Sep 21, 2008

"Go Kiss The World"

Two books in a month is fast reading when compared to my regular pace. It also means that my regular  spend on money is actually yielding some returns.The latest book i managed to finish is another biography, written in a friendly and fast pace. In 'Go Kiss the World', Subroto Bagchi writes about his life, what has shaped him and shares several useful nuggets for any young person.

Several things about Subroto and his book immediately struck a chord as i share the same background or context. I too spent most of teen years in Orissa, changed four schools and loved the experience. The open spaces at our township in Paradip, my schooling at Kendriya Vidyalaya, the library that exposed me to great English novels which eventually helped me crack b-school exams with ease. I have sometimes wondered if that was a blessing or a curse since I was not exposed to enough competition that led to spectacular failures in competitive exams right after my Class XII. Fortunately things turned for the better once a stint in big city academia and the ruthless competition there exposed all my weaknesses. I think most people who grow up in small towns indulge in this self doubt.

Bagchi admits that he was not cut out for a military career and though he was selected as the best NCC Cadet in the country, stayed away from it. He was fortunate to get some frank advice from a military person he later calls an angel. Later his first job was as a Lower Division Clerk (LDC) in the Orissa government. If not for some perhaps  misplaced overconfidence, I too would have ended up as an LDC in my first job.  After my own  experimentation with a military career, one of my relatives was keen that I take up some job and sent me several application forms for exams conducted by the government for selection into LDC positions. I promptly said No, though at that time i was not aware of what i would end up doing. I had no angel like Bagchi's when I was teenager and ended up wasting a couple of years of my academic career! But I found my angel later in final year of graduation (one Capt. Parthibhan of Pentafour Software in 1995), and this man who had then just returned from Singapore pointed me in the right direction. The book underscores the need to find good mentors and also be available to others as a mentor.

On a TV interview I happened to see while reading this book, Bagchi answered to a question, that one company that he really admires is Infosys. He calls  Infosys an institution and not just a company. Building a company is not a big deal, but building an institution is! I couldn't agree less having seen this company for quite some time now.

One of the things I liked is the perspective of a career spanning thirty or forty years and not a few years or the current job. I found myself giving similar advice to a group of youngsters couple of days ago! He also debunks the romantic myth several IT professionals hold about early retirement; I take that as a timely advice. I really wish I had read a book like this before I started my career - could have done a few things differently.

Sep 6, 2008

Fortune mag on Business Coaches

The September 1, 2008 edition of Fortune magazine carries a review of three business coaches and their methodologies. Stephen Covey, David Allen and Jim Loehr - all three charge an arm and a leg but promise nothing short of salvation ('meet your life's ultimate mission'), though in different ways. The author obviously does not announce a winner or recommend a method, but does provide a good inside peek, having interacted with the messiahs themselves and then their trained 'facilitators' .

I have flirted with the methods of the first two and learnt something from each over the years.  Covey's book was read almost nine years ago and I still remember it having left a distinct and almost inspiring touch on my psyche. However that it did not last long and I did not take it fully forward (guess my life would have been different otherwise!).

I came across David Allen's "Getting Things Done" this year and liked it very much. I now use it to keep mail box clean and lean. Am still struggling to integrate Outlook tasks with 'Next actions' in my inbox. And still have to the higher things in life that he promises will happen.

Loehr's theory is somewhat new but then not entirely new. He is a sports psychologist and much of what he says is also said by Lance Armstrong in his biography. In a way I have recently begun to do what he espouses. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you would have guessed by now that i am into running with a goal to complete a half marathon by this year end. What you would pay Loehr thousands of dollars to learn in person is already encapsulated in this training workout schedule by Hal Higdon, which is helping thousands of clueless novices like me achieve running goals!

Link to Fortune magazine which actually doesn't help, read another review here.

Sep 5, 2008

Google Chrome shines

Do I need a new web browser? Not really but i still downloaded Google Chrome and played with it. A fast and neat browser, but I won't make the switch completely yet as I love my FireFox browser extensions (feedly and meetimer) which are also newly installed! Call it fancy for a new thing if you would. What I like about Chrome is that is stable and hence saves minutes of browsing time each day. The browser is not 'in the face' and does not get into the way of whatever you are browsing.

Now Chrome is new but still underscores the importance of a developer community, which Firefox seems to have mastered. Google will surely attract developers who will mimick or create more Firefox like add ons. Microsoft must be wondering what to do, now that Google has opened up yet another flank in its ongoing war.

Sep 3, 2008

Ganesha Shopping

September is when the Hindu festival of Ganseha (Vinayaka Chavithi) comes. One the most colourful and enjoyable aspects of the Ganesha festival is the streets decorated with various puja items. Figurines and statues of various sizes, shapes and colors line up the streets. Heaps of stems and green leaves of various trees and plants, called patri and banana shoots turn the streets a riot of green. Fruits ranging from velakkayi, apple, guava, corn etc are also sold - these make up a palavalli (small ceiling made of bamboo sticks). What i enjoy the most is buying these from the hawkers and vendors who mostly come from nearby villages. Their rustic demeanour and simplicity is perhaps the reason. One such occasion at Gudivada (my home town) eleven years ago is still fresh in mind. I had spent a lot of time speaking to the kids on the street in the process of buying the stuff. Perhaps what keeps this occasion still relatively free from commercialisation is that this comes only once a year, and the ad-hoc suppliers are from the villages.