Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Oath of an IT interviewer!

I am a information technology interviewer, in my role I take deep pride. To it I owe solemn obligations. As an Interviewer, I pledge to practice integrity and fair dealing, tolerance and respect, and to uphold devotion to the standards and the dignity of my profession, conscious always that my skill carries with it the obligation to serve the IT industry by making the best use of an interviewee's precious time. In that order, I promise...

a) I will not bother reading your career objective in the resume because most likely I would have read that exact text hundreds of thousands of times by now and can even recollect the source of the text on the internet because there is a likelihood I too would have copied the similar ones from there. And yes, please please do not write this one as your objective. 'To succeed in an environment of growth and excellence and earn a job which provides me job satisfaction and self development and help me achieve personal as well as organizational goals.' Simply because the count has gone to 134 so far.

b) I will not ask you 'tell me about yourself' because I know 9 out of 10 times you will only talk about the things that are already present in your resume which I would have already gone through two times, one during shortlisting and secondly, at the very moment.

c) I will not ask your signature below the last para of your resume which talks about how innocent you're to say 'the above information is to the best of my knowledge' which leaves a gap for some small tweaks of data presented.

d) I will not bother asking about references even though you have mentioned 'references will be provided on demand' because I know they're going to convince me about how you're the best person suited for the role of the principle secretary of India at least, if not an Indian diplomat for China.

e) I will not make false promises of sending you onsite getting intimidated by the fact that you have mentioned your passport number on your resume (which I still haven't been able to figure out why would you do so)

f) I will not ask you 'what are your strengths' because in your strengths I can clearly visualize you doing a pearl harbor on me with words like 'go-getter', 'quick learner', 'team player', 'passionate about new technologies', 'strong leader' etc. (I will also not ask you about your weaknesses as I know you will tell me how being a 'workaholic' or being 'sensitive to other's needs' is actually your weakness.

g) I will not ask you about where do you see yourself in the next 10 years because I know you have well-prepared responses at your disposal for the next 2,4,5,10,15,20 and 30 years question. Just tell me how many of these responses were suggested by your room-mates while you were rehearsing in front of the mirror!

h) I will not ask you why should we hire you because I know this is your dream company, something for which you want to devote your entire life.

h) And finally, I will not ask you hypothetical questions on the lines of, if-my-aunt-had-a-mustache-she-would-be-called-my-uncle'. I do remember once an interviewer in the merchant navy asked the candidate 'What would you do if you are sailing in the middle of the ocean and a thunderstorm strikes', to which he replied 'I will put the anchor down'. The interviewer further probed 'What if there's another thunderstorm that strikes 5 minutes later?' to which he replied 'I will put down second anchor'. Annoyed, the interviewer again asked 'What if there are two more thunderstorms strike 10 minutes later?' to which he again replied 'I will put down 2 more anchors'. Seething with anger, the interviewer screamed 'From where on earth are you going to get 4 anchors in 15 minutes on the ship?'. The interviewee calmly replied 'Exactly from where you got 4 thunderstorms striking the ship in the middle of the ocean in 15 minutes.'

In the performance of duty and in fidelity to my profession, I shall give the utmost.

Disclaimer - Above is a completely fictional work with the sole intent of rolling out plain harmless humor. (Some literary oath text is taken from 'oath of an engineer' to give it an authentic feel!)

I was just reflecting on how do I as an interviewer categorize factors that determine a hire or a no hire as significant or trivial ones. Now, before I go any further, let me be very clear that each and every individual has a unique thought process that largely influences his or her decision making for the potential candidature and that's primarily the reason almost all major companies and institutions in the world have their own set of interview guidelines and hiring principles which are uniformly followed across the entity and people donning the hat of an interviewer are highly trained in accordance to these. All organizations take a lot of care to ensure at no point the individual thought processes, influences and biases override the organization level hiring principles and my own company isn't any different. In this post, specifically, I have taken liberty into dwelling deep into my own individual fundamental thinking on certain elements of a standard hiring process in the light of humor, by completely detaching myself from that of my employer. You can very well assume this as my upfront disclaimer!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Who moved my Pizza?

