Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

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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You Again…

As I was watching “You Again” a proverbial chick flick that I was enjoying with a cup of hot chocolate while the boys were busy washing the cars…there was a sense of dejavu…I remembered those miserable college days where I would enviously eye my nemesis cigarette toting  “D” who possessed a panache and experienced air that I lacked. She was surrounded by a crowd…always sharing gyan with that look of scorn for the likes of me…of course I behaved like it didn’t matter but there were times when I wished I was less like me and more like her…time flew by rocket speed and suddenly I was a person who was comfortable in her own skin…yet “D” always remained a distant memory…even today every now and then I glance at the social networking sites and when I find her…I wonder if she is the same scary sort of a person she was 🙂

Moving from scary people I knew in the distant past to a warm, caring and wonderful person I had met in my first year in the US, who had made me comfortable and been there when I needed a friend – I met JL after 9 years and it was as much an emotional reunion as a reunion of foodies. We ate at New Canton Restaurant, Straits Cafe, Langkawi,China Village, Moveable Feast and Briannas. It was with a full heart and an even fuller stomach that I bid adieu to JL  and Rishi (her son) on Saturday night. Sunday saw me making a trek after a 10 day hiatus to the Belmont Farmer’s market

My picks included over 2 pounds of Okra (Bhindi), 2 bunches of beets, 1 big bunch of Carrots, Red New Potatoes, Baby Brussels Sprouts, Tomatoes, Daikon Radish, 2 Sinqua (Ridgegourd), Sweet Potatoes, Jalapeno, Plums and Champagne Grapes. Nothing cooked yet the plans are grand vegetarian meals including stuffed vegetable parathas for K2 (beets, sweet potatoes and carrots), Dal Palak, Bhindi Fry, Sinqua with Aloo and Postey, Roasted Cauliflower…we will see. Sunday and Monday were super relaxed…on to the next four week days.

To get my son to paint a dinosaur on his hand ( he obstinately refused to get his face painted) I got a beautiful flower painted on my arm…K2 loved his dinosaur…life is all about choices and paths taken and hopefully the path taken is an enjoyable, fulfilling one.

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The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of Hell,or a hell of Heaven.

                                                                                        —John Milton, Paradise Lost

I  finished reading the book “A Whole New Mind” last month…truth be told I am not as sold on it as K1 who gave me this book with a solemn “here is the book that made me think”. I do agree with some of the concepts outlined by the author- the world has evolved from Agricultural (farmers) to Industrial (factory workers) to Computer (information worker) and is now evolving into a Conceptual Society with focus on Creators and Emphathizers. Daniel Pink, the author talks about three trends that are pointers to this evolution – Abundance (consumers have too many choices), Asia (things are getting outsourced) and Automation ( repeatable things can be done by machines). Basic Premise is that if something can be automated or outsourced then the differentiator is “Human Creativity and Initiative”…I was wondering – if  with Product Management software tools like One Desk , would the  Product Manager become redundant? If you see yourself as a scrum master, bug prioritizer , revenue forecaster or a PRD writer – then you better be ready for software to do your role. However, if you see yourself as a service owner, decision maker, influencer, team builder, creative chief, the adjectives go on….you are in luck – you will survive the conceptual age… 
Pink talks about 6 essential senses

  1. Design – Moving beyond function to engage the sense.
  2. Story – Narrative added to products and services – not just argument. Best of the six senses.
  3. Symphony – Adding invention and big picture thinking (not just detail focus).
  4. Empathy – Going beyond logic and engaging emotion and intuition.
  5. Play – Bringing humor and light-heartedness to business and products.
  6. Meaning – the purpose is the journey, give meaning to life from inside yourself

As Lao Zu says – A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step
Yet to begin that journey, it is key to understand that it is an evolving process, no need to predict the ending, no need to try and write the middle…just look within to see if this journey makes you happy.
And though I am not 100% sold on the book, it did give me a lot of room for thinking and reality be told, it made me feel good about some of the career skills that I believe I have honed over the past decade and a half – a lot of it has to do with creativity and thinking outside the box, Empathy, Humor  and Being able to tell a story…and the author says that the value on these will not get commodotized.
Highlight of the evening was a 100 piece puzzle that K2 completed…his first 100 piece ever.WTG K2 !!!

