Thursday, September 20, 2012

What to Do on a Bandh Day- Some Suggestions

Another Bandh today. I am not sure why the word Bandh is still not added to English dictionary. There is no equivalent word, strike is nowhere near to the actual Bandh meaning. It is surely an Indian invention and needs to be added to Oxford dictionary in the next revision.

Now, coming to making best use of a Bandh day; here are some of my suggestions.

  • Catch up on some sleep. 

You are officially not working. Pretend that you strongly support the cause and make it clear to the culprits in your office who usually will bother you on a holiday. Switch of your mobile for the whole day! Get up late in the morning and make sure you have an after lunch nap also. 

  • Clean up and Back up your computer.

This is one of the best things to do. As you are not working on anything, cleaning up the system and Back up can be easily accomplished. Let the back up run and you are all set for a full quarter. Hopefully, another Bandh will come by then.

  • Social Networking

While your were busy working, your buddies have posted nice pictures and other funny stuff on Facebook. Bandh day, Social networks are busy and is a good time to catch up on some good old friends and chat.

  • Clean up your home and Fix the broken stuff

There is always some clean up pending. For me the papers and letter are everywhere and all needs to be sorted out. Most of them to dispose, some of them to keep. The fan has been making a noise for some time now and your wife has reminded you about it from the day one. The potted plants needs some attention and the trees need trimming. 

  • Go for a walk

Bandh gives you an an excellent day to walk on the main roads and non existent foot path. Be wary of the occasional vehicles though. Air is less polluted and noise is less. The world around suddenly looks like how it was 15 years back.

  • Update your Resume and look for a better job

Bugged of your current job ? This is a good day to update your resume and browse the job sites to see what kind of jobs are being offered. You never know, it might turn out to be your lucky day. Overall, a good day to sit back and think about your career plans.

There are other things like play cricket on the road and cook your favorite dish etc. I don't do either of them. Love to hear from you about anything special that you can think of.


 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

PMP Certified.

August 11th 2012 - Last Saturday, I successfully completed my PMP certification. It was the culmination of long hours of preparation and a lot of personal sacrifices during the past 3-4 months.

How it all Started?


Anyone who has some management experience or interest would know that PMP is one of the most coveted certification in this area. It not only ranks as one of the Top 10 certifications, but also known to be one of the toughest certification test to crack. Sometime in 2011, I felt I should try this. I started by taking some online free courses and accumulated some PDUs. The effort had a natural death by end of 2011.

The next part starts on May 15th 2012, exactly on by DOB, I decide again that this time I should give a good hard try. I had just become a 35 year old and it's not that easy to dedicate time for studies at this point of time in my life. For those who want to know, my day starts at 6:15 AM and ends at 10:30 PM. In a normal working day, other than the regular office work I am assigned with the responsibility of getting my 2 daughters ready for school- which includes waking them up from bed to making sure they eat their breakfast and leave the door in time. By then, it will be time for me to go to office and by the time I am back home its will be 9 PM. I won't have much energy left after that. The only way to find more time in a day will be to stretch and I slowly started squeezing time out from my day. I couldn't wake up earlier than this on weekdays, but I almost stopped reading news papers, checking social networks, cut my interaction with a lot of people, stayed up late even on weekends, vehemently defended my available time for studying than for any other family entertainment (that was the most difficult part) and almost ignored many other things and people that I won't even be able to list out here!!. At work, it was a different story, there was nothing much I could do about it and the timings.

The Sprint


Soon, I realised what needs to be done to cover this journey and reach the certification. I went ahead and purchased HeadFirst PMP book and started going through. I recommend this book for starting your study. The language and narration of concepts is very impressive. Some people start with Rita mulcahy's book which is also considered as a classic book for PMP preparation. I somehow did not like this book and opted for HeadFirst. It might have taken more than 2 -3 weeks for me to finish reading this. Brimming with confidence, I went ahead and took a mock test in examcentral website. My score was around 60%. For those who don't have much Idea about this, let me tell you that this score indicates that I am nowhere near to PMP certification!! None of the mock tests are even close to the standard of an actual PMP test (They all claim to be). So it is generally known that one needs to score at least 70-80% in these mock tests to at least have a chance for clearing the PMP test.

