Monday, December 27, 2010

Thanks. I don't work for you, I work for the Customer

Again a reflection on how we work, and perform in this changing knowledge economy. I don't work for you, I work for the Customer. This was the thought that came to my mind when I read Ram Charan's What the Customer Wants You To Know over the weekend this time.
The thought applies to anyone who is either in a services domain building solutions for customers, or in the products field, making stuff that world uses day in and out. It happened one day - I spoke to an ordinary looking guy. He told me he was excited with what happened at work today. He was sent a Thank you card by his Boss. I asked him more. He worked his head off the last weekend, as they had some strict deliverable. So as a ornament of gesture, his boss (not the company owner) delighted him with this. Of course he was happy, elated and a joy that deserved a drink or two. 
I asked him a question which amused him. "Whom do you work for ? "
"I work for my company, and my boss." Pat came the reply. What's so different about it. I probe him further. "What about the customers of your company ?" And, he was fast to come back. "Yes, of course, I work for them too" - he replied. 
"So does that mean, you work for your company, your boss and then the customers. Why not the reverse. " - I said. 
"What do you mean ? " - he looked pissed, no denying he was in not in a mood to get probed further.
"If I do a good job at work, and the guy on my head replies - Thanks. How does that sound ? Does it sound like I helped him / her in getting some work done. What is the thing I did that deserved a Thanks for ? I worked so that our customer gets the worth of his/her penny. " - I added more spice to the talk. 

Lets dissect this for a moment. I feel, the word "Thanks" from your Boss and not from the customer makes you disjunct from the company. That single word has a potential to prove that an employee is just another contributor in the vast chain of things in an organisation. This worked fine in an era when industrial revolution was the order of the day. Not now. "Thanks" to a junior employee for a work he was assigned to do, means - "You helped me to get a work done. Thanks for your help."
What really is in between the line is the fact that you are just another brick in the wall. 
But Is a perfect wall just a set of nicely set bricks or more ?

Today, when organizations are talking about involving an employee in the growth story, by giving away more ownership opportunities, and a chance to own the set of things by being more entrepreneurial, how good is a "Thanks" ? I guess its an insult. Strong words, but true.

If you really want to connect the employee to the organization, don't say Thanks. 
Yes, this is true. Try it. 
Instead of Thanks, ascertain the fact that how his contribution added another feather in the cap. Ascertain the possibility it opened up for the company. Ascertain. Stress the point that glues his / her bondage with the company. Not a "Thanks", because the employee does not work for you, he / she works for the Customer. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Conference is about Conversations

A beautiful Friday evening marked the end of the annual BT (Business Technology) Summit held on 11th and 12th November 2010 at NIMHANS Convention Center in Bangalore. BT Summit capitalized on the popularity of current hot picks in technology - Cloud and SOA. SOA being in news since some time, had a extra bit of makeover thanks to Cloud. This attracted not only developers, but decision makers, senior managers of IT companies, startups and the conference regulars.

