Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sept 30 2012: A decade of commencing my professional carrier

Not long ago a boy – doing a little above average in his academic life during his growing up years was funnelled into the world of an “engineering degree” through family and societal pressure based on the northwards movement of marks on his school scorecard. Once he finished his engineering degree, the job market was not as welcoming – thanks to the dot com burst of the 2000`s which was still lingering till 2002. Out of college and literally jobless, the next 3-4 months post May 2002 were the most eventful in his life for multiple reasons. To cut a long story short, thanks to the prayers and blessings of the almighty, his parents and sister , he made it to Infosys and began his professional career working as a full time employee from 30th September 2002. Today, he completes 10 years of commencing his professional career. It is 10 years since he turned from a boy into a man earning his own “bread”, (or “rice” to be more precise!). Time flies, doesn’t it?

My first job at Infosys has taught me a lot. Upon introspection, it has taught me:

1. To Take Up Challenges and follow unconventional paths: Being an electronics engineer, software was not my cup of tea since i was more into networks, servers and protocols. The job at Infosys made me take up that challenge of learning coding (which was always my weak spot during my limited exposure in engineering) and how there is life beyond coding through other roles in SDLC etc. In fact it was the putty that has moulded my career today to different facets of this industry.

2. To Fend For Myself: Since i had stayed home and breezed past school, college and my undergraduate – engineering course, i had never got an exposure to staying in a hostel or with room-mates. The job with Infosys took me to the Mecca of Indian IT Industry – Bengaluru (then Bangalore). The exposure of staying outside of your house makes you value some of the things you take for granted, while at home. In a span of one year from 2002, i could easily negotiate with real estate agents/ house owner for rent, setup a house right from scratch and also stay in unison with people from different parts of India and backgrounds. I could steer around tricky situations without losing any confidence that i may not be able to handle it.

3. Overcome professional obstacles and your own inhibitions: A self admitted underachiever with low confidence, i always felt i could never code. However thanks to the training at Infosys, which took a heavy toll on my own free spirit and will to stay employed, i cleared it all finally and overcame my own mental obstacles in doing the required roles in a software industry. I shed my own inhibitions and in some gawky way, continued getting exposure to projects, front ends, back ends, customer deliverables. Having played a variety of roles (gosh..i sound like an actor from a movie who has played a hero, villain, comedian – all at the same time!) – developer, tester, production support, business analyst, associate project manager, onsite co-ordinator, i finally started getting the maturity of being in this IT industry – a little later than other “computer engineers” or other peers who had an aptitude for software development. Most of my peers can any day still do a better job than me in any of these, hands down – but i can roll up my sleeves and give a decent try. Thanks to my current role in the industry – thankfully i don’t need to mingle myself with the technical nitty gritty`s ! I have seen umpteen circumstances in my short professional life of 10 years since 2002 which almost threatened me to quit it all and try something else, but i have somehow learnt to survive. Yes – there is a god and he has been kind to me in making me mentally tougher and survive through rough times.

4. Global Outlook: Exposure to multiple cultures, people and places: Had it not been for my job in the IT industry and the opportunities to travel that come with it, i wouldn’t have had the cross cultural sensitivities and skills to survive abroad, that i have today. I still remember the first official trip to the US (which was also my first trip outside India) in 2004. I was sent because i had a valid H1B visa and not that i was anything out of the pack/ exceptional in what i did. But i think back then, i was over awed by Infosys for blindly believing in my credentials to face a customer and deliver projects for them on behalf of Infosys. I had nothing to lose and gave it all – in spite of my lack of skills in some areas, tough customer political situations. In a span of 3.5 years with the customer, i was able to survive all this, tide over the initial hiccups which we all undergo and left a lasting impression with a lot of my client managers once i moved back to India (which was also incidentally for pursuing higher studies – MBA rather than switching employers). Many wanted me back post MBA, and i am glad at the effort i put in and the recognition from them in the form of goodwill to have me back. The exposure to staying in the US and understanding the customer and demand side of the IT Industry has been very valuable. Even within India, i have had an exposure to working out of our Bangalore and Pune offices and though both are cities in their own right, the difference in culture was mind boggling.