The passing score for an actual PMP test is not publicly known. Not all the 200 questions carry the same weightage, add to that 25 random questions out of this are not considered for final scoring! A candidate will not know if a particular question is scored or not. But fortunately, there are no negative scoring in this test.

I decided to take up a training class to earn the 35 required PDUs, which was one of the mandatory requirement to apply for the exam. One can opt for online trainings also, but I wanted to sit in a class and learn these things. Now, these training classes are held during 2 continues weekends (Saturday and Sunday 9AM -6 PM). That means, I will be working for 14 days in a row without any break. Opted for Knowledgewoods PMP training in Bangalore. After 4 days of training I did gain the required PDU's but was not very sure of any real addition to my certification preparedness. The only silver lining was meeting some great guys who were also preparing for the test. We all kept in touch and updated each other and still do the same. I realized that the only person who can help me do this probably is me myself!!

Next step was to join PMI as a member and get access to PMBOK. Started reading this and soon understood many concepts and cleared a lot of doubts. By the time I completed, I was scoring almost 65% in mock tests. Another book that greatly helped me was Kim Heldman's PMP guide. Unlike other PMP books, this book is arranged in the order of Process groups. A lot of real life examples and exam tips adds value to this book and will help anyone for their preparation. Next, I did all the 18 tests from Christopher Scordo with scores around 80% for most of them. These are easy ones but adds a lot of confidence to you during difficult times. Oliver Lehmann is an excellent source for PMP questions, these are considered difficult compared to all the other mock tests available. There are 2 free mock tests. I did only the 75 question version due to time constraints. Scored 70% in that. PMstudy.com test is also of very good standard and I completed that also with 73%.

In July 2012, I decided to apply for the PMP test. Now, this is also a process !!. You have to list out the projects that you have been part of (in any of the process area) to show that you have 4500+ hours of project experience. There is a very good template available in passionatepm.com, its is probably the best as they say. You need to keep the data ready and keep your ex-managers updated in case PMI decides to do an Audit of your application for verification purposes.I got the approval to go ahead with the application and pay the required fees within 5-6 days. Chose August 11th Saturday from Prometric website. Now, the target is near and tension was increasing.

During the last week, I read PMBOK once again from last to first order. I was clearing the mock tests with more than 70% and felt I should go ahead with the plan.

D-Day


The one and only PMP test center in Bangalore is located in Jayanagar. Now this happens to be at least an hour journey from where I stay due to traffic and narrow roads in some areas on the way. I visited the test center 2 weeks in advance on a weekend, just to make sure that I don't have much issues in finding it on the D-Day. Moreover, the test was scheduled at 8 AM and I did not want to end up searching on that day. During the previous visit, I figured out that there is very little car parking in front of the building and and found some alternatives around that place also, just in case (risk management :-) ). As a back up, I had my Nokia GPS also set to the location.

On the test day, left home sufficiently early, still lost the way (GPS took me to a road which was blocked due to flyover construction!!), but managed to reach there by 7:30. As I went inside, there were many people already in. The security checking and frisking is comparable to that of a US consulate during visa interview!! The only thing I could carry inside was my Passport. They gave a locker to keep all the other belongings including my watch and handkerchief.

Test was tough. First 20 questions where so difficult that I ended up marking half of them for review later. Things went on fine soon and occasionally a tough question will bowl you over. I finished 200 questions in 3 hours. Now, there were like 26 questions that was marked for review. Some of them were really brilliant, I must appreciate whoever has set these questions. While reading the questions, you usually have an idea of what the answer should be, but you may not find that in the options given. Sometimes, at least 2-3 options seems correct. Finally, at 5 seconds to end the time I pressed the END Exam button. Results are displayed only after a short survey. The congratulations screen appeared after what seemed like long processing time. I was too tired to even smile and with trembling hands clicked the final button to end the session.

Overall, it gives great satisfaction to have done this. More than anything else, it is a great confidence boost and I am happy that I am still able to take up personal projects like this and complete it to my satisfaction.

