Abhay Shivgounda Patil

About what matters.

Archive for February 2014

Gen Y for the dummies

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Had a good time attending the NASSCOM (Pune) session on Gen Y management.  Here is a brief account of my take-aways.Gen Y

When a senior person goes “When I was your age“, what do you think a Gen Y really wishes to say?  “You know what – you were never my age!“.    When Ganesh Natarajan (Zensar CEO) told this story – it reminded me of the school counselor who told us parents – “You know what – you were never teenagers!

Ganesh went on to claim that the single biggest obstacle in having a harmonious relationship between Gen Y and Gen X is the inability of the Gen X to “let go“.

The Gen X is often left wondering why the Gen Y isn’t excited by the great stuff offered to them.  The catch, according to Prakash Iyer (Kimberley Clark Lever) is –  what is “great” in the eyes of Gen X is hardly so for the Gen Y.  

And then there was Mohit Gundecha (Jombay), a Gen Y himself, who put forth the best advice.

When talking to Gen Y just be 100% transparent.  Give them the advice that is best for them, not for you or the company.  They are just too smart to not understand if you are anything but transparent.  One can’t afford to be reactive with them – you have to be predictive.  Don’t go by what they did in college – it will most probably be (at least in India) not by (their) choice.  So let them do what they want to do.

And then came the killer, that could only be believed because it came from a Gen Y himself.

Don’t think that “command and control” strategy is irrelevant for Gen Y!  The old-fashioned managerial behavior is okay, nay even necessary,  if the context is right.

Anshoo Gaur (Amdocs) declared that Gen X and Gen Y are not different.  He set out to explain, in engineering-speak, that we ought to compare Gen X and Gen Y along two orthogonal axes, viz. “what” and “how“.  On the “what” axis, they are the same, and differ only on “how“.  So, his advice was, identify the invariants (i.e. “what“) – e.g. values, performance – and work on them. Don’t fret over the “how“.

The tail-piece was a story narrated by Ganesh about his conversation with the management Guru (late) C K Pralhad about education in India.  On a Delhi Mumbai flight Ganesh rued about the Indian education system (rote learning et al) and Pralhad shot back – “As a thought leader, never ever think of persuading the Government to change our education system.  If they do that, they would ruin the India story!”  To oversimplify – Pralhad’s rationale was that it doesn’t make sense to be liberal with the youngsters.  The Indian system, that stuffs student’s head with rote learning, is okay – as the students get ample time to ruminate over it later to make sense of it!  Now that’s a kind of shocker, right?

Thank you NASSCOM for a thought provoking, and entertaining, evening!

Disclaimer: This note is my interpretation of what I heard which may or may not be what the concerned speakers meant!


Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

February 27, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Posted in Gen Y, talent management, Uncategorized

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Uniqueness of Religious Regions of Maharashtra

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(Picture: downtoearth.org.in/)

(Picture: downtoearth.org.in/)

Religious Geography of Maharashtra – now that’s one scary academic sounding topic! But after I skimmed through a delightful note by Prof Anne Feldhaus, I decided to attend the talk and boy was it wonderful!  Here are my notes.  Disclaimer: I have paraphrased what I heard and I am no academician myself. 

As Prof. Suhas Palshikar spoke in Marathi about late Prof. Rajendra Vora, in whose memory the talk was organized, the sari clad elderly Caucasian American lady with snow white hair was seen nodding appreciatively.  A small disappointment then when Prof. Palshikar announced that Ms. Feldhaus would be speaking in English.

Ms. Feldhaus talked about six patterns that have created regions bound by common threads  of faith.  These patterns were stories, body images, goddess sisters, numbered sets, biography of saints and pilgrimage.

She narrated the story of the birth of river Karha.  Arjun and Nakula in search of water, toppled the kamandalu of a sage and thus was born the river Karha.  They  ran for their life with the sage in hot pursuit.  Whenever the sage would get close, they would throw a rice grain behind them.  The grain would turn in to a shiva-linga and the sage would stop in his tracks to worship it!  That explains the Shiva temples along the bank of Karha.  The villages around Karha, in a sense, signify a region defined by this story.

The Purush Sukta in Rigved uses the metaphor of human body to describe rivers.  Interestingly, eight locations of the river Godavari have been likened to eight angas – body parts – of a woman; from head to toe.

