Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sacramento Trip on Thanksgiving Weekend

25 November 2007

Are you in the bay area? Got a day to kill? Wondering what to do?

How about a trip to Sacramento? Your kids will love it too.

My friend and I decided to go to Sacramento during the Thanksgiving weekend. We rented a mini-van and started with our families at about 7 am. We reached Sacramento in 2 hours.

Our sight seeing trip started with the State Capitol building. The photos on the sidewalls capture the specialties of each county in California. The building had a few rooms with old office accessories like typewriters available for display. Someone from Arnold's office stopped by and gave us his business card. We took a few pictures in front of Arnold's office, of course, not with Arnold :(

There is a lot of memorials in the State Capital building campus including the Vietnam War Memorial and the Fire Fighters Memorial. There is also a colorful garden in front of the Vietnam War Memorial. You can spend about 2 hours in the State Capitol Building campus.

We then went to the California Rail Road museum. It is a good place for kids to spend time. There are a number of antique rail engines. They had miniature displays of passenger and goods engines running on the tracks. There is also a play area in the 2nd floor which my kid liked. There were a few wooden toy engines and tracks for kids to assemble and play.

We then went to the water intake facility in Jibboom park. It is located in a very calm location. You can see boats and cruise ships passing through the Sacramento River. There is also an unmanned bridge that opens and closes when cruise ships pass by. It was interesting to watch that. There is also a walking/biking trail close by.

Our next destination was Towe Auto museum. We went there with great hopes but were disappointed. The museum was located in a ware house. They had a nice collection of antique cars. This place may excite people who have interests in learning about antique cars. We spent about one hour there. We then left to Folsom lake.

We didn't know that Folsom lake will be empty during winter :) There was hardly any water left inside the lake. We took a few pictures of the evening sun set from the lake. From there, we headed back home.

Sacramento trip was enjoyable and was not very tiring. If you are going to Sacramento in summer, you can do a lot of water sports also.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hawaii (Maui) Trip - Ten Recommendations & Tips

Planning your trip to Maui, Hawaii? Looking for suggestions and tips? Well, I have quite a few to share with you. Here you go...
  1. October is a nice time to visit Maui. The weather is very nice (not too cold or not too hot). It was not very crowded as well. Whale watching starts in December. Some activities are closed during that time.
  2. Plan your trip during a regular time/weekends as opposed to long weekends. Normally, everyone wants to go out during a long weekend. I believe Hawaii would get crowded during long weekends. First of all, the fares may be too high during a long weekend (I didn't travel during a long weekend and hence, I paid just $1600 for two people including flight, stay and rental car). Second of all, people are taken in small groups for most of the activities (snorkeling, parasailing, submarine tour etc.,). If you are traveling on a long weekend, you may have to wait for a long time for all these activities.
  3. Book a hotel with a kitchen. This is my first stay in a hotel room with a kitchen. We felt as if we were in home. We prepared all our food in the room. My wife and I are vegetarians. We hardly wasted any time in looking for a vegetarian restaurant. We had healthy food that was prepared by us (actually, prepared by my wife ! :)).
  4. We weren't able to see Nakalele blow hole & Dragon's peak in Maui. Hopefully, you can get better directions from the web, if you are going to visit these places.
  5. I would recommend you to stay in two different hotels during your stay. One hotel can be in West Maui and the other hotel can be in Central or East Maui. You can complete the activities and other West Maui attractions during your stay in West Maui. You can visit the places in Central or East Maui during your stay in the Central or East Maui. That way, you don't have to drive a lot.
  6. Don't try to squeeze-in visits to too many islands in one trip. 5 - 7 days is a reasonable time to spend in Maui.
  7. Maui's Best is a good website to book for your activities. You can also save more if you signup for the 2 hours seminar from Wyndham Vacations.
  8. If you are going to leave from SFO airport, I would recommend parking your car in "Anza Parking" as opposed to "Burlingame Parking". Anza has more frequent shuttle services and also the parking lot is guarded.
  9. Do not miss the "Hana Highway" drive. It is more scenic than you could imagine. The drive is very safe.
  10. Do not hesitate to plan for the Maui trip with your infant. We did it. So, you can also do it. The only draw back is that you cannot do the activities together with your spouse.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Maui Trip - Day 5 (Parasailing, Wyndham Seminar, Lahaina Cannery Mall)

October 29th, 2007

We couldn't believe that this is the last day of our trip. We vacated the hotel room, handed over the keys and went to Hyatt Regency hotel for para sailing. We had booked through West Maui Parasailing. The parasailing operators came to the beach only around 8.45 am. We were waiting for them since 8.25 am. They took us on a small kayak boat to the Parasail boat. We boarded the Parasail boat. Parasailing was a nice experience. We flew 800 feet above the sea level. I was expecting it to be windy at the top. However, it was very calm. My wife was taking care of the baby at the shore, when I was flying. I came back and let her do the parasailing. Around noon, we both were done.

We then went to Lahaina Center to attend the Wyndham Vacations Seminar. We had our lunch in the parking lot. The seminar went on for about 2 hours. We came back and went in search Nakalele Blowhole. We couldn't find it. So, we started going towards the airport. On our way back, we stopped in the Lahaina Cannery Mall to get an ice cream for my wife. She has been asking for an ice cream since we landed in Maui. The mall was decorated well for the Halloween. We took a few snaps there. My wife got her ice cream too. I had my favorite tall Soy Latte from Starbucks.

We then had a stop over in one of the road side beaches. Mitra had her evening snack. We spent about an hour in the beach. We met an Indian family there. They had come to Maui for a visit from Indianapolis. It is hard to see Indians in Maui. There are very few tourists of Indian origin.

We reached airport at about 6.30 pm. We had brought some fruits with us. We had them in the airport. I dropped Divya/Mitra in the airport and unloaded all the luggages first. Then, I went to Avis to return the rental car. They charged me $200 for insurance for 5 days. Hmm, the insurance cost was higher than the car rental cost :)

We had some snacks inside the airport. And thats pretty much was our dinner. Mitra was happy to walk around inside the airport. She learned to walk a few weeks back and she was excited to walk on her own. We boarded the flight at around 9 pm and the flight started on time. We reached SFO at around 5 in the morning. Came out of the airport, took the shuttle to Burlingame Airport parking. Took our car from the parking lot - it was safe :) Reached home at 6.30 am.

And, that is the end of our trip to Maui, Hawaii.

Maui Trip - Day 4 (Hana Lava Tube & Haleakala Crater)

October 28th, 2007

This is the 4th day of our trip to Maui. We left the hotel room very early in the morning - at around 6.30 am. The trip to Hana was very scenic and memorable. This is one of the best drives that I've ever made. We wanted to cover two places today - Hana Lava Tube and Haleakala Crater / National Park. It took us about 3 hours to reach the Hana Lava Tube.

