Thursday, October 29, 2015

To skill a mocking bird

"Ars longa, Vita brevis" could soon be replaced by "Project longa, Tech brevis"!! for the rate at which newer techs are identified, they far out speed the life span of existing trends. With the IT industry in itself being autosarcophagic in nature, it forces the issue rather than wait for action to be taken. Due to this fickle nature of the industry, re-skilling resources, becomes a necessary evil which has to be given its due. Necessary - to meet the need of the hour. Evil - will try to explain why.

Unlike educational institutions that have the luxury of a specified syllabus, which probably could be the root cause of the issue faced by the industry, learning programs in corporate organizations are more driven by market strategies, need of the hour requirements and at the core of all - Budget.

Every year sectoral giants strengthen their employee base by recruiting entire batches of final year college students. The reasoning could be manifold from staffing for upcoming projects to marginal optimization. And obviously such precious "raw materials" need proper polishing before they can shine in their career. Its been a pretty long pipe dream that the college syllabus has to prepare industry specific and readily deployable resources and that might help them to kick start their career being productive from day one. I often wonder, when its been decided that a particular company wants to recruit students in droves, why not them decide what they need to study which could save so much cost for the company at the same time, assuring job for the students. Understand this is a controversial thought process. But guess couldnt be far off from reality.

As much as one can understand their drive behind skilling fresh resources, a not so fastidious approach towards mid level experienced employees is the concern behind this post. Every organization worth its salt, has a training program, lump sum amount as training budget and even boasts about the same in their RFP's and sales pitches. Yet, the ground reality couldn't be far different. The two basic questions of "when" to train and on "what" to train are often in conflict with each other. With targets of 100% utilization and 100% billability becoming industry norms, how does one scope in time for training? Valid to question, why to pick a person already employed on a project to be trained. "Strategic reserves", "Resource pool" or simply put as "bench", whichever way it was, the concept of having trained back fills have long disappeared. People are expected to be utilized 100%, be billable (read profitable to company) 100% yet still have to get trained on technology and trends that can't be coached outside but only available as on the job training.

Wonder what would be the level of motivation or interest for a resource for taking up a new trend, under threat of being billable. It impacts not just the quality of their  deliverables but also restricts them to the specifics of the project. Very rarely do people get to explore at least 10% of all the options available on a product completely, before jumping onto a new one.
With product companies forever under pressure, in their race against time to deliver newer versions to outdo their nearest rival, their clients having been made to toe the line due to lack of tech support or to avoid legal wrangles, more often than not, a good stable product which could've very well sustained their business model go waste unused.

Few suggestions to mend this bend -

Corporates can look for tie-ups with universities for teaching specific courses that would prepare their resource pool even before them joining the company, without the concept of having multi year bonds. Ethical torch bearers, please bear with my suggestion. As much as you hate to believe it, education has long become the mode for earning money than for imparting knowledge. Those hand few who want to push their learning beyond monetary means are anyway still going to do it and with a monetary incentive it could be a win-win.

Trainings to be conducted ONLY by those having hands-on experience so that the discussions could be centred around what works for them and what doesnt. Any major product company worth its salt, from Oracle to IBM to new entrants like WORKDAY, they've a standard set of course syllabus which is bland to put it least. With their vast database of product fixes and bugs, they may want to try to use their training sessions to breed new suggestions. It provides a whole new direction to their RnD.

We've more than 7 billion people on this planet. And in this so called internet age, more than half that population havent even come across a computer, leave alone the internet. Rather than spending billions in cramming up more into the chips and releasing "for-the-sake" versions replacing start buttons, may be the software giants can think of making their product reachable to the masses in their native languages. Multi language capability just doesnt stop with translating buttons and labels alone. It needs a cultural background approach and that might probably make the product more usable and comprehensive.

Every organization must've a humanities training/course in their learning calendar. Majority of the user issues and queries can be addressed better if the support personnel understand the background and reason behind the query and empathize with the client rather than treating it as a puzzle to crack. Understanding and accepting the cultural differences could help this in a big way is my belief.

