, 3.4 years, 6.2 years! And what is the “.2″ (in 6.2) years mean? I don’t really know. So this tells that you are an engineer with clutter in your mind; you want to ensure full precision till number of months – but you abuse mathematics to save additional word ‘month’. There are some who writes it as 4+ years which is atleast decent. Usually, i don’t quite care if you are 2 months (aka .2 years) more than someone.

4. The details and jargon.

Over 3 years of experience, people do something like 9 projects – and a resume is good 6 pages. It’s actually an Autobiography in the making! They write everything about the company, the client, the customer, the size of the team, the time of project, the description of product. And finally comes “My role : ‘worked as a developer'” Aah, i should have read that last line and moved forward. Many time people put all junk information (and sometimes irrelevant) about the project, and what goes missing is that what was the key contribution by them, what was the most difficult challenge in the project which you solved, what did you learn from it.

5. Achievements -

Unless you are not the common lot, Achievement usually only means as achievements during the academic years! Yes, in most resumes achievements figures in the annex  which is only applicable for school and college days like “Secure scholarship” etc. For 5 years someone have been in the industry, there is NO achievement? Achievement as an overall career and for the individual projects, is usually the most critical criteria to evaluate a person; but ironically most of the time that is never explicit. This also shows that resume is written pretty much with a spirit of filling up a form at the RTO office: you want to be correct of course, but it is only a necessary evil you have to do.

6. Technologies!

Quite often I can’t quite get away with jargon: “Technologies known: PHP, HTML, JAVA” – dude, i thought you are an engineer and not a business guy who puts everything in one abstract basket called technology! It is not derogatory put any thing under “Technologies” – it is just a wrong representation of what you are skilled with. This is not done many a times as a purpose of putting a jargon but due to lack of expression to classify as “Things i have been exposed to till yet”.  Though, off late i am seeing a bit of progress here; but still people wont ever missed out a single key word.  When i dropped my freelancing to move towards a job – i had included, PHP, Javascript everything on earth i knew. But when i actually used to get job offers in these areas, i actually used to get surprised and irritated. There are great many things we know in life – not everything need to get added with precision.

The most funny in this category is when people include MS Office (word, excel, powerpoint), and using windows XP (unless you have done some inside-the-os-programming). Windows XP is designed such that even a moron can operate it, so if you are saying that’s your achievement ,…. you know what it means!

7. Personnel details -

Usually, not very often, but few people write their CTC, etc. in resume. This should not be made public. Your resume is read by many who are not your direct boss and not even your potential employer. Most often, when you tell CTC before people have evaluated you, puts you with a bias in the interview one way or the other.

Many people write Languages known : “Hindi, English, Marathi/Gujarati” Most often this is always the last line of the resume. I guess we were told this when we were in school and obediently following the ritual. Yes, If you know Japanese of French – and you expect that this can be a good strength in dealing with on-site customer handling, that is great, in that case, it should be somewhere in the beginning as included part of the strengths.

Amongst most funny things – is i know that passport number of so many people! I have seen so many resumes who’s phone numbers have mistakes or altered but i guess there is no mistake in their passport number! Why in the world would i care about your passport number?

8. The soul of the resume.

The crux of any resume or the recruitment is: Capability, Relevance, Purpose, and Focus.

Is the person really wants to get in to the job i am crafting ? Does this job really makes sense to the person and does the person fits in the position? Does she/he have potential to beat the challenges which are inherent in the job? And does the person has right strength in terms of capability and personal trait?

When we crowd the resume with so many irrelevant information- it shows our insecurity that we don’t want to stay missed out from any possible opportunity. But in the process, it only de-emphasis what constitutes ones’ key strength and eventually puts you on a weaker list. Most importantly does it tell me if you are unique?

It is always the synergy between the profile and the job that excites the recruiter not the chronology of your life events; This can only be communicated when you put right emphasis towards the goal for your next job – and what makes you deserve that. It does mean many people won’t waste their time on job opportunities that are not for you. But that’s a good thing.

Dipan.

35 ! A real chasm or just a number?

When we were at IIT – there was a saying ” If you cann’t innovate before 35 – chances are you cannot do it for rest of your life”. This was very heavy on all our heads- specially when we used to be in some of our  business incubators’ days.

