The blog will be closed on June 30, 2015. Linked-in pages provide a place for voicing HR suggestions. Facebook pages provide a place for sharing other information. The blog is redundant as it is not attracting traffic. Hence, the decision to close down the blog. Thanks for reading.
One of my friend commented on Facebook why he prefers large companies to small companies:
People are different with different taste and different priorities. The organized environment helps to behave in a certain manner and follow certain pattern. A lot of study/learnings went in before we came to an organized set-up. Organized set-up will be more result oriented than dis-organized in general. There could be few exceptions, but all can not sustain with best results in dis-organized environment, which will create a lot of conflicts. Anyway, all the best to you to find such a rare environment which suits you
One of the sentence that he wrote led me to write this post.
A lot of study went in before going to an organized setup.
Not much research has gone while reaching to the point where we are. In this post, I am presenting the Bell curve, one of the fundamental flaws in our endeavour for the past 30 years.
Bell Curve in Stock Markets
Why do stock markets have catastrophic failures? Most technical analysts in the stock market use the bell curve for predicting market movements. According to the analyst, the price movement of today is independent of the price movement of yesterday, and the price movements will follow the bell curve. According to the stock market, there will be very rare sharp rises or drops in the stock market. What is the reality? The stock market does not follow the bell curve. There are a lot of abrupt price movements in the market. According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a market expert, the price movements can be predicted by following the Fractal mathematics presented by MandelBrot.
Bell Curve in Quality Assurance in IT industry
Quality Assurance in manufacturing companies have proved that the output can be controlled by statistical methods using the Bell curve. The deviation from the mean of any output follows the standard bell curve. If you control the process strong enough, you can control the deviation from the mean, and hence quality of output.
For the past two decades, the software industry is mired with Quality Assurance following a similar paradigm. But, there is a difference. Software is largely an output of people. When people produce software, some amount of creativity is involved. The deviation from the mean (defect) does not follow a bell curve. Applying statistical techniques of Quality Assurance does not work well in the software / IT industry. There are some projects which run successfully. Then, there is a significant chunk of software projects which are catastrophic failures.
The Curse of the Bell curve
The Bell curve is a novel idea. The tools behind the bell curve are well developed. So, it is hard for the business community to accept that not everything fits the bell curve. There are intellectuals who know the truth but have to put up with the Bell curve. Many professions are mired with the curse of the Bell curve.
TCS is laying off 25,000 poor performers (Business Today). TCS follows the likes of Yahoo, CISCO, IBM, Dell in laying off employees. TCS is an Indian company. Indian companies do not pay adequate severance package while laying off employees. They also claim to layoff “only” poor performers.
There is a Facebook group to fight the TCS Layoff. The purpose of the Facebook group is to create awareness about the HR malpractices while laying off employees.
In general, the HR will invite you to a meeting. In the meeting, the HR will explain that you have not performed adequately in the past few months. They will then threaten you to voluntarily resign. If you do not resign, they will provide a termination notice. The termination notice will be followed by an entry in the National Skills Registry, a blacklisting database maintained by NASSCOM background check agents (reporting to the HR head).
The following Facebook comment sums it all:
Bhanu Prakash Blatant lies. They are converting forced resignations as voluntary. Some associates after getting termination letters, resigning themselves thinking that their relieving letters contains underperformer stamp. They are exploiting all the situations and fears.TCS management morals, ethics and integrity at rock bottom. Sure indicator of falling of TCS. Satyameva Jayathe!
Termination regulations in India
According to the Indian labor law, it is not legal to fire employees for poor performance. The only way that an employer can legally layoff is to intimate the labor ministry, get their approval, and then layoff. According to the Indian law, employees can be laid off only as part of a cost-cutting exercise, unless otherwise mentioned in the employment contract. The employment contract should also be approved by the labor ministry.
The labor ministry will ensure that companies do not misuse the termination provision and terminate employees indiscriminately. The labor ministry is also responsible to ensure that the companies provide adequate severance package to the terminated employees.