To summarize, i feel we are repainting the same wall in the name of new technologies and newer products. Its high time we took stock of what we've and how to put it to better use.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The startup conundrum

I firmly believe that, for a stable, simple and strong process, which can easily reach people and be used by them, mobile or the digital version is the only way. For we have proof of more than half a century of  "manual" governance that has failed to live up to the expectation of empowering the masses. The real empowering people can only happen with knowledge about their rights and simpler processes to safeguard and utilize the same. What better way than making use of the current start-up boom alongside the push for digital drive and smarter cities.

With so many start-ups shooting up every single day, one would be tempted to wonder that the above thought process would become a reality pretty soon. But a quick look at the list of start-ups registered till date for this year at least throws a totally different picture. Of about 59 of them listed in http://trak.in/india-startup-funding-investment-2015/  retail shopping, paying utility bills and loans are the only areas which are targeted. Obviously success stories like snap deal, flip kart have clearly set the tone for other ideas mushrooming around the same concept. This post is not an attempt at ridiculing these attempts. Entrepreneurship at any level or domain should be respected and encouraged unabashedly. But with a whole ocean of areas lying untouched neither by digital options nor otherwise, it makes an even more better business opportunity to move away from the crowded retail and payment scape.

With several 100,000 cases pending in our courts, any solution towards fast tracking the legal system could prove to be a boon for everyone. Civil law structure, trapped in complex language which can be understood and handled only by lawyers of eminence, if it can be broken down into simple language and made easily available in app format, it could kick start turn around time in our legal system.
Saw an episode on a talk show on the plight of women workers in unorganized sectors. It was a tear jerker to say the least. As compared against the never satisfying amount of salary that the lucky few chase , it was startling and shameful at the same time as to how much each of those women earn and still manage to have an honest to god livelihood in the very own "it has become so costly nowadays" metro just like others. Surprisingly there are schemes and scores of benefits for the upliftment of such women work force which not so surprisingly even the social activist who was called upon as a chief guest was not completely aware of. If there is a mechanism, an app or call it whatever, by which these info can be at their finger tips, well..we dont have to raise our finger for their support. With that knowledge those iron ladies will take care of themselves.

Will there, ever be a start up, solely for the purpose of empowering people? Funding it will be the truest of angel funding and we can then really call ourselves grown-up from that point onwards.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Theseus' paradox

There has been ground breaking discoveries in the world of DNA and gene mapping with gene editing being talked about widely. With latest editing techniques, some of the genetically unavoidable diseases can be detected and avoided even before a child is formed. As much as the news been received with cheer, its implications and extrapolations doesn't fail to send a chill down the spine.

When have we as humans ever stopped with utilizing a particular invention for the meant purpose alone. We invented wheel and wiped off green cover across half the planet. We broke atom to understand particles and ended up with nuclear weapons. Its this curious nature that is both our boon and curse.

Pretty soon, people will start tweaking the genes for made to order babies, a super human race will soon be on the making, available for those who can afford. By growing limbs and organs outside of human body and harvesting them at a later point of time, replacing the damaged ones within oneself, does modern medicine prolong the life span of the patient or create a whole new person? If we replace every infected organ of a person does he still remain the original person he was before? Or are those damaged organs that were removed will be collectively identifying the updated person? How much of a change is within permissible limit for someone to be identified as themselves?
How much ever i find it unacceptable, the undeniable fact is everyone of us have an expiry date. We may try to modify ourselves by replacing faulty parts and what not, but can only extend the date at best. Having said that, i am not against modern medicinal discoveries. As long as they are used for life saving rather than act merely as a life extending tool for the rich and mighty, they should be continuously patronaged and  encouraged.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The definition of everything

It started as a joke.

What is the opposite of Sin?

