How about interviewing as a service? – Part I

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There are many parts of recruitment that are outsourced. Outsourced to people who have little to no knowledge of what kind of people are required for the job.

So the effects are, requirements like this:

1. Do you know Java?

2. We’re looking for a .Net person for this project.

Would a resume which has no such keywords like Java, .net, etc. be even filtered into our recruitment process. Imagine a resume which states things like Object oriented principles like Law Of Demeter, Tell don’t ask principle, Liskov’s substituition, Refined Unit Testing, Test Driven Development, etc. I’m sure 99.9% of such resumes will be filtered out.

In the previous example 0.1% of resumes escaped due to some mistake in the filtering software/process.

You’ve already lost some good programmers. Congratulations.

Next up is the interviewing process..

3/4 companies do not have coding as part of the interviewing exercise. That is fairly irrelevant, isn’t it? You can judge a person from his body language, confidence in his language ability, etc.. right? Right.

There are couple of reasons why this is happening.

1. Already our outsourced business principle has made programming one of the clerical jobs. Programming is a necessary evil you need to go through in your pursuit of becoming a manager.

2. All companies are virtually the same. You can hardly differentiate one from the other.

So interview is done. Wonderful. Our candidate has been hired.

Next up, he refers people similar to him for the job. In this revolutionary referral process, the only motivating factor is money/reward. So you mostly get people referring for reasons other than improving companies culture and stuff..

Well.. we’ve been extremely happy with such process till now. Since the demand has been high, we did not really care.

But for longevity this wouldn’t work. So the process has to be refined to not filter exceptional candidates. Move away from the sub-standard and mediocrity encouraging framework of recruitment.

For companies/people interested in solving this.. I’ll try to touch upon the solutions/theories in a series of articles. Your suggestions/case-studies are also welcome.

My people always ask me “what to do”..

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As an entrepreneur/manager, believe me, its not a good position to be in. You want people who can/are willing to take decisions.

The reason you hire them is because you think they are good at what they do (ideally.. better than you too.). So you need them to tell you what they want to do.

Sadly, many argue that its a very ideal state to be in.

Ok. Point taken. Back to reality.

Don’t tell them what to do and observe them.

What could happen? Will no one work? Would there be no decision at all?

Or

Would people start thinking what to do..
Would people start taking decisions and learning from their failures/successes..

Remember, the reason people ask you what to do is because they’re not confident of their decisions and are afraid of failure. Give them the cushion for failure and encourage them to take decisions.

Embrace innovation. Accept failure.

Decision-making and organizations..

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Let me jump directly to the topic. Recently we’ve been discussing about how to make organization level decisions, which would effect all the employees.

Its always a tricky thing to do.. Since any organization is a heterogeneous mix of people and chances of a particular decision attracting everyone is fairly low, it becomes even more interesting.

Well.. here’s an interesting solution:

Recently, I asked our CTO a question. The question was about our organization developing a technical product, the answer to which was absolutely amazing to me..

She answered that we haven’t made a decision to make a product due to various reasons, prime one being our people are not discussing about it.

This was absolutely amazing.

I made a few inferences of this one, here are they:

1. When organizations make decisions that their people need, you have multiple advantages.

People are naturally inclined with the decision, and its easier to motivate people to make it more effective. On the other side, when decisions are taken without considering the people, they mostly fall flat on their faces.

2. It is also important to cultivate a culture of discussing important things.

The change wouldn’t have to be made from management side only, the employees are as much responsible for the decisions as the managers. Once you have people expressing their opinions in a much clearer format and are debated on various forums, its easier to understand the pulse of the organization. Hence the decision-making process improves.

This is one of the best ways to affect decisions in a democratic way..

Have a happy time making decisions.. 🙂

Requisites of a modern Leader

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As always, the roles and requirements of a leader keep changing with time. Let me put forth the requirements of a leader in the current decade.

These are primarily meant (but not restricted) to the software industry.

Broadly they’re classified into 3 categories.

1. Traits and Skills

2. Behavioural approaches

3. Interaction approaches

Traits and Skills

Traits-wise Adaptability, self-confidence and persistence top the list of characteristics that one would like to see in a leader.

Skill-wise Intelligence, creativity and knowledge of the group are most important.

Some of the other useful characteristics demonstrated by highly efficient leaders are mental toughness, courage, ability to manage stress, ability to rebound from adversity and ability to seek out newer approaches (than being rooted in the past).

Behavioral approaches

Being good at both Consideration and Initiating processes.

Consideration reflects the relationships between the leader and followers to involve factors such as friendship, mutual trust, warmth, building rapport and communication.

Initiating is based upon the establishment of rules & regulations and systems that are designed to move a team towards pre-established goals.

Interaction approaches

The utmost importance of flexibility.

A leader just cannot follow the same style of leadership for every team and for all times. The styles have to change and adapt to people and situations. This is an extremely important aspect of leadership.

It is important for the leader to understand the nature of the team and to base his style based on the preferences of the team. Once he exhibits that flexibility to understand and adapt to a particular team member, that member responds with an increase in performance from his side due to the sheer respect.

Having said all this, it is noted that “Defining a leader is not an easy job”.  Success of a team is determined by many other factors too.

Also there have been successful leaders who haven’t demonstrated all these traits.

But examining these theories gives you a better chance to formulate a view of an effective leader.

