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IT Cultures, Processes, and Your Employability

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The IT employees should keep an eye on what’s happening in the industry, and take appropriate actions. If you have to the leave (either voluntarily or laid-off/fired from) your current company, you don’t want to find that you are NOT employable. For instance, you realize that you don’t have experience in certain processes when recruiters ask for those, lack knowledge of some technology, you spent too many years at a lower level, or your pay was so high that other companies refuse to hire you (Many large Indian IT companies are reluctant to hire anyone with a pay less than your last pay, even if you are out-of-job). The appropriate action could be learning, moving to a different team, or moving to a different company even with a pay-cut.

Types of IT Companies

1. Captive units are offshore IT units of large US/European non-IT companies, like Ford, RBS, etc. IT folks at captive serve just one company, though there may be multiple departments/portfolios

2. Service companies offer consulting, outsourcing & IT project development & maintenance. Examples are TCS, HCL, Cognizant, etc. Service folks, well, serve multiple clients/companies and oftentimes in multiple geographies.

3 & 4. There are IT product companies (e.g.: SAP, Oracle, etc.) and “internet” companies (i.e. they aren’t accessible if your internet access is down) like FB, Google etc.

Some companies fall into more than one category. So, don’t read too much into the examples.

Company Cultures

When a housemaid works at multiple homes, she is exposed to multiple cultures, appliances, devices, etc. That is a way to look at the experience you gain in IT Service companies. In captive units, you work at just one “home” which may expose you to modern management cultures, processes and technologies. Or, it may stick to old technologies, old-methodologies (e.g.: Waterfall method to deliver IT projects) and even outdated attitude/outlook (“No cloud for me, please. I want to touch my UNIX/Windows Server”, “Open Source is slow”).

Of course, some portfolios/units of a captive unit may embrace modern technologies / tools while others don’t, but most likely the culture & processes won’t be modern.

In some captives, employees are over-titled, i.e. they are given titles that don’t match the responsibilities and tasks they do. For example, if all you do is get requirements from your US parent company, and deliver those requirements month after month, no one else calls this Project Management.

[Source: LMC Software]

Two examples for the Culture/Processes

A) “Facebook has roughly 1,000 development engineers and three release engineers who orchestrate the daily and weekly pushes. However, it doesn’t have a separate quality assurance (QA) team or any other designated testers“. The developers do Unit tests for their code, and the code goes thru some automated tests. There are reasons for the absence of Testing team.

  1. Developers know the code better than testers, so developers should test the code
  2. They don’t want to create the ‘developers are better / more important than testers’ culture
  3. “Personal responsibility by the engineers who wrote the code can replace quality assurances obtained by a separate testing organization”

{Source: “Development and Deployment at Facebook”, IEEE Internet Computing,July-Aug 2013}

If you are a QA person / tester, think how long it will take for this thought-process to be adopted by more companies

B) The amazon’s (AWS) database offerings (like RDS, Aurora, etc), Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry, etc. have made creating, managing and extending databases and DB objects a lot quicker and easier even for non-DBAs. Installing, configuring and managing databases in the cloud now looks like a child’s play. If you are a DBA, what’d be the impact of these for your job opportunities or career growth?

Criticality of IT

IT is important for any company, but IT isn’t the core in many. In a waste management company the garbage trucks are more critical than your programs/servers. If your Telecom company’s billing application or database servers are down for a day, your CEO may not even know that. Yes, the bill generation and related items will be affected for a day. But, that is not as serious as wire-line or wireless network issues. If a section of the call-center employees or technicians of a telecom company could possibly go on a strike, the company gets in a panic (or, preparation for the possible strike) mode. If a section of IT employees quit, no executive would bat an eye.

I’m not suggesting we should work only at the companies where IT is critical. But, it is important to be realistic about your own importance, or even IT’s importance. I have seen people who think their job is safe because s/he is the only person who knows the entire app, or the only Production DBA, or with similar thought process.

Skills, Competency & Employability

At the lower levels (Software Engineers, Analysts, etc.), the skills required are primarily technical & analytical, and are pretty similar across the IT companies. But, competencies / skills expected at higher levels vary widely.

