Friday, December 30, 2022

Musing on the year that was: goodbye 2022

Hard to believe 2022 has finally come to a close. 

I have been observing that we are all successful losers. We are all losers because of the setbacks and failures we encounter in a life journey. Successful because we eventually overcome loss and failures. As we come to the end of another eventful year, a few of my musings on balancing it all

Loss and failures

  • My MF, investments and assets have been flat. The global stock market tanked, and they are talking about recession. Indian stocks aren’t doing great either

  • I have been working through the maze of agents, lawyers and officials on the paperwork for a piece of land my dad bought years ago. The issue keeps dragging on since I am hesitant to pay a “huge” bribe before assurance of approval.

  • At work, I see laggards regularly suck-up to the boss and get nominated for trivial awards that they post on LinkedIn. These ‘humble brag’ posts generate likes and shares, further reinforcing this charade

  • Few of my elderly relatives including grandma passed away this year


  • After a 2-year pandemic and slowdown, and got to travel a bit and meet with family and friends

  • I paid off our mortgage this year and resolved to live a debt-free life. Credit cards are handy to earn points or discounts as long as I pay it off monthly.

  • Despite a few minor bumps, the family continues to be in fairly good health, which is a great blessing.

  • I have continued to read, blog and write. My book that was published on Amazon, with 20+ reviews is reasonably successful  (Amazon - Diary of a Successful Loser)

  • My job allows me to WFH, that gives me a work-life balance

So, how have you been a successful loser in 2022?

Friday, December 9, 2022

I decided to use an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software for a promo-video for my new book. Here's' the result

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies and tools have been advancing at a fast pace. Many new tools continue to evolve and they are increasingly targeted at improving productivity of end consumers. 

After my book - Diary of a Successful Loser - was published last month, I had been reaching out to reviewers and bloggers. Along the way, I decided to explore the use of of Text-to-Video AI software to generate a promotional video for the book. 

Here is one version of a resulting video : What do you think?

While the resulting video is not bad, it is not as slick as one from a creative team or professional videographers. On the flip side, it is much better if not similar to what I would have got by paying a gig worker on Fivrr or Upwork 

After researching for a bit, I decided to use the freeware version Steve AI an online Video making software that creates Videos and animations in seconds. The UI is intuitive and easy to use after a quick signup. 

The challenge with Text-to-AI software is the human element and creativity - the creator (you and I) need a robust yet simple script with the right keywords that we can feed into the AI software. One can choose from a variety of templates, video and voice formats. After that, it is a matter of playing around with different formats, voiceovers and narratives. 

Bottomline: Image synthesis has great implications on creative arts and creation of visual art similar to what smartphones did to still camera. I came away impressed with the ease-of-use of such Ai software, and how they can be a powerful aid to less-creative people. With software like With steve AI’s video maker one can quickly create Facebook ads, video slideshows, newsfeed videos, stories, and cover videos. 

There are a number of 'Text to Video' AI software with varying levels of usability including 

  • OpenAI's DALL-e AI - Open AI announced that it removed the waitlist for its DALL-E AI image generator service. More than 1.5M users are now actively creating over 2M images a day with DALL·E—from artists and creative directors to authors and architects—with over 100K users sharing their creations and feedback in our Discord community.
  • Make-A-Video - Meta's Make-A-Video is an AI-powered video generator that can create novel video content from text or image prompts, similar to existing image synthesis tools like DALL-E and Stable Diffusion. Make-A-Video research builds on the recent progress made in text-to-image generation technology built to enable text-to-video generation. The system uses images with descriptions to learn what the world looks like and how it is often described. Link to Meta's research paper 
  • Stable Diffusion - A newly released open source image synthesis model called Stable Diffusion allows anyone with a PC and a decent GPU to conjure up almost any visual reality they can imagine. It can imitate virtually any visual style, and if you feed it a descriptive phrase, the results appear on your screen like magic.
  • Imagen Video - Google’s newest AI generator  that creates HD video from text prompts. Google's engineers claim it is a text-conditional video generation system based on a cascade of video diffusion models. Given a text prompt, Imagen Video generates high definition videos using a base video generation model and a sequence of interleaved spatial and temporal video super-resolution models. According to Google's research paper, Imagen Video includes several notable stylistic abilities, such as generating videos based on the work of famous painters (the paintings of Vincent van Gogh, for example), generating 3D rotating objects while preserving object structure, and rendering text in a variety of animation styles. Google is hopeful that general-purpose video synthesis models can "significantly decrease the difficulty of high-quality content generation."

