Friday, December 23, 2011

Off facebook for the second time

So, have deactivated my facebook for the second time. Feels like a vaccum created from all the time you earlier used for doing sensible stuff and then started diverting into checking friends' status updates.

It's so difficult rewiring your brain into doing sensible stuff again.

Giving up and claiming back

Haven't had the time to write a lot of stuff this year - work, life has got in the way. As I look back, I am definitely in a better place compared to last. But am I in a place that I think I deserve. Probably not. Some of the problems that have plagued throughout my life remain and have become more intense now.

One of them is my appearance. Unfortunately, through genes on my father's side, I look like I am in my early twenties. Also, I don't have the height (not my fault) or demeanour ( my fault) that impresses. Most people assume that I don't have the experience desired for jobs I should be getting. I believe this youthful demeanour had a big hand to play in a really nasty episode early this year, when my manager - completely new to the whole consulting world (I think also to the concept of professional decency), accused me of being incompetent. This was 10 days into the start of the project. For these 10 days, we were not working closely (I was in the UK for some of them and the summer riots were happening very close to where I stay), and he was not seeing what I was up to. He assumed I was up to nothing. Without checking my previous credentials, I think he assumed I was just incapable for the job.

It is difficult for someone not in my position to see this as a problem, but it genuinely is. I am not overtly able to state my age and experience in every initial interaction with everyone - there is just no right or subtle way of bringing it up.

Also, even when you do bring it up, people have already made their minds up. We have so little time to do research, that we go by appearances and gut-feel (even more so than before I think). There is this typical conceit of rationalising their call by saying, "Oh, well, age or experience didn't matter in my decision making".

The burden to fix this issue is completely on you. But as you and people around you grow old, your ability to change yourself (say to be more agressive or sociable) and to change their opinions dimishes. You will largely remain what you are, and they will think the same of you even if you improve dramatically.

So, why do I say I am in a better place if I am here wallowing in self-pity? Well, having seen the worst in my professional career, I am now more fearless than ever. I can clearly see the trend in how people perceive me professionally, and think there is no point in me trying to change opinions. I can try to take remedial measures, and be more communicative, and project more authority and gravitas in my professional dealings.

But still if my abilities are not recognised in the time that they should be, then there is no point letting that slide. I have lost my patience now and don't care if people think any less of me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mumbai under attack

I predicted in Nov 2009 that a terrorist attack with happen in Bombay within a year. I am glad the prediction didn't come true. But ultimately it happened and not too long after the Seige of Bombay

The reason is simple. Because to execute such an attack is simple. There are ample holes in our security apparatus - right from intelligence to disaster management. Even a child (remember how old the 2008 terrorists were) can punch holes through it using rubber pellets, and then shoot real bullets on the innocent Mumbai citizens.

The policitians, bureaucrats, police will continue to be brazen and incompetent.

I know why I don't want to be back in Bombay. But not everyone has the means or willingness to get out.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Another Adarsh - Kalpataru Towers Kandivali

The storm has kicked in already around another Adarsh-like Defence land scandal. In my view, it is on a much bigger scale than Adarsh.

The land under dispute is right outside the present walls of a large Defence complex. On google maps, it is marked as Food Corporation of India. But I can safely say that it is anything but.

A large number of Defence personnel stay there, there is a sign of an Army Hospital pointing towards the complex. During the first Gulf War, there was huge artillery and army vehicle movement from the complex. I still remember tanks, and big rugged trucks lined up outside the main entrance to the complex marked 'UN' waiting for their desert safari.

Everyone living in the area always knew that the land outside the main entrance was anything but private -either it was used as a defence complex extension or as a park or hospital or some other public scheme. But suddenly one day about 4-5 years ago, huge corrugated sheets came up, and construction started at a break neck pace. They dumped so much debris and mud in the whole space so as to raised the ground level of this entire plot by about 5 feet, completely changing the topography of the place. Every since, Arya Chanakya Nagar, has become a low lying area that is easily inundated by moderate rains.

They also completely mangled the already small nullah adjacent to the land. Mind you, this nullah carries all the sewage and rain water from right from the National Park Hills through the large shanty settlements. They reduced the width of the nullah about a third, and made a road leading to the multi storey car park. In the last 5 years, all ground floor flats have been submerged under 5 feet water. Extract from DNA,

The residents allege that the developer has closed one of the three outlets for drain water, which may cause a bottleneck during heavy rains, leading to flooding. The nullah originates at Borivli’s hills and merges with the nullah in Poisar.

Read the full story here.

Until almost 6 months - 1 year after the construction began, no one knew who the builder was. Later the Kalpataru sign went up. They had such a substantial cash flow, that there was no booking done on any flat, until the building was almost 75% complete.