5. Anything else, which i cannot bullet it further here, but has benefited my career and professional and personal well being today. A small ode to Infosys, to summarize all this:

“Thank you Infosys - for believing in me, when no other companies did, way back in 2002.”
“Thank you Infosys – for giving such a solid launch pad to my professional career.”
“Thank you Infosys – for all the learning`s that have helped me make choices and make it to different roles in different organizations successfully”.
Hope you do well for years to come, as you can turn “Boys” into “Men” in this professional jungle!

It is only a decade of beginning my professional career, but it sure is a significant milestone and transition over to the next decade. I hope i continue to remember some of the above learning’s from my first job and continue to apply it for the next decade and improvise further.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

UK:Malham Cove: Yorkshire Dales National Park

The UK is home to some of the most beautiful National Parks and countrysides across the world. There are over 13 national parks spread over England and Wales. In the Northern part of England, we have at least four national parks – Moors National Park, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Peak District and Lake District National Park. All of these parks are not farther than about two hours from Leeds, making Leeds one of the "most wanted” places to live in - if you love nature, countryside and beautiful landscapes.

The nature of my job and my inherent laziness makes it difficult for us to plan vacations in advance. Thanks to the convenience of being in Leeds, it helps me escape tantrums from my wife for my awful planning by having an option to go for these last-minute-impromptuously-planned-short-day trips! Thanks to Guy Bradshaw – a dear friend, colleague and Meenakshi’s manager, we get all the right local advises to the “must see” and “offbeat” locations to visit around Leeds. The “offbeat” refers to my choices – which primarily include countryside, scenic locales and rural settings. One of the first recommendations from Guy was to visit the “Malham Cove” in Yorkshire Dales National Park for the April 2012 bank holiday weekend. We planned a day trip accordingly - one of our first few day trips in the UK outside of London.

We packed some leftover food from the previous night for lunch and set off from Leeds, after configuring our Sat Nav (American term – GPS) to drive down to the village of Malham. We drove through light city traffic across Bradford, to pass through Skipton and then enter Yorkshire Dales National Park. We were in for a treat, to sight huge farms, neatly terraced with stones. The sight of sheeps tirelessly grazing on green grass was a visual treat. Each sheep appeared to be a tiny spec of cotton, carefully planted by god to make the vast greenery unbelievingly mesmerizing to visitors.

After enjoying the drive through narrow farm roads and hairpin bends, we made it to the visitors centre at the village of Malham.

Malham Cove is a natural limestone formation 1 km north of the village of Malham, North Yorkshire, England. A well-known beauty spot, it is a large, curved limestone cliff at the head of a valley, with a fine area of limestone pavement at the top. The cove has consistently been ranked as "must visit places in UK" in travel documentaries. It is also one of the places where the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was shot. I am not a Harry Potter fan, but thanks to Wiki - got this insight.

Armed with a map and having refreshed ourselves, we parked our car in a private car park across the field (Just £3 pounds for the day) we set off in the direction of the Malham Cove. It was a neat walk through the village and then onto the gravel footpath leading upto the Cove.

Malham village was probably founded in the 7th or 8th century by Anglo-Saxons, who would have created the terraced fields that we see today. With the rapid urbanisation and lack of sustainable income from farms, a lot of farmers from Malham village have migrated to cities. However those who were still addicted to nature and to farms, were still continue to lead their lives living off farm income, renting their houses for “Bed & Breakfasts” or by having “Tea Rooms” welcoming tourists.

The Malham Cove hill top was about 0.5 miles or 800 metres uphill from the foothills. The cove was created by Glaciers about 13,000 years ago. We steered through the gravel footpath, passing through avid bird watchers from a local club. The club members were keenly trying to spot some bird species atop the Malham Cove. There was a properly laid stone path leading upto the cove, though it was broken at some places. Hikers – young and old were energetically ascending and descending the path, with kids or pet dogs in tow.

We puffed and panted and finally reached the top – thanks to all those indulgences into food without any thought for keeping ourselves fit through regular work out. Surprisingly, we reached the top in around 40 minutes – not bad as per our standards! We did take enough breaks in between to take photographs or give way to other swift hikers.

