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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Book Review: Being a Project Manager by Hamutal Weisz & Daniel Zitter


 



An interesting set of Books on Project Management. The book has an interesting cover design which seemingly has no connection to project management but take a pause a think deeper and you will see the connect.

Book 1 Review: Being a Project Manager: The Beginning
 
In a simple manner, through the story, the author explains the various facets of starting and forming a start-up business along with several life lessons and lessons about social contribution & personal growth.

All this .. with a complex and varied audience of school going kids (seniors), their parents and even their teachers.

It is indeed a difficult task to explain the complex world of start-ups to anyone. Add to that the additional responsibility of teaching some life lessons and moral / social responsibility in a non-preachy manner as part of the story telling. The author has done a good job of simplifying things while keeping a wide coverage.

While all this was good, i did find that in order to cover all facets, it became an overload. The average senior student of the school might eventually find the book heavy on concepts. This is a personal thought and may not be true, considering the generation of kids these days definitely seems to be smarter than my own generation.

An interesting book actually.
 
Book 2 Review: Being a Project Manager: Planning the Project
 
The 2nd part of the 4-part series on Being a Project Manager continues its style of engaging the reader by giving knowledge in a nutshell.

The first one like a short introduction while this one begins to dive into the subject - but not really a deep dive. Its skimming the surface but enough to give the reader the ability to have an intelligent, sensible conversation on this subject with a professional.

The book is laying the foundation principles of project management for the average reader and gives a generic roadmap for project management rather than aligning to any specific project management style or philosophy. Its focus on core principles allows it to set a good foundation on which the reader can build.

While the book is useful for a beginner, I must say, a seasoned Project manager will also find the books useful - Not only for its information in a nutshell approach (to quickly refresh the project management learnings) but also present a unique way of looking at project management as a whole .. keeping an eye on the big picture.


Having read 2 books in the series, I look forward to the remaining books in the series. This set of 4 books can serve as a ready reference for beginners and seasons project managers alike ... adorning their desk or their kindle.



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Book review: The Benefits of Failing Successfully by Jagdish Chaturvedi



 
The book is titled ”The Benefits of Failing Successfully: 10 Hidden Benefits of Making Mistakes And Failing” and it does live up to its title in some ways.

The 10 hidden benefits are introduced with the help of Dr. Jagdish’s personal life incidents and his learning from them.
 
At the core, it is a simple straightforward book on how to deal with Failures.
 
Dr. Jagdish narrates real incidents of failure from his personal life and what he learnt from them as well as how the seemingly failed attempt at doing something proved to be beneficial.
 
The author has pointed out that failure teaches valuable lessons that you wont learn if you were successful in your first attempt at doing something.
 
The benefit of having the real life incidents from Authors' life is that most readers will connect easily as something they themselves might have experienced.
 
At the core, the book attempts to align the attitude of the reader towards what most people refer to as 'Failure'
 
The book is short and has many pages with illustrations by Pranay Arun Kumar. They help keep the nature of the book light. Plain text talking about failures can be depressing. The sketches which appear every few pages, enhance the message and make the whole reading experience rather enjoyable.
 
The book will be a good read for school and college going students and people early in their career. Might not be a very good read for the seasoned professional but a gentle reminder never hurt.
 
The cover design might seem childish but with the target audience of students … its more likely to hit the mark.




Rating: 3/5

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book Review: Our Start-up by Dov Reichman







The complex world of start-ups simplified  


In a simple manner, through the story, the author explains the various facets of starting and forming a start-up business along with several life lessons and lessons about social contribution & personal growth.

All this .. with a complex and varied audience of school going kids (seniors), their parents and even their teachers.

It is indeed a difficult task to explain the complex world of start-ups to anyone. Add to that the additional responsibility of teaching some life lessons and moral / social responsibility in a non-preachy manner as part of the story telling. The author has done a good job of simplifying things while keeping a wide coverage.

While all this was good, i did find that in order to cover all facets, it became an overload. The average senior student of the school might eventually find the book heavy on concepts. This is a personal thought and may not be true, considering the generation of kids these days definitely seems to be smarter than my own generation.