Days are much lighter now, I am trying to come back to a normal social life and just getting adjusted to what happened around me during these 3 months!!

Note: The links are given wherever a book name or Website is mentioned. Please don't resort to piracy as this is one of the things that PMI does not tolerate.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Just 5 Rupees!!



"Preksha wants 5 rupees.”

What? for what?

“She wants to buy an Ice cream from the school. It seems everyone is getting one”

“Where do you get Ice cream for 5 rupees these days?” Ask her if it is from school cafeteria or some road side vendor outside school”

“No. From cafeteria”

“Ok, let her have one. But tell her, she can’t ask again for a month”
A late evening phone call from my wife went like this. I reached home late as usual and there she was, sitting on the couch with a 5 rupee coin in her hand and a big smile on her face. This is the first time she is getting any money from home to buy something on her own. She was excited and narrated her plan to buy the Ice cream with her best friend after school while waiting to get in to the school bus.

Later we discussed how our parents would have reacted to such a request. My parents would have never given, they will go and buy and give me the same instead of letting me. Now it is my chance, let’s see how this goes we thought.

Next evening, we couldn't wait to hear what happened. She came back and did not look very excited; she bought and had the Ice cream. May be it was not so great or the experience was not as exciting as she would have imagined. All right, very well…we did what we thought was right, we thought. Had we refused, she would have this in her mind for long and would never realize what it was like.

Next day, the fun started. She came back with a cold. It increased by night and kept us awake most of the night. She had to take a leave from school for the next day. By that day evening, the young one also caught the cold. Today was her turn to take leave from school. I too got the cold finally and my throat is hurting so bad…

All we got just for 5 rupees.
Who said you can’t get anything for 5 rupees.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Where does your money go?

Where does your money go?
If you don't know this, there is no way you can plan your finances.
Most of the people I know don't keep a track of expenses. I too did not do this, till a year back. Now, all of my spending is logged back diligently at the end of the month in a nice spreadsheet. I never used MS Money or Quicken like software to do this. Its much easier for me to use a Excel spreadsheet template that is freely available. If you want one of them check this link.free-budgeting-tools-and-software

The first step is to identify a tool from the above that suits your needs. For me, I don't really do a monthly budgeting. I chose a sheet that enables me to categorize my expenses and list out the rows. For eg. Rs 300 spent for a lunch is categorized as EATING OUT. Even if we order a Pizza home, that will be under the same category. So, the data is organized as a new Sheet per month. You can tweak the Categories from the downloaded sheet as some may not have any significance in your context. But once you finalize, try to follow the same.

The second part, which is the toughest part is to have time and patience to enter your data into this. I collect all by bills and put it in a box and keep. Whenever I get time, usually one of the weekends I finish the entry for a Month. Sometimes, I do 2 months together. Anything more than that, you will find it tough.

Finally, you have some data to do the analysis. I created a new summary sheet to find the averages, mean and percentages over monthly and total. This is when the whole thing makes sense.



Here is a sample from my half yearly data to show where my money went.
You realize how much you spend for Petrol, your child's school and things like that. Information like this, help you when you need to make a decision on some purchase or spending. For eg. I know, I have to donate a certain percentage and I can see that Its not going as per plan if I look at the data. I can clearly show my family that we have been buying way too many household stuff. The data to substantiate, always helps you.



Sunday, October 31, 2010

Grand Design - Review

The Grand DesignThe Grand Design by Stephen W. Hawking

My rating: 4 of 5 stars




It was Einstein’s dream to discover the grand design of the universe, a single theory that explains everything. Hawking, considered one of the most intelligent man alive today and the coauthor Mlodinow's with his exceptional writing style brings out this masterpiece; trying to explain the intricacies of the Universe we live in. The book tries to answer some of the basic questions we all ask every time. Why do we exist? Why are the laws of nature what they are? Did the universe need a designer and creator?



Authors have done a great job in explaining the scientific point of view while answering these questions. The last one attracted a lot of controversies due to its blatant attack on Biblical theory of Origin and creation. Hawking tries to prove that the Universe does not need a creator but can spontaneously appear out of nothing, each with different laws of nature.