And what a monstrosity it is. It is 31 storey high multi level car park. Multiple building wings all attached to each other so as not to waste inch of the precious (I am sure very) space.

Most of the flats overlook straight into the defence land. Without a doubt, it is a massive security threat, and can be used easily for espionage or target defence installations.

There is no doubt in my mind, that huge sums of cash changed hands to make this deal happen. I am glad that the allegations are getting huge media coverage now. Based on the size and scale of the project, the scam looks bigger than Adarsh to me. For the latest news on this, subscribe to the RSS feed

I hope the opposition (go Kirit go!) are able to pursue the matter to the end, and bring the truth out in the open.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Solvency II article on CIOL

My article about The data challenges in Solvency II implementations is published in CIOL, a leading IT portal in India.
The article (with its originally intended formatting) be accessed is here.
Previous article, Indian IT Industry: Coping with the US recession, is here

Monday, April 11, 2011

The awesomeness of The Social Network

After Udaan, no movie has excited me more than The Social Network. I must have watched it in full about 4-5 times, and seen it in parts about 20. Having fully internalised it with all its strengths and failings (minor ones at that), I can safely say that The Kings Speech comes nowhere close to the genius, audacity, and showmanship of The Social Network. It is as if The Social Network embodies in itself all the qualities of the idea on which it is based upon – Facebook. And King’s Speech falters like its stammering, insecure protagonist, The King, Bertie.

There is such a lack of judgement in awarding The King’s Speech the main Oscar gongs; people will continue to make sappy, period films, trying to find historical figures with a minor deformity or handicap. Kirk Lazarus, you were right!

On the other hand, everything about The Social Network is burnished in dazzling intelligence – right from the imaginative storytelling to its explosive screenplay to the superlative ensemble acting. Having an edgy and creative director of the stature of David Fincher is a great start. But the real tone of the movie is the mastermind of Aaron Sorkin. The dialogues are paper-cut sharp and allow no one in this movie to be stupid (even though to Winklevii seem to in real life). In fact, the minor problem that arises due to this is the vicious sarcasm uniformly spouted by most of the characters stops their true personalities coming across.

Here are a few delightful nuggets

Cameron Winklevoss: Because we're gentlemen of Harvard. This is Harvard, where you don't plant stories and you don't sue people.

Divya Narendra: You thought he was going to be the only one who thought that was stupid?


Erica Albright: As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared.


Tyler Winklevoss: I'm sorry President Summers, but what you just said makes no sense to me all.

Larry Summers: I'm devastated by that.


Eduardo Saverin: I...I'm not a psychiatrist but...

Sy: Well, I'm glad we've got that on the record.


Gage: Your best friend is suing you for 600 million dollars.

Mark Zuckerberg: I didn't know that; tell me more!


But this is a minor quibble. In fact, it is these spite-filled gems that make the movie so engaging and entertaining. Even when you see through the customary Hollywood scene-writing tricks, you applaud because these tricks have been served up delectably and intelligently.

The framing of the movie as well is also extremely inspired. The depositions, which are the only reliable part of the movie, are used as the anchor, and the audience is flung back and forth through the episodes as described by several different people. Thus what happens in flashbacks is only a version of the narrator, and may not have really happened. Thus, it allows the audience to make up their minds, while still doing justice (I think) to all the people who contributed in their own way in making Facebook what it is.

In spite of the drama, and the complex setting, The Social Network provides a great deal of informative trivia that helps you connect the dots. Some of the interesting bits for me

  • Larry Summers – President of Harvard was also the Secretary of Treasury, among other things, and also believed to be responsible (along with others) for the sub-prime crisis through the repealment of key financial regulations

  • Sean Parker – Napster’s early employee, and also being a key figure in launching Facebook into the stratosphere. Also, the movie touches upon deftly on his problems with drugs and underage girls.

I also have to mention the acting here. In spite of a primarily young cast, the acting showed spark and maturity. Jesse Eisenberg was riveting, with his mannerisms, his delivery, and his command our scenes. Savour this scene, if you don’t believe me.

I just love the way, his carves up his enemies with his finger when he barks

The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.

It’s a bit disconcerting at times how intelligent movies like The Social Network make you think you are.

Friday, April 01, 2011

CBIP - more questions

Answers to some more CBIP questions that I got through mail recently. I was recently reading your posts on CBIP examination that you took in Nov-2008. It was good to know your experience and hope its proving beneficial for your career now. I have my first exam - Core IT on 17th April and have just started studying for it. I was wondering if you I can help me clarify few doubts please::

1) How much study Core IT exam demands - I am have basic understanding of the Information Systems and familiar with the technical terminologies like Storage Management, Networking Concepts , Computer Architecture but NOT at all with datawarehouse concepts.

