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Archive for September, 2011

Completed 5 Years at MS September 29th, 2011

Vinod Kumar

There are some magical numbers in life to remember and I surely consider completing this nice milestone of 5 Years as Microsoft Employee is something to cherish and brag about :). Not that it is going to change anything, it is always a feel good factor. Sense of getting reborn into a new role itself was something worth as part of this whole experience.

I can keep writing this on-and-on, but let me pause and appreciate some good things that did happen -

  • Great Learning – I have said this to a number of my colleagues. The learning experience that I get just by being inside Microsoft is huge !!! I learn from every single conversation that happen here. Connection with product team, support team, sales teams, MSR Teams, Redmond teams, marketing teams, ISVs team, SI Team, Academia teams ….. (list goes on) is so much fun. I don’t have words to express the same.
  • Great people and friends – I think this is the best of the best part. I have made some really really great friends in this journey of completing 5 years. Many inside the company and moreso with the interactions, 1000’s of them outside the company too. Some of my friends have left MS but are still in constant touch with me. Thanks folks!!!
  • Passion with Community – The developer and IT Pro community is the buzz for the company and so it is for me too. For the past 5 years and still going strong – I just cant say an opportunity to meet the community leads or the UG members. I just love the community !!!
  • New Challenges everyday – It sometimes comes down to what am I doing new to keep my interest levels on the high. You will be surprised that, it is not the routine job functions that keep me busy but the new challenges to try and do something new for self and for the customers /audiences in the sessions is what makes everyday drive to the office exciting. It is not always that you get to do what you love, but find opportunity to explore and do your bit to learn what you love the most.

Lastly, as part of public speaking I have managed to get connected with a number of you over on my FB or twitter (@vinodk_sql). I have had my moments of joy and moments of embarrassments – it is not not about pondering over them, but it is the enjoyment of reliving and having a good laugh is what makes this complete 5 years really worthwhile.

Thanks for reading this far. Thanks again for supporting me till date – looking forward for the support in future too.

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Getting more from your day September 26th, 2011

Vinod Kumar

If you surf the net on how to become productive or on how to get tasks done or on how to get organized, there are a million search results. If you are not making the most of your time, then you are likely to be in rush in completing tasks. Do keep repeating this back of your mind and you will be surprised on how this will help you organize and become better. This post is not exhaustive but more of my recommendations on the very subject – I am slowly but surely trying to master this myself and have talked about these to a number of you.

Break down into smaller problems

When I first joined Microsoft, the first book I got to read was – “How would you move Mount Fuji?”. The core concepts remains the same as the book calls out. Break your big problems into small manageable chunks. Even when you are in office projects, the idea of creating a Project Plan is to break your big release into smaller work items increasing your chances of success higher. Creating such plans will also eliminate the noise or activities that don’t need attention.

Doing one thing at a time

Whenever I try to multi-task I usually get unfocused. It can also add a lot of stress in the current activity as you are always switching and thinking of the future. I wrote a post recently on the very art of multi-tasking which in my opinion is a fad :)

Being early avoids panic

Being punctual and trying to schedule work ahead of time is always the best way to stay ahead of the game. I am early to office and leave office early most of the times. There are advantages to this too, getting in early gets you tons of time in tranquil to clear off the overnight mails. And getting home early also gives that much needed extra hour to spend time with family. Moreover, doing this routine I also avoid the hustle of the office goers traffic on the highway.

It’s a very simple thing to reduce stress in your mind and body.

Couldn’t finish – relax

In the topic of multi-tasking I did say I generally buffer time for the unexpected. When there are too many tasks on my plate, I use a sticky note or a notebook to pen down the tasks in hand. Prioritize the activities and then go about the execution ONE-BY-ONE. Getting real and practical is the key. Don’t beat yourself up and create a lot of stress within. Life is too short for getting worried.

Even if you get over Stephen Covery’s book on “7 habits of highly effective people”, it talks about finishing your current urgent tasks and move to urgent & not so immediate tasks. Doing so you are never behind the race in finishing the important tasks first.

Murfy’s Law – Expect the unexpected

No matter how well you prepare, things will not always go as planned. I tell this a million times and things will always go wrong in front of audience even after you have rehearsed the demo’s a million times before. Don’t let that ruin your day or your motivation. The most important thing is to be in control even when things are not going great.

When preparing your calendar, it’s a great idea to block an hour of “unexpected” time every day. This block of time is a free hour that lets you deal with any unexpected delays (traffic jams, flat tyres, crashed latop etc) that might arise unexpectedly. Worst case if unutilized, this can be your extra hour for workout.

Get help and keep track

When you take on more than is necessary, learn to ask for help. For everything else that come your way suddenly, learn to say no when you are short on time. Watch for patterns, you may notice that you’re a productive in the mornings but a sluggish in the afternoons — so use the morning time to get work out of the way.

You are precious

Tough ironing out time for your work is critical, does your calendar look stressed out without time for gym, family time, exercise, reading a book, playing with kids etc? Trying to fit in most of the work is critical but making a slice of time for yourself is super-critical.

Sleep and don’t try to sacrifice this quality time of rest for anything. Doing so can bring down your productivity the very next day. Know your yielding points and giving your body and mind that much needed rest is critical.

It’s important to make sure you feel balanced and healthy (mentally and physically) – not burned out !!!

Pass me your comments !!!

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More to life than just measuring Success September 20th, 2011

Vinod Kumar

There is always more to life than just running behind success. When I wrote this very post around “What does it take to become successful?”, a lot of you did comment on that. Interestingly enough – PASSION is a key tenant in building your brand but there is always more to life than what meets the eye. Let me take a stab at some of these in this blog post which I felt like sharing – Call it my top 5.