The event divided over 2 days, the first about Cloud and related technologies, and second for the SOA.
The first day really saw the entire main auditorium full with attendees waiting to grab the next available IP address off the Wireless Internet Access point. Needless to say, once you loose the signal, you are put in a waiting queue for the next burst of Wireless access.
Among the day's highlight was the introductory talk by Dr. Soley of OMG on why standards and quality are important. A cliched topic, but explained in his humorous and straight-to-business style.
I had already gone through the numerous Windows Azure and Amazon Web Services introductory talks, so the next talks were not really an appeal. I especially had different expectations from Enterprise Cloud Computing talk, waiting to hear about use cases and implementation scenarios for Public cloud in enterprises of all sizes, but with no success. The talks were good, but repetitive if you have already been through the similar sessions.
The talk by Mr. Udayan of NIIT Technologies about designing apps in cloud was full of new learnings and excellent material. I regard that talk as one of the best in the list of talks I attended on both days. Full of real, practical advice, without been spoon-fed. Great work.
The next half of the day, saw me attending talks ranging from implementing private clouds for enterprise, to Windows Azure.
I liked Janakiram's no-nonsense-straight-to-point style of presentation, completely "paisa vasool" or "worth-the-penny".
My colleagues also poured in inputs from a talk about Multi-Tenancy on Cloud by Mr. Vikas and rated it as one that provided them with good practical knowledge. Along with the talks, the twitter hash "btsummit" was on fire, thanks to flurry of tweets flowing from all corners of the venue. It brought the summit in prominence on twitter hotspots in Bangalore.
I had my chance to participate in a Chalk talk as a result of a cancellation of a Q&A session, where along with me, two other attendees got a chance at microphone for 10 minutes. The topics included "Implementing Mix-breed Private cloud", "Amazon Web Services Case study" and "Using Cloud in enterprises". I had a good day with my luck, and bagged a elegant golf-set as an award for my chalk talk, rated top on public poll.
As the curtains came down to the first day, I had a mixed feeling as a take-away. The topics I had high expectations with, didn't really had punch, and under-rated ones surprised me.
The second day's highlight was the mix-bag of demos shown by Mr. Rohit of Kronos Inc. He talked about Semantic web and HTML 5, and amazed the audience with his bagfull of jazzy demos from all around the web.
I have a soft corner for panel discussions and see those as a perfect platform for brainstorming and value creation opportunities. The panel discussion on the second day about SOA in the age of Cloud and Integration did not disappoint me. It was the sheer aura of Dr. Soley as the moderator that kept me in the session. He got the best and the funny out of all, not just the panelists. It was a fantastic display of how a serious topic can be discussed in the light of intentional humour. Good Job.
The end of second day, made me to compare and contrast my expectations with real outcome of the conference. There were highs and lows, as with any other conference. But the whole point of coming together of a community, conversations over lunch and in middle of talks, networking, and finding new twitter friends is an amazing proposition alltogether. I made a set of friends thanks to twitter, and lucky to meet two of them in person - uma_kanth and _bharath (I better know you both from your twitter handles than your real names :)). All in all, a good experience and a learning opportunity.

A couple of points popped in my head as I browsed through the array of talks in my head:-

a) The presentations (not just powerpoints anymore) are still the old-school-style. Not all, but some notable ones still prefer to have the too-much-text syndrome. No pointers from me in this post to solve this, just read from Guy Kawasaki, Steve Jobs, Presentation Zen blog etc. - you will get the signal.

b) Beat around the bush and cliched-terms-to-save-point - I sometime found that talks, especially the process of talking involved abstraction and lacked a real sense of done-it-seen-it feel. We can make out when you see people talking like that, don't we ?

c) Ramp up the skills of presenting a talk - I found some talks to be little bland and less engaging, leading to a one-sided affair. I believe a talk or presentation is all about conversations and engagement. And this doesn't disarm the talent and skill of any speaker of a conference. The conference is a learning experience for the speaker too as its for the audience.
I sincerely hope to get feedback questionairres for each talk I attend, so to provide a consistent and focussed review, that not helps me, but also the speaker. Saltmarch, please do so from next time.

All in all, a great effort and wonderful opportunity to meet the fellow technologists from all walks of life.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Do we deserve this ?

The Telegraph newspaper in Kolkata carried this news on Monday morning (8th November 2010) in the Metro edition of the paper. The news on the front page of Metro highlights the plight of a Bangladeshi national stuck in Kolkata Airport with a dead body of his uncle for more than 24 hours and been harassed by the "customer-centric" behavior of airport authorities and police department.
It throws open very important questions in front of us. The news channels are filled with pictures of how we treated the President of a big and powerful nation with red carpets, traffic freeways and best of our behaviors. And then you see this news about another foreign national, but without the designation of a high profile position. Do we deserve this or, do we deserve to do this to another guest. To get a decent humane behavior from authorities, do we need to carry the high profile designation with us. Or we are so blinded by the aura of a celebrity that we just need to impress them with our fake and camouflaged intentions of behaving best with them. This story is important, and is not the only one that shows to the world that we are not really what we do to a high profile guest in actuality. I know similar type of incidents have happened to fellow citizens of this great nation, but as a part of our culture, dont we subscribe to the philosophy of "Atithi Devo Bhavah"  or Guest is God. Is this philosophy lost in the advertisements of Aamir Khan talking sense on the television or its a part of our greater evil design to lure innocent tourists.

