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Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

A good friend who is an excellent architect with years of experience hit anomie (want to read my post on PMs and anomie go here) and  I actively encouraged him to investigate options beyond his comfort zone. He decided to give Product Management a go and I think he loves it with caveats…as I warned him and a number of my other friends — Being a PM is an extremely rewarding job, yet you need patience and you need the will to last the grind ( something that over the years I seem to be losing)…at the end whatever career you choose, ask yourself the question : is this something both my head and my heart wants me to do?

Life has been a good teacher in general but over the past 5 years so has my son. My son reminds me every day of the following things :

(A) Prioritize  : K2 is ruthless about what matters in his life – it is his playtime, his ipad time and then parents time… I have learnt from K2 whether it is a backlog plan or my meal plan at home, it is critical that I get to first things first…one of them is weekly meals for my family…I came up with a grandiose weekly plan, haven’t yet gotten around to executing 100% to plan — hey but it is prioritized.

(B) Communicate : whether it is a “small” question to letting us know he needs to use the bathroom, to he is hungry, sleepy or grumpy…K2 communicates…it is annoying at times but useful most times…I would rather he tell me he has a tummy ache to me second guessing it. Similarly whether it is to Development, Sales, Customers, peers or Management – I believe in appropriate data and information sharing. Every quarter after revenue was posted – I did an all-hands with the development team to walk them through revenues, wins-losses, roadmap snapshots and the next 3 month outlook …I think these communications helped serve the purpose of Establishing Direction and there was no alienation from the product (remember Karl Marx).

(C) Simplify : Man tends to overcomplicate, overthink life…K2 breaks things down to the basics (classic Maslow) – “When you learn how to say yes to the things you want in your life and no to the things you don’t want in your life – your life becomes simpler.”

(D) Think Win-Win : As we grew up in India our life was very competitive — we learnt to base our self-worth on comparisons and competition. We thought about succeeding in terms of someone else failing–i.e.,  if I win, you lose; or if you win, I lose. Life almost became a zero-sum game.– however, with K2 I see that he is in a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions — he wants to share, his attitude is “there is plenty for all

This weekend – I conquered my fear of heights to help Krish conquer his…we watched Madagascar 3…strolled the farmer’s market and splurged on the healthy (beans,brocolli, brinjal) and the not-so-healthy (pies and brownies)…we stared at the Golden Gate bridge in awe and explored Sausalito (for the first time)…ready for Monday and the rest of the week. As my Ma and Bapa tell it – sometimes it just about changing the perspective and life falls into place….how has life been treating you?

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I feel like giving up. Almost everyday in fact. Not all day of course,  but there are moments…no I am not a manically depressed woman, venting every moment I get in blogosphere…this was the first sentence of a small  book that I started reading yesterday… here’s how it played out –
I have been busy the past eight weeks, tired too and mostly not put together (which is unlike me)…Things got a little hectic this week and I forgot to sign K2 up for PTO (parent’s night out) and we had no plans in place anyway…on Wednesday K2 asked me if I had signed and I sheepishly admitted to – not, his indignant look followed by disappointment (he believes it should be parents/kids time out vs. just PTO) was enough impetus for me to somehow wrangle him into the PTO…this left me and K1 with 5 unplanned hours — initially our plan was to watch a Hindi movie (amc mercado if you are interested) and get some Desi food …but once in the house, neither wanted to move…so dinner was an easy naan pizza washed down with a Muscat while watching an offbeat German movie Soul Kitchen (on Netflix…). A and K got engrossed in a market discussion that I wanted no part of, so I migrated upstairs and started reading “The Dip”…my sole criteria for picking it being the size (76 pages)…and I was hooked. It wasn’t an earth-shattering book yet it made me question my internal belief system…
 

For a person who lived with the mantra “failure is not an option” – hearing someone say -that you will never be the best in anything unless you learn to quit intelligently — felt just wrong. However, I didn’t stop reading the book and it started making a lot of sense – I started my career working at GE in India and Jack Welch was a legend there  – When Jack Welch remade GE, the most fabled decision he made was this: If we can’t be #1 or #2 in an industry, we must get out. Why sell a billion-dollar division that’s making a profit quite happily while ranking #4 in market share? Easy. Because it distracts management attention. It sucks resources and capital and focus and energy. And most of all, it teaches people in the organization that it’s okay to not be the best in the world. Jack quit the dead ends. By doing so, he freed resources to get his other businesses through the Dip.”… isn’t that what quitting strategically is all about?  I am sure I will go back and read and re-read this book…it came to me at  a time when I needed it.

