Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Curse of the DVD-RW !!!!

A rewritable DVD as a gift to that very special someone!!!..Sounds hilarious, but true. 'Token of love', a previous entry in this blog, had dwelled about a gift meant for someone special. This memorable token was nothing but a Moserbaer DVD-RW. Kudos to the protagonist. Well, let us call this protagonist, Mr. M.

Mr. M, always worried about the practicality of things, decided to gift his beloved, the gift she yearned for so long, a pen drive. Like Mr. M, she too was utilitarian (Like minded, huh!!!). There was a complication, for both of them. Money was his issue, and parents were her problem (as if his parents had permitted him to do so!!!). He raised the issue with her, and asked a hypothetical question, 'Assuming that he arranges the finance, how would she manage to explain the genesis of a pen drive out of the blue, to her parents'.  She had no clue on how to go about it, and sought time to think over it. 

Days passed by, she was still in dilemma. Adding to their woes, was their straight forwardness. Neither had the courage to lie to their parents. After days of introspection, they decided to drop the plan for a pen drive. They came to a conclusion,the same purpose can be served by a DVD-RW, and itwas well within his budget. Rest is history. (If you want to know more, kindly read the post "Token of Love").

The Token of Love, stayed in cupboard for so long. Everytime, he saw it, memories of those days would flash across his mind, but never evoked any emotional response. It was not a soveniur anymore. He decided to remove this DVD-RW from his cupboard, but how?. 

It was one of those, when he visited his friends at their office. A team of four was successfully running a software company. Somewhere along the conversation, they had mentioned about an immediate need for a DVD-RW for transferring data. He offered to give them the DVD-RW, which they gracefully accepted. They knew the need for him to part away with it, and hence they were more than happy to help him out.

Week passed, and Mr.M having been busy with some personal issues, couldn't find ample time to drop in at his friend's office. One day, he got a call from his friend asking him to come down to their office. My friend sounded a bit off colour, the vibrance was missing in his voice. He conjured that something was wrong. He reached their office, and found that there were only three of them. One of them had left the company owing to some differences with the rest. The story doesn't end here. My friend had met with an accident the very same day, he gave him the DVD. He was carrying it home, when his scooter slipped. The case(plastic case) of the DVD-RW had developed a crack owing to the accident and it was lying on the table.

Mr. M commented, "This is nothing but the curse of the Rewritable DVD". Bursts of laughter ensued, and there was smiles all around. 


Jinxed or not, my friend still has the DVD-RW and the company is running successfully.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

First Days at IITB

I joined IITB as a junior research fellow on 17th june 2009.The sweltering heat of Mumbai and the extremely humid conditions (owing to the dark clouds looming the back drop) welcomed me there.Adding to my woes was the sheer magnitude of the campus. Having spent four years of my life in a 5 acre campus, where I could go from one corner to another in less than 10 minutes, the size of this campus was appaling. The greenery in the campus was in sharp contrast to what prevailed in the city. 

I had to go to the Electrical Engineering Department, and standing at the main gate, little did i realise that I had cover some ground to reach my destination. It was a long walk, and by the time I reached my destination, I was dripping in sweat. I had to complete my joining formalities and hence more long walks ensued, shuttling across departments. Much more was left to be done, and I was informed that this process would take a couple of days. 

The microelectronics lab, where I had to work was humungous and modern one. There are almost all facilities that i had learned in my VLSI course during graduation and add to that many facilities like nanofabrication and stuff. The prospect of working in a high tech lab enthused me. I wanted to get my hands on those equipments, but there was hurdle. I had to clear a test, to get access to the lab. A mandatory procedure for anyone who need to use the lab facilities. I had to take a course on Basic Clean Room procedures and General safety and give the test. The criteria for pass is a 100% accuracy. I took my test on 18th June, but couldn't get the desired accuracy level of 100% and hence was adviced to take it again next day. So finally, i gave my test yesterday, hope to secure the elusive 100%. 

My mentor,Prof Anil K, a stalwart in the field of Microelectronics, gave a briefing on the area of work on 18th June. The 45 min session was one among the best lectures I had attended all this while. His subject knowledge and the ease with which he drove home the complex concepts was simply mind blowing. Yesterday, I had an one on one session with him, wherein he gave exact instructions on what and how to do. The salary and perks offered by this one year long project is not something one would die for. The amount of knowledge one can acquire working on such a research project is quite astounding. Hands on experience on IC fabrication is not an opportunity that comes your way too often.

