Mar 29, 2006

An IIT-IIM question

Ok, this is provoked by the following article by a juvenile loser at indiatimes
Should IITians keep away from IIMs?

What bull crap?! Im not even certain what issue is being raised here:
  • People opting out of placements to pursue unconventional careers?
  • IITians opting for management careers after BTech?
  • IIMs and recuiters preferring IITians?

    Whatever the intended subject is, the article is just plain ignorant and pathetic. It empathises with people who got left behind in the rat race, and cites trivial and hollow arguments against those who are on top (read IIT-IIM 'hotshots')

    The first issue is not even about IIT. Its about people pursuing their dreams. If Gaurav wants a degree in management to set up a music company, what right has anyone to object? The author does not even understand that Satyajit does not want to become a footballer, but to manage a football club. Both guys wanted to learn management, had business models in mind, and were chasing money and success like everyone else. So why the hell should they give up their IIM seats for someone else - who couldnt do better at CAT - to pursue a run-of-the-mill professional career? India needs entrepreneurs and big thinkers like these guys, not more Area Sales Managers, or BPO Team Leaders.

    As for the argument against IITians opting for careers in management, I beg to ask : How many people are certain of the best job and career choice for them in class 10? The decision to prepare for IIT is made at that age, with peer pressure, parental pressure and to ensure some financial security. I have some issues with that, but no way can the choice to join an IIT be held against someone at a later point in their life and career.
    Besides, MBA is not an extension of BComm or CA as people with the 'right background' claim. Its about business, management, money, fame, power...
    There is no reason why an engineer, or a doctor, or a commerce student, or anyone else - should not want to do an MBA. An IITian can want to run a business, or be a manager. Why must all IITians must remain in labs or technology firms as 'functional specialists'?

    And finally the 'he-bwoke-my-toy' crib about IITians being preferred by IIMs and recruiters. My simple, if somewhat arrogant, response to that is : Its the best education one can get in this country. IITians are academically sound, independent, strong performers and most of thsoe who opt for mgmt careers have damn smart personalities as well. Also - people dont realize this - IIMs dont actually 'prefer' IITians. If anything, they limit the no of IITians they admit to maintain a 'proper mix' in the batch. And the competition for those limited 'IITian seats' is tougher than it is for 'other seats'. These cry-babies should be thankful!

    If I'm a recruiter, and have to choose between someone with an 'IIT-IIM' pedigree and someone else, who would I choose? Who is most likely to have higher calibre?
    These guys have been thru two gruelling tests - JEE and CAT, and two rigorous courses, competing with the best in the country and emerging successful. They have a sound technical background with undoubted analytical and problem-solving ability, and soft skills I can easily ascertain as a recruiter. And i'm not a philanthropist - I'm a businessman who needs the best gladiator on my side to perform for my bosses and our shareholders.

    If anyone has any problem with any of the above, I do not wish to entertain dubious arguments that support the weak. Its about the survival of the fittest. An IIT degree and an IIM degree are hard facts - proof of fitness, and not questionable arguments or emotional 'reasons'. Find your 'fact of fitness'!

    Reference :Those who grudge IIT-IIM grads their sucess and feel they are overpaid, might want to read my take in this post
  • Mar 26, 2006

    Leading by example

    Today's Hindustan Times carried the headline "Sonia says she resigned because it was the right thing to do"

    I paused to think about it, and felt something between approval and admiration.

    Before anyone crucifies me for making political statements on this blog, allow me to clarify. I am not a fan of Sonia Gandhi. In fact I have grown up supporting the BJP and belong to the school of thought which believes that a person of Italian origin leading a country of a billion would be an embarassment.

