Sachin Sharma
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Only a Sith deals in absolutes. I will do what I must.
- Obi Wan Kanobi
- StarWars III - Revenge of the Sith


Behavioral Guide to Joining a New Company

For most of us mortals, joining a new company means getting to a respectable position as soon as possible. I use the word “mortal” because we are average people who have an engineering or post-graduate degree and are working for a respectable salary. That makes up for the majority of the young working people – at least here in Pune. So, the point here is that most of us are not from IIT, IIM or scholars capable of being employed by the likes of Google or Microsoft research. That leaves us with two choices. The first choice is that we work with a company or companies and look to grow ourselves as far as we can. The second choice is, well, we open our own business or company.

Now, if we have decided to work in a company towards our ambitions then it is overly important to be a “team player”. Most of us know what that means, but, I recently realized that some people just don’t get it. Maybe they think that they are smarter than the rest or that the rules do no apply to them. Or, maybe they are confident of getting employment at the blink of their eye. Whatever the reason maybe, this kind of temperament is not good for a person. In my opinion, if anybody has a superiority complex, they must try and equal themselves to those select few who work in the research wing of large corporations. This does not imply that researchers (or those who hold high positions) need not be team players. It just means that their attitudes are tolerable – considering the fact they have worked hard to get to that position in the first place.

For the rest of us, there is no reason for not being a “team player”, especially when one joins a new company. Most of us just love to hate our seniors and management at all levels. Let this thing be understood – a senior is always at a better position than us. This is particularly difficult for those people to understand who have 4+ years of experience, because, let’s face it – even that person is a senior of some sort. In a new company, one has to play safe. Don’t start by disagreeing with your seniors. Test the waters before diving in. Observe the work culture. For a successful tenure in a company, it is important to absorb a company’s work culture and work accordingly. If one does not like the work culture then they always have an option to “move on”. However, be careful – moving on too much is a sign of inflexibility, which is another word for not being a team player.

Here are a few simple points to get started in a new company:

  1. Do not start by checking e-mails or going online to chat with friends. The first phase is to “observe” the work culture. Remember, the company pays you to work.

  2. If the company provides documents, manuals or processes about work culture or project then spend time reading them carefully.

  3. First month in a new place is always difficult. Make contact and establish friendships with colleagues. Striking a conversation about assigned work is the safest bet.

  4. While in the observation phase, do what a senior desires of you (related to work) and do it quickly while maintaining quality. Do not give a senior any chance to point at you.

  5. If you have doubts, talk to your senior and keep the conversation short. Try learning the right thing by observation rather than by asking questions. Believe me, this ability of a person always helps. However, be careful about not doing the wrong thing.

  6. Play safe until the first achievement in the project. An achievement is marked by a senior’s appreciation – higher the achievement, the better it is.

  7. Finally, the rule to being successful is the person’s own “Judgment”. Better judgment yields better payoffs. One can refine judgments by considering facts gathered after keen observation.

So, you must be able to judge for yourself when it is time to start taking liberties. Remember that liberties are only a means of re-motivation. It is not a substitute for work.
Sunday, March 26, 2006 at 2:15 AM. Comments: 1.
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What an amazing device, the iPod

Recently, I had an opportunity to work on a small module of a media conversion application. The module simply took iPod compatible videos from the conversion application and exported it to iTunes as a play-list for transferring to iPod.

Before I go ahead, I must say that iTunes is a wonderfully designed application. And I mean not only in functionality and build-quality but also programmability. With the iTunes COM Windows SDK, you can program every aspect of iTunes. The SDK is an excellent piece of work. One major drawback is that iTunes launches itself with the first call you make to one of its methods.

So with this module, I also used a 30GB iPod that had video capability. First look: it will take your breath away – no kidding. With its outstandingly crafted yet rigid body and a circular touch sensitive navigation disk, the iPod is an engineering marvel. A quick search on Rediff revealed that the price of the same model in India is a little over Rs. 10,000. That seems steep. But, believe me when I say that the iPod is worth every rupee you spend on it.

So what do you get for your 10K? First, you get to listen to music. On a 30GB iPod, 30GB of disk space amounts to your entire music collection. But wait, my music collection never grows above 5GB. So what about the other 25GB? You have videos for one. Videos take up a lot of space. Now even if you carry 5 movies on the iPod, it would take up like 5GB. That less! Yes, the iPod accepts MP4 video which gives more video for less space as compared to videos made for a VCD.