No, neither am I changing anything in my personal or professional life nor this post by any means talks about how to deal with the change despite the categorical title of the post! Recently there were a couple of instances in my apartment where the Pizza from the Pizza delivery vehicle's backside was stolen (our apartment township is one hell of a madhouse, anything can happen there, like you suddenly encounter a snake eating a frog merrily on the sidelines while you are walking on the jogging track, or a shower of dumbbells on your head from the 10th floor, I am not kidding, or butts of cigarettes, bush of human hair in your gallery, again showered from the top, amazingly with a mopper accompanying that in couple of days in the same gallery, but more on that later!), and as soon as the news was published over the residents email group, people started pouncing on the thread with their deductions and conclusions. E.g., the watchmen could be the culprits, or the outsiders with unauthorized entry would have stolen unnoticed, and even to the extent that this is the conspiracy initiated on behalf of the Pizza delivery boy. Wow I thought, and I instantly recalled one of the quotes made by General Eisenhower that said 'The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions'. How true, and in the end it was found that this act was 'performed' by the boys with parents either owners or tenants! Couple of weeks back there was an incident of all the trash bins being dangerously lit on fire, in some of the adjacent blocks and many had concluded it is the act of some of the 'notorious' cleaning staff, only to be found that those were the resident kids who did that, apparently for some destructive fun. These and there are just too many occurrences we come across in our day to day lives where we always try to find instant scapegoats based on social stereotypes and our own prejudices, beliefs, mostly unfound.

Worse though is, we always try to find the scapegoats based on a certain prejudices or beliefs against a specific set of individuals or groups, mostly the ones who are 'considered' inferior to us in some way or the other. I remember in one of the multinationals (wouldn't be appropriate to name) that I have worked in, there were incidents of laptops, wallets, purses and even money stealing which continued for quite some time. On the internal forums, all over, the poor office boys, cleaning personnel, supplier bodies and even the contingent staff were being seen as the possible culprits but nobody, not even a single mail or thread tossed a possibility of an engineer actually behind this, which eventually was the reality. During my discussions on matters of national importance with other folks, I have heard comments like 'these illiterate people, that backward class' etc. when I just began to mention about some incident of a honor killing or a domestic violence somewhere whereas the real story in most cases was with a well to do highly qualified family living in a metro. In the lift, the other day I got to read a scratched text on the wall and was just about to begin the foulmouthing on the carpenters and other construction workers that come there, when suddenly realized that the scratched text was a pure American slang, used only in Hollywood movies and English C rated fiction novels.

Human psychology is to be blamed for this. I see a red patch as an outcome of someone's spitting, on a newly constructed building, I blame it on the laborers. Do I even think that this can be an act of the owner or builder coming out of his Mercedes? No. Something goes missing in the house, before thinking about the possibility of me misplacing it somewhere, I look skeptically at the maid working in the house. If my expensive eye-gear goes missing from the car, I straight away blame it on the wallet parking guy, only to realize later that I had left it in the office before leaving. Would I do that had my office colleague or relative parked my vehicle instead of the hotel staff? No. I see a scratch on the door of my parked car in the mall, I spit out venom for the entire cab driver community simply assuming it can't be anybody else more rogue than these.

That's just how we are, but as someone said, a good scapegoat is just as welcome as a solution to the problem, so we never mind. Do we? !

Monday, July 7, 2014

Micro-inequities on the social network: For Managers!

