Author Archives: Ishwara Bhat

Workplace Politics: Why You Won’t Get Credit for Your Work (Most Likely Reason)

There were times when I worked very hard and delivered. Hardly got credit.  I was very stressed.  

Joe is really average Joe. He is brought up as a good man. He has been to taught to do the right things, follow ethics. Most importantly, walk the talk.
It was an important meeting scheduled by the Boss. Joe and few peers are called. A potential customer is interested in a solution. The team has to commit. The boss needs the opinion. Joe is the domain expert. Also a credible guy. He has excellent track record.
But this project is tricky. There is good chance of delivering it. Only uncertainty is about how quickly they could deliver. The customer is really pushing for timeline. Joe does not want to promise something unless he is really sure.


“Joe, what do you think? Could we deliver? Could we take this up? The new account will make us really big”

Joe is still thinking. He hesitated. Then went on –
“The problem with the project is that it could take some more time than he is demanding. There are some technical and non-technical risks…”
Joe had been a good manager and he knows what he is talking.

Suddenly Martha jumps in – 

“We can do this. Let us say yes!”

Credit at workplace depends on promise. Less on delivering or workplace politics

Credit Flickr/PICNIC network

Martha is Joe’s peer. She has less experience. She had been doing ok. She may not be the best, but not too bad either.

Now Joe is little upset. He didn’t like to be interrupted. He wanted to explain the whole situation and risks. Then wanted to take the project. But the boss got what he wanted. Meeting ends much sooner.

Joe takes the full responsibility of the project. The boss had asked to take Martha’s help as needed. Mostly the project was pretty much Joe’s show. It goes okay, much like what Joe anticipated. There was some delay. But customer side there were business changes and they did not complain much.

Surprise ! Instead of Joe, Martha gets credit !

Joe is boiling in anger about the unfair world and the politics.

What happened?

There are many professionals who struggle with this kind of situation.

The Boss wanted the confidence and assurance. Not the data

Many people have lot of data. But they expect the boss to make the decision. They are just not used to taking decisions. The boss was under immense pressure and he had no time for full story.

“Under-promise and over-deliver” – Applying in wrong context

Many hesitate too much to take decision. They are used to be very cautious and then over-deliver. But this leaves the main risk with the boss, throughout the project execution.

They think it is very smart to do it that way. But for the boss, it just adds to the stress. Along with delivering, the boss also wanted someone to share the mental burden.

Whoever shares the mental burden get a good share of the pie, irrespective of who delivered the project.

It is more about psychology, less about politics. The moment you conclude a scenario as politics, you will hardly find any way to break the pattern. If this is understood, there are clues to improve the situation. It is more about re-shaping your beliefs and behavior. Less about politics.

Check if your behavior pattern resembles the above in any situation. If there are stories similar to this, please share !

 

 

Ask Rahul Gandhi: How a Good Idea Can Be Screwed by Dumb Communication (2 Lessons included)

Rahul Gandhi again talks about his vision.

“When I see MRI machines not connected, I see huge problem. Connecting all of those MRI machines will completely transform the planet”

This becomes a butt of a joke. And this is not the first time. While one may not respect Rahul Gandhi much for original thoughts, I suspect there are some advisers who may be more exposed to the world. Hence I did a quick search and found this.

https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2014/05/hospitals-internet-of-things-patient-care.html

It talks about how a device down time could be improved through

  • Device diagnostics  – Checking whether the machine is functioning properly. Fix it before it breaks down. At least fix immediately after it stops functioning.
  • Measuring utilization – How to decide whether hospital needs to buy more machines? It should be after concluding that utilization of existing machines reached almost 100  percent.

Given the cost of MRI machines, the healthcare involving MRI scan is already expensive. If the hospital buys more machines while there are unused machines, who will eventually pay for it?

It is the patient.

What if the machine malfunctions and patient does not know? Doctor, upon inspection and doubt, will prescribe another scan. Who will pay?

The patient.

It is essentially about the benefits of Internet of Things.

What went wrong in the video?

  1. Audience can make out if you thought through the idea or not. When you are borrowing ideas and communicating without thinking through, this could happen.
  2. I am aware of too many IoT ideas failing because, the benefits do not come clearly. They get communicated more as school science projects than something that will have clear benefits.