What TCSers should do
My personal advice to TCSers is as follows:
- Do not resign voluntarily if HR puts pressure.
- Accept the termination notice.
- Sue TCS in the court (along with others) for providing the termination notice.
There are several forums and virtual unions for IT engineers. Please register with F.I.T.E. FITE is a forum of IT engineers. The forum will help you get justice if you are served a termination notice.
@vijayst : These are baseless news.As a CEO I will soon have a press release, clearing the air of doubt.
— NatrajChandrasekaran (@nchandraceo) January 12, 2015
What TCS should do
TCS should understand the implications of the layoff. The impact of layoff is not restricted to TCS, if the number of engineers laid off is substantial.
The impact on the family is quite high. The credibility that you are a trust-worthy engineer goes away amongst the family members. There are cases of divorces happening in the family whenever there the engineer is terminated.
TCS maintains that it is giving 3 months severance package. For a senior professional earning more than 15 Lacs / annum, it takes a minimum of 6 months to get a job. An Infosys engineer who got terminated in January 2013 has not got a job as of January 2015. So, the minimum severance package should be 6 months. Preferably, a one year severance package should be provided to the affected employees.
In addition, the HR responsible for handling the termination should be given appropriate training to do it professionally. The HR should not threaten the engineers to voluntarily resign. In one of the exit interviews in Dell, the Dell engineer was threatened with legal action if he did not voluntarily quit. Such threats should not happen with TCS.
Finally, TCS should review the criteria for terminating employees. Employees should be terminated if they receive poor performance ratings for two consecutive years. After the poor performance rating, substantial steps should be taken by the organization to retrain the engineer, provide him with a new manager or team, and help him with improving the performance for the current year. Only when the poor performance repeats for two consecutive years, the employee should be selected for termination.
A typical executive room in a 3 star hotel has
- 2 A/C
- 2 LCD TVs
- 1 Computer
- 1 Refrigerator
- WiFi connection
In some rooms, the bed is next to the refrigerator. With many devices close to the head, there is a possibility of getting more than normal exposure to electro-magnetic radiation. As a result, a night at the hotel can cause head-ache.
Prolonged dosage of electro-magnetic radiation (EMR) can cause cancer. Famous personalities who got cancer include Yuvraj Singh, Steve Jobs, and Sam Walton. Exposing to EMR is like smoking a cigaratte. Not everyone who smokes gets cancer. But some get. Not everyone who is exposed to EMR gets cancer. The probability of getting cancer is increased when exposed to radiation.
We spend a considerable amount of time at work. At work, Human resources department (HRD) is responsible for the well-being of employees. At work, there is considerable exposure to electro-magnetic radiation due to Wi-Fi. HR have a vital role to play in checking the level of electro-magnetic radiation.
The electro-magnetic dosage in the work environment should be limited. Radiations are classified into ionising radiation and non-ionising radiation. High frequency radiation like X-rays and gamma rays are ionising and hence harmful to our body. The absorption of ionising radiation should be limited to 5000 mrem / year. A diagnostic X-ray causes 10 mrem of radiation absorption.
WiFi routers, cell phones, laptop monitors, printers emit radiation (EMR). The EMR reading at different points in the office should be taken. Based on the reading, various equipments should be re-arranged in the office.
It is a good idea for HR to include the amount of ionising radiation absorbed per day (mrem / day) at office in the offer letter. A person sensitive to electro-magnetic radiation may be reluctant to join an office with higher reading. In such office environment, HR should issue a statutory warning – “Prolonged exposure to ionising radiation is injurious to health.”
Posts in this series
For the first time, the extent of slavery is measured. The Global Slavery Index 2013 report is published. It is based on three factors – bonded labor, child marriage, and human trafficking. Walk Free Foundation has excellent resources to combat modern slavery.