How is your weekend turning out? I watched my little guy play a Tee-Ball game and the sun is shining brightly outside, a relaxed lunch of pupusas at Amelia …maybe a long relaxed walk in the evening. No fixed plans for Sunday — maybe sit in the library for an hour and a stroll down the Farmer’s Market…

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There are a few constants in my not so predictable life every week : I can count on having to prepare dinner, clean the house at least twice a week, do homework with my son most days, grocery shopping, K2’s bath and how can I forget the 3 LOADS of laundry that I wash, fold and keep away week after week after week…this along with a 50+hours work week for most women…one wonders how a woman is expected to juggle multiple balls in the air and not come undone.I feel a deep sense of envy as I see the perfectly dressed mothers with not a hair out of place come in drop their kids off at school,  fly a kiss good bye and then calmly walk to their shiny washed cars while I rush in flustered — is the homework in the backpack (check), snack (check), lunch box (check), kid (thank god!check)…we have avoided getting tardy slips in the first 100 days of school but I am wondering how the next 100 days shape up…there are days when I want to throw my hands up in the air and give up…
Brings more credibility to an interesting talk I heard by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook – some stats she shared:

  • Only 15% of the C-Level Executives are women ( numbers haven’t moved since 2002 and are trending the wrong direction)
  • Out of the married executives polled 2/3rd of the men executives had children and only 1/3rd of the women executives had children

But she didn’t stop at the statistics, she gave working women 3 things to think about:

  1. Sit at the table : women systematically underestimate their own abilities, is it surprising that even today a woman with the same experience as her male counterpart makes 15%+ less ( hard statistics my friends!). Success and likability is positively correlated for men vs. women (meaning the more successful a woman, the less they are liked).
  2. Make your partner a real partner : If a woman and a man work full time and have a child, the woman does twice the amount of house work the man does and the woman does three times the child care ( don’t know where Sheryl gets her stats from but I think they are spot on…)
  3. Don’t leave before you leave : don’t lean back and take your feet off the gas pedal…
I do believe there has been progress in terms of women crossing the traditional boundaries and moving in different positive directions yet I also think that despite all this progress there has been undue stress on the woman in general…having to keep both the home front and work front running smoothly….and more importantly feel like they are not shortchanging one for the other.
Anyhow getting off the serious horse….I wanted to share this yummy pasta I make for my son for all you busy moms :
I buy the whole wheat Ravioli from Butoni ( boil as per instructions)
I make the sauce from scratch – 4 large cloves of garlic, 4 Campari Tomatoes, 2 Carrots, 2 Zucchini, Chicken/Vegetable Stock .
  • Saute the garlic in EVOO
  • Add tomatoes, roughly cut carrots and zucchini ( I use whatever vegetables I have on hand – beans, cauliflower, broccoli,beans)
  • Add stock as per thickness desired
  • Pressure cook for 1-2 whistles
  • Blend, Add salt towards the end…I usually don’t need it
  • Freeze or Use
Take the sauce in the pasta bowl. Add some shredded mozzarella cheese. Heat in the oven or microwave. Add the cooked ravioli….start to finish, I can have this meal on the table in 20 minutes (I usually make enough sauce to last me three meals – so yes I freeze the sauce).
K2 helped me prepare this pasta and he did try to help me fold some of the laundry…so here’s to raising a boy who will be an equal partner in every sense…;-)

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What are the odds of discussing Buddha, Buddhism and the eight-fold path with two devout Buddhists within 24 hours of reading the book – ” Buddha : 9 to 5” – not too many…but it happened to me. I was going to tell you about this book anyways because not only do I believe it helps me “learn and grow” in the work place but it also helps me be “mindfully aware” at home…try to avoid…Shempa…BUT also because it is practical and you should read it if you are so inclined.

Deep…you say…me says focus on the word very practical….
Dimwit…I don’t do Shempa…you say…me says…let me explain further
When we experience Shempa, we generally will tighten around a thought or concept and eventually we are hooked to that idea. We are stuck. The attachment paralyses us from seeing issues in any context that is different from our own view of the situation at hand. We are unable to act from a perspective that is open to the creativity of a new approach. As we continue to push the envelope and fixate on the outcome, we are actually building momentum towards attachment….
Sounds familiar…come on admit it…Living life brings with it either an innate learning or wisdom…this wisdom manifests itself in business in level-headness and reasonable decisiveness. It also manifests itself in intangibles like warmth, humor, compassion, humility and graceful strength…we release our fixation on ego and focus outward on understanding people (be it at work or home) and through that understanding where we can create and add value ( for the organization and on the home front). “T” the insightful one said in our conversation yesterday – we are very fixated on a need…we don’t know what that need is…we think it is title, money, car, clothes, other material things…we try to fill that need — yet there is an awareness that there is a gaping hole…something that craves more…maybe we are wiser for recognizing this emptiness and not trying to fill it with the material but reaching for a deeper understanding beyond maybe for something spiritual…