How the procurement costs at hospital get cascaded to patient care cost, how IoT could help in reducing the scanning machines cost and a figure of how much it could reduce the individual patient care cost would have connected lot more with audience.

When we pitched for energy management through analytics, the jargon of IoT was not popular (about 7 years back). Also we did not have experts in energy usage in campuses. One expert we had was too much into operations in the past, who could not think about the possibilities. The rest of us who could think, did not take enough pain in knowing the domain and bringing about the specific benefits.

It required lot of deep study on benefits of analytics to talk about the idea.

Without knowing enough of what we are talking about, what would happen? Ask Rahul Gandhi.

What Business Are You Really In? As Applied to Employees.

Peter Drucker.

Everyone knows about the management legend who transformed American businesses.

One of the most important question from Drucker was – what business are we really in? The most famous example is that of McDonalds. He suggested that McDonalds’ primary business is NOT food. It is real estate. The explanation is that they open restaurant near the high way exit. It is effortless to reach McDonalds as you slow down the exit.

Hence the question. What business are you really in?

There are highly paid management consultancies doing the research about the businesses and presenting it to organization leaders.

But what about employees? Did you ever think about what does this mean to you as employee?

I have seen that those who work for automotive majors like Bosch, Continental, Valeo etc. keep circling within these. Likewise, those in avionics move within avionics companies. Likewise ISVs, industrial automation folks etc. It is good in many ways. Be in same industry. No direction change in career and hence comfortable.

Here are the problems

  • Most employees confine themselves to the main industry vertical they are in
  • Same set of people keep moving within this. You keep meeting the same people. Many times, it stinks. The bad blood and baggage is never shed.
  • If the industry itself is not doing well, you lose out.
  • When other industries disrupt, again lose out.
  • You have skills to move to better industries. But you do not know how to map your skills to those industries. Same skill has different jargon there.

How exactly you can expand into other industries? First, think as an individual professional. List down the skills. Treat each skill as industry by itself.

Let us into real examples.

  • You are a tester in industrial automation. Could you focus on security testing? Could you attend security testing conferences and be part of those network? You would be amazed to see the number of new people you meet, from say – FinTech.
  • Let’s say you have done UI reviews many times within your industry and you like it. Could you think of UI design career across industries and back it up with certifications? You might fit well into anything that has UI.
  • You are a designer of Zigbee based product in smart campuses. Could you generalize yourself in wireless networks specialist and expand in that direction?

You still could continue in same industry vertical, but being able to recognize other dimensions gives you a new identity. Just being aware of the possibilities helps.

When I run startup, it gets even more clearer. I was in industries like building controls, industrial controls, safety, security and automotive etc. As I enter into Edutech, I thought it is totally disconnected and fresh start. I am amazed how much it is connected back to what I did all these years. The technologies being pursued – cloud, AI, AR/VR .. All fit in.

30 years back, the industries were more clearly separate. Now with tech insertion into every industry, it is lot different. Too many industries are criss-crossing with one another.

This springs up many interesting options for the employees. They do not need to confine themselves to the same narrow options & hence people.

Here is the take-away:

  • There are some dimensions of your career or job.
  • You could identify and consciously nurture those threads.
  • If you do that, you will be able to shape your destiny much better than many others.
  • Of course, lot more peace and happiness.

    Flickr/VanityStudios

Career path is like Bangalore traffic like I mentioned here. Do not be limited by the ready-made definitions.

And, one day you will thank me if you followed this.

Leave a note about – which industries do you really fit in?

No Collaboration at Workplace? First, Fix the Victory Stand!

Everyone knows, most of the business results are from the team effort. Yet, the businesses try hard to assign the credit to one hero. To justify it there are enough management theories – like Bell curve, 80-20 rule.

Bell curve is gone from public eye for the most part, though it exists. 80-20 rule will continue to be used and abused to discredit people.

What is the root cause?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Few days back, I went to my son’s school sports day. School ground was full of cheerful children. Track was all made and ready.

Track

4 x 100 mtrs relay started. The teams ran. Some athletes faster and some yet to reach their top speed.

 

RelayRun

 

As always the one with best team work won.

