Work required for continuous learning

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

This post is mostly for people working in IT industry, per se, because new languages keep cropping up, new versions of existing languages come up, new frameworks appear all the time, and nowadays even new devices come up with whole new programming APIs etc. etc. that a poor IT guy (at least those who want to do real programming) has to keep learning new stuff. And this is ongoing. However, this post can also be used by people in other industries, who, for whatever reasons, think of working a little less than usual.

The idea appeared while talking to one of my friends – so I made a google spreadsheet for comparing usual amount of work (considering usual annual holidays and 8 hrs. of work per day) to working 6 hrs. per day, or working 4 days a week or working 11 months in a year. The spreadsheet shows how much you’ll be working in each case, and how much salary you’ll have to forgo for working that much less. This spreadsheet can also be used while doing salary negotiations with a company (if you are really that serious for working less) 🙂

So, here’s the link for the spreadsheet. Download the same in MS format from here or ODS format from here. Enjoy.

(Note: I assume no. of holidays as 11, because that’s the usual no. of holidays in USA. Use a different value for your country.)

Categories: General

Extension of the senses

October 12, 2010 Leave a comment

“I believe the computer is the most significant tool invented, as it is unique in mechanizing part of the process of learning and understanding, or at least giving us that potential. All other tools have been extensions of muscles and limbs, whereas the computer is an extension of the brain, and it is that which we make of it.” This is a beautiful quote by the late Erik Naggum and makes perfect sense (at least to me).

Now read this post by Austin Seraphin in which he explains how an iPhone changed his life. And read every word of it because it is a poignant account of a life changing event in someone’s life. And then, maybe you’ll realize that how a computer or a smart-phone (which are more like computers these days) is also an extension of the senses. At lease it is to some people.

Many +(s) to Apple for making something so useful for so many people. I don’t have many praises for Apple only because of their iron-fisted ways and because of their earlier decision to only allow programs written in Objective-C to be salable on their App Store (though now, thankfully, they’ve reversed it) but I couldn’t stop praising them this time though 🙂

Categories: General

So what will you do by going back to India?

September 3, 2010 2 comments

I’ve been asked this question several times, when I talk to people here (in US). Which is a very valid question – you can do a lot of things here which are not even possible in India (even to this date), even the school education is good here, contrary to what I heard when I was in India. Plus, if one has to work on enterprise-y projects (Java, C# etc.) why not earn in USD rather than in INR?

And to be frank, I didn’t know the answer to it (some time back) so I just used to say – I don’t know. However, the answer(s) have appeared to me over the past year or so –

1) I wouldn’t want to work for any of the outsourcing majors (HXL, TXS, CXS etc.) 😉
2) I would not like to work on Windows (so obviously no C# or .Net), I don’t even want to use Windows (for anything, least of all software development, hence my next machine is going to be a Linux)
3) I definitely want to work on another platform now (be it Linux or Android)
4) I definitely don’t want to write desktop or web applications (no matter using Java, RoR or Asp.Net MVC)

So by now it’s amply clear that no big company is fit for me. On top of that I have a location constraint – I can only work in Pune. So where does that leave me?

1) Work for one of the start-ups – Paisa, Infinitely Beta or Hover (the first two use Clojure, the last one uses Erlang)
2) Start my own start-up 🙂
3) Heavy self learning
4) Do nothing (not a real option)

Out of the above three (since #4 is not a real option), #1 is not possible at this moment (or anytime soon) because I know neither Clojure, nor Erlang and #2 is not easy – one has to be smart enough to create something new or of value to others, and again, at this moment this looks less likely.

Hence, the only option left for me is #3 🙂 Yes, that’s what I can do and that’s what I’ll do. I am planning to take a sabbatical and I seriously plan to learn Clojure (and or Lisp) and maybe Haskell. I also have come to know of lots of good books which I’ll try to master – SICP, On Lisp etc.

I also realized that many of my peers in US, who work as consultants, typically get a month or two off (not as a rule, but most likely) between different assignments / projects during which they can learn a new skill / language. But in India, most of us work as full time employees and we hardly get quality or enough time off to learn such things (which is a big disadvantage). Also a consultant can take six months off (for example) and then start consulting again – it’s quite common here, so why can’t one do the same in India? (No one chooses to do it is a different matter altogether). I also heard (or read some) stories about how a person in US is in a particular field, but goes to a totally different field (for some short period of time, say farming) and then comes back to his original field, and used to fantasize about such opportunities – so that time is soon about to come.

And I’ve been working for almost 11 years now without taking a long break – except a short one (3 months), when I left the VB6 rut to start learning C# (and .Net) and finally get some good projects, money and respect (professionally). So this time I’ll have to take a bigger break, because the target is lofty, and I have to unlearn a lot of things (Windows, Visual Studio, C#, Subversion, RDBMS etc.) and learn a whole lot of new stuff (Linux, Emacs, Clojure, Git, one of the No SQLs).

So India, here I come (in the next 5-6 months, hopefully) 🙂

Categories: General, Programming

Importance of job creation

July 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Well here comes the refutation that outsourcing (any kinds of) jobs could be detrimental to a country. Popular wisdom has it that it is good for the US to outsource lowly jobs to Asian countries and keep only high-end jobs for themselves. But Andy Grove (ex-CEO, Intel) thinks otherwise – in his article – How to Make an American Job Before It’s Too Late he makes some very important points including that as US is outsourcing more and more jobs, they are also losing their hold on emerging technologies.

Based on this article, this sure looks to me that jobs in manufacturing are better than jobs in services industry (not for the employee as such, but for the country). Mainly because, when you setup a plant, and that gives you leverage in future on the emerging technologies. And where does that leave India? Sure we have jobs today, because we can find countries and companies who are ready to outsource, but what if, in future, the tendency to outsource reduces drastically? Also, it hasn’t given India any edge in producing new software products unlike it has given an edge to other manufacturing countries, notably China.

And using services from other countries can be reduced, but it is harder to restart manufacturing – so China is the big boss. And Indian companies must learn to create jobs in something else than the venerable services sector.

Categories: Business, General

How to get rich

July 2, 2010 Leave a comment

After all the economic crash, the world over, and especially in the USA, there is one class of people who laughed their way to the banks and made hefty profits – no marks for guessing, they were the Finance professionals (brokers of various banks and other financial institutions which were on the verge of tanking, but were rescued by none other than Uncle Sam).

These days I am reading a fascinating book called The Looting of America in which Les Leopold makes it amply clear how these same finance guys opened and operated their finance casinos at the cost of taxpayers (and how the US government and the policy makers let this happen under the name of free markets). Here’s one more evidence of how Goldman Sachs made big money by robbing the world’s poor.

So that’s it guys – forget science, tech, engineering, marketing – finance is the king. Do whatever you can, be too big to fail and enjoy by effing others. So sad.

Categories: Business, General

Free higher education

July 2, 2010 Leave a comment

I used to think about this for India – what if and can higher education be made free? I understand it is very very difficult to do so, at least in India, but Les Leopold, as mentioned in this article proposes to do the same in US. Definitely, education is expensive in US and his suggestions make sense to me.

Love to see this happen anywhere…Amen!!!

Categories: General

The language of data

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

As internet grows and more and more of (our) data gets uploaded to sites like Picasa, Facebook, Orkut etc. the more is the need for statistical knowledge growing and who knew statistics could be an important subject to study?

Here’s a nice article on why we should learn the language of data.

Categories: General