    However, credit must be given where it is due. She is talking about 'doing the right thing'. The statement suggests the presence of a conscience, a degree of self-respect and the courage to stand up for principles. These values have absent in our polity for a while now. Leaders have displayed shameless opportunism, greed for power, and no concern for anyone or anything other than their personal interests. I do not remember recent political 'leaders' doing anything that inspired trust or respect. This woman, for the second time now, has assumed the moral high ground and taken the wind out of the Opposition's sails, and has set examples for others to follow. A good leader must be trusted to 'do the right thing', because they have the power to mislead masses. Its refreshing to see an Indian political leader talking about 'doing the right thing' and backing it up with action.

    There will be people who will dismiss this as a political gimmick. Maybe it is. I dont care. At least she is saying what I like to hear and thats a good first step. If she or anyone else, actually believes in these values, and supports statements like this with action, that will serve to restore some of faith that we have lost. But that is a future issue - the expectations, given our past, are much lower today.

    I thought the BJP and NDA got a raw deal in the last General Election. After everyone predicted a landslide victory for the 'India Shining' people, it was a rude shock to see the Congress win. It felt like a mistake - an injustice - that had to be undone. But now its fairly clear that the country is moving ahead on its own and as long as the Govt is not a decelarator, its not very important who rules. In fact, the BJP seems to be falling apart and has been disappointing in their performance as Opposition.

    Having said a few good words about Sonia Gandhi, I also want to write about the disgust I feel for the way sycophants in the Congress idolise her. At the start, she wasn't much more than the widow of an assasinated PM, who in turn rode into Parliament on an emotional wave, following the assassination of his mother. I dont understand why all 'leaders' in the Congress worship this family. It gives them an air of 'royalty', even though they are leaders in a democracy.
    But I admire Sonia for what she has done. And the Govt is doing well. Alls well that ends well.

    Mar 21, 2006

    No apologies

    To: A few special friends of Y2K

    When the bonds started to form, it all seemed perfect... forever...
    We promised, between friends, there would be 'No apologies. Ever'

    But things have changed - and so have you and I
    We both made mistakes - we know it yet we deny

    We ought to say sorry for small things that went wrong
    The ego gets in the way, and for times like the old we hopelessly long

    Straight from the heart, today I say
    I hope things work out, and for a better future i pray

    Luv ya all. Always.

    Mar 19, 2006

    Fishy business

    Today i took a giant leap toward becoming the perfect husband. I procured and prepared a fish curry and rice meal. No - not one of those things u just re-heat in the microwave. This was like raw rohu fish, onions, tomatoes, masalas and all. Preparing fish curry is arguably the messiest thing one can do in a kitchen. And doing it with only a microwave and no prior experience is an act of courage i assure you.

    This is the intermediate product:

    And the finished good:

    Ive got the rice just right. (If any1 needs a recipe for perfect microwaved rice - jus drop a comment with ur mail id). The fish - lets say there is opportunity for improvement ;) I was worried whether I'd even have an 'edible' meal tonight. It was ok after all - but if I make such an effort again, it'd have to taste better. In time...

    Of course, the meal was made much more enjoyable by the liquid accompaniment! Gotta give credit where its due - thanks to eM for putting the idea of Red Bull-n-Vodka in my head and to Mobz for validating it! I call it 'Le Jet Fuel' - Smirnoff 'Life is calling - whr r u' and Red Bull 'Gives u wings'. The combo is 'Le Jet fuel' which takes u 'up there!

    Final caveat - in case u think Im the 'will cook for myself' kinda guy and will make the perfect homely husband - that is not correct! Im way too lazy and too spoilt for that. This is only the second time I've cooked since i started livin alone - and thats been like 10 months now. But im open to the idea of cookin - and that should be good enough!

    Mar 17, 2006

    Value system

    This post is inspired by this article and a converstaion I recently had with FatSid.