On the way, you can do several stop overs to see beautiful parks, water falls and mountains. We did only a few stop overs in the interest of time. You can also get a glimpse of the ocean during the drive. On the way to the Hana Lava Tube is the Garden of Eden. We spent about an hour there and had the break fast that we had taken with us. It is a beautiful park with colorful flowers and fresh plantation. It will be a feast for your cameras and camcorders. You can see the famous Keopuka Rock where Jurassic park's introductory scene was shot. You can also get a glimpse of the Puohokamoa Falls from the park. You can drive for about 1/2 mile inside the park. They have restroom facilities also.

We reached the Hana Lava Tube at about 11 am. The sky started to drizzle. There was hardly any people in that area and no ticketing office as such. There was a tent at the entrance of the cave. A lady collected $12 per person and gave a flood light (for photographs) and a torch light to find our way inside the cave. I was disappointed that there will not be any lightings inside the cave. The cave entrance is a big hole with a stair case that takes you down. There were a few mosquitoes near the cave entrance, but the cave interiors were good. No mosquitoes, no odor or bats. However, rain water was dropping from the ceilings of the cave. You have to walk carefully inside the cavern because there are some uneven walk ways.

My little one and my wife enjoyed the self guided tour inside the cave. I was carrying a torch light on one hand and my little one on the other hand. I had the camera/camcorder on my shoulders. The view inside the cave was amazing. You could see the lava formations & meltdowns every where. We reached the end of the tour after a 15 minutes walk. We took a few pictures with the support of flood light. There are areas which are not safe for visitors and hence we weren't allowed to walk further. The whole self-guided tour lasted for about 30 minutes. It was an adventurous experience. I wouldn't say that the drive was worth it. But, the scenic drive itself was very enjoyable. It started to rain heavily when we left the cavern.

We started our drive to Haleakala Crater / National Park. We had our lunch on the way. The drive was for about 4 hours. It was not as scenic as Hana Lava Tube drive. The crater is at an altitude of 10,023 feet. We paid $10 at the entrance. We did a stop over in the Visitor's Center that is closer to the entrance. We relaxed for a few minutes and started to drive another 30 miles to reach the crater. It was very windy near the observatory desk. My little one was scared a bit on seeing the winds. The view of the crater was marvelous. I had not seen any craters before - so, I liked this, much. We were there in the observatory desk for 15 minutes and we started heading back to the hotel. We drove for another two and a half hours to reach the hotel at about 6 pm.

Wow ! What a day ! It was full of driving ... but we liked it. We had our dinner at the resort and spent our last night of the trip, in Maui.

Maui Trip - Day 3 (Iao Valley, Tropical Plantation, Snorkeling)

October 27th, 2007

This is the 3rd day of our trip. We started from hotel at around 8.30 am in the morning. We drove for about an hour to reach Iao valley. Some of the things in Iao valley, that are worth mentioning are:

  • the view of the needle point that was formed out of lava
  • a few hiking trails
  • a well maintained park
  • a small stream of water and a bridge on top of it
  • the view of several surrounding mountains
There are a few guys who were jumping into the stream from the top of the bridge. I took a shot using my camcorder. We spent about an hour in the Iao valley. We didn't hike in Iao valley.

We then went to the Maui's tropical plantation. They had a plantation tour for visitors. The cost of the ticket per adult was about $13 for the plantation tour. We boarded the tram and the tour lasted for about 45 minutes with a stop over for coconut peeling demonstration. There were several tropical plants from different countries. The tram ride was nice but not very exciting. May be kids will enjoy it the most. If you are an avid photo or videographer, you would love to shoot the colorful flowers, fruits, garden and the plantation.

We forgot to bring our lunch with us. So, we had to go back to the room to get our lunch. We took the lunch from the room and went straight to Malea beach to board the ship for our snorkeling trip. We parked our car and had our lunch. We had to wait to board the ship. The ship started at around 1.30 pm. The ship was going up and down because of the strong waves. I felt like I was going to have nausea. Due to the winds, we weren't able to dock the ship in Molokini. They took us close to the Makena beach and docked the ship at a location where the water was 25 feet deep. They gave us all the snorkeling gear (goggles and fins). The captain gave a brief overview about snorkeling and the usage of the gear. It was useful.

I was quite excited to do snorkeling. One of the crew members helped me to adjust my goggles. I was one among the last few who jumped into the water. Many expert snorkelers have gone at least 50 feet away from the ship. I was staying closer to the ship, just in case I get tired. Finally, I jumped into the water. It was amazing that I was able to swim in the Pacific Ocean :) I learned to swim only after coming to the US and that too on my own. Snorkeling is an adventurous activity. The view of the coral reef and the underwater life was quite amazing. I saw a huge turle swimming close to me. I wish I was able to go farther and see what else is there. But, I wasn't a dexterous swimmer. So, I decided to stay close to the ship. I spent about 25 minutes in the water and came back to the ship. Wow ! What an experience. I still couldn't forget the moments of snorkeling.

The captain took the ship again to Malea beach. We went back to the hotel from there. We had a swimming session in the pool today as well. Mitra & I enjoyed our time in the pool. Divya (my wife) enjoyed watching us :)

Maui Trip - Day 2 (Submarine Tour, Big Beach)

October 26th, 2007

We had booked for two activities for today. A submarine tour in the morning and a snorkeling trip in the noon. However, I got a call from Pride of Maui informing that they've canceled the snorkeling trip for maintenance of the ship. I had to move the snorkeling trip to Oct 27th, noon.

We went to Lahaina at 8.30 am to board the submarine. There was a small ship that took us from the shore to the submarine. It was a 15 mins ride from the shore to the submarine. We boarded the submarine. There was a narrow staircase to get into the submarine from the top. About 40 people can be on board in the submarine. The submarine dived 107 feet deep under the water level. They took us to two coral reefs and showed us a submerged ship. The underwater visibility was obscure due to the lack of sun light. During the tour, we saw a congregation of underwater life.

Submarine tour was a nice experience, but I am not sure if it is worth the $$$s. The tour lasted for about 45 minutes. The submarine came back to the water level and was docked. By that time, the next batch of people were there in the ship to board the submarine. Infants weren't allowed in the submarine. Hence, my wife & I have to go in the submarine on two different trips.

I boarded the ship and got the little one from my wife. My kid and I came back to the shore. We waited under the Banyan tree (the Banyan Tree was close to the boarding point) for about one and a half hour. My wife came back from the tour at about 12 pm. We had our lunch - my wife got up early in the morning to prepare lunch for us (In fact, she gets up early in the morning every day to prepare lunch for us).

We then headed towards Ahihi Kinau Preserve. We lost our way and landed in Big Beach (Makena Beach). We spent about an hour in Big Beach. The sea water was very clear and in green color. We enjoyed our time drenching feet in the sea. Mitra didn't like to stand in the sea water. She was scared to see the waves. We drove back to go to the Maui Tropical Plantation tour. We couldn't find it and hence we thought we would see the Dragon peak. We couldn't find the Dragon peak as well. So, we returned back to our room. The afternoon session was full of disappointments, except for our visit to Makena beach which was not there in our original plan.