Now the time for the felicitation. The winning teams walk towards the victory stand and here they come!

Only one small issue. Victory stand is made for one person to stand.

VictoryStand

 

The students somehow shared the stand. Those who stood on the victory stand celebrated the most.

VictoryCelebration

Somewhere… deep down.. it dawns upon that only one person gets to stand on top even while victory is the result of the team work. Initially they try to share as much as they can. Eventually they will give in and accept the reality that only one gets to stand on the victory stand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After years of conditioning, these children come to corporate world. They are told to collaborate, again. How could we expect them to share the credit? We have subconsciously taught them that there can be only one hero!

Victory-stand-sharing

 

We need to fix the victory stand first. The one who learns to share, is likely to bring sustainable results.

This is lot more important trait to develop than it would seem. I have seen how growing businesses struggle to scale up, just because of insecurities, non-collaboration and mistrust among the leaders. In the end, gains were far below the potential for the one who thought to be a winner.

Shaping young mind would be lot more effective than attempting it much later. This would be worth an attempt.

Why You Should Work Hard During Notice Period

People moving across jobs is usual. It is increasing due to the shift in social behavior, attitude of both organizations and employees. For whatever reason, one might want to move on.

Flickr/ Pavlina Jane

Flickr/ Pavlina Jane

What follows the resignation is notice period. Some countries have long notice period. Like India. 3 months is many companies.

Here I want to talk about how people work during notice people. If it is long like 3 months, it is worth thinking about how to work in this period. I have seen that behavior of employees could greatly change during notice period. I see many people getting into retirement mode. The commitment towards work drastically reduces.

  • It won’t lead to salary hike
  • Nobody would remember
  • Someone else is likely to claim credit for all that work.

So, do not bother. Just relax. Whoever comes next will take care of it. Sounds reasonable? Sure it is.

Let me give some arguments to work harder during the notice period.

  • One of the biggest demotivators at work place is appraisal system itself. Those who are excited about work, get quickly demotivated just due to immature handling of the annual review by the managers. No need to fear what others think and the consequences. If you really liked the work, this is the best time to work and do it the way you always wanted to do.

    Flickr/Dave Dugdale

    Flickr/Dave Dugdale

  • This period you could work without getting into the irritation of getting judged and disproportionate recognition.  Probably this is the best time to work. Very less chance of you getting disheartened because there are no more expectations left. Sounds philosophical, but if you think about it, hopefully you get it.
  • In dynamic labor markets like India, China, pay hike is a big motivator or demotivator. If you perform well you are supposed to get great hike. In this practice, most people have forgotten that they work for salary.  They are wired to think that they work for the next pay hike, not the next paycheck. what is forgotten is salary is paid for the work. It is almost taken for granted. Could we not get back to the basics and remember that we earn salary for the work we do?

    Flickr/ Cheon Fong Liew

    Flickr/ Cheon Fong Liew

  • The experience itself. Long term market of professional experience depends on the quality of experience. There are many I know have lot less experience than the number of years they have put in. When we talk during the interview, it shows up. The work opportunity you have today may not necessarily there in the next job. Working would make your resume rich, with more accomplishments. Then why not?
  • Brain wiring. Getting used to accomplishing things is a great habit. Anyone who talks to you – be it a future employer or customer, can make out. So, why to spoil a good habit?

    Flickr / AHealthBlog

    Flickr / AHealthBlog

  • If there is no good work, consider learning things that might help in the long term. This would be lot smarter than just lazying around.

This is the period where you are making last impression. Not just with the current supervisors, but with everyone around you. With social and professional networking, impression you make on everyone is of paramount importance. Why not leave the best impression? At the least, you do not need to degrade your working habit impression during this period.

Hopefully this strikes a chord regarding the notice period.

Management Reviews: What I Learnt about “Real Intelligence” from Artificial Intelligence

As we learn more about AI, we know this:

  • Neural networks based AI is very effective for many problems
  • Human brain is based on neural networks

We also know that AI based systems are still evolving and have limitations

  • AI based car might confuse a picture of car as car
  • If AI system is taught about small set of vehicle types, it will ‘force fit’ all types of vehicles into the types known to itautonomous-cars-1

In short – AI makes mistakes because the diversity of its knowledge is limited. 

