Saturday, March 15, 2014

Technologists Can ‘Move’

Sharing excerpts from my interview with the Methods and Tools, Professional Communications team @ Sapient

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Describe your earliest experience with a computer. 
My first encounter with a ‘computer’, an exclusive gadget in those days, was in 5th standard.The first things I learned were GW Basic,Logo,and drawing diagrams based on coordinates. It was fascinating! Cyber caf├ęs were new in the market and I remember browsing the Internet at 50 INR per hour on a dial up connection.

What books/blogs/sources of wisdom do you value, and what would you recommend to others? 
I am not a big fan of reading books especially now when there are several online forums where experts discuss trending topics in real time. I started my journey with JavaRanch(www.javaranch.com) and found it quite useful while working onJAVA/J2EE projects. I was active on the site for around three years and made some good friends. I still discuss complex project issues with them. With a hard-core interest in technology, I started contributing to the Tomcat (http://tomcat.apache.org/lists.html), Castor (http://castor.codehaus.org/), and Andromeda (http://www.andromda.org/forum/) forums where I couldinteract with industry experts.

Practical API Design: Confessions of a Java Framework Architect is a good book for people who want to learn writing API that will stand the test of time. It is written by the designer of the NetBeans API at Sun Microsystems (now Oracle).
I have learnt a lot from online discussion forums and strongly recommend that all technologists should join forums that are relevant to their field of work.

What are your interests outside of technology e.g. music, sports, and who are your idols there? 
I have a supreme love for dancing and I have managed to learn a few forms of professional dancing like jazz and contemporary. Dancing de-stresses me and is a welcome break in my daily routine.ShiamakDawar (master of contemporary dancing) and Michael Jackson are my role models. 

Apart from dancing, I write blogs (www.agrawalsaurabh.blogspot.com) to share my personal experiences and my observations.

I am also a sports enthusiast and was a part of the Under 16 Cricket team of Madhya Pradesh (a state in India).


                          
What is the thing you worked on that you were most proud of? 
When I was in 12th standard, as part of a science project,I designed a smokeless chimney to control air pollution. The aim was to help the textile industries change the way waste is recycled. This project was adjudged second-best in India and was presented at National Children’s Science Congress (an international science fest) as a testimony to awareness of environmental pollution. I consider it as an achievement in my life because I received this acclaim at the very dawn of my adulthood. I had just started playing around with technology for the betterment of life in general.

INSIDE INFORMATION

If you had a superpower, what would it be? 
The power to reduce and annihilate suffering.

Who or what has been your greatest inspiration? 
Steve Jobs,because he transformed the way technology is perceived today.In my opinion, he designed products that symbolize the true amalgamation of technology and creativity.

What comes to your mind first when you see/hear the following words?
·         Bar – A place to get sozzled
·         Bench– A place in the IT world where I would not want to be in, for a long time
·         Apple– iPhone
·         Technology–Crazy
·         Java–Coffee beans translated into technology

How do you define great craftsmanship? 
It is debatable as to whether craft lies within machines, with individuals or is a combination of both. Can Mercedes Benz be considered a great car even after being created by computer controlled robots? Such questions always cross our minds because we tend to start drawing a line between machines and humans and in doing so lose the essence of appreciating a great craft.

Crafting is a skill and great craftsmanship symbolizes the effort put in by a skilled individual to develop something of real quality that is accepted globally.

Brooks, one of the oldest English firms, who manufacture bicycle parts in Birmingham, is a classic example of great craftsmanship. Please see the video that shows how bicycle parts are created there. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=z9w-y24Waz4

It demonstrates a combination of sophisticated machines and skilled craftsmen producing high quality saddles. If we take the machines used by Brooks out of the equation, human skill alone may not be enough to produce bicycle parts with that quality. Similarly, if we take the craftsmen out of the equation, the quality of the saddles will drop again.

In summary, I feel a great craftsman is one who lays the foundation of quality products or services through creative thinking and passion.
  
What are the first warning signs of bad craft, i.e. code, design, or engineering? 
Deviation from the basics can complicate any project. A good developer is not one who just delivers the assigned tasks on time, but also gets the basics right. Aspects like exception handling, code re-usability, using the right semantics of code at the right place, etc., if addressed as a regular coding practice, can mitigate 80% of the associated risks.

