Saturday, March 30, 2019

Degree Or Skills ?

Every skill you acquire doubles the odds of success. It is your skill not your degree, that helps you achieve your goals.

Mark Zuckerberg learnt programming the same year I did. 1990s. Maybe even later. Today, I have a degree, he doesn’t. Yet, see where Mark is and where I am. 

His father taught him basic programming and later hired a software developer to train him privately. He started writing software when he was in middle school. His friends created the design of games and he used to code them. While kids played computer games, Mark was the one, who created them. In his high school years he built a music player which would track the listening habits of its users. So much so, that by the time he started studying at Harvard, he was already a programming prodigy. In January 2004 when most of us were busy studying for getting good jobs, he started writing code for facebook and launched it in a month in February. Subsequently he dropped out of Harvard to pursue his passion and complete his project.

It is evident from his story that Zuckerberg had the skills in him and since his early years, he had been polishing them. This is exactly why at the right opportunity, he gave up on his degree and propelled in the direction of success. – Skills not Degree.

The story is not very different in the case of Bill Gates who wrote his first software program at 13. It was a tic tac toe program that allowed the user to play against the computer. In those times one had to purchase computer time to use them. His mother bought computer time with the proceeds of the school sale, and Gates took keen interest in programming. Gates was so clever that he hacked the system for getting more computer time. It was at that time that he studied the source code of the programs that ran on those systems. He was eventually hired to fix those bugs. He was so proficient in programming that he was the fastest coder of his times. Time waits for no one, whether you have a degree or not. Thus he dropped out of Harvard after 2 years of college when he realized that this was the right time to start and focus on his business. – Skills not Degree.

It is because of the skills these people have nurtured that they have been successful. Not having a Degree has not been a deterrent in their success.  A degree is as important as the intent and caliber of the person using it, since u need to prove ur skills anyway. Look at some of our history – Arjun, the most skilled archer he was, did not have a degree in warfare. Yet he was the most accomplished warrior of his times. Dhanvantari, the god of Ayurveda, did not have any medical degree, but he was the one who brought out Amrit – the nectar of immortality. He brought and spread the practice of Ayurveda to the entire world.

The beginning of awarding of degrees can be seen when The University of Italy, regarded as the oldest university in Europe, conferred the first  the degree of Doctor in law and medicine. In India it came when Lord Macaulay introduced English education in India, so that they could create a class of anglicized Indians who would serve as cultural intermediaries between the British and the Indians. Eventually this grew into the education system of today. 

Let us glance at those who dropped out of college and are successful now, like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates and many others who were offered honorary degree by Harvard and other ivy league colleges. Accepting honorary degrees, which are non-functional, only demonstrates that degree is more of a collectible item in their possessions.  The influential and rich are offered honorary degrees for huge sums of donations or favours. In the Indian context, many actors and actresses including Amitabh Bacchan and Shahrukh Khan were awarded Honorary degrees from multiple universities.

On the other hand, The failure of the engineering ecosystem is a clear proof that only getting a degree is not the solution to the unemployment challenges of the country. There are 3500 engineering colleges in the country, which means about a lakh and a half - students graduate every year – most of who do not have the skills to be employed. This is such a disheartening figure. As of now, there are about 800 universities38,000 colleges and 12,000 stand-alone institutions in India, which push our young generation into the market. Degree may bring about a mental satisfaction of qualification to oneself and parents but it is no guarantee of the success of the individual in his field. What they do not realize is that without the skills needed to perform your duties, you will be fired from a company which hired you, because you will not be able to deliver. This is the precise reason why several rounds of interviews are conducted even before shortlisting a candidate for a position.  We see people dropping out of college and getting successful, and they did not really care about the degree that they were pursuing due to their parents’ wishes. They dropped out because they were looking at a much bigger picture of what they can achieve in their business. And this achievement of wealth creation has not been a function of what degree they acquired or left behind.

Similar was the case of Rahul Yadav of who did not complete his Engineering degree at IIT Bombay. He was asked to take down, an online question bank of old exam papers that he created at IIT Bombay. In the process of building, he had learned programming, which enabled him to subsequently design a series of Google applications. Rahul dropped out of college in his final year. In 2012, he along with eleven other classmates co-founded, after they had a difficult time finding accommodation in Mumbai. He came up with a new venture related to virtual, augmented reality, and interfaces. – Skills not Degree.

I cannot end without mentioning about a fellow Agarwal, Ritesh Agarwal the founder of Oyo who did not even pursue studies after his school. He founded oyo at the age of 19. Earlier, he used to sell SIM cards in his hometown in Odisha which is known is known to teem with Naxalite activity. Today, one of the world's biggest investors, Masayoshi Son of Softbank, wants to partner with him to help OYO Rooms with its foray into China. He is a textbook example of lack of formal education being no prerequisite for big success. He is a dropout, which made him eligible for the Peter Thiel fellowship for $100,000. – By the way Zuckerberg was also supported by Peter Thiel in his early days.

