Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Interviewing our FailQonf Speaker Anuj Magazine | Take Risks, Sincerity, Never be Shy

 This year, I got associated with The Test Tribe Community, a vibrant group of testers from across the world. Was greateful to deliver a few of the sessions that i will share in upcoming posts.

In this post, I am sharing an interview with the Test Tribe team. Hope you like it.

Read the Interview here:

Please do read and share your feedback.

Introduction to India Stack

Refer my last post, continuing my association with techBLEND group, sharing one more presentation i made to the forum on Introduction to India Stack.

If there is interest, will write a long form post on the subject. Till then, sharing my slide deck as below:

Introduction to Drone Tech

 I have been associated with a volunteer group known as techBLEND. It is a group of passionate technologists. techBLEND primarily works on below principles:

Build thought leadership in technology space

Listening about other technologies and experience of the speaker in that technology space helps in widening the horizon. And hence helps in building thought leadership in technology space. It could also be possible that what I learn in other areas of work could also be applied in my area of work. More like cross-pollination.

Become better speaker

Keynote speaker, discussion moderator, or members would learn a thing or two about public speaking skills while talking and discussing technologies in a diverse group of people whom they don’t know from their area of work.

Break monotony

We know prolonged working in an area of work becomes monotonous at times. Just a weekly discussion in some other area of work freshens up the person and breaks the monotony. And it could be also possible that other areas of work might interest that person so much, that he/she goes deeper into it and eventually switches the area of work.

More details:

I had picked up a topic of deciphering the Drone Technology in one of the sessions. If there is more interest among the readers of this blog, i can share a long post.

Till then, sharing the deck that i presented. Hope you find it informative.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Panel Talk on Career Development

In the next few blogs, I am attempting to update this blog of mine on the various talks/sessions I have delivered.

My friend Ajay Balamurugadas had invited me to a panel talk he was hosting for 'Test Masters Academy' Conference on the topic of 'Career Development' on 13th-Aug-2020.

It was a purely online conference and this panel talk focused on Career Development topics such as (but not limited to):

  • Remote learning
  • Skills development on your own
  • How to discuss with manager the career roadmap
  • So much to learn, how to manage and what to learn

Catch the video below:

Saturday, December 25, 2021



In 1948, Edwin Land invented the Polaroid Camera. It was a revolutionary moment for photography. This invention provided an alternative to people who found it cumbersome to take their film to a darkroom for development before they could see the pictures. A Polaroid camera could magically deliver instant photos.

The origins of this invention lies in a question that was asked by Edwin's daughter. During their vacation, Edwin took a picture and his daughter asked- why couldn't she see the picture right-away. She wasn't quite impressed by a technical response given by Edwin, and neither was he. With this started Edwin's quest to discover what was later called as a Polaroid camera.

Asking questions ignites our creativity and brings new ideas to life. Active questioning (Both "Why" and "Why not" questions) are not just at the foundation of great innovations but are also instrumental in us leading great lives.

In this regard, i found this twitter thread quite inspirational. Blake Burge puts forward a few life-changing questions that makes us think. I enjoyed sketching these as well as contemplating about these.

Which of these questions resonate with you ? What else would you add to this list ? #questioning



In his insightful blog 'How I Approach the Toughest Decisions' , Barack Obama gives insights into nuts and bolts of his decision making process. One specific aspect about his blog that caught my attention was that instance where in a crucial meeting on resolving economic crisis he left the meeting to have dinner and get a haircut and told his team on his expectation to achieve a consensus upon his return. He later reflects-

"You also want to create space to think. Remember that dinner and haircut break I took during that marathon economic session? That mattered, too. That was part of making the decision. Even in situations where you have to act relatively quickly, as was frequently the case during the financial crisis, it helps to build in time to let your thoughts marinate."

His act of taking break in a high stakes meeting to create space in his head to think is the essence of what the life skill of stillness is all about.

I got a chance to read Ryan Holiday's book "Stillness is the Key" and sharing some valuable perspectives on embracing Stillness as a life-skill-
1. Stillness is not the absence of activity.
2. It may seem abstract but you know it when you experience it. If you've concentrated so deeply that a burst of insight strikes you, you know stillness.
3. Stillness is about being present, about limiting the inputs in your life. You may go on a run without headphones or with headphones. If it's the latter, the very act of including an additional input may slow your chances of allowing ideas in your head to intermingle.

