Decoding the ‘Professional’ – The First ‘P’

isro_launch_mangalyaan

Last week I had ended with a question.

Most of you would have got the answer rightly.

I think it is not only applicable to Software Engineering, but to any profession in general and that is the reason the title is different.

Robin Sharma talks about this aspect in every video of his. Here is the quote from him

Even if you clean toilets, do it with pride and love. This summer I met a man who cleans toilets at the Johannesburg airport. He beamed “welcome to my office” as I entered. The place was flawless. His passion was palpable. That man is my hero. And he reminded me that all work has dignity and honor.”

Drucker likes to tell the story of a Greek sculptor from 500 BCE who was commissioned by the city of Athens to construct a set of statues to ring the top of a building. (Entitled “Pursuing Perfection,” you may find this story on October 1.) The sculptor toiled for months longer than expected, making the backs of the statues as beautiful as the fronts. The city commissioners, angered by his extra work, asked: “Why did you make the backs of the statues as beautiful as the front? No one will ever see the backs!”

“Ah, but the Gods can see them,” replied the sculptor.

The answer is there in the above photo as well . This is a photograph that circulated on the social media a lot.

What do you think is the emotion behind everyone in the photo ?

In my view it is Pride. It is Pride with a capital ‘P’.

Did someone not say ‘All pride goes before a fall’ ?

However, keeping that aside I think Pride is a necessary characteristic.

I do not think we can be indifferent to what we are creating or helped creating. Somehow we chose to be more modest than required about it.

Most times I think we have underplayed the pride, thinking that our work should speak for itself and also the upbringing has conditioned me and probably all of us into some kind of misplaced humility.

I do not think we cannot be indifferent to our work irrespective of the nature of the work.

If we have to endure and be successful in our profession, even by our own yard stick we cannot get there if we do not have this quality of ‘Pride’ within us.

What do you think ?

Do you agree we need to slightly pep up our Pride just in case we have not felt it in the recent past ?

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

PS : On a slightly lighter note, my waist size does indicate that I have swelled with pride!

Lean on

leanon

My preference has been listening to regional songs (Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu) in that order.

I had a cursory introduction to listening to English songs by my Dad. There used to be these LP records and he kept on playing Boney M and ABBA. I did not understand a word at that time. Not that it has improved any further. However I enjoy Ra Ra Rasputin and I see a boat on the river.

After that it was sister who influenced me to listen to foreign songs. I think she used to listened to Ricky Martin’s Un,Dos,Tres a lot. Still she sends me pointers to very different kind of music. She is also the one who introduced me to Adi Shankara’s Chidananda Roopa rendered in an impressive style by sounds of Isha.

After marriage, my wife tried very hard to influence my taste with Boyzone’s it’s only words. After spending few years with me she realized that I was hopelessly unromantic (Can engineers be romantic in real life, I do not know. One day I will write about that) and she lost her taste for good English music. She returned to Lalita Sahasarnamam.

Three of my colleagues tried to give me a crash course on different kinds of English music and they failed miserably. I never got the difference and it did not matter. One of these days I may get the hang of it.

I do not understand the semantics of any kind of music, but I can recognize good music when I come across it. A case in point is when I was in one of my projects at Gujarat decades back ,me and my friend took one night off to watch Hum Apke Hein Kaun , I told my colleague at that time, one of the song, mayane, mayane will go on to win award and that song incidentally won the national award that year. That was two decades back and my knowledge of Hindi at that time was close to Nil. I have slightly improved from that position.

Like I can appreciate beauty when I see it (decades back it used to be on the sidewalks of MG road every weekend!), I can appreciate good music when I come across it irrespective me being an ignoramus on that subject.

Please ignore the slightly self boasting nature of the above two paragraphs. Need to slice those in some ways in some of the articles to preserve my self-worth!.

I cannot get to the point of this article soon enough.

After a long hiatus, my kids re-introduced me to English Music. One of the songs they were repeatedly listening was ‘Lean on’. The lyrics can be found here and the video here.

I was just curious about one line

“All we need is somebody to lean on”

I have two views about this line.

Everything in this cosmos is interconnected and interdependent and I think very successful relationships stand testimony to this above line.  It’s always good to know that you can do anything and return to a person where you would be accepted unconditionally. No questions asked. We all generally have in life  that one person , we will go to lean on. Till my father was around, I had that someone to lean on. Not sure on that now.

However, on the other hand, I think about this line being repeatedly heard by my kids at impressionable young age. The good thing is that they will realize the significance and value of relationships and possibly understand the interconnected nature of the cosmos. They will possibly understand the real meaning of ‘all for one’ and ‘one for all’.

But leaving metaphysics away, there are times where they are going to find that they have to dig out of the shit hole they dug for themselves. I can see that they are going to dig that shit holes. I do not think there is anyone who escapes that. There are times where they are going to feel absolutely lonely (not the bliss of solitude) and I can guarantee that in those moments they will not find that ‘somebody’ to lean on and those are the moments that are going to shape them.

