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.