The thing about strong opinion..

.. is that its just an opinion put forth strongly. This doesn’t mean its more appropriate  or better than other opinions. Actually, it shouldn’t be treated any different than other opinions.

It generally depends on the personality of the person stating it. Some people are more subtle in their statements and some prefer to be more affirmative.

A correct and well thought out opinion, is slightly different. In the sense, it doesn’t only focus on the pros of the opinion. It also highlights certain drawbacks, and gives a logical conclusion where pros outweigh the drawbacks. They’re much more educated and the ones which should gain more attention.

Other thing about strong opinion is, its emotionally backed. Its a major drawback. Emotion doesn’t always go well with objectivity and reasoning. If the same emotion is not shared by others in the group, it generally goes unnoticed.

Its extremely important how you put forward your opinion in a group and how you appreciate opinions from other members. Give more weightage to objective ones. Try to avoid emotional ones and strong(loud) ones.

Pitch the dream, not the job!!

Startup hiring is one of the most interesting and humane part of the whole starting up experience. Not something that companies do very well, though.

I’ve seen startup founders feel very apologetic when discussing career options with an employed person. The discussions go like “We wouldn’t be able to pay your current salary”, etc. etc.

Once you’re apologetic yourself, think of what the other guy thinks of you. I’ve been in such situations myself and can say that they’re not the most comfortable situations to be in.

Let’s change the scene a bit.

Founder pitch:

I can offer you a “life changing experience” which your current job is not capable of.

What I have to offer is the “thrill, dynamism, new identity” which your current job cannot provide.

Think of an environment “non-bureaucratic, filled with energy, enthusiasm, challenge, camaraderie”.. Think of us.

And guess what.. I’m paying you for all this.

I mean.. yeah.. why should you be apologetic about offering a lifetime opportunity..

Sell the dream.. Pitch the prospects.. not just the job.

[Shameless self-promotion]

Wanna join us at Orbis.. Send me a mail at satyan[at]orbismedia.in with details of yourself (less fluff, more code..) Thanks.

Interviews – Two at a time.

One of the factors that you look for in a candidate during interviews is his collaborative skills. How good is a person when it comes to carrying a conversation with a fellow colleague. How about disagreements? Does he respect arguments or gets aggressive..

How do you do that?

Here’s a proposition..

I was once in an interview session, and were short of interviewers. Lot of people showed up and we had limited time. So we decided to have paired-candidate session. This is where two candidates would appear together in an interview session. It was fairly effective and surprisingly pleasant experience. Here’s my observation from the experience..

1. There was a basic comfort during the session.

Since interviews have gone on to become this huge one-sided affairs, its become really difficult to gauge a person’s original nature during the interview. Getting a person into a proper discussion is quite a challenge. There are hardly any constructive arguments or discussions. Just questions and answers which are not a good representation of a person’s capability technically, leave alone his collaborative skills and interpersonal skills.

With another candidate in there, it is more comforting for the candidates and when they discuss, it can be more natural. This also spawns many useful discussions and arguments.

2. Simulate a typical work like setup

At work, you’re faced with similar situations fairly repeatedly. You are always discussing technical solutions with your colleagues. Either looking for support or challenging a solution. However, this situation is not repeated effectively during a interview session.

Two candidates at a time can help simulate a typical work-day, and can help gauge a person’s interpersonal and technical capabilities.

3. Interviewer as a moderator

I’ve always felt that interviewers should be doing more of listening. Just get the candidates talking and listen to them. With one-to-one interviews, mostly the sessions end up becoming a quiz situation. If that is all you want, there are many softwares which might do a better job at it.

With two folks in there, it can be really useful to have a good moderator as an interviewer. One would need to get both of them started in an argument or a discussion and observe how people react to individual points.

Knowing each of the candidates before hand can help a lot in moderation. Look up their details on the web and fit the right candidates together to get opposing views and opinions.

Conclusion:

In all, its a nice session to add to your interview plan. It’ll not only help you gauge the technical abilities but will also assure you of how the person would behave during the actual work. This coupled with initial research about the candidate can be a wonderful combination to add to your plan.

Have you ever conducted a ‘Two at a time interview’.. Please do share your learnings from the experience.

Sprint or Marathon.. What’s your model?

I’ve observed a basic difference when it comes to a sprinter and a marathon runner thats very relevant to a business ecosystem.

A sprint is a short distance run, fastest one wins. Speed is the most important attribute. Competition at its best.

When you observe a sprint, you’d typically see 10-12 athletes who’re running individually to beat the other one to the finish point. They don’t look at each other at all except after the end of the race. The key thing here is.. they don’t rely on each other much.

