Monday, March 25, 2019

#Bookreview : The Reckoning: A Novel by John Grisham

Here's my recent review of John Grisham's "The Reckoning: A Novel"

Having read most of Grisham’s works, and having seen him give a lively talk to a hall-full of fans, I was ready for ‘The Reckoning’

The blurb explains that it is a “story of an unthinkable murder, the bizarre trial that followed it, and its profound and lasting effect on the people of Ford County.”

Set in the Nineteen forties cotton-picking South, Grisham throws in an ample dose of gentleman farmer’s family, blacks-vs-whites and the war. It is a story of Pete Banning, Clanton's favorite son, and war hero who kills the pastor of the local Methodist church and surrenders with a simple statement 'I have nothing to say.' And ‘why he did it’ is the mystery that Grisham keeps readers hooked on till the very end.

The first part of the book has a brief description of Pete Banning’s exploits and experiences during the war, but Grisham seems to relish taking us through the gory details of Guerrilla warfare. Even going past this to the end of the book, I was left scratching my head over the need for such detailed narrative on the topic of war.

The characters of Pete’s son, Joel is rather well developed and much of the narrative is through Joel’s eyes. The unpredictable end, however, is a satisfactory anti-climax that explains Pete Banning’s reason for ‘why he did it;’ and how it all backfired on him and on the Banning clan.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Q&A - Should Indian IT companies encourage working from home? What can be the challenges and how can they be overcome?

This was an interesting question that came to me from an online forum. Work From Home policies continue to evolve around the globe. Organizations and managers around the globe continue to look at adoption of work-from-home policies in other industry segments.

Like their global peers, Indian IT companies have been updating their business and work policies in the past couple of decades. Policies on Work-from-home continue to evolve though they are not the norm.

Managers understand that may need to accommodate the need of employees to work from home sometimes. While some Indian IT companies allow some employees to work from home, such policies are unlikely to become the norm. This is because, most companies have invested in office space and infrastructure and want employees to come in and work with their colleagues. The challenges of encouraging work from home en masse are obvious :

Primary challenges

Level of employees - Much of the Indian IT continues to be bottom-heavy. Junior employees and those fresh out of college need to be mentored hands-on and letting them work from home is neither practical nor efficient. And if most of such junior employees are going to work from office, can you expect their managers to be working from home?
Culture - Perhaps the greatest barrier to letting employees work from home is the reluctance from young employees. Many Indians, especially youngsters take pride in the companies they work for. Many want to get-ready and head to work and be able to tell their neighbors, aunts and uncles that they work for XYZ multinational at a “tech park.” This way they can justify buying a new bike or leasing a car !
  • The above two are not easy challenges to overcome, and might take time as younger employees mature with the industry
Other Challenges (that may be overcome)

Measuring productivity - IT Managers have been trained to MBWA and are comfortable managing employees they can walk up to. Some of them are used to “seeing” employees being productive (or taking frequent coffee breaks) and can engage with employees
  • Managers in some organizations and groups that allow work-from-home overcome their MBWA practice by adopting technologies like web/video conferencing and other tools.
Effort in identifying and delegating tasks that can be performed independently. Some tasks may not be easy to break up and may require frequent interactions with groups
  • Creatively break up tasks that can be delegated and performed remotely by skilled employees

Wider adoption of WFH in the Indian IT will depend on individual managers and their teams, and comes down to Ronald Regan’s famous adage - trust but verify

Sunday, January 27, 2019

NRI Career question: Is it tough to get a job in India after returning back from abroad with international work experience?

This was a recent question that came to me from an online forum. My response follows

Yes, I won’t sugarcoat it. It is certainly tough if you are job-hunting after returning from abroad with “international work experience.” I say this from my experience after returning back to India (link to another post).

Here’s why it may be “tough” to get a job after returning back, and what you could do

  • Sheer population in urban-India with lot more educated and experienced workers looking for better opportunities, and intense competition for high-end (high paying) positions.
  • You might over-value your “International work experience,” but recruiters don’t. A lot of Indians, especially in Info-tech sectors have such international experience and you will find it hard to stand out just on that account.
  • If you have spent an extended period abroad, you may not have a network of peers in the local market who can make introductions or give referrals to openings
  • Ageism - In the west, many professionals continue to be ‘hands on’ even as they gain experience in a field. This is true for hi-tech workers too. However, in India, hi-tech workers get ‘promoted’ to management positions early in their career and those skills are as valued in experienced professionals. If you happen to be a 40-something IT programmer, you will certainly find it hard to find an IT-programming job in India.
  • Lot of ‘returning NRIs’ move back as they are unable to accept changes back in India. Employers may be hesitant to hire such NRIs if they are not likely to stick around.

So, what do you do?

  • Focus your job search at organizations where you think your specific skills and experience are going to be in demand 
  • Revive your network. Use social-media tools like LinkedIn to re-connect with old friends and peers and seek their help in getting you referrals and opportunities
  • Don’t downplay your “international experience” but show how this, along with your current skills can help prospective employers 
  • If you plan a long-term tenure in India, you should demonstrate such commitment to prospective employers.

You may also check out an earlier blog of mine - Is LinkedIn a useful platform for Job hunting ?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

What’s it like to give up your Indian citizenship and accept American citizenship?

[This was a question that came to me via an online forum.]

For many of us who have lived overseas for extended periods of time, a western passport is a practical tool to have. Traveling back to India every so often is made easy by having an OCI.

Take my example: The decision for me wasn’t hard. I naturalized as an American in 2012, after which I had to have my Indian passport cancelled and applied for an OCI. This was a very practical decision since I lived in the US and worked for a European multinational. I was expected to make frequent business trips from the US to the European HQ. As Indian Passport holder (even with a US Green Card) I was required to apply and renew a Schengen visa. A US passport allows a visa-free travel.

There are few professions like Government service, holding a Political office or military where nationalism and patriotism are kind of a “Bona fide occupational qualifications” For the rest of us in professional services or business, nationalistic sentiments take a back seat to one’s family and friends, and life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

One way of looking at Naturalization and giving up a birth-citizenship to acquire another one is similar to the “Flag of convenience - Wikipedia.”

So, how does it feel?

Does my heart flutter every time I hear Lata Mangeshkar’s “A mere watan ke logo” or Mahendra Kapoor’s “mere desh ki dharti…” Sure it does every time!

Do I feel a sense of pride standing up for “star spangled banner” or when I hear “America the Beautiful.” You Bet !