Sunday, May 28, 2017

IT Career advice from Mohan

Here is a recent question from an online forum: What would you advise to a CSE undergraduate from India in the current scenario when Indian IT companies are laying off lots of employees?

My response follows -

Having spent the past couple of decades in the vibrant field of IT, my advice to CSE undergrads is simple: Be prepared to reskill yourself while staying grounded on the fundamentals.
Advise like “re-invent yourself” and “constant reskilling” is an oft repeated mantra, so much so that it starts to sound clich├ęd.
For instance, I started as a Windows developer (back when computing was ‘client server’) and switched to programming on mainframes (MVS, CICS, DB2 etc), learnt EAI, Integration and TIBCO and later moved to web-servers and middlewares before I morphed into an Enterprise Architect and continue to observe and learn about ERPs (SAP) Cloud platforms, SaaS customizations, integrations etc etc.
Did I have to ‘reinvent’ myself every-time? NO. I was merely adding to my experience.
If one has strong grounding in the fundamentals of computing, most of what one continues to learn is incremental and doesn’t necessarily involve a ‘reboot.’ For instance, the database-101 skills I used in DB2 are just as relevant as I review SQL and Big-data.

What this means to you is the same: try to get a very good grounding in the fundamentals of computing because this is what you will continue to build on during your career.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Enterprise Architecture Q&A : Is Enterprise Architecture still relevant in the Digital Age?

Here are a couple of questions that on EA from an online forum that I responded to 

Is Enterprise Architecture still relevant in the Digital Age?

Let us take the overly simplistic description of EA from Wikipedia “Enterprise architecture (EA) is "a well-defined practice for conducting enterprise analysis, design, planning, and implementation, using a holistic approach at all times, for the successful development and execution of strategy.”
This need for “conducting enterprise analysis, design, planning, and implementation, using a holistic approach” continues to be relevant in the digital age.
A strong EA based approach will guide the development of a strategy and roadmap for realization. More importantly, it will guide the execution of a digital strategy[1] too.

How can I be an expert in enterprise architecture?

Let me change the premise of the question before trying to answer it. One doesn’t become an “expert in enterprise architecture” just like one doesn’t become an “expert in medicine” or “expert in law” or “expert in business”
Building on one of these examples, one becomes proficient in law, and gains expertise in a branch, say patent-law or criminal-law. After a lot of hard work and working in the trenches, one gets recognized as a good lawyer and perhaps an expert in patent filings.
Most Enterprise Architects are generalists in many of the BIDAT EA domains, while some may also be recognized as experts in a domain or sub-domain. For instance, An EA might be recognized as an ‘expert’ in Networking and Infrastructure with a strong background in virtualization and cloud hosting, while his peer in the organization may bring in expertise in transforming HR processes. By complementing their skills, they enhance the practice of EA in their enterprise.
If the question was “How do I learn more about Enterprise Architecture?” I can point you to several books, references and online forums on the topic. (ref: “Enterprise Architecture References”)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Q&A: What is the reason behind the layoffs in IT firms in India?

This was a question that came to me from an online forum. Expanding on it, the person asked: Is it related to the H-1B visa, or some other reason? What impact will this have? My response follows

Years ago, I worked for Infosys and at that time, we had an "assigned curve" based appraisal system. I think it was called ‘CRR’ (Comparative Relative Ranking) where about
  • 5% a pool of employees would get an A+
  • Next 5% would get an A
  • Another 50% would get a B (or B+)
  • Another 20% would get a B-
  • Remaining 20% would get a C (or Performance Improvement Plan – PIP)
The company had about 30-40,000 employees. At any time, few hundred employees would be under the PIP.  Many who got a ‘C’ during a cycle, strived to work hard and improve and some folks banded into PIP for two cycles in a row were asked to ‘seek other opportunities.’

No drama. No news.

Of course, the Indian IT sector was booming and many employees graded -rightly or wrongly – into the bottom rungs would voluntarily find other opportunities and resign much before being told. This was done unceremoniously, without a lot of drama.

Image result for layoff free clipart
Fast forward to current day.
  • Large software service companies employ nearly 200,000 people each. The rate of voluntary attrition is at historically low percentages.
  • Assuming some sort of a bell-curve grading continues, and companies expect 5-10% of the bottom-rung people to ‘voluntarily’ leave, we are still looking at 10-20,000 people (each) leaving. 
  • 10-20,000 people from each of the big-5 or 6 players coming into the market is a lot of churn to handle, even at the best of times.
  • The global software services market has slowed down. Most of the large software-service firms are projecting slower yearly growth.
  • Thanks to Trump’s Executive actions, Indian firms are promising to hire tens of thousands of American workers.
  • One could include other factors like increased automation and productivity gains that are being touted by IT leaders.
  • Factor in the slowdown in American work-visa (H1) issuance, protectionism in Australia, England and elsewhere that lessens global mobility of people. (2017 is not likely to see as many Indian techies moving abroad)

The media is always looking for headlines. “'Indian IT firmsto layoff up to 2 lakh engineers annually for next 3 years” is exactly the kind of headline that is bound to go viral. Simple economics at work here (more views and readership = greater advert revenue).

The stories are focused ‘layoffs’ which are just one part of the equation. They are missing the big picture – a tectonic shift in the OffshoringIT Services !

A sampling of other headlines

Monday, May 1, 2017

Parking Wars: Residents in the land of Gandhi taking up Gandhigiri ?

People in major urban cities like Bengaluru are on the edge over parking wars. Residents with bikes and cars – which most do find it an excruciating experience driving around neighborhoods looking for parking. Most gated communities and apartments have limited real-estate and deny parking for visitors.

Walking around a side-street in Malleshwaram, a nice old subdivision in Bangalore, I came across the following warning posted ominously on a house’ garage door.

I was both amused and perplexed by the warning message. Parking, especially illegal parking is certainly a nuisance in many neighborhoods, and at times I have had to ‘request’ offenders not to park in front of the gate of our house. However, I wonder if people really willing to take up law into their own hands and be uncivil and rude to their neighbors? 

Citizens are perhaps taking cues from their elected leaders and representatives who are both goading and leading with poor examples. Just a couple of cases that made headlines recently

First, there was the news of Shiv Sena Member of Parliment, Ravindra Gaikwad beatingan Air India staffer with slippers. The intelligence and middle-class were left wondering about Mr Gaikwad’s audacity in refusing to apologize and “demanding” his right to continue to fly Air India. We were also left to wonder about the impotence of fellow parliamentarians and elected representatives who barely uttered a pip against their esteemed colleague.

Image result for Ravindra Gaikwad air India staffer

Just today there was an interesting news (link) of another Minister from Madhya Pradesh gifting bats to 700 brides “to fix drunk hubbie” 

A bride with the bat gifted by an MP minister. Facebook

After reading the article, I was left scratching my head over the message to the impressionable brides: expect your hubby to turn out to be a drunkard. So, what happens to the dreams and aspirations with which youngsters tie the knot; or for that matter the silly notion of love when an esteemed minister passes on this message? Speak of starting a new life on a wrong footing.

With such messages coming from representatives, it is not surprising to see the public including denizens of Bangalore taking up arms. Many are showing willingness to be "violent" to protect the land around their property against neighbors and fellow residents who dare to park their vehicles.