I got so many responses and some where pretty detailed enough to be posted. But despite falling on the feet of "Google" aandavar, we couldn't quite figure out an exact antonym for the word sin. But in the course of the search we did got to know that the same question has been raised on numerous forums which basically were philosophical discussions. It led to some really interesting view points on the English language itself. English being predominantly and primarily the language of the Christian community, didn't had the reason to have an opposite for sin, for the concept of getting rewarded for a good deed (punyam in our terms) in synch with punishment for bad deed (paavam, sin) didn't exist as per their religious belief. Science has an equally weird situation which is kind of converse to theology,  where in you can measure the amount of brightness and can even increase or decrease it by a factor. But will never know the factor of darkness. You can neither increase darkness nor decrease it and it can only be defined as the absence of light. In one way, the concept of Hinduism sounds balanced, where in you are paid in kind for what you do - be it good or bad. The definitions of being good or bad again is left open ended as one man's nectar could be other's poison.

The same concept has been resonated across most of the discussion threads that we stumbled upon during the search. But that quest led to an interesting offshoot.

How does one define paavam or a punyam. For that matter, how does one define anything at all? How do you define someone - as say, tamilian - with recent nadigar sangam controversies, cow slaughter protester/supporter, patriot..and the list is endless.

Does one become tamilian just by birth or by speaking the language or by living in that linguistically proportioned area or by following some designated culture? is it applicable only to that person alone or should one consider his heritage as well? exactly the question posted to one Mr.Trump wherever he goes on his view point about Hispanics and Mexicans in particular.

Should one oppose cow slaughter as religious beliefs are offended and allow export of beef to other countries at the same time? is it OK if someone else eats our cow and not us? by that yardstick why not allow your neighbourhood Muslim to have his fill then? confusing. Even if the Govt. does decide to enforce the ban, what would they do to all those cattle which anyway comes with an expiry date? any ways. different post. different topic.

If one supports all India matches, irrespective of the sport, does one qualify as patriotic? is that alone the unit of measure?  by digging up pitches, blocking concerts, inking people on book launches.. do these activities increase the factor of patriotism?

If i support the efforts taken by the centre to reign in inflation and have an open mind on the innnnumerous foreign trips taken with the hope that at least ticket charge amount of investment will come as FDI, does that make me a right winger? my concern over the war instigating attitude of the mainstream media, which marginalizes attacks on minorities as the purpose of the elected government does that make me a card carrying member of that party?

Having a pair of limbs and appropriately working senses, do these alone qualify in defining somebody as human? is it the identifiable shape or the invisible soul? is it in the name or in the belief one carries? "Do unto others as what others would do unto you" - probably the most selfish statement ever.

Definition of being human is pretty simple actually - Love. Irrespective of where one is born, what language they speak, what they eat, whom they support. For in the end, its love that conquers all. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

The father becomes the son and son becomes father.

This is a running joke that a father is only as old as his son/daughter for he attains that status only after their birth, but girls can become mom irrespective of any such links. With all due respect, the role of a mom is pretty straight forward in the sense that, almost every single one of the women, knows what it feels like to be a mom. They just have to express it and they are well and truly set on the route of motherhood. They need not even give birth to a kid of their to be called mom. Since the very meaning of mom being love, any women showering love un-conditionally are/can be called mom. But the same doesn't apply for "dad". Being dad is one thing, being called dad is a totally different thing altogether.

Middle aged people wouldn't have any qualms in admitting to call someone as a fatherly figure, who are always someone elder to them. But how much ever you shower love on a kid, the best you can qualify for would be a friendly "uncle". Probably because, if a kid ends up calling every friendly guy as dad, it would result in unwanted comments both about him and his family would be the real reason :)

Probably, the society has designed its own evil way to make sure that the title of being called dad can only be attained by being a parent and no way else. Everything from nature to man made can be tagged with mother - mother nature, mother land, mother document and the list is endless. The source for anything is tagged as mother lode. Poor dads don't get a say even there.

By becoming a parent, then at least, is "dad-hood" attained, is a million dollar question. You can shower "motherly" love and settle with that. But being dad means being responsible. Please note that i am no way belittling the concept of motherhood. If in my attempt to praise the dads, if it sounds otherwise its purely un-intentional. I don't intend to pull "moms" down to raise or praise their significant other half.

