One hundredth post

This post, apart from being a self referential metaclog, is like the following picture in more ways than one.

Reasons for not hiring

Hiring is an extremely complicated problem. It is extremely difficult to judge a candidate's success in a given setting given it is a function of infinite things, a lot of which are things that the candidate doesn't control like the work environment, co-workers etc.

I have often thought about how majority of people would hire or not hire people in software companies. Some of the common reasons for people in technology industry would look like [they might not admit it ;-) ]
  • He wasn't non technical enough to be a software engineer
  • He didn't use words "scalable" and "business value" enough in the interview
  • He knows about Data Structures and algorithms
  • In cases where he didn't know the answer he just said "I don't know" instead of trying to justify that knowing those things is not required and isn't helping deliver business value. I would have loved if someone had gone one step further and claimed that not knowing them would bring valuable "layman's perspective" in the system which no other person in the team would have.
  • He didn't think our company was the greatest place on earth to work for and we were just an option.
  • Instead of agreeing to something wrong that I said, he tried to correct me. Didn't help that he did it politely.
  • Didn't know enough American politics and sitcoms.
  • He was smarter than me.
1. This is not a reflection on my past, present and future employers, is written as a non serious comment.

2. Using only he in the post is not because of any gender prejudice but just for the ease of writing.

PAN IIT Global Conference 2008

Just when I thought I couldn't take any more of the "talks" or jargon, I decided to attend PAN-IIT Global Conference 2008. As surprising as it may sound, the talks didn't bother so much this time. I went with the intention of bunking most of the sessions save the really good ones.; ended up spending all my time in sessions. There goes the Go-karting trip.

The theme of the event was Inspire, Innovate, Transform, a much better expansion of IIT than the ones we created while studying - Indian Institute of Torture or Institute of Infinite Torture.

Here is a starter on what IITs (courtesy Dilbert) are for the uninitiated (if there are any)

and I particularly like this quote ;-)

"Per capita, IIT has produced more millionaires than any other undergraduate institution." (Salon Magazine)

This is not meant to be a coverage of the whole program, there is plenty of that on internet. I have attached some of them at the end of the post. Here, I am trying to recall things that stuck after a marathon of talks. Here is my list of the top 10 at PAN IIT 08.

10. Prasad Ram (Head R&D, Google India) talking about social entrepreneurship. The way to move ahead is to take everyone with you.

9. Rajiv Grover talking about the need to have more open book exams. As such IITs have a culture of open book exams and contrary to what common sense suggests, they used to be brutal. But, he emphasized that moving away from rote learning is important, after all life is not a closed book exam.

He also had a comment or two about the recent trend of coaching institutes becoming an assembly line for churning iitians. IITs now, instead of getting smart people, get people trained by smart people. Food for thought?

8. One of the speakers (won't disclose the name here), who went on length about some facts and figures, got applause at awkward points which he duly acknowledged. After a few such instances one after the other, he got the drift and was quick to get away. No matter how old you get, some things just won't change.

7. Watching Viswanathan Anand play against 14 teams. He is the greatest sports icon I have seen live. He is the only player in the world to have won the world chess championship in all the three formats (Knockout, Tournament, and Match).

While traveling, once an intrusive stranger asked Vishy, what he did for living. When he got "playing chess" as the reply, he rephrased the question multiple times and got the same answer. Exasperated, he told him to be practical and start doing something worthwhile because everyone is not Viswanathan Anand who can earn money playing chess.

6. Innovators vs Ideators: The panelists, instead of putting innovation on a pedestal, demystified it to be anything that improves. Pointing out difference between ideators who bring out great ideas and innovators, who can take an existing idea and turn it around a bit to make it better. Taking example of Japan that seems to be doing a great job delivering great stuff using ideas originated in the US.

5. Amartya Sen: If you hear him talking, it would appear he is reading stuff out of a book. Went on length talking about the issue of Neeti and Nyay in India that struck a chord with one of my pet peeves - Process vs Execution. He was trying to point out that our issues, not so much lie in the Neeti part as much as in the Nyay (the application). An interesting piece of trivia I got to know was that he got appointed as the head of department, Economics at Jadavpur University at the age of 23.

4. Stephen Cohen and K Mahbubani on India Pakistan issue: This session was eye opening because of the way they conveyed that the crisis between India and Pakistan needs a span of 40 years to resolve starting now. And, how the conventional knee jerk reactions may not help. Some of the suggestions they had were to improve trade and education in Pakistan and try and make the moderates strong. Once empowered, they will fight the battle against terrorism from within and will be more effective.