We came back to the hotel room at around 5 pm. We took Mitra to the beach. She was scared to enter the sea. We then went to the pool. Mitra resisted to enter the pool. She was scared on seeing the water in the pool. I swam there for a while. We let Mitra to first immerse her feet into the water and she tapped the water for a while. After doing that for a few minutes, she got excited. She came to swim with me. I held her to swim in the water for sometime. We went back and forth from one end of the pool to the other. She enjoyed it much.

We came back to room, had our dinner and went to bed. Unfortunately, the wireless access in the room was not working. I was disappointed. I complained to the hotel management. But no action from them. My wife was happy that I stayed away from the laptop and spent more time with her and Mitra.

Maui Trip - Day 1 (Banyan Tree, Jodo Mission, Luau)

October 25th 2007

Our hotel check-in time was only 3 pm. So, we decided to see some places before going to the hotel. We went straight from the Kahului airport to the Banyan tree in Lahaina. The drive from the airport to Lahaina was very scenic. There was sea on one side of the road and mountains on the other side. My wife had to take rest during the drive because she had some air sickness. It took us about 40 minutes to reach Lahaina from Kahului. Finding a parking space closer to the Banyan tree was quite challenging. So, I had to leave my rental car on a paid parking. It looks like this Banyan tree was brought from India when it was 6 feet in height. Now, it is about 60 feet in height. We spent about an hour there. Mitra (my little one) enjoyed playing there.

We then went to the Lahaina Jodo Mission. There was a temple and a huge statue of Buddha in that place. It was very close to the sea shore in Lahaina. There is a burial ground right opposite to the Jodo Mission. In Hawaii, you can see burial grounds everywhere in spite of the shooting real estate cost :) The Jodo Mission temple was closed on that day. So, we couldn't get into the temple. There were hardly any people except for us.

As per our original plan, we were supposed to go to Dragon peak. However, we were so tired. So, we decided to do some grocery shopping and go to hotel. We shopped in the Safeway store in Lahaina Cannery Mall complex and reached Resortquest Kaanapali Villas at about 4 pm. We were given a room in the ground floor in the Banyan complex. We were surprised to see that the room is like a home. It had a fully furnished kitchen, a sofa set, a king size bed, TV, DVD player, few DVDs, a double door refrigerator, microwave oven etc., All the appliances are very new. The room had a tile flooring and my little one enjoyed to walk on that. My wife liked the room very much.

We prepared noodles and had our dinner in the room.
We rushed to attend the Luau in Royal Lahaina. We reached Royal Lahaina at 6.30 pm. The Luau was scheduled to start at 7 pm. We were surprised to see that there were about 1000 people having their dinner there. We were the only family who were there just to see the show. Everyone else had booked for dinner+show. The show started on time. We were quite excited to see the traditional Hula dance. The fire knife dance was astounding. The show went for about one and a half hours. There were a few showers during the show. They gave us ponchos. But, the showers were just benign and we didn't use them.

We reached hotel at about 9 pm and retired for the day.

Maui Trip - San Francisco to Kahului Airport

October 25th 2007

We were looking forward for this day and the day finally arrived. We got up early in the morning and got ready. The little one got obfuscated wondering what these folks are doing so early in the morning. She cried when we woke her up. But, she realized that we are getting ready to go somewhere. Then, she became fanatic. We left our home in Milpitas by around 6.30 am in the morning.

We drove our car to Burlingame Parking Lot. I was disappointed to
see that it is a open parking lot facing the street and there was no one around to assist. Anza Parking was right opposite to Burlingame Parking Lot and I was so tempted to park there. At first I faltered, then, decided to take a risk. I parked my car in one of the free lots and went to the bus stop to wait for the shuttle. The shuttle arrived in a few minutes and took all the waiting passengers to the airport. It took about 10 - 15 minutes to reach the San Francisco Airport.

I checked-in the luggage and went to the queue for the security check. They asked me to get a boarding pass for the kido. I had to go back and get a boarding pass for the little one. We boarded the flight at around 8.45 am. The flight started on time and reached Maui's Kahului airport at around 11 am. The flying time is 5 hours. There is a time zone difference between Maui and San Francisco. San Francisco is ahead by 3 hours.

We had to wait for about 30 minutes to collect our luggages. We were so hungry and had our lunch right after coming out of the airport. There are shuttles that take you from the airport to the car rental offices. We boarded the shuttle to Avis. We were given a Chevvy Impala.

Imagine how it would be load and unload a set of 6 luggages (including the stroller and car seat) 5 times in a day. I had to load everything in my car when leaving our home. I unloaded them in the Burlingame parking lot and loaded them in the parking shuttle. Unloaded everything from the shuttle after reaching the SFO airport. Collected all the baggages in Kahului airport and loaded them again into the Avis shuttle to car rental office. Unloaded all of them in the car rental office and loaded them again into Chevvy Impala. I had to unload them again after reaching the resort.

Hawaii (Maui) Trip - Preparations

This is my first trip to Hawaii. I knew that there are many islands in Hawaii. But I didn't know about their specifics. A few of my friends had been to Oahu. They said "Oahu is very commercialized and so don't go there !".

I started to Google to find out some website describing the Hawaiian Islands. After some research, I decided to go to Maui. I compared the deals from Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity. I accidentally ran into this website called United Vacations from United Airlines. It had a cheaper deal. I booked for my stay, flight and car through this website. The whole package was for about $1600. At last, I finalized the travel dates. The stay was in Resortquest Kaanapali Villas.

A visit to Hawaii wouldn't be complete without doing any activities. So, I booked for para sailing, snorkeling, submarine tour through Maui's Best Activities. The price was very competitive. The customer service was excellent from these folks. A representative named Fernanda was helping me and I was amazed by the suggestions and alternatives proposed by her. My trip to Maui wouldn't have been smooth without Fernanda taking care of all the arrangements for activities. All the activities for me and my wife came to about $360. Maui's Best signed me up for a 2 hours seminar from Wyndham Resorts. In return, I got a concession of 50% for all the activities. So, I paid just $180 for all the activities.

I booked for Luau through Hawaii Web. This site is a little expensive for other activities. However, they were the only one offering Luau for just $37 per person. I booked for Royal Lahaina Luau through this website.

Trip Advisor gave me useful hints and suggestions to plan for the trip. In fact, all the places that I visited in Maui were based on the input that I got from this website. I contrived the activities for each day of my 5 days trip. I took print outs of all the maps and directions from Google Maps. I also took driving directions to the nearest Safeway, Walgreens - just in case I need them.

My flights were from SFO airport - which is 45 minutes drive from my home. Normally, I take Supershuttle for my trips to SFO. They charge ~$50 for two people. This time, I decided to leave my car in the long term parking. I got parking discount coupons from Long Term Parking. They carry coupons for many long term parking lots. I decided to leave my car in Burlingame Airport Parking. I paid just $36 to leave the car in the long term parking for 5 days.

