Sunday, June 15, 2014

Day 2 of Habitat for Humanity trip to Guangdong

Day 2 started off with thunder clouds and torrential rain. The team decided to go to an existing habitat village (Tao) a couple of miles prior to the Yangwei village. We were welcomed by an elderly local couple in the Tao village to have tea with them. Being of Asian descent and having spent majority of my life in India, I could easily see the striking parallelism between the 2 Asian cultures. We were offered tea and biscuits (cracker) by this couple. The tea was prepared by them by drying the tea leaves plucked from the tea gardens and brewing it at home. It is not often that a team of 20 adults would get an impromptu invite from strangers to their abode. The hospitality and relative uncomplicated and unpretentious nature of the elderly couple was refreshingly breathtaking and overwhelmed most of the people and definitely gives a perspective on life in general. During the ground/back breaking hard work, the team seemed to be able to rally around in a much more efficient manner than day 1. We had an assembly line going which started with locating the bricks and putting them in baskets and moving them from ground to the second floor. The importance of team work was definitely illustarated today and everyone seeming to identify their strong areas and much more comfortable with their respective strengths which we could utilize to the best advantage for the work on hand. The age old adage of 'Building a house - a brick at a time couldn't have been better vivified by the exploits of 'Oceans 18' on day2. (Ocean is the local Chinese contact who worked with us for Habitat)

Monday, April 1, 2013

How to Write the Dreaded Self-Appraisal

How to Write the Dreaded Self-Appraisal No one likes review time. For many, self-appraisals are a particularly annoying part of the process. What can you say about your own performance? How can you be honest without coming off as arrogant, or shooting yourself in the foot?

What the Experts Say

Dick Grote, author of How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals, has a lot to say about self-appraisals and most of it isn't good. "I'll admit it's important to get the employee's point of view in the process but this is the wrong way to do it," he says. In his view, since study after study has shown that we are horrible judges of our own performance, any self-evaluation should focus exclusively on positives; people should not be self-critics. Timothy Butler, a senior fellow and the director of Career Development Programs at Harvard Business School, agrees that self-assessments aren't the best way to evaluate performance, but believes they do serve a purpose: "They're an important source of information about what happened in the past year," Butler says. No matter where you stand on their value, self-appraisals are a staple of office life. So the question is how to handle them. Here are some principles to help you when review time rolls around.

Know how your boss will use it

Before you put pen to paper, ask your boss how he plans to use the self-appraisal. Will it play a key role in his review? Will he use it to make decisions about promotions and bonuses? Will he share it with anyone else? Knowing these things will inform what and how you write. "Many lazy bosses see it as an easy way to shuffle off the difficult task of writing a review," says Grote. If that sounds like your manager, write your appraisal in a way that allows him to copy and paste from your form to his, replacing every "I" and "my" with "she" and "her."

Emphasize your accomplishments

Both Grote and Butler agree that you should emphasize your achievements. Don't be arrogant but don't downplay your successes either. "If you've had a great year, you should talk explicitly about your accomplishments," says Butler. "Be very clear about what contributions you've made to the business unit." Grote adds there is no shame in being political. "It's OK to put the best face on what you did," he says.

Acknowledge mistakes — carefully

Of course, unless you're the best thing that ever happened to your office, you're likely to have faults or have made missteps too, and you should mention those, even if it's only in passing. Grote again advises to put the best possible spin on problem areas so you don't give your boss "the noose with which to hang you." Butler suggests using developmental language. "You don't want to say, 'Here's where I really fall down.' Instead, say 'Here's an area I want to work on. This is what I've learned. This is what we should do going forward.'"

Keep the focus on you

It can be tempting to talk about others in your appraisal — particularly if they're hindering your progress — but remember this is about you, not them. "Don't use defensive language or criticize other parties. That doesn't move things forward," Butler says. "If you're having a significant problem with a co-worker, talk to your manager long before the review — with the door closed, not in a written document."

Ask for what you need

Smart employees use self-appraisals to lobby for career development opportunities. Even if your boss doesn't explicitly ask for this, Butler says you should include it anyway "because if you don't ask, it's not going to happen." Be specific. Explain the aspects of your job that most excite you and suggest ways you can become more involved in those things. You might ask to be included in certain brainstorming meetings or request funding to take a class on data analytics. Just remember to make sure these requests reflect what your business unit needs as well.