To read the news in the above article in Telegraph newspaper, follow the link :-

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The paradox of 50% off and Buy 1 : Get 1

I had been to one of the Shopping malls in Bangalore to purchase some items. And in my head was the chanting of Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, a book that throws open the mystic nature of human decision making. I was sure to make use of Dan's reasoning together with my instinct to do some really effective shopping.
As I browse through the store looking for a great pair of Running shoes, I was overwhelmed by choices. The choices that were slowly hampering my decision making abilities. The human mind can unconsciously decide with a vast number of choices, but when they are explicit, conscious and the sense organs too taking part in the decision, that is a recipe for disaster.
I liked some shoe pairs based on the comfort factor, looks and other related areas. But soon I find myself standing next to a great pair, which costs around 4k, but available at a discount of 50 %. I started reasoning in my head, convincing myself that this is better than the rest of them. Its like a Mind talking to other Mind. May be we should soon have a movie, the Conversations of a Shopaholic Mind. :)
But the best was yet to come. I see an even more appealing offer : Buy 1 Get 1. Wow. I buy a pair worth 2.5k and get another pair for free. My other mind found something to fight. Now it made me feel that I could really use this discount. I might pay 500 bucks extra, but to the satisfaction of getting another pair of shoes for free.
So I finally landed with buying two shoes at a price of One. My other mind was victorious. As I head to the Billing counter, I realized something. The billing guy bills the two pairs each at half of the amount I was ready to pay. That means, I pay Rs. 1250 for each pair of shoe. And I was like, damn. I came here to buy one good pair of running shoes. And here I am, buying two ordinary pair of shoes, not really matching my requirement, at a price greater than what my first mind registered, the worst : I did not want to pay 1.25k for that 'free' pair of shoes.
Purchase was done. I shelled out the amount. Dan's talk in my head about how the human mind gets fooled by clever antics of the marketers. If the billing guy would have told me that he is charging 2.5k for the first pair, and the other pair is for 0.0, my head would feel happy. After all, that's what I agreed on. The thing that created this confusion in my head was the fact that he charged 1.25k for each pair, which logically is the same, but is not a good reason to buy the two items in first place. I am at loss. The human mind hates losing. Two things have happened here :-
1) I bought two items, when I wanted one.
2) I paid 1.25k for each pair, and one pair wasn't that good.
The perils of free and discounts have treated my mind. The shopkeeper was happy. He was able to sell 2 items for a good price, rather than just one item (50% off one).
The only good thing out of this experience was the motivation to write a blog post about it. I am sure many of us had similar experiences but we never discussed the loss part of it. Its the success that gets Facebook updates and Twitter tweets, not the losses.

I would like to recommend the book "Predictably Irrational" to all of you. Go grab a copy and enjoy the revealing of the human decision making.

Monday, July 05, 2010

O2 Joggler - on treadmill

I got an O2 Joggler at a throwaway price. The device looks great, and packs a good enough power from inside.

o2 Joggler Specification:

Connectivity: Wi-Fi
Screen: 7 inch Touchscreen
Resolution: 800 x 480 pixels
Memory: 1 Gig onboard, expandable via USB.
Power: Mains only.
Video formats: MPEG-2, MPEG-4 part 2, MPEG-4 part 10 (H.264), WMV 9, DivX, Vc1, FLV
Audio formats: MP3, WAV, WMA
Size: 180 x 130 x 115mm.
Weight: 700 grams

The device has a USB connectivity, and is entirely hacker's treat. Runs Linux 2.6.24-19 kernel. I already made the device do thousands of things that the seller never intended to do thanks to google. Looking for experimenting with the Software platform, which is interestingly Flash based. Every App is a flash. (quite a story, compared to iPad). The touch screen is great but still lacks the punch of Apple.
The only bad part : no batteries, runs on Mains. Need to do something about it.
Quick snaps of the Joggler :-

Greenwich - Time stands still here

London : View from the water

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How Piracy can generate alternate revenues and charity

A very interesting TED talk from Youtube. Must watch !!!