Slavery in India
India has the highest number of slaves. There are 14 million slaves in India. China follows India with 3 million slaves. Pakistan is third with 2 million slaves. Over the last decade, slavery has become more rampant in India. Examples of Slavery are:
- Slavery of construction workers – Every day, 100’s of construction workers are carried in open lorries to construction sites.
- Bonded Labor – Many companies expect workers to sign a 2 year bond before giving a job offer.
- IT Slavery – Managers in IT companies harm the career of employees, if the employee refuses to work in a specific project.
Cause of Slavery
In India, most people are helpful. As a result, they do not value each other’s time and effort. When plenty of time is available to do various activities, labor is cheap. With cheap labor, the only way to become rich is to manage a large number of workers.
In India, leadership qualities are essential to become rich. If workers do not exhibit leadership qualities, they are forced into hard and involuntary work. The primary cause of slavery is the general acceptance of the view that leadership qualities is the only way to become rich in India. If you are not recognised as a leader, you automatically become a slave.
Labor laws in India should act to combat slavery. The following policies can combat slavery:
- Standard work week.
- Minimum hourly wage.
- Enforcement of labor laws.
- Training programs.
Standard work week
A standard work week should have only 40 hours of work. Beyond 40 hours of work in a week, the employees should be paid overtime pay (double the standard hourly wage rate).
The number of overtime hours should be limited to 200 hours in a year. Capping the overtime hours to 200 hours for a year will ensure that employees are not abused by the employer. The overtime law exists in India but is not enforced in many companies.
Minimum hourly wage
The minimum hourly wage rate should be at-least Rs.50/hour (~ $1/hr). Wage rates are subjected to the laws of demand and supply. In India, the supply of labor is high. To prevent the wage rates from falling to very low levels, the hourly wage rate should be capped.
In India, there are companies which are terminating employees for performance reasons. Performance should be jointly managed by both the employer and employee. If the employer is not providing a conducive environment, the performance of employee will drop. Performance should not be a criteria for terminating an employee.
The current law mandates that employees can be terminated only for cost reduction (redundancy) and with prior approval from labor ministry (when there are more than 99 employees in the organisation).
Enforcement of labor laws
There is no clear guidance on how labor laws will be enforced. There should be stiff fines for companies violating labor laws. There should be internal teams within companies which are empowered to enforce labor laws.
Employees working in India should have a mandatory training program to know their rights. The training program should explain the labor law in detail and help employees enforce the labor laws within their respective spheres of influence.
Infosys pioneered offshoring in the 90’s. During the 90’s, they had several employee friendly policies:
- Software campus.
- Facilities like gym, bookshops, etc. within the campus.
- Good transport facilities.
- Employee Stock Options (ESOPs).
Infosys created the most number of millionaire employees in India’s history through its ESOP options. The benefits given to employees, especially in India, are much lower. According to GlassDoor, Infosys pays only Rs. 3,94,721 for a software engineer. This is very less. Other Indian companies, for eg. Indian e-commerce giant – Flipkart, provide Rs. 12,20,923 for a software engineer (three times better salary).
Several companies have caught up with providing better facilities to employees. Most companies provide good transport facilities. There are work-from-home options provided by several companies, especially MNCs. Most companies give a laptop to every employee to facilitate remote work.
Infosys is a visionary company. Previously, it did not base its decisions on profit margins. For example, setting up a software campus in 1993 is not a decision based on improving profitability. By being Employee-friendly (once again), Infosys can attract and retain talented employees.
According to GlassDoor, Infosys is rated 3.3. Only 63% will recommend Infosys to a friend.
Most employees have left the feedback that managers do not care about employees. There is no work-life balance as employees have to work long hours at office. Infosys can make the company more employee-friendly by introducing some of the below initiatives:
- Laptops and Tablets to all employees.
- Work-from-home options.
- Good VPN and network connectivity.
- More collaborative office spaces.
This post has a seven part video series that explains the basics of privacy. This is useful for getting certifications like CIPM.
Part 1: Introduction to Privacy and Security
This introductory video goes through a few basic concepts about privacy.