Somehow, on those days, it wasn’t worth it if you wouldn’t make it big like those of Bill Gates or Lary Page. I mean the list is too long but that doesn’t quite matter.  But if you want to get there -one needs to be very creative, too good in engineering, too audacious and you still somehow should be able to make it (without any money of course) and it needs to still make some business sense.  The last part was relatively easy – because, most of us never had a good deal of business sens. But yes, being creatively original was the difficult part! Almost any thing that would close to resemble to something published otherwise would simply get shot down as “not original” – and yes, i still believe if you haven’t done something original by 35 – chances are you wont do for rest of life!

In fact the idom was used (and stretch) to mean many things; like “If you aren’t a millionaire by 35 they won’t ever be” or “If you haven’t got a break-thru idea you wont get ever”, “if you haven’t done a Ph.D. by 35 – you wont’ get ever!” “If you haven’t got a successful startup by 35 you wont’ get it in rest of your life” “If you haven’t got good positions in career by 35 you wont get any later”  – and i guess you may extend it for a lot of things in life.

I donno why 35! but i guess we all believed in some such threshold or a chasm – if you couldn’t do something while being this side – there is nothing further.

Today – i actually am at 35 – on that very chasm! And it is a scary though today. Have i got it? Well i didn’t quite finished my Ph.d, i had a couple of start ups – but one that i am in still have some hopes with, it has serious things to prove; I did make a good product – but i guess there is a still a long path before it becomes a rocking success. i made some decent money but definitely not millation bucks!

But To be honest, I still care about that rule. May be some one could give me an “extension” to that threshold and still allow me to push those matter to ensure that things work great.  I am happy for the path that i have been – but i am still far from where i wanted to be. What happens now is still to be seen. Will life turn all boring ? Or what i have done is enough to qualify that life will continue to give me chance for more creative stuff?

Dipan.
11-09-2011
Mumbai.

Hello world!

Just so incidental, that i finally had a time to breathe, after a lot of time, just on the eve when i am about to turn 35!  Not that all work is close and done, but between to major things. For a long time I could not spent time on anything good; it wasn’t tiring, it used to get so intriguing with work that i never thought i would have time to put a blog of my own. Nevertheless the urge to do that was so great. And i guess this is the best birthday gift that i can give myself that now am finally a publisher of my ideas and experiences; and share with others what would have usually kept on brewing on my head all the time.

I hope to add value though. I don’t quite intent to copy things from people. Don’t expect “URLs of good stuff” here, and also, don’t quite expect “recipes of things to do” or “my last vacation tour” and all that stuff. They all might be interesting to me and useful but i would spare this blog from these things. Let it be “thoughts” – ideas, opinions and reflections. And while my opinions might not really be all that unique, but i would like to be away from the stuff where i am largely in line with public opinion anyway (and hence not adding value by just putting stuff together). I believe expressing about those subtle things that are commonly overshadowed by our mass judgments and once in a while as you sip coffee (or tea as i like it), and read this, it might trigger me to re-think stuff.

On the other hand i hope nothing gets to the extent of preaching. I hate when people’s intent behind saying something is hidden with an agenda of some kind and if you find any of that here, please comment back to stop me!

I like Technology, and off late concerned more about “Business of technology“, how things evolve, get adopted, what works and what gets accepted, and why. What truly excites me is the originality and excellence of people’s work more than what tricks makes you millionaire quickly. Not that i am against those who has been there; but just that to me that is not a scoring point. Overtime, management itself became a critical element in life.

But since my childhood, i am equally curious about the life, the universe and everything. That connects my views about natural way science seeks to know the truth about the universe and how religions explains some of it. How they connect and overlap and why would i believe in the existence, in faith, why should i trust people and what make emotions relevant. I am definitely not an expert here. So i can only have opinions and not answers, but they are most important to me because that is what holds me together and shows me the path for life. Off late i have been cheating this element of my life – the very origin; because i am sadly disconnected from the daily dose of it. But i hope this blog, brings some of it back.

Those who only know me for last 4 years would rightly believe that relationships is something i don’t care about. Even my wife now suspects that (quite often)! But all my special friends know it and the depth of the relationship with is still alive (with some hibernation) with me. I remember those night long discussions; those debates, frustrations, questions and opinions we used to share; to express what we thought when we did things, what mattered to us and the what we wished the world should have been!  I guess, i want to live those times again – may be this time it is only possible on Internet; this is what this blogs all about!

Dipan.
Sept -11 – 2011.
Mumbai.