Managers: Work to improve the process

Both Butler and Grote believe there are ways for managers to make self-appraisals more effective. Butler would like to see managers ask more about employees' motivations and interests so they can create jobs that are better suited for them. He suggests asking questions like, "Where do you think you can make your biggest contributions in the coming year?" and "Which types of projects and activities would you like to see more of in your day-to-day work?" Grote recommends focusing on the positive. Maybe ask for a "good stuff list," where employees can write down what they're really proud of. "That puts a very appropriate, positive view on the process," he says.

Principles to Remember

Do Understand how your self-appraisal is going to be used Focus mostly on what you've accomplished in the past year Try to improve the process if you're a manager — ask about your employees' motivations and interests Don't Harp on your weaknesses — talk about them carefully, using developmental language Be defensive or criticize others — this is about your performance Forget to ask about growth opportunities — be specific about what you need

Case Study #1: Take it seriously and they will too

Darin Freitag has filled out six self-appraisal forms in his time at Ryan Associates, an employee-owned construction company based in San Francisco. The company uses a standard form that includes a handful of questions such as, "What are your job responsibilities and have you gone above and beyond them this year?" Darin spends between two and four hours filling out his form each review time. "I make sure my managers know that I take this seriously," he says. He knows that his immediate boss (the company's COO), the CFO, and the head of HR all review his form and he gears it toward them. "This is my one time of year to push for my career growth," Darin says. He's explicit about how they can help. In the past, he's used the form to request new responsibilities and exposure to different types of projects. But he's honest about his performance as well. "I know that I have characteristics that require some comment. For example, I often get sucked into the details," he says. "I don't make a big deal about it but I recognize that's what I'm working on."

Case Study #2: Be honest when you can be

Two years in a row, Liz Steele*, a senior HR partner at a global non-profit, didn't achieve the goals she set for herself. "I was just too optimistic about what I could accomplish," she says. Since her self-appraisal required that she assess her performance against those objectives, she struggled with what to do. "Most people just talk about their accomplishments but I didn't feel comfortable doing that," she says. After carefully thinking it through, she decided to list each goal, explaining which ones she didn't meet. She also highlighted work she delivered that wasn't part of her original plan. She admits that it was a risky move: "I knew that it could backfire. In some cultures that would've been equivalent to career suicide." But she was confident in the security of her role and knew she was well-respected by her manager and her clients. Plus she felt her integrity mattered more. As an HR partner, Liz's success relies on her ability to influence others. "I can't influence if people don't trust me," she says. Her immediate boss and the Head of HR reviewed her self-appraisal and were surprised. "They were amused but they also appreciated that I was willing to call myself out on my own failures," she explains. Her manager specifically noted on this year's evaluation that she was not afraid to admit her own mistakes. She knows she took a calculated risk by being so truthful, but in this case, her honest and careful approach paid off.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Vision 2016

Level - T28+ (Director) Annual Gross Salary - $260000 + $65000 (25% bonus) = $325000/- + RSU.

House in Cupertino district - Cost $1000000 House with 3-4 Bedrooms, Huge Yard, Home gym
A sail boat/row boat, a bike. A tesla car. House going for profit of 100K + 100K saved + 200K from Pune equates downpayment for Cupertino house. American Citizen.

Living in Mumbai for 6 months and living in Bay area for six months.
Healthy with 3-4 days per week workout.

Mom & Dad ready to come and live in US (Applying for their GC). Mom and Dad improving in health.
Wife - Medical Profession, Salary ~ $100000/-
One son, Kaju, Kasturi, Kritika. All kids doing great at school, with Kaju topping. Kasturi and Kritika easy to manage. Listens to dad, no tantrums.
Ex-Wife not in the picture. Ex-wife gets an overseas assignment and goes and leaves the kids with dad.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tees Maar Khan – What went wrong?

For the hindi movie aficionado in search of a good laugh riot, there are a few directors who oblige and deliver … sometimes. Farah Khan is out of that cabal. Erstwhile chic and queen of Bollywood masala, Farah seems like a fish out of water. Whatever could have prompted a veteran director of sorts to venture on a pitiful debacle of Tees Maar Khan, remains a mystery. The plot hangs around a modern day Frank Abagnale (Tees Maar Khan), who also doubles up as a Houdini when it comes to giving the cops the slip. Khan accompanied by his sidekicks lands up in a village while being on the run. His desire is to do an ultimate caper of robbing a train, which would require a mini army of sorts. The brainwave of pretending to embark upon a Bollywood nationalist movie requiring every denizen to play a small role in the great train robbery is a new chapter in the art of conniving cons which is laudable, but fails to deliver with mediocre directing and editing. The audacity of the movie which expects the public to lap up the drivel that is offered is seen to be believed. There are a few positives in the movie – a few funny punches, a decent music score, a decent performance from both Akshay’s. Tees Maar Khan is reminiscent of a movie which could have been made a box-office winner if more thought was put into it. The veteran director David Dhawan, who has a penchant for such drivel could possibly have a pulled it off and gone laughing all the way to the bank. But in its current state, we can just say – ‘Tees lakh Maar khao’ for Tees Maar Khan.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The science of thought