Coming back to the concept a father being born along with his kid. I really wonder, if guys in general, how much ever care free or careful they are, ever think of kids till the time they are married. The society has provided men with more freedom and powers as compared to the restrictions placed on women, which makes menfolk a bit more egocentric is my off the cuff observation. Above all everyone would be pampered by their doting mothers which kind of gives them a sense of lord ship over relations. They can flaunt their ego in any gathering of relatives and their financial status, tone and attitude determines the respect they receive. But all of the above are next to nothing, if they can't win over their own kid. Its very easy to crack the whip and be a hard task master. Its very easy to pamper their kid with all their whims and fancies. Its even more easier to delegate these tasks to the mom-folk while the dads slave around for the financial freedom of the family. For a kid growing up, how will they understand the sacrifices of their father, who spends every waking hour working for their betterment? how will they understand that all his scoldings are for their benefit and he doesnt carry any grudge against them? how they shouldn't be disappointed when their first super hero is stumbled for an answer or two for their never ending list of questions? how they wouldn't understand their dad's hurt ego when he is unable to get them things they demand with his salary?

Being dad is the single most important job/role/position/call it whatever in the whole wide world. My favourite of all dad-quotes is that " the most dangerous person in the world is the father of a hungry child". You've to read it twice to feel the power behind the quote and the characteristic of "dad". Whether they act or not, they are constantly being observed and followed by their kids. Whoever they may be, whether responsible or not, they inadvertently or otherwise, become role models for their kids to pursue, adopt,evolve or ignore. How much ever one argue with loads of point in favour of moms, one just have to look at the plight of the man after the demise of his wife, at the hands of his very own kid. That is one phase of life, no son or daughter has ever understood. Its relatively easy to take care of an ageing mom like a kid. But its near impossibly difficult to accept your very own superhero, ageing in front of your own eyes and at your mercy. Its their boon. Its their curse.

For all the above paragraphs, i for one, never realised all this about my own dad, till i became one. May be this post is a result of all these doubts and challenges that lay ahead. Just like the 749 other posts, written prior to this, that i revisit at random, may be some day i will evaluate myself with this very post??

The father becomes the son and son becomes father.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Being Human

I know of few of my colleagues, who quit their top paying jobs ,where they had gelled in like hand in glove and yet didnt feel satisfied. They found satisfaction in serving others. From the lines of service as an industry they considered service as an individual practice for fellow humans. When queried them for the reason behind their decision, they want to give back to the society that has given them so much.

I came to know about an astonishing personality,  recently, who has a very inspiring yet unbelievable story. He quit his well paying IT job and was in fact well on his way towards establishing his own company when he took up cycling to spread humaneness. He started an unbelievable cycling trip from London to Delhi with just a backup in his carrier containing a tent, a small bag of sprouts and his travel document and some pamphlets. He had strong belief in humanity that when the people get to know the purpose of his travel, he would get all the support needed and to survive healthily one doesnt need a square meal. The concept of his trip was Healthy,Human and Harmonious way of living. He was well rewarded for his faith, for he not just made the trip to Delhi but also continued the journey to the four corners of India. He was well supported by people all over the world and barring one minor incident of robbery which was also resolved, he managed an incident free trip. Post that incident he even received police protection where that country's police wanted to make sure his trip was safe, secure and successful, once they got to know the purpose of his voyage.

I read about 2 disciples of Acharya Vinoba bhave, who decided to walk to America and spread his message. They never carried any material possession and this happened much before computers and google maps were found. While crossing Afghanisthan, it seems they encountered an American couple, who warned them about the impending desert, stretching over the next 100 kms and offered them lift till the next city. When it was politely declined as their vow was to walk all the way, the couple gave them their US address and asked them to meet when they arrive, with barely any hope of meeting them. Needless to say, after 2 years when the two travellers reached the shores of America, they gave those couples a call. They were given a royal welcome and were asked to share their travel experiences. But for the trip from UK to US, which has to be done via sea travel, their entire journey of 4 years was on foot. When asked what gave them courage to undertake such an impossible mission, they replied more than anything it was their faith in humanity that helped them complete the mission and the fact that they managed to, stands proof for the same.