My wife took care of all the packing for the trip. I helped her in buying a few items from Walmart and the local grocery store. I bought a couple of swim shorts for me. We went to at least 3 different shops to get swim suite for my little one. I was surprised to know that it is a seasonal commodity and may not be available during winter. Kaanapali Villas Resorts had a kitchen. So, we took some groceries and utensils with us. We didn't know that the kitchen is fully furnished (I didn't call to check with them in advance). Otherwise, we wouldn't have carried all the dishes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The journey started - Bought NTGR stocks

I bought 32 Netgear (NASDAQ:NTGR) stocks on 10/22/2007 for $30.2 each. Ameritrade charged my $10 for the transaction. So, I would consider the cost of each stock to be $30.51.

I want to keep track of the following information for every new stock that I buy:

1) Why am I buying this stock (Research that I did, factors that convinced me to buy that stock, why didn't I buy the stocks of a different company in the same market/domain?)

- Earnings per share (EPS) was 1.18
- The company's 52 week's high was about $41 and 52 week's low was about $21
- The stock reached around $26 in July 07 due to poor Q2 results.
- The company gave a good Q3 outlook
- The company is venturing into Storage area solutions, coming up with innovative products like Skype phone, digital entertainer HD (for homes). The company was named in Deloitte Technology fast 50 program.
- has given a buy rating with a target price of $41.
- The company's performance is good since it went IPO.

2) When will I sell the stock?

I am planning to sell the stocks when the value reaches $40 or above.

I'll think about selling this stock if it continues to go down and goes below $20.

3) What am I going to do with the money that I get out of this stock?

I am going to donate 20% of the profit and save the remaining amount. I'll probably buy an iPhone (when I save a lot or when Jobs announces another price cut :))

I joined the world of volatility

In late 2006, I was fanatic about trading stocks in the market. Thanks to my financing fundamentals from the MBA degree. I got very motivated and opened a free trading account with Ameritrade in early 2007. At that time, I had more interest & less money to invest. So, I had to fetter my thoughts. However, I decided to continuously monitor and keep track of the economy and the market.

I personally felt that I've gained more skills & knowledge by keeping track of the market than by reading books. Though I cannot claim to be dexterous at trading stocks, I now have a decent understanding of the dynamics of the market.

In October 2007, I read Robert Kiyosaki's "Rich Dad Poor Dad" - a great eye opener. This book exhilarated my passion to invest in stocks. I decided to start trading stocks to improve my financial ingenuity.

I was looking at companies from different industries, reading analysts reports, reading press releases, analyzing the quarterly reports etc., I first thought of investing in eBay - thinking that eBay would announce good Q3 results & due to the holiday season they'll do well in Q4 also. The results from eBay was a bummer. They've to write-off some money to meet the obligations of the Skype deal. The stock didn't do well. I felt fortunate that I didn't invest in eBay :)

After a couple of days, I transferred $1K from my bank account and bought 32 Netgear (NTGR) stocks on 10/22/2007.

I have created this blog to keep track of the things that I learn during the process of developing my financial intelligence. Hopefully, this blog will be useful for others also (Too early to say this with just one posting!). I am hoping to update this during every trade that I make.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sharpen the Saw

When we were small, we were told "Study hard upto your 12th standard. Once you get into your college, you can start to relax". We completed 12th. But then, folks said "Study well for another 3 or 4 years. Once you complete your college and go to work, you can start to relax". But, here you are. You completed your studies and got into a job. Now, your manager gives you a bundle of project/product documentation to read. You are also asked to attend a set of training sessions. You have to continue to read about new technologies/tools for every new product/project that you start to work on. In IT industry, the need to continuously update your knowledge doesn't end. What happens to a wood cutter who continues to chop trees without sharpening the saw. Either the saw will break or the wood cutter will get tired soon. He'll soon reach a point where he cannot cut any more trees. The same thing will happen to you if you are not constantly updating your knowledge/skills. Technology evolves rapidly ... like a supersonic jet that vanishes in the blink of an eye. You need to keep pace with it. Otherwise, you'll get outdated.

You can also continue to update your knowledge by taking part-time courses. Many companies provide distant education programs by affiliating with colleges and universities. That is one good way of replenishing your skills.

Use every opportunity you get to learn something new. Don't ever forget to "Sharpen the saw".

Time, Cost, and Quality - Pick any two

Building a product and nurturing a plant have lots of similarities. You need to invest sufficient time and resources (i.e., money) to get quality in the output. Time is indeed money. When you spend a lot of time on the project, the cost of the project goes off the roof. Though you might have built a high quality product, the product won't be appealing enough - because it will be COSTLY. On the contrary, if you rush to deliver something in a short time, compromising on the quality, the product still won't be appealing enough - because it is BUGGY. So, you need to strike a balance between these 3 factors - Time, Cost and Quality. Most of the times, you may have no choice but to select 2 of the three. You would have to compromise on Time or Cost or Quality. Based on my experience, companies often try to compromise on Quality as it is not very visible when the customer begins to evaluate a product/solution. However, it doesn't take you very long. Customer will soon figure out that the product is BUGGY and it will come back to haunt you. Successful companies have learned to strike a balance between these 3 factors. So, if you want to be successful, you should be too.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Team Work - You are NOT done, until the team is done

Team Work is very important for the success of a group/organization. A team may consist of people with varied levels of experience and skills. You need synchronisation and cohesion within the team. A fast moving vehicle stays on course only if all the wheels rotate together. What if one wheel decides to run faster than the others. The vehicle will lose its balance and topple. The same thing applies to team work also. So, how do you promote team work within your group?

You'll often have team members who will try to outsmart others. Some folks will be reluctant to help others. There are extreme cases where folks may not like to work with each other. The lack of team work within a group may be at times, counter productive. So, how can organizations get folks to work with each other?

The first thing that you need to do is build the team with the right set of people. You have to make sure that the team members can work with each other. At the end of the day, you are not just dealing with people. You are dealing with personalities. You have to make sure that the different personalities in your team can co-exist. The purpose of building the team is not to get 1+1=2 performance. The purpose is to get 1+1=3 performance. If you don't build the team right, you'll get 1+1=1 performance.

In many occasions you may not have the luxury to form/build your own team. You'll be asked to manage an existing team. So, what can you do to promote team work within the group? People have solved this problem already. They've identified a diverse set of things that can be tried such as group outtings, team building activities, happy hours etc., At times, these initiatives may not still promote team work. The reason being such activities are done 'once in a blue moon day' and there is no constant re-enforcement. Also, there is a bigger issue which organizations tend to ignore.

Though organizations preach team work, they continue to promote individual contributions. How can organizations promote team work when their performance system continues to reward individual contributions? Shifting the focus on group performance instead of individual performance, will alleviate such problems.

A team is like the wheels of a train engine. When they all work together, the organization continues to move in the right direction with a rhythm. When they try to take their own course, the organization loses its focus and balance.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hire Slow, Fire Fast

I've read several books in the areas of people management and building effective organizations. All of them echo the same message - "Hire Slow, Fire Fast". But, I've seen companies doing just the opposite. Companies/managers hurry to hire a person due to project pressures. They don't hire GREAT people. They just settle for AVERAGE people who may be good at one particular thing. When the project is over, they don't know what to do with that person. They try to put the person in a different project and realize that the person is not suitable for that. Nor, is the person willing to learn the new technology/skill. They give him/her time to learn. But, the person doesn't learn. They put him/her in a performance improvement plan. The person shows slight improvement. They think that the person has 'good' attitude and they just end up keeping him/her in the job. The person gets fired only when there is a real 'crisis'.