What activities can enhance your chances to achieve stillness ? Sharing my #sketchnote of some of the ideas shared by Ryan Holiday in his tweet-

What else would you add to the list ? Do you find #stillness a virtue worth chasing ?

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Sachin Tendulkar had quite an average test series against Australia in 2004 scoring just ~100 runs in 3 tests. He knew there was nothing wrong in his form and upon consultation with his brother realized that his shot selection was possibly an issue. In the next innings at Sydney he ends up scoring an unbeaten 241. Only change he made was- eliminate his favorite shot- cover drive from his innings.

Serena Williams fell from being world's top ranked Tennis player to be beaten by World# 111 within a span of a few months in 2011. With her new coach, she was able to work on injuries and the mindset issues in the next few years and won almost every tournament in Tennis in 2015.

On the surface level, we could reason both these as comeback, never-give-up stories but upon peeling the layers, there is another phenomenon at play here- Unlearning and Relearning. Sachin was extraordinarily quick to replace his existing knowledge with a new habit. For Serena, the cycle of unlearning wasn't only about change in training plans and coach but also determining what part of her knowledge was outdated and causing the dip in performance.

Reiterating that unlearning is one of the keys to a successful career is like telling what many already know. But the core question really is- how to execute learning-unlearning-relearning cycle. Is there any wisdom available that can help us ? I loved the ideas shared in the Harvard Business Review article- "Why the Problem with Learning Is Unlearning" 3 ideas:
1. First, you have to recognize that the old mental model is no longer relevant or effective. 
2. Second, you need to find or create a new model that can better achieve your goals.
3. Third, you need to ingrain the new mental habits

If you are in product space, it would be worth to apply these to the list that Julie Zhuo shared in her recent twitter thread It's a list that includes the things you learn in school that must be unlearned when you start building software products. (included my #sketchnote of this insightful twitter thread)

What else would you add to this list ? What's your experience with executing learning-unlearning-relearning ? #learning #unlearning



I came across a study conducted by Sophie Leroy, a professor at University of Minnesota in the book- "Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World". The results revealed something that shouldn't be surprising- Multitasking does not equal productivity. Through a series of experiments, Sophie demonstrated that when we move from one task to another, our attention stays attached to the first activity, and only partially focused on the second, which negatively impacts our performance.

The book further suggests different ways to achieve undistracted, focused work. J.K Rowling while finishing her last Harry Potter book, stayed at a 5 star hotel to prevent distractions prevalent at home environment. This is an example of monastic approach. Monastic approach isn't possible at work where you need to collaborate constantly with colleagues. What might be more applicable at work is something called as rhythmic approach, where you inculcate the habit of doing Deep Work for a set period and then attend to other priorities.

Amantha Imber in her Harvard Business Review article "What Super Productive People Do Differently" shares some tips that quite resonated with me. One of the suggestions she shares is to Batch Your Meetings. The idea is that you only look at your inbox two to three times a day or pause notifications for a period of time or schedule meetings in batches so that you can focus on work without distractions.

Catch the summary of the article in my #sketchnote

One of the tips that i found refreshing to read was- "Avoid using the mouse", which is based on the premise that- most people lose an average of two seconds per minute of work by using their mouse instead of keyboard shortcuts. That’s eight days a year!

What are some of the #productivity hacks that have worked for you ? Do share in comments.

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In the recently concluded first Cricket Test between India and New Zealand, Ravichandran Ashwin surpassed Harbhajan Singh's wicket tally to become 3rd highest test wicket taker for India. A towering achievement by any standards but it was a piece of advice that Ashwin received that got me hooked.

Coach Rahul Dravid's words of advice for Ashwin were-
"Ever since Rahul bhai has taken over, he's kept saying that how many ever wickets you take, how many ever run you make in 10 years time, you won't remember them. It's the memories that matter, so I want to have some special memories going forward in the next 3-4 years."

The keywords here- a) collect memories and not runs or wickets (or whatever equivalent in your profession) b) Consider chasing larger objectives rather than chasing instant gratification.

By simply reframing the goal, a good leader can inspire shift in priorities that lend a greater sense of purpose.

I learned this concept of Avoidance list while reading Alex Banayan's The Third Door, author's inspiring account on chasing and interviewing world's most successful people. In one of the chapters, Alex introduced how Warren Buffett prioritizes life. In simple steps:

1. Write a list of 25 things you want to accomplish in next 12 months.
2. If you could do only 5 of these 25 things in next 3 months, what would you choose ?
3. You now have 2 lists- "The Priority list" with 5 things and "The Avoidance list" with 20 things.

