Saturday, October 30, 2010

Interview I recently did


My official job profile is an Associate Architect with QuickOffice, responsible for all architecture for future products shipping out of India Operations. What would amuse you most is that I was an Agile Project Manager for last 4 years and I am also a Scrum Master. Also, I am an evangelist for both Agile processes and Technology trends. I speak at various technical conferences in Pune. Moreover, I do a lot of counseling for people around me.

This might seem to many as sailing in more than one boat, not really

I believe in today’s fast tracked world, being technology leader, managing people and evangelizing new tracks goes hand in hand. There is no way a Small to mid size company can afford pure Architects or pure Managers. This is the new age requiring people to be Agile in Processes and Technology as well.

1. How the career journey started? Or who inspired you to enter in this field?

If you are talking about my journey into the industry, I always wanted to work in Computer. I had been taking my Computer Education from Grade 6.
However, the major change came to my journey when I had 3-4 years experience. Before this, I can say I was a mediocre Software Professional, working for Money or a Position, basically in a Rat race. This helped me understand the typical mentality what people have and helps me know how to inspire them.

My first inspiration was an Architect in Sigma Software named Sumeet. He was a person who work shipped Math and Logic. There I learned about going thorough with anything you do in life.

My second inspiration was Director of Engineering from QuickOffice named Keith Bottner. Now he is a part of Google, doing exciting work there. He was a right mix of person driving technology and understand people management.

Recently, I am inspired greatly by the VP of Engineering at QuickOffice, the legendary David Halpin. Amazingly deep in Technology plus extraordinary understanding of processes and human psyche, that is how he had been delivering successful products after products all his life.

Last I cannot go without talking about Gouri Pendse, the best people’s manager I worked with. This person was clear in terms of people’s behavior and expectations.

I think I was blessed throughout my career with great mentors both on People management and Technology, that I am where I stand today.

2. Share some info about your career graph.

  • After the first 3-4 years in industry, when the mist of confusion got cleared, I focused myself greatly to learning. Learning about Learning itself, Technical Skills, clear foundations. But also I focused on various soft skills, ways to introspect myself whenever the opportunity presented itself.
    Owing to this, at 4 years of experience I become a Project Lead and at 5 years I become a Project Manager. I carried the flagship of Agile when it was just introduced for my Company. At year 6 I was a public speaker for various Google Technologies and already talking on number of platforms in Pune. I joined Google as a Evangelist for a short time. Then joined back my pervious Organization.
    Now at year 9 I am the following
    • Associate Architect with QuickOffice
    • Hiring Manager for QuickOffice
    • Agile Evangelist at Synerzip
    • Certified Scrum Master
    • Technical Speaker in Pune
    • Corporate Trainer
    • Project Guide for various Colleges

The most important part is I enjoy everything I do in my work place. I think that is a much bigger achievement than things above.

3. What exactly you wanted to do when you started career?
I understood little when I started, like most of us. But overall, as I knew more, I was more and more inclined towards Leading an important effort in an Organization. I thought of leading a complete department both people wise and technology wise. Most important was to lead in an unconventional ways; Unconventional ways, which are logically sane, which makes people feel better about themselves. Making the people assets and treating them like one, this one thought was always on the top of my mind.

4. What kind of difficulties you had faced while entering into this career field?

Quite frankly I faced two difficulties. One within my self and one within the way companies function.

Difficulty within Myself:

I learned an important lesson in life, “Life is very fair”. It’s we who make it sound like unfair. My basic difficulty was to believe I deserve more, when I did not. It was not until I joined a class “Hope Academy”, not until I learned about mediation to see things clearly, not until I studied Psychology, I understood, my Ego came in my way to learn more and improve more.

This is something which people don’t talk about hence I do.
Once I came over the issue of “Life is not fair”, my learning and understanding took a leap beyond any bounds. This is where I was born again.