When you hire a GREAT person, your benefits get doubled. First of all, he/she contributes a lot to the product/project. Second of all, he/she will also help others in the group to perform better. At the same time, if you hire an AVERAGE person, you get beatings twice. First of all, he/she doesn't contribute what is expected out of him/her. Second of all, someone (usually, the performer) has to help him/her to perform even their day-to-day work. Indirectly, you are affecting the productivity of the performers, too.

When you complain to the management about the inefficiency of AVERAGE performers, you'll most likely hear the 'five fingers story'. "Note... Not all the team members can be STAR performers. Look at your fingers. They're not alike. But you need them all to do your tasks. Similarly, do not expect everyone to contribute the same to the project/product". I pity these managers. They have actually 'mis-understood' the five fingers story. The real message behind the 'five fingers story' is - each of the team members will bring-in different skills/expertise to the project/product. The combined set of skills/expertise will help to achieve the project/product goals/milestones. So far, I've not come across a manager who embraces this theory when building teams. At the end of the day, a manager has to realize that we are not running a 'charity institution' to give jobs to 'everyone'.

Companies have adopted lineant hiring policies and tough firing policies. If a person in the team is not 'rising' up to the challenges, the person is not fired right away. He/She is given time after time after time to improve. Or, the manager is not 'bold' enough to make the tough decision. There are managers who want to 'demonstrate' their people management skills by trying to 'get the best' out of the non-performers. There are managers who want to keep a 'proper mix' of performers vs non-performers in order to maintain the salary structure, performance incentives etc., There are managers who do not want to keep 'smart' folks under them - so that, subordinates will always say "Yes!" to every decision they make. To me, all these are 'absurd'. Once again, we are not running 'charity instituitions'. We are running 'business'. We want the company to be profitable. Shareholders do not invest money into the company to give jobs to 'everyone'. They want to get 'good returns' on their investments.

If you are a manager, you should take time to hire GREAT folks, and shouldn't think twice before firing NON-PERFORMERS. Hire Slow, Fire Fast

Thursday, August 02, 2007

How do you improve your communication skills?

Having learned about the need for communication skills, you may now ask - "How do I hone my communication skills?". There are several things you can do to improve your communication skills. It is never too late, but it is wise to start early. I've listed below some suggestions for you to improve your communication skills:

1) Read 'rich' books or news papers - I am not asking you to read 'costly' books. Read books/papers/magazines that are rich in the usage of grammar and English language. Make it a habit. You should read for atleast an hour a day.

2) Participate in group discussions - You can take a topic like "What do you think about global warming?" and start debating about it. Involve your friends and co-students. During group discussions, listening to others and giving others a chance to talk is equally important.

3) Join Toastmasters - is a non-profit organization that helps people to improve their communication and leadership skills. There are several clubs throughout India/World. Look at the website to find a club that is near to your home. In about a year or so, you'll feel the difference.

4) Converse in English to the extent possible - Talk to your friends & family members in English whenever you get a chance. Tell them that you are trying to improve your communication skills - they'll understand and be supportive.

5) Watch English TV channels - Watching English News channels is a way to understand how some of the words can be uttered and what is the best way to communicate information. (Note: Don't spend hours and hours in front of TV. It is not good for your health and definitely not a good use of your precious time)

6) Listen to English recordings - You can download lots of English speeches and conversations from Internet and listen to them. Software such as iTunes makes it easy for you to search and download free content from Internet. There are several English podcasts that can be downloaded from iTunes.

7) Conduct seminars/presentations - Whenever you get a chance, read about something and share your knowledge with your friends. This will help you to improve your presentation skills.

There may be other ways to improve your communication skills. Talk to your college seniors, friends and relatives. They'll also be able to help you out. Improving your communication requires lots of time and practise. But, if you focus on it and give your best you'll become a good communicator, soon.

Know to talk? The job is yours !!

Communication is the most important skill required in a IT job. With the whole world becoming a small village, IT employees are spread out all over the world. You should be able to effectively execute projects with a team of people. You should be able to communicate with everyone in the team clearly and confidently. You are lucky if your team members sit across your cubicle. Chances are high that your team members are in a different office or from a different timezone. If so, the complexity of communication increases. What are some of the things that we do in an IT company that makes communication very important:

1) We get requirements from customers in written or oral form. You should be able to listen/read and understand the requirements. You should be able to ask the right questions to the customers to get clarifications regarding the requirements.

We have regular 1-on-1 discussions. Many a times, you may have to talk to your colleague to discuss about issues and resolutions. Your colleague may sit across your cubicle or sit across the globe.

3) We have to update status regularly to one or more folks. You may have to report your status in writing through status reports or in oral form during meetings.

4) We have regular conference calls. With the advent of conference calling facility and software tools such as Skype, Gotomeeting, Webex etc., we are constantly interacting with a group of people across the globe. Even if all the employees are sitting in one office, your customers may be spread out in the world. You may have to interact with your customers.

5) We write specifications and develop documents. Our job responsibility not only includes developing/testing software. It also includes documenting technical and process related interactions. You should be able to write documents that are comprehensive, complete and correct.

6) We have brainstorming sessions. Very frequently we have brainstorming sessions with our colleagues or customers. We solve problems by getting opinion from several folks. You should be able to effectively assimilate others' thoughts and present yours during such meetings.

7) We have technical/non-technical presentations/seminars. Many a times, someone has to present their design proposal or project proposal to their peers or to the management/customer. You should be able to effectively make presentations.

You may be tested during interviews for communication. Many companies provide training to their employees for them to improve their communication skills. Communication is not only key for the success of individuals but also for the success of the whole organization. So, prepare yourself for all of the above situations.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Maintain a "Todo" list

Imagine that you have to move an apple from one place to another. You can carry it in your hand. If you have two apples, you can still carry them in your hand. If it is 4 or 5, you can still manage to stack them up in your hands & carry them. If there are 50 apples, then you need a BAG. This is true even for the tasks that you get at work. In an IT company, you may be bombarded with 100s of things to do. Some of them may be large enough to span over a week or a month and some of them can be done in just few hours or minutes. To effectively carry out the tasks, you have to first keep track of them. The best way to do it, is to maintain a "To do" list. Of course, you can keep track of certain things in memory. But, how do you make sure that you don't miss out something?

The "To do" list can be maintained in several forms. It can be as simple as pasting a 'stick-it' on your monitor (or) tracking things using software like Taskplus (or) using Google/Outlook calendars (or) writing things in a notebook. Make sure that you review the "To do" list periodically. It is better to get the "To do" list reviewed by your boss/manager also. Because, over a period of time, the priorities (or) relevance of some of the tasks may change. Also, it would help you to ensure that you have the right set of things in your "To do" list and haven't missed out something.