The key to achieving your top 5 priorities is to avoid other 20. As Alex summarizes Warren's method- "The Avoidance list is the secret to being world-class. Success is the result of prioritizing your desires."
Catch the summary in my #sketchnote.

What's the #prioritization method that has worked for you ? #prioritiesfirst

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Right from 1989, when Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web at CERN to the current times, the web has evolved astronomically. The Web was originally conceived to meet the demand for automated information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world.
Inspired by what legendary Steve Jobs once said "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.", I really find it exciting to look back, connect the dots not just to appreciate how far have we come but also to get a sense of where we are headed to.
Web 3.0 as a buzzword has been around for a while. To appreciate the value that Web 3.0 brings, one has to look at how the Web has evolved through the prior generations- 1.0 and 2.0.
As Jaspreet Bindra summarizes beautifully in his LiveMint article- , Web 1.0 served the purpose of sharing information very well but there was one problem- there was no business model around it.
Web 2.0 arrived with two fundamental advances- a) new business models (advertising, marketplaces, shared economy, content, SaaS etc.) and b) increasing centralization of internet (a few companies became powerful intermediaries of data/facilitating user interactions).
With Web 2.0, the internet moved from Read only web to Read-Write web. The advent of Web3 promises to offer an unmediated read-write web – in short, a decentralized Internet. What this means is- Instead of our data and interactions being owned by centralized entities, in Web3, the data is shared.
Web3 focuses on improving back-end functionality (with Blockchain, Smart Contracts etc.), much like Web2 saw a focus on front-end functionality (with Java Script, HTML etc.). Web 3.0 promises to push creator economy (often referred as passion economy) giving individuals potential to monetize their own data and creations.
Below is my #sketchnote explaining the evolution of the web via the lens of key use cases across generations, key attributes, tech buzzword and key focus areas. (Additional Reference:
What aspects of Web 3.0 excite you (or worry you) ? How else can you simplify explaining Web 3.0 ? #web30 #blockchain

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Peter Drucker once famously remarked "Culture eats Strategy for breakfast." Culture is invisible but has much greater impact on organization's ability to innovate. Scratching the surface of world's most famous product failures would reveal the deficiencies in their culture as one of the leading causes.

This post is not really about reinforcing the role cultures play. Most of us know this and tonnes have been written about it. But the point i am trying to magnify really is that the root causes of not-so-successful #innovation endeavors can also be tracked back to the capabilities and mindset of the innovators.
An Harvard Business Review (link in the comments) titled "Stop Sabotaging Your Ability to Innovate" mentions an alternate reasoning about Kodak's inability to launch the world-first digital camera despite being the first to invent the technology.
As the narrative goes, In 1974 a young Kodak engineer named Steven Sasson was assigned a seemingly low-stakes task: to see if there was any practical use for a recent invention capable of turning light into data. He built a device that could capture images and digitally display them on a screen and eagerly presented it to his bosses. But he made a tactical blunder: He billed the new technology as “filmless photography.” That positioning clashed with the very raison d’ĂȘtre of his audience—executives whose careers depended on the sale and processing of film—all but guaranteeing a tepid response.
The article calls Sasson's pitch as "deeply flawed" as he seemed to have gotten carried away by the enthusiasm for his invention. Sasson himself admitted- “It never occurred to me that I was at odds with the fundamental mission of the company for the last 100 years.”
It is fair to say that Sasson's own traits came in his own way to succeed as an inventor. (note that the definition of success being referred here is not only creating the technology but also ensuring that it gets adopted).
In this context, I found what Ravi Venkatesan said in one of his podcasts-
"The biggest obstacle to your success is you. Sooner or later, we each become the barriers to our success. We have to learn to get out of our own way.It takes a high degree of self-awareness.”

Citing the metaphor of a giant balloon, Ravi further says  “Think of a giant hot-air balloon which has a huge lift, that's your potential. You could be anything but this balloon is held down by thick ropes or chains. These chains are your weaknesses, your fears. Don't create stories in your mind that are self-limiting."

The HBR article also talks about more such pitfalls for the innovators to avoid, such as: 
- The fear of getting started.
- Dealing with the frustration of Setbacks.
- Avoiding excess of creativity.
- An acceleration into hyperdrive.
(Summary in my sketchnote)

What else would you add to pitfalls to avoid for innovators ?