If you have doubts and which I think you should have, a recent article titled ‘The kind of character Millennials need to succeed’  goes back to what was uttered during world war II by Charles de Gaulle explained

“Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.”

You could argue, there would always be HIM or HER (the mighty almighty) to lean on, but that is a subject for a different day.

So, should I pass on this possibly flawed logic to my kids ?

I do not think so.

Let them enjoy the music.

What do you think ?

Do you need somebody to lean on ?

Enjoy Maadi. (Have Fun.)

Zunder

PS 1: My analysis of songs and lyrics are not ending here. Watch out !!

PS2 : If you did not enjoy the article, you got a playlist that you can name ‘Kichidi’.

Whiplash

whiplash

Why did I pick this book ?

This came in as a recommendation from the news letter of AVC by Fred Wilson. I think you should also subscribe to this news letter.

What do I like about the book ?

This is without doubt one of the most engaging reads so far in the year.  Irrespective of where you are in your profession , you should buy this book and read. Also, if you can afford, you should give it to your team and have a discussion on the ideas presented in the book. The book presents nine principles , most of them which are derived from case studies at MIT media lab and other places and gives us fascinating insights about how we should realign our work place cultures to deal with our fast changing future. If not anything, I thought this book shed a lot of light on my increasing ignorance.

The Nine Principles are

  • Emergence over Authority
  • Pull over Push
  • Compass over Maps
  • Risk over Safety
  • Disobedience over Compliance
  • Practice over Theory
  • Diversity over Ability
  • Resilience over Strength
  • Systems over Objects

The ones highlighted in bold are some of my constant areas of debate as well and I intend to write about those in the coming weeks.

What is one interesting idea that I learnt ?

I found an answer to a very important question that I had for a long time. Why learn algebra ?

Here is a para from the book

“One girl asked me. ‘I’ m going to be a clothes designer. Why do I need to learn algebra ?’ I didn’t know what to tell her”. Hamilton called Dan Willingham, a cognitive scientist focused on education and asked him why high school students study algebra, since it so rarely applies to their lives. “First”, Willingham told him, “because algebra is gymnastics for the brain”. But he went on, there’s something more important. “Algebra is how teach the brain to apply abstract thought to practical things”. In other words, between the platonic world of idealized shapes and the messy ones we inhabit. Students — all of us, really — need that bridge

How long it would take ?

3-4 hours

Paras or Quotes that I liked

I found the entire book inspiring, but I found the MIT lab original motto of ‘Deploy or Die’ to be very apt in current circumstances. Incidentally they changed it to only ‘Deploy’ after the then US President Barack Obama, requested them to reconsider their messaging.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Software Engineer – Progressive Evolution

master

I am generally influenced by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and have illustrated below what a typical journey of a Software Engineer would look.

novice_master

I have a feeling that the societal culture plays a great role in this journey not only in the field of Software Engineering, but also in any branch of Engineering. To become and stay as a master is a lifetime journey and not many people who start out reach there. In my view, very few companies even permit this journey in their respective organizations.

Let me defer this argument for now. I will just give a brief overview of what each stage looks like.

Novice

Here you have just entered the field either owing to your own vocation or just by chance. I think people are more and more entering a field of their vocation and it is a very healthy sign. This is a stage where you would possibly learn the nuts and bolts of bringing something out that is consumable by others.

Journeyman

At this stage you are kind of getting into cruise mode. You might not have figured out everything yet, but you are competent and confident of delivering what you have been assigned without much guidance. This is a state where you are still courting the profession.

Practitioner

This is a stage where you have made a choice that engineering  and quite specifically software engineering is your profession. This is where you have kind of reached the “T” skill, where you are extremely good at some couple of skills and are reasonably adept at other skills. This is a stage where you have made the choice to marry the profession.

 

Influencer

This is a stage where you are recognized as someone who has the reputation of having delivered stuff that has created value for a larger section of people. You will have built a tribe that is proportional to your exposure and you are consulted on ‘How to deliver stuff’ repeatedly. This is a stage where you exercise a lot of indirect influence and your impact zone becomes higher. You will unwillingly and subconsciously start doing things that are right for the profession in general and your outlook will be always about creating a higher impact for the maximum number of people.

Master

This is a stage where your entire focus possibly is to change the current status quo of your profession to deliver the highest impact for the people  in the profession and indirectly society at large. You will be seen as a seer in your profession, wield tremendous responsibility. It is possible that you are worshipped at certain quarters as well. This is a stage where you will be working towards transforming society at large through your chosen endeavour.

Software Engineering is a profession where you may have all this kind of people in your individual organization and it is entirely possible that you may not recognize them at all and that is possibly one beauty of these breed of people.