Part 2: OECD Privacy Principles
Whenever personal data is collected, privacy concerns exists. Privacy frameworks act as tools to help us think about privacy. The most common privacy framework is OECD privacy.
The OECD Privacy Principles tie closely to European Union (EU) member nations’ data protection legislation and cultural expectations.
There are 8 privacy principles:
- Collection Limitation principle
- Data Quality principle
- Purpose Specification principle
- Use Limitation principle
- Security Safeguards principle
- Openness principle
- Individual Participation principle
- Accountability principle
Part 3: Unethical Practices violating Privacy
This video illustrates some of the unethical practices violating privacy.
- Price rigging
- Data Breach
- Blacklisting employees
Part 4: Regulations related to Privacy.
The video explains the regulations prevalent in various parts of the world.
- Regulations in the United States
- Regulations in the European Union
- Regulations in India
Part 5: Personally identifiable information.
PII can be defined as any piece of information which can be used to uniquely identify an individual or information that can be used to distinguish or trace the individual’s identity.
Part 6: Protecting Personally Identifiable Information
PII (Personally identifiable information) data is personal data that I share with others to identify myself for personal gains. Personal gain could be a business transaction or employment benefits. PII Data is explicitly or implicitly shared with others. When I share personal data, I delegate ownership of the data. Each time PII data is shared, new ownership of PII data is created.
This video looks at various ways by which PII data is protected by the data owners.
Part 7: Managing Privacy within an Enterprise
Every corporation needs to protect its physical and information technology assets. Devices, Software, Network that is used within the enterprise needs to be protected. Custom applications that are developed should follow secure development practices.
As a software engineer, there are teams in which your engineering skills are not well appreciated. There are multiple ways by which the so called social people will screw your happiness. Here are some useful techniques to counter some of the common problems:
- High work load
- Very low time estimates.
- Giving insignificant work.
- Too many review comments.
- Giving behavioral feedback.
High work load
Sometimes, your manager may dump all the work load on you. In such cases, you have to talk to your manager about prioritizing the work assigned to you. Talking to your manager about work priorities will help your manager understand that you have been overloaded with work.
Very low time estimates
Sometimes, the lead developer or the project manager may assign very low time estimates. In such cases, you should explain the work involved by splitting the high level tasks into several low level tasks. You should also get some time for doing some analysis before starting to work.
Giving insignificant work
If you are always given insignificant work such as deployment, documentation, it means that the manager does not have trust in you to take up more important activities. Try creating a prototype or POC of something more challenging in areas that you like to work on.
Too many review comments
If you are a developer, your peer may give too many review comments. It is your responsibility to explain to your peer that not all code was written by you. Code review comments should be given on new or modified code that is part of the review. Sometimes, you may not have all the time in the world to complete the review. In such cases, you should talk to the project manager to assign more time to complete the review comments.
Giving behavioral feedback
When your team gives behavioral feedback, you should understand the exact nature of the behavioral change that is expected. If your manager is not explaining the feedback in detail, because the feedback is anonymous, try involving the HR.
When any of the above scenarios happen, there are three additional things that you can do:
- Look out for opportunities outside the organization.
- Do not expect cooperation from your manager or team members.
- Play it safe.
Wait But Why is a really cool blog. The blog is added to the Blog Roll. Fermi Paradox is an article that tries to explain why we do not receive communication from other civilizations in our galaxy. Based on Fermi calculations, there should be 100,000 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy. Though we have detected cosmic radiation from Big Bang (which happened 13.7 billion years ago), we have not detected radiations from other life forms. Is intelligence a rare phenomenon?
For intelligent life to evolve on a planet, the planet should have several characteristics:
- Right surface temperature.
- Existence of carbon.
- Existence of water.
- Moving continents.
- Greenhouse gases.
- Right atmospheric pressure.
- Magnetic pole.
- Pass survival characteristics through DNA.
- Sense light with eyes.
- Measure time.
- Medium sized Sun.