Another difficulty I faced due to ambitions and high goals, was deteriorating physical and mental health. Yes, we all know it quite common in IT. But I realized this will be a hurdle always.

Difficulty within Organizations:

Most organizations treat people like resources. By resources I mean objects. This is the first basic flaw they have. Often Processes are much more important than people. I saw this as a basic issue, which leads to “Lack of pro activeness” in all bigger organizations.

I mean the basic disregard to people was amazingly profound. I when joined such organization felt ignored, part of a crowd, with no regard to my contribution to the organization. The result was a similar feeling towards the organization from my side.

5. Share with our readers about discovery period when you were facing difficulties in your career?

Looking at my own difficulties I discovered Life is very fair, it gives you right opportunities, you just have to say “Yes” to them. The only way to grow up (instead of growing old) was to “Plan, Act and Introspect”.

I discovered that I actually loved learning (I bet it’s the same with others), but this got lost due to conflicts in my own mind.

On the career side I learned everything in the following manner

    1. Why
    2. What
    3. How

This made any big technical problem small. Now the why was more important. Given an Enterprise solution, once the Why is understood and What is understood, half the journey is done.
Amazingly, a clarity in thought came to me and when I shared the same with people around me, they too took very well to it.

I remember when I was in Persistent Systems. After a while, I stopped blaming and complaining and took to serious study of Java, Enterprise Java and the product I worked on in general. I was joined by my collegauge Aditya (a QA person that time, now a Developer in Tibco), we two studied the Why, the What and we shared ideas on the How.

Now the Work was exciting and happening!

About the discovery in Organization, I learned the only way to get respect is to give respect. World is a Mirror, What you give is what you get back.

Certain thoughts made place in my mind, I was clear I need to follow them whenever I have a say in leading a group

1. Put people over processes, they will make wonders happen for you.

2. Giving right Gratitude, earns back the right respect
3. Tell people What, they will amaze you with the How

6. Share with our readers about your experiment period after discovery period?

This was an exciting period in my life. Often in organizations there is a basic disconnect

1. What boss wants and what people do?

2. Understanding of why people are payed

3. Who is considered as a top performer?
4. Leadership and Learning is a continous process

In fact above where answers which came to me, from my experiments.

First Experiment, I did was I had a frank talk with my then mentor “Gouri Pendse”. We talked openly about what she expects and I did. Initially it started from her side, which I picked up and continued. I was surprised a number of times, to see what she often wanted, I did not think about. As this gap diminished, I made her redundant in her current role, she got promoted, so did I

Second experiment, I took to was due to my desire to earn more. I wanted to understand the secret to earn more. Here again my mentor, Gouri told me in simple terms

“If you want to earn more mooha, you need to make company earn more mooha”. I think everyone who hears this, would say “we already know so”, but really knowing and acting on it are two different things.
I took every opportunity to expand my team, working with my client and selling more ideas. The team was expanded to twice the size, my salary too bloated up.

Third experiment. I wanted to be top performer in my Company. But before I put energy I wanted to know what it means. I did understand very well, that what ever I do extra, should not affect my current work. I trained my team to be expert in that (and they did splendid good). With the extra time at hand, I started defining “Top Performer”.

I talked to the CTO of my company “Vinayak Joglekar” about my desire to be some day in his shoes. Amazingly, he revealed the great secret, he told “I reason, I am a CTO of this company is not only because I know technology, or because I know the right kind of people, but mainly due to the fact, the right kind of people know me”.

This clicked, it made sense, My Smart Work, needs to be firstly seen, then appreciated and replicated. Only then, I would be recognized as a thought leader and a Top Performer.