How about a manager sitting in a meeting room reviewing plans and status? I found that most of the times the management review is very predictable.

We exactly know how the review is going to look like. Probably the manager won’t listen, already there is (mis)interpretation of what is being presented, what actions get suggested for such situation.. Everything we know.

The big question is – in such cases, what is the value addition of the review? He is so lost thinking that he knows and is busy forming opinions too quickly. Hence, might have misinterpreted the context, wrongly prescribed some actions.

Worse – nothing changed in the outcome of the review from previous such meeting.

Credit / http://www.tmac.org

Credit / http://www.tmac.org

If you see this manager as an AI system, here could be the interesting observations:

  • Probably the manager did not learn anything new and not willing to learn
  • His ‘database of situations’ is very limited.
  • Same jargons are thrown.
  • He is unable to see the big or small change in the context across situations. Hence he would prescribe wrong actions and force wrong direction.

So, the manager is not effective at all. The diversity of experience of this manager is not good enough. More importantly, it does not seem to improve.

artificial-intelligence-2228610_960_720

Only difference is that for AI system, it can be asked to learn and it will. The experienced manager did not and he will not.

This should be a warning bell for the managers. Big mistake would be to think that humans behave differently than AI systems. The limitations of AI systems are the same limitations humans also have.

Considering this, the managers can develop plan to improve effectiveness. Just by treating themselves as AI system.

This could improve the situation of work environment a lot. If it is not done, organizations know how to bring ‘Bot Managers’ in near future. These will monitor the reviews and probably score your way of reviewing. The outcome will not be very pleasant.

Hope it is good enough motivation to improve ourselves.

Confessions of a Closet Entrepreneur

As we all know, entrepreneurship is hard and risky. Day job may be comfortable, but lacks the freedom. However it gets pay check. How about the best of both worlds? Trying to setup a business while working? Then as it picks up, one can come full time onto it. Yes. there is stress of both jobs during this period. If one devotes time, it should be fine, right?

Here is a story you should know. One bright well-rounded professional. Spent sufficient time in the industry. Had been putting up a venture in the night and weekends.

Entrepreneur day job“I didn’t leave my job. But I lost a lot at day job while setting up the startup”

He was explaining about the entrepreneurship which he was pursuing along with job. He had been trying it for long time. But he had decent reputation at work and the job was stable. He spent sufficient hours at day job. He had produced great results at work. He did justice to his job.  Ideally the closet entrepreneurship should not have affected growth at day job. As he opened up further, here is the take away.

  • Future Is in Something Else, Not in Current Job

“I just does not belong here in this job. I do not have to ‘come down the level of these rat racers’ to grow career. I am meant for reat something larger and these less mortals can’t even comprehend. Due to this, I did not socialize enough. I did not network enough. I did not desire enough”

  • Compromises Day-By-Day, Bargain-By-Bargain

“From the day I started as closet entrepreneurship with a day job, I started living in future. I knew I should be prepared for hardships. There won’t be pay check. When I got less salary hike than I deserve, I thought it is ok. Considering what I might go through in future, this is fine. My peers compared their pay hike with peers, I compared with the worst case scenario.

I thought i should save energy for startup work. Let me save energy by avoiding battles at day job. I choose battles ! .. Or too scared to fight?  While trying to conserve energy, I forced different behavior on myself.

As said before, in this fallacy, I lost all bargains, mostly legitimate ones.”

  • Work Culture

“For the startup I planned, I have realized that I needed to ‘wear’ a personality very different than corporate one. I could not live both personalities in given day/week/month.”

  • Drain of Energy and Dual Focus

“Either at day job or own venture, everything starts with what we envision for ourselves. With startup at my heart, all i wanted was to just survive at work. Main energy and focus was for startup. But, the time was scarce after day job.

Lot of energy went in the clash of focus. Most others who thought only of corporate career, it was lot easier.”

Then he talked about problem prolonging beyond his plan.

“The goalposts of startup kept moving. I had to continue for 3 years. Due to all limitations I forced on myself at day job, I cease to become myself. I held back my instincts and impulses. I was no longer effective at both.”

