"The first step in blogging is not writing them but reading them." - Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine, 07-10-2006

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


After a long time, first time since I left NCST, all of us were at the same place on the same time. We were missing some who could make it due to the pressures of life.

Unfortunately it did not start as per the original plan but thats life. But as its said all's well that ends well. We were sitting in our official taxi, though it was bigger taxi this time, with the good old kannadi driver at the wheels. Rest is a long story which you can see in the photo album ...

hoping for another one soon with all absentees ...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Live humbly, there are greater people around us

Vivek Pradhan wasn't a happy man. Even the plush comfort of the First Class air-conditioned compartment of the Shatabdi Express couldn't cool his frayed nerves. He was the Project Manager and still not entitled to air travel. It was not the prestige he sought, he had tried to reason with the admin guy, it was the savings in time. A PM had so many things to do!

He opened his case and took out the laptop, determined to put the time to some good use. "Are you from the software industry sir," the man beside him was staring appreciatively at the laptop.

Vivek glanced briefly and mumbled in affirmation, handling the laptop now with exaggerated care and importance as if it were an expensive car. "You people have brought so much advancement to the country sir. Today everything is getting computerized."

'Thanks," smiled Vivek, turning around to give the man a detailed look.

He always found it difficult to resist appreciation. The man was young and stocky like a sportsman. He looked simple and strangely out of place in that little lap of luxury like a small town boy in a prep school. He probably was a Railway sportsman making the most of his free traveling pass.

"You people always amaze me," the man continued, "You sit in an office and write something on a computer and it does so many big things outside." Vivek smiled deprecatingly. Naivety demanded reasoning not anger. "It is not as simple as that my friend. It is not just a question of writing a few lines. There is a lot of process that goes behind it." For a moment he was tempted to explain the entire Software Development Lifecycle but restrained himself to a single statement. "It is complex, very complex."

"It has to be. No wonder you people are so highly paid," came the reply. This was not turning out as Vivek had thought. A hint of belligerence came into his so far affable, persuasive tone.

"Everyone just sees the money. No one sees the amount of hard work we have to put in." "Hard work!" "Indians have such a narrow concept of hard work. Just because we sit in an air-conditioned office doesn't mean our brows don't sweat. You exercise the muscle; we exercise the mind and believe me that is no less taxing."

He had the man where he wanted him and it was time to drive home the point. "Let me give you an example. Take this train. The entire railway reservation system is computerized. You can book a train ticket between any two stations from any of the hundreds of computerized booking centers across the country.

Thousands of transactions accessing a single database at a given time; concurrency, data integrity, locking, data security. Do you understand the complexity in designing and coding such a system?"

The man was stuck with amazement, like a child at a planetarium.This was something big and beyond his imagination."You design and code such things." "I used to," Vivek paused for effect, "But now I am the project manager,"

"Oh!" sighed the man, as if the storm had passed over, "so your life is easy now." It was like being told the fire was better than the frying pan. The man had to be given a feel of the heat."Oh come on, does life ever get easy as you go up the ladder. Responsibility only brings more work. Design and coding! That is the easier part. Now I don't do it, but I am responsible for it and believe me, that is far more tressful. My job is to get the work done in time and with the highest quality. And to tell you about the pressures! There is the customer at one end always changing his requirements, the user wanting something else and your boss always expecting you to have finished it yesterday."

Vivek paused in his diatribe, his belligerence fading with self-realisation. What he had said was not merely the outburst of a wronged man, it was the truth. And one need not get angry while defending the truth.

"My friend," he concluded triumphantly, "you don't know what it is to be in the line of fire."

The man sat back in his chair, his eyes closed as if in realization. When he spoke after sometime, it was with a calm certainty that surprised Vivek. "I know sir, I know what it is to be in the line of fire," He was staring blankly as if no passenger, no train existed, just a vast expanse of time.

"There were 30 of us when we were ordered to capture Point 4875 in the cover of the night. The enemy was firing from the top. There was no knowing where the next bullet was going to come from and for whom. In the morning when we finally hoisted the tricolor at the top only 4 of us were alive."

"You are a..." "I am Subedar Sushant from the 13 J&K Rifles on duty at Peak 4875 in Kargil. They tell me I have completed my term and can opt for a land assignment. But tell me sir, can one give up duty just because it makes life easier. On the dawn of that capture one of my colleagues lay injured in the snow, open to enemy fire while we were hiding behind a bunker. It was my job to go and fetch that soldier to safety. But my captain refused me permission and went ahead himself. He said that the first pledge he had taken as a Gentleman Cadet was to put the safety and welfare of the nation foremost followed by the safety and welfare of the men he commanded. His own personal safety came last, always and every time. He was killed as he shielded that soldier into the bunker. Every morning now as I stand guard I can see him taking all those bullets, which were actually meant for me. I know sir, I know what it is to be in the line of fire."

Vivek looked at him in disbelief not sure of his reply. Abruptly he switched off the laptop. It seemed trivial, even insulting to edit a word document in the presence of a man for whom valor and duty was a daily part of life; a valor and sense of duty which he had so far attributed only to epical heroes.

The train slowed down as it pulled into the station and Subedar Sushant picked up his bags to alight. "It was nice meeting you sir." Vivek fumbled with the handshake. This was the hand that had climbed mountains, pressed the trigger and hoisted the tricolor. Suddenly as if by impulse he stood at attention, and his right hand went up in an impromptu salute.

It was the least he felt he could do for the country.