Once we were atop, we saw the vast stretch of limestone pavement, laid out like nature’s carpet donning the hills. This pavement was formed over 12,000 years due to the bare scrapping by ice. Since then slightly acidic rainwater has dissolved the rocks away along faults and cracks. The deep gyrkes as they are known, now shelter a wonderful variety of plants, protected from overgrazing in their deep fissures. Some of these plants are Baneberry, Dog’s mercury, Hart’s-tongue fern. We did what most tourists do – walk on the limestone pavements.

It was a nice experience, and not one for the light hearted. As we played a game of chess – by carefully choosing which limestone boulder we place our foot on, we finally made calculated moves for 10-14 mins after which we got off the pavements and set off towards the nearby peak. The sun was suddenly out now and was tempting all tourists to have lunch and relax, enjoying the view from atop. Like the other fellow hikers, we obliged, found our corner and enjoying a splendid view of the mountains and the horizon with deep valleys and had our lunch.

Post lunch, we sat dawn calmly to spot the park till our eyes could tirelessly see and appreciate the beauty of Yorkshire Dales National Park. After sometime, we had to reluctantly make up our minds to set down and avoid climbing further up to the Malham tarn.

After climbing down the hill, we walked back into the Malham village, passing through old barn’s and farm's.

Once back in the Malham village, we decided to visit our first Tea-room cum farmhouse food cafe - "The Old Barn Cafe". A pot of English tea, hot cross bun and homemade scones, jam gave us a feel of the local produce and food. The farmhouse cum cafe also served as a Bread & Breakfast and also had the owners (who operated the cafe) in another portion of the house. Post the sumptuous evening snack, we finally left the place in the evening.

Other sightseeing places around Malham village – like Janet Foss waterfalls, Malham tarn will be parked till our next trip!



Sunday, September 23, 2012

UK: Lake District: Fun Quad Biking

Breaks are always welcome. Especially if they are with the right group to the right place with the right weather and all have the right spirit – to enjoy! Meenakshi and I went for a weekend vacation with another friendly couple – Anurag & Aditi. It is our first ever with friends. Some good fun we had these folks @ Lake District National Park in the UK. We had stayed in a static caravan @ Windermere and had done a host of activities - motor boating, quad biking, trekking and also enjoying the pleasures that the scenic parks and lakes have to offer. One of these activities we did was Quad Biking. I had never heard about it before, but thanks to Anurag, got to experience this.
A Quad bike is recognised by UK law as a vehicle with four wheels and a mass of less than 550 kg.To drive a quad bike on a public road, in the UK, requires a B1 licence as well as tax, insurance and registration. However, in a controlled environment, with an instructor – you can do this activity for a limited time by strictly following the instructions and following him.

Horse Stable at Rookin House Farm
Safety has been a major issue with quad-bikes due to the high number of deaths and injuries associated with them and the negligible protection offered by the machine, hence all the instruction manuals we read before taking the plunge to drive highlighted this explicitly till the point of scaring us. But the collectiveness – all four of us injected some kind of a sensibility and bravery between me and Meenakshi as well to take this up.

We drove up to Rookin House Farm house at Troutbeck along one of the most scenic drives in the Lake District and probably UK – route A592, interlacing through mountains, deep valleys, rivers. The rain gods tried their best to dampen our spirits, but we were on fire - cruising up and down altitudes at 30 miles/hour on our rented car to Rookin House Farm in flat 45 minutes. Rookin House Farmhouse is host to a world of adventure activities – Air Rifles, Archery, Assault Course, Blind Fold Driving, Paintballing, Adult Quads, Horse Riding, Go Karts
and others.

Raring to go!
We had booked the Quads in advance over the internet – around GBP 18 pounds (approx $ 35) per person for 20 minutes.

After having done the signing forms and declared we were adults and responsible for ourselves, we were given pants, jackets, shower cap to wear on top of our cloths and helmets for protection. The girls quietly complained about the mud stains and dirt on the pants and jackets, but we guys just got the kick needed. The kick from the quick flashback reminding us all of the dirty days during school and college with muddy clothes after a bout of football, cricket or cycling.