How is the middle of the week rocking and rolling for you?

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The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself

What in the earth is a Jhola you ask me…well it is a stunning bag made usually in India out of cloth with intricate patch or art work and it’s usually handmade. It was a hot summer in 2004 when I was back in India, in Pune and I saw a shop selling Jholas and it was love at first sight…
I bought not one or two Jholas but five- all for the princely sum of Rs.300 (roughly 6 bucks). I had 2 bright pinks, one black, one blue and an orange…I came back home and used my Jholas just about everywhere…the yoga class, shopping, everything…and I observed the covert looks my Jhola got…and I got conscious. A week later unable to deal with the stares, I packed up  my beautiful Jholas and put them in the garage.

Seven years later, I was cleaning a garage cupboard and I found these beauties and I picked them all up and reinstated them in my closet -my current favorite is my bright pink one  and it goes with me everywhere — sure I get looks but I like my Jhola and that seals the deal for me…How true ring the words of Dr.Seuss – Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

The past week has been uneventful – watched a couple fun movies with K2 – Cars 2 and Megamind.  We also watched a heartwarming Hindi movie – Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara – definitely worth a watch (brought home the point about living not just going on with life…because you get to do it but once) – we went on a 5 mile hike and got lost amidst the warning rattles of snakes and mostly silence…

we came upon a clear beautiful lake where there was this young puppy cavorting in the water – joyous, seizing the moment…this week life has been trying to teach us some lessons…

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Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same, and most mothers kiss and scold together.

                                                                                                           ~Pearl S. Buck

Abinash and Ma…circa 1974

Erica Jong aptly said – My love for her and my hate for her are so bafflingly intertwined that I can hardly see her. I never know who is who. She is me and I am she and we’re all together

Happy Mother’s Day !!!

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As I hurry through my daily routine – life does not feel the warmth and fuzziness…what’s up with this saying anyway…it has been ringing in my brain for 3 days creating a dissonance of sorts. I am of the opinion that Apple Pie is definitely placed on a higher pedestal that it should be – the dough is doughy and the apples are stewed…some apple pies more tolerable than others…but overall eh! I have had better. Motherhood – the past 3 weeks has felt the same way – eh! I have been better. What with K2 falling sick, the imminent uncertainty of things work and the constant feeling of rush and the feeling that – crap! There is something I have forgotten on my To-Do List.

Every morning starts with getting lunch ready and packed for the two K’s, 1-2 early morning calls, make my morning cuppa (hot water, honey and lemon), drag K2 out of the bed kicking and screaming, get him ready while I try to finish my cuppa, if K1 is not on a call (which is highly unlikely) – he takes on the mammoth task of getting K2 ready : make the bed, rush through a shower, barely there make-up to hide the raccoon eyes, a final check of the house and out of the door for my carpool with K1 and K2. Wait a minute…did I just forget my office badge, what about my cell phone…yikes! my wallet….The first second of quiet I get when I turn on my computer and sit at my cube sipping a cup of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea…the palpitation dies down and the calm settles in as I get through my day’s list. Where time flies by I don’t know but when I look up its soon time to leave to take the long trek ( 30 miles) to K2’s school and back home…on the way we sometimes need to stop by Trader Joe’s or the Indian Store for some staples – Bananas, Bread, Samosas (yeah! yeah! not a staple but on days of dire needs this fried piece of dough filled with potatoes hits a spot).
Evening is a whirl – what with getting the laundry done, give K2 a oil massage and bath, get his dinner ready, feed him – exhausted I have not really planned dinner for K1 and me…K1 is understanding and we either grab something from outside or eat something low maintenance. By this time it is 9-10 PM. I drag K2 to bed and I try to entertain him until he falls asleep. I am back on my computer either working or blogging, paying bills, creating a new T0-Do List – at 11.00 PM I am ready to call it a night – however, my mind wanders from thought to thought – incomplete to do lists, a walk-thro’ of irrelevant conversations, perceived deficiencies, wallowing in things not done…finally exhausted I fall asleep. Morning is yet again a repeat of the above. My product management mind has synthesized 4 key pieces of learning from this daily experience – of course I am able to practice 50% of it, and am working on the other half of it i.e., have fun and be patient when things don’t go my way
(A) Plan for the short term
(B) Execute
(C) Put 1 hr aside every day for fun
(D) Get a handle on the Monkey Mind

