Model train in vintage filter

modeltrain1

modeltrain2

Two snaps I took of my starter model train kit (Bachmann) that I took on an iPhone 3GS. Applied a vintage filter on it.

 

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The CEO who did demos

Yeah, you know who I am talking about. Steve Jobs. I was reading the blog of Don Melton (who led the first Safari development team), where he describes the feeling of being in the audience of rehearsals of the ‘master presenter’.

Most of the time during those rehearsals, Ken and I had nothing to do except sit in the then empty audience and watch The Master Presenter at work — crafting his keynote. What a privilege to be a spectator during that process. At Apple, we were actually all students, not just spectators. When I see other companies clumsily announce products these days, I realize again how much the rest of the world lost now that Steve is gone.

And then there was also a link to the 2003 macworld keynote where Steve released Safari. I liked the way he demo’d Safari. It was typical Steve. Superlative adjectives. Practised fluency. But, what came next was what blew my mind. Steve also announces Keynote on the same presentation. My rough transcription:

The folks at apple created Keynote for me. I needed something that I can use to create these keynote presentations for you. Very graphic intensive. Powerful. Something that you want to use to create meaningful presentations. Now, <pause>, I want to share it with you. <applause>

This has been in the works for over a year now. For a year, we hired a very lowly paid beta tester, who tested it for a whole year. <screen shows Steve Job’s picture> <applause>. I have used Keynote for every keynote that I showed you in 2002.

I think that is just amazing. A CEO who not only demos, but also beta tested a product for a whole year. And not in his own private tasks, but for a very public demonstration. Amazing.

 

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2012 in review – [gcmouli.com]

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 32,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 7 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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Too Many Hops

Quite recently, I had been talking to a friend of mine, who was vying for a senior leadership position. After a couple of conversations with the recruiter, he was told he had taken too many hops, and hence the company was not considering him. I was thinking about this for a bit, and I thought I would share my thoughts.

I personally feel that, ‘rejecting’ based on this reason as the only reason seems pretty foolish and hasty. The least that one should do is to find out the reason for the hops, and how the hops happened.

Insecurity? Were the hops because of the candidate not feeling confident that he could do the job assigned to him? This might be a valid reason for rejecting, but then, we should also dig in into finding out how the fellow landed up that job in the first place. In the numerous interviews that I have taken, I have found that, one can easily figure this out, using some behavioural traits.

Performance. Were the hops because the candidate did not perform well? Did the interest levels dip soon after the candidate was hired? Again, think. Why was this not caught during the interview process? Again, performance measurement is subjective. It could be your perspective that he may have gotten the boot because of bad performance. But, this is a valid case of rejecting a candidate.

Burnt bridges. How did the candidate leave the previous companies? Were they amicable? Were they jumps with the management in full support? Were the jumps such that management tried ‘everything’ to retain him? Did he burn bridges? If the candidate had had personnel (not personal) issues because of which, he burnt bridges (fought with manager/team etc), then this is definitely something that should discourage you from hiring this person.

The fire brand. Is the candidate someone who has the fire burning in him to grow fast? Did he find that he has been increasing his net intellectual/management experience worth significantly by jumping from gig-to-gig once in a few years? If the candidate is someone like this, you can be sure that he would not have left the previous gigs in bad taste. He would have alternate plans, succession strategies, etc, that when he leaves, it does not leave a void. It is not necessarily a bad thing to hire this guy. Except, one should hire him recognizing that he is a fire brand, and craves growth. For a senior management position, this craving is a good thing. Stoked correctly, this fire brand can create miracles for a company.

To end, my opinion is that, too many recruiters make this mistake of judging a candidate by too-many-hops. Yes, I agree, there are some folks who have had too-many-hops because of ‘issues’, but you cannot generalize. In this current generation of companies, there are two kinds of people who race to the top – both the turtles and the hares. The turtles are the folks who have risen in the company (it took them 15 years in the same company to become the senior manager/director). The hares are the folks who gain experience and expertise in working through a variety of positions (these are the folks who have risen to a senior manager/director in 7-8 years). Think for a moment, and you can easily recall folks in both categories.

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Science of Productivity

With the new Year round the corner, and more people making their regular new Year resolutions, this should help –

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Round-off Error Comedy

It was 630AM on a cold wintry day. Well, until you experience anything else (perhaps like the cold wintry 4 deg Celsius days of Noida), even Chennai’s December mornings are cold and wintry. My dad had dropped me off at a decrepit rundown school on Venkat Narayana Road. This was the venue where I endured IIT Maths Coaching torture for 2 years, every weekend.