An interesting point that was mentioned was the fact that the nuclear weapons in some convoluted way have ended up restoring peace in the world for the fear of collateral damage.

3. Raghuram Rajan: As economic adviser to PM, watching him speak added some confidence to our government. He was extremely articulate talking about primary education and about the cyclical nature of capitalism. He mentioned that capital markets are crisis prone and have a tendency to move ahead a bit and come back some, but the net result is usually positive. He indicated pumping money in infrastructure and try to somehow keep the growth wheel churning. Good news for market watchers?

2. Tata CEOs doing India's swot analysis with C K Prahlad

1. The Hospitality: The arrangements for delegates were awesome to say the least. I had the best South Indian breakfast ever. Every day ended with parties or musical nights.

Cocktail party was reminiscent of the days of yore. IITs are like gurkuls, take the old Indian ones or the new one run by Amitabh. The common theme between the three is lack of girls. The cocktail party had a 1000 odd people. DJ in his excitement called on all the girls in the room to get together. Some 12 people in the room responded to the call. The only one who came forward to dance was a kid still in her school. And you know you are in an IIT party.

There was some shouting also by different IITs to mark their presence. Overall it was fun, the next one will be held in Chicago.

News Coverage:

MP3 Manager in Perl

I am not a really great fan of music, much less a fan of organizing music on my computer. A recent encounter with a friend who uses an mp3 player that displays only "titles" (and not file names) gave me a chance to do a bit of coding. I don't remember the last time I did it and yes, I am a software developer ;-)

It isn't something totally new and not something that can't be found anywhere else. However, just for the kicks, ended up writing this Perl code to traverse a music directory recursively, list down the song details (meta data details like album, artist, track etc) and copy the file names to the title if you want to. Also, as was the need of the hour, I added a part that lists down empty directories in the tree as well.

Here is the code, check it out. To run it on your machine, you will need a Perl interpreter and MP3:Tag module along with it. Any constructive feedback is welcome, any snide remarks will be summarily ignored deleted.

PS: The information is written as a pipe delimited file to facilitate easy transformation to an excel


Nostalgia has been a strange phenomenon for me all my life. I often think about my past, in fact, to put it in software lingo there is a daemon thread running in my mind thinking and relating things to my past.

However, unlike most people who fondly reminisce their past and feel like going back, I would never ever trade my present to be in past. I don't intend to sound like the eternal happy go lucky, living in the present kind of guy. That is the last thing I am.

But, I would be happier prefer being anywhere (even future, with the possibility that it may not be bright) but in my past (don't get me wrong, I have had my share of those delectable "fursat ke raat din" or those "purani jeans and guitar" days). Of course, like everyone, being in present is my choice by default.

I write this because I think I will be a visiting a very small part of my past soon. By that I mean, I will meet some folks who I have known only in a certain period of time in past and then lost connection, more or less. But with friends, your past and present have a way of quick reconciliation, you pick from wherever you left without any excuses or pretenses and soon those oldies from past will become a part of your new present. And that is how I would prefer it to be.

I am looking forward to it!

PS: I searched for any phobia for "fear of past" but couldn't find any. Am I the only one in this species?

IIT 08 Global Alumni Conference

Any iitians reading this blog, here is your chance to listen to the movers and shakers and possibly a great networking opportunity.

To give you an idea, some of the speakers are:

PM Manmohan Singh
L N Mittal
P Chidambaram
Amartya Sen
Orkut Buyukkokten

Here is the link to register

The classic triangle: People, Process, Tools

Process is one of those holy grails or holy cows that are sacrosanct in software development not open to questioning. A question posed is enough to label a person heretic, rebel, bad influence or any such thing.

There are three fundamental parts to the execution of a project. The classic trio of people, process and tools/technology. Any failure can be attributed to one of them and fixed appropriately ensuring it doesn't repeat itself.

The most common response to a broken process, causing issues downstream, is an additional process introduced to check it. Seldom have I seen people looking at the real cause before applying the fix on the process part. Isn't that the part project managers love most.

The right way out would be to first analyze why the process was broken, adding a process to avoid breakage of another is a self serving cycle with no gain for anyone but the process itself.

The people part in this triangle can offset the other two, but not vice-versa. Hence, it is extremely important to identify people failures and then treat them as such. A process cannot offset for a person not doing his job right.

In most of the cases, adding processes to offset for incompetent people(team) ends up in a bureaucratic team. And an over-process environment _slows_ everything down giving an impression of number of mistakes going down. Processes become tools for assigning blames in case of failures rather than being tools to stop them.

If you ever face issues in this trio, fix the people issues first and rest will fall in place in time.