Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

The odyssey of news

In Uncategorized on May 2, 2011 at 6:57 am

World moves at a fast pace. Things happen anywhere and everywhere. It is nearly impossible for the news reporters to be at all these places at the exact time of the incident. Often, they reach the spot ‘after the fact’ of the incident. This model worked in the old days when people relied on print media and television to garner information. However, in today’s world, information travels at gigabytes per second if not more. Internet is (nearly) ubiquitous. It is also a great forum to post news and your views for free. Thus, the users become first-hand reporters of news. The shift caused by internet users reporting news has a major impact on the news industry. Here is why:

  • First, the users are the first to market. By the time the news agency catches up, its no longer ‘news’. The word is spread already. People watch news to get additional information that they cannot gather from ‘tweets’.
  • Second, my hunch is that there is a preference to hear firsthand information. This is different from listening to the standard and nearly unchanged form of media reporting.

Internet has changed the dynamics of traditional news. It has now become both the source and destination for many news agencies. The news industry is going through a transitional period. As with any change, some handle it well and others struggle. Consider for example the incident of 9/11. Tourists’ video camera captured the first images. As we fast forward nearly 10 years later, the twitter community had the potential to know that Bin Laden was dead. The form and shape of information has evolved over the decade. Given that this has been established already, then why do news agencies write articles based entirely on tweets? If I want to read tweets, I know where to find them. I don’t need a news agency for that.

With the changed dynamics, the news agencies should take information from the internet one step further and expand on the incident with detailed and authoritative analysis. They have the capability to provide the history, the current incident in the context, and its impact on future. Very few agencies do that. Consider The Economist for example. They are not the first to report the incident on print. However, their analysis makes it worth my while to read. They circumvent the need to be ‘first to market’. On the other hand, news agencies that still have their strategy set to old standards struggle for information. The desperate need for information drives them to reprint tweets and copy other news agencies.

This transitional period for the news industry determines who leads the pack and who follows. It is time for the news agencies to revisit their strategy and evaluate how they want the next decade to be. Their role has changed from news reporters to news analysts! They can be assured that with the pace of technology, the medium will change. Whatever solution they come up with needs to be broader than factoring in youtube and twitter.


Importance of Transferable Skills

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm

As you grow higher in the corporate ladder your transferable skills matter more than the technical skills. This is often a shocking discovery for someone in the high-tech industry. An excellent engineer gets promoted to a manager and finds out his / her world has turned upside down. For instance, what enabled success as an engineer is sometimes an obstacle to your success as a manager.

Your ability to analyze a given situation, identify opportunities and make improvements are transferable skills. Your ability to code in Java or Verilog is not a transferable skill as you move up the ladder. Lets consider a few of my examples:

  • As an ASIC Engineer at a start-up, I was responsible for system verification along with two other team members. At the end of the week, the management summed up the number of regressions by each person to assess their performance. You get what you measure – the other two members worked hard to push up their numbers each week. I came up with a out of the box solution. I automated the  verification process with scripts so that the regressions were done with or without me. This boosted our productivity significantly. After saving money and reducing cycle-time, I moved on to lead other parts of ASIC development. Now, how do you transfer this ‘process’ thinking to a different situation? Read the next item…
  • In a completely different role from hardware engineering, I was leading the sales operations for a Fortune 100 company. The team I inherited ran the same reports everyday manually. Every time I needed information, the team had to go through a lot of data processing. Worse yet, the information gathered was always looking backward instead of forecasting. I hired a IT team and designed a business intelligence application that automated the report generation, provided instant dashboard for different levels of details customized to the viewers need, and more importantly provided forecast so that I can scale my resources appropriately. This increased productivity. We were able to serve our customers better by predicting their needs and being proactive in providing solutions. I relieved the team of mundane tasks and assigned them to higher-order work.

With effort and practice you can transfer your skills to many different aspects of business. You can bring fresh ideas and implement solutions regardless of what role you take. Learn the tactical skills needed for the job so you are competent. Focus on developing and nurturing your transferable skills.

The power of questions

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2011 at 10:24 am

As someone who has worked in a variety of verticals and business functions, I attribute some of my success to common sense. However, the adage that common sense is not that common is very true. Often, people look for complex solutions to problems to showcase their value-ad to the organization. How do you tell them gently and politely that there are other better ways to solve the issue?

You can be direct and to the point. If your coworkers share similar style and are open minded, this works well. However, lets come to the real world. Yes, the real world, where you have coworkers who have their ego and emotions attached to their ideas. The real world where they can just bulldoze you to make their point or brand you in the wrong way. This often leads to friction and frustration.

Even if you get your solution implemented, you may win the battle but lose the war. When you work in a team with peers, it is imperative to have a conducive environment. Also, you ‘want’ to team to work with you instead of ‘have’ to work with you. By asking the right questions, you spark the team to develop better solutions. You can influence the team and guide them in the right direction.

One tactic that works really well for me is to ask clarifying questions instead of just offering solutions. Show them that you understand their solution, you are curious about how it will play out in different scenarios, and how their solution will help in such situations. As they try to answer these questions, they will uncover the folly of their idea and become more open to brainstorming a better solution. This makes people more comfortable around you instead of being threatened by you.

As a bonus, here is a video I came across about asking questions:

Why do some large organizations fail?

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2011 at 6:50 am

There are some lessons to be learned from successes. There are far more lessons to be learned from failures. A group of ambitious people start a company with a great product idea. The company is successful and expands. As the company grows, there is turf war. The focus shifts. Instead of taking risk and launching great products, the focus is on job security. In some situations, this behavior is so pronounced that any risk takers are managed out of the company. This sends a clear message to the rest of the team. They just do what they are told to do. Besides, why would people take risks when there is no associated reward (promotion, bonus, etc) and when they have a chance of getting fired?

In an open environment that nourishes innovation, the employees are happy. They don’t have to fear for their jobs or go through a ton of red-tape to develop their ideas. The team produces great products that helps the company overcome competitive pressure. The company does well and stays profitable. However, in many large organizations, this has just become a day dream. Consequently, there is layoffs and job insecurity. This triggers a downward spiral. In an insecure environment, people avoid risks. This impacts innovation and the company eventually becomes less profitable, triggering more layoffs.

Unfortunately, many leaders in large organizations are biased and like to think that they would NEVER turn down a good idea or NEVER build territories. If they have open and honest conversations with their employees, they will be surprised and shocked. Hope this blog makes at least a small difference in some of your thoughts and actions.

Have you ever had your valuable idea rejected? Have you spent more time on red-tape than it would take to develop the product? Have you thought that the risk is not worth the reward? I’d like to hear your experiences and thoughts in the comments sections below…