Friday, March 23, 2012

Fly on the wall - Corporate Meeting

Today I had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall of a corporate meeting.  Alright alright, I was actually a part of that meeting.  This is how it went:

Person 1: Thanks everyone for coming.  I called this meeting so that we could get together and get on the same page about this new effort we are starting up called "Specific Customer Reporting for Erroneous Workloads" (SCREW).  We will be using this mechanism in future to notify customers about minor errors that might have crept into their portfolios.
Read: (Fellas, regulation requires that we need to let customers know when we have screwed them)

Person 2: SCREW is a great idea.  We need someone to drive this idea and take it forward, do the right things that are aligned with the strategy of the company and also ensure that all stakeholders are involved.
Read: (OK, I needed to say something in this meeting,  There it is.  I am done now)

Person 3: Absolutely! There needs to be positive energy and a momentum behind this thing.  It seems Person 4 is the right kind of guy to do something like this.  He possesses the correct skills and a passion for this space.  He also seems to have time on his hands these days since his current project is wrapping up.
Read: (There is no way in this world I am going to do SCREW.  I'll let person 4 get SCREWed and at the same time I will undermine his current work.  It's performance review time after all.)

Person 1: That's what I had in mind too.  If Person 4 can bring the major decisions to a closure and find cross-group integration and collaboration going on, we would add a lot of customer value with this puppy.  It might be challenging but would also be extremely fulfilling and rewarding from a career perspective.
Read: (Yes, we have almost decided that Person 4 will be screwed with SCREW.  We just need to make sure that he sees this as a wonderful opportunity and not as a shit-hole it really is)

Person 4: I think that fits nicely with my career goals and ambitions.  I'd do it happily.
Read: (You f#$%ing losers.  I have already made up my mind to leave this shit-hole company.  Give me another new project and I will happily SCREW it before I leave)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why did you leave your country?

Yes, it is my style to start with a rhetorical question as a lame attempt to capture the reader’s attention.  And once I have it, I try and keep it with a few tidbits about the land I come from; India.

Now, a careful reader can probably discern from the above statement that I am not currently in India.  I am one of those “go get education from US, get some experience and come back” people.  My going back to India part however, hasn’t yet materialized.  And honestly speaking I haven’t even started planning for it yet (despite telling my friends every day that I am not going to settle down in the US).  And as some wise woman has said “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.  The biggest issue I want to resolve before I head back is the following:

I don’t want a job.  I want to make a difference.

Heat, bad roads, bad traffic, lack of civic sense, electricity issues, lack of overall infrastructure, hygiene issues, ostentatiousness etc. etc.: these are just some of the several thousand hurdles people can present if you talk about going back to India.  However, none of those reasons are strong enough to overcome my middle-class upbringing in a small north Indian town.  I used to change three buses and spend close to 2 hours just to get to college.  Some of that may have been lost in the “naturally air-conditioned USA” but none of that has totally deserted my being.

What truly bothers me is the fear of staying mediocre always.  I am a mediocre guy.  And as I age, I am becoming mediocre by the day.  I would be extremely disappointed if I go back and start with a job similar to what I have here in the US (yes it has something to do with technology) even if it is well paid and all that.  And no, I am not from a royal family, nor do I have a teenager son who has shown a particular knack for making millions in IPL cricket.

The only way I think I can escape this vicious cycle is through reinventing myself.  I am hoping that a move across the continents is big enough to accompany radically different career paths.  The career I want to choose is politics.  Strange as it may sound, I want to do more than arm-chair commentary on the antics of Didi, Behenji and Rahul baba.
During my last visit to India a few months ago, I felt something I had never felt before: a strong interest in Indian politics and an urge to become a part of the mainstream politics in India.  I was never into such stuff growing up, but this time the tamasha around the election in Uttar Pradesh really got me hooked (or maybe it was just to avoid watching the Indian cricket team getting pasted in Australia).  During the day, I was following endless election coverage on all the 3 million TV channels and during the night I was scouting YouTube for pieces about Nehru, Patel, and Jinnah etc. 

While flying back from Delhi to London, an old British lady sat beside me.  Usually, I try to avoid any conversation during flights (I put on my headphones even if I am not listening to anything) because I want to avoid questions about “The Taj Mahal” and the “stray cows on the roads”.  But this time no sooner did the conversation start, than I was up and running about things like the impact of British rule on the subcontinent, the thought behind the initial socialist agenda after independence, the green revolution, the reasons for why India missed the industrial revolution and jumped onto become an information economy.  I then realized that I was talking really passionately.  A couple of folks from the seat in front of ours, also felt the need to contribute to this discussion.  For a change, I enjoyed the discourse.

