Thursday, April 13, 2006

Response to Harshad Oak - Staying Alive in Software Jobs

Harshad makes a strong case for software companies and employees to wake up before too much damage is done to bodies and minds of these young professionals. Staying Alive in software.

I agree with him on most counts. Where I disagree with him is that he makes it out to be us vs. them. Who is "Them"? The leaders of the software companies.

Let me hold the lamp (before the oil runs out) to what IT has done to India:

1. It has put India on the world map. It was there, but no one noticed it earlier, except as a former colony.
2. It has made Indians believe in themselves.
3. It has given millions of young people a better standard of living, allowing them to dream things that would not have been possible before. I ask, how many students in 1980 would have hoped to have a car at 25? Visit other countries at 25? Shake hands and stand tall with the rest of the world? Only a handful from IITs. Now, everybody has the opportunity.
4. It has increased the importance of getting a good education.

Let me specifically answer some of Harshad's points:

>"Working 12+ hours aday and 6 or even 7 days a week is more the rule than the exception."
Do you know why this is so? As with any complex issue, there are multiple facets.
1. Most of these people do NOT spend all the 12-14 hours working. In fact they take work breaks between tea. Anybody honest enough would admit so.
2. Competition is making all of us agree to insane contracts. Feeding the belly will anytime take priority over "work-life" balance. However, I do agree with Harshad that some of us do this to justify our salaries. But many times, we don't have a choice.
3. We are not good at estimates. Any task that actually takes 200 hours, we estimate it as 150 hours thinking that the customers will ridicule it. We also do not have the skills to communicate our concerns in a rational and convincing manner.

>"The reason I feel this culture has emerged, is the servile attitudeof the companies."
After almost 60 years of independence, we have not lost the colonial mentality. We also have taken Gandhi's "Customer is God" too far. God is not biased and is not out to take advantage of us.

>"Has anyone in India ever worked on a project that wasn’t“extremely critical”?"
Try telling any team that the project is not very important or critical to the customer. Motivation levels drop down and people become complacent. I am sorry to say this, but we generally cannot work in a disciplined manner unless a sword hangs over us.

>"How many Indians in India are thought leaders in their software segment? - Very few
How much software innovation happens in India? - Minimal"

Both these questions are related. Indians as an cultural entity hate to take risks. Security is our primary concern. We are more concerned with keeping our jobs rather than innovating. We, like the Japanese, are experts in applying old thoughts in new situations, rather than creating new thoughts. "Whats in it for me? Can I see results today, tomorrow, this week?" is our concern.
Hmm. Another post is brewing on the similarities in older cultures - the need not to change or innovate.

I must say that I strongly agree with what Harshad proposes to change the culture. We cannot remain outside the system and criticize it. We have to change the system by being a part of it. If we are enterprenuers, we have to do R&D; If we are senior managers, we have to say no to insane deals; If we estimate, we should not accept below the belt estimates. Its upto us to effect the change, not to some great leader who sits in the tower.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Damn, I wish I had said that!

Some of the quotes, quips and witty repartees I wish I had said. Lot of websites have this collection, so why blog about it, wasting the internet space? I asked myself. I compiled this list for myself, so that I could use them. Then I decided to share them with you. Now don't use them in a conversation with me!

1. These are my opinions and I agree with them.
2. This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force - Dorothy Parker
3. Due to cost cutting measures, the light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off.
4. For Sale: Parachute. Only used once, never opened, small stain.
5. My brain has two parts - the left and the right. The left has nothing right in it and the righ has nothing left in it.
6. I always am careful of work-life balance. I take workbreaks in the day.
7. Your palm tells me that you will have severe problems in life till your 27th year. After that, well, you will become used to them.
8. The meek shall inherit the earth, whats left of it.
9. Coffee isn'y my cup of tea - Samuel Goldwyn
10. Given a choice between the devil and the deep sea, I will always take the devil. I can't swim. [Ok! I slipped this in, wondering if you would notice. It doesn't look too funny, does it?]

And BTW, another reason for compiling and using these quotes is "The nicest thing about quotes is that they give us a nodding acquaintance with the originator which is often socially impressive." - Kenneth Williams"

Cast in Caste

The ugly head rears up again. I was in the eighth or ninth standard, when we had just 30 days of school in the entire year. The rest were spent happily at home, when all other adults were seriously debating the Mandal commision's recommendations and its implementation.

This "caste" based politics once again is dominating the political landscape of India. Now, it is no longer simply a political issue. Its an issue that will define India in the future. If the reservations are implemented, we will give the world the signal that underneath our sophistication, we still are uncivilized.