Social network has become one of the most powerful mediums for anyone and everyone in this generation to either stay connected with friends and families that are distance apart, or to network with the like-minded people sharing similar passion and interests, or to forge strong business or professional relationships that can yield positive returns, or as a communication channel to a broader target audience with a blink of an eye, or to exponentially expand the horizon of the influence over a significantly large populace to get them follow you as a leader towards a shared goal. How can the people managers and leaders in our industry remain out of it then? And we have seen wherever there are managers and the reports, leaders and the followers, share space together, there will be micro-inequities on display. There have been hundreds of articles on the internet which talk about the micro-inequities at workplace, various examples of them and their impact on the workforce and preventive measures but there are hardly any that throw some light into micro-inequities that any people manager connected with the workforce over the social network demonstrates absolutely unconsciously time and again. Let's look at some of the interesting examples I have come across, solely based on my personal observations (not my personal experience in all cases but awareness of the perceptions buildup in other's cases and that's why it is called observations!).

To begin with, try wishing someone on their special occasions over the social media and you got to be really careful about the words you choose. For e.g., a "Happy Birthday xyz" for one in your team and "Hey buddy, wish you many happy returns of the day, have a great one" for the other within a span of couple of weeks can be disastrous without even you noticing it! Similarly, out of the hundreds of wishes that you have received on your wall for some special occasion of your own, if you choose to respond to your boss or someone (but not all) of your reports as "That was so kind of you, really sweet, thank you so much for remembrance" versus a plain jane "thanks!" to someone else in the team would create a flutter potentially! Again, how early you respond to whom is also noticed keenly! (I respond separately to the wishes on my wall with separate texts deliberately so that it shouldn't be seen as a casual and emotionless copy-paste but think about this, in this process I can also add to a micro-inequity potentially!!) Things can get really messy with the images then. Posting pictures from some team event on the social network can get tricky if majority of pictures have only a couple of highlighted folks in focus (further messier if one of the highlighted happens to be your higher up!) and the rest as chorus or a crowd, as a pattern. Again, while tagging folks, some may have enabled the tags some may not have. So you obviously tag only those who have set the required permissions as public, whereas leave the rest who have restricted. This, to the unknown outer world viewing your pictures, can be a matter of speculation!

Next is your allegiance with a certain set of folks that gets demonstrated unconsciously over the social media. In all probability, it is the theme or the like-mindedness that leads your 'frequent' or 'friendly' responses or comments or likes on specifically themed posts by someone or posts from specific set of people in your network but if either of these involve your team mate, you are noticed differently invariably! E.g., you love dogs, you are passionate about cricket, or some individual such as Sachin Tendulkar or Brad Pitt and there are people in your network who share your liking or passion or interests or ideologies, chances are more that you will be seen responding to their themed posts or ads or comments or topics more than the rest. This can be misinterpreted as an 'affinity' or a better rapport (inclination) towards that specific individual or group of people and then people would start cooking up stories or relating irrelevant things on your behaviors and interactions at the workplace too, based on this allegiance over the social media.

In your team there will always be some folks with a high social quotient whereas some with a lower one. Similarly, not all would prefer or desire to connect with you over the public social media especially when they are in your reporting hierarchy at the workplace. Keeping this in mind, to guard their privacy and make them feel at ease, you would connect with only those whom you believe have no hesitations (some in fact, themselves would proactively do so) and leave the rest. Now, your intentions behind this are pure obviously, but within the team the word gets spread out lightening fast that the boss proactively sent a connect request to some folks and the remaining ones would keep on wondering why they are left out! Interestingly enough, when you are mistaken in your hunch over someone's social quotient and proactively connect with them against their inner wish, such folks will always remain skeptic about how you are going to 'use' their information and interactions and behaviors over the social media and will keep on subconsciously relate anything and everything that you say to them as a repercussion of their deeds on Facebook!

Bottom line, once you are in a role that needs you to deal with people more than anything else, you are noticed keenly and as you grow in your people related responsibilities and number of reports in your hierarchy, you are noticed more and more! Your actions, behaviors, talks, words you choose, gestures, even the intensity of the smile is observed, within office, outside office as well, and social media is not an exception either. For good or bad, this is the reality every manager or a leader has to face whether they wish or not. So what do we do in these situations? Remain elusive and keep a distance or just be raw and pure in our intent, knowing well that we in our hearts know what needs to be kept personal and what needs to be kept professional and act purely based on the purpose and the purity of the intent, and not what others would make out of it? I, for one, have a very different and unique approach to it which is not in the purview of this post, maybe sometime later maybe never, but would definitely like to know what my readers think and have a discussion. You can PM me or comment in public as well.