An interesting book actually.

The cover deisgn shows a boy and a girl which could be misleading, but on the other hand the book is written with the very young audience in mind so it is probably appropriate and correct cover deisgn consideration.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Article - "All prepared for the interview?


"All prepared for the interview?"

 

"All prepared for the interview?" - One of the most common questions you get asked by your friends (and sometimes by your colleagues too, if they know)

(I started writing this as a simple comment but as i wrote and went on writing, it became a whole article. Well, read patiently)

And somehow, this has always stumped me. Practically, because I never 'prepared' for an interview. I could never figure out what to prepare for when facing an interview.

During my early days in Engineering college as well as for MBA institute admissions, I was told to prepare for some basic questions like 'Talk about yourself', 'What’s your strength / weakness", "Why do you want to join our company", "Where do you see yourself in 10 years" etc. I did prepare for them, unconvincingly.



'Talk about yourself'

Except for the fact that i need to keep it short and concise, i never really understood what is there to prepare in this. It’s your own life and own self you are talking about. What’s there to prepare. Just talk about yourself in a logical manner talking about your education and career journey. This is often the foundation setting of the interview where the interviewer is not focusing on your answer BUT identifying areas where they can ask you questions. Simple.

'What’s your strength / weakness"

I am sure this one is a good question. Sadly, i have not been able to figure out a good answer to it till date :(

"Why do you want to join our company"

Another one that stumps me. I frankly don’t know your company or its work culture. All i know is what i have read about you, which may or may not be true. So, don't except me to know what is it about the company that I love and want to join it for.

Reminds me of an interview with a consulting firm i had in 2013-2014. I had already cleared the multiple rounds as well as the HR round. One final quick conversation with the Partner was needed to close the process. The Partner asked me what I loved about the company. I told him I don’t know yet. The things to love about a company are essentially 2 from my perspective - the work culture which is essentially dependent on your immediate leadership (not company leadership) and the people you work with (immediate team and other members) and the kind of work you do (work profile, projects). You can’t know these things before joining the company so I will know if I love the company only AFTER working with the company for a couple of months at a minimum. The Partner said that I would be offered the job only if I loved the company enough to join and I said, for that I need to join. it was a chicken and egg situation. I left the room saying that I will never be able to join the company under his leadership since I would never the love the company without joining and working in it.

I still don’t have an answer for that question. I never will.   

"Where do you see yourself in 10 years"

I never had the answer to this one too. Suggested answers in early days were things like 'I want to be a CEO' to show that you were ambitious (sorry to say that I found that exceedingly stupid and never ever used that response). BUT now I am clear. I have an answer now. Sadly, most interviewers don’t understand it. They are positively shocked to hear it. They suddenly don’t know what to do with the interview since they have probably never heard that answer before and never expected anyone to say that.

My response is "in 5/10 year’s time, I will be doing more or less the same things that I am doing now, with a possible change in complexity and scale". I am a Change management consultant and I would like to continue doing this for a living for the foreseeable future. I don’t intend to 'rise' in a consulting firm to become a Director, then a Partner and someday become a CEO. I don’t think I want to take that career path. I want to remain a CM consultant, taking on larger and more complex change projects."

So, coming back to the Interview preparation. Personally, I don’t think you need to prepare for an interview. You need to be Yourself and you don’t need preparation for that. You DON'T have to project an alternate or false image of yourself wherein you will have to carefully prepare on what to say and what not to say. 

You might want to do a bit of reading up about your prospective employer (what business, geographical spread, recent news items). You also definitely need to read the Job Description for the job you are being interviewed for. That’s helps you understand the organization and might help you highlight some of your education / strength / experience which is directly relevant to the job at hand and the company profile. I personally don’t refer to that as 'preparation' but yeah, it qualifies and you can call it that.