An interesting article on how missing the basics of design can lead to faulty websites can be found at http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com.

Are there any experiences outside of programming that you feel have made you a better programmer? 
Keeping an eye on what people discuss and share in online forums, like CodeRanch, has definitely changed my perspective towards approaching a problem statement. It has helped me evolve from a good programmer to a better programmer.

IN THE WORKS

What technology trend(s) are you watching out for right now?
I am currently exploring social analytics tools like Social Mention and Tweet Deck to understand their role in gathering useful statistics on trending buzzwords in social media.These tools can be integrated with e-commerce sites to present useful content and products to end-customers.

Cloud computing is another area that I am keeping an eye on. 2013 will be a key year to see how the buzzword around ‘Enterprise Cloud’ fares in the market, especially with the ongoing hot debate between cloud versus virtualization.

Tell us about a project that went wrong. What could you have done differently to make it a success? 
Every project in IT industry has its own bell curve symbolizing ups and downs. I wonder how I have started accepting that as a fact now.
In one project we had to build a complex system that had around 15 to 20 integration points, complex business requirements involving SCM, portal technology, complicated pricing, and a governance engine.It had to be delivered in about nine months. The project was delivered before the deadline,but not readily accepted by the prime stakeholders. The reason was not bad design or multitudinous functional issues, but the lack of involvement of country-specific stakeholders during the requirements phase. During that phase, the country managers’involvement was very minimal and as a result, when the system was delivered, it had some missing pieces that could have a negative impact in certain countries.This incident taught us that unless technology marries business, we can’t have a perfect solution.My personal mantra is – “Success is not doing extraordinary things, but doing ordinary things extraordinarily well”.

What’s one problem in everyday life that you’d love to solve using technology? 
I would like to see technology being used for studying the human genome to diagnose a disease and simplify clinical practices. If we know the reasons behind the activation of diseases, the development of new drugs and therapeutic procedures will become easier.

Imagine wearing a wrist band with a small screen displaying a disease syndrome.

What do you think is the most important skill for a programmer to have? 
It is essential for a programmer to possess strong analytical skills. I believe that developing software is like playing chess where one needs to predict the moves. A developer needs to have the big picture in mind while coding.

It is also important for a developer to know about other areas like productionizationand working on the Web – be it infrastructure elements, networks, web servers, databases, communication protocols, integration points, etc.Being able to see the ‘Big Picture’can guarantee a resilient craft.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Lunch with GOD ...

GOD - What's that and whose that ? A myth, a belief, a picture, a super natural power or someone to fall back on when in problem ? Lots of questions baffle our 1300 grams of brain and yet we don't tend to follow a particular answer. Every one has their viewpoint which may or may not be justified by facts. However, in trying to get an answer we tend to forget that GOD is not someone to hunt for, GOD is something that is around us in various forms. 

I remember crossing a crowded road once when an old lady standing there for good 15 minutes trying to cross just ended up being a spectator. All her innocent eyes was looking for was that someone who can help her reach her destination which was shear the other corner but no one attempted. That's where I helped her cross the road and feeling of satisfaction I had with her blessing on top of it was something I am still penning it down and can't forget. GOD is your deeds and your action that gives you a kick to live your life.

I will take you to an interesting story which may open up your choked brains to attempt to live life differently. So here you go...

A little boy wanted to meet God. He packed his suitcase with two sets of his dress and some packets of Cakes and he stared his journey. He walked a long and felt tired. So he sat in a park on the way and opened a packet to take a cake to eat. Then he noticed an old woman sitting sad with hunger nearby, so he offered her a piece of cake.She gratefully accepted it with a wide look and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy longed to see it again.

After some time he offered her another piece of cake. Again, she accepted it and smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word. While it grew dark, the boy was frightened and he up got to leave but before he had gone more than a few steps, he ran back and gave her a hug and she kissed him with her prettiest smile.
When the boy opened the door, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you look so happy? ”He replied,” I had lunch with God.”
Before, his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen in my life!”
Meanwhile,the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and asked, “Mom, what did you do today that made you so happy?
“She replied, “I ate cakes in the park with God.” Before his son responded, she added,”You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile,a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
Remember, nobody knows how God will look like. People come into our lives for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime. Accept all of them equally! AND LET THEM SEE GOD IN YOU!!!!!