PS: The incident he narrates during the capture of Peak 4875 is a true life incident during the Kargil war. Major Batra sacrificed his life while trying to save one of the men he commanded, as victory was within sight. For this and his various other acts of bravery he was awarded the Param Vir Chakra - the nation's highest military award.

Live humbly, there are greater people around us!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hard work vs Smart work

Ravi and Hari were working for a firm. One day their promotion list was announced. Only Ravi got promoted.

Hari was disappointed and asked his manager why only Ravi got promoted when both of them had done same equally well. His manager said he will give his justification for the decision by a small exercise. He asked Hari to meet him outside the office after the lunch.

After the lunch Hari met their manager. The manager asked Hari to cross the street and found out what the lady across the street was selling. Hari came back and told the manager she was selling apples. Now the manager asked him to find out what is the cost of the apples. Hari went again and asked the price of the apples and replied that the apples cost approximately Rs15. The manager asked him to enquire what the price of the best apples is; he went again and informed the manager that the best variety is Rs17.

Now the manager sent a word for Ravi and asked to check out what the lady across the street was selling. Ravi came back and told the manager the lady was selling apples. The prices varied according to the quality cheapest being Rs12 and the best lot costs Rs17. Also she is ready to give some discounts if we by in bulk. How many apples do you want me to buy?

"The value adds which we do to our work matter the most, as the work itself can be done by others also."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Why employees leave organizations?

Every company normally faces one common problem of high employee turnout ratio. People are leaving the company for better pay, better profile or simply for just one reason 'pak gaya'. This article might just throw some light on the matter...got it as a forward email...

Early this year, Rahul, an old friend who is a senior software designer, got an offer from a prestigious international firm to work in its India operations developing specialized software. He was thrilled by the offer. He had heard a lot about the CEO of this company, charismatic man often quoted in the business press for his visionary attitude.

The salary was great. The company had all the right systems in place employee-friendly human resources (HR) policies, a spanking new office, and the very best technology, even a canteen that served superb food. Twice Rahul was sent abroad for training. "My learning curve is the sharpest it's ever been," he said soon after he joined. "It's a real high working with such cutting edge technology." Last week, less than eight months after he joined, Rahul walked out of the job. He has no other offer in hand but he said he couldn't take it anymore. Nor, apparently, could several other people in his department who have also quit recently. The CEO is distressed about the high employee turnover. He's distressed about the money he's spent in training them. He's distressed because he can't figure out what happened. Why did this talented employee leave despite a top salary? Rahul quit for the same reason that drives many good people away.

The answer lies in one of the largest studies undertaken by the Gallup Organization. The study surveyed over a million employees and 80,000 managers and was published in a book called “First Break All The Rules”. It came up with this surprising finding:

If you're losing good people, look to their immediate supervisor. More than any other single reason, he is the reason people stay and thrive in an organization. And he's the reason why they quit, taking their knowledge, experience and contacts with them. Often, straight to the competition.

"People leave managers not companies," write the authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. "So much money has been thrown at the challenge of keeping good people - in the form of better pay, better perks and better training - when, in the end, turnover is mostly manager issue." If you have a turnover problem, look first to your managers. Are they driving people away? Beyond a point, an employee's primary need has less to do with money, and more to do with how he's treated and how valued he feels. Much of this depends directly on the immediate manager. And yet, bad bosses seem to happen to good people everywhere. A Fortune magazine survey some years ago found that nearly 75 per cent of employees have suffered at the hands of difficult superiors. You can leave one job to find - you guessed it, another wolf in a pin-stripe suit in the next one. Of all the workplace stressors, a bad boss is possibly the worst, directly impacting the emotional health and productivity of employees.

HR experts say that of all the abuses, employees find public humiliation the most intolerable. The first time, an employee may not leave, but a thought has been planted. The second time, which thought gets strengthened. The third time, he starts looking for another job.
When people cannot retort openly in anger, they do so by passive aggression. By digging their heels in and slowing down. By doing only what they are told to do and no more. By omitting to give the boss crucial information. Dev says: "If you work for a jerk, you basically want to get him into trouble. You don't have your heart and soul in the job." Different managers can stress out employees in different ways - by being too controlling, too suspicious, too pushy, too critical, but they forget that workers are not fixed assets, they are free agents. When this goes on too long, an employee will quit – often over seemingly trivial issue.

It isn't the 100th blow that knocks a good man down. It's the 99 that went before. And while it's true that people leave jobs for all kinds of reasons- for better opportunities or for circumstantial reasons, many who leave would have stayed - had it not been for one man constantly telling them, as Rahul's boss did: "You are dispensable. I can find dozens like you." While it seems like there are plenty of other fish especially in today's waters, consider for a moment the cost of losing a talented employee. There's the cost of finding a replacement. The cost of training the replacement. The cost of not having someone to do the job in the meantime. The loss of clients and contacts the person had with the industry. The loss of morale in co-workers. The loss of trade secrets this person may now share with others. Plus, of course, the loss of the company's reputation. Every person who leaves a corporation then becomes its ambassador, for better or for worse.

We all know of large IT companies that people would love to join and large television companies few want to go near. In both cases, former employees have left to tell their tales.

"Any company trying to compete must figure out a way to engage the mind of every employee," Jack Welch of GE once said. Much of a company's value lies "between the ears of its employees". If it's bleeding talent, it's bleeding value. Unfortunately, many senior executives busy traveling the world, signing new deals and developing a vision for the company, have little idea of what may be going on at home. That deep within an organization that otherwise does all the right things, one man could be driving its best people away.