A marathon is however a longer run and tests your stamina, endurance and sustainable speed. It is competition, but of a different nature.

When you observe a marathon, you’d see groups running together for most of the distance. Its only at the end that people move away from the group. Running with each other helps athletes psychologically where they feel part of a group. They draw strength from each other in an implicit manner. They form a support system.

How is your business model structured?

If you’re running alone, is your business of sprint nature? if not.. see if being in right group can help you. Form a group of companies which offer similar services/products and benefit from each other without affecting the competing agreements. Share your knowledge to younger folks and encourage your fraternity to grow. It’ll only help you in the long run.

If you’re in sprinting business.. practice hard, run hard.

The UnConference of Entrepreneurs

Imagine a place full of enthusiasm, activity and positivity. Thats how it was at Chennai Tie Unconference event last saturday hosted at Thoughtworks premises. The theme was “How to scale your business” and the idea was to do it in unconference style. This model we believe results in better knowledge transfer between the seasoned ones and the rookies.

The day started with Dorai sharing few details about the event and then requesting for participants to declare their proposed sessions. To be honest, we did not expect much activity in the beginning.. but we were surprised to receive about 20 sessions right within the first 5-10 minutes. So there we had the agenda for the whole day. Great start to an unconference.

Then started the sessions.. Couple of them that I enjoyed being part of were,

1. When to become an entrepreneur..

2. Bootstrapping your startup

3. (the high point) Panel discussion on scaling your business

Lots of discussions, many useful ones.. some not so useful, but a nice event at the end. It is rather difficult to summarize the events since they were so many and so distributed that I lost track of them all. But I’ll try to share few things that we tried out and learnt from this experience.

1. The position paper experiment

This was seriously good and has given me many ideas to make such unconferences/events more interesting and useful to all participants. My experience from conferences and events have been that I’ve always found myself bored at speakers/lectures sessions and waiting for them to end so I can meet other participants or engage in networking. Now imagine if I already knew all the participants and knew the reasons they’ve brought themselves to the event, it gives me a clear idea of who to talk to and what to talk as well.

2. Three sessions in parallel

Sometimes this means, people can only go to one session and lose on other sessions. But it also means lot of people getting a chance to share their views and having a smaller audience who’ve preferred this to the other things going on. Beneficial to both the parties.

3. Panel discussion

This was the only organized session in the whole day. Terrific panel and crisp replies to questions. Extremely efficient use of time. We expected this to be the high point and it was.

Pictures and more information on individual sessions are available on facebook and twitter

Organized by Tie and Thoughtworks with the help of Dorai, Sid, Satya (myself) and host of other volunteers.

Awaiting many more in future too..

What are your interview questions?

Well.. What are they?

Let me try and guess..

1. How long have you been working in Java/.Net?

2. What is your current project?

3. What are your current interests?

4. Solve this puzzle for me..

5. My favourite.. Tell me about yourself.

Let me tell you one thing. You’re not only wasting your time, you’re wasting the time of the other person too.. All the information is already available one way or the other on the net. Go lookup.

And if you don’t find his information on the web… be sceptical. Start the interview asking why you did not find any information about him on the web.

Lets stop being so superficial in interviews. Especially for developers. Please.

Go deep. Get conceptual. Ask him to code. That is why you recruit him.

Some of my earlier posts of recruitment are Part1, Part2, Part3, Part4

Emails are just getting hotter!!

Just when you thought Emails are losing their feet and better tools are replacing them, comes a host of applications on top of common emails. You’d agree with me when I say, there’s no bigger database than emails and if that data is studied properly, would reveal a lot about the person starting from personal stuff to professional. His taste in music, movies, choice of friends, business interests, job interests.. name a thing. Its available in the mail account.

This is what I’ve come across lately..

1. Rapportive


Excellent tool. You typically have social applications asking for emails to import your friends. Reverse it now. That’s rapportive for you.

You need to hover over the email id of the person in gmail and you can see the social profile of the person in different applications like linkedin, twitter, myspace, etc. Many CRM tools have tried to do this, in the bracket of Social CRM. But this tool integrates seamlessly with your email and nothing better than that.

It makes good use of the otherwise useless ad area. Is very unobtrusive and intuitive at the same time.

2. Priority Inbox

Always wanted a tool that would show you only the most important messages to read. Typically, you do it through labels and multiple inbox.. but nothing better than the email client filtering it for you. I’ve been extremely impressed with the simplicity of the feature, though not a very simple feature if you come to think of it. Certainly a move in the right direction.

Two excellent tools here.. and there are many more out there to make your email experience better.