He went on. As he made up his mind, his face brightens up. 

“I will try startup full time. It will prove either way. But I won’t be captive of my fantasies. I will face my fears and realities. Earlier, i started this to solve a problem I held dear to my heart. Now it is compulsion to face myself, to free myself”

There is no public failure, but lot of sacrifices. It is all about internal journey with no visible external change. There are countless people doing this and are captive in the loop. This is the most untold part of the entrepreneur stories.

That’s how the karma of entrepreneurship catches people.

Six Sigma for Govt Policy: How to Set Right Indian Smart Cities Initiative

India announced smart city initiative years back. Ever since it was announced, it was a big confusion. Debate on definition of smart city itself took years and is still continuing.

Global ideas of smart cities can not be copy pasted at the moment. Around the world the cities are good and clean. They just need to be made smart. Hence the smart cities immediately start with smart devices, internet control etc. How about Indian cities? They are barely livable. There are too many possible things to do.

Millions suggestions come up. If Indian governments spend money on smart devices, they will end up with no money for civil planning and construction.

How to prioritize and focus? Thankfully, Six Sigma provides a way.

Here they go.

1. Define Critical Criteria for Success:

These are critical to the success of Smart Cities. Any choice made affects multiple features of the smart city plans.

DFSS-SmartCity-CTQs
2. Define problems and may be  initial wishlist

Then come the problems to be solved.

DFSS-SmartCity-PainPointsOnce we talk about the problems and wish list, the question of prioritization comes. Remember the criteria for success mentioned above? The prioritization of problems and wishlist needs to be tested against the success criteria. This is a complex job.

3. Fill the Matrix

DFSS-SmartCity-QFD1

We could get into the details later. But the above matrix has given us prioritization. It has given in rather simple way. The important thing is that the above matrix allows us to structure the thoughts. It helps to weigh each of the things to be achieved against the defined criteria. It allows structured debate.

The above table prioritized the construction technology as 1st priority, which makes sense.

It is called QFDQuality Function Deployment. This is one of the tools provided by Six Sigma methods. There is enough material available online on Six Sigma.

4. Go On and On

Continuing our illustration of smart city choices, once one set of choices about problems to tackle, solution possibilities could be defined.

DFSS-SmartCity-SolutionL1

Now again, these could be prioritized against the criteria. Or against the problems to be solved. This could go on, until the priorities are defined at sufficient granularity.

The approach could have helped to involve people in more structured way. Probably it could, even now. And it could save billions of $. And few years too.

Hopefully government listens.

Startup India: Modi should Dissolve the Govt Fund of $1.5Billion and Do This Instead

Everyone asked Modi govt to support startups. Modi delivered. Along with many good initiatives, a fund is also born. Before it is too late, I suggest the opposite.

Dissolve the fund. Use it for something else.

knowstartup-Startup-India-Standup-India-modi

Before I explain further, let me take you back to 1980s. Indian govt had the noble intention of encouraging small businesses. India had a finance minister B.Janardhana Poojary. He planned to uplift the poor who had the energy, but no money or business experience. Many small business loans were given out. Say for poultry or maintain a cow. Or to start corner store. While supporting the masses to become self employed, the govt pushed the banks to disburse the loans. During the period some banks were taken into govt control.

karnataka-loan-mela-04_032013012656

Credit / India today Anita Pratap / 1987

 

The loan beneficiaries started reporting losses. Some claimed that the poultry farm had disease and they had to cull. Many stories emerged. Long story cut short, the good banks prior to govt control, started bleeding. Till date those banks never recovered. In spite of all the good intentions of the minister, it didn’t work. Mix of corruption, easy money and genuine losses sank the project.

Cut to 2016. As we speak, there are many technology startups. Most had sufficient funds to operate, at least initially. How many startups are really aligned to the needs of the country? 

India’s some of the biggest problems are waste management, urban planning and infrastructure, Agri-produce uncertainties and food processing etc. There are opportunities for almost every sector – core R&D, engineering, quality engineering, IT, non-tech services.

However, the sectors of startups reveal that they are misalgned with country’s needs. Food ordering, E-commerce and aggregators have been the biggest clusters of startups. It is quite easy to figure. There is ecosystem existing for these skills already. Similar to 1980s, the enthusiasts have no business background, while having implementation skills.