The iPod specifications say that the video should be in the MP4 format, 640 pixels in height, 640 pixels in width and 48.1 KHz audio. But, to make optimum use of the iPod screen and space, a video with 320 pixels in width and 240 pixels in height works best. It fills up the entire screen and takes up less space. And, yes, the iPod plays it just fine – videos “to go”.

Following my little math, the iPod still has 20GB of hard-disk space left. What more? Yes, Photos. So, putting in selected photos of recent trips, photos of family and friends will take more or less 5GB. On an iPod, you get to see these photos laid out as thumbnails. Just imagine listening to music while viewing a slideshow. What a wonderful life?

Apple iTunes is the only reliable method to put music, videos and photos on to the iPod. iTunes supports music and videos pretty good. However, iTunes’ support for photos is a little bit shady. For music and videos, you get to make play-lists and you get to organize them to your liking. The moment iTunes detects the iPod in the USB port of the computer; it pops up and starts updating the iPod immediately.

That is all good, but what about Photos? In iTunes, you cannot even view photos – leave alone making something like play-lists of the photos. To get photos on to the iPod, you must give iTunes a folder. iTunes will update the iPod with photos in this folder. This works but it seems like a workaround to me. Apple just had to put in a method to transfer photos.

The calculations say that with music, videos and photos you would normally use up to 15GB of hard-disk space. The iPod still has 15GB left. What can you do about that? Well, it is always good to have extra space. Didn’t I mention it; you can use the iPod as any other removable disk. An iPod drive shows up in Windows Explorer as a new drive. Just copy and paste data to the drive. Get a 40GB iPod and enjoy more space.

If iPod 30GB with video is so great, what can I say about the iPod Nano? An iPod Nano is half the size of the normal iPod. In India, the price of a Nano is around Rs. 15,000. Steep again? You just can’t put a price when it comes to owning such a device. Recently, Apple also launched an iPod Hi-fi that is actually a complete sound system with sub-woofer; all contained in a box the size of your kitchen toaster. They have a good catch line too.

Recently, I read that the iPod commands 78% share of the portable player market. Samsung recently came up with a model quite similar to the iPod Nano. According to the comparison, even this would be a failed attempt to belt the mighty cat that is the Apple iPod.
Sunday, March 19, 2006 at 2:25 AM. Comments: 0.
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Things I Thought Last Week

The events of the past week had me doing some serious thinking about where I am heading – life wise. I have been working with a single company for the past 4 years. This is the only company I know since my post-graduation. Knowledge about other companies and their work cultures have come to me only from my friends. Now, it is not that I don’t like it here – in fact I love my job. It is a very satisfying experience since I get to see results and progress.

But, last week a long-time and trusted employee had to leave the company. This forced me to think about my future. It made me recollect a dialog from a James Bond movie, where the scientist guy says that you should never let your enemy know that you are bleeding and most importantly you should always keep an escape route ready. This event helped me think about my old resolution and analyze the steps that I have taken to keep the resolution. Situations will change, in my workplace and in my life. It only makes clear sense to anticipate the future and prepare for it – to keep an escape route ready.

To put this in perspective, it is not that this company does not want to keep long terms with an employee. I myself am a relatively long-term employee. I know that it is circumstances that push things in a particular direction, which may not be acceptable to common sense. I also understand that sometimes the employee cannot do anything to improve the circumstances. It just keeps getting bad.

A company wants production and progress. To achieve progress, anybody who becomes a hurdle or liability must be eliminated. A person giving production contributes to the progress of the company and becomes valuable (needful) and therefore gets opportunities. Performance is only so good as the amount of production it produces. Clear and simple and there is nothing wrong with this.

So, where am I? Am I heading in the right direction? I think ‘Yes’. I work hard. I have made it a point that I never let myself get stagnant in this company. I try to make sure that everyday in the company is like my first day; a day where I must prove myself and never rest for long on my past laurels. The only thing left to do is to start making an escape route. I have started working towards that too. This just means that I will try every bit as hard till the day comes where circumstances lead me to leave. That day, I will not feel sorry, but use my escape route. At least, from now, that would be my plan.

Two more dialogs that I recently heard and liked:

1. Everything worth having is difficult to achieve
2. Struggle is nature’s way of strengthening you
3. Different does not mean bad or worse – it just means “different”

P.S: I also have to start going to a Gym. My back has started aching. This is also one (somewhat neglected) area about which I must do something; otherwise nothing of the above crap makes any sense.
Monday, March 06, 2006 at 2:00 AM. Comments: 1.
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