Friday, November 25, 2022

My new stealth-help book - Diary of a Successful Loser

I invite you to review my  new stealth-help book - Diary of a Successful Loser  

If you are looking for a non-preachy self-help book with motivational stories, you are in the right place. This Kindle eBook is a Stealth help* book. The bestselling book with life stories that will leave you inspired.

All of us are successful losers – Losers because of the setbacks. Successful because we have overcome setbacks, loss and failures. This book is targeted at those who find typical self-help books - with preachy quotes and advice off-putting. 

In the narrative, I have picked up a few failures and setbacks that have been part of my life journey in ways that I didn’t anticipate. These stories hold a mirror to typical experiences that we are likely to encounter in a life journey
  • Bullying, teasing and jibes
  • Setbacks that reshape one's career
  • Breakup of a relationship
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Difference of opinion with a boss or colleague

These chapters in a life story, when stacked on top of one other. make for a memorable layered cake.

The book is available for Kindle Unlimited download on Amazon and on popular Amazon portals

In a span of a few weeks, the book has gathered nearly 50 reviews on Amazon

Stealth help book do what self-help books do - inspire and motivate - while they may not make you cringe or gag A mix of memoir and self-help genera, stealth help uses a person's experience to inspire readers to better their lives or themselves.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Sharing my experience with RTI Appeals: You need to be persistent

I have shared snippets of my legal fight with bureaucracy in Bengaluru in an attempt to avoid a huge bribe (link to twitter campaign - Land registration pending for 25 Yrs with Bengaluru Deputy Commissioner ).

In order to find out the latest status of the case review and why it was stuck, I decided to bypass agents and filed an RTI application
  1. The RTI application was specific with Information requested:
    1. I wish to have information on the review of my file relating to case RRT.XXX
    2. I wish to request information on the status of review of this issue by the Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban
  2. The initial RTI went unheeded by the designated Public Information Officer (PIO). No response even after I waited for over 30 days
  3. I filed an RTI First appeal with First Appellant Authority (FAA) and waited for 45 days but didn’t receive any information
  4. I filed an RTI Second appeal with the State’s Information Commission (in triplicate – copy to PIO, FAA. Had to redo the application after it was initially rejected since I sent copies directly to PIO/FAA not the three copies to SIC)
  5. After I waited for several weeks, the State’s Information Commission scheduled a hearing and sent me a letter about the Webex meeting.
  6. A week after I got the letter from State’s Information Commission, I got a bundle in registered post. This was the entire copy of my case file along with notations and filing by my attorney
  7. I decided to attend the State’s Information Commission hearing by Webex VC and when my turn came, I confirmed that I received the case file, but the case hadn’t been reviewed yet. (Note to self: I was impressed with the use of Webex and remote case hearing at local administration)
  8. The SIC officer said their focus was on making sure I got the information, not following up on the case.
Bottomline: Filing RTI is any day better than running around bribing local babus asking about your file that may be stuck
  • Was it an easy journey? No. There were lot of missteps in between and duplication of paperwork, but I was persistent.
  • Does this mean my case is being resolved? No. I will have to pursue it with the authorities.
  • So, what does it mean? I have reviewed the case file and know exactly where it is stuck. This information, while dealing with government officials is the key to moving forward! 

Friday, July 8, 2022

RIP Rukmani Patti

Rukmani Patti's 90th birthday

This morning, my aunt called me to say that Rukmani Patti* (my *maternal grandmother) had passed on to the other side, peacefully in her sleep.

This news wasn’t exactly shocking since I had visited Patti just a few weeks ago when doctors had recommended palliative care.

The 91 year old feisty lady had lived a full life, experiencing the joys, trials and tribulations of an eventful life before settling down with her daughter, granddaughter and great-grand daughter.