I am looking forward for a fruitful learning experience at IIT. Hope to continue blogging, whenever i find time.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Before you take the plunge

Mistakes are the portals of discovery

--James Joyce
An year back, my mother insisted that I go for higher studies than a job. The perks, and the brand value of the company I was placed in, ensured that, I turned a deaf ear to her words. Over the last four months, I had lots of time for introspection. I was analyzing the various judgmental errors I had made over the past year and half.

I realize that joining Siemens was not a mistake, but it was my perceptions then that was totally out of place. I am listing down the major flaws in my judgment
  1. Vague picture on the pyramidal structure of company hierarchy.
  2. A couple of years of experience within an organization= MTech /MS/MBA
These flaws do have a significant amount of correlation between them.

When you are one among the many hired by a company, don't forget that the company is not bothered about you but the group as a whole. As a BTech/BE graduate you are nothing more than a needle in a haystack. You are at the bottom of the pyramid. With experience comes an increment in salary but a promotion within the organization does take time. If you are lucky enough, and talented you may get promoted to the next level (I hope you have seen the italicized words). At Siemens (my former employer), the first promotion would have taken a minimum of three years, though your salary would have increased substantially by then (Thanks to global financial crisis,Salary Increment is history). You would always be on the firing line,project interviews, yearly reviews is the order of the day. It can prove to be too stressful on many an occassion. The driving point here is you need to better equipped than the rest.

How do you acquire better skill sets?

I am not a career adviser, still I can give a few tips out of my limited experience.
Take a break from your job, and do a PG or an MBA. Now you may think, i am towing the same line as any other career adviser. The point maybe the same, but always bear in mind, you are at the prime of your learning ability when you are young. Go for it, before it is too late. Once you are done, you will be one or two steps higher on the pyramid, when you join the same/another company for a job, where as others will be reeling at the bottom.

Most of my friends who are employed at top notch companies have expressed resentment over the lack of job satisfaction, whenever they have called me. Some even went to the extent of seeking advice on how life is like if they quit/lose the job. The matter of fact is none of them are willing to despise their staggering 5 digit salaries and toil again for a new lease of life. Well, I can say it really needs courage and boldness. Given the chance, I too would have gone my friend's way, but their was no choice for me. Chance and not choice had determined my destiny. The crux being, you got a life to live, and why are you wasting it by doing something you don't want to do?

Well, my dear friend, I have given you some pointers on how your career path can be shaped. The onus is on you. After all, "Freedom is not worth having unless you have the freedom to make mistakes"--M K Gandhi.


Thanks to the almighty, I have found a career path in research and development (As a research fellow at IITB). It is a dream come true, and I can't express the sense of satisfaction I feel now, despite being offered a 4 digit salary. Hope I have a fruitful stint at IIT.

Friday, June 5, 2009

In the footsteps...

Nikola Tesla, had over 300 patents filed in his name in different countries. Until recently, Tesla meant nothing more than an SI unit of magnetic flux density (Pardon my ignorance!!!). The Movie, Prestige, starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, was an eyeopener. Nikola Tesla, credited with invention of path breaking Alternating Current and many other marvels. Like any other young engineer, I was inspired by his ingenuity , the mystery that shrouds him intrigued me.

Siemens Information Systems Ltd (SISL), my first employer too was an organization with a reputation for innovation. My tenure lasted for just over three months, after which, I was shown the door citing Global economic crisis as reason. Having had an history of narrow escapes from catastrophes like the December 26th Tsunami, and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, this was an exception.

After completing two months of training at SISL, Mumbai, I landed in Bangalore on December 20, 2008 to join SISL, Bangalore on 22nd December.New office, new surroundings, new people. I was posted to the Embedded Systems Group along with nine others under Shitij Sah, Project Manager, SISL. Mr. Sah, had completed 11 years of meritorious service at SISL, and he was my (our) mentor in office. In the days that followed he briefed us on the domain of work and provided us lots of documents to read. The reading session turned out to be quite an ordeal and often ended up in a game of minesweeper or Virtual Stock Exchange (no wonder they kicked us out!!!!). A couple of weeks passed, and Mr. Sah called us for a meeting, the agenda being briefing him on what we had learned. The meeting went smoothly , and he truncated the session asking us to come up with some innovative examples based on what we had learned.

Back at my desk, I recalled a statement by a dear friend, "Thinking is an easy task". I took out a sheet of paper, made a list of the topics I had read. I put the pen down and stared at the paper. It was a refreshing experience, similar to solving a jig saw puzzle, the difference being, this was a puzzle construed out of core technologies. A crazy thought came to mind, and started typing it out on the computer. A word document spanning half a page was composed. I sent the document as an attachment to Mr. Sah, and I left office early. It was a Friday.