They reach these stages because they want to and not because they have been asked to. That is also the reason why you will find very few of these as you move up the hierarchy in every organization.

Software Engineering is no different than any profession. To attain a master status requires couple of decades of sustained effort, but if you do make the effort, then you will enjoy what something I have quoted in the past from Joseph Conrad

“I don’t like work–no man does–but I like what is in the work–the chance to find yourself. Your own reality–for yourself not for others–what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”

If all this looks like drifting from where I started, I think it is important to set context.  The road from Novice to Master is filled with different kind of potholes and for you to navigate this journey you need a lot of ingredients.

I shall cover the first one in my next edition.

Can you guess what it would be ?

I will give you a clue.

ISRO destroyed this cliched sentence few days back. ‘It is not rocket science’. They set a world record.

What is the first emotion they would have felt ?

What is the first emotion you felt ?

That is what I will take up as the most important ingredient in the evolution of Software Engineer

Till then, Keep Guessing.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Technology – Impact and Choices

technology_society

How would you make your technology choices ?

Consider this.

A summary lifted from Top Ten Tech Trends Transforming Humanity

  • We are hyper-connecting the world
  • Solar/Renewables cheaper than coal
  • Glimpsing the end of cancer and disease
  • Progress on extending human life
  • Amazing successes with stem cells
  • The Year of Autonomous Vehicles
  • Here Come Drones and Flying Cars
  • The March of Artificial Intelligence
  • Physics & Exploration
  • Conquest of Commercial Space

My daughter had some sustainable development project and I casually looked up the sustainable development goals of UNDP. The summary is as follows

  • No Poverty
  • Zero Hunger
  • Good Health and Well Being
  • Quality Education
  • Gender Equality
  • Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Affordable and Clean Energy
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • Reduced Inequalities
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Climate Action
  • Life Below Water
  • Life on Land
  • Peace Justice and Strong Institutions
  • Partnership for the goals

Somehow these two events , me reading the technology trends and the UNDP sustainable goals happened in succession. Otherwise I will not be the one to start relating.

I started wondering, what technology trends are contributing towards the sustainable goals ?

I hasten to add, I am not taking the holier than thou attitude. These are just questions running through my head.

What should technology’s responsibility or impact should be ?

Does it have a responsibility towards the quality of life in society ?

Incidentally these technology trends are also called as ‘Transforming Humanity’

Does eradicating poverty get as much mind space as driverless cars ?

Has the ability to be one message away instantaneously improved the quality of our communication, connection and life ?

Are these trends widening the digital divide or narrowing it ?

Are they helping in levelling the playing field ?

Are we paying attention to the opportunity cost of affordable convenience ?

I could be naive here, but how do we measure technology’s impact on society ?

How do we as a society know if we are progressing or deteriorating?

When my mother starts and ends her day with youtube and whatsapp, have I enabled her curiosity or conditioned her spirit accidentally ?

When I gave a ipad to my son and nexus to my daughter , did I inadvertently make them couch potatoes and destroyed their sense of going out and playing?

Questions, Questions and possibly more Questions. I do not seem to know the answers. I am not able to connect the dots looking either forward or backward.

I am an eternal optimist.

But if given a choice between

Having a refrigerator that will automatically check my grocery levels and place an order at the neighbouring store for the items that need to be refilled

and

Me opening the refrigerator , figuring out what to buy, walking to the neighbouring store, exchange some pleasantries and getting the items that need to be refilled

What would I choose ?

My answer would be or rather my current state seems to be  I seem to be working to make the former happen, while desiring the latter.

I seem to be going through a heavy dose of cognitive dissonance.

Like many things, this too shall pass.

What would you choose ?

In similar circumstances what has been your choices ?

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

The Holistic Guide to Suicide

 

holistic_guide_to_suicide

Why did I pick this book ?

It came in as a recommendation as book that is good enough to be peeked at by Srini Rao of Unmistakable Creative.  Most of Srini’s recommendation are good.

I open the news papers and I am aghast at finding so many people taking their own lives out. In that sense I wonder is there a science behind what drives people to these extremes.

Do not go by the title. This book is a view on how we could possibly address the pain that we give to our own selves.

What do I like about the book ?

I liked the author’s style of appealed writing. Without being preachy, it gives us a peek into our erroneous selves and the repeated mental trauma that we are quite capable of giving our own selves and possibly others close to us.  I could identify with some of the narrations in the book.

What is one interesting idea that I learnt ?

Well, this is an idea that is quite clearly that has come out in the last few years of my life. Be it from meditation retreats, religious discourses and scriptures,  western philosophy, eastern philosophy one thing is very clear.

“My life is my responsibility”.

This book reinforces the above in a very different way.

The moment this sinks in , everything else becomes relatively easier.

How long it would take ?

2 – 3 hours.