I have trained students for GD/PI (during year 2002-2003) and my key teachings were the following (most of which don’t need preparation actually):

1. Be Confident. Be sure of yourself and what you know as well as what you don’t.

2. If you know, answer. If you don’t know, say so. If you think you could figure out the answer through a logical reasoning or process, take the interviewer through the thinking process. Most of the times, the interviewer is not interested in the right/wrong answer. All they want to know is your ability to think. if you have shown a logical though process, you get points for that even if your answer was miles away from being correct.

3. Bring your passion on the table. There will always be something that You are passionate about. Try to bring it in the interview. No one is going to ask you about it. Figure out a way to bring it on the table in one of your answers. When you talk about something that you are passionate about, it shows. Employers want passionate people. Employees who become passionate about their job, perform at exceptional levels.

4. Control the interview. Most people think that the interviewer drives the interview and the person being interviewed is simply being driven, without a choice. My personal experience is the opposite. Remember the 'talk about yourself' question and how the interviewer is looking for questions to ask you basis that answer. There lies the beauty. bring your passionate subject in that answer and you are sure to be questioned about it. Mention the event you organized in school, the achievement you had in college, the project/task you cracked in previous job. Those are juicy interesting bits and your interviewer is bound to ask you about those things. Those things are close to your heart and you don’t need to prepare for them. You will be able to talk passionately about them and your energy + enthusiasm will show. You got them.

Hope the above helps you in your next interview.

Do 'prepare' yourself for the interview.

All the Best.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Book Blast : Avishi by Saiswaroopa Iyer


~ Release Day Blitz ~

Avishi by Saiswaroopa Iyer

 



Long before the times of Draupadi and Sita
Immortalised in the hymns of the Rig Veda
But largely forgotten to the memory of India
Is the Warrior Queen with an iron leg, Vishpala


Brought up in the pristine forest school of Naimisha, Avishi reaches the republic of Ashtagani in search of her destiny. When Khela, the oppressive King of the neighbouring Vrishabhavati begins to overwhelm and invade Ashtagani, Avishi rises to protect her settlement. But peril pursues her everywhere. Separated from her love, her settlement broken, with a brutal injury needing amputation of her leg, can Avishi overcome Khela?




Read an Excerpt


“I am the Queen! This will be my throne!” The seven-year-old chirped leaping from the middle of the porch towards the broken mortar which served as a mock throne. “You will be my guard!”

“Guard?” the man pondered scratching his unkempt beard. 

“No.” He shook his head and smiled seeing her indignant eyes. “I will be the Queen’s elephant.” He beamed.

Sukratu stepped out of the house to see his daughter in action, perching herself on the tramp Loha’s back, pretending in all earnestness that he was her elephant. He smiled and was about to set out for his duty as the night guard of the King. A sudden lightning appeared in the eastern skies. Sukratu had barely walked a few paces when a deafening thunder made him instinctively turn towards home. He heaved a sigh, finding Loha shielding the girl as if he would, his own child. 

“Father, don’t go.” The girl pleaded. 

Sukratu smiled and shifted his gaze towards the sky. He saw dark clouds loom over the city. The monsoon winds had started to make their presence felt. He had to reach the palace soon. “Isn’t my little Queen brave?” He called out. 

The girl nodded. He saw the fear fade. From her eyes. From her heart. She knew she was the queen! Pride filled his heart. His mind ached to stay home but duty beckoned. Tearing his gaze away from the one he treasured the most in his life, braving the drizzle that would soon turn into a storm, he unwillingly walked towards the King’s residence. Sukratu’s house was in the third ring of the concentric structure of Vrishabhavati. In the centre, was the structure, that served as the residence of the king and as the centre of all trade activity of the city. Here no wealth or goods could change hands without the king’s knowledge and approval. The residences of the noblemen formed the two rings around it. The guards and soldiers forming the outermost circle with the citizens living around them. 

As per the protocol, Sukratu approached General Ugra’s residence quite ahead of his reporting time— an hour before the moonrise. He walked into the empty courtyard. But the rain made it impossible for him to stand there any longer. He knocked at the giant wooden door fervently. The doors creaked as a strange woman clad in a dark indigo garment opened them and glared at him with a frown on her forehead. 
General Ugra, Sukratu knew was never faithful to one woman. His superior’s romantic exploits were not his concern either. But something about the woman at the door disconcerted him. “Please let General Ugra know that…”

“He has already left for the palace!” The woman frowned before attempting to shut the door. 

