Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New Product Launched

My first product launched today :)

Here are the details: Google Official Blog Post


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Long time...

It has been an incredibly long time since I posted. I need to get back to this before I make it a habit of neglecting my blog. So while I am out here, let me post an update.

Work is progressing at a fast clip and I am feeling more and more certain of my products now. It is amazing how something which is such a small piece in terms of the overall scheme of things, needs so much work and coordination to get done. My products are small, probably will not be noticed much in the first couple of years of their existence as they evolve and gather critical mass, however they require an enormous amount of time, resources, money to put together.

This whole experience has been very humbling. We spend so much time using Internet based services, and it is so easy to be critical of a product experience, or worse, just take it for granted. However, the truth is that a lot of thought and work goes into building a usable, intuitive and smart product. I have been a part of technical teams building up ideas, invested in companies, built one before myself, and still I am constantly overawed by the creativity and vision required to take the seed of an idea and make it into something that impacts people's lives.

So yes, I am having an incredible amount of fun trying to build this up. My life is chaos currently, work-life balance has gone for a toss. And I am just loving it!

PS: Will write more about the key issues one should worry about when putting together a consumer facing product. Right now, this is just to signal that I am alive!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Stay Cool

The atmosphere in the room was tense to say the least. I was in a meeting discussing certain decisions that we had to take recently in the product. One person in my team were not happy with the way things were going. I knew that we were doing the right thing in the long term for the product, and was attempting to reach out to him and explain the reasoning behind the way we were approaching the problem. But he was just ranting at this point, lacing his responses with heavy sarcasm. Now Google is an intense environment but rarely have I seen folks lose their cool. There is a lot of discussion, and hashing out of solutions through arguments and discussions, but never this way. At that point, the one thing that was going on in my mind was "Stay Cool".

It is how we react under intense situations that defines us. We can all be genial, happy, smart and cool when the going is good. It is way harder to do that when your decision making skills are under question, and you feel as if you are in the middle of an inquisition.

As the discussion moved on, I kept my head up and kept answering his questions. You could cut the tension in the air with a knife, and I knew I was getting angrier at every step as the discussion dragged on. Thankfully the meeting ended. I got up and went for a long long walk, cleared up head, calmed down and headed back to work.
Soon I found out that the person had gone through a very tough time lately. A few days later, I approached him and we sat down and sorted out the issue.

In work, board meetings, team meetings, negotiations, and in many other situations, there are constantly conflict points in a discussion. One could get defensive and lose one's composure, or one could take it lying down and suck it up. But there may be a third way. Be firm, be logical about your opinion, respectful and lastly, dignified. In all, just stay cool.
You will not only be respected a lot more, you will also sound consistent and more credible.

PS: Don't try this in personal situations. Logic does not work there!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Warren Buffet on life and work (and the economy)

I would be foolish not to post this. This guy is amazing and yet all that he says is plain old commonsense. Just goes to prove how amazing plain ol' common sense is.
Do yourselves a favor, read these notes from a recent reception hosted by Warren Buffet for some MBA folks.

Notes from Buffet Meeting

Love him, hate him, but you can't doubt the wisdom of his words.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Get your hands dirty

One of the common Bschool misconceptions is that we will (after we graduate) spend all our time sitting behind fancy oak desks, and making strategic decisions. That our life would be like the typical Hollywood depiction of an executive. Fancy suits, ties, shiny shoes, board meetings etc etc. Some of that actually does happen, but what we miss is the grind behind all of that.

I have noticed a strange reticence to step in and actually do some of the grunge work, be it coding if this is a technology company, or operations, or something else. The common thought is, "Hey, I went to Bschool to escape all this! Why would I do this again?". However, the truth is that it is practically impossible to make the right decisions for your team/startup/product/company unless you took atleast some time out to get down and get under that hood. This tenet probably applies to those with operating roles more than the others. Services can be a different story. The only exception might be folks in Venture Capital who tend to be better if they have seen some of the mess that they invest in firsthand .

The more you come up through the grind, the more respect you have for the folks sitting across you, the more credibility you have when you are trying to influence others into buying into your vision, and finally, you are more insightful when you have to make those great strategic decisions from behind those lovely oak desks.

I spent some time last week at an operating site. For that week, I was an understudy to a great engineer who taught me the details of the product that I was supposed to be building. I worked with ground floor technicians who explained to me the intricacies of the hardware we used and the deficiencies of the software we build. Now, I am back home and have a 10x better understanding of my team, our product, and know how to optimize things much better than I could earlier.

