When Software upgrade is a downgrade

I expect upgrade to be newer, faster, better versions of the existing models. Traditionally they had additional functionality, increased utility, yielded higher productivity and had better aesthetics.

On the contrary, the upgrades often are bulkier, consume more battery and often have bugs with erratic behavior. The only change will be that many of the Freeium apps will have newer set ever annoying ads. Are the upgrades a ruse to make you feel that your phone’s battery, processor & storage are insufficient? Why is a deliberate deterioration of user experience & sufficiency of hardware called upgrade?

Every week there would be 20-50 different apps that would require an upgrade. Every month there will be an operating system upgrade. If you ignore the upgrade, then like the distant windows desktop cousin, you will get annoying pop-up reminders every time you unlock the phone and the apps will suddenly stop functioning due to compatibility issues. If you accept the alleged upgrades, then 1GB of data will disappear every week at a huge cost to your wallet if you are on the GSM data plan.

My problem is not the frequency or the data cost, but the very concept of the updates. Often there are no apparent incremental gains that I would expect. What’s worse the infamous Feb 2016 iphone upgrade introduced ‘Error 53’ which killed the cherished device of many. So many people

A friend told me that updates are a method to collect personal data & usage heuristics from your phone. It also plays around loopholes in the ranking mechanism of app stores by bloating the number of downloads & active users. If these are the only two reasons, then I should do a factory reset of my phone and disable google store forever.

Value of Education | B-school

If you were to choose between owning a 2 bedroom house/flat in a decent locality (fully paid, no EMI/loans) and a 2 year MBA which one would you choose?

If you are wondering why I am asking this, then consider the tuition fees, add to it the boarding, lodging costs and the opportunity cost for lost wages, you could easily afford a house with the same money.

I do not doubt that education is important in one’s life and one should not put a price to it. However the life does not stop the day you enroll into a B-school. The loans esp. student loan for your under-graduation, home loan needs to be taken care of. The family obligations do not stop just because you have taken a sabbatical or vacation. What’s worse is that earning money makes us addicted to a certain standard of living and it is difficult to scale back. As a result it is harder for anybody who has worked for a few years to resume studies.

Your friends and colleagues who continued to work would have earned many accolades & laurels over the two years. Most of them would be promoted as well and would be well regarded in their streams. While invariably MBA graduates have to start afresh. Many of them are considered too old/expensive for fresher jobs and too inexperienced for the higher level jobs.

You get invited to the funding/sell-off parties of your colleagues while staring at your empty bank balances. Actually MBA makes it harder for people to pursue their dream as an entrepreneur. You have lost some precious years and capital due to the two year program and that’s put you in a catch-up mode. No wonder IIMs boast of many things, but IITs still have an edge over the number of entrepreneurs they have churned out.

I am not ranting, but cautioning the CAT/MBA aspirants that the world does not owe you a living. Take cold calculated decisions about the viability of your dream. MBA might make you book-smart, but are you ready to compete with a street smart in a knife-fight at the end of your program?

Reverse professional failure | 10 Commandments

It is OK to fail, and people fail all the time. The question is what you do next. Here are 10 steps I practice in my personal life.

  1. Attitude is everything. The world never owes you a living and try to have a positive outlook.
  2. I repeat be optimistic. Optimistic people are more successful in life and people want them around. Make sure you emit the right vibes, your dressing sense and behavior is correlated with your words, actions & intent.
  3. Projection is important. Make sure that people are told what you are doing & what value you are adding. Often bosses don’t understand your work and hence cannot appreciate it.
  4. A firing from boss often results in a dispassionate attitude. This lack of passion will lead to casual behavior, lack of attention to detail, loss of rigor & pro-active approach. All these are sure-shot recipe for a total disaster from which one can never recover. Take a break if you have to, but don’t let the harsh words get to you.
  5. Push back unreasonable demands. It is common to get overwhelmed with a never ending work getting piled up. Don’t over-commit and under-deliver. Set right expectations and distribute work if you have to.
  6. Attention to detail is important. If you are reading this post, probably you are already walking on thin ice. Further mistake and omissions will only aggravate the problem. Don’t try to push things out of the way. Concentrate on perfection.
  7. Focus on your strengths. Try to score a quick win by plucking a low hanging fruit. You need a moral boaster
  8. If you need help, shout for it and shout early. How will the world know your side of the story if you don’t tell it?
  9. Don’t lose faith in yourself ever. If you doubt your ability, then the world would have already smelled it and are probably asking the same questions about your competency.
  10. Cut your losses early and don’t waste your career over a lost cause. Not every battle is meant to be won. A fish can never scale trees nor a monkey cross the deep seas.