A National Commision for Backward Classes is now coming into force. I wonder why use the term Classes at all. Does Class means caste? Is it the politically-correct term? The guidelines that the NCBC uses to determine the inclusion into the OBC list are an eye opener. Most of the definitions can be used for any castes, including the forward classes, since the criteria are mostly economic-based. I am sure that all castes have their share of well-to-do as well as the economically backward sections. Then how can certain castes completely become Backward classes, whereas others, even though their economic status is on the bottom, be called as Forward classes? Beyond comprehension.

While I can agree that caste continues to have importance in personal issues like marriage, it would be laughable if somebody says that it matters in daily life. Do you go to a shop and ask the shopkeeper his caste before buying?

[appended after posting]
I found out that calling a person by his caste name is derogatory and is considered punishable by law. this applies only to certain castes. I, for one, can never know which caste is forward or which one is backward. I belong to a "special" backward class - the "intellectually backward class!

The Worst Ad Awards

I take a look at some of the ads which are...Yuk. Plain Yuk. Lack of creativity or the theme chosen, reasons don't matter.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Winner is the "Jumbo dumb Tata Indica Xeta car Ad."

1. After seeing the Tata Safari and the Sumo Victa ads, I thought the Tata Motors guys had hired a great ad agency. The Tata Indica Xeta ad, however, makes me rethink.

4 dumb girls ask an even more dumber guy for help in lotioning them! (the lyrics are quite good though, in a way!) The ad is supposed to convey that sometimes you don't get a second chance, but here is another chance to buy the "improved" Indica. I will neither take the girls nor the car. Maybe I am the dumbest.

Now for the Number two award, This goes to country Club for the most "hairy" ad.

2. Saving money for advertising is ok, but this really takes the cake. Who wants to see a 40+ guy in shorts (maybe he is younger, I don't know) parachuting down onto a beach? The CEO of Country Club thinks he is revolutionize the ad world. If he really wanted to save a few pennies, he could have shown the wonders of his club minus himself.

To top it, CC offers members plots in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I guess the fine print will show that this comes with a bonus - You get some "Tigers" in your backyard.

If you have your nominations for these ads, send them to me. We'll have a category-based award nite next.

Requests for "cultural performances" are also being taken. Rush in with your requests. The only criteria is that the performers should keep in mind that the theme for this Award Nite would always be "Less is More" This applies not to the Food and Drink, but to the clothes you wear for the performance.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A "Judas Gospel", encrypted phone calls and other stories

[THE CAFE sometimes has people coming in and reading stories. You might wonder at the meaningless variety in the stories, but thats what you expect to hear in THE CAFE]

Mr.Dan Brown, another controversial subject for you to write a book. Judas "The Betrayer" Iscariot did it at Jesus' Behest

Phil Zimmerman, the man who invented secure email protocol, PGP , has now ruffled government feathers by releasing Zfone, a software that can make internet-based calls secure. But debate continues to rage between privacy rights activists and the security people on how such technologies are being used by terrorists to avoid detection. Read more here

The US is going to dogs - no offense intended, but reading this made me wonder if I am dressed properly.

A different type of Bees

Now this is something that amazes me. 12-13 yr olds spell words that even a dictionary author(that sounds strange, there must be a different name for those who write dictionaries, but I digress) would not have (even?) heard. Spelling Bee contests.

I have only read about the birds and the bees, that too after I became of age (whatever that means!)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Jim Corbett - "Carpet Sahib"

A hot Sunday afternoon, I was browsing through my small book collection when my eyes fell on my beloved hardbound "The Jim Corbett Omnibus"

Ahh! I still remember reading it in my 8th standard at a friend's house. The hours of joy and wonder at the style of writing coupled with the interesting content had me immersed in the book when all my other friends were playing.

I still feel the same stirrings in my heart when I read this book. For me, it rates as being one of those timeless works, on the lines of Pride and Prejudice.

I recently read Corbett's biography and some other real-life anecdotes somewhere. I was saddened when I found that Corbett left India during Independence, believing that Indians would consider him a "foreigner" and that he would not be welcome. I guess he made his only mistake - unfortunately, we have lost much.

If Corbett were still alive when the following happened, he would have understood that his love of India and her people was unmatched and those people revered him almost like a God. Now to the incident:
A group of people were doing a short video on Corbett near Kumaon. An old, old man came to the shooting and asked to meet "Carpet Sahib." He had walked non-stop for days to this place and was taken to the actor who was playing the role of Corbett. He fell at the actor's feet and said that he had never believed in the story that Corbett had left India and died in Africa!

Great is the reverence one feels after reading him. Consider how people who knew him felt about him. It is indeed fitting that India's premier wildlife park is named after the man who has fired the imagination of thousands like me.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License