Paras or Quotes that I liked

“All too frequently, the vast majority of us find a reason to avoid taking out the trash, or do the dishes or make the bed or fold our laundry. Later, we’re baffled (and possibly disgusted) by how messy our home is, how obese we’ve gotten or how broke we are. It’s then that depression creeps into our lives. It’s been said that “depression is rage focused inward” and that statement has a great deal of truth to it. “

“Life is an investment; like anything else, the less one invests in it, the less one values it. Thus, the best strategy one can employ is to continually invest in one’s own life.”

“Also, it is here that I’ll reiterate my point that acting out of fear of losing someone has results akin to a Greek tragedy: the more a man believes himself to be avoiding that particular fate, the faster he actually runs toward it.”

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

The G Quotient, G Factor and the H formula

grumpy

I seem to like the quotient business. My previous avatars of RQ and NQ were enjoyed. Enjoyed by ‘whom’ ?.

Well, I liked writing them 🙂

This time I come back to write about one more quotient, a related factor that I think of normally and I would leave it to you to figure out if they are related. I also give a H formula from Vedanta!

One is the ‘Grumpiness Quotient’ and the other is ‘Guilt Quotient’.

Your Grumpiness quotient increases as you take upon things that you do not seem to like or forced to do things that you are not naturally equipped for.

You can measure it in your day to day life. Some of the examples are as follows

  • You would have just come and sat in your favourite corner in your home, with a cup of tea , your news paper to be opened in ready state and someone in the house will immediately call you to attend to their urgent and important needs, which is probably neither urgent nor important.
  • You would receive a call from your home asking ‘Where are you’ ,(I think this is a problem that needs to be fixed. There is a 99.999% chance that they know very well where you are and just need a reaffirmation every one hour in a day.)
  • You start early for office thinking you would avoid the traffic and you figure out that you are caught in the middle of the bell curve where everyone thought about starting early that particular day
  • Your children come to you with some school projects which encourages experiential learning, when all your life you have managed to scrape through being a book worm.
  • Your boss calls you and tell that you have to be more innovative or strategic. They will not generally use ‘you’, but generally use ‘we’. When someone uses that word ‘Be Innovative’ I get a feeling of nausea.
  • You are invited for a nice lunch on a Sunday afternoon and you need to decide between your sleep or the nice lunch. (For me it is a struggle particularly if it is a banana leaf lunch invitation)

The above look like small little things. But these are the small little things that possibly and subconsciously add to the grumpiness quotient.

GQ = (Tasks that makes you irritable) / (Tasks that makes you happy)

The equation is not that simple.  You can plug in choice as a factor to this equation. But generally, I feel that we all make choices that force us to be grumpy . In some sense we become wiser in hindsight.

To share a secret, I use being grumpy as a strategy or generally as an avoidance strategy. I will act like the word is falling down on my head, but internally I know that I am at peace with myself and enjoying. It is just that I do not want anyone to know that I am Enjoy Maading!! (Having Fun). It does not sound like a great virtue to me, but nevertheless I employ it as a very effective tactical strategy. Also I have figured this out,  If someone says ‘hi’ to me, I have figured that my response to that ‘hi’ will not make that person come near me for the next seven births. I do not know why, but this seems to be an inborn talent that I am born with.

If you have managed to hold on till here, I have figured out why make the conscious choice to be grumpy. I think that is another ‘G’ factor which is called the guilt factor.

If you kind of delve into the next layer, tasks that make you irritable are tasks that you do because of ‘what they will think otherwise’.  In other words, generally you would have no inclination of doing that task, but you would be consumed by guilt thinking what the other person will think and end up doing that task.

So in essence what is happening is you are trying to minimize guilt and end up maximizing grumpiness. What is the other choice ?

Maximize Guilt and Minimize Grumpiness.

Is there an optimal mid path ?

I will let the cat out of the bag.

No one gives a damn either way.

It affects only you.

I found another interesting formula , courtesy of vedanta course of chinmaya mission, which is as below

“Happiness can be express in the form of an equation like this

Happiness = Number of desires fulfilled/Number of desires entertained

The quantum of happiness increases either by increasing the nominator of decreasing the denominator or by both. The fulfillment of the existing desires quietens the agitations created by the desires. By entertaining fewer desires, again, the agitations in one’s mind are lessened. In either case, therefore, it is the lessening of the agitations or the quietening of the mind that produces happiness in one’s bosom.

Though the above formula for happiness is irrefutable, there is a danger in relying on indulgence in the senses for the fulfillment of desires for one’s happiness as this generally causes more desires to spring up. With the increase in the number of desires, the denominator of the equation increases resulting in the reduction of happiness. The best way of establishing permanent happiness is to reduce the number of desires entertained by your mind by directing your thoughts to the all-pervading Divine”

Grumpy, Guilt, Happiness. Just too much maths in a day!!!

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder