In most of the work places, interviews are the entry barrier to become a part of an organization. The general tendency of anyone to approach an interview is to do it like an examination. An evening or two of preparation especially if it is a technical job and some search on the net for answering typical questions gives an illusion of being prepared for an interview. It is easy to get through examinations with an overnight of preparation as only the factual accuracy of the answer matters.

Interviews in my opinion are more of discussions than question answer sessions like exams.  For technical jobs, the interviews will be centered around the sound understanding of the fundamentals and application of that knowledge rather than checking the memory of first page search result answers for the questions. If the attitude and approach towards a day job is inclined towards continuous learning and improvement, then that may help a lot at an interview than an overnight preparation. In other words we should be