P.S. - 'Micro-inequity is a theory that refers to hypothesized ways in which individuals are either singled out, overlooked, ignored or otherwise discounted based on an unchangeable characteristic such as race or gender. It generally takes the form of a gesture, different kind of language, treatment or even tone of voice. It is also suggested that the perceptions that cause the manifestation of micro-inequities are deeply rooted and unconscious.' (source: Wikipedia)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Wagah border? Never ever, again.

Any cricket stadium which houses thousands of people maximum once or twice a year, where they come to get entertained, will have a shed to protect them from the scorching heat but for all the historic and patriotic importance this place has gotten, and given that it is frequented by bulk-load of tourists for the major part of the year daily, there is absolutely nothing. Our powers that be, have no idea how it feels to the bottoms of hundreds of visitors sitting on a burning concrete slab under 47 degrees with sun blazing all guns right on the top for 3 hours. Oh and yeah, if you believe your tour operators and go quite early, rest assured to become a roasted goose standing out in a 'stampede' like crowd for at least couple of hours neck to neck with each other, before you get in.

Any religious place in India will invariably have a security personnel standing at every nook and corner of the place to manage the queues and the unruly crowd to maintain the so called 'religious sanctity' of the place but for all the stream of patriotism that's supposed to flow, there are hardly any to maintain the 'patriotic sanctity' and 'decorum' of the place. Efficient management of the queues, or ensuring the civic sense, or provisioning for the basic human needs, all these terms are unheard of.

Patriotism doesn't feed your families. Your fellow countrymen can be clearly seen cheating their fellow countrymen in what can be safely called as a daylight robbery (under the guise of mobile, electronic gadgets, wallets storage offerings) right under the nose of the army-men standing there. I remember this quote from Huxley 'One of the great attractions of patriotism - it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what's more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous.'

Patriotism doesn't buy you likes on the social media as well, selfies with the 'ab'used Indian flag do. As the Indian flag is handed over to the crowd at the small stadium, everyone just pounces on it left and right, and gets engaged in either clicking selfies with it or a group photograph which can instantly be posted on the social networking sites in different poses, in the process caring a damn about the disrespect the flag is suffering at their hands.

Patriotism also doesn't rob you off your lecherous attitude towards women and girls. Fair enough not to believe, just go there and watch our so called 'youth power' and 'the experienced' alike, whistling and finger pointing to the girls and women dancing on the street at the venue on couple of non-patriotic disco Bollywood songs. In fact, how heartening it is to see men and women sitting separately to avoid any such 'mishaps', rather than either blindly trusting our citizens' values and ethics or enforcing safety of all? We are talking about an army land come on.

And yes, contrary to popular belief, patriotism does differentiate, and differentiate hard. All tom dick harry V.I.P.s obviously are more patriotic than the rest and it is clearly demonstrated as well. I am though, amazed to see even the Foreigners are deemed more patriotic and showered special privileges than the Indians.

I am just more worried about that 6 yrs old kid on the shoulders of his father who angrily blazed past me in the crowd heading straight out of the stadium even before the event began, cursing the unruly behavior of the crowd, the infrastructure, the unethical and unorganized way it was all happening out there, and foul-mouthing about the nation and the nationals without even breaking for a breathe.

Mark Twain was so damn right when he said 'Patriot is the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about'. Sad but true.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A 12th pass dancing over maths and science !

A person's educational credentials have always been held in high esteem by our Indian society and hence I wasn't surprised when there was a ruckus created over a minister's education status last month or when the students across the nation submitted petitions against the proposed plan of increasing number of IITs fearing dilution of brand, or even recently when the newly appointed high-profile CEO of a giant Indian multinational services company said we should shift focus from 'Nach Baliye' to mathematics (Nach Baliye is a popular dance reality show on the national television). A large majority of the population does indeed think that higher, bigger, better(?) education invariably leads to better employment or entrepreneurship, or innovation and professional success etc. but based on my own experiences and the ones that I see around me in the world, I have a different opinion.