Its 9:30 AM on a Monday morning in Fremont, a sleepy suburb of San Francisco where I am hurrying up to reach work and tackle the upcoming week. I reach the first major intersection on the way and come up with the first big decision of the week. A green light to go straight and yet I needed to take the right turn to reach my destination. I stop to look for any oncoming traffic and quickly take the right. The next thing I know is that there is a squad car with lights on flagging me to make a pit stop. Err, not a great start to a week. My crime of passion? Making a right turn without stopping for upcoming pedestrians! My grounds for appeal – The pedestrians were on the other side of the road and at no point at risk of being run down by my car. This incident left me in a philosophical mindset, wondering about the purpose of human life. The jobs that we do as humans, is it different from the jobs of our co-habitants on planet Earth?
If we were to take any species of fauna on this planet, what primeval task would we characterize them with? What would be the thing best suited for a tiger? Hunting? What would be the innate thing for a dog? Probably being a follower and being devoted? Now if I were to extrapolate the question around the human species, what would the answer be? The obvious answer would be to be able to surmise and logically deduce. Stephen Hawking is the perfect example of a member of the bipeds who although being severely quadriplegic uses the most important organ given to us all-the brain. Sherlock Holmes, the sleuth from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictitious famous detective series said one time to his comrade Dr. Watson explaining the lack of sleep, food and drink when in hot pursuit, “My body is merely an organ to carry my mind from one place to other. I don’t need anything else. The brain is the most essential part of my body and that is what I use the most”. Isn’t that the absolute truth? Yet if I were to look into the variegated professions that humans from across the globe have chosen, what is the percentage of people whose jobs involve thinking? Of the total number of people whose jobs involve cranial activity, how many people actually do justice to that one solitary organ which puts food on their table. In my limited experience of being a human being, I have found that thinking is the single thing that people abstain from. There are rules and regulations around civic society, diktats, commandments which govern our existence. We as humans don’t trust our own ability towards taking decisions. We seem to be more at ease with having someone else do our thinking for us. There are few amongst us who have the aplomb to think and take pride in that fact. The great philosophers of civilization – aka Leonardo Da Vinci, Aristotle, Plato, Machiavelli, Freud to name a few have done this with arguably varying degrees of success. History has always been the precursor for future. When anarchy is rampant, there rises a few good men who has the audacity to envision beyond the evident and the banal. While we complete the first decade of the twenty first century, the world is looking towards one such charismatic leader who can guide us through the labyrinth of phantasmagoria towards the true end.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Band Baaja Baaraat - a looksee

When was the last time you saw a movie that left a smile on your face?
Band Baaja baaraat is one such movie. The story revolves around a simple romance involving a boy and a girl (better to specify). Shruti has dreams of starting her own wedding planning firm - a girl with ideas and certain amount of experience to her credit. Along comes Bittu, a smart alec business savvy dude without realization of his goal or his latent. After trying in vain to impress the damsel, Bittu comes face to face to with reality when post college, he is expected to go back to his pastoral core and carry on with his family profession of farming. Unwilling to go back to the village, he starts off in a partnership with his new friend (Shruti) and strikes gold after some initial teething problems. The chemistry between Shruti (Anuska) and newcomer Ranveer (Bittu) is believable and refreshing. Relations head south when the friendship turns into physical intimacy and cupid rules supreme. The paradisiacal partnership breaks down and claims the thriving enterprise as its first victim. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Bittu and Shruti start up individual establishments and try to out do the other. A string of failures brings down both cartels to the mercy of debt collectors and failure looms large.
Fate intervenes in the form of a wealthy industrialist (aka prize catch) who insists on giving the gig of the marriage of his daughter to the erstwhile older crew.    Shruti and Bittu temporarily bury the hatchet to concentrate on the gig which could potentially be the harbinger of good tidings. One thing leads to another and the movie ends up with a fairy tale ending. ( Go see the movie to know the details).
All in all a whiff of fresh air from the dank murky depths of cliched cinema which seem to be doing the rounds these days. The old adage of a good script thrown in with good music makes up for the lack of big stars and delivers a feel-good flick.
Anushka is decent and Ranveer comes up a surprise package and delivers.
Whether he goes on to be a household name or not, remains to be seen.