Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The politics of solution design

In the book "Watching the English," Kate Fox describes the English behavior. They are apologetic and non-confrontational. Without spelling it out explicitly, she paints a picture of a group of people who is indirect in their speech. So when the Englishman opened his mouth to clarify an open point, I couldn't help notice the directness in it. The direct approach also translated into unintentional humor. Who can say no to humor? This quality is absent from life these days.

I happened to be in a room where a group of professionals was discussing the flaws in solution design. I was completely out of my depth. By the time I realized the original agenda had been hijacked with a technical discussion, I was too deep in the rabbit hole to retreat. They had multiple servers drawn on the drawing board. There were lines to demarcate the network into the core, DMZ for demilitarized zone and the external world. I used to frown upon the word DMZ as it was yet another instance of glorifying mundane work. With the events that unfurled over the weekend and the world reeling from the recent cyber attacks, I have come to the conclusion that our world has changed drastically. White collar workplace is equivalent to a war zone. I am awake from slumber. 

The servers were spread all over the place and were not communicating successfully to each other. The objective was to troubleshoot. During the discussion, the design had changed twice. When the manager evaluated the second change, he was confused.

Manager: *authoritatively* I understand the initial design and also the first change.

Englishman: *nods*

Manager: *with a gradual fall in confidence* The second change is confusing. It almost looks like the initial design.

Englishman: *looks sympathetically*

Manager: *confused* So is it redesign or rearchitecting? How do I call it?

Englishman: *with a straight face* Politics.

That was a direct answer. Some of the decisions are made for the political reasons. There are no technological reasons.


Photo Courtesy: Paul White

Friday, May 5, 2017

Tell the truth

A colleague revealed. "I try to speak the truth to everyone. So I don't have to remember what I told someone." The catch phrase was "try to." He was telling the truth again. At the workplace, there are times when we hide the truth. When we engage in such subterfuge, we are tread very close to a dark territory. I don't encourage such behavior, but I am also powerless to prevent it too. As a result, I become a silent partner in such activities. A few days back, I was in such a situation.

Everyone complaints about endless meetings at the workplace. This fact is evident when you try to book a conference room. Finding one during the peak hours is tough. The wise ones use the cafe for meetings. You can grab a coffee and a table. It is a huddle in the industry parlance. Sometimes, we see an empty conference room and occupy it. I call it squatting. It is similar to the Occupy movement with a slight difference. When someone turns up claiming they had booked the room, I apologize and move on, with the hope of occupying another conference room.

Now I would like to link back to the situation that I described before. I was meeting up with a colleague. As the floor was noisy, we just walked into an empty conference room. While the discussion was halfway through, a person turned up claiming the rights to use the room. My friend got up and muttered. "I don't know. These rooms are getting double booked. There is some problem with the software". He walked out. A perplexed me followed suit. I looked at my friend questioningly after we were out of sight from the rightful owner of the room. My friend winked.

It was a lie. First of all, the room booking has evolved by leaps and bounds over the years. The double booking is in the past. There was no need to invent an implausible explanation. Why do we have to lie? Secondly, all of us struggle with this simple issue. Coming out with the truth will only make the other person empathize with us. There is a fact we overlook all the time. Small lies add up to big ones. Do we want to be known as a big fat liar?


Photo Courtesy: Alexa LaSpisa

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The impulsive sceptic

England and weather always seem to be at loggerheads. The weather does injustice to the beautiful countryside. When the weather god smiles at England, it reveals a gorgeous sky and picturesque landscape. If you are surprised by the statement, then you may multiply it tenfold to imagine mine, and I found it through experience, not from written word or spoken word. This strange paradox forms the misfortune that has befallen on the England's natural beauty. 

Today is one of those days when the sun is shining, and all kinds of summer dresses are on display. Good weather is directly proportional to a happy mood. As a result, I was in high spirits when I walked into the meeting. I was one of the early bird. An Englishman joined me shorted. As we waited for others to join, I couldn't help comment. "A beautiful day. Isn't it?" After I had uttered these words, I felt proud. For once, I thought I had nailed the icebreaker. This time, luck was on my side. There are many other times where there was no luck, and I prefer amnesia to the aftermath. 

There was no visible change on the Englishman's composure. His lips moved and formed the following sentence. "Well... if it lasts..." I waited for eyebrows to raise, a shrug, a flick... I waited for what seems to be an eternity. But there was no such thing from an Englishman. I can't understand this strange phenomenon. Why do they have to skeptical about everything? Why can't they just see a small slice of happiness or good weather, in this case, acknowledge it and move forward? Is it a sin in this part of the world to be happy?


Picture Courtesy: Ruth Ellison

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pappettan tells us about a 50-pound note

It is turbulent times these days. Empathy and compassion are hard to find. I was with Pappettan when we ran into a friend of ours. He looked devastated. He had a squabble with someone, and there was a war of words. I am not sure who was this someone and who finally won the argument. But our friend seemed tired and wounded.

Pappettan: *in a cheerful tone* Cheer up, dear friend.

Our friend: *still hurt* You didn't hear the accusations. How can he say it?

Pappettan: *nods and continues* Those are only words.

Our friend: *sad* Those words were sharper than a knife.

Pappettan: *adopts his saintly stance* Always a remember a 50-pound note.

Our friend: *puzzled* What about it?

Pappettan: *in a calm tone* You may get it fresh from the bank. You may get it crumpled on the street. But the value is still 50-pound.

Our friend: *thinking*

Pappettan: *continues* The same 50-pound note may change hands. For one person, that might be only thing for survival. For another, it might be added security in the bank.

Our friend: *a bit puzzled* That is true.

Pappettan: *smiling* You are the 50-pound note. In whatever shape, your value is the same. It doesn't matter what others think.


Photo Courtesy: Images Money
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 India License.