I have always found it useful to maintain a "To do" list - not only for my official tasks, but also for my personal tasks. Why don't you also give it a shot? You'll find it useful too.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Leadership without authority

If you are working for a 'service' company, don't be surprised if you are expected to lead a small team in the first few years of your career. If you have inherited some leadership skills during your college days, it would be a boon. If not, its high time you start to focus on it.

Even before you were given the title of a 'Team Lead/Manager', you would be asked to play the 'role' of a 'Team Lead/Manager' for a short time (few months or so). That is the most challenging period for several folks. You won't have any people reporting to you. But you'll be asked to manage their deliverables. This is were you have to practice 'Leadership without authority'. You may run into a variety of challenges - based on the company, product, work culture, seniority level of your team, team member's attitude, your relationship with the team members, your skills etc., So, how do you handle those challenges? How can you be a perfect leader? I've given some tips below.

1) Role is not Title - People have complained to me in the past saying that they weren't given the title, but only the role to play. They've to be mindful about that. You were just given the 'role' & not the 'title'. So, don't start to boss around.

2) People have to accept you as a leader. You should demonstrate that you are a 'Go TO' person for problems. You don't have to solve all their problems. But, you should be in a position to suggest/guide them towards solution. At times, it is a matter of just redirecting them to the right people.

3) Listen to people's issues. You have to be a good listener.

4) Take actions - don't wait for things to escalate. You shouldn't lend a deaf year to people's concerns. Just let them know that you are working on it. People like to know the action you're taking against their requests/concerns. So, keep them posted.

5) Be organised & disciplined. These are some good traits of a good leader/manager. People should feel that you are good at tracking items/activities to completion. You should also provide a status update to folks, regularly.

6) If there are 'people issues' between your team members - try to understand the concerns of the parties. Do not take a 'one-sided' approach. Do what is good for the product/project/company. That way, it is easier to make an 'unbiased' decision.

7) Treat all your team members as 'equal'. You may have some buddies within the team. Do not share 'confidential' information even with your buddies.

8) Undergo leadership trainings & read books related to team building, leadership etc., You have to continuously 'sharpen the saw'.

9) Be pro-active & not re-active. Don't always work in fire-fighting mode. Always, think ahead & anticipate things. Be prepared.

10) Maintain good 'rapport' with all your team members. Try to interact with all of them to the extent possible. Don't always interact with them only about 'official' things. Check with them how they enjoyed their weekend. Go out with them for coffee/tea or for lunch. Have conversations & discuss about things other than work. If possible, plan for team building activities with your team.

11) Don't micro-manage people. Folks like to have freedom. At the same time, don't let them loose. Be assertive 'instead' of being 'authoritative' when communicating deadlines, expectations etc.,

12) Don't be submissive. I've seen some folks falling on the feet of their team members to get things done. This is not good. You need to demonstrate that you are a 'capable' leader.

13) Communication is key. "What", "How" & "Where" you communicate is very important. If you think you need to improve your communication skills, join Toastmasters.

14) Impress your 'boss' & your 'team members'. Don't just try to impress your boss, alone. At the end of the day, your team members are also the decision makers. They should feel comfortable working for you.

15) You may even realize that 'leading/managing a team' is not the right job for you. If so, don't pretend that you can do the role. Go and talk to your boss. See if he/she can help you in any ways. Contact other peers who have done similar roles in the past. Get guidance from them.

The best example that I can give for 'Leadership without authority' is Gandhi's efforts towards India's independence. He did not have the title, but he had the power. He was able to motivate folks to get things done towards a common cause. Your task as a leader is not very different from what Gandhi did.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Conflicts with co-workers? You are not alone ...

Do you have tough co-workers? Do you often run into conflicts with them? You are not alone. There is tough people everywhere. So, how do you handle tough people at work? Some tips to handle tough folks:

1) Do not 'fight' with them over emails. They won't stop. So, you are the one who has to STOP.

2) Talk to them in person & try to understand their perspective. See if you can influence them with your view points.

3) Often, you may not be able to convince tough folks. If you still feel that it is going to hurt the product/project, you have to escalate that to your boss.

4) Do not send emails to escalate 'people' related issues. Just go & talk to the concerned folks in person. You never know who the email would get forwarded to. It is better to be safe than sorry.

5) Try to develop some rapport with tough people - take regular coffee breaks with them, go out for a short walk with them, go out for lunch w/ them, share some weekend experiences with them. You don't have to develop friendship with them. But, don't be their enemy :)

6) Do not quarrel with tough folks IN-PERSON. Always, mind your words. After all, we are professionals.

7) Ignore tough people, if that will not affect the product/project

8) Don't try to 'back-stab' tough people. It is not in the best interest of you or them or the company

9) Don't complain about tough people to 'arbitrary' folks. Words travel fast.

10) Be assertive when talking to tough people - but don't be arrogant. Also, don't behave like you are trying to be 'submissive'.

11) People are tough when they think they are 'responsible' or if they feel that you are competing with them (or) if they are very 'attached' to something (or) if they are 'self-centered' (or) if they want to get 'recognized'. Try to understand why they are 'tough'. It will help you to handle the problem, better.

Dealing with tough people is often very difficult. All you need to do is be conscious about it. If you have adequate patience, you'll master the art soon.

How to be a STAR performer?

You are a person who completes all the assigned tasks on time. You check emails or work from home almost daily. You even sacrifice some of your weekends to complete the project. You travel for your company on a very short notice. You hardly have any time for you and your family. But, in spite of doing all this hard work, you don't get the rating that you wanted.

At the end of the review cycle, your boss says "You did a great job in completing your tasks. I wish you had done better on other areas also" or your boss says, "I personally wanted to give you the best rating. But, the top management didn't approve it". Does this sound familiar to you? Don't worry. You don't have to hear those statements again in your life. I am going to give you 5 simple tips to get the "best rating in performance reviews".

Tip #1: Understand your objectives

This is one of the important things to do to get the best rating. Are your objectives well defined? Do you know the criteria that your boss has to measure your performance? Are those agreed upon and documented?

Let me give you an example. Say, you have an objective like "Deliver a high quality product". The perception of quality varies between individuals. A person from Microsoft may think that a high quality product can crash or reboot twice a day. Whereas, a person from Apple may think that a high quality product should not crash at all.

Ask your boss this question "What should I do against this objective to get an Outstanding rating?" Get a clear understanding about your objectives and the measurement criteria before you sign-up for something.

Tip #2: Always go the extra mile

If you are expected to just develop a product/feature - go the extra mile - and do some extensive testing. If you are just expected to test a functionality/feature, - go the extra mile - and complete the test automation.

Your boss may come to you and ask "Eric, I know that you have so many tasks in your plate. There is a new hire who just joined our team. Will it be possible for you to mentor him?" Your boss comes to you because he thinks that you can help him. Do not disappoint your boss. Be willing to take additional responsibilities. Go the extra mile.