Essentially early interventions through an open dialogue and small tweaks in the attitude can rectify most failures at work place. Try to have an open communication with stake holders and exuberance positive energy. You will be surprised to realize how considerate your team and bosses will be. Most people are reasonable and are willing to wait if they believe you can work hard & recover.

Joint finances in Family

In olden times when the earnings were low and basic necessities were expensive managing finances were easy. Everybody pooled all their money and still there was not enough to keep everyone warm, fed & clothed. You may call times to be hard, yet everyone seemed happier.

Today it takes just 25/- to buy a loaf of bread and take credit to be a breadwinner. The share of food & basic necessities (housing purchase excluded) has gone down each year in spite of the complaints of the rising prices. Yet almost nobody has sufficient money and nuclear families are mushrooming primarily for misalignment of social & financial priorities.

Furthermore a family finances is a complex tussle between means, wants and priorities. Add to it retirement planning, mortgage, car purchase, investments and even the most seasoned financial analyst will not be able to give you an answer. In fact I have seen fights over finances in Double income no kids/dependent family as well.

Typical issues faced by joint families or nuclear family with two bread winners are:

  1. Delayed gratification: How much to spend and how much to save.
  2. Alignment of goals & priorities
  3. Saving enough for Separation/transfer/relocation
  4. Share for large ticket purchases (Car, house, investments, abroad vacation etc.)
  5. The financial means & needs of each member in the households changes over time. But expectations & obligations are often not adjusted because of culture or habit.

Commonly households with multiple breadwinners manage their finances in the following ways:

Sr no Method Pros Cons
1 Pooling: everybody pitches in equally and make the head of the family responsible for all finances Simplest measure, practiced across ages Breadwinner & decision makers are sometimes different
2 Fixed contribution by each bread winner Gives each breadwinner some discretionary funds to fulfill their needs If contribution is too low or too high then there will be misalignment of funds
3 Pay what you can: each member takes care of a certain expenses It is division of chores extended to payments as well Basket of chores needs to be re-aligned periodically
4 Generation based roles: pensions & family estate to take care of daily needs, and younger generation to care take of luxury, entertainment & savings Keeps the tussle between investments & luxury to minimum Essentially the younger generation is free loading on the elders

 

I have realized is that money is important, but it is not everything. As long as the individual members realize that the joint family has the support system needed for emotional & economic well-being then the system will work fine. There are no magic formulae and each family is different. One needs to develop co-dependency and value the kingship of your extended family everything works fine. In fact you get the economies of scale with living together, the kids are better groomed and the support system well established.

Dalla vs guru (IIM-A Flipkart Saga)

Are IIMs in the business of hoarding creamiest of the creams for two years and then selling to the highest bidder? The letter of IIM–A director to Flipkart is similar to one that a petty broker would write when they lose their commissions. The MBA shops should be in the business of churning out well trained skilled workforce to meet the business needs of 2016 not act as head-hunters and placement agencies. Unfortunately the line between a guru and the latter is diminishing.