“What? How ca…” Sukratu’s words hung in air as the door slammed on his face and the woman disappeared from his line of vision all of a sudden. Something did not feel right. He knocked at the door again. Firmly this time, as though seeking answers. Any change in the reporting time would have been announced the day before and he remembered that nothing of the sort had happened. His knocks went unanswered. Frowning and muttering under his breath, Sukratu hurried towards an empty cowshed three houses away from Ugra’s place hoping to catch his companions who he knew would be equally surprised. 
The first to arrive was Khela, the eighteen-year-old guard, holding a metal shield above his head. The newest addition to the King’s guard, Khela was related to General Ugra and Sukratu felt that his position in the King’s guard was largely a result of undue favours that Ugra showered upon an otherwise impudent boy. 

“Sukratu! By the great Varuna, I should have come to you earlier!” Khela hurried towards him. Pausing for breath, he added. “Our platoon has been given a relief tonight! It was a sudden decision and I personally informed all the others.”

“Relief for tonight? That happens only when…”

“Our guarding hours change from night to day!” Khela completed in a hurry. “Now, come with me.” He turned towards the western direction and the javelin he held started to sway dangerously and came close to grazing Sukratu’s arm. 

The older guard’s instincts made him dodge the cut. “Where?” Sukratu hissed, visibly annoyed, first with the fact that he was kept in dark about the change in guarding hours and then about Khela’s irreverent behaviour. “And watch who your weapon hurts, boy.”
Khela shrugged and changed the position of his weapon. “We are now going to the place.” He winked, stretching his hand in the direction. “Follow me, this is the only night we get to have some fun.”

Sukratu did not move. The place he knew implied the tavern where wine was served. “We cannot drink tonight, Khela. When do we have to report tomorrow? By sunrise?”

“You ask too many questions. The rest of us are there too!”

“That does not answer my question.” 

“Well, I don’t know, and I don’t care to. The palace is paying for the wine. Are you coming or not?” 

The last sentence sounded more like a threat than an invite. Sukratu had all the mind to give the youth a piece of his mind and storm back home. His daughter would be overjoyed to see him before she went to sleep. It gnawed at Sukratu’s heart every day to leave her under the care of Loha— the tramp who had begged him for shelter about six months ago and then became a part of his life. The girl liked him instantly and had begged Sukratu to let Loha live with them and he, despite his misgivings about the tramp’s origins and his unkempt appearance, could not refuse his only daughter. Over time, Sukratu felt grateful for Loha’s company. Now his daughter did not have to be all by herself every night. The guard’s home would have been unguarded if not for that stranger. Sukratu brushed aside these thoughts and had almost decided to go home when the thought of meeting other senior guards and clarifying the confusion struck him. He followed Khela’s lead, making no attempt to hide his displeasure. 

When they reached the tavern, Sukratu to his dismay, found many of his brothers in arms deeply drunk. “When did they reach here and when did they…”

“Quite some time before. I just forgot to tell you in advance!”

Sukratu’s eyes scrutinized the men and women of the tavern who were serving wine to the guards. There were no other citizens or travellers in the tavern. 

“Just for us, the whole night!” Khela said as if reading his thoughts, bringing him an earthen goblet. The older guard accepted the goblet taking his first sip with a sense of foreboding. 

“Where were you all the time, old friend?” The voice belonged to Tunga one of the senior guards in the platoon. 

The grin on his friend’s face brought a smile to Sukratu’s lips. “Tunga, what is this about the sudden change in our guarding hours?” 

“The King… that imbecile, has finally remembered that we are human too!” Tunga guffawed, emptying his goblet, waving vigorously at a woman of the tavern who obliged with a seductive wink. 