“Thiel’s fellowship pays kids a stipend that liberates them to work on ways to improve the world, rather than loading them with debt. They get mentorship, workshops, connections to resources, and an alumni network without a formal alma mater.” The world today is recognizing the fact that the best ideas and businesses do not come by getting a degree.

Skill is an abstract term which cannot be evaluated on bits of paper. It is a broad spectrum of qualities which is groomed within the individual and nurtured through the repeated practical implications in life. Every degree holder is not necessarily skilled - A complete dumb individual cannot qualify, even after attaining the degree. Thus without skills, even with a degree, one cannot attain success in life and skills thus turn out to be a necessary and sufficient condition for achieving success.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Food – Important Source of Energy

What are the sources of energy for our body ?
1.     Food
2.     Sleep
3.     Breath
4.     Happy / Meditative State of mind – How many of us meditate ?
How long can we survive without food ? Without water ? Without sleep ? Without breathing ?
Research shows that we can survive without food for 3 weeks, without water for 4 days and without sleep for 1 week, without breath for 7 mins.

Food is a very important source of energy. We eat food everyday, that too multiple times in a day. Which means its impact on our body and energy is very high. Special care needs to be taken to ensure that we get maximum energy from the food we eat. As said in Ayurveda, When Diet is Wrong, Medicine is of no use. When Diet is Right, Medicine is of no need. Food plays an important role in our lives and poor health can spoil all the efforts we have taken in achieving our dreams.

Food can be eaten Raw or in cooked format. For preparation of food for consumption, we follow a simple process of cleaning, cooking and then eating.
To get rid of pesticides n dirt, the food should be soaked for an hour before cooking. Water is a natural cleanser and cleans the aura of the food as well, similar to we taking bath every morning. This will also help us eat the food with the cover.

Once the food is cleaned, we go ahead and cook it. We can cook food by – various methods.
When food is deep fried complex substances called aldehydes are formed which increase risk of cancer and other diseases.
Loss of nutrients happen while Baking at very high temperatures or while pressure cooking.
Sautéing can retain essential nutrients of food similar to solar or steam cooking.

The vessel in which we cook our food should be made of material which supports or builds our body. Utensils of Aluminium, Anodized, Non Stick, material are harmful for use. During the cooking process, when the spatula rubs against the surface of these metals, minute particles rub off and enter the body with food causing ailments in the vital organs of our body. Cooking n storing in Plastic containers leech harmful chemicals into food which can lead to adverse health effects like hormones related diseases in men and women and increase the risk of cancer.

Cooking in Iron, Steel, Stone and Clay are some of the best ways to avoid the harmful effects of particle infiltration and leeching. The food can be eaten in Glass, Steel or wooden ware.

Food has life energy of its own. Any cooked food remains fresh for 3-4 hours after cooking and should be eaten within that time. If we do not get energy from food, we don’t feel full or satisfied even after eating. Re-Heating foods in microwaves destroys all energy from food and should be avoided at all cost. The temperature of the food should be at room temperature while eating.

To get the maximum nutrition and benefits from our food, before we eat, we need to embrace a sense of gratitude. We pray for the happiness of the people who grow our food, those who bring our food to us and those who cook and serve it. This ensures that we always eat food that is full of life energy thus giving us the maximum benefit from consuming it.
Please close your eyes before food and say- Anna Data Sukhi Bhava. Anna Data Sukhi Bhava. Anna Data Sukhi Bhava. Then have a blissful food experience !