Rukmani Patti with her Daughter, grand and great-grand daughter

My earliest childhood memories were of spending summer vacations visiting Patti and cousins down south, while our lives took us around the country wherever my dad happened to be posted. In the nineteen-seventies, Patti even boarded a flight to far-away Bagdogra to be with us while my mom gave birth to Manoj, my younger brother. Mind you, this was a generation before commercial aviation took off in India and Air-travel was really a novelty.

Born to a Brahmin agriculturalist family in the small southern town, she was married off to a reputable government contractor. The couple was blessed with three kids, including my mother who was the eldest. Life took an unexpected turn for Rukmani when her husband passed away, leaving the young widow to fend for her three little  kids.

Destitute, with few social benefits, Rukmani wasn’t going to be bowled out by this curve ball life had thrown her way. Demonstrating grit and determination, she focused on ensuring her daughters and son got a strong educational foundation. Even far back in the sixties, the astute widow realized that a solid education would be their salvation.

My dad, then a newly commissioned officer in the Air Force, who was related to Rukmani set his eyes on her eldest daughter. It was love at first sight and they tied the knot when my mom turned nineteen.

With the eldest daughter married off, Rukmani focused on the other two kids – the daughter joined the Indian bank after graduating with honors, and the son went on to serve in the Indian Income tax department.

Patti also came and lived with us for a couple of years after my mother’s untimely death providing much needed moral and logistical support to my newly widowed dad. After spending a couple of years, nurturing my brother and me through the loss of our mom, Rukmani Patti went on to live with my aunt, taking care of my young cousins too.

My life and career took me globe-trotting and meanwhile I would periodically catch up with Patti during visits back to India.

Vijay and I catching up with Patti during a recent visit

She continued to be mobile through her eighties, spending time with her great-grand-daughter. A couple of months ago, a fall during her morning stroll knocked her down and she didn’t get back to her old self even after surgery and therapy.

I visited Patti a few weeks ago, when they were getting ready to move her to Madurai to spend her sunset days with her son. In the back of my mind, I knew it may be the last time I’d see her, and sought her blessings.

Until next time Patti. I’m sure you are smiling back from ‘up there.’  

RIP Rukmani Patti

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Ageism in corporate world : It’s a Goldilocks paradox

 Those of us who have been in the IT sector for any number of years have probably observed the Goldilocks paradox at work. According to the popular fairy tale, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” little Goldilocks tries the three bowls of porridge and sets aside the big bow as it is ‘too hot,’ the second as ‘too cold’ and eats the porridge from the third bowl that it thinks is ‘just right.’

Tech recruiters and hiring managers are like little Goldilocks, wanting their candidates neither too young, nor too old, just the right age. The media and analysts have been focused on the high turnover in IT sector, but a closer look shows how this Goldilocks paradox is playing out – the demand is highest for those with at least a few years’ experience in a specific technology, gradually tapering off for more experienced candidates who are likely to be higher paid, hitting a glass ceiling at the top.

One of the reasons for this is the cost to company (CTC) that candidates expect. Indian IT has evolved an archaic “Years of experience and salary” formula that recruiters seem to use, with an equally obtuse number of two-hundred thousand rupees for every year of experience. By this formula, a candidate with 10 years’ experience will be expected to draw two million in annual package, while the one with 7 years can expect only 1.4 million. Negotiating an exception can be a contentious and long-drawn affair.

Ageism at the bottom of the pyramid

Recruiters and their filtering software are quick to reject graduates with little or no experience, creating a vicious cycle – young techies unable to obtain relevant experience without the first job, while most entry level jobs require experience. A viral twitter post from Sebastián Ramírez (@tiangolo), the creator of FastAPI succinctly highlights this paradox

“I saw a job post the other day. It required 4+ years of experience in FastAPI. I couldn’t apply as I only have 1.5+ years of experience since I created that thing.”

The glass ceiling at the top

At the other end, the glass-ceiling for experienced (read older) tech workers is also equally pronounced. Most recruiters are unwilling to evaluate candidates with 15 or more years’ experience creating an implicit bias against older workers. Social forums like Quora, Reddit or even LinkedIn groups frequently debate the question over such ageism with a common theme: when is a person ‘too old’ to be hired at a tech company? Are folks in their forties or fifties considered ‘too old to hire’?

