Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Now it is the season of choosing the electives. The number of electives offered is pretty huge. Sometimes, I wish I never have a choice in anything, because whenever I choose, I'm afraid I might choose wrong :) So, finally I'm forced to decide on what I want to do of my MBA, something I've been postponing for long. Given my IT background, and the fact that I got through my interviews saying (with conviction, I might add) that I want to specialize in systems, the decision seems to be a nobrainer. Wish life were that easy !

Somehow, my options have forced me to think about my MBA in a different light. Starting with the most basic question - why the heck I'm doing this course ? Of course, the justifications in my SOP are all crap. But I got through, didn't I ?

I had a very good, enjoyable, challenging and high paying job, doing what I liked best (network programming on a Unix kernel) in a very good team (LB team) at a very good company(Netscaler) at a very good time (when it was getting acquired). I was staying at home (I won't ever underestimate the value of home food), so why the heck did I quit ? Was it worth the time and effort I'm now spending doing this MBA ? Worth the amount of sleep I'm skipping ? Worth getting screwed in the exams ? Worth staying away from home for 2 years and God forbid, perhaps more ? When I announced my decision to quit, almost everybody in Netscaler were surprised. In fact, Rakesh Singh, the GM, told me that he would understand if I were to do MS or MTech, but MBA ... ? He told me quite bluntly that  I was making a mistake. Others too, esp in my team, never understood what I thought I was planning to do in my life. What if they were right ? Was I wrong ?

I don't think so. 

It is true that my job at Netscaler was probably the best I could ever hope for as a fresher, but I wasn't happy with just my engineering. There is so much in the world to learn and engineering left out quite a bit. I was good at where I was for maybe 10 years, but what after that ? I would just be stuck as a unix network programmer. When would I ever get to know other things ? I know a few people who are very geeky but nice, and I'm unfortunately acquainted with a lot of techie morons who don't know anything other than IT but are so arrogant that you want to puke. Another reason why I was on the fringes of Linux India or BLUG - not only were there a lot of unpleasant things happening, there were quite a few morons there as well.  I was afraid narrow-mindedness could be contagious.

Now that I justified my intention for higher studies, it is obvious why it can't be a technical degree. What's the point ? For me, there is very little of value-add in learning computer science all over again. All I need to do is pick up a book, any one, whether it is Knuth's or a O'Reilly book on Python - it really doesn't matter, because I know the basics pretty well. So, MTech isn't worth the opportunity cost. That only leaves the MBA. However, among some techie crowd, business and management seems to be taboo. Superiority-complex. Hypocrisy. Any management-related discussion on slashdot invariably refers to PHB (pointy-haired boss) and the discussion goes downhill from there. There is a world out there that affects whatever I do, and I have no idea about it :-( Business or management are not unethical activities (sad that I have to be so explicit).   

Since I'm here in SJMSOM to learn, why would I need to specialize in anything, esp. in Systems. Somehow, the very concept of specialization seems to be a manifestation of  insecurity or closed-mindedness. Note that here in SOM, there is no concept of specialization per se, the electives we choose form our concentration. So, I've decided to take electives from all streams - though I can't say I want to specialize in general management (wouldn't that be an oxymoron ?).

So, what sort of job am I looking for ? Who cares, atleast for now ? One thing I've learnt about my life is that things don't turn out to be what you expect, so why waste time now ? :-)

Organizing Pan-IIT 2006

After vacillating for a long time (4 months), I've finally decided to bite the bullet and take part in organizing Pan-IIT 2006. I've always been part of the yahoogroup of the Program's Committee, but this is the first time, I decided to do something. I did this because I thought I finally found a place where I could contribute something. It hasn't yet been decided which spot I'll own (of course, the spots themselves aren't finalized), but I'm quite keen on a spot involving Knowledge Commission. I'll pitch for it and something else perhaps.
This will be first time I'm organizing any event (before I was just a volunteer obeying orders), and what the heck, I'm nervous and afraid I might screw up big time, especially in front of who's who of the world. Hopefully, I'll do a good job ...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Attention to details

Programming is much maligned, especially in the eyes of MBA wanna-bes - probably because of former employees of IT services majors like Infy, Wipro and TCS, where they usually never did proper "geeky" programming. People like me, with core programming experience, are somewhat an endangered species here. I've had one of my class mates (he has an IT background) surprised and derisive that I actually enjoyed my job ! 
Programming taught me a lot of skills, the first being that 95% job completed is still 5% incomplete. And that means bugs.
So, there are two things here - one, that there must be an aspiration to excel in any job, and two, and perhaps equally important, is that attention to detail is critical. 
For me, a "big picture" person, programming was a very strange experience. It required an ability to go into the details, but at the same time, keep the big picture in mind. It took me quite a while to master this "zoom in and zoom out" ability, but it is a very useful skill. 

Back to the attention to detail part, it is something I don't enjoy, but I understand it is really necessary. That is what makes me good in completing something, something that I've used extensively in writing reports for my class projects. Writing reports and cases requires a lot of attention to details and understanding the big picture of whatever the hell we're supposed to do. I think I'm quite good at this, and can improve further.
There are a lot of good habits that I've learned as a result of my background, and while it isn't rocket science, it is quite easy to say "Hey, I used to do this while I was working, why can't I do it now ?". That is when fun starts ...