10 learnings from Japan

I’ve learned some fascinating & exemplary stories about discipline & honesty in Japan through Quora. When the time came to visit Tokyo, I felt that I should familiarize myself with some Japanese etiquette. And I must say that a few minutes of reading came in very handy during the trip. Here is what I’ll keep with me forever:

1. Respect everything

Courtesy: Hobotraveler.com
Cash tray besides the register

Handle everything with both hands, especially money. Most counters will have a tray next to the ledger where you are expected to place money & pick your change. I guess the practice of receiving business cards with both hands comes from here.

2. Avoid 4 & 9 in every way

The Japanese word for “four” sounds like the word for “death” whereas ‘nine’ is sometimes pronounced ‘ku’, which can mean suffering. Its a superstitious piss-off; I don’t know how many follow, but I would avoid a 4 piece gift or a sales offer with too many nines.

3. Go with the group

Generally, the Japanese believe in group decision making that is focused on the larger good. This avoid favorism and blocks in-ways in an integral group – possibly why Japan was never colonized. This could slow down the process, but that’s how it is.

4. Genuine customer focus

Here’s my story: I went to the information counter at HND airport around 7:25 asking for a bus to my destination. The lady said the next one is at 10am. I had read about one at 7:45 and asked her to check; when she realized there was one, she apologized at least thrice for the possible misguide. She then realized that there was very little time left and I possibly couldn’t make it to the bus stop after getting my bus & train tickets. She, in her kimono and modified geta, ran to help me with tickets and brought me all the way to the bus stop around 7:38am. That was perhaps one of the happiest moments of her life Continue reading

The Top 5 Deterents to Agile

The beauty of Agile is the fact that its just about a few principles. – which we also summarized in a few words. Everything else is under your control. And on your way from classic waterfall practices to adopting those principles, you are likely to encounter some serious blockers. I’m attempting to list out the top 5 along with the Agile principles that they block.

1. Large teams

Blocks: Velocity, Working together

Scales of Agile (Courtesy: ebizq.net)
Scales of Agile (Courtesy: ebizq.net)

It is uncommon to have a cross-functional team of teams with 30-50 folks working on the same product. While the Agile deliverable is a few days of work, large teams working on a single release will generate a huge deliverable that is more coupled, has wider impact and demands extensive testing.

2. Fixed-scope planning

Blocks: Working software, Simplicity, Accepting change

Courtesy: 352inc.com

Teams that have a fixed-scope mental block start off by committing a scope for the next release, and then estimate a future release date. Since estimates are often incorrect, the release is delayed to deliver the committed scope – which is just not Agile. Forget about changing requirements, folks won’t even drop a few stories or acceptance criteria at the very end, to meet the committed date (time-box) – at the cost of Continue reading

Our interpretation of the Agile manifesto

As part of a recent Agile training, we were asked to summarize the basic tenets of Agile in 3-4 words. Our group,  with Mahesh, Yuti, Apeksha, Shahdab, Dhwani, Jay, came up with the following:

1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

Deliver value to satisfy

2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

Accept changes willingly

3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

Prioritize, Breakdown, Deliver frequently

4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

Close collaboration, daily

5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

Continue reading

Recipe: Cheese Nachos with Baked Beans

Ingredients:

Basic ingredients
Basic ingredients
  • Cornito (or other) Corn chips
  • Canned Baked Beans (Sil @ Big Bazaar)
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Finely chopped vegetables: tomato, onions, capsicum, olives, jalapenos
  • Salt, pepper, oregano to taste

Procedure:

Preparing to bake
  • Arrange the nachos at the bottom of the baking dish
  • Spread vegetables and then baked beans over the nachos
  • Then shred the mozzarella cheese as per your dietary requirement :)
  • Add additional layers if you’d like to bulk-produce
  • Bake in the over at 180c for 5 mins before serving

Continue reading

1st impression of Air India @ Star Alliance

Delighted to see this!
Delighted to see this!

I was scheduled to fly Air India just 1 day before its Star Alliance (*A) membership went in to effect, thus depriving us of our *G privileges. Nonetheless, most of us are delighted about AIs entry to *A which allows seamless transfer of miles, lounge access, priority boarding, to name a few.

Lunch: sans the typical bakery roll
Lunch: sans the typical bakery roll

AI seems to have taken their entry seriously – knowing that memberships have been revoked in the past. Most of our 4-leg journey was as scheduled. But there’s still a long way to go. The food menu needs to be more internationalized and most importantly, legacy crew needs a mindset change. The crew on the international sector seemed more geared up than their domestic counterparts. Continue reading

La Concorde @ CDG – A childhood fascination

My last trip to France was pretty close to Bastille Day. I was lucky to be at an office overlooking Arc de Triomphe & Tour Eiffel and have French fighter, bomber, tanker & aerobatic aircraft literally pass over our heads as they prepared for the parade. One amazing moment for someone who’s been fascinated with aircraft since childhood. Here is a shot of one such fascination.

Don’t be desperate to crash time

Everyone in the software industry, has at some point of the other, been part of a delayed project. The result is often a war room where all the big shots put their heads together to save face. Imagine one such meeting where everyone is focussed on crashing time. Management is willing to compromise margins and the project manager has been given the authority to do anything it takes to deliver the project sooner.

All eyes are on the development team to see what they can do to expedite. Desperate, the project manager thinks he has an offer the Dev manager can’t refuse. He takes pride in offering to add more resources to the project. The Dev manager, however sane otherwise, goes ballistic on hearing this and yells out: ’9 Women Can’t Make a Baby in a Month’. There is a moment of silence. Then, the noobs giggle, the big shots calm down and the PM walks out of the room.

9 mothers can't make a baby in a month
Courtesy: piedtype.files.wordpress.com

This is Brooks’s law, and every software engineer gets exposed to this mantra/joke – whichever way you take it – in the very first years on the job. If Pressman was as bold as Fred Brooks, he would’ve added it to his Software engineering bible. This is 100% true Continue reading

Recipe: Enchiladas with Chicken & Baked Beans

I feel in love with Enchiladas back in 2010 when I first had them at Sammy Sosa. Since then, I’ve tried them multiple times at home and  I just can’t get enough. If you have tortilla wraps & baked beans at hand, it only takes about 45 mins from start to serve.

Lunch with cousins
Lunch with cousins

Ingredients:

  • Tortilla corn wraps (4)
  • Finely chopped onions & capsicum (1 each)
  • Chopped Olives & Jalapenos (6 each)
  • Tomato puree or ketchup (3/4 cup)
  • Baked beans (1/2 can)
  • Oregano, Tabasco sauce, Salt to taste
  • Mozarella cheese

Continue reading

For objects to appear closer than they are