She approached them, skilfully distributing her attention between both the men, winking at Tunga and pouting her lips at Sukratu. Her brows rose at Sukratu’s filled cup. “Don’t keep the Sura nor this Sundari waiting, my love...” Serving Tunga his wine, she placed her fingers upon Sukratu’s shoulders, digging her nails into his skin for a moment locking her gaze with his and turned around swiftly, letting her light upper garment rest on his face for a fleeting moment. 

It was a wilful invitation and Sukratu knew it. His attention though was caught by the colour of the garment. The Indigo hued garment! All the women of the tavern wore clothes of the same colour. So did the woman he saw in General Ugra’s house! Was Ugra at home while the woman lied that he was at the palace? If the General and the whole platoon of the night guard were lying down drunk, who was minding the security of the King? Sukratu looked at the rest of the guards. No one seemed sober enough to talk. The only sober man Khela had disappeared!

“By the great Varuna!” Sukratu exclaimed aloud and rushed out, pushing the woman who tried to stop him away. 

He raced to the King’s residence, as fast as his legs could carry him. The huge wooden gates of the structure were closed and secured from inside. The rain lashed drowning his cries. Misgivings regarding the King’s welfare made him shudder. He had to meet General Ugra. Something told him that the General had his own reasons to send the whole platoon of guards to enjoy a drunk night. He was a guard who had sworn to protect the King with his life. The general owed him an answer. Sukratu rushed to General Ugra’s house determined to confront him. 

That, Sukratu realized was the biggest mistake of his life. 

At the gates of the general’s residence he saw a familiar figure hurrying out of his house, a heavy bundle on his shoulders. “General Ugra!” he called out, feeling relieved. 
The figure started, and the bundle fell to the ground. Sukratu came to a sudden halt as he realized it wasn’t a bundle after all, but a blood-drenched corpse. A stroke of lightning from the sky revealed the face and the very familiar greying curls. Sukratu froze for a long moment before he could speak.

 “K... King...”

Something hit him on the head even before he could utter the name. Sukratu staggered, reeling at the impact, clutching at his long sword in a vain attempt to defend the next move. 

“Finish him!” The General shout behind him. 

Before he turned around, Sukratu felt the cold metal tear into his back. Lightning struck revealing the contours of the person. Khela! The javelin stabbed him again. Thunder drowned his screams. Falling to the ground with the weapon still stuck to his back, Sukratu lifted his sword and managed to slash Khela’s palm though the latter, unlike him was vigilant and alert. Crawling away from the menacing duo, knowing very well that he could not last more than a few moments, Sukratu’s thoughts, went to his innocent daughter. She would now languish as an orphan remaining in dark about the monsters who killed her father. Or would they kill her too?

Sukratu would never know. 



About the Author:


 Saiswaroopa is an IITian and a former investment analyst turned author. Her keen interest in ancient Indian history, literature and culture made her take to writing. Her debut novel Abhaya, set in the times of Mahabharata was published in 2015. Avishi, her second novel set in Vedic India explores the legend of India’s first mentioned female warrior queen Vishpala. She holds a certificate in Puranas from Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. She is also trained in Carnatic Classical music and has won a state level gold medal from Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.
 







Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Blast: Vishwamitra by Vineet Aggarwal

Vishwamitra by Dr. Vineet Aggarwal


Indian Mythological Fiction


 



When Satyavati, wife of Rishi Ruchik, exchanges with her mother the magic potion for bearing a child, they change not just their children’s destiny, but also the history of mankind. Born of this mix up is Vishwamitra, the son of a Kshatriya, who strives to become a Brahmarishi—the ultimate and most powerful of all Gurus.


Vishwamitra is the powerful story of a brave but stubborn, haughty yet compassionate, visionary king of Aryavarta who not only acquires material wealth through military conquests but also becomes one of the most well-known sages of all times.






  • If you like to read about India's rich, ancient history, in an easy to read manner, you will love Vishwamitra
  • If you have ever wondered if the ancients had any knowledge of space & science, you should check out Vishwamitra, the story of the man who created an entire new star system!
  • If you like reading romance, take time to check out this unlikely love story between a human and an Apsara! Did you know Vishwamitra & Menaka lived together for ten long years?
  • If you like reading stores that inspire -  check out Vishwamitra, the story of an ordinary man who even dared to challenge the gods!