I got my definition of a Top Performer – “The one who not only himself/herself is Good in what he/she does, but also brings the same effectiveness in his/her team or organization”.
Believe me, this was a definition of “A” in our appraisal sheet and it still is

Fourth Experiment was very simple; it was to follow all this every day without any exception. I became a Project Manager the same year

This was about one stage in my life. In a stage not so far in past. I was effective but struggling with people I worked. It was shared with me in my appraisals, that I cannot let people work at their pace and some people cannot and will not follow mine.
First human reaction was I was taken a back with the fact, I was still not able to see the mirror. Lesson learned, it’s a process, I need to keep taking feedback from others. I consulted my Team Lead Yogesh Patel (a great guy by the way). He told me simply, you do lead by example, but you definitely need to give people space. He continued, If I pushed them further some people will go negative or go mum. And Yes that was happening with few of my team members.

Next project, I learned from my Team Lead Yogesh, lead by example and gave people space. This time, I took off my judge hat and threw it. I continued to be show gratitude to my team, as they were really working well. Amazingly, this time the results where extra ordinary. I was extremely proud of my team. All of them performed very well, everyone was an expert in one or two aspects of the product, process or technology. This was the best team I got the opportunity to work with.

“Lead by Example, Give Space”

On other experiment, more on Technology side. I kept of learning not only the technology I worked on but anything which was interesting. I saw, no two technology are disjoint, some where the same principles are followed. I had worked on Enterprise Java initially, then databases alone, then Web 2.0. Then cloud computing, now mobile applications.

Concentrating on the Why and What, but understanding the commonality in the how gave me great insight into products architected well. They all leveraged Engineering Principles. There was real engineering work done, instead of just using some apis and building a application.

I am not sure you will look at this as an experiment, but the end result is very important. Under the leadership of one of my mentors “Keith”, we delivered a software library to Google. Google was struggling with an engineering problem. We took on the engineering problem, instead of relying on third party solutions, we built everything from scratch knowing this needs to be better than anything in the world.
An Office with few people of my profile and rest 25-27 years experience people delivered a library to Google, which would become part of their backend.

Now how cool is that!

7. What are your future plans? Or now what is your vision for next five years?
Frankly, Career plans don’t work. Instead I would talk about what I would like to do wherever I work

1. Work only where my goals and my company’s goal match. “Be no 1 in market, and feel great working towards it.”

2. Understand business needs and plan how to make company become no 1 in that (yes even as an Architect or Project Manager, I can make a difference)

3. Align everyone I work with to Company’s goals.
4. Make more leaders out of people. Make a breeding ground for more thought leaders.

I see that being possible as a VP Engineering or Director of Engineering. But time will tell, as long as I do what I love to do, role and place hardly matter

8. What will be your advice/suggestion for new candidates for entering into your field?

I can talk a lot, but for new candidates just be like “Aamir” in the movie “3 Idiots”. Give more importance on how you Feel when you work than what money or status it gets you.

You must become an expert into one thing in life to be able to succeed. Plan, Act and Introspect through out the life. And most important, thank people, even those who create problems as they are giving you opportunity to grow further.

For people in IT industry, please learn, learn and learn then practice, practice and practice. Growth will happen automatically.

But most important while doing all this, I made sure did I sleep more than 8 hours a day.

Let me tell you a small story, I just heard yesterday. There was competition between lumber jacks. In the finals there where two people selected Bob and John. They had a curtain between them, so they cannot see each other. The competition was to cut maximum lumber in 4 hours.

In the first hour Bob (better build than John) chopped 6 trees, while John chopped 4. Next hours Bob was down to 5 and John was still 4. Then Bob reduced to 3 and then to 2. John was 4 constant



















While Bob just worked hard every hours and harder at the end, Bob worked smart. Every hour he took a break of 10 minutes from chopping and sharpened his axe. So he was well rested and the axe was always sharp. Bob put the same energy into his work as in the beginning but his axe was blunt.

I do what John does, I spend few hours every day studying, learning and introspecting, making my axe sharper and sharper.

If you young guys can follow this, you will get my kind of Success, “With everything like money and status coming your way, every day of life is doing what you enjoy and feeling good about it”

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