A very recent incident, further re affirmed my faith in humanity.  A friend of mine had met with an accident. His bike collided with another and was thrown off his vehicle. He lost his consciousness and when he woke up he found himself in a hospital with his brother sitting behind him. Some good Samaritans had called for ambulance and had gotten him admitted. Somehow they managed to locate his home number from his phone and intimated his brother. He was carrying a costly phone and very less cash with him at that time. All his things were safe and secure and by gods grace with a minor surgery he is getting back to normal.

When you read newspapers and watch news channels there are so much negativity that they spew around that, it feels as if we are in war with ourselves. But the reality after all is not so bleak. As long as we've people who care for others over and above their own self, I feel there is still chance for human redemption.

Staying positive.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Breaking bad

Saadhu mirandaal kaadu kollaathu.

If anyone wants a theatrical proof for the above proverb, one should look not beyond Breaking Bad, the bindaas bad ass of all crime related drama series. I've long put off watching it, never managing to see beyond the first ten minutes in my many attempts, sheerly out of intriguing peer reviews and the record scores it scored on rating sites. The show holds the Guinness record for all time high ratings and is often addressed as the greatest drama series ever.

The storyline is pretty simple. A chemistry teacher, suffering from lung cancer, resorts to making
drugs to support his family and for securing their future. How he goes about it and what happens in the end is told as a 5 season series.

Just like "Soodhu kavvum" which glorified "evil", this series is almost a candid camera approach of a layman towards drug racketing. Every step that he takes are so casual and realistic that, the concept that a common with chemistry knowledge can become a drug kingpin is easily sold on you. It also adds more ammo to Trump's sycophancy on sealing the Mexican border for almost every drug peddler who comes on screen is either a hispanic or mexican.

To me the scary part about the series is the murders that take place by accident by the lead character, who is at his vulnerable best in those scenes and yet the cold blooded ease with which he applies his chemistry knowledge to dispose off the bodies!! There is a scene in season one, when he kills some one using red potassium and "melts" the body on concentrated Hydrofluoric acid. His apprentice, who happens to be his own school (ex) student, goes against using a plastic tub to "perform" the process as suggested by his guru and dumps the body on his bath tub, drowning it on the acid.
Needless to say, the acid eats away not just the body, but also the entire flooring and crash lands on the ground floor, flooding it with blood, intestine and other bodily fluids, making it the most horrible example ever of HF acid in chemistry 101 . This is probably the yuckiest description you can ever find in all of my 743 posts and takes place in the second or third episode of the series!!! The scarier part being the coolness with which the master and his apprentice cleans away the crap and puts the house on sale!!!!

There are some cool moments of chemistry as well, when he uses crystallized mercury ala vengaya vedi!!!

Oru season paathathukkay intha alaparaina..anjum paathu mudikarapo enna aagumnu god only knows!!! For those who are in for offbeat (??) action series which are factual crossover as fictional, go for it. Considering that it has a 9 on 10 score, i really doubt if it requires any further publicity!!!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Puli - review

Gils verdict - First linelaye verdict sollidren. Marana mokkai.

More than Vijay, its the director Chimbudevan who has disappointed the audience enmasse. The man who gave us rib ticklers like 23rd pulikesi, Irumbu koattai murattu singam and interesting screenplays for Arai en 315il kadavul, oru kanniyum moondru kalavanigalum, lets his fans down big time. The story line appears interesting on paper, with the hero set on a quest to recover his lady love from vampire like creatures and how animals and magicians help him to achieve the same. Its right up the alley for the director and makes an interesting leap of faith for the ambulimama chandamama brigade. But its the execution which lets it down big time.

Dialogues and screenplay are so juvenile that really makes one wonder if it was written by such an ace like chimbu. With ample budget and a bankable star at his disposal, its safe to say that he has lost a big time opportunity to pole vault into the big league. Songs by DSP were bad to hear and all was hoping on the dancing prowess of Vijay who is again let down by the choreographer. Some of the so called signature steps were so funnily conceived that they were the unintended gaffes that brought a few laughs. Vijay digs his own a bit with a mockery of voice modulation. Surprised that even after so many years in the industry one can suffer such a brain freeze.