And if you are wondering where to get the wedding dance video which was shown in the TED presentation, here it is :

James Cameron : A curious boy who went in search for his dreams to realize them one by one.

My Favorite TED Talks

I had this blog post long pending. Thanks to one of my friends, this idea got its catalyst. My list of favorites from the TED ( from all the videos I have viewed over the years. Every single talk on TED has something to offer. The below list includes the ones that made me to stop for a while, think and go deep into the real meaning of the talk. Each one of them has a class of its own. The list is not ordered and not exhaustive. Some of the talks are not exactly TED hosted, but are now available on the TED site.
List :-

1. Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity
2. Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke of insight
3. Tony Robbins asks why we do what we do
4. Benjamin Zander on music and passion
5. Jeff Han demos his breakthrough touchscreen
6. Arthur Benjamin does "Mathemagic"
7. David Pogue says "Simplicity sells"
8. Brian Cox on CERN's supercollider
9. Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology
10. VS Ramachandran on your mind
11. Jeff Hawkins on how brain science will change computing
12. Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos augmented-reality maps
13. Jonathan Harris: the Web's secret stories
14. Richard Branson's life at 30,000 feet
15. Golan Levin on software (as) art
16. John Underkoffler points to the future of UI
17. Thulasiraj Ravilla: How low-cost eye care can be world-class
18. Rodney Brooks says robots will invade our lives
19. Steve Jobs: How to live before you die
20. Michael Shermer on strange beliefs
21. Johnny Lee demos Wii Remote hacks
22. Ze Frank's nerdcore comedy
23. Golan Levin makes art that looks back at you
24. Frans Lanting's lyrical nature photos
25. Derek Sivers: How to start a movement
26. Derek Sivers: Weird, or just different?
27. Devdutt Pattanaik: East vs. West -- the myths that mystify
28. Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation
29. Seth Godin on standing out
30. Malcolm Gladwell on spaghetti sauce
31. Bill Gates on energy: Innovating to zero!
32. Al Gore's new thinking on the climate crisis
33. Hans Rosling's new insights on poverty
34. James Nachtwey's searing photos of war
35. Emily Oster flips our thinking on AIDS in Africa
36. Yossi Vardi fights local warming

I will be attaching the links to each one of them in some days. Meanwhile, happy hunting them on TED. Thanks Pragathi for being the catalyst for this post.

Friday, June 18, 2010

And Twitter does it again... :)

The text "What's happening? " is so aptly placed below pointing to the text "Whoops!". I am still waiting.... What's happening on Twitter ?

Paradox of Success : You ain't ready for more.. Twitter

Afterword to Great point from Seth Godin

"Pleased customers tell a few people, angry ones tell everyone"

Now there are companies like Apple who know how to make Pleased customers tell everyone. So my afterword to Seth Godin's statement is :

"Pleased customers tell a few people, angry ones tell everyone. Great Marketers make those Pleased customers shout out loud to everyone."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Seth Godin @ ISB, Hyderabad

Catch Seth Godin at ISB Hyderabad on 7th July 2010.

Check the link for the complete information :-

Great point from Seth Godin

"Pleased customers tell a few people, angry ones tell everyone"

- an excerpt from Seth Godin's blog :


This is how Google defines the word "Shimmering"
- "The partial invisibility that sometimes remains after true invisibility is broken"

For me, this picture defines Shimmering. Sunlight is invisible. But it gets broken when it meets the river down here.

Posted by Picasa

My Second visit to London

An old friend of mine, Abhishek and me visited London on a lovely Sunday.

Caught me Cooking

Slough - A walk in the Park

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I am Torry Harris : Brand Video

Hi all,

Me and Manoj N.V, one of my colleagues in the company had worked on building an inspiring video showcase of our company, and boy we did it with style. Sharing with you all, is that video that brings out the best in all of us here. Cheers and Enjoy.

Part 1 (I am Torry Harris)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Where is the PM ?