Monday Morning, back in office. A surprise was in store. I turned on the computer and opened my inbox. . Mr. Sah had sent CC of a mail he had sent to the IP Department, which asked for considering the concept (my word doc) as an invention report. A series of mails followed (all were CC's), and finally I was called onto Mr. Sah's desk. I was asked to keep mum on the events that were unfolding. He asked me to fill up a Patent Application form. Filling up the application form was a painful exercise. I had to write pages about the invention, adding to the woes. Days of extra work followed, and eventually on 14th January 2008, I completed the application form and it was mailed to IP department, by Mr. Sah. On 15th January 2008, I got an acknowledgement slip from the IP Department stating that the application has been filed. I was on cloud nine. It was a moment of personal satisfaction and pride.

Despite all the sincere effort and hardwork none of us were spared, when the order of layoff was issued. No regrets, though. Recalling words of consolation offered to close friend by an acquaintance of his, "Don't worry, Siemens has a lost a talent".

Mr. Tesla, behold,here I come. One patent filed, 299 to go...hehe

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First Anniversary

Change is the only constant .
"Will you stop talking on the phone and have your dinner?", my mother used to shout at me. Those were the days when my mobile phone would be buzzing with activity. Those were the days when I had a group of friends coming over to my place for combined study sessions. Those were the days of late night messages and chatting. Those were the days when I was blindfolded by love. Those were the days.....

It has been an year since I left college. Lot of things have changed. My outlook, perception, apprehension, thought process has seen a drastic change. The last one year has equipped me with the right tools to face an aggressive, in-compassionate world. The dark days reinvigorated my thought process and cemented my beliefs and ideologies. I am no more a pessimist, optimism has driven away any tad of pessimism that was in me during my college days. Those days, I always feared the worst, be it, attending a practical examination or on the eve of publication of result.Hence, I used to frequent the temples and try to attain solace and peace of mind. The tide has turned now, I have realized the essence of 'true faith' (my take on true faith can be read from a previous post) and hence I am no more a pessimist.

My friend circle 'was' quite an enormous one. Time has proved that it was a fallacy, and has separated the wheat from the chaff. A handful of ever reliable and dependable friends, that is what my treasure-trove is left with. They don the cap of my mentors and critics. Hats off to my dearest friends.
'A broken friendship can be soldered but will never be sound', a fact I realized over the past one year (refer to my earlier post "Token of love", if you are not a regular follower of the blog).

I was always apprehensive about leaving home and staying in a new place. I despised staying in hostels and dormitories. As part of the training program for my job, I had to leave the comfort of my home and head for Mumbai. Two months of training aimed at molding a corporate from a college grad. The initial couple of days was stressful having to mingle with a whole bunch of new people from various parts of the country. My roommate too was a guy from Bangalore, who was quite friendly and we got along well. The apprehensions flew off, as the training programs gained momentum. Thanks to the countless group tasks.
Quite contrary to what I have been at home, I visited places in Mumbai, and every weekend would be marked by a trip to a tourist spot. I had a lucky escape from the 26/11 terror attacks, thanks to our local train, which left the station 10 minutes before the attack commenced, much to the anxiety of my parents.Those were testing times for me, moments of chaos and anxiety.
The tenure in mumbai ensured that my inhibitions took a back seat. I grew beyond the realm of being a Keralite into an Indian, who could accept the wide cultural and regional diversity of my country.

My tenure in Bangalore was a fruitful one, yet I witnessed the black day in my career, thanks to the global economic recession. The lack of colour, and the routine nature of the days in office reminded me of the sweet days in college. I was missing it perhaps for the first time since college, but I felt helpless. I wondered whether this routine would make me numb. I always felt out of place in office. I pondered on whether I had come to the wrong place. Then came the layoff. I was caught unawares.

Days of trauma followed the layoff. I was staring at darkness. Two months had passed by until I had learned to live with the harsh reality. Now, I wonder, why was I upset over losing a job which never gave me a tad of satisfaction ? The profound damage to my ego (prospect of being unemployed) had driven me to the point of exasperation. No more egos or the like haunts me anymore. I feel like a free soul, and have the freedom to decide what I want to do in life (kudos to my parents, who in no way pressurize me into securing a job).

I firmly believe, what ever has happened to me has been for my good. I feel I have become a better person than an year ago. The one thing I miss now, is my friends, who have gone places owing to their job requirements.

Before I wind up, I am jotting down the proverb that i firmly believe now:

A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.

One year down the lane, I may write another similar post. My view points would have changed further by then. This blog has been more like a personal diary for me, A collection of my evolving thought process.