- Moon to stabilise climate.
- Jupiter like planet in outer orbit.
- Catastrophe to kickstart evolution.
Right surface temperature
The temperature on the planet should be just about right. This can happen if the planet is within a certain distance from the star, also called Goldilocks zone. In the solar system, only three planets are within the Goldilocks zone – Venus, Earth, Mars.
Existence of carbon
Carbon binds with atoms like Nitrogen, Oxygen, Hydrogen to form long chains of molecules which is the foundation of life. For carbon to exist in a planet, the planet should be part of a second-generation star (a star that is formed by the remains of super-nova). Nuclear fusion happens in the star. Hydrogen fuses together to form Helium. The mass lost in the fusion process is converted to energy. When a first generation star dies, it has run out of hydrogen supply and is full of Helium. When Helium collapses under gravitational pressure, the temperature is high enough for Helium to fuse together to form Carbon. When the second-generation star dies (as a result of most Helium converted to Carbon), a super-nova usually happens that releases the carbon into space.
Existence of water
Apart from carbon, water is also essential for life to originate. Primitive life forms like bacteria started in the oceans. Such bacteria break down water and carbon-di-oxide with the help of sunlight to create their food. (photosynthesis). Stromatolites were responsible for releasing oxygen into the atmosphere for higher life forms to exist.
For higher life forms to exist, there should be land. The earth is divided into seven continental plates which move at the rate of 2 centimetre / year. When two continental plates collide, they create mountains or uneven surface on the earth. Without an uneven surface, the whole of earth will be submerged in water (oceans).
Earth’s atmosphere is about 100 kilometres thick. The earth is massive enough to hold the atmosphere by its gravitational pull. Mars had an atmosphere in the past and had a watery surface with regular rains. Mars has a weak gravitational pull, causing the atmosphere to completely escape. Without an atmosphere, Mars is a cold frozen planet with no possibility of life.
A thick atmosphere also protects the Earth from meteorites. With a thick atmosphere, most of the meteorites burn up by the time they reach the earth’s surface. Without the atmosphere, the earth will be bombarded by meteorites which will wipe out an entire city.
The planet should learn to maintain the right amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases trap the energy from the sun and keep the planet warm. Without greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the entire planet will freeze. Greenhouse gases are gases like carbon-di-oxide and methane. No greenhouse gases will cause the planet to freeze.
Right atmospheric pressure
The atmospheric pressure on the planet should be just right. If the planet has too much of atmosphere like Venus (100 times the earth’s pressure), the atmospheric pressure will snuff out life on the planet. If the planet has too less atmosphere like Mars, the liquid on the surface will vaporize. For example, the boiling point of water in Mt. Everest is 71 C (atmospheric pressure 0.34 times at the surface of earth). For more information, please read Armstrong limit.
The planet should have a magnetic pole. The magnetic pole protects the planet from cosmic radiation which will otherwise energize atmospheric gases and causes it to escape the planet’s gravitational pull. A planet can have a magnetic pole if it has a solid inner core, followed by a liquid outer core. The liquid outer core moves around the solid inner core. Since the core is made of iron, the movement cause a dynamo effect, creating the earth’s magnetic pole.
We still do not know how life on earth developed DNA. But what we know is, DNA is a helix made up of 3 billion protein molecules. Every cell in our body contains the DNA helix. When a cell replicates, as part of normal growth, the DNA is replicated with a very high accuracy (one in billion). DNA encodes all the characteristics of the life form. DNA preserves intelligence over time.
Sense light with eyes
Light are photons that travel from the sun which travel at 300,000 km/s. Colors are frequencies of the light. Our ability to sense light within a certain frequency was developed 400 million years ago. This led to an exponential growth of life on earth. (An example of a life form which cannot sense light is a tree).
Time is the ability to understand the passage of events. As humans, we sense time through various recorded events. We accurately measure time. We understand how the space-time universe works in the form of General Relativity.