If government puts money into most of the startups, it could go down the drain.  What if there is good chance of success? Well, private VCs themselves would put money and can manage better. Though government is planning to put money into experienced VC hands, it is still done better by private sector.

The government already did few good things – like simplifying rules for startups and preferences for startups in procurements. But direct or indirect funding? It is complicated and less likely to work.

Then what is that government should do to help ?

First understand how the current startup ecosystems work. Some technologies and businesses become a trend (Well documented by the likes of  Gartner Hype Cycle).  If government can successfully ‘size’ the market, project technology roadmaps, it could generate lot of interest. The likes of McKenzie  reports get published. Colleges start ‘producing’ talent to cater to the hype. This creates a good supply of talent, solution direction and business cases. If there is business case, a good team that can deliver, many VCs are ready to pour money in.Deloitte

Government probably just needs to help in gathering the business data and publishing it in appropriate channels.

This may not sound big. But one of the hardest thing is to size the business opportunity. The sectors needing urgent attention in India are not so open – waste processing market, real estate, government procurements, small scale engineering, farm equipment, prefab construction, rural innovations, ayurvedic healthcare. The India-specific list is endless. Digging that data and navigating through those sectors is extremely difficult. Government has the resources to get this out. It can define its vision to these sectors and provide spending roadmap. Govt has the resources to shape the industries, project data and create buzz. Nobody else could do it. But funding.. anyone could do it and do it better.

If the roadmap and opportunity size are clear, many would chase entrepreneurship in right direction.

It is bigger help than setting up a fund.

How a CTO Could Help India

As everyone knows India is in interesting times. Workaholic Prime Minister. High energy of the masses. Good number of social problems to solve. And good amount of money in hand to spend. If played well carefully, India could have good living standard, not just from the economic figures, but also from the eyes of common man.

But how? One of the key roles needed is a CTO – Chief Technology Officer.

Before getting into what is a CTO, consider what could have gone better. Let us look at just two recent incidents:

First example – Water dispute burns Bangalore:

Sep 2016. There was drought. Water is scarce and two states Karnataka and Tamilnadu fight. The centuries old Cauvery water dispute goes on. The judges pass the judgement specifying the amount of water to be released immediately. Karnataka state sees it as unfair. As more judgments are passed in short time, situation goes out of control.4229_cauvery

When we look back, one thing that went wrong was the judgement did not justify with data. Irrespective of the water sharing quantity it could have helped to provide data. What if a real-time monitoring of all reservoirs, ground water situation, needs etc. are published online? What if the rainfall forecasts are published to the people? It would make the decision of the administration look fair and it makes big difference.

With a CTO –  Chief Technology Officer, it could have been different.

Megan Smith CTO of USA - 2016

Megan Smith CTO of USA – 2016

A CTO could get into education mode on technologies available today and the tech landscape available in managing water resources. Sensors, big data, water treatment, alternate water sources generation and everything else that could affect the space. Further, having plans like water treatment plant connected online as IoT device and publishing the map and metrics of this could improve compliance.

Preparing a technology landscape and sharing it with all the concerned stakeholders – judiciary, bureaucracy, media, politicians and the masses itself could trigger fruitful environment to improve the traction.

A CTO who could influence to set aside R&D budget for every ministry – could have ensured that funds available for next few years for these projects and technology insertion. The ministries could throw “challenges” for technology companies to invent and deploy the solutions. Once the opportunity size is published all over the country, the funds come from private investors.

Just imagine – Judge could order installing devices in all reservoirs to get real time data, do data analytics and arrive at the formula and tune it year-on-year. And it could forecast better, forecast inflation if rain and crops fail. Further, government or its technology suppliers could extend the solution to be deployed in other disputes worldwide, it could solve disputes.

Second example – Rural sport of Jallikattu:

Everyone knows about the Jallikattu ban – that supposedly was to get rid of violence and improve human safety.  A CTO could push for safety gears to be developed over few years and accelerate introduction of these. Had the judiciary understood the innovation possibilities, the original judgement could have been different.