Having explored a job-change while in my forties after relocating back to India a few years ago, I am probably well-qualified to answer this question. My job-search was unique in another way – unlike many of my peers out to showcase their credentials in managing ‘large,’ teams, I was essentially selling my skills as an individual contributor, albeit one who could help organizations navigate a breath of technologies.

It took me a few months of serious networking, contacting hiring managers and recruiters before I began getting calls for interviews. The feedback was simple: my peers were all “IT Director” level folks who could showcase their project or team management skills; so, I had to emphasize my business partnering skills and the knowledge of a breadth of technical skills.

The way forward – get over the conscious bias

The IT industry is maturing, especially in India, where there are over 5 million people in the IT–BPM sector. The average age of professionals has steadily been increasing over the years. By some accounts the average Indian techie is between 27 and 30 years old, which also happens to be the sweet spot where the industry is seeing a hiring frenzy.

It is time for hiring managers and recruiters to set aside their blinders and look beyond the Goldilocks paradox. Doing so will not only ease the pressure on hiring; but casting a wider net for talent will also drive a more inclusive and diverse work environment.

Originally published in  Express Computers 

Monday, January 3, 2022

What do Parag Agrawal, Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai have in common? They were Enterprise Architects before they became CEOs

  The announcement about Indian born tech executive Parag Agrawal taking charge as the CEO of Twitter generated a considerable buzz, with the media and digerati examining various aspects of his background. Agrawal’s Indian heritage got considerable media attention, and so did his stellar academic pedigree.

Agrawal joins the list of Indian-born CEOs at global tech giants like Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai whose ascent to the top is in large part attributable to their experience gained in architecting their enterprise’s transformation. In a sense they were Enterprise Architects with a strong business acumen who took on larger business leadership roles.

I’ve been practicing the art and craft of Enterprise Architecture (EA) for over a decade and see a distinct pattern at these tech companies that have nurtured tech talent into executive roles. EA is a conceptual blueprint that defines the structure and operation of an organization. A well-defined EA blueprint should determine how an organization can effectively achieve its current and future objectives aligned with its corporate strategy.

Case in point: Architecting the enterprise strategy

Sundar Pichai joined Google in 2004, where he led the product management and innovation efforts for a suite of Google’s client software products, including Google Chrome and Chrome OS and Google Drive. As Google’s Product Chief, he went on to oversee the development of other applications such as Gmail and Google Maps. After leading a series of highly visible transformations, Pichai was selected to become the CEO of Google, and its parent company Alphabet.

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella rose to the top after he successfully pivoted the company to the cloud era. Nadella is credited with bringing Microsoft’s database, Windows Server and developer tools to its Azure cloud, which has become the mainstay for public cloud adoption at global companies. Under Nadella, the revenue from Cloud Services grew from $16.6 billion when he took over in 2011 to over $20.3 billion before he was elevated to be the CEO of the Redmond tech giant. The transformation and the business insights Nadella gained help Microsoft stay relevant as the world was moving toward the cloud.

A similar pattern can be observed at Twitter where Parag Agrawal is credited with leveraging is his strengths in data and analytics to influence engineers. During the 10-year stint at the social media giant, Agrawal built strong relationships across the organization and lead the re-architecture of the technical infrastructure that had been cobbled together to keep pace with Twitter’s stratospheric growth. His background in transforming the core architecture, coupled with relationships built across business positioned Agrawal to take on the top-job after the founder-CEO Jack Dorsey called it quits.

Distinct pattern

The pattern here seems distinct at tech companies where product-engineering and fast paced solution development drives the business. The business is closely interwoven with software development, and those with an ability to comprehend the complexity while also scanning the external landscape seem to excel.

In the online forums and Q&A sites where I am active, technologists muse about the career path towards Enterprise Architecture and beyond. While many techies and EAs spend their careers shaping strategies for business units, a few in technology companies are taking on broader roles shaping the course of their enterprise.

Originally published in  Express Computers