The Sun is medium-sized. If the Sun was too large, then it will burn up fuel too quickly. It took 4 billion years for complex life to evolve on Earth. With a large sun, the planet will not have enough time for complex life to evolve.
Moon to stabilise climate
Earth is fortunate to have a large moon orbiting very close to Earth. The moons of other planets are smaller compared to the size of the planet and much farther from the planet itself. Since, the moon is close enough to Earth, it influences the climate of Earth. Without moon, Earth will experience wild climate fluctuations. In addition, ocean tides are a result of Moon’s gravitational pull. Ocean tides provided early life forms an opportunity to move from oceans to land.
Jupiter like planet
Earth is fortunate to have Jupiter revolving in an outer orbit. Jupiter is 300 times the size of Earth. It exerts a huge gravitational pull on comets. This shields Earth from dangerous comets which will otherwise strike Earth every 10,000 years. Every such comet strike will wipe out most of the life on Earth.
Catastrophe to kickstart evolution
If Earth was too stable, then there would be no evolution. Stromatolites are bacterial colonies which once inhabited all of earth. About 700 millions back, a gigantic ice age covered all of planet earth (Snowball Earth), causing most of stromatolites to disappear. Massive volcanic eruptions cleared the earth of ice age. After the ice age, earth had space for more complex life forms. The ending of Snowball Earth coincides with the Cambrian era of evolution, the era when species evolved eyes to sense light.
250 million years ago, the currents that distribute oxygen and nutrients in the ocean stopped. As a result, most of oceanic life became extinct. When the oceans became stagnant, they started releasing toxic hydrogen sulphide in the atmosphere causing most of land animals to become extinct. When the ocean currents stopped working, 90% of all life became extinct. The mass extinction, also called Permian-Triassic extinction, paved the way for dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs dominated the earth for over 200 million years. 65 million years ago, a 30 metre meteor struck Mexico (Chicxulub crater) causing most of dinosaurs to become extinct. This paved the way for mammals to evolve in earth. If mammals did not evolve, we would not be here.
Earth is resilient and has recovered from each global catastrophe. The global warming that humans are creating is triggering another massive extinction. Though the Earth may survive, the human race may not survive, as we are destroying the very conditions that ensured our survival.
We are intelligent life forms. But, we are not alone in the universe. Most of the arguments in the article come from the Rare Earth hypothesis. But, there are some scientists who believe that such conditions may not be rare.
According to such scientists, for every earth-like planet, the probability of intelligent life evolving on the planet is quite high, approximately 0.22. And so, there should be 100,000 civilizations (like us) in our galaxy. Yet, we have not received any communication from other intelligent life forms. This is called Fermi Paradox. The article from What but Why provides alternate explanations about why this is the case.
Every successful product should have a Facebook page to engage with customers. The business managing the product should have a social media expert who sends regular status updates to prospective customers. Social Media Engagement increases visibility of the product and boost sales.
Facebook is also an useful tool for start-ups to evaluate whether the product has demand. The post outlines a three step process to predict demand.
Step 1: Create a Facebook advertising campaign
Set aside a budget for marketing your product. Build a Facebook page. Use the budget to get more likes for the page. The number of likes per dollar spent on advertising is an useful indicator to determine whether the product has demand.
Step 2: Engage with the prospective (customer) with regular status updates
Hire a social media expert. Engage with prospective customers (people who have liked the page) using Facebook status updates on the product page. An example of status update for a Facebook page promoting new start-ups is shown below:
The number of likes on the status update per number of page likes is an useful indicator whether the product has any demand.
Step 3: Promote the Minimum Viable Product
Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Announce the launch of MVP using a status update. Promote the status update with a specific budget. The number of likes of the product launch (status update) per dollar spent on promoting is an useful indicator to determine the demand of the product.
To make the Facebook evaluation useful, a few best practices should be followed.
- Hire a social media expert and a graphics designer for Facebook marketing.
- The Facebook page should have professional graphics.
- The Facebook status updates should be sticky.