This thought came to my head when I was talking to my friend Abhishek Parolkar.
I found an interesting scenario amongst set of people i speak to. Most of junior engineers have a different impression of what role a Project Manager plays. In a usual Software development team, there will be a set of development engineers, testers, designers and one or more project managers. Each and every role is critical to the success of the project. However, this team work can only sustain on the foundation of trust, caliber and communication. One other important aspect is the sense of respect and empathy of each other's role and contribution to the success of the project. In most of the failure stories of project, its not just the result of incompetent technical team, technical bottlenecks and crappy management, but also the absence of this sense of respect and empathy. Partly the responsibility of this absence is the lack of understanding the importance of the role of a contributor. And this absence is prevalent in most of the teams i have seen. I understand the source of this problem : lack of initiative from the team management to make sure each and every member understands the importance and challenges of all the roles : tester, developer, designer and PM. But my focus in this post is not about solving this problem. The point i want to make is how a PM role is understood by the other team members. Most of them are junior engineers / testers who have a little or no knowledge about the PM's role. The impression that they get is that a PM is more of a interruption rather a boon for the team. We know the role of a PM is amazingly critical. It includes resource planning, estimation, risk assessment, delegation etc., and makes sure that team is well on the way for on time delivery.

However, a friction gets developed, when the PM and delivery team do not go well together either on delivery timings or estimations. This friction not only divides a team but jeopardizes the delivery. The insight into understanding these differences is important for all teams.

A leader is respected when the team is aware that the leader understands each and every one's work, not just in theory, but has been there, and done that. This means, the source for respect for a leader, in a knowledge based world, is only possible when a leader has experience in most of the functions that he leads. Take example of Army, a Leader in defense wing is respected only when the junior officers are aware of the accomplishments or experience of the leader. This brings in the confidence in the officers about decisions made by the leader. And creates an atmosphere of trust and empathy, so critical in the functioning of the unit.

Coming back to my point, I prefer a person who leads my team to be someone who has a field experience in various functions of a Software team, and is one who empathizes the challenges faced by each and every role. With that, I advise my fellow team members and people whom i mentor to always strive for multi-functional role. Whether it is Support, or Testing or Development, or any other role, each one brings value to the table, and hence to grow as a leader, it is advisable to have hands full with experiences from all around. There are many examples in industry that makes this point evident by following it religiously. However, there are scenarios where individuals are not exposed to other facets of job, but that requires initiative from the individual too. We all have to start knowing in detail, or at least empathize the various roles. This will bring out the best in us, and give us all the support to lead in this knowledge centric economy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Can Doing Good be Easy ?

I was talking to a friend today who shared the concern of Bangalore getting dirtier each day. Some areas are in such pathetic state, that we wonder where the filth was coming from. Talking about ways to combat the menace, I happened to get a brain wave while discussing this topic with the same friend. The menace of Filth on Bangalore roads is obviously thanks to citizens of Bangalore, me, you and all. Some of us are concerned enough to put it at their designated locations. But the interesting nature of filth is that it somehow finds it way on roadside. BBMP is doing its best to solve the issue. But the root of the problem lies elsewhere.

Why doing the Right thing is so difficult, and doing the Wrong thing is always easy. Disposing the filth at their designated location is difficult, while throwing the same on roadside is easy. Why is that ?
I believe the answer is the lack of dustbins. I am staying in Bangalore for last 7 years, and I have to fight to find out a dustbin to dispose filth. And this exercise is futile most of the times. Having a good spread of dustbins across a locality will lead to a cleaner locality. It is obvious, isn't it ?
A common citizen has to go through so much of trouble just to get rid of filth, and tired of the options, he has to resort to throwing it to any location accessible. So, who is to blame here, and who is responsible for fixing it.

Would installing dustbins all around Bangalore solve this issue ? I believe yes and no. Yes because of obvious reasons, and No if only these dustbins are NOT maintained by the community or BBMP, i.e daily disposal of the filth in dustbins so to make it ready for the next day.
Also, we need to work out the way the Dustbins have to be installed, as there have been plenty of cases when even dustbins were stolen. Not to mention the Dustbins should not allow insects and flies to gather around it, thereby inviting diseases.

Above all, the basic idea that leads to the above solution is : We have to make the process of doing good and right things an easier option compared to the bad/wrong things. If this process is easier, then all of us will be motivated to do the Right thing. As doing Right is the easiest.

Let me know your comments