For example, in Service companies, the project managers do pre-sales activities. The Senior PMs do manage budgets. But, these mayn’t happen at captive units. Since IT/project delivery is the lifeline for service, IT & internet companies, you see them adopting modern practices like Agile, DevOps, Open Source software, etc.

As for captive units, some adopt & some don’t. Senior employees from captive units, without any pre-sales, consulting & budgeting experience AND without any exposure to Agile or DevOps, are at a disadvantage when they look for openings outside.

It is not just for managers. If you are a developer with 10+ years of experience, are you sure you can join others as a developer? Many Indian companies will expect architecture skills from someone with 10+ years of experience.

Workplace predictions from Gartner

  • By 2020, as much as 65% of knowledge worker career paths will be disrupted by smart machines in both positive and negative ways.
  • By 2020, non-routine work will account for more than 65% of U.S. jobs (up from 60% in 2013)

{Source: “Workplace Reimagined: Four Scenarios to Help Visualize the Future”, Gartner, 2015}


Five factors that contribute to unemployability

1. Lack of knowledge (e.g.: don’t know the DevOps tools, open-source development softwares, etc.)

2. No experience in certain processes (e.g.: Scrum, Automated Testing, DevOps, etc.)

3. Too many years in a position (The perception, in India, is that you don’t have potential)

4. High salary: Many large Indian IT companies refuse to offer jobs with a pay packages (CTC) less than your last received pay

5. Hyper-titles: In some captives, employees’ titles don’t reflect their actual responsibilities. e.g.: A person may be a “Senior Project Manager”, but in reality primarily does the job of a Technical/Project Lead



Let’s keep an eye on the changing nature of work, culture, processes and technologies used by major companies. Mere reading about budgeting, scrum, enterprise agile, PaaS / SaaS, DevOps, Microservices, Digital Workplace, Smart Machines, consulting, etc. won’t help us get our next job. Depending on our situations, we may need get out before we rust out.

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Written by S Ibrahim

2015-02-11 at 9:53 PM

Obama and Bill Gates pay tributes to Steve Jobs

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Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at the fifth D: All ...

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There is no difference between Bush & Obama in foreign policies, not much difference in domestic policies, and a lot of differences in communication. Steve was a master communicator, a great story teller and a tech genius. I learnt quite a lot of presentation techniques from his presos. Steve never talked technical details, his presos didnt have much text (Most of the times, it was just one picture).

What do speakers tell in a convocation address? Plenty of do this & don’t do that. Steve Jobs told three personal stories at Stanford. In 2005, in a moving address at Stanford University after receiving surgery for pancreas cancer, he reflected on his own mortality, urging his audience: ‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life’.

His third story started like this: ‘When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.’

The last part of his speech was almost like a preacher’s: ‘No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away.’

Statement from President Barack Obama

“Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.

By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.

The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him.”

And, Steve is not an enemy of Bill Gates. They were business rivals, yes. But, they were friends.

“I’m truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’ death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work.

Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives.

The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.

For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely. ”

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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

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Jared Diamond wrote the book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Summary of Jared Diamond’s argument: Human societies and smaller groups make disastrous decisions for a whole sequence of reasons: failure to anticipate a problem, failure to perceive it once it has arisen, failure to attempt to solve it after it has been perceived, and failure to succeed in attempts to solve it.

Here is a Harvard Professor’s write-up on that book:


So what lessons does Diamond draw from his case studies, and what insights might we glean for the conduct of foreign policy? Here are a few thoughts that occurred to me as I finished the book.

First, he argues that sometimes societies fail to anticipate an emerging problem because they lack adequate knowledge or prior experience with the phenomenon at hand. Primitive societies may not have recognized the danger of soil depletion, for example, because they lacked an adequate understanding of basic soil chemistry. A society may also fail to spot trouble if the main problem it is facing recurs only infrequently, because the knowledge of how to detect or deal with the problem may have been forgotten. As he emphasizes, this is especially problematic for primitive societies that lack written records, but historical amnesia can also occur even in highly literate societies like our own.

By analogy, one could argue that some recent failures in U.S. foreign policy were of this sort. Hardly anybody anticipated that U.S. support for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in Afghanistan would eventually lead to the formation of virulent anti-American terrorist groups, in part because the U.S. leaders didn’t know very much about that part of the world and because public discourse about U.S. policy in the Middle East is filled with gaping holes. Similarly, the people who led us into Iraq in 2003 were remarkably ignorant about the history and basic character of Iraqi society (as well as the actual nature of Saddam’s regime). To make matters worse, the U.S. military had forgotten many of the lessons of Vietnam and had to try to relearn them all over again, with only partial success.