I understand the importance of placements in giving a good jumpstart in the budding student’s career. But I don’t give a shit about it. Here’s why:

  1. The students are not starving. The average per capita income of India is roughly 60k per annum. So why should I be concerned for someone whose starting salary is 100 times the median? If they could not make this opportunity work, they might find another which might pay half, but the student will still be 50 times richer than the rest of the country.
  2. Student loans are tough, but almost all student loans have a provision to defer re-payment by 6 months post-graduation without any penalty. So a MBA institute that claims to place 100s of students in hours/first day should be able to help a select handful in 180 days.
  3. This is not government job. More than half of the IIM graduates don’t join or change their job in the first 12 months. You don’t see companies complaining for such unprofessional and callous behavior of the batch so why should the institute complain when Flipkart is only paying back IIMs in their own coin.
  4. Indian online companies & esp. e-commerce is going through a rough patch. Employees who have been with the company since inception have been asked to go. Yet the company is not renegading on its promise to the batch of green freshers just deferring it by a couple of months and paying partially for it too. But the faculty is out of touch with the industry and this press shenanigan is only to bully the industry into compliance.
  5. Job guarantees: Most people realize that Indian labor laws are dated and there are too many job guarantees and hire-fire restrictions that is the leading reason why Indian industry esp. manufacturing is lagging behind. Yet IIM A director wants to develop on these policies and extend the same to its batch. It is another sign that shows that the faculty has lost its touch with the problems faced by the industry.

Those who ride on their high saddle and look down upon the rest of the workforce should never expect sympathy when they fall face first. The letter was full of arrogance and was written with intentions to bully. Hence it arouses no empathy or emotions for me.

Read any press release made by any of the IIMs in the last 5 years. You will get realms of news-clippings on their selection process and placements. But hardly any data on their education methodology, the industry exposure to the faculty/students, the teaching methodology. Is this is the center of excellence in the Indian education sphere?

 

The selection process of IIMs and IITs were designed during License raj where hoarders manipulated the prices by controlling the supply. After all they don’t select 99 percentile; one has to be be 99.9 percentile to even qualify for a selection interview. If the quality of the output is as good as IIM A director claims, then students should not worry, it will be a matter of seconds before any of the 200 other companies that visited the campus.

Merdacotta: useful Shit

In India, food was cooked on dried dung cakes. The slow heat resulted in the Suous-vide like heavenly flavors for the pre-plastic bag cooking era. It was practical choice because the alternative involved in chopping trees and deforestation for firewood. Also the slow persistent heat allowed the females to multi-task and not worry about overcooked food.

We used to use ‘untreated’ cow dung as plaster on mud/clay walls, clay courtyard and practically every surface that if left untreated will result in cracks or a lot of dust formation if left untreated. Just like mopping this weekly plastering ritual of all earthly surfaces resulted in a clean (and surprisingly not foul smelling) houses.

Recently Gianantonio Locatelli from Italy has unveiled a May 2015 collection of intersting artifacts made from treated dung. Isn’t it interesting to see man making use of all the renewable resources available to it.

Personal moments in office

What do you do when the lady that sits in the next cubicle, is crying uncontrollably at her seat while talking over the phone.  As a human being often it is important to walk over and ask her if she needs any help. But this is not as simple as it sounds.

Firstly, one should not butt their nose into everything. Clearly the lady understands the unwritten rule of workplace and my going over will only embarrass her. The old school philosophy is not to undertake any personal calls at the workspace. If one needs a personal moment to recompose then it should be done in the rest room.

However clearly people do use their personal cellphones at work and nobody wants to be a moral police. Also not responding or reacting to the lady’s cries will make me sound like a heartless snob or not even empathizing or acknowledging her plight.

Not that I like to eavesdrop, but as a human sometimes one cannot totally ignore the tears. Still my hands are tied and I might be conducting a transgression by invading her privacy. The moment someone picks a phone, they assume that they are immediately transported to a remote & soundproof box. The physical neighbors cannot make head and tail of the conversation and the person on the other end of the line is ignorant of the background noises.

Lastly, she is between the phases of newly married/ engaged. So there is a high probability of my two words of empathy turn into an hour long monologue about boyfriend trouble, in-laws trouble, issues with marriage shopping etc. She is a dear friend, but still this is a place of business and I have a backlog to clear.

PS: I waited for two hours for her to take a tea break. There, I casually asked her how she was doing. Trust me I wasted two hours about various scenarios for nothing, the entire conversation got over in 10 minutes. Won’t life be so easy if everybody got soundproof cabins at work.