Jallikattu

Further to extend technology possibilities to drive jobs – I remember a project in a consulting company for a horse race for a western organization. The camera systems and wireless sensors were developed. Betting apps were built & fed with fed. Government gets the betting revenue and of course, the jobs.

All other rural sports of the country also could have similar approach – of defining a future version of the game, dream about the technology possibilities and push all levers of the govt and private players towards it.

Summing up the CTO….With CTO skills, it is a possibility. One possible role definition of CTO is here. CTO is very common top leadership role in most technology organizations. They develop technology vision, land scape and how they could solve real world problems. Even without full formal authority, they can convince the stakeholders to move in that direction. There is sufficient talent pool in the world in this kind of job profile.

Credit/ Glassdoor CTO blog Ryan Aylward

Credit/ Glassdoor CTO blog Ryan Aylward

I just took two incidents where technology may not be the first thought. But it is same everywhere. For the clean India initiative – CTO could make a big difference. If you spend few minutes thinking about it, a technology plan and project management plan readily shapes up.

Every problem India is trying to solve can greatly benefit from a CTO. Or, probably a CTO virtual organization, one coming from each ministry and having specific layers for states and center. Possibly ‘horizontal’ technologies ranging from Material Science till Data Science.

A big job is to instill the thought that innovation, engineering and technology need to become a dimension in the minds of every major entity at all levels.

One Narendra Modi alone can not do it. It needs a mindset change in all institutions. A CTO organization could help there.

Also it could drive the skill building, building the industry capacity etc. more efficiently. Everyone – be it a student investing his future or a businessman investing his money could make better judgement.

That’s how all developed countries are built. That’s how it needs to go for India too.

Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence: How it could wreck the society!

An apartment complex in Bangalore, India.

With fair amount of shared history and strong opinions, it is natural to see conflicts in the apartment society. This one was epic. It was about extending the rain water harvesting capacity. Let me spare the details and focus on real story.

Murthy uncle was furious. “What does THAT man think of himself?”

I was puzzled. He was talking about another resident, on the other side of the conflict.

“Do you know that he called me nutty uncle? Do you even know what is nutty? It means mad.”

I was quiet.

“Do you get it? An old mad man”grandpa_angry

I said , “That is outrageous! Did he really say that? When and where?”

“I do not know. I was told that it was written on WhatsApp. I do not use smart phone at all. ”

He was still upset ,”So what! Now the whole colony thinks I am nutty.”

I was beginning to understand what happened. That man had written something about Murthy uncle on WhatsApp group of the neighborhood. That bloody Android auto-correct changed “Murthy” to “Nutty”.

“Uncle, I think it is a misunderstanding. He might have typed correctly, but it auto-corrected”

“what do you mean? Murthy was wrong and Nutty is correct !? It is not auto-correct. It is auto-wrong or something”

I apologized and tried to pull out my own smart phone.

“Let me demonstrate it”.

When I demonstrated on my phone, it didn’t auto-correct to ‘Nutty’. It auto-corrected to ‘Murphy’.

“See, you were wrong. The actual auto-correction showed a wise man Murphy. So changing to nutty was a deliberate mischief !”

Now I am lost. While you read about vague predictions on how AI could wreck the society, I am giving a real life concrete example. That of the apartment society 🙂

It is so hard to understand and explain AI – the new buzz of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

machine learning

Stanford / Andrew NG

 

Machine Learning is a complex area. It is much worse due to the hype. It has to bear the brunt for much higher expectations. 

You have an/set of intelligent algorithm(s). There are ‘models’, ‘features’ and ‘data sets’, ‘linear regression’, ‘logistic regression’, ‘neural network’. After all these, the behavior of the system depends upon ‘training set’, ‘test set’ and ‘online learning’. There is very less predictability and almost no ‘reproducibility’. The same algorithm output could differ based on training set and the sequence of training data.

android-auto-correct-img_20161022_145552253_hdr

Coming to NLP (Natural Language Processing), again there are specific algorithms. As the technology Review states ‘here’, ‘word distance’ tells that  “Harvard” is very close to “Garbage”. Now you can imagine the results for countless other scenarios and contexts.

Hope you are able to relate to the problem. This will continue to be generic problem for all of AI and “situation awareness” including self driving cars.