Tip #3: Be Consistent

At the beginning of the review cycle, you may be very excited and motivated to achieve your goals. But the motivation should sustain.
If you are expected to send "Weekly Status reports" once a week, send it without failure every week.
If your manager expects you to complete your deliverables on time - make sure that you complete them on time, every time. You should have the same levels of commitment and performance throughout your review cycle.

Tip #4: Have a few Bulleted/Star Achievements

This is an important thing that differentiates you from others. Imagine that you are one of the 5 mechanics who work for a car service shop. You check brakes, rotate tires, change oil, change filters and fix the issues with the car like every other mechanic. If you want to differentiate yourself from others,

- come up with a strategy to service more cars in less time,
- volunteer to train the new joiners in your team,
- learn how to fix issues with the new cars in the market,
- go beyond your customer's expectations

Don't just do what you are expected to do. There should be some star items (things that are not the USUALS) and those items should be BULLETED in your performance review form.

Tip #5: Project what you do

I've seen many people slogging day & night to get the work done, but they fail to project their hard work to their bosses. How would your boss know that you are spending extra hours unless you let him know? How would your boss know that you are doing the work efficiently unless you let him know? How would your boss know that you are completing things on time, unless you let him know? Typically, a manager has 10 or more people reporting to him. So, it is hard for the boss to keep track of what each & everyone is doing.

Make sure that you send your Weekly Status Reports. Have regular 1-on-1s with your boss. Send emails after completing tasks or let your boss know in person. Some managers don't read their emails. Make sure that your team also knows about your accomplishments. In many organizations, peer reviews are considered to rate your performance. Your peers should also acknowledge your work.

In order to get the best rating in performance reviews, you don't have to work for 12 hours per day. You don't have to sacrifice the weekend movie that you had planned with your family. You don't have to be super-smart. Just follow these 5 simple tips.

I'm sure you all would come out with flying colors in performance reviews.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Soft skills - A hard requirement

Any job interview would focus on technical skills (your expertise on the subject matters) & soft skills (your communication, interpersonal skills, motivation, commitment etc.,). It is mandatory to have a proper mix of both technical & softskills. There are folks who do exceptionally well in technical interviews - but they still do not get selected because of the lack of soft skills (& vice versa).

What are some of the soft skills that employers look for? Some of the soft skills that people look for, are - communication, commitment, self-motivation, eagerness to learn, willingness to perform, creative thinking, hard working nature, team player, listening, punctuality, confidence, leadership, putting up your best etc., Employers can easily judge many of these skills during the interviews - so don't try to cheat. You should be able to give specific examples for each of your 'soft-skill'. For example, the interviewer may ask "Tell me a situation where you have to learn things on your own & perform". You should be able to give a specific situation as example. That will improve your credibility.

If you are a college graduate, you may ask "How do I groom my soft skills in college?" College life provides you several opportunities to shape up your personality & to develop your skills. You can organize/involve in all sorts of college activities. For example, participating in debates & speech contests would help in improving your listening/communication skills. You can also become a member of a nearby Toastmasters club to improve your communication/listening/leadership skills. Conducting various symposiums & organizing functions would help to groom your leadership & team playing skills. Conducting mock interviews would boost your confidence. You can also pick up some of the soft skills effectively by reading good books.

If you are out of college, you can get acquainted with non-profit organizations to do service or any kind of social work. You would get enough opportunities to hone your organizational/leadership skills.

Developing your soft skills is more challenging than learning technical stuff. Some of your characteristics may be in-born (or engraved during childhood days). It would be hard to get rid of some bad behavior. However, if you try consciously you'll be able to overcome your limitations.

Soft skills are a hard requirement for hi-tech jobs. You better develop them, when it is not too late.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Standard of fresh graduates in India

I interviewed a fresh candidate at my work, today. He had done B.E (IT). His areas of interest had "Operating System" in it. I asked him a simple question - "What are the functions of an operating system"? He answered "Scheduling". I asked "What else?". He was spell bound. He couldn't think of anything else. I was astonished. A guy who has done his Bachelors in IT with a score of 83% couldn't answer what the functions of an operating system are. I then started probing more.

Me: What is the OS you used at college?

Him: Windows

Me: What do you do with it?

Him: I write C programs. I execute some sytem commands in the "command prompt".

Me: How are the C programs stored?

Him: They are stored as "files".

Me: Doesn't the OS manage these files - storing/retrieving etc.,?

Him: Yes

Me: What do you call these devices as - monitor, keyboard, mouse, joy stick, & printer?

Him: Hardware

Me: Hardware is too generic. What do you call these devices as?

Him: Access devices

Me: Don't you use these devices to give input & get output from computers?

Him: Yes

Me: Now, what do you call these devices as?


Me: Don't you call them as "I/O devices"?

Him: Yes

Me: Doesn't the OS manage these I/O devices?

Him: Yes. Sir! I should've had a staff like you in college. I should've met you a year back when preparing for interviews.

Me: Well, it is not too late.

I told him that he may not be suited for the position that we are looking to fill. I then recommended him the list of things he should learn. I also gave him my contact number & email. I asked him to get in touch with me for any questions/doubts regarding interview preparation. I wished him all the best. 

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Modes of communication - Email (or) Phone?

There was a time when people communicated with mails & telegrams, only. Today, we have a variety of communication options such as phone, conference, email, sms, and chat. Effective use of these communication modes is very key for successful business - especially when your co-workers and customers are geographically separated. There is no perfect communication mode. The use of the right communication mode depends on a lot of factors including the person/group, geographic location (time zone), topic of conversation, business need, urgency of the issue, & YOU. The following are some of the things you should consider before choosing the communication mode:

When to make a phone call?
- When you think it is an urgent issue that requires immediate attention
- When it is a sensitive/confidential issue that cannot be 'documented' in email
- When you want the other person to make a decision immediately
- When you haven't received a response from the other person for your email
- When you think it is better to 'talk about the issue' instead of going back 'n forth over emails
- When you can 'articulate' better over phone as opposed to email
- When the other person has asked you to give a call
- When you or the other person doesn't have access to email

When to send an email?
- When you are not expecting an immediate response from the other person
- When you have don't have a time sensitive issue
- When you can 'articulate' better over email as opposed to phone
- When the other person has asked you to send an email
- To summarise the discussion you had with the other person over phone/chat
- In addition to a phone call, it is always good to send an email. Email can be read multiple times. If the other person didn't not get you properly during the phone call, he/she can always refer to the email.
- Phone conversations may not be very reliable at times (due to noisy phone lines, poor phone receiver, missed VOIP speech segments etc.,). You need to send emails to fill the gap.
- When you want to 'escalate' something to several folks
- When you want to 'document' an issue for future reference
- When the other person doesn't like to get bugged over phone
- At times, it is good to send an email before calling someone on the phone. It would help them to digest the contents of the email & they'll be prepared to respond back to you over phone.

When to 'chat' or 'sms' with the other person?
'chat' & 'sms' are becoming more popular these days for official communications. You can get real time responses from people & at the same time, the other person gets an opportunity to think before talking/chatting. 'chat' & 'sms' are still very informal ways of communicating with people. You need to be very cautious about 'what' you chat/sms.