I know that was the exact sentiment I had as I picked up this book from the business section in our public library…I don’t think I am even half way there in this journey …yet as I like to say a journey begins with but one step…for me I think this  journey roadmap would read as follows in both my personal and professional life:

  • Right View : the ability to view the situation for what it is…it is what is truthful and right. With K2, I know that I do fixate and make the issues bigger then they have to be and with mindful awareness, I am working towards taking a more level headed approach.
  • Right Intention : over the years I have realized that there is a desire in me to love what I do, have a positive impact (whether it is on my family or my work) and have a purpose. Once in a while that sense of purpose might seem a little foggy but it always comes back…
After developing that wisdom, it is about building our ethics system…in most of us it is something we have built over the years with our understanding of what is right and what is wrong? but like every framework even ours could use tweaks…right?
  • Right Speech  and Right Action: there is an interesting concept LEAP which is about listening, exploring authentic listening with genuine interest, questions and empathy, appreciate the other person’s point of view and present one’s own view point. I will provide you a glimpse into a typical day – K2’s extended day care had a “talk” with me on K2’s arguing every point with the care givers…I tried to sit down with K2 and understand the incident from his view point ( in from of the caregivers L & C), I asked questions, I did get an appreciation on K2’s view point BUT with empathy was also gentle strength…an explanation that he needed to respect his elders and I presented my view…the view presented resulted in lots of tears and a I don’t like Mama…but I was glad to go through all the steps with K2. The next day K2 understood exactly why he had lost some privileges and tried hard to work on his version of LEAP. We should pay attention to our actions and clearly understand their consequences
  • Right Livelihood : Simple from my perspective…do what you love doing and something that your gut/heart tells you is right…and it is probably the right one…K1 keeps steering K2 to say he wants to be a doctor…and I keep steering K2 to follow his heart and his heart tells him to be a dinosaur hunter today…maybe 16 years later he might want to be the doctor his father wants him to be…but whatever he picks..it should not be because of pressure but because it is something he really wants to do..
  • Right Effort : I think the book five dysfunctions of a team covers this well – make an effort not to avoid conflict for right, don’t avoid accountability,and make an effort to develop and deliver…

All this leads to mindful awareness of self, family, situations both personal and professional — I am really excited with some of these concepts…they are very applicable to our lives…
I am sure you are fixated on the “good cry” part — ok so here is what happened. I had a huge stock of red onions in my pantry and beautiful campari tomatoes from my local farmers market — being the frugal person that I am rather than see all my beautiful produce disintegrate…I sat in the evening yesterday and chopped 14 red onions ( not one not two…) and an obscene number of tomatoes, green seranno chillies, 2 garlic bulbs, huge finger of ginger…and made a huge batch of  indian masala base laced generously with turmeric and roasted cumin powder….this I packed and put in the freezer and will probably last me over at least a dozen rounds of Rajma, Chole, Aloo Dum and other wet subzis….the red onions made me cry for over an hour…my swollen eyes got me weird looks…
So how has life been treating you on the path to Nirvana….

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Here is an inspiring email forward from my dad

Success is not a secret. It is a choice that is made over and over again.
Success is not something that can be denied to you.
It is something that you can always choose to accept.
How do you accept success? You accept success by making the effort instead of making excuses.
You accept success by taking responsibility instead of counting on someone else to do it for you.
You accept success by being truthful with others and, just as importantly, with yourself.
You accept success when things get tough, by being positive and innovative
instead of becoming despondent.
You accept success by being who you are and by contributing what you can,
rather than pretending to be someone else.
Every day you can choose either to accept success or to just let it pass you by.
With each thought, each word, each action, choose to accept success

————————————————————————————————————
I used to read CK Prahalad’s writings : we had his book Competing for the Future as a mandatory read, and it is a book that I  occasionally go back to even today…I loved his key insight :  “Billions of consumers await at the “bottom of the pyramid”

And my dad had the chance to debate with CKP on State and Industry issues…while I was feeling self-important launching (in my mind) cutting edge services…he was running a state….so brings home the point to me :

Success is a state of mind,
Success is a choice made by you,
It doesn’t come with dollars, dividends or a title,
It is self-generated….

                                                                                                         —A Note to Self

On this positive uplifting note and no actual recipes….I hope you have a wonderful Turkey Day…I know I am planning to with the 2K’s.

