Software Engineer’s Blog

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Making the right career choice!

An interesting discussion “In India, for the Vocational Skill Development initiatives to succeed in a big way, the perception of the general populace on education needs to be changed.” What are your opinion on this? set me thinking, once again, about career building. It got me thinking because it is very close to my heart, it is very dear to me, helping people become successful in their career

What makes a good career? I think answer to this question is highly subjective. It depends on the individual, his/her skillsets, background (educational, financial, social,…), attitude, ..

In my experience spanning more than two decades of experience by now, I find a great career is about

  • Making the right decision at first
  • Setting a clear goal
  • Periodically reviewing and revising it to stay in tune with market and group dynamics
  • Diligently working towards the goal and
  • (last but not the least) working as a team helping others achieve their goals as well (to me, life is more about collaboration than competition)

Out of this, a whole lot depends on the initial decision. How best can one make the right decision? Quite often, youth of a developing economy like India is bogged down by the need to earn money to be self-sustainable.

A case in point is a classmate of my school days. Though both of us were from more or less similar social and financial background, he opted for a ‘vocational’ learning through ITI while I pursued my studies in the regular stream of studies. His education through ITI got him a job much earlier than me but he ended up in a career which was largely routine…. a great resource lost into the crowd….. and he represent many unknown faces in India.

Could that have been different? We did not, then, have variety of career choices that are open now. In what was available, there was hardly any guidance available for a school boy in a remote village in deep south part of India.

Can it be different now? I think it can. There are plenty of choices, and many means of spreading awareness. But it seems, it is now a question of deluge of information than its dearth. Consequently, my recommendation to India’s youth now is to analyze every opportunity in the prism of what it means to you.

Quadrant III is definitely no choice, except possibly as a starting point or quick-fix solution, rather than starving. Quadrant IV might challenge, and hence be appealing for while. It is good to retain it as a hobby but dangerous as a career choice.  Many are caught in Quadrant I. This helps to lead a comfortable life but leaves you drained out internally. 

Key to successful is to identify variant of a career choice of your interest and specialization that falls in Quandrant II.

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August 20, 2011 Posted by | Software Engineering Career | Leave a comment

Software Engineering, and town planning analogy

I have seen many literature discussing Software Engineering relating software development to building construction, and a very few comparing it with town planning. Of course, I am no expert on civil engineering or town planning. My observations are from the perspective of observer.

Comparison with building construction is probably easier for any one to relate but I think it is quite a simplification. It helps to convey role of process formalism, team work and automation depending on scope and scale of project. Major point of disconnect, as I find, is in the epilogue. I think only a few, if at all any, building would need to adapt to change as a software must in its lifetime.

Let me clarify here that I am not referring to Software Development Life Cycle but rather time from its initial release for use till it is withdrawn from use, along with all its variants.I have not seen a natural death of a software so far. Either it is killed by its manufacturer by formally declaring End of Life, or it is killed by market and other forces. Well, then there are cases where software is continued to exist with its manufacturer withdrawing support. In general, it amounts to withdrawing ventilator. Is that a natural death or a forced one? I am not sure where to classify it

Coming back to town planning analogy, I find it is closer to software development, than a building construction, in the sense that it starts off in an ambitious plan and in a systematic manner. Over a period of time, town is goes through many changes as it change hands. People who are in charge of town planning, administration and management changes, each of them having their own ideas on how town should be. Market dynamics changes bringing in new possibilities. People living in town changes, and their needs. If you consider a modern town/city, what it was a few decades back and what it is now, you will realize changes and its impact. Town infrastructure had to adapt to accommodate evolving world. This is more visible in developing economies, partly due to ‘ad hoc’ town planning measures and often being at the receiving end of technology changes.

What makes software development further more complex is drastically shrinking timelines and its intangible, invisible nature.

August 3, 2011 Posted by | Software architecture, software engineering | Leave a comment

Lifecycle of a buzzword: A cynical perspective

In my tenure in IT industry spanning more than two decades by now, I have seen rise and fall of many buzzwords. Some of them are: Artificial Intelligence and Knowledge Base Computer Systems in 1980s, Rapid Application Development and Object Orientation in 1990s, Use cases and Stories in 2000s, … and the list goes on… debate goes on ‘object oriented or structured?’, ‘agile or CMMI?’, ‘agile or UP?’, ‘use cases or stories?’

I am not disputing the value of these but rather questioning the hype that comes around these as they emerge. These hype help business of promoters but adversely affect their proper interpretation and implementation. It is equivalent to percolating modern innovations and approaches in healthcare through marketing machinery, skilled in marketing than healthcare.

Hardly any scientific analysis can happen without demystifying buzzwords first, and that requires going to its very origin. I do this regularly, try to see through these hype, just as I am sure many others like me in the industry also do. In the process, I have also noticed a pattern to meteoric rise and fall these buzzwords, going through different phases as below. Quite often, this is carefully orchestrated for obvious reasons.

Discovery: Each of these emerge out of experiments in a relatively small group; some one or a team taking extra care to pull out key factors those helped and those worked against. Those helped soon are packaged into best practices, spiced up with adequate marketing masala .

Evangelization: At this point, it takes a curious turn that marketing machinery is now active looking for ‘nails’ for this new found ‘hammer’ . That is, inventing problems for new found ‘silver bullet’ is a business imperative to justify cost put into packaging the solution!

Adoption: This effort, in general, is richly rewarded, finding fertile ground in the minds of ‘managers’ looking for ‘quick-fix silver bullets’.

In most of the cases that I have come across, problems are project specific though might have some resemblance to problems elsewhere. Solutions from outside, based on experiences in solving similar problems elsewhere, can help providing objective assessment and guidance but cannot simply solve these problems, by themselves. It is so because problems, in their very nature, are unique, intrinsic and integral to the project. External agencies (consultant, contractor, methodology, tool, ..) can help to identify but uprooting must necessarily be internal act.

At Mount Everest: What follows is a war of buzzwords; at times, one winning over another at times in terms of mind share to become ‘de facto’ standard…. Curiously, this is beginning of decay and rotting starts within, largely unnoticed… Each buzzword acquire new meanings far away from its original form….Originators are now caught between dilemma of what they created or dumping it…They go about issuing clarifications and revisions, further adding to noise…

Big Bang: What follows is disillusion and decline. Horror stories of failure emerge out of cupboard and world is on the look out for a new buzzword … and the life starts all over again.

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Agile, Business, lessons learned, Management, software engineering, Unified Process, Value Based Software Engineering | Leave a comment