- When you want to get some quick information/status from people
- When you don't want to 'archive' the communication for future reference
(Though the messengers provide support for archiving chat conversations - it is not predominantly used yet).
- When the conversation that you are having is 1-on-1 (Occassionaly, people do conferencing in chat)

The use of right mode of communication will help you to be successful in your career.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

3Cs to be a STAR in the hi-tech world

Hi-tech companies throw loads of money at people. Getting a hi-tech job has proven to be the easiest way to lead a comfy life. No wonder, why there is lots of institutions incubating engineers in India. Hi-tech jobs are very competitive. What do companies value? How do you become a STAR? The answer is 3Cs - Creativity, Communication & Contribution.

Creativity - Ballpoint pens carried by astronauts were leaking due to pressure in high-altitudes in the space. Americans spent nearly $11 million to invent a pen that doesn't leak. Russians just used a pencil. This is what is called "creativity". Creativity saves lots of time, resources & money. Creativity helps companies to venture into new domains. Creativity is hence valued the most.

Communication - Most of the hi-tech companies do job for offshore firms. As part of your day to day work, you'll have to interact with folks from different geographic domains. You should be in a position to express your ideas effectively. You've to excel in written, oral & non-verbal. One who is able to express his/her ideas effectively, often gets more credit.

Contribution - Hi-tech engine runs on the contributions from people. Typically, 80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people. So, the 20% who are STAR contributors are valued the most. If you get enough opportunities to learn, don't hesitate to work hard. Hard work cannot substitute smart work - but it can definitely complement it.

If you have any of the 3Cs you'll be fine. If you have all the 3Cs, you'll be a STAR in the hi-tech world.

Monday, July 02, 2007

You have a choice...

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference"

-- Robert Frost

Life is wonderful. It offers lots of choices - right from your childhood ... all the way to your end. Remember the days when you were a little kid. Your parents took you to a toy shop. Your eyes grew wide & you were very excited to see the colorful toys in front of you. You wanted to have them all. But your parents told "Dear.. we cannot buy them all. Do you want the teddy or the car". You had to make a choice.

You grew up and there were abundant choices - for food, dress, TV programs, friends etc., After your higher secondary education, you had to choose your college & courses - do I want to be an engineer or doctor? do I want to go to a government college or a private college? Finally, you enrolled in a course. In the blink of an eye, you got your degree. Now, what do you want to be? Do you want to do your higher studies (or) Do you want to work?

Well, the choices are never ending. Life is all about making decisions. You've to either act or re-act. Inaction is not an option. Now, the big question is "HOW DO I MAKE THE BEST CHOICE?". There is no perfect answer to this question. I've seen people pondering over the 'choices' for weeks, months and years. By the time they make a choice, the options would've vanished. What I've learned is "MAKE A CHOICE. GIVE IT YOUR BEST. DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE RESULTS". You would've often made the right choices.

Monday, March 12, 2007

How to be a top performer? - 4Cs for a successful career

I had been to GCT, Coimbatore to attend a technical symposium (Infoquest 2007), last week. I was asked to talk to the current 3rd year students who are preparing for their placement interviews. There were about 120 people assembled in a hall. I gave them tips about "What do software/IT companies look for, in fresh graduates? What does it take to be a top performer in IT companies? How to be successful in your career?". In essence, you need to have the 4Cs - Commitment, Communication, Competence and Collaboration.
  1. Commitment - Companies look for committed people. Commitment can reflect in multiple forms such as hardwork, availability, ownership, and attitude. At the end of the day, a manager wants his team member to get the job done. The manager can develop confidence in you, only if you show your commitment towards work.
  2. Communication - You may have wealth of technical knowledge and skills. But, you should be able to express your knowledge/skills in a way that others can understand. Communication is not just about talking to people in fancy English. Communication is expressing your thoughts in a way that others can understand. In an IT industry, you get to communicate in multiple ways - by writing documents, sending emails, chatting over messengers, participating in conference calls, participating in discussions, and providing status updates. The one who communicates well, gets higher visibility and recognition. 
  3. Competence - Competence includes knowledge and skills. Knowledge is something that you can develop by reading books or by listening to lectures. However, you need to have hands-on exposure to develop your skills. Working on a number of projects would give you the real world exposure and thus, you can develop your competence. If you are competent enough, the employer spends less time in training you and hence, saves cost and time.
  4. Collaboration - You cannot live in your own world, when you work for an IT company. Most of the times, you tend to work as groups/teams. You need to be able to work with others to get the job done. You are not only expected to collaborate with fellow team members who are sitting across the aisle, but also with folks who are located around the world. Advancements in IT industry has turned the world into a small village. You are too interdependent and your ability to work in a team would go a long way.
Having the 4Cs (Commitment, Communication, Competence and Collaboration) will guarantee you success.

Fresh college graduates can find a number of freshers job openings at

Monday, January 01, 2007

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At, we recognize that privacy of your personal information is important. Below is information on what types of personal information we receive and collect when you use and visit, and how we safeguard your information. We will never sell your personal information to third parties.

Log Files

As with most other websites, we collect and use the data contained in log files. The information in the log files include your IP (internet protocol) address, your ISP (internet service provider, such as AOL), the browser you used to visit our site (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox), the time you visited our site and which pages you visited throughout our site.

Cookies and Web Beacons

We do use cookies to store information, such as your personal preferences when you visit our site. This could include only showing you a popup once in your visit, or the ability to login to some of our features, such as forums.

We also use third party advertisements on to support our site. Some of these advertisers may use technology such as cookies and web beacons when they advertise on our site, which will also send these advertisers (such as Google through the Google AdSense program) information including your IP address, your ISP , the browser you used to visit our site, and in some cases, whether you have Flash installed. This is generally used for geotargeting purposes (showing New York real estate ads to someone in New York, for example) or showing certain ads based on specific sites visited (such as showing cooking ads to someone who frequents cooking sites).

DoubleClick DART Cookies

We also may use DART cookies for ad serving through Google’s DoubleClick, which places a cookie on your computer when you are browsing the web and visit a site using DoubleClick advertising (including some Google AdSense advertisements). This cookie is used to serve ads specific to you and your interests (”interest based targeting”). The ads served will be targeted based on your previous browsing history (For example, if you have been viewing sites about visiting Las Vegas, you may see Las Vegas hotel advertisements when viewing a non-related site, such as on a site about hockey). DART uses “non personally identifiable information”. It does NOT track personal information about you, such as your name, email address, physical address, telephone number, social security numbers, bank account numbers or credit card numbers. You can opt-out of this ad serving on all sites using this advertising by visiting

You can choose to disable or selectively turn off our cookies or third-party cookies in your browser settings, or by managing preferences in programs such as Norton Internet Security. However, this can affect how you are able to interact with our site as well as other websites. This could include the inability to login to services or programs, such as logging into forums or accounts.

Deleting cookies does not mean you are permanently opted out of any advertising program. Unless you have settings that disallow cookies, the next time you visit a site running the advertisements, a new cookie will be added.