Once we had put on our driving gear, our LANTRA qualified instructor gave us a short lesson on how to use the controls on the bike to operate the quad safely for maximum enjoyment.. Its pretty much similar to that of any motorbike one would have driven, barring minor changes – you got 4 wheels instead of two and you need to tie some string on your left hand to ensure you have control of the vehicle and bring it to stop in case of emergency. Our bikes were 360cc Kawasaki machines, very powerful. I felt at times I was sitting on a tractor closer to ground than on a bike! I was not sure if my wife would be able to drive it – as she has had no experience in driving two wheelers with engines – but I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Jet, Set, Go!!
I happened to be the first one to follow our instructor. He wanted us to follow him maintaining a safe distance. If any of us had other plans to go on our own – we would have been kicked out of the experience! So much for adventure! The trails and hurdles through which we were led weren’t too easy or too tough. It began on smooth slushy roads and then moved us through some nice gradients and obstacles, including driving through cleverly placed cartwheels. At times, the experience did make your heart skip a beat, but since the speed was slow and the wheels were four, with your hand on the wasn’t risky at all. With us, there were also two Chinese guys, who suddenly decided to do their own thing and were then cornered for sometime by the instructor. He did take them out again later though. We spent about 30 minutes rushing through obstacles, driving the bike, revving up the engine.
New age Jai-Viru??

One of the most adventurous and fun activities I have been a part of so far! It’s up there with White water River rafting, cross country ski-ing done earlier in US and Norway.

 Wouldn’t mind doing a longer stint with Quad Biking!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Frozen..but undeterred

At times, life throws challenges at you that overwhelm you so much that you are shaken and in dire shock..almost frozen with inaction. During such phases, the least you can do is not let yourself down. Keep your calm and carry on. This too shall pass.

About this pic:

1. This pic was taken in Niagara Falls, United States of Amercia (USA) in September 2005.

2. The pic depicts frozen Niagara Falls. The Niagara Falls was frozen probably once in its entire lifetime. But nevertheless that too passed and it continued flowing...making it one of the most ferocious and equally beautifull waterfalls the world over.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Brooding over the past..don’t repent!

In hindsight, everything looks totally wrong or right to us - be it the decisions we made, the people we met and fought or loved or things we didn’t do but could have done. If we have the right foresight and give the best to our decisions, people, work, relationships day in and day out, we may never repent in hindsight. The travel down memory lane will then be a smooth ride than a bumpy one!

About this pic:

1. It was taken during our trip to Whitby Abbey, north of UK. While travelling back, we had decided to pass through the magnificent “City of York” – the 800 year old city in Yorkshire.

2. The Circle in the background – aptly called the “Wheel of York” gives you a splendid view of the historic city of York – including the York Minster, York City Walls, rivers, railway lines and other landscapes.

3. It is very difficult to visit York and yet not fall in love with it!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Do your thing

Continue doing “your thing” if you believe it is right, even if others are not watching.
Someday somewhere, the moment of truth would strike – for you or for them!

About this Pic:

1. This pic was taken during our trip to the City of Bath ,just outside Roman Baths - the most famous tourist attraction in this city. This city was inscribed as a World Heritage Sight in 1987.

2. The lady playing this instrument in this picture was looking very composed and confident of her capabilities. The sound was very pleasing to the ears amidst the tourists and the delicate carvings and architecture outside Bath Spa. The lady had also kept a CD of her music near her collection basket (used to attract small change from passerby's who like the music), which one could purchase for £5.

3. The city of Bath was first established as a spa with the Latin name, Aquae Sulis ("the waters of Sulis") by the Romans sometime in the AD 60s about 20 years after they had arrived in Britain (AD43), although oral tradition suggests that Bath was known before then.They built baths and a temple on the surrounding hills of Bath in the valley of the River Avon around hot springs.Edgar was crowned king of England at Bath Abbey in 973.Much later, it became popular as a spa town during the Georgian era, which led to a major expansion that left a heritage of exemplary Georgian architecture crafted from Bath Stone

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Paths to Success

Overcoming your inner challenges in life, can be very much like this picture.