    So what exactly do we mean by 'value'? To get us on a common platform, I'll try to define it based on my understanding. (This is a very crude functional definition that will never find its way into HBR)

    A value is a strong belief held by someone, that is not open to argument and not likely to change, on which s/he judges good-and-bad, right-and-wrong and the likes

    Generally these beliefs are formed as we grow up, based on what we observe around us and the way we understand the world. They are influenced by family, education, company and most of all our own positive and negative experiences. If a certain behavior was always condemned and you were punished for it, it is drilled into ur head as 'wrong'. Eg lying is wrong. u wr probably punished when u were caught lying and told stories of bad things happening to people who lie, including loss of cerdibility. So honesty was drilled in. However, if u always got away with lying and managed to avoid trouble, ur value system would allow u to lie as and when required, later in life. So values are formed over time, based on personal experience and therefore, not easy to change once settled in ones head.

    Why am I talking about values today?

    Because I've come to understand the importance of value-system alignment for relationships - professional as well as personal.

    I have a strong work ethic - i do not like wasting time and resources at work. I absolutely loath people who kill time at work, talk about joining a better company in the same role, and I cannot stand people who cheat the company - on leave cards, reimbursement claims etc. Because my value system does not approve any of these behaviors, I judge these people, avoid them and can be nasty to them. To them, their behavior is justifiable (for whatever reasons - based on their own life experience) and they think i'm an idealistic nut who does not know whats good for himself.

    My company claims to 'hire for attitude and train for skills'. The policy makes sense now - because I can see it works. I feel really comfortable with people with similar values and can have productive discussions and relationships with them. On the other hand, the friction is obvious with people not hired through the same process for the same attitude (most of em in the past).
    As for training for skills - I guess it would depend on the specific business and quality fo people. Seems to work fine here - may or may not elsewhere.

    The part about similar 'attitude' and 'values' is important, because these define the 'company culture'. Companies where values are not taken into consideration while hiring and while working everyday, can not have a consistent and distinct culture, and employees will believe, rightly, that 'culture' is all just fancy jargon used by HR to justify their presence and payscale. But when a conscious, focused effort is made to align personal and company values, you get a culture that increases productivity and effectiveness of efforts to achieve common goals.

    On the personal front, values become much more important. I cant choose my colleagues, but i do choose my companions. It is important that we share some common beliefs and have similar opinions and attitudes about most issues, otherwise we'd just be fighthing and arguing all the time.

    A friend shared with me the story of an affair he had - which was a disaster due to value differences. He came from a simple, somewhat-conservative punju family, was quite emotional and took relationships very seriously (Ok, his values and mine are aligned - we are friends after all) He went out with a babe from the North-east. Now, there, they drink and make merry. They are much more broadminded about several issues - dress, behavior, drinking and sex included. She was nice to him and really liked him, but they had very different values. Things were 'no-big-deal' for her, but he simply couldn't come to terms with them. He behaved the way he thought 'proper' and she thought he was 'an emotional fool'. Cant say either of them was 'right' or 'wrong', they simply had incompatible value systems. That is why, inspite of all the attraction, openness, enjoying each others company, the raltionship was doomed. Confrontations were inevitable - there would be issues where he said 'wrong' and she said 'right' and they simply could not understand each others viewpoint. Fact is - its not possible when your core values differ.

    One doesnt realize how important the 'sharing of values' is in a relationship, unless they end up in a disaster like this.

    Again, whats the point
    The point is simple - values are very important, and relationships dont work when values differ. So, to make your professional as well as personal life easier and happier:

  • Identify and understand your values. A simple test is - Ask yourself if something is right or wrong. Then ask yourself why u think so. Finally ask yourself - is ur opinion flexible? If its not, u've hit a wall of 'value system'. Dont bang ur head against it. Be aware of it and respect it
  • Check how your workplace, ur role, ur friends and other important people in ur life, rate on ur value system. If you find a major difference, understand that it is always going to create dissonance and unhappiness and do something to correct it if u can
  • Your values determine your behavior, your goals in life and what makes u happy. Think about ur long-term plans and where u can find true happiness. If ur long-term aim is just to make loads of money, and ur values do not allow u to cheat people; if family, relationships and work-life balance are important to u - it will not work out. Find out what u truly like to do and why, and try and do that. Dont chase someone else's dream.