Sruthi hasan continues to bring bad name for her illustrious dad with her absent acting skills and sandpaper scratching voice modulation. Hansika gets her share of song and few minutes of screen share with vijay. Sridevi as villi tries hard to impress. Villain Sudeep is made to look like a buffoon. Its been a criminal waste of resources by chimbu considering that he had such an army of actors. Nandhitha for all her interviews worth gets to utter just one dialog - "aaaah" in her 2 second appearance and that off getting killed. Vijaykumar goes one up on her and has no dialogue at all for his 2 scene appearance. Thambi Ramaiah manages one or two laughs. Robo shankar is utterly wasted.
Special effects, though are in no league on Bahubali, are the only noteworthy aspect of the movie.
Social media has become that monster that can make or break a movie. Puli, the recent mega release for Vijay, is getting hunted and pretty soon can be expected to be shunted out. With Ajith and Vijay fans always at each others throat, meme makers are running riot. The movie doesnt help itself with such a lousy content and is becoming a breeding ground for memes. For the kind of criticism it has garnered, wouldnt be surprised if the negative reaction turns into sympathy vote and make the movie a hit!!!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Reworking Work

Why do people work?  People want to earn for their living and hence they work. As simple as that.
When further queried are they satisfied with what they do, the majority of the respondents are either neutral or dissatisfied and very few are actually happy with what they did.

There could be various factors for the negativity ranging from their personality traits to their current work environment. But those who posted neutral, the major chunk of the population, were the surprise package. By being neutral they may or may not be aware of how they feel about what they do for their majority of waking hours, which could total to more than half their life span. Yet people turn up for their job day in and day out. Is money the only reason/motivator for doing work?

Consider a typical job interview. The questions posted would basically center around the skill set needed and probing around the analytical capability as well. Percentage of hike would definitely has an obvious hand on the outcome. Yet attitude of the candidate plays an equally important role. Meaning, even if a candidate falls within the budget and has required skills, their attitude towards work is equally significant.

Once they are in, what makes people stick to a company? More often than not its not just the money or perks but, per the oft repeated fact that, people don't leave jobs but their managers, proves that people want to work with colleagues whom they respect and with supervisors who respect them.

This raises another question. Are humans inherently lazy and need incentive to do work? Why do people need to be monitored for productivity? When you hire someone for doing what they like, is there a really need for a follow up supervision? I know of few of my colleagues, who follow FILO model of working hours. Everyone around them including themselves, know they are over worked and are borderline exploited, but being the workaholics themselves, it gives them a high to be the maximum productive. When enquired, they replied that going beyond their call of duty gives them a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Those people were either paid on par with their regular hours clocking colleague and were rated on the same scales as others. When they finally quit the organization, it was not the moderate ratings or pay scale that were the straw that broke the camel, but lack of recognition for what they were doing. They were taken for granted as being always available and the same work environment that gave them thrill became overkill. Considering that they are much well better placed and paid outside, would continuous appreciation and recognition have done them in?

These, of course are not new. Yet all of us encounter same situation, irrespective of our domain and company and set up. But that only raises a deeper question: In the face of long standing evidence that routinization and an overemphasis on pay lead to worse performance in the workplace, why have we continued to tolerate and even embrace that approach to work?

I guess the answer lies in the fact that we accept an offer with a variety of aspirations aside from receiving regular pay and are hardly vocal and open about it. You may want to be the best tech support ever, who can fix any issue from complex to simple without getting irritated to any kind of query from your customer. But once you realize how mismatched are  your aspirations with your org's goals, in the long run it all transpires into how much is the pay for doing what you need to do rather than what you want to do.

People are not utterly money oriented is what i want to believe. When i see good samaritans helping accident victims, people offering help for fellow passengers, honest officials who go out of their way to help illiterate elders in completing formalities, i dont see them doing it for money. They definitely are on the job to get paid, but how they do their job gives them a sense of self worth which no amount of salary can give them.

If everyone understands how their work connects with other people and how it helps in making someone's life a little better, work would really be worship.