Second, societies may fail to detect a growing problem if their leaders are too far removed from the source of the trouble. Diamond refers to this as the problem of “distant managers,” and it may explain why U.S. policymakers often make decisions that seem foolish in hindsight. As I’ve noted here before, one problem facing U.S. foreign policymakers is the sheer number and scope of the problems they are trying to address, which inevitably forces them to rely on reports from distant subordinates and to address issues that they cannot be expected to understand very well. Barack Obama doesn’t get to spend the next few years learning Pashto and immersing himself in the details of Afghan history and culture; instead, he has to make decisions based on what he is being told by people on the ground (who may or may not know more than he does). Unfortunately, the latter have obvious reasons to tell an upbeat story, if only to make their own efforts look good. If things are going badly, therefore, the people at the top back in Washington may be the last to know.


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Written by S Ibrahim

2011-06-25 at 12:38 AM

What Does Our Future Demand of Leaders Today?

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Map depicting the Ottoman Empire at its greate...

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Part of the speech given by Carly Florina, then CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HP), at Minnesota, Minneapolis September 26, 2001. Topic: “TECHNOLOGY, BUSINESS AND OUR WAY OF LIFE: WHAT’S NEXT”

There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world. It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins. One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the Peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.

And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and logarithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.

When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.

While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.

Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.

And perhaps we can learn a lesson from his example: It was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population–that included Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish traditions.This kind of enlightened leadership — leadership that nurtured culture, sustainability, diversity and courage — led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.In dark and serious times like this, we must affirm our commitment to building societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness. More than ever, we must focus on the importance of leadership– bold acts of leadership and decidedly personal acts of leadership.

Full Speech:


The Global Thinkers Book Club, and My Comments

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An article from Foreign Policy lists the top 2010 books read by global elite. It turns out some of these are good for us, the common man. The mere mortals too can benefit. Here is the URL

My Comments on a few books:

1. I liked some points mentioned from “The Upside of Irrationality”. It says

I hope you also recognize the upside of irrationality — that some of the ways in which we are irrational are also what makes us wonderfully human (our ability to find meaning in work, our ability to fall in love with our creations and ideas, our willingness to trust others, our ability to adapt to new circumstances, our ability to care about others, and so on). Looking at irrationality from this perspective suggests that rather than strive for perfect rationality, we need to appreciate those imperfections that benefit us, recognize the ones we would like to overcome, and design the world around us in a way that takes advantage of our incredible abilities while overcoming some of our limitations.

Think about it: How rational is/was our decision in choosing our spouses 🙂

2. “This Time Is Different” has fantastic points. It argues,

No matter how different the latest financial frenzy or crisis always appears, there are usually remarkable similarities with past experience from other countries and from history. The instruments of financial gain and loss have varied over the ages, as have the types of institutions that have expanded might­ily only to fail massively

It is a sort of deja vu for me. It reminds me of the arguments advanced by those who would buy the ‘internet’ companies’ stocks (popularly called ‘.com stocks’). When saner voices reminded them of the ridiculous valuations, they’d say “Internet is different”. People were classified into .com investors (smarts) and dinosaurs (block-heads). (The insanity didn’t last and the tables were turned). Remember,,

I worked at one. Its stock, whose face value was $10, opened at $65 and moved to i think $83 on the opening day itself. WSJ interviewed the CEO and it appeared on Page 1. Parties, smiles, jubilation were the order of the day until the management informed you “You know how bad the economy and our company is. Today is your Last Day here”, your new BMW was seized (you wished you didn’t trade that old Accord, Camry …) , and your home mortgage was in trouble.