    Thats a lot of gyan from me. This is an unusual post for this blog. But then, I like surprising people - including myself, and doing new things. As always, opinions and thoughts are welcome!
  • Mar 13, 2006

    Eternal question

    It is the question that has been on the minds of all men since we were apes, and probably even earlier. In fact, its the same for not just mankind, but for the entire animal kingdom.
    'What do i eat and where do i get my next meal'

    Sounds trivial to you? Pause and think about it...

    Sorry Mr Maslow, but here's my interpretation of the hierarchy of need.
  • Animals dont think of much else - find food, eat, sleep. Play, fight and have sex sometimes
  • Somalians are ok with man food - fruits, cereal, anything - as long as they get food
  • The poorest beg for food, or money to buy food
  • The poor can afford 2 basic meals per day - some cereal, and one dal/veg/bhajji
  • The slightly richer can afford some variety and good amount of food - but it remains roti/rice (with ghee), dal, veggie. maybe some egg/meat
  • The rich start fussing. They want the right taste, choice of veggies, dal/channa/rajma... they can take it for granted that theyll get good 'ghar ka khana' at least once a day. and thats a sign that u r some1 in urban india who the govt starts squeezing tax from
  • U become affluent like me and stop bothering with dals and veggies. U want nonveg stuff in every meal. The question is where do i eat tonite
  • U make it big in life like my pals mobz, and wonder 'indian, italian, mexican, lebanese, chinese or plain ol american'

    But no matter how far u go in life, how much u earn, how well settled u are and where u are, the basic question remains.

    All that changes are - the importance u give to this question and the options u have.

    'What/where/when do we eat?'
  • Mar 9, 2006

    Talent shortage?

    This seems to be a global theme of sorts.
  • Western cos want managers from developing coutries to manage overseas businesses the local way
  • The Chinese need managers who can speak english
  • The Japs need managers who can shake up the family-like, lifelong employment system
  • Indian fimrs need managers to handle thru-the-roof growth

    Fortune mag, Best employer surveys, CEOs, Peter Drucker... everyone is talking about the shortage of quality managerial talent

    Which makes ppl like me go 'W-T-F?!' We have like a dozen-odd B-Schools that are considered 'category-A' and produce 200+ young guns each year. No one seems happy with the work they are doing, wat they are being paid and the career paths they see.

    Now I remember reading something in Eco-1 that implied prices change and demand-supply converge to match over time. There are grads demanding good jobs and there are cos that crib abt shortage of talent. One would expect salaries to rocket (which they seem to be doing) and the situation to improve. Yet both sides do not appear happy now.

    I wish i could explain the whole thing and come up with a solution. But im just confused and perplexed like everyone else. Perhaps some 'veer consultant' can do some structure, MECE and other fancy stuff that consultants do with any-and-every problem, and come up with some hypothesis to explain the situation. And suggest a solution. Would like to debate and discuss it.

    If no one else does, and i hv enough idle time at hand (should not a problem) and sufficient enthu (always was a problem!), i will come up with my own hypothesis. And i really would like this to develop into a good discussion thread. (This messy post is not a good first step, nor i am a famous blogger like Rashmi. But will give it a shot anyway)
  • Mar 1, 2006

    Need of the hour

    Dig the irony of this. Was chattin with mah good ol pal - he was talkin passionately abt fuel cells and the breakthru work hes doin on energy from renewable sources. And at just that moment, the power supply went out!

    Dude - the world needs ur work! And after uve done all that and achieved watevah u want, spare a thot fer yer moderland also.

    Adios! lights out...

    A friend indeed

    No wonder this guy is possibly my best friend ever! In case u've read '1 days salary' read what Bikash had to say abt the same issue

    Hes come pretty much the same way i have - tho we are going very diff places, the principles and drivers are similar.