As much as I despise some of our politicians, I have long maintained the belief that sitting in the parliament gives you a greater chance of affecting change in a country, than a NGO or civil activism ever will.  The mind is made up: politics it is.  In terms of ideologies also, I think I have pretty much decided which way I am going to lean (in order to stay neutral I am not going to mention a party here).  The next steps are to figure out the process to go about it.  How do I join the party? Who do I contact?  How can I help to begin with?  And ultimately, how do I define a path for myself while becoming a servant for the country.

Hopefully I will get there someday.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fly on the wall - Cricket

Sachin Tendulkar scored his 100th century in international cricket.
Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan announce the name for their newborn.
Shahrukh and Aamir to clash on the box office later this year.
Oprah Winfrey says she was misquoted about India.

And in other news, there was something called budget happening in India.  
Oh, and also India lost that match.

That's the order in which the "important" news is presented to the world.  I am not at all going to dwell on why the budget news is so low in that order.

Let's talk about Sachin like everyone else is.  And why not?  India loves Sachin.  Sachin sells.  You need to write about him, you need to talk about him.  Whether you criticize him, garland him, mention his new hairstyle or write about his diet, everyone wants a piece of him.  Sachin means big business to anyone who has anything to do with Cricket - administrators, media, team management, TV viewers, spectators, sponsors, you name it.

Anyway enough about Sachin.  Let’s see what’s going on with the rest of the Indian “cricket fraternity”.  Recently I happened to be a fly on the wall in a room where some current and ex cricketers were mingling.  Following is what transpired:

Ravi Shastri:  Sachin, the pitch looks good; the crowd is buzzing with anticipation.  What are your thoughts about this day?

Sachin: Ravi, why are you talking like we are in a cricket match?  Just try to relax and play for the country like I do.  Follow your dreams and you will win the world cup.

Ravi Shastri: Uh uh!  I was too much in my commentator character.

Sourav Ganguly: Hello boys!  What's cooking?  Fish and rice?  Wanna join me on bangla crorepati show that no one watches?

Sehwag: Hello skipper!  How do you do?  Want some milk?  Btw, I was recently dropped just like you were: 5 years after your expiry date.

MS Dhoni (to himself): I won the T20 world cup, ODI world cup, IPL and every other freaking tournament there is.  And they still call him the skipper.

Ravi Shastri: In the air...... and taken.  This is a big blow.  Tremendous cricket.

Sunil Gavaskar: Sachin, Sachin, Sachin.

Ravindra Jadeja (to himself): What am I doing among all these cricket people?  Oh, yes, I keep forgetting.  I too am a cricketer.  Dhoni told me.  I must try to remember especially when they give me those weird looking round things to throw or those long wooden things to hit those round things with.  Never got the idea behind that.

Kohli: Tum sabki maa ki #$%^, tum sab ki bahen ki $%^&

Gambhir:  Our new vice-captain is full of vice.  When I was vice-captain, I just use to swear at Pakistanis.

MS Dhoni: But you couldn’t even score a 100 in the World Cup final.  Just scored 90 odd, what a loser!

Kapil Dev: Guys, let’s take it easy.  Boost is the secret of my energy.  And also... Palmolive da jawaab nahin!

Sachin: No no... It’s Gillette

Azharuddin: Chhote pahle daadi to uga le.

Kumble: I want to learn spin bowling.  Maybe, I will go to Venkatesh Prasad.  His googlies to Aamir Sohail were really successful.

And so this peaceful and meaningful discourse continued through the night.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Do you have your social on?

Are you a social person?

Not quite sure what people mean when they ask me that.  Are they asking about my inclination to go out and meet people, my behavior when introduced to new people, my tendency to keep up with the social obligations like parties, weddings, birthdays etc. or just the size of my Facebook/Twitter friend list?

If it is the latter then you must sometimes be acting like this guy:

Now that I have provided a somewhat eye-catching (albeit irrelevant) starting paragraph with the mandatory question mark in the end, let me get to the real thing that I want to discuss in this post.  If you have been reading  this blog, you can probably see that I have decided to be very disciplined about blogging from now on.  Not only do I want to write, but I wish to know whether people like it or not.

As a result, I am doing all the usual blogger reach-out things like posting my links on digg, reddit, delicious, stumbleupon etc.  However, I am not quite sure how useful all that is.  Of course, if you are a very popular writer with an established online presence, then these bookmark/aggregation sites can further help you.  However, for an average dude like me, I am not quite sure what I gain.  So, this post is an attempt to figure that out.  Unlike my last few posts, I am not going to do any "marketing" for this post at all.  I will not even post it to my twitter/facebook followers.  I should find out in a day or two how it goes.

Anyway, I have a reasonably good hold of technology, web etc. but I don't really understand how this world of social networking actually works.  Good content, I hear, is a must.  But clearly that alone is not enough.  What else do I need to make sure my content is reaching the maximum number of people, and the right people?  Any Gurus out there willing to drop me some hints?  I will not look for you on Google.  Because, I want to know that you understand my dilemma through my website and are yourself confident that you can help me.