AI is about intelligence and logic. Much less about ‘wisdom’. How to add wisdom to Artificial Intelligence? You need to model them as features and make the system learn as additional ‘intelligence’. There is no other way.

As long as this stays true, humans will continue to be relevant in the quest for replacing everything human. So my survival guide – try to hold on to things and skills that can not be modeled into AI.  What AI would get more is intelligence. But wisdom has many more dimensions (features in AI models) than computing can practically reach? Could we somehow make sure that we stay wise, not just intelligent?

Some food for thought on AI and… how to stay relevant human 10 years down the line.

Large Organization Recruitment: Why HR Does NOT Consider Your Referral

You are working in this organization for long time. You have a close friend, in dire need of job. You send the resume to HR team and no response. Gradually you feel guilty, powerless and frustrated. Can not even get an audience for a friend in the place where you worked for so many years!? The same friend could come to interview in your own organzation through a recruitment agency. You feel humiliated.

Sure. HR is arrogant. May be they have nexus with recruitment agencies? Sounds familiar? Read on.

First let me side step the question of nexus and HR person getting a cut from the recruitment agency. I do not know if it exists. I have been a hiring manager, not on HR team side . Let me talk about what typically goes wrong when employees refer candidates.

Flickr/Min Wei

Flickr/Min Wei

First, Look at the context of recruitment team – HR recruitment teams are relatively small. 2-3 members for 1000 strong organization. If the organization has, say 5 percent attrition and net 20% employee growth. You can estimate the open positions. Now think about the success rate. I have seen that 1 open position for experienced technical professional could require interviews of 5 to 20 candidates (Whatever I know from Indian job market). i.e. so many interviews to be scheduled/rescheduled.

 1. Email subject “Resume of my friend”

Friend sends it with subject “My Resume”. You forward it to HR team. It frustrates to see emails with subject line “My Resume”, “My Friends Resume” , ” “, “As Discussed”. This subject line conveys nothing.  There are many such emails from you and many such valuable employees like you.

Flickr/Adolfo Otarola

Flickr/Adolfo Otarola

If 50% of the organization refers friends and they do it every few days/weeks, what happens? You can imagine the email traffic. To sort the emails, make sense out of it, match against open positions, it takes lot of work.

Could you not send email with subject  “Profile: 5yrs Industrial Automation, SW development – technical lead role” or something like that? Think about it.

2. There are referral intranet portals. Yes, but.. the info is not always up to date. I found that several of these portals are not as friendly to deal with. The hiring managers do not update all the job openings. Easier is to send request to hiring team and/or just circulate informally in same group seeking referrals.

The hiring team might pick latest resumes and also trigger hiring agency. The work for HR team is lot simpler when external agency is involved. Unless you are insider of the respective group, your referral resume won’t reach the team with actual needs.

You will never know how many actual open positions exist in your own organization.

3.  Employees do not filter the resumes they receive

If you get the resume of a friend’s resume, how many times do you even open before forwarding? Suppose you know that a friend may not be up to the mark. Would you filter at your level? or would still send it in order to try luck? Anyways, there is no accountability, right?

4. Employees do not follow up and close it

Lot of times HR folks would pick the most recently sent the profiles. Often, a resume sent some time back is likely to have made her move and it is waste of energy even to reach. If you had sent resume without any specific position announcement, you would need to put lot of effort as employee to follow up.

The referral may get call for interview for one role. After that many employees give up. After all, they have ‘proven’ to the friend with one interview opportunity. For another position, could the same person be considered? Who should push and make it happen?

5. Lot simpler to deal with agencies

On demand from hiring manager, the recruitment team just needs to deal with one person.  This person takes responsibility. The agency would not send ‘unsolicited’ resumes which needs to be kept in database and then queried later. All are resumes come on demand. they come with latest information and availability-guarantee. And they follow up regularly. And as relationship deepens, they keenly watch the hiring needs and proactively line up profiles.

Another fact is that recruitment team is the powerless supplier within the organization. This agency treats this team as the royals.

Overall it makes it lot more attractive to deal with agencies than referral candidates.

If you are an employee who intends to refer friends, you need to understand the above picture. Hopefully, you are lot more effective in referring your people for employment, henceforth.