 LinkedIn Post:



In the year 1993, Lou Gerstner joined IBM as it's CEO at a time when the company was in a precarious situation. It's previous strategy of offering computers end-to-end (fully assembled) did not work as the industry had defragmented with many computer companies started offering individual parts.

Various analysts wrote IBM off unless it fragmented and changed their strategy. Lou Gerstner developed a different diagnosis of the situation. Rather than fragmenting, Lou said he would integrate and centralize various functions to become market leaders in IT consulting.

The book- "Good Strategy, Bad Strategy" states that every good strategy has the same foundation:
- a diagnosis
- a guiding policy
- and a set of coherent actions

One of the most overused terms in the professional world and specifically in most career specific discussions is 'Strategic Thinking'.

What really is Strategic Thinking ? As the author Pearl Zhu puts it '“Strategic Thinking is about “Keeping the end in mind. It's a bridge between where you are and where you want to be.'

While it is commonplace to hear a feedback like 'You need to be more strategic' and yet it is also way far from being close to anything actionable. How can you become more Strategic ? Are there any prescribed ways ?

I found this HBR article by Nina Bowman quite actionable in this regard.

Here are the 4 ways Nina suggests to embrace strategic thinking skills (and more in my #sketchnote summary)

1. Know: Observe and Seek Trends (In order to be strategic, you need a solid understanding of the industry context, trends, and business drivers. )

2. Think: Ask the Tough Questions (With a fresh understanding of trends and issues, you can practice using strategic thinking by asking yourself, “How do I broaden what I consider?” Questions are the language of strategy.)

3. Speak: Sound Strategic (Strategic thinkers also know how to speak the language. They prioritize and sequence their thoughts. )

4. Act: Make Time for Thinking and Embrace Conflict (learn to embrace debate and to invite challenge, without letting it get personal)

How do you prefer to grow your strategic thinking skills ?




Anna Kiesenhofer, an Austrian cyclist, won a cycling Gold at Tokyo Olympics this year. While winning a Gold at Olympics is a towering achievement in itself, her claim to fame isn't just that. Anna has a doctorate in Mathematics and active in research and teaching at the Technical University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Not just that, she managed to win the Olympic Gold without a professional coach.

One might wonder that Anna's story is one of it's kind. But upon scratching the surface, you hear the names like Hadia Hosny (Egyptian Badminton in 2008, 2012 Olympics, has a doctorate in pharmacology from University of Cairo, Prof. at Univ. And she's a congresswoman in her country), Charlotte Hym (French Olympics street skateboarding, doctor in neuroscience ), Louise Shanahan(Tokyo Olympics in the 800 meters athletics, graduate of Quantum Physics from the University of Cork, Ireland, pursuing PhD).

A while back, I read the book- "The Neo-Generalist" by Richard Martin and Kenneth Mikkelsen, which helped decipher the phenomenon we see in these examples.

What is a Neo-Generalist ?

As the book states- “the neo-generalist defies easy classification. They are tricksters who traverse multiple domains, living between categories and labels. A restless multidisciplinarian who is forever learning. They bring together diverse people, synthesising ideas and practice, addressing the big issues that confront us in order to shape a better future.”

The authors argue that the time for learning one single skill and relying on it for rest of our lives is over. The world is not linear. Complex problems do not exist in isolation. They always touch other problems. To be relevant in an automated world, we need to be adaptive and constantly learn newer paradigms. In short, Eclectic outlook of life is the way forward (you cannot connect the dots with just one dot!!) and the ability to traverse between being a specialist and a generalist as the situation demand will become table stakes in the time to come.

Armed with this insight, the problem really takes a different shape- How do I make most of one's hidden talents in a fast evolving world ? How do we manage multiple passions ?
I wrote about this in a blog, almost a decade back . The 5 question framework introduced in this blog, I feel, is still somewhat relevant in these times. These questions are:
1. Am I "Only Interested" or Am I "Fully Committed" ?
2. Am I able to "prioritize" effectively ?
3. Am I able to "create" enough time ?
4. Am I able to "compartmentalize" life ?
5. Am I believing in myself more than i should ?

(Catch the summary in my sketchnote)

What's your take on the topic of managing multiple passions ? Do you think it's necessary ? or is deep expertise in one field is the way to go ?
#passion #leadership #relevance #timemanagement

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