Then she talked about seven goddesses, the Malai sisters, who once in a year visit their maher, i.e. home of their parents, from seven different locations.  This religious event binds the eight locations.

Then there are these numbered locations – the ashta-vinayak, the 11 Maruti, the three and a half shakti-peeths and so on.  These sets too define a region.

The holy places of he Mahanubhav panth are all about the activities of their founder, Chakradhar Swami, and his guru.  The place where he slept, where he delivered his message – even where he went to the bathroom – are enshrined as holy places!

And the last, and the most significant, pattern that creates religious regions is the pilgrimage.  The wari of Pandharpur being the most significant example.

At this point, she came up with two key observations.

Some of the regions overlap geographically, but, interestingly, they don’t meet!  She cited Jejuri as an example.  It happens to be near Karha, the annual palakhi of Janai originates from there, the Morgao of ashta-vinayak is not too far, one of the Malai sisters belongs to this place and the Pandharpur pilgrimage passes through Jejuri.  However, folks who are passionately involved in one of the regions are often found to be completely oblivious to the other regions which exist there!

Her second observations was that, with one notable exception, none of these religious regions has metamorphosed into any administrative or political entity.  The glorious exception being the wari of Pandharpur which united the Marathi speaking folks not withstanding the cast and class differences.  She credited the wari with the creation of the state of Maharashtra.

Personally, it was a very different perspective for me, coming from  an American scholar  who has almost adopted Marathi as her language.  To know more about Anne, do read this immensely entertaining note she wrote for her colleagues at the Arizona State University.


Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

February 24, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Remembering Dijkstra

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A few days ago I was asked to inaugurate the Jigyasa Techfest at IMCC Jigyasa03and I chose that occasion to revisit some of the quotes by an eminent computer scientist Edsgar Dijkstra. I decided to take help of another eminent person, but from the arena of probability and randomness,  Nassim Nicholas Taleb (NNT), to highlight one of the quotes by Dijkstra.  I decided to begin the presentation with a poll based on a thought experiment by NNT.

Say, you are a cancer specialist. You have the the investigation report which shows no trace of cancer.  Now, is it evidence of absence of cancer or is it absence of evidence of cancer?  The show of hands in the auditorium indicated that the opinion was evenly divided.

The answer is: it is the absence of evidence of cancer.  As there is always a finite probability that the investigation report may miss something, it just can’t be evidence of absence. All we can say is there is absence of evidence.

dijkstraNow – how does that lead us to Edsgar Dijkstra?  Here is what Dijkstra says about software testing and bugs.

“Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence”

Get it? When you find bugs, that’s obvious. But if you don’t find bugs, it means exactly that and nothing more – you did not find bugs – period. You can’t vouch that the program is bug free just because you didn’t find any bugs.

Edsgar Dijkstra has some pretty entertaining quotes to his credit – more about those later in this blog.  Right now let’s see some that relate to computer science, design and learning.

“Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes”

Will you call surgery “knife science”? No! Isn’t the term Computer Science a misnomer then? Think.

Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability”

How does one craft a good design? After asking this question, I stunned the audience with the answer: KISS!  As you know, it’s an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid!   So, when in doubt, always choose simple over complex. The problems we face are surely complex, but it is a well accepted principle  that you can’t fight complexity with complexity. Simplicity is the right weapon.

“Perfecting oneself is as much unlearning as it is learning”

My programming mother tongue was FORTRAN.  Later,the teacher who taught us Pascal warned us that unless we unlearn our FORTRAN ways, we won’t be able to exploit Pascal fully. Otherwise, he said, we would join the tribe of programmers who code in FORTRAN in any language!  With so many new languages and programming techniques coming our way, it is absolutely critical that we develop the ability of unlearning old ways to meaningfully embrace the new new things.

As promised, let me quote three of the more famous, and entertaining, utterances of Dijkstra that amuse me no end.

“It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.”

“The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense.”

“The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity”

Hmm. Think hard about the last one.

Postscript: I found another gem, that generated a great dialog when I posted it on Facebook.

“Besides a mathematical inclination, an exceptionally good mastery of one’s native tongue is the most vital asset of a competent programmer.”

Read this paper if you want to know how do we tell truths that might hurt.

– Abhay

Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

February 15, 2014 at 6:32 am