Couple of months back I came across a nice statement in one of the Harvard business review article that said Knowledge maybe power but 'knowledge from college' is neither a predictor nor a guarantor for success and I couldn't agree more. The bigger problem here is for most of us, the term education signifies a college degree or a diploma or a classroom training, basically knowing how things work. What it doesn't tell us is when and where to build on those ideas and acquired knowledge to come up with something constructive and effective for oneself, for the society, for the nation and for the mankind. There we go skills. Most of the colleges across the world make us educated and knowledgeable, but rarely skilled, leave alone street smart, and forget about wisdom. I mean, think about this, if a physics doctorate wouldn't slow down his car to the required speed on a sharp curve ahead in time, what's the use of doing a thesis on the centrifugal force? At the same time, if an illiterate driver, with sheer experience can figure out the acting forces on the vehicle and take precautionary measures accordingly by looking at the banking of the road ahead, shouldn't we call the driver more educated (skilled?) than the doctorate holder? Or you may have founded one of the best management schools in the world but all your highly qualified educational status and collective experience cannot implant a basic common sense of not indulging even indirectly in something as grave as insider trading, what all its worth for?

Simply put, a college English degree alone can't turn you into a literary legend, just a philosophy diploma can't make you into a global thinker, a London school of economics experience wouldn't be enough to result in you turning around a nation's depleting economy, and a degree in psychology can't make you an expert in dealing with human mind and heart. Someone who's 100% educated into something specific but knows only 20% of where and when the learning can be leveraged, will be rendered useless in the long run as compared to someone who's managed to learn just 50% of something but totally knows when, where and how to use the entire acquired knowledge effectively and furthermore has the willingness and strong desire to use it as well.

Street smartness definitely wins over the book smartness because throughout the history of mankind, books have been written on technology, business, philosophy, science, medicines, literature and what not, based on the work done by the street smart people first and reverse isn't true in most cases, it just can't be. I do feel sometimes that higher education is highly overrated, again, depending on the context. Personally speaking, I never even once felt that my lack of a 'branded' educational institution or even a degree beyond basic engineering hampered my journey towards what I wanted to achieve. In fact, I see highly successful and respected professionals all around me some of who did their education via correspondence from rare known institutions while working in small time companies on real programs due to the necessity of earning early in life. I salute them. I also have a colleague who was a curator in a museum in the middle east before transforming herself up as a leader in the user interface designing. I have a colleague who's as good in IT solutions as in building up smaller air-crafts at home, without any formal education on aviation. I salute those as well.
Education has its own importance and it certainly helps us realize our true potential but it is not just the only thing that will take us to places. There is much more to it than the degree or the diploma or the brand of the educational institution we brandish on our resume, unless, CV decoration is the only thing on our minds!

P.S. I remember a story that was always told to me of a great scientist and the skipper who were together embarked on a ship journey when during the course of the conversation the scientist asked the skipper "Do you know the science behind how this ship remains on the water?" to which the skipper replied with a negative. Some time later, the scientist again asked "So do you even know the science behind fluid dynamics?" to which the skipper again quipped in negative. Frustrated, scientist muttered in anguish "Ah, you pilot the boat but you don't know any of these, half of your life is a waste". Hours later as a tornado appeared on the horizon ahead, approaching alarmingly fast, the skipper turned to the scientist and asked "Do you know the science behind swimming?", "Yes" said the scientist and started explaining when the skipper cut short the conversation with "Wait, do you know swimming?", "No" the scientist replied. "Ah, you're on this small ship, embarked on a long journey in the ocean and you don't know swimming, now I am afraid sir, whole of your life is a waste."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How I got disillusioned with AAP