The book gives us a lot of smart but simple examples and pictures and along with brilliant narration, this book has attained the status of a must have on your shelf. For grownups like us it’s like revisiting your old physics class and for younger generation it is the future reference book.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Public safety in India

I have been thinking about this for a long time. A tragedy in one school in Kumbakonam (TN) back in 2004 may be the first instance that prompted me to think about it. Today, on hearing the Carlton towers fire in Bangalore made me write this.

I am not sure if we have a department of Public safety in India at State level or Centre. Also, we don’t seem to have required policies and standards to follow for public safety. I think its the duty of BIS to come up with standards related to public safety. This like many of our quality standards like ISO and Bharat Stage norms needs to have different levels so that an organizations can choose and mandate minimum level of acceptance whenever the case arises. For example, Bangalore City makes level 1 of safety standards mandatory for all organizations that employ more than 50 people. similarly, state governments can say all schools should confirm to a particular level of safety standards. A city can mandate that all schools should conform to some level of safety standard in order to be qualified for approval.

This brings a lot of scope for this area currently totally neglected. We will have certifying authorities approved by BIS who in turn will be responsible certifying organizations and auditing them whenever they need to confirm to safety standard level.

For general public, it will become easy to understand the safety level of a place or organization or any public utility looking at the safety rating they have. It is also going to be a marketing point for organizations too just like quality standards.

Now, coming to levels of public safety it should be defined in such a way that minimum deterrence to risk and a basic plan in case of emergency should be available even at the lowest level. Awareness level among people in the organization also needs to be audited while awarding the safety level grade. Fire safety, crowd management, security training, emergency medical training are some areas that need to be measured while rating the safety level standards.

Nothing works in India without some money involved in it. I would propose a tax deduction percentage depending on the safety level rating being awarded to the organization to encourage this practice. This is something Financial ministry should actively consider as spending money on public safety should be encouraged in India to make sure we are spending money on preventable calamities.

This is not something that can be achieved in a short time, but some giant steps in this direction will surely take our surrounding a lot safer than now is. I can clearly see a lot of organizations that would gladly accept this and imbibe into them. But the real value will come when cities and communities accept them and encourage them.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The curious case of Toyota

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Cras2010 may be a memorable year for auto industry. What we are witnessing now is a live unfolding of a story, that is going to be part of numerous future case studies and management lessons. Recall of 8.5 million vehicles in US for potential sticky gas pedal issue has shaken and damaged the perception of Toyota among its customers and buyers. The fall of Toyota’s ‘Champion of quality’ image is nothing short of a intrigue filled fiction, I won’t be surprised if there are no movies inspiring from this.

While its quite difficult at this point of time to analyze deep into what went wrong, it is not so complex to see the repercussions and reactions that caused in the industry. Everyone is watching how customers are reacting. Every one wants to know how competitors are reacting. We have a marketing situation lab unfolding in front of us to learn from it. Future Kotlers and Druckers are already deep into the statistics of various studies at this time.

This is not something to be looked only in the context of Auto Industry and what transformations are going to be in store for it. The core dynamics of this change is going to be applicable to any industry of similar nature.

To me its plain ethics of marketing. Suspected relations between regulatory bodies and manufacturers are not so uncommon in US though less common than India. An issue as serious as this was successfully kept under cover and ignored for years, how is it possible without active assistance of regulatory bodies? Startling details of this complex unholy relationship is still coming out from the closet.

That is just one part of the question. Another more serious part is the so called reputation of responsible and responsive organization that forever seem to care about the customer above everything. Is that just another advertising line?

May be there is something else we fail to see here. Why do people buy Toyota? Do they make best cars available in the market or is it because they make the most value for money products. The answer may be no for both of this questions. People buy Toyota because they hear everywhere about Toyota as the leader and as the producer of best quality cars made in this country. If this is true, then its never going to be easy for a Japanese company to overcome this image. The damage is already done.