There was deathly silence. It was test day. One of those tests that left your brain sponge dry after the event. But there was entertainment close by always. There was this jolly chap named Krishna (name changed for obvious reasons). This fellow was attending the classes because his parents were forcing him to. Well, there were several of the guys in that category, but this guy unashamedly accepted it, spoke about it, and planned on how to get himself kicked out by the professor. Now you see, where the entertainment part rolls in.

The professor matched every appearance of how an eccentric IIT Coaching professor should be. Hair unkempt, loose fitting clothes, beard, and several such idiosyncrasies, that you come to expect out of folks in this learned profession.

Now, back to this fine Saturday morning. The professor sighed and wheezed up the stairs, with his question paper set. In his typical manner, he asked the rhetorical question of how prepared all of us were, and of course started the villainous exercise of distributing the papers.  After giving out the question papers, he again gave the toothy grin and asked if any of us had questions. I had one, but I dared not asked this one — why was the paper in Greek, instead of English. I saw very few English alphabets in it).

Our fine friend Krishna raised his hand high proudly, and asked – “Sir, if I score 49.5 on 50 in this paper, would you round the score up to 50?”

The class roared in laughter, but the dear professor was not amused.

—- Fast forward to one week later —-

Same scene as above. Same tension, if not more, since the professor typically gives out the graded scripts fairly quickly. And true to this name, the professor did wheeze up the stairs, with the..graded..answer..scripts.

He came and smiled his toothy smile as usual. He was searching for someone. Why ? Who was he searching for?

And he said – “Where is Krishna ? Ah ! There he is.”

He sighed and said with a wicked smile – “You have gotten 0.5/50. Should I put it as zero or round it up to 1?”

The class roared in laughter. And then was silenced quite quickly thereafter, when we got our papers. Krishna got kicked out after the first year. He was on top of the world. Some of us continued on to the second year. A few of us got into the IITs. No, not me. You kidding? But hey, those were the years.

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LinkedIn Endorsements

It has been a while since LinkedIn rolled out its endorsement feature, and I hate it. Don’t get me wrong. I love LinkedIn, and a big fan of the service. It is one of the best professional networking sites.

My biggest cribs about the endorsement feature are:

  1. There are some people in my professional network whom I barely know. These guys are still important to me, and are present in my network for networking purposes. Example – several head-hunters and HR professionals. I do not want them endorsing my technical skills. I don’t mean disrespect to these people, but it dilutes the endorsement. I would rather have such an endorsement from (say) my manager (or ex-managers).
  2. The skill set basket is still very weak. As a computer science professional, I do not want to be endorsed for stuff like algorithms and data structures. These are fundamentals. I would rather be endorsed for something like C/C++ programming, or Program Management, or Building Teams, Technical Management.
  3. And do not force me by saying, “Mr. Foo has endorsed you, do you want to endorse him?”. I do not like being emotionally blackmailed. Some times, I do not want to return the favour. Especially when the favour was not asked for.

Perhaps, the above three points of feedback have been given to LinkedIn already, perhaps a thousand times, but the endorsement circus continues on.

As a Technical manager, and a computer science professional, I hate just talking about problems. Wherever I can, I give a couple of suggestions/fixes. My suggestions to fixing this ‘mess-up’ are:

LinkedIn, be the great professional service that you are. Retract the feature. There is nothing wrong in retracting. It only shows your commitment to customers.

  1. I do understand this is highly unlikely. If I can take the liberty of guessing the underlying power of endorsements, it is for the savvy recruiter to hunt for people with required skill sets (aka the skill sets that people have endorsed the candidate for). It also gives a nice indirect reference check.
  2.  Ask me, if I want to accept endorsements from your network. Give an option (in the header menu) to locate someone in my network and propose an endorsement. (Of course, as in (2), this endorsement would need to be ‘accepted’ by the recipient.) This would make the endorsement feature very similar to the ‘recommendation’ feature. In fact, it would give the lazy professional networker a lazy option to recommend someone.
  3. Create ‘proximity’ levels within my professional network – much like the ‘circles’ in the google+ network. And give me control on who goes into which level, and which levels I can accept endorsements from.

The one thing that you would notice common in all of my three suggestions are that, make the act of endorsing user-cognizant/user-initiated. This way, I have control over my endorsements, much like my recommendations.

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