Answer - Core IT exam is not DWH specific. I searched online for INformation Systems, IT basic/fundamental tests. found about 5-6 of them, which were free and quite useful.there are a lot of soft questions as well about how to manage teams, how will you approach conflict/problems, how to plan, but these are pretty straight forward to answer.

2) Any specific books you can recommend? I have purchased the Exam Guide but that lists lot on study material which I think is not possible to go through in 2-3 weeks. If you can suggest few books that covers major portion of the exam that will be very helpful.

Answer - I found the top 3-4 books suggested in the study guide from the library. If your company has an online books resource like books 24x7, then it is extremely useful as well..

3) Last - Is 90 minutes sufficient to answer 110 questions? Or one needs to hurry from the first question itself? Are questions easy to understand?

Answer - Yes, it is is sufficient. but you need to keep time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TOGAF 9 certification - preparation tips

I completed my TOGAF 9 certification yesterday. It was definitely tougher than I expected based on all the mock tests that I had given. The questions were tougher, with multiple choice answers in Level 2 similar enough to trip you up.

I was already TOGAF 8 certified, so just took the Bridge exam, which is a single exam of Level 1 (20 simple multiple choice questions) and Level 2 (8 complex multiple choice questions). Both levels are open book in the Bridge, but you still need to know your stuff, and can use the book for verifying/correcting 30-40% of your answers. Else, there won't be enough time to do the rest.

What worked for me

1. Preparing for a period of two months – 1 hour a day was sufficient. In fact, I lost momentum towards the end, as I just didn't have enough motivation to revise.

2. Documenting all inputs /outputs for ADM phases,

a. which phase new deliverables are created

b. which phase deliverables are signed-off

3. Taking all available mock tests

a. Those sent out by through my firm

b. From Books 24 X 7 books – Foundation Part 1 and Part 2 (can be used even for Bridge) by William Manning

c. Previous TOGAF 8 material

d. Chris Eaton's blog - check out the right window pane

4. Watching Knotion TOGAF videos to get a different/more palatable flavour of TOGAF

5. Other material on the net for general browsing– e.g. slideshare, training sites etc.

For the Bridge exam, focus on

1. Differences between TOGAF 8 and TOGAF 9

2. Study Guide 2

3. Remember where in the book the index and the main sections are (quite important as both parts are open book for the Bridge)

4. ADM

5. ADM Techniques

During the test

I took the test in the QA Ltd, Holborn centre.

1. Scrolling through the pdf is clunky, so go to the index first, find the page number and then use page number search (note that pdf page numbers and book page numbers are 34 pages out).

2. Word/phrase search works (definitely use it), but the word is highlighted only for a flash, so pay attention. Sometimes (especially for checking best description of a particular item, summary section may provide answers more easily than the main section)

3. 2 rewritable scratch pads are given (at Holborn test centre), take tissues with you so can rub the notes and reuse again, if needed.

4. For the bridge exam, both the levels are in a single test, so you can start with Level 2 if you want (as it involves a lot of reading).

5. Definitely use the mark feature, but also use the comments feature. You can put comments that you want to specifically consider while going back to the question and referring to the TOGAF book.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

10 years as a professional

On the 4th of March, I completed 10 years of my professional career. There were certainly some high points and low points during that time, and some useful lessons.
1. Having a fun time at Infosys during the 3.5 months induction. Realising that I am not a hacker once again, and also realising that IT is not about coding at all. In fact, guys who progress quickly are good at the softer things rather than at ‘hard’ coding.

2. Being fortunate enough in not being transferred to Hyderabad like the rest of the batch purely because had got a project. Was a BI project. Pretty much have stayed in the same domain since.

3. Understanding the importance of diplomacy and patience at work. Work gets completed only when it wants to complete (especially if it involves more than one person).

4. Fortunate enough to travel to the UK. My family has found a very nice Bed and Breakfast. Lunch and dinner may be elsewhere.

5. Swiftly deducing that working in Mumbai is not for me. Probably, the long term move there will only be of my ashes.

6. Moving from IT delivery to IT consulting to Business consulting. Landing in the Big 4. Realising why they are called the Big 4. And all the hard work that needs to be done inside of me.

7. Giving up on the MBA dream, and sacrificing a million bucks (INR anyway!) for reserving the seat and then not taking it. But ultimately making one of the best financial decisions of my life.

8. Realising that I am a fairly decent decision maker (not just based on 7), just that I need to put myself out there and make decisions that have bigger impact in the organisations that I work in/for.

In the 10 years, haven't done too bad. But there is a lot more that I could have achieved. I could have been more driven, focused, and generally a better professional.

On the personal front,

1. Getting to live near London, one of the best cities in the world

2. Discovering some of the things I am – cyclist, runner, but always a dilettante in everything (and don't mean that as a compliment!)