  • If you have liked any retelling of India's original epic Ramayan, you should check out Vishwamitra -  the story of the man who became the guru of Rama, the Scion of Ikshvaku!




About the Author




Dr. Vineet Aggarwal is described by many as a doctor by qualification, manager by profession and artist by temperament. Born in a family of doctors, he successfully completed an initial stint with the family occupation before deciding to venture into pharmaceutical management and currently pursues writing and photography as a passion.



He is the author of popular online blogs ‘Decode Hindu Mythology’ and ‘Fraternity Against Terrorism and Extremism’ and the author of books ‘Vishwamitra – The Man who dared to challenge the Gods’ and ‘The Legend of Parshu-Raam’









Tuesday, August 08, 2017

VSS 030 - Greed


Greed

 

Very Short Story (VSS) 030

 

Naah. I am not Greedy.

 

I am a man of simple needs and desires.

 

I am the only son of a multi Billionaire. My dad is practically the richest man in the country in real terms; not by stock value or other financial jugglery. He has hard cash, property, gold and diamonds.

 

What difference does it make if those are not legal. Their value doesn’t change.

 

And yes, back to the point.

 

I am not greedy. I just want to double up the wealth.

 

And I have no qualms about the means I use to do that.

 

------------------------------------

 

Presenting the third story of the Seven Deadly Sins Series - Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride - 5 more to go.

 

Thought this one would be an easy one to write but the writer’s block seems to be acting up. But managed to write it. One of those times, which was stuck in the beginning but once it started, it followed and took a life of its own.

 

Quick Note: Very Short Stories (VSS) are max. 99 word stories that i am writing, as part of my writing resolutions for 2017. My target is to write 50 VSS this year.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

VSS 029 - Gluttony





                                                                     Gluttony        


 


Very Short Story (VSS) 029


 


Did you know that not only desserts spelled backwards is stressed, but when you are stressed, desserts are fantastic stress-busters.



They take you to the blissful world of ‘Taste Heaven’ where the sorrows of heart are forgotten and the tongue and stomach take charge of your life sensations.




She left me today, informing me on whatsapp. Heart broken and shattered into a thousand pieces.




I now seek solace in the unlimited Maharaja Thali followed by late night cheesecake and hot chocolate.



Pizzas tomorrow. Chinese-Thai mash-up over the weekend.



Who said Gluttony is bad? It’s a life savior.





------------------------------------


 


Presenting the second story of the Seven Deadly Sins Series - Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride - 5 more to go.
 
This story stumped me actually. Since the story was being driven by the title, I faced some sort of a writer’s block and could not write one. In fact, I wrote another VSS (scheduled AFTER the seven sins series) and came back to this. Finally, managed to connect some sweet and sad dots to write about Gluttony.
 


Quick Note: Very Short Stories (VSS) are max. 99 word stories that i am writing, as part of my writing resolutions for 2017. My target is to write 50 VSS this year.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

VSS 028 - Lust



LUST

 

Very Short Story (VSS) 028

 

His eyes undressed her at every opportunity but she had avoided physical proximity till now. But not for long. She was now allocated on his team.

                                                                                                                                      

He delayed the first meeting till late evening so that no one else was around.  

 

She had seen the lust in his eyes and was prepared.

 

He placed his hand on her shoulder saying that her involvement and cooperation on the project would be rewarded with promotions and salary hikes.

 

She planted a quick kiss on his cheek, saying “You have my full cooperation”.

 

The game of cat and mouse had begun.

 

 

 

------------------------------------

 

Thus starts the Seven Deadly Sins Series - Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride. Have kicked off with Lust and the remaining 6 will follow.

 

This story went through a couple of re-writes. Each time, a different ending. I finally decided to leave it at a point where the story can go in any direction and the reader can interpret the last line in multiple ways. This brings an element of suspense to the story. I like it.

Quick Note: Very Short Stories (VSS) are max. 99 word stories that i am writing, as part of my writing resolutions for 2017. My target is to write 50 VSS this year.