Monday, September 03, 2012

Can business really be personal?

[EDIT]  This is an old unfinished post that I am completing today ...

Two back to back "international business trips" in a span of 10 days are making me think long and hard about human relationships and its relevance in the context of business.

Can a friendly relationship be sustained in a business context? Is there any value given to morality and righteousness in the context of a business relationship? Does every activity in a business relationship have to be transactional and built purely on the foundation of the impact it has to the bottomline?

In business school we are taught to believe that by changing from a transactional mode to a strategic partnership mode the best results are achieved for both parties involved in the relationship. The problem with "my" business education is that while the abovementioned core point has been emphasized and driven in through tons of theory and case studies, the real world seems to be scattered with examples that are added in an insignificant section usually titled "caveats".

What have I learnt over the past three months:

1. In the bay area, all relationships are transactional - in your face, get my work done and get out types - the only thing good about it all - everything is laid out on the table, there is potentially no hidden agenda like with Asian customers.

To get an analogy, an American will sneer and growl at you while stabbing you through the heart - an Asian will smile, apologize for the  pain and finally say a thank you while stabbing you through the heart.

2. There is no appreciation for a job well done, doing a job well is considered to be routine, slipping or screwing up even slightly is completely unacceptable - this is an known paradigm that I am practicing everyday.

3. Everybody wants to find ways for controlling the outcome of every single action - including me.

4. Expectation mismatches are common, it is almost impossible to find a clear and logical middle ground while trying to fill the expectation gap, you have to come up with compromises, out of the box ideas and other methodologies to continuously fight this never ending battle.

5. Out of business compulsions management has to put on a two faced approach in some situations. The internal face sympathizes with the employees while the external face has to be sympathetic to the customers even if the sympathies at loggerheads with each other.



Sunday, January 22, 2012

Flexing those muscles

I stand guilty of not having flexed my muscles much for the past two years. Neither have I physically exercised well enough over the past two years nor have I written anything extremely creative ("creative" is a relative term). I stand guilty in my own court of not having done the two things that I think are quite important (though not the most important) for my own physical and mental well being.

First things first, life is going just great. Apart from a few medical scares in between and a few frustrating quarters at IIM Bangalore (thank God I am done with my PGSEM as of December 2011), everything else in my life seems to be interestingly poised. From a professional perspective, I got out of my comfort zone and made a risky move into the field of application engineering for Android. I think the pay offs are coming through. I have a great bunch of colleagues, been through one cycle of ramping up customers to bring out super products (check this) and most of all besides the technical competence that I am building up, I am also in-charge of a team of 11 contract engineers. My vision of creating a non-linear support model for Android customers will be tested in the coming year 2012. On the personal front, I think I know that I am not cut out to be a bachelor for the rest of my life and I look forward to being married to the pretty girl I have been in love with for the past three years. I have to move out of my comfort zone and convince my parents to bless this matrimony so that it actually fructifies before Christmas 2012.

Essentially what I am doing in 2012 is to move out of my comfort zone to get many long pending actions completed. Two important actions that I would like to do for sure

1. Exercise regularly

I have stopped using the elevators at office and at home. Walking up five flights of stairs is the first step I am taking to improve my health here.

Thinking of picking up a treadmill, since my work seems to keep me in office for more than 10 hours at a stretch usually.

Should go for a light jog in the afternoons in the office gym. I pay a membership fee that has been wasted for the past two years.
Stop eating red meat completely and cut down the usage of oil in food preparation that I am in control of.

Really give Yoga and meditation a shot ....

2. Write regularly

There are so many things I feel passionately about ... policy decisions, technology, philosophy ... I have got to start putting down my thoughts on paper (the virtual kind ...).

My writings should not just be technical or philosophical, I need to get back to writing stories, especially those that deeply explore human emotions and relationships.

Perhaps I should work freelance over the weekends for anybody who requires a copywriter ... really ambitious goal but possible perhaps ...


A few more resolutions that are slightly unrelated:
1. Figure out how to use Google+
2. Start using Twitter regularly (or at least periodically)


Well this is atleast a start after more than two years!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Beating those hospitalization blues - Part II

This is the second part of my post. In case you missed part 1, you can read it here.