3. Finding love and losing it.

4. Getting married and having a daughter who makes me feel special.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Zor ka jhatka - Totally wiped out

I am so glad to hear that the show Zor ka Jhatka has failed. All three of us, that's me, wife and my 3 year old are big fan of the original, "Total Wipeout". It is for those who like "Ninja Warriors" and "Takeshi's Castle", where what matters is the skill (or the lack of it) of the participants to provide you with laugh out loud moments. In Total Wipeout, the host, Richard Hammond does add some humour quotient, but works strictly as a narrator, and not the hero. To emphasis his role as an ancillary, he is even not present in the main location, Argentina, and appears to sit on a railing in a disused studio corner.

The fun of the show comes through some really unfit participants setting themselves by taking on the ridiculous obstacle course. Navigating the four giants balls provides the greatest laughs as you see the bodies of the participants twisted and mangled in all weird angles.

The host frankly doesn't matter. There is no need for the paricipants to be celebrities. Just show us people going over the big 4 balls non-stop, and you will have record TRPs.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Panasonic-SD-257WXC breadmaker

Have bought the Panasonic-SD-257WXC breadmaker from Amazon

Bought if after reading glowing reviews on Guardian and Amazon

I am well and truly chuffed. Just waiting to bake and smell some home made bread.

P.S. Need to let people know that on Amazon the price has drammatically increased. I bought it for £98 at the start of this year. and now it is retailing at £128. Incredible price hike!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Glassdoor is a great site compiling all the important and interesting details about various companies. You create a login, enter your own salary details, reviews etc. and voila, the full compilation of data from other users is avaiable to you.

So, it a service similar to what Vault provides, but its free. I am sure Vault provides much more. But really if you want sufficiently exhaustive salary details split by roles and location (and also perks), then there's enough data on Glassdoor

The reviews about companies are really informative. There are interview tips and tricks which will also help you prepare in case you are looking at switching :-)

The reason for this blog is to advertise Glassdoor so we have more reliable and accurate data points.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Udaan - The dreams in your wings

With every passing day, its going to take even more of an herculean effort to get me writing a decent blogspot. Udaan demands such an herculean effort.

Who would have thought that a story of a boy and his father altered decisively by the presence of a step-brother would have made such compulsive viewing.

There isn't much of a story in Udaan. It really is about a boy growing up in a completely unexpected way. THe way it unfolds is extremely riveting and touching.

Rohan wants to a writer, his dad like most other dad wants him to complete engineering and join him in business. Rohan isn't your typical hero. He has been 'rusticated', he smokes and drives his father's car to the bar in the dead of the night. He knows that he is a writer, but nothing much else. He is still very much in search of his identity.

That reveals to him slowly through in sudden ways - his adorable chachu who wants him to do want he wants, and even ready to take him under his wings (to disastrous effect), his college mates who initially try to rag him, and then turn into thick friends (even castigating him for wallowing in self-pity). But his inner resolve comes to the fore in wanting to protect his step-brother, Arjun from the tryanny of his father. There is a potent chance of Arjun being shunted off to the boarding school becoming another version of Rohan and ultimately growing up to become just like his father.

People will have complaints about the slowness, stillness and unevenness of the film. But I think that is a key part of why this film works. It really seeps into your phyche, makes you relate to Rohan, Arjun, Jimmy and even on occasion, Bhairav Singh. YOu can see that there is some truth in what Bhairav Singh says or wants from his sons. But, there is no denying his methods are all wrong. At the same time, he himself doesn't seem to have the guidance and love from his parents which he can draw on.

A big part in why the movie works is the music and the lyrics. The soundtrack is nothing short of haunting. Rohan leaves his school and the track goes "Kahaani khatm hai ya shuruvat hone ko hai". You wonder what's going to happen now in ROhan's life.

Rohan's decision of disowning his father and his home has the refrains

Peron Ki Bedia Khwabon Ko Baandhe Nahi Re, Kabhi Nahi Re
Mitti Ki Parton Ko Nanhe Se Ankur Bhi Chire Dhire Dhire

and then the words again...
"Kahaani khatm hai ya shuruvat hone ko hai"

You really are astounded by the strength and courage that Rohan finds in going back for his brother, and taking the decision to raise him single-handedly with love and care that he never had. It makes you feel small, put in (a very low) perspective whatever sense of achievement you have in life.

But, you fear for the two of them. Would Rohan be able to support both of them. Will they both be ok in the big bad world out there.

I think they would.

P.S. Showed it to new niece of 6 years. It was a really long day of travelling, and we started the movie at 11 pm. I thought she would fall asleep. She saw it right through, and guess what liked it.

Of course, she is intelligent.