Sticking gas pedals are not just a Toyota issue, it seems this happens in many cars if you floor the accelerator. Recalls due to safety issue is also nothing new. 2008 saw Ford recalling more than 2 million cars. There are around 30 cases of death with suspected issue from Toyota cars from 2001 in US courts. The real issue here is the a perceived reluctance from Toyota to admit an address this issue in a timely manner. More irritating is how Toyota deals with issues like this in a closed door manner that seems to convey a authoritarian regime trying to save its face. That is not the kind of communication style an American expects to hear. Japanese may be better makers or cars but they still have a long way to go when it comes to marketing. As the saying you goes “the higher you climb the harder you fall”, this is a time to stop and look how you achieved what you have and make corrections to your path as you go rather than waiting to for the last moment.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Most frequently visited websites

These are the sites I visit most in a day.

  1. Gmail.com
  2. Igoogle.com [customized to give me top indian news sites, weather, daily horoscope etc]
  3. orkut.com
  4. Times of India
  5. Malayalamanorama
  6. Facebook.com
  7. mail.yahoo.com

The second list has sites I go for a definite purpose.

  1. linkedin.com (networking)
  2. weather.com
  3. team-bhp.com ( Indian car forum)
  4. Codinghorror.com (tech blog)
  5. deals2buy.com (daily deals)
  6. slickdeals.com (deals)
  7. stackoverflow.com (tech questions)
  8. joelonsoftware.com (tech blog)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Top 10 things that makes a great day!

These are some of the things that changes ‘Just another day’ to a great day. Totally my views.100_4282

  1. Watching a quiet Sunset or Sunrise on a beach
  2. A good after lunch nap.
  3. Getting some time to read a book
  4. Walking bare feet on the green grassy park or lawn
  5. Meeting your best friends and talking about good old days
  6. Watching a cricket match that India wins at the end
  7. Visiting a Temple
  8. Lying down on the terrace watch a starry sky .
  9. Finding something Interesting on the Web
  10. Day you get a new coveted thing or achievement

Monday, October 12, 2009

"The Child is Father of the man"

I have studied this Poem back in school and like many other things never understood the meaning of it completely. Now, after becoming a dad of two kids I am kind of getting an Idea what WordsWorth and Kahlil Gibran etc might have meant!!
Children do teach us a lot, everybody says that. But I don't think anyone really bothers to learn from them. When Preksha, my eldest daughter came to us in 2005 we felt totally changed. Bringing her up to a Preschool child was an amazing experience. So when we were ready to receive our second child Ishika in 2009, I was not feeling much anxiety as earlier. I felt I knew it all. Just like you feel you can beat the world after doing your first Project at work.

Most of the things that we can learn from a child does not come from them in the form of traditional teaching. That means, a child is not going to tell you something like your teacher did. They give you an opportunity to learn something like a Zen guru or Hindu Rishis have done.

I will list out some of the things here.

Patience and lots of them : This is something that you will learn really fast I guess. You have no other way if you want to get your child to do something.

Time Management: There is no time to waste, every moment is precious. This is true if like us, you don't have many caretakers for your children. Like Parents or Uncle Aunty's etc.

Managing your Expectations: You really can't cause any change but only can guide them towards it (whew!! that was a good one right!)

Giving up is not an Option: May be one of the best lessons. A child will show you the value of persistance.

Limitations do not exist: Yes, in a childs world there is nothing Impossible. This is one quality we should all keep burning inside us. Its the elders who introduce the word Impossible to them.

Judgement : A complete abscence of judgement towards other beings. We all have them, what they call cognitive judgements ( I still remember my MBA lessons you see!!). A child can accept anyone at her early stage, she does not carry a baggage of thoughts and pre-process that information before dealing with one person. This may be one of the best lessons a child can teach, as we can never really see another persons thought. We think we know what he is thinking or He will think or He thinks about us before dealing with someone known or Unknown. I recently read the book A new earth of Eckhart Tolle and he makes this point very clear. When we see a person we know, we need to understand that our knowledge about that person is like the tip of an Iceberg. The unknown is huge and that makes all the difference.

There are many more small lessons. Its just that we need to take time to learn.