As you climb down the stairs of lethargy, laziness and your own inertia blocking your paths to success (symbolized by the gate), there are multiple pathways that life has in store for you to achieve success. Though these pathways can be in different directions – they will ultimately lead to one goal – a step forward in the right direction for your personal success!

About this pic:
This pic was taken during our short trek to “Malham Cove” at Yorkshire Dales National Park, UK. Me and my wife walked down these last few stairs during our descent to finally finish a well deserved trekking workout and lunch high up in the mountains!

Announcement: New Section/Label PicMotivate

Its high time i started getting active back on this blog. From today, i am introducing a new section under motivation. This would be “Pictures that motivate or PicMotivate”. These pictures have been handpicked from the collection of snaps i have created in the last few years – thanks to the places my job takes me to! The picture would typically be followed by a small paragraph on something related to motivation. Hope this helps us all in some small way to achieve the greater goals in life that we need to achieve.  Comments and Feedback appreciated!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

London 2012 Olympics

The Olympic games are a testament to the human spirit of preparing, competing, participating, winning, loosing and learning. Each game is a journey through a multitude of emotions ranging from anxiety, nervousness, happiness, anger, disappointment to frustration. Though the end result is measured in the form of “Gold”, “Silver” or “Bronze”, the participation and experience of being through all of the above amongst the world’s best would be the biggest “high” from this event.

My interest in sports has always been biased towards cricket – all formats (Tests, One Day Internationals and T20’s). My addiction to cricket also happened pretty late – as compared to my friends and cousins. The cricket fever hit me when i was just about to turn 16 – during the 1996 cricket world cup. It was a memorable win for Sri Lanka and all the memorable for me as i was robbed of critical preparatory hours before my final examination for Grade 10 (one of the crucial exams in the Indian schooling years).

Though i have remotely tried to follow “Tennis”, “Badminton” and “Football” to some extent, i have never erred towards tracking Boxing, Shooting, Wrestling or Athletic sports like Discus, Long distance Running. I am sure this would be true for most of the Indian folks.

Cricket has overshadowed other sports in India due to the big money into the sport. The year-long hectic schedules across formats and countries makes it lucrative for global sponsorships, players and for supporting infrastructure like commentators, cricket grounds, media etc. The fact that the BCCI (regulating body for Cricket in India) is privatised, further helps to “isolate” it from government intervention. Unfortunately for most of the other sports listed above, there is no such “privatisation” – which can explain the lack of money, sponsorship or infrastructural support to groom sportsmen across different discipline.

Inspite of facing odd’s like modest facilities, non lucrative remuneration, very limited or lack of support from state & central government or private sector it is heartening to see the spirit, tenacity and determination of Indian sportsperson (the non cricketers). They are giving their best shot to overcome all odds to seek glory in sports and gain international recognition.

My heart and mind goes out to

Gagan Narang (B)
Vijay Kumar, (S)
MC Mary Kom, (B)
Saina Nehwal (B)
Yogeshwar Dutt (B)
Sushil Kumar (S)

for their Olympic medals, making it arguably the best Olympics for India. It would be highly unfair to not mention Geeta Phagot (Wrestling), Vikas Gowda (Discus Throw), Poonia (Discus Throw), Devendro Singh (Boxing),Abhinav Bindra (Shooting), Tintu Luka (Running).These folks were very close to winning a medal and indeed made a mark in all their games. While the patriot may argue that we received the wrong end of the decision from the judges quiet often, the sportsmen will not like to give excuses. With only 4 more years to go for the next Olympics in Brazil, i would be very eager to see these Indians and more such sportsperson eagerly prepare for further glory for Olympic Medals for India. One of the initiatives called “Olympics Gold Quest” led by former Indian sports people has indeed been a hit as it has given us 3 medals so far in London 2012 Olympics.I hope this initiative continues for the better and continues to groom more sportspeople to compete internationally and bring home the medal. Fingers crossed and i hope the government, sports ministry wake up and do the needful to bring the level of support up for these players.

In the end, for junta like us who love Cricket, let us not only follow cricket, but also keep following other sports and encourage them. I am sure once we do this, the advertisers, sponsorships and other money would flow into these sports.

Thanks to our entire contingent representing India for giving us our best Olympics participation and win till date!