Tuesday, December 31, 2013

14 Lessons I learnt this year to carry into 2014

  • Your reputation precedes you wherever you go.
  • Just like a brand represents you, you too represent the brand and what it stands for.
  • Convenience is the mother of adoption.
  • A thief believes everybody steals.
  • You can only grow as big as you aim, as big as you dream. No matter what you do in life, you will always be limited by your own abilities, your own imagination, your own knowledge, or the lack of them.
  • Inches will win you matches only when all the other complexities have been taken care of. The last mile, can matter only when you can walk the miles prior to it.
  • To get the must-haves done, all you need is an unreasonable man. A man who is unreasonable  and unbending in his demands, actions and expectations, madness personified. All it takes to put everything in order is this one unreasonable man, who won't allow compromise of any kind to perpetuate while he is there.
  • It is our choice who we want to be in life - the storyteller, the surviver, the fighter, the victim. How much we strive for being who we want to be dictates what we actually become
  • You spend your time doing whatever you find the most engrossing, whatever captures your imagination the most.
  • An organization of one kind is no different than an organization of another. If you can manage 10, you can manage 100 or 1000. Its just a matter of dividing and arranging people properly.
  • There are limited number of tasks that you can't do if you are truly smart. But the time you have is limited, and hence you must wisely choose which ones to do yourself.
  • Justice, Equality, Freedom and like notions are a luxury. They are hardly available to the masses, masses who always have more primal, animalistic needs and fear - food, shelter, and their immediate family.
  • Nothing is one, One is nothing. Philosophy is like a sphere; the joy is not in finding the starting or ending of the circle, but in tracing paths on it, again and again, discovering ways not previously visible to your own self and finding how one line of reasoning could ultimately be used to lead to the complete opposite of the intended conclusion.
  • Life is a sequence of events, and every event has a probability attached with it. While logic is binary, and hence helps dissect the possible from the impossible, it is the probablities which dictate which among the possibles is most likely to happen, and thus give you a better sense of how to use your own abilities to shape the final outcome.

  • I couldn't gather the list of books I read last year, or this one, so post to detail them isn't happening. 
  • Happy New Year!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wind of Change

I am timing this post to see how much time I have to spend on writing average posts, so this one will be smaller

So quickly, let me put 3 points which will be the theme for this post:
  1. Trip to Tiruchirapalli, Pondicherry
  2. Aam Admi Party launch
  3. The power of not understanding things
And we begin.


1. The trip

So we went to Tiruchirapalli (T) and Pondicherry (P) in a group of 7.  At T, we visited two temples, both of them really old.

The first one of them was at Srirangam. It had lots of temples within the main compound, and as soon as we entered, we could see three of them together. Even before I could search for a place to wash my hands, a couple of pundits (the priests) started calling us out to their small temples. For few moments after our entry, God had become a fish, we the fish buyers, and the pundits the fish sellers. The place had many beggars, who were occupying one or the other pillar in the complex.  touching your feet and trousers, begging for money. And the indifferent people and pundits, some cursing the beggars, others doing charity by giving coins to each one of them. So much for the peace you are supposed to find in a temple.

There was one temple in the whole compound, among the myriad devoted to various forms of the deities, where I could feel some levels of peace, and yet the experience was short lived, for as soon as I came out of the temple, it was the usual site once again - priests calling you out loudly to visit their temples, beggars pestering you and the clueless crowd pushing you around.

So pissed off was I, that at one point, I was thinking how the smaller temples could be thought of as being small business units, each making its own profit and losses, the master temple as the main consolidator group. It didn't take much to imagine from there, how the loss making temple would eat the resources earned by other temples, the main temple board having its own cost centers and profit centers.

Ok, enough of the blasphemy.

The second one was at Thiruvanaikaval. It was maintained much better, and here the compounds were much cleaner. 

The grandiose levels of architecture made me marvel about the amount of human effort that would have been spent in constructing it. The scale at which it was constructed left me wondering how the maintenance of it would have been handled for centuries, since it was built in around 10th century, and has more or less retained its current structure.

Needless to say, the experience was much more profound at this one, where we were lucky enough to have reached just before the temple was going to be closed.


2. Aam Admi Party launch

So yesterday, the Aam Admi party was formally launched here in B, and I, along with a couple of my friends tagged along for the 3hour long event at New Horizon School.

It was inspiring to see thousands of well educated and literate people of the city turn up for this event. A couple of times, I found things to be a bit cheeky, but overall, it was definitely good. 

One thing that I will surely remember is the passion with which Arvind Kejriwal spoke.
I don't know whether he will win or not, but I know for sure that he will bring about immense amount of change to the system, if he is successful in entering it.

The only goof up happened, when while answering the queries, he said he was happy with the way the state unit was functioning, and said, that the team gets really tired working day in and day out in Delhi, and the energy he found here was refreshingly new and had charged him up like anything, and that he should come here every month to recharge their batteries. He was quick to correct himself in the next breath and say recharge the mental batteries.

It is just one example of how his earlier statement in isolation could have been used for propaganda to say that he meant recharge monetarily from the unit here (substantial funds were raised during the event).

Nevertheless, I still believe it is a long road ahead before AAP can make a visibly large difference to Indian society. 


3) The power of not understanding things

I was recently watching a Steve Jobs video, an interview that he gave in the initial days of the mac in the 1980's. (I am a Steve Jobs fan, but then, who isn't?)