So my learning from all this? Don't be afraid to muck around the code, get under those machines, work as a underpaid technician for day, learn the details of your business bottom up and then make decisions from the top.
"Get your hands dirty!"

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Don't take your job too seriously

As I ramp up on my other product, I am faced with two very different teams. One is huge, spread out, with a large budget, and complex operations that need to be set up from scratch; the other, small, agile, and with relatively simpler operations. One has such complexities that most sub-teams prefer a clear-cut direction and do not want to bothered with the issues across teams. The other has people who are very engaged in every aspect of the product and proactively involved in areas beyond their core work. The only thing common among them is that they are both startups of some sorts.

Both, are ideas that are coming to market in their own styles. And both require dealing with in slightly different ways. However, some things stay the same (and work like charm). Like most engineers (by training), I tend to deal with complexity with process. But while process can make things easier, they do not help deal with personalities. While dealing with atleast 6 different personality types in a single day, things can get messy. And in dealing with this, I have hit upon the perfect mantra. If I had thought of this when I was younger, my previous jobs would have been much easier.

While your job is important, it is not that important. Maybe just maybe, we want too much control in our jobs. We want to be able to control all the things that our position implies we do, we want picture perfect roadmaps, and teams which work like clockwork. And since people (or rather all of us) do not work like that, the trick might be to just let go a little bit. Trust that things will sort of work out the way we think. Plan but not over-plan. So I let go of certain things, and share responsibilities a bit more. Trust people to make up on those roadmaps which are sliding. Let someone keep a bit more control, while you cede a bit on your end. The end result: A bit more relaxed team and a calmer me. There are lot of people around me who are biting their nails and worrying about things. I believe that if we really want to lead, we need to stay calm and composed. Even amidst chaos. In fact, I propose that to be effective in today's chaotic product development environments, the prime capability one needs is composure.

Maybe the trick is to remember that we are all in this together and there is no clear-cut definition of what we do or what we need to do. I realized that by maintaining a balance between process and controlled chaos, definition and ambiguity, control and lack there of, I was calmer and much more effective at my job (successful? I do not know yet).

Maybe, Ladies and Gentlemen, the idea is not to take our jobs too seriously.

PS: On a crazy travel schedule for the past 4 weeks. Have visited Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, New York, Boston among other places. Right now, all I want to do is to head home and sleep.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Happy New Year from India

Yes, it has been some time since my last post but then things have been crazy here. Addition of a product to my suite of things-to-do has effectively trebled my work. Travel wise, I am on the plane most of the time these days. Right now, I am in India. Spent the last few weeks at Bangalore and now in Bombay before heading back to Mountain View. Then will be off again traveling coast to coast. This lifestyle is teetering on the edge of being dysfunctional.
Incidentally, it was the first time I ever worked in India per se. It was an interesting experience by all accounts. A few observations:
1. Bangalore is disgusting infrastructure-wise. All I could see was a tons of cars driving crazily, and a few non-Indian expats hopping/dodging trying not to get killed as they navigate their way on the streets of the IT city. Thankfully, I hadn't yet forgotten how to run across a street full of traffic! Though the weather rocked.
2. Larger cities like Bombay and Delhi are doing so much better in terms of infrastructure and life seemed like it was getting better here relative to where we were years ago
3. The Engineers in Google India office are unbelievably brilliant. Just awesome
4. I "felt" (and this is mere opinion and a gross generalization) while I worked here, that people interactions tend to be more personal in nature. I also felt that folks were a lot more nervous where it came to day to day work (risk averse). This actually makes sense given the cultural context. Now crucify me for stereotyping the whole country
5. The country is piping hot. Reliance Power IPO was gone literally in 60 seconds and oversubscribed multiple times in the time it takes to watch an average Indian soap. Love the excitement. You can see it literally everywhere!
6. It is exciting but harder to live here (still), but that has to be balanced by the tons of opportunities here currently.

Now time cometh to head back home to Mountain View. As usual, India is glorious in its contradictions. I can no longer figure out the right amounts to tip people, and what to haggle for with the rickshaw drivers, since the prices are so convoluted. Anything labor oriented is so cheap, it is silly. Everything else pricewise, might as well as be in US. Its gotten do expensive!

Enough about India. Back to US now.