Most importantly, rather than existing in the present moment, the monkey mind focuses on one thought after another, and these thoughts distract me from enjoying the beautiful present- stop me from focusing on my wonderful strong boy growing from an infant to a toddler, the expanse of serenity and beauty that surrounds me (I may be biased but I live by paradise!!!), the strong pillar of support my husband and family have been through the years….

“The mind is like a crazy monkey, which leaps about and never stays in one place. It is completely restless and constantly paranoid about its surroundings. When we talk about the development of peace, we are not talking about cultivating a peaceful state, as such, but about simplicity and clearing the chaos and the noise in the mind”
                                                                — A wise person

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July 10, 1994

It was a glorious day in June, 4 years back when the Super 6 who were supposed to save the Magic Kingdom met at a fancy palace called the Ritz …A and B were old dogs and A was the ruler of the Magic Kingdom, and B was his right hand man managing finances (ouch! The coffers were dry and the subjects impatient). C had been travelling for long and needed a place to land; D was a savvy sales person, who agreed to wheel and deal for the Magic Kingdom. E had a loosely goosey title – developing and fostering relationships and not to forget F who was very skeptical of the going ons but decided to tag on for the ride

Month 1 – The first meeting with the supreme council proved that the coffers were indeed dry and the super 6 needed to beg, borrow or steal to fill it. They decided to beg and borrow…F created the Market Segmentation, Value Proposition and Roadmap while C said there were no resources to implement the above created roadmap. D was trying to hire some guys while E did some purposeless wheeling and dealing. Clearly, the Magic Kingdom was being ruled amidst “Absence of Trust”.

Month 2 – The 2nd meeting with the supreme council, D had an absent sales funnel and was the butt of all cruel comments. He wanted to speak out about the mismanagement by A & B but clearly did not due to “Fear of Conflict”. A and B meanwhile were subtly engaging in backstabbing of C through F behind their backs.

Month 3 – F was trying to close some partnerships which would help the Magic Kingdom produce additional stars and wands which would help D sell. However, A did not empower F to close those deals, instead throwing forth artificial barriers. There was a “lack of commitment” on his part to take risk and increase the gain. F grew frustrated and stopped trying to make a difference.

Month 4 – D threw in the shovel, when he realized there would be no wheeling and dealing in the magic kingdom and due to veiled conflict with E…he took a more lucrative opportunity and moved on. A happily took on the role of wheeling and dealing, which he was pretty bad at – remember the reason he hired D was because he couldn’t wheel and deal for 2 years (and blamed the failure on everyone else but himself)…which my dear friends was clear “Avoidance of Accountability”.

Month 5 – There was open conflict between C and F with E with no clear path forward – the supreme council pointed at the empty coffers. During yet another long team hugs, the Super Six which was now the fabulous (or not so) five realized that the pipeline was empty, and so were the coffers. A clear “inattention to results” had let to the Magic Kingdom to a worse state in Month 5 than it had been before…E and F soon had terminated contracts (and I guess they were heaving secret sighs of relief to be leaving). This was when the supreme council decided that they needed to shake up the power structure and old dog A needed to go…

This Cinderella story does not have a happily ever after – of a successful IPO or buyout…it is the story of a company that could have had a happily ever after but after a long painful existence went down the death spiral despite having a product with all the pre-requisite buzzwords (cloud, SaaS, enterprise…), a nascent/growing market and a fabulous set of customers…what could have worked for this company was if the Super Six had put the needs of the company before their individual teams & needs, set clear targets and executed vs. all the internal guerilla warfare which led to a dysfunctional team. I wish someone had given the Super Six this… Food for thought – isn’t it?

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