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Talking of addictions…apart from the gym and grocery store I have been addicted to the “good ol’ telly” and for the past month or so have been watching “Prime Suspect” (1-7) with Helen Mirren. I was hooked…K1 lost interest somewhere around Episode 2 and to be fair to him, the storyline was slow moving, procedural and focused on the struggles of the female protagonist against the misogyny and sexism of her male colleagues during the investigative process. I watched “The Final Act” and as it ended there was a sadness that I won’t have any more episodes to look forward to and a resentment at how it all ends for Jane… who was in most circumstances a police officer first and a woman second – leaving us an impression of a woman dependant on alcohol, who was losing her identity (she was retiring from the job that consumed her life)…broken, lonely, lost….and trying to survive. I try to tell myself things have changed and there has been a lot more progress now since the 20 years back that they first conceived the idea of “Prime Suspect”…but then has it really?
 Last week I was reading  an eye-opening report “Stemming the Tide” by professors at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – the study focused on women in Engineering (but I would put forward that this would broadly apply to  roles in technology companies/start-ups in the Silicon Valley). They found that just one in four women who had left the field reported doing so to spend more time with family. One third left “because they did not like the workplace climate, their boss or the culture,” while almost half departed due to “working conditions, too much travel, lack of advancement or low salary”….Cultural Stereotypes have women branded as “nice and compassionate” and men as “aggressive and competitive” and if a woman exhibited the latter traits – the behavior is considered inappropriate and presumptuous (Note: I didn’t say this the Dept. of Sociology at North Western makes this claim).

Reality is I have never really thought about it being a man’s world and have always believed that you focus on the tasks at hand and delivering results and then demand expect the appropriate rewards. I have been exposed to situations where my belief system has been shaken and questioned BUT then again I have been in multiple situation where I have discovered that actions do get rewarded…however for the most part I think what is key is the following : a woman needs to balance her personal goals  with her professional goals and prioritize the must- haves for success. I know that I want to get home  to a kindergartner and I choose to cook dinner for him every night vs. do take-outs. Yes, that means more chores (cooking, grocery, clean-up) but it also gives me a peace of mind and satisfaction that I am making healthy choices for my family. It also makes me more efficient at work because I focus on getting the task at hand completed vs. taking coffee breaks, lunch breaks, walk breaks (all of these principles fly out of the window if there are no tasks on hand 🙂 )

 Balance in my mind is not a resting place. It requires flexibility, adaptability, strategy, intuition, moving quickly and yet keeping still. Perhaps this balancing act is the ultimate art of the feminine, reflective of our daily quest to juggle family, career and self. So yes, I  understand it is a Man’s World  but I choose to play work in it on my own terms. There might come a time in my life when I question my decisions and reprioritize but for now…life goes on…

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My father shared with me yesterday an insightful presentation on the “10 Rules to Success” – of course how each one of us defines success differs dramatically. If you are interested in getting plugged into the “How To” go here . Couple things that resonated are –

  • Be Decisive
  • Be Focused
  • Plan Thoroughly
  • Take Purposeful Action
  • Welcome Failure ( Failure teaches you how to be prepared for success)

Today was a day for “thinking out of the box” in the kitchen. With the economic downturn, a lot of people are having to tighten their purse strings, the first thing to get impacted is grocery budgets and eating healthy…my food budget hasn’t increased (might have actually decreased) in the past 4-5 years, however we have shifted 80% of our produce shopping to Farmer’s Markets (Local, Pesticide Free or Organic),Organic Wheat and Whole grains, Organic Milk and Yogurt…I  buy seasonal produce, I shop sales and it is interesting how much the economic situation is making grocery stores like Whole Foods offer excellent values (For eg. Organic Multigrain Bread at Whole Foods is $1.99, Organic Milk 1 Gallon is $5.99). You just need to watch out for the deals vs. the rip-offs and of course be savvy with the Whole Deal Coupons.

This week I picked up a couple of cartons of Almond Milk and two pounds of Organic Carrots and with that simple duo I recreated a delectable Carrot Halwa which is traditionally made like this –

My recipe however was as simple as these 4 ingredients –

  1. Coconut Oil – 1 tsp
  2. 2 pounds of Organic Carrots – grated
  3. 1 carton of Almond Milk (vanilla, sweetened)
  4. 4-5 Strands of Saffron, Toasted Almonds (optional)

Take a saute pan and heat the oil, add the grated carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the Almond Milk (and then it is a labor of love)…cook on slow flame for about an hour till the mixture solidifies. Add the saffron strands soaked in warm almond milk and stir for a minute or two. Add toasted almonds if you so wish ( I roasted a few raw almonds in the microwave and rough chopped and added it to the halwa)…enjoy slightly warmed with a cup of cardamom chai.
I won’t rave over the health benefits of this vegan carrot halwa (1/3 fat, 1/2 sugar of regular halwa) but more importantly this recipe had me stretching into territories unknown….success was not guaranteed, failure very much a plausible outcome…yet the desire to stretch myself in the kitchen the driving factor…Have you been thinking out of the box lately?
This recipe goes to Anu’s Healthy Kitchen where she is hosting the event : Cook.Eat.Desserts : Almonds. This event is the brainchild of Raven, a native of the Food Lover’s Dream San Francisco whose blog you can read here.

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