The poll verdict is finally here, and I safely assume that this is the right and responsible time for people in my position (this has somehow become my favorite tagline as some of my readers keep on cautioning me over my public posts where I duly appreciate their intentions of preventing me getting into 'undesirable situations' in all earnestness!) to talk about some part of my political thought process and I find it perfectly ethical at this juncture.
In this post, I am specifically going to reveal my stand on AAP, which hasn't fared as expected in the elections, and it's leader Arvind Kejriwal. Before even I begin, let me be very clear, I have great respect for the 'intentions' this man has, even now. Not so long ago, I was a firm supporter of AK and his thoughts on joining politics when he deflected from the Anna camp on the same grounds. I did believe him when he said if you want to change the system, change it by being part of it, and not by shying away from it. He was kind of a ray of hope to us real aam aadmis who were miffed with all the misdeeds of the earlier government, in states, and at the national level. Yes, he was 'The killer administrator' that the country desperately wanted to have, at that level. 

And then, Delhi happened.

That was the beginning of the disillusionment. One thing that any leader at all levels must possess is, decisiveness and prioritization. Where was it? Do I expect my leader whom me only have elected to come to me and ask to send SMSes to decide whether he should stay in a 5 bhk or a 3 bhk? Is it some sort of a reality show? Do I expect my leader to allow each and every party member to speak in 10 different directions which confuses all about the exact ideology, policies and directions party is going to take, and then to say everything is their own individual opinions? Do I expect my leader to take turns on every single topic, more frequently than a person's face watching a tennis match? Do I expect my leader to ask all of us leave our day to day job to come sit with him on a Dharna and hold the entire city to ransom over who should control the administrative force for an alleged 'trading' issue of couple of African nationals where the country is grappled with just too much of highly critical issues? Well, the answer was a big NO.

Second factor was being firm on principles or stand that's taken. Taking a party's support to form government, against which so much venom was spewed, and which effectively led to a virtual victory, was just not done. I mean, they (all AAP including its leaders) talked about ex-cm's corruption deeds, they talked about Damadji's supernatural growth, and then they held hands with the exact same set of identities and did absolutely nothing once in power? and let me not even get into the 'appeasement' tactics and vote bank politics.

Third, where was the execution, where was the governance, where was the pursuit of administration and leadership? When the time came to take action, They didn't pursue relentlessly and just ran away leaving all that behind. Why did they even imagine people would still look up to them? What remained thereafter was mere tokenism and what followed was just a greedy algorithm and a false dream that a country can be conquered purely based on sensationalism.

The lack of decisiveness, standing firm on principles, and administration was what led to a big disillusionment for me, and I am sure this was the case with a lot of other folks who eventually moved to different leadership. Even later, as per his own thought process, he should have had attempted to be in the parliament and work for people while being in power rather than just committing a political suicide by fighting against the mighty Modi in Varanasi which was nothing more than a symbolic gesture. 

Today, the world may be divided over the greatness of Adolf Hitler, but I would hardly believe anyone has even an iota of doubt over his leadership skills and nationalism. He was decisive, super strong on his beliefs and he did stand firm till the last day on his principles. He was again an amazing administrator who took Germany off from the ashes like a phoenix in mere 5 to 10 years and I am talking about 1930s when the technology was not advanced, manufacturing had gone kapoot, social was totally absent (no significant ways to influence masses) and yet he managed to outperform his rivals by huge margins. Winston Churchill, possessed all the qualities which Hitler had, plus one more which was the difference between victory and defeat, and that was, ability to foresee the future and adapt accordingly which leads the leader taking the most effective action at that point of time. 

AK and the AAP leadership team missed on exactly these aspects and that seems to have spelled the doom for them in the elections (421 out of 443, deposits gone) and left many of their keen original supporters like me disillusioned. Today, if I were at the helm of the government, I would probably have AK take up the topmost administrative position in the country's bureaucracy and join hands with the political force to run his dreams for the nation. Seems like a distant dream though.