“Just do it” – Nike way

I just love the way Nike used this line. Have used it at tons of places and seen millions use it. You might get surrounded by zillion thing to do but sometimes it is the drive to do it that matters. With all that surrounds you, if you need to hit the gym (well you got to make time and DO IT). This is true for most of the activities we do everyday.

When it comes to success it is fundamentally increasing your chances on probability. A really successful person is more like to have tried and failed more than the number of times he has succeeded.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucious

Most of times we see the things as we want them to be seen as rather than seeing them as they are. I remember times in R&D role in one of my previous employer, given any problem I used to solve it inside SQL Server even though it might have not been the right solution approach. But the crux being, it is a beautiful mind that always is looking out for solving problems and rather than looking at the facts in hand we are out there solving problems to save the world :).

Don’t get distracted or overwhelmed with the finer unimportant details but move on.

“Becoming a child”

I love to see kids and how they are so excited by the mundane things that we see. A balloon hanging from the ceiling is never interesting till it gets to the hand of a kid. So how about appreciating the things around us which we take it for granted?

So, when was the last time you went about appreciating the food made you ate, the rains, drive to office, your health, your friends & family and the things about you that make you what you are?

“I remember the story of the old man who said on his death bed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened” – Winston Churchill

Most of the times it is the uncertainty surrounding us that make life interesting and challenging. There is no point pondering over past or getting confused over what will happen in the future. Did you have any control over – getting laid off, catching a flu, flights getting cancelled, rushing to office and you see a flat tyre etc. Getting superstitious is only going to drive negative energy and these are something created by our mind.

Most things we fear never happen. Worrying is waste of time, so let us enjoy today for what it has given us.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” – M.K.Gandhi

No one is perfect and what ever you like to do, there will be someone who is not going to be happy. This is very normal and so move on. Failure is not in failing in your attempts but failure is not even making an attempt. As point 1, do it and be the change you want to be. If you change yourself then you will change how you feel and what actions you take and ultimately carve the world you want to see.

Every time I sit with Ranga (a great friend, mentor and guide), I learn something new. I remember him once say, just because you are moving doesn’t quite mean you are making progress. Don’t get lost in your busy work schedules, improve on your productivity and never lose focus on the priorities in life.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

I wanted to write more on this but will refrain from making this long and boring :). Maybe will reserve it for the next post. So feel free to pass your comments and what you have experienced.

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Multi-Tasking reality or just fad? September 18th, 2011

Vinod Kumar

In this fast paced IT life, I have come across many questions – how do you manage to do so many things at the same time? More so, have seen on certain job-description asking special mention on Multi-tasking. Just thought will take a stab at this very topic.

Let us first try to understand what is multi-tasking, why need multi-tasking and ultimately in a job how can you measure multi-tasking (not as per employer but ourselves).

What – Well, doing 2-3 things at once or in quick succession can be coined as multi-tasking. In my opinion this is just going to make you less efficient than doing them one-by-one. I also try to do a number of things in parallel but more often get blind-sighted of the fact that that more than the start, it is the finish that counts. Giving an commitment and not sticking to it is one of the biggest mistake one can do. I generally have a tendency to ask for more time and deliver it before time so that there are no expectations broken and you are with lesser stress. Toughest part is to negotiate this well with the person whom you work.

Juggling multiple activities can also bring down the quality of work that you do. Every time you switch between tasks you have to reset on your thinking process and you might become myopic on the short term problems that you are more likely to miss out on the long term impact. Even inside software engineering this is critical so that future architectural changes are not required just because you are trying to do a hotfix for a problem today.

“Multitasking is great, if it exists but practically it doesn’t”

Why – The inner drive to do more with less is always something that pushes us hard every single day and this is something that is keeping us busy too. This is more of a desire than reality. Multi-tasking can be achieved easier if the tasks you are performing involves different part of your attention. Try watching movie and listening to a song from PC at the same time. This requires genuine mental effort and attention that cannot be mimicked. Doing background activities is absolutely fine when the task moves away from conscious level to mundane sub-conscious mind – like listening to music while you are in a gym or enjoying music while eating etc.

Just saw this wonderful article on NYTimes, which states that based on a sampling of employees inorder to get back to serious work like coding after responding to email requires atleast 15 mins. I agree to the argument, though it might not be in the same capacity. There is surely a serious productivity loss because of multi-tasking.

Not Single Minded but focused and creative

We all know we are not super-humans nor have capabilities of a fictional superman. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, when we devote all our attention to the task in hand, we cut all out distractions from our environment, and can even lose our sense of self. In a nut shell the talk bring out, when you are in flow -

  1. You get completely involved and your focus and concentration levels are on the high.
  2. Clarity on progress – how we are doing and what needs to be done.
  3. The end is clear as we are doing the task in hand.

Concentration is critical to outstanding creativity and this is the reason why people do meditation or yoga.

Interested in the TED Talk –

No loss of signal

In my opinion there are multiple factors that need to decide if the task is multi-taskable or not. There must be NO loss on any of the following attributes when doing multi-tasking -

  1. Listening skills
  2. Decision Making
  3. Attention to details
  4. Problem solving
  5. Following instructions / procedures
  6. Oral Communication
  7. Customer Focus (at work)

Conclusion

BTW, if you are thinking what inspired me to explore this very topic – well I was on call with a call-center person who was struggling to get information about me while processing the problem I was explaining and checking the system for possible resolution (all at once). I had to slow down and was frustrated of the experience. After doing my homework now I realize that is surely a tough job to be in with special skills too.

So do you believe in multi-tasking? What has been the effects of the same on you? Feel free to share your experience.

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