The points i am making in this post are concerned with non-critical yet important aspects of the hospital stay.

- Visitors: a source of joy /a source of suffering

There were two distinct phases that i went through, one in which i felt extremely good, almost normal ready to be discharged, and then the very next day back to square one with high fevers, heavy rigors (violent chills). On days when i felt normal i wanted to meet people, as many people as possible. Visitors were welcome, they provided me a connection with the social and professional life i enjoyed when i was outside the hospital. On days when i was sick i just longed for my immediate family, my girlfriend to be around; any other visitor was not welcome. I had one of my aunts, a catholic nun come by and stay for a few days. This lady was someone i was not very comfortable spending time with before due to a difference in philosophies. However having her around providing me spiritual and moral support changed my entire attitude towards visitors in general. I will be eternally grateful to all the people who visited me and helped in maintaining my link with the social life that is so important to me.


- Don't forget to entertain yourself and those around you ! :)
There is nothing that is more effective than a few well cracked jokes at strategic moments to elevate a sagging depressed mood. I had a few doctors from the urology department who had an awesome (and at times downright dirty) sense of humor which served me well :) ... I remember coming out of my first surgery in pain (the local anesthetic was wearing off) and in my delirious state asking my parents to keep me occupied with some form of conversation ultimately ending in a few wise cracks from both ends, a few from my parents and a few from me ... somehow the humor kept me from thinking of the pain. Towards the end of my stay in the hospital, on a day when i was feeling fit enough to walk down to the hospital book shop, i picked up a book - "Laughing With The Bishop" by J. Maurus and excellent source of jokes on the clergy which kept me good company for the rest of my stay in the hospital.

- Faith and spirituality - very helpful tools for theists
I am not a deeply religious person, but i do have faith in the presence of a personal god. In the context of my religion i found the chant of a prayer - the rosary - to have a very soothing effect on my frayed nerves. Besides this, reading the bible was another source of inspiration and strength. I would strongly recommend Psalm91 to anybody who is looking for a source of strength and believes in the healing power of prayer.I would also recommend a lovely book - "A source book of inspiration" by J. Maurus. This book is a good spiritual guide with numerous anecdotes, inspirational quotes and a quintessential dose of humor. Being admitted in a catholic run hospital i had access to a quiet peaceful chapel. When i was fit enough, towards the end of my stay, i made it a point to visit the chapel everyday in the morning for a few minutes and do some quiet meditation.

- For the active professional types/book worms: Sources of distraction
The last and possibly least important aspect of a hospitalization... I am an extremely active professional in a very dynamic and demanding industry (and company within this industry). I have also been a voracious reader, thinker and writer at different points in my life. Sitting idle in the hospital did me no good, so i got myself all the books that were lying on my shelf waiting to be finished (thankful to my parents for hauling them to and fro) and actually finished them. I also got myself a few technical books relevant to my interests and read through them too. Solving puzzles and complex mathematical problems was another source of distraction, though it does come with a caveat, it could be quite taxing mentally and may end up being a source of stress. Overall keeping myself distracted with my books and periods of deep introspection on technical matters helped in reducing the pain.

With this I end a personal account of what i would like to call a "soft reset" period of my life. Its been four months since i have been out and if i know one thing for sure, i never want to see the interiors of a hospital ever again!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Beating those hospitalization blues - Part I

In the recent past i had the (mis)fortune of having to spend close to 43 days hospitalized and had the distinction of being classified and discharged as a patient with "Pyrexia of Unknown Origin" (more on this condition here).

This post is not about my clinical or physical condition, nor is it intended to go deep into the medical technicalities best left to be discussed in the consultation rooms of able minded physicians of the world. This is just a post to remind myself of the psychological experience, the trauma faced by me (the patient) and my parents (the attendants) and perhaps help out others who find themselves in a similar situation. If i were to make this post sound more dramatic then i would name it - "How to mentally survive more than 40 days of hospitalization"!

I have split this post into two parts. The first part (that is this one) emphasizes on the points that i feel are the most relevent and important with respect to surviving the hospital stay. The second part covers aspects that make sure that survival happens with a certain amount of fun and a happier psychological predisposition.