Some of the above text may sound cryptic but as I said earlier, I am honest and I will write what comes to my mind.  So today what's coming to my mind is this amalgamation of random thoughts.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where is my start button?

Everyone is looking for a start button these days.  Some people want to get their day started, some people want to start their life afresh, and a few million people are just wondering how, in the freaking world, are they supposed to access the erstwhile "Start Menu" on their Windows.

Out of all the experimental things Microsoft has done with Windows 8, removing the Start button seems to be getting most passionate negative reviews.  People can put up with the fact that this new UI which is better tailored for touch-enabled slates and tablets, doesn't quite thrill them on their desktops and laptops.  They can get to terms with the fact that Microsoft has decided to put all their eggs in the Metro basket, despite no credible proof of it's success (Windows Phone 7 with Metro interface continues to be just a "good potential" product and nothing more).  However, the thing they are not able to accept is the removal of Start Menu.  See this for example:

Saying "just use the Windows key on your keyboard" just seems to annoy people even more.  I sincerely hope that Microsoft, for it's own good does think of this blunder as a Beta-only experiment meant to garner feedback (which is the purpose of Beta btw).  Guys, listen to the feedback.  Even if this sounds like stubborn and admittedly somewhat sentimental attachment of users to something which was not a great design to begin with, the message is loud and clear.  People want a start button.

More on Windows 8 soon.

Monday, March 12, 2012

iPad 3, Kahaani and Corruption

Well it's no longer news that Apple has come up with their latest device, curiously called the iPad (post Steve Jobs Apple is already low on imagination).  Soon most of us will line up to hand over a handsome sum of money to our nearest Apple Store (if we have not already wired over that money online to Apple's trusted bank).  How long world's fascination with Apple's products will last is any one's guess but it is true that the lack of credible competition is definitely helping them.  On one extreme is Google, which is in the habit of throwing half-baked products as beta-testing machines at the wider public.  On the other end is Microsoft, which takes several years to come up with a product, which if fails leaves them with no time to respond back or make amends.  Till these problems with the Apple wannabes are fixed, AAPL will continue to demonstrate healthy earnings quarter after quarter.  And yes, I will buy the new iPad.

Taking a break from work (when do I NOT want to do that?), I went to watch this new movie Kahaani today. Boy, am I impressed?  This is quite simply the best Hindi movie I have seen in a long long time.  What a great concept, superb story (having a story in a Hindi film is such a refreshing change btw), tight screenplay and clever direction.  Add to that good acting and lack of usual bollywood melodrama, and you have an almost perfect movie.  I would be seriously disappointed if this movie isn't India's nomination for Oscar.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this movie is a must watch.

Anyway back from the movie,  I was back onto my anonymous trail for information and usual online media scouring for history, politics, economics, comedy etc.  I found that quite a few like-minded people have been doing the same set of things that I enjoy.  Not sure they are as random and aimless as I am, but it is good to know that I am not alone in the waywardness of my thoughts.  It is also a little disappointing to learn that I am not a unique genius with a special way of thinking.  Anyway, I do intend to read up and follow quite a bit of online presence dedicated to rooting out corruption from India.  Stay tuned for more thoughts around that topic.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Me and Windows 8

So I have something to do with technology, especially the software industry.  I have always been a power Windows user and have always believed that Mac users are mostly rigid, opinionated people who care more about being perceived as cool than about being productive.

But of course, with the mobile devices like iPod, iPhone and iPad, Apple did manage to significantly change my opinion.  These devices were simply the best looking, most user-friendly options available in their respective segments.  Moreover, the increasing capabilities and ubiquitous nature of these devices have significantly ruptured the power of Microsoft in the consumer computing arena.  Their flagship product Windows (remember "Windows on every table") is now under severe pressure to stay relevant in a world, where smaller devices do whatever PCs (powered by Windows) can do.

With the recent consumer preview of Windows 8 however, Microsoft is trying to buck that trend.  Whether they will be able to do that or not, who knows yet?  But they look pretty serious about this revamp (at least they want people to perceive this is a revamp).  It looks complete with a functioning App-Store and all that jazz.

Windows 8 Store

One interesting thing about Windows 8, is the multiple options for building apps for the platform.  HTML along with JavaScript is quite simply the best (at least the most talked about) option.  Then there are others like .NET, C++ etc.  A look at any popular app-building platform today, and you can see that most popular (and most revenue generating apps) are always games.  How many of these games is it possible to create with web technologies like HTML and JavaScript remains to be seen.  As of now it does seem that the focus on HTML/JS will allow Microsoft to attract the army of web developers to the Windows platform.  But how many of these people will be able to generate apps compelling enough to make Windows relevant, is still debatable.

Interesting times ahead in the technology industry.  One of these days, I need to sit down and write an app for Windows 8 to better form my opinion.