And during the whole video, I couldn't wonder how a man so smart trying to explain things logically could be so unreasonable in his demands. And then it dawned upon me, he wasn't unreasonable because he couldn't understand reasoning behind the decisions, rather he was unreasonable by character. It was his way of forcing people around him to give their absolute best, and nothing less.

If we were to think of it, the sub optimal happens because someone somewhere makes some compromise, which is not in the best overall interest. But once you remove those compromises, once you start thinking only in terms of the best inputs, you reach the best output.

And the same is true for any kind of profession or trade.

The system is rotted because people *understand* why things are happening the way they are happening, and once you can *understand* those things, you can be made to compromise.
And all it takes to put everything in order is an unreasonable man, who won't allow compromise of any kind.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. - G.B. Shaw


PS: It took around 2 hours to write this full post. Also, the name of the post is inspired by point #2.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thoughts on interviews

I have conducted some 6-7 interviews now, over phone call, Skype and face to face. The people I have interviewed - many of them were smart, and each and every one of them was more experienced than me. And there are a lot of learnings that I think I should remember for my own personal good, and will note them down here.

  1. Focus on the question that is being asked. Don't violate the conditions of the questions, but if possible, add some out of the box thinking. If a solution can't be though of within the system, there has to be a way to think of it outside the box.
  2. You have no way of knowing what the interviewer is actually trying to assess when he asks a particular question. You can make a guess, and that's that. Know what you are getting into before you walk into an interview room. Don't expect to be given opportunities to make stupid assumptions.
  3. You might make through in spite of those questions that you answered wrong, or you might not make through even though you feel you did it good. its all the interviewer's judgement. The interviewer has certain expectations, you beat them, you go through, you don't meet them, you don't go through. Its not about your expectation wrt an answer, its about the interviewer's expectations.
  4. If possible, always think of relevant questions that you can ask your interviewer. Most interviewer's want to check your approach to a problem, and its best to keep talking to them, feeding them tidbits of your thinking before you solve a problem, so that they can judge how you think. Remember, its not about solving the problem alone that they are looking for, its the approach, the temperament, and all those things that you can't judge in a written round.
  5. Be a good judge of time - how much you can take to answer a question. An interview is about taking the best foot forward in a balanced way. On the average it will hold for > 50% of the interviews.
    Take an example. Most interviews start with a tell me about yourself question. Let us say I have 4 mindblowing and 8 not mindblowing things to tell about myself. Now let us say I can tell one thing in 10 seconds. How much of an impact I make will depend on the approach I take up, plus on the time I am allowed to take up. Usually, you can only estimate how much time you are allowed to speak up.
    Thus if you speak up only good things, and are given 120 seconds to speak, you will stay silent for 80 seconds (Underutilisation), and it might give an impression you don't have much to speak of yourself
    If you speak good things first and not so good things later, what persists in the mind of the interviewer is those last things (The last recall)
    If you speak not so awesome things and then the good things, you risk being interrupted in the middle and not being able to tell all things, thus underutilising.
    The best way is to mix and match. Something like G-B-G-B-B-B-G-B-B-G-B.
    That ways you create multiple impacts, the variations make the impact stick - that the candidate is a smart candidate.
    You must make the impact stick. Its not about a question or two, its the whole experience that matters.
  6. Its most probably a person like you - either he is someone as good as you, or someone as good as a future you who is interviewing you. Be courteous, polite, amicable. Its just an interview. Stand with your words, but don't let the tone to impart any unwanted message.
  7. At the end of the interview, the interviewer must have enjoyed talking with you.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My first interview experience

So I recently took my first technical interview. I sat on the other side of the table, and interviewed a candidate for a good 50 minutes. All in all, an experience in itself.

I realized why hiring is so tough and painful in startups - the amount of time you spend on hiring say 2 guys, will be simply huge, and given your team size, might be a complete drain on your resources.
There were lots of thoughts raging in my mind, regarding tips I would like to give myself for an interview, so I will try to document prominent lines of thinking here:

1) Bullshit with care 

You might realize that the interviewer doesn't know everything about a particular question, but he still might know something about it. You can try bullshitting your way inside, however, you try to bluff wrong about something he knows and you are gone down the drain.

2) Before answering the question, think from the interviewer's point of view

Usually, the interviewer wouldn't remember all the details about the question. In fact, he might be impressed if you give him an answer which is correct, which he hasn't thought of yet or that he wasn't expecting.
So before you answer, take your time, try to think what might be a good follow up question from the question currently being asked.
Try to think of something you would like to be asked about, from that question.
The more you lead them to asking questions you anticipate, the better.

3) The interviewer is also human, know when to stop
Sometimes, you might be done, but there will be no expression on the interviewer's face. Know when to stop answering. Keep the interviewer(s) engaged, as much as possible.

4) Listen carefully

And ask for clarifications, as many sensible ones as you can think of. No interviewer appreciates a candidate acting smart and answering non sense because he wasn't listening

5) Value the importance of time, both yours and the interviewer's

You have limited time with an interviewer. One goal is to maximize the difference between the good things he knows about you before and after the interview, while minimizing the amount of bad impression formed during it. There is no real metric to measure the two, but I hope the idea helps. 

Saturday, January 05, 2013

From the drafts

I found something interesting in my gmail drafts - from some time during my 5th semester at college: 

Let you be the student,
        and yourself be the teacher;
Let you be the follower,
and yourself be the preacher.
Crucify your wrongings,
        and laud your conquests,
For long you have been aimless,
          now reclaim your true self.

I guess the sparks had been there previously, but the flame had started glowing stronger around that time only :)