A Helping Hand

I had heard from my domestic help about her neighbour, who was facing extreme issues at home. She had told me how her few months old child kept crying all day and how there were loud noises of fights coming from the neighbourhood at night. I used to wonder.
One evening, my domestic help was unwell and I was visiting her to take her to the doctor. I heard the child crying next door. The incessant crying was painful to the ears. I asked my maid as to what was the reason for this. She told me that this girl’s husband used to drink alcohol and beat her up. This guy never gave money for the household expenses and the mother and child, used to go hungry most of the times. I went to see this girl, a very timid looking girl, still recovering from the duel that had happened sometime back. She told me that she was not getting any household work to do because she had a small child with her.
I Saw Suffering.
I Saw a woman being ill treated.
I wanted to do something …
I wanted to call the police !
I was thinking why doesn’t someone do something about it ?
How can a simple person contribute to the society in the most nimble way. The thought didn’t seem to go away from my mind. My friend and I had been making few gifting items at home during Diwali. Items like Diyas and Torans, which we used for gifting to friends and family. The numbers were really small and were primarily executed as a hobby in spare times. The situation brought the idea of making more and selling, to generate revenue, eventually evolving into a micro enterprise. We spoke to the girl, offering her work to learn how to make these items and then we shall market them with all our might.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
– Chinese Proverb
She Agreed. With her three-month-old child, she initially started coming over to learn for an hour. Her child used to be fed and put to sleep and she could peacefully do her work. Slowly she became more comfortable and the time span started increasing. Once we taught her how to make something, she also had the option to take the raw material home and work at home. This brought in a lot of flexibility. She was dedicated and gave her 100% to work. Thus by Creating opportunities in an agile way, bringing in flexibility in the way of functioning, transformation of one household was happening. Earning to fend for her child gave her the lost self-respect, and she was much more confident to go out into the world.
We put up a stall in our area and she was behind the stall, seeing the impact of her efforts. Apart from the salary that she had received for her efforts, a portion of the profit was shared with her. The happiness on her face, was priceless. With the earnings she received, she fend for her family with self respect. She bought a sari for herself. Happiness to her and Satisfaction for me.
Bringing in flexibility in the way of functioning has brought smiles to those around us. Being sensitive and sensible has helped bring good to the society.
This is how Asar Initiative Started ! Giving is easy, but doing so with Sensitivity and Care is an art!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Making Women Agile - helps them achieve what they want to

A Talk at - Agile Tour Hyderabad - 2016

Women are Strong, Smart, technically competent, emotionally valiant Yet, women face several challenges at work. Most of us have lead a team with women members. We can easily recollect the typical challenges we face when we have women on the team. We have observed constrained timings, unexpected absence from work, coming late, leaving early etc. etc. Yet, equally observed the sensitivity, sincerity and commitment that they bring to work.

The typical challenges women face at work would include Work life balance, Harassment (Sexual, Security, Restroom gossip), Career Opportunities (Power play, ego clashes,), Maternity (Children and career), Lack of role models, Men Vs. Women (Gender Bias) to name a few. It is only logical to deduce who gets impacted and the impact. Organizational productivity decreases which results in unequal less diverse workforce, ultimately having an effect on the culture and work quality of the organization.

The effect of the challenges that come along as a part of having women on our teams can be judged by questioning ourselves, Do WE want to have women on our team?

What if we give some flexibility like - Flexible working hours, Work from home, allow them to take leaves, No Politics, Maintain self-esteem etc. Then will the benefits of having women on our team outgrow these challenges that we face is up to us to evaluate.
We need to think as to what can we do to address these challenges and how can we bring about a change?
Sharing a story from work, where in I experienced some of these challenges / issues and tried addressing them. We had a requirement for a resource at one of my recent assignments. A resource who could follow instructions religiously. There was an extreme resource crunch and limitation of right type of people. There were several sales guys on the team and I divided the task into regions and put the existing guys on it to do the work. These guys were not doing this job sincerely and meticulously. It was hampering business growth.

Margaret Thatcher once said,
If you want something said, ask a man;
If you want something done, ask a woman.

We all know how good we women are in following the procedures. So, I thought of hiring a woman to do the job at hand. I was searching for a relatively literate person, not very high skilled but adept in use of computers. Agencies were not able to provide a person to that description. Through a reference, I came across a woman, in need of work. We met and she came across as just right for the assignment. She had that fire, need and willingness to work.
She was approved in the interview and was expected to give confirmation on the date of joining. In spite of everything falling in place, I didnt hear from her.
So, then how did I get her IN ? When I probed further, I was told that her husband wasnt in favour of her working out of home in an office and she wanted to be home when her son comes back from school in the afternoon. A challenge worth addressing.

I understood her challenges. Bringing in Agility and flexibility in my system, I broke down the work that I wanted her to do, such that she finishes the work before leaving for the day. I renegotiated her salary in accordance to the timings that she was working. The plan was structured in such a way that the evenings pending work shall be completed early in the morning and before leaving, the reports till the time shall be submitted.

Then the Journey of her becoming an asset to the organization started. She was keen to work. I just facilitated and provided means suitable for the same. Having been obliged she was extremely enthusiastic and responsive towards work. Things started falling in place. No customer was left out and business was functioning in a more organized way. I started adding more responsibilities to her work. In order to upgrade her, I had to work very closely with her, pulling her up, step by step. She put in efforts and upgraded herself through the year, performing well, she became an indispensable asset for the organization. She seamlessly performed the responsibilities that the other more skilled members of the team were reluctant to take up.

Bringing in Agility to the system, I empowered an individual. I made a person happy. Brought smiles to a family, by making the most important member of the family smile.  Was all the effort was worth it? UNDOUBTEDLY!

My Assignment was coming to an end and when I broke the news of moving out from the assignment, she broke down. She said that it was only because of the efforts taken to make her comfortable with work, and work environment, that she was able to sustain herself!