This mentality can be seen in military adventures too. An example is invading Afghanistan. Here are some invasions and failures (From Encyclopædia Britannica)

  • Alexander the Great overthrew the Achaemenids and conquered most of the Afghan satrapies before he left for India in 327 BC. A nomadic raid about 130 BC ended the Greek era
  • Genghis Khan invaded the eastern part of ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn’s empire in 1219. Soon after ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn’s death, his energetic son Jalāl al-Dīn Mingburnu rallied the Afghan highlanders at Parwan (modern Jabal os Sarāj), near Kabul, and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Mongols under Kutikonian
  • We know the story of Soviet invasion and retreat. And still, the US thought “This time is different. We are more powerful. We can quickly win Afghanistan”. The Americans are staying (or, bleeding) longer than the soviets.

3. Will we learn from the earlier dotcom bubble and the recent economic, housing, financial engineering trouble (Please see for the chart describing the origins of this crisis) ? Can we avoid these troubles in the future? Raghuram Rajan (former IMF chief economist and now a finance professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business) writes in his famous book, “Fault Lines”:

There are deep fault lines in the global economy, fault lines that have developed because in an integrated economy and in an integrated world, what is best for the individual actor or institutions is not always best for the system. Responsibility for some of the more serious fault lines lies not in economics but in politics. Unfortunately, we did not know where all these fault lines ran until the crisis exposed them. We now know better, but the danger is that we will continue to ignore them

When the next boom comes, i hope we won’t be carried away with “This is different”.

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Real Estate: In Denial of Depression

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Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance are the five stages of grief, according to psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. These emotional stages are a particularly good fit to how investors react to investment losses.

Equity investors in India have  mostly gone through the entire process:

Denial: It’s just a correction. All bull markets have corrections—this will be over in no time.

Anger: The bear cartels are rigging the markets. Why don’t the stock exchange authorities, or SEBI, do something about it? It’s a conspiracy!

Bargaining: If I just get back my investment I promise never to speculate again. Promise!

Depression: It’s no use. My money is gone forever. I’ll never get rich in stocks.

Acceptance: OK, what’s done is done. Now let’s sell the duds at whatever loss and then work on a sensible savings plan

But the real estate sector,individual investors as well as real estate companies, seems stuck at various stages short of acceptance

Denial: Realty prices haven’t fallen. It’s just that there are no transactions. Anyway, realty prices can’t fall because no new land is being made.

Anger: Home loans are too expensive—that’s the problem. Why are rates so high?

Bargaining: If the government doesn’t do anything to help the real estate sector soon, then crores of jobs could be lost. The government should buy unsold flats and distribute them to the poor.

That’s all. There’s no depression, and there’s no acceptance, at least not in public. Whether prices have fallen enough or not won’t be decided by the developers writing press releases but by buyers writing cheques. And that hasn’t quite started happening yet.

Adapted from

Written by S Ibrahim

2009-02-18 at 11:44 PM

Obama and Books

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Obama with Fareed Zakaria book

US President Barack Obama carrying Fareed Zakaria’s “The Post-American World” book. The other favorite books he has read include

  • The Bible
  • “Parting the Waters,” Taylor Branch
  • “Self-Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Gandhi’s autobiography
  • “Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin (Abraham Lincoln’s decision to include former opponents in his cabinet)
  • “The Golden Notebook,” Doris Lessing
  • Lincoln’s collected writings
  • “Moby-Dick,” Herman Melville
  • “Song of Solomon,” Toni Morrison
  • Works of Reinhold Niebuhr (which emphasize the ambivalent nature of human beings and the dangers of willful innocence and infallibility)
  • “Gilead,” Marilynne Robinson
  • Malcolm X’s autobiography
  • Shakespeare’s tragedies

    His predecessor, George W. Bush, has read 95 books in 2006, while his advisor Karl Rove read 110 books in 2006. (In just one year). Like them or hate them, they are good readers despite running the country. And, we complain “We are too busy to read books”. BTW, Barack Obama has also written books: This is my count. I dont know if he has written more books. But, keep in mind that he was the President of Harvard Law Review (a Journal).


    1. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
    2. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
    3. Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama’s Plan to Renew America’s Promise
    4. Barack Obama in His Own Words

    If you are wondering, how come George Bush committed so many crimes (Economy, Regulation, Environment, Iraq, Afghanistan, getting-orders-from-Israel…), despite reading a lot, the probable answers are

    1) he read wrong books

    2) he listened to neoconservative blockheads

    3) he was and still IS arrogant

    Written by S Ibrahim

    2009-01-20 at 1:40 PM

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