- The truth is you really can't be that strong

The most oft repeated words of advice when you are hospitalized would probably contain the following phrases - "take courage", "be strong", "don't worry", " stop worrying". These words will be used with the best intentions by friends and relatives.
The truth remains that it boils down to what you are feeling inside your head. On the 21st day while i was suffering with a temperature of 104F something snapped inside my head, death felt like a preferable alternative. Convinced that i am on the path of certain death with a terrible disease i made a list of all my assets, liabilities, bank accounts, debt, investments (details i had never shared with anybody) and shared the details with my parents (who were taking care of me) telling them to expect the worst; a move that served to upset my parents badly!
Perhaps i was overreacting, but then a long stint in the hospital can have a debilitating effect on the morale, however optimistic we are in the "normal" world. There will be periods where it seems like things are getting better, and then suddenly things are back to what they were or perhaps worse. This roller coaster ride is what is causes the maximum damage, the remaining sections outline the best way by which a long stint at the hospital can be dealt with.


- Having a good support system helps - parents are invaluable


The most important people in the case of a long hospitalization are the people who take care of you and the support system that sustains them (friends and relatives). My parents were my biggest source of support, or should i say the only source. This happened mainly because visitation was limited due to the high risk of infection. At times like this paternal instincts come out most strongly. My dietary needs, my clinical needs, literally all my needs had to be taken care of my parents and if not for them surviving the ordeal would have been impossible.
Being able to talk to friends and colleagues is another important support system. Having the cell phone next to me and being able to make and receive calls proved to be a good source of support from a mental perspective.
One of the most important aspects of my recovery was the conversations i would have with my girlfriend. The ability to talk to her, share her life and my life through a telephonic conversation had a very positive effect on my mental state. Just the thought of listening to her voice was enough to make me feel better and actually talking to her made me feel mentally and physically relaxed.


- Communicating with the doctors and medical staff is extremely important

The single most important person from a medical staff point of view is the doctor who is handling your case. The resident doctors and the staff nurses are equally important, but it is most important that every single symptom both physiological and psychological is communicated with utmost clarity to the big one. Nothing is insignificant. A slight involuntary twitch of the eye, a bout of heavy sweating, a few dry coughs, everything has some significance to the doctor. If the patient is not able to keep track of these, atleast the attendant should. Case in point, one day my aunt noticed that the whites of my eyes were really white, no traces of any blood vessels, I ignored this point while the doc was on his rounds, however my aunt persisted and communicated this to the doctor who then did a thorough re-examination recommended some tests just to ensure that things were all OK. Needless to say those tests did return some problems that were minor but required immediate attention.


To be continued ...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Dealing with people

"You cannot control the way in which people around you behave, but what you can control is your reaction to it."
[Definitely stated by someone before me :)]

There are two ways in which you can deal with people, the reactive and the proactive way.

At one extreme, domineering people tend to be proactive in their dealings, they don't usually take any form of feedback and deal with people and situations in a manner that they deem best.

At the other extreme are highly oppressed people who behave in the most obsequious way; being completely reactive in their way of dealing with people and situations.

I feel most "balanced" people fit in a zone between these two extremes. The obvious question that comes to my mind is where do i fit in?

After a lot of introspection i have come to a conclusion on the position that i would like to take in my life. 

While dealing with the people i care about - my family, my friends - i would like to have a higher fraction of reactive responses than proactive resposes ... i want to listen to them, react to what they have to say, or feel, get proactive only when required. This is an extremely difficult objective to achieve (been trying it for a few weeks ...it is quite a daunting task to achieve the ideal that i have stated). I like to believe that i have a large amount of patience when i deal with people and situations, but now i realize that i have to have a lot more patience than what i believe i have had. There has to be an inner calm, a tranquil place that exists within my psyche that enables this kind of an approach.

At a professional level i want to have a balanced approach, a one is to one split between the reactive and proactive responses. Alongside the inner tranquility for my calm reactive nature i need to have a raging inferno for a fiery proactive response. This will serve me well in the long run provided i use the right combination of responses in my professional dealings. I might need to be a reactive inferno at times and at times be a calm proactive element!

It is not easy to be "balanced" in this sense, yet i have to work hard to achieve the right blend in my response to the situations and people that life throws at me!