Football and Software teams.. How different are they?

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Since there is so much going about football nowadays, I thought I’d also add a few things on my own..

I wrote about Teams and Leadership, last year, where I shared my fascination with the way football teams are organized and led.

Let me try to explain the organization style followed in typical Premier League Football teams:

They have a manager who’s responsible for everything that goes into the team. Success and failure, team’s culture, players, coaches, everything.

Then they have designated coaches for specific sections like team coach, goalkeeper coach, fitness coach, psychiatrist, etc. An example of this can be seen from Arsenal team’s staffing. In certain cases, I’ve also seen teams have a defence coach and an offence coach for backs and forwards..

Finally, they have a captain who is responsible for the team on the field. Along with the coach, he decides the various strategies for the team.

Football, being an interdependent team, requires this style of leadership structure where decisions are taken at different levels. Opinions of each members are important for the decision-making process.

In the right team, the three roles work in good co-ordination with each other. There are times when one of them is weakened, there other roles compensate for the lack of direction.

The nature of software teams are fairly similar to football teams. However, I’ve not witnessed this distribution anywhere in the teams that I’ve worked in.

There are reasons why this could be difficult with software teams:

1. Needs autonomy : Historically organizations have been averse to the idea of autonomy at different levels.

2. Specialization : With makeshift arrangements, its difficult to have that specialization and the right mix of the team.

However, I feel there is a special difference with respect to Indian Offshore Software development firms.

That difference is the “goal”. Most of the times, the playing team doesn’t have a view of the goal itself. This has been a major cause of concern of mine. The quality and contribution of the team is highly affected by the vision of the goal, which is missing with the offshoring business.

You are not a developer if you..

  1. don’t know the overall product you’re building.
  2. don’t know the context of the piece you’re building in the overall product.
  3. can’t empathize with the users of your product.
  4. can’t explain the business needs.
  5. don’t believe in continuous learning and improvement.

Sadly, just writing some code snippet doesn’t qualify you to be a developer, leave alone a good one.

Recently, I’ve heard many arguments in this context which I feel are absolutely absurd :

  1. Developer: My job is to write code. There are other people who take care of business needs.
  2. Developer: Why should I care about business needs? Doesn’t help me anyway.
  3. Developer: We should write this piece in Java. I know Java pretty well.
  4. Manager: Developers don’t need to know business side of things. They should concentrate on writing code.

These are signs of mediocracy. Good software isn’t built this way.

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An year of dreams and realities.

We just completed our first year at Quads, and I just thought why not recap what we’ve achieved and learnt in the past one year.

It was around may-june in the year of 2008 that we started off the company and named it Quads. The name primarily meant a group of four people. Four of us got together and started off the venture with an aim to make products, software products.

Initial idea:

Our initial idea was to make an online fashion community. A community where people from fashion world would come and share their collections and their tips and tricks. This would encourage people to come over and learn the new fashion trends and start discussions around them. This would eventually serve the purpose of predicting fashion trends for a particular region based on the user behaviour from that region.

We went around talking to fashion designers and some wierd ones as well, about our idea and their thoughts on them. Some were interested but generally there wasn’t enough excitement, not something that would impress us and motivate us to go ahead with the idea.

So we decided to hold the idea for a while and plan to make it a while later. So if you’re reading it and interested in implementing it, do let us know.

The accelerator:

In the meantime, we got an offer to make a travel portal for one of the large travel companies. It was an offer that kickstarted our activities and fuelled into the enthusiasm. We started our hiring and got 5 developers on board with a consultant. Quickly ramped up the office space, the furnitures, the computers and all the necessary legal stuff. Quads started rolling..

Ok. While all this happened. Two of our founders decided to leave, fearing the typical entrepreneurial route. It was a difficult time for us and we had to decide what we were going to do. We decided we’d go ahead with or without them. We added in another person into our group and kept on going. Now we were three people.

LeadSimplified :

It deserves a chapter of its own. We started LeadSimplified more as a project for one of our clients and we later proposed to release it as a product with a SaaS offering. There was a general nature in the application that attracted us and allowed us to think that it would work over here.

Months of effort brought the first version of LeadSimplified to life. We loved the initial look of it, and as days went the product improved its shape. Then suddenly one month we got enquiries from some major banks in the country requiring this platform for their usage. We were totally baffled. We didn’t quite know how to handle it. Well, we did what we could and stuck to our basics.

But we were surprised at the nature of conversations we had with these large corporations. Mostly they didn’t have any knowledge of the technical part of the business and they were really bargaining their boots off. This was a total surprise to us. We didn’t expect discussions of this low nature from reputed organizations. But well, you treat them as they are. None of them actually transformed into sale, yet. Well.. you never know when they might come back.

These incidents left us totally blank, we didn’t know where to go from there. We didn’t have the finances to keep us running behind these giants. Also there were lot of personal issues that we were finding ourselves in.

One thing we did all through this was keep improving the product and now its a ripper. Its one of the better pieces of software available on the internet. This paid off and landed us a deal with a large multinational corporation.

Now its a product that represents us more than we represent it.

Well, we’re a long way from over, but this one year has been one of its kind. With all the highs and lows it certainly deserves to be one of the best years of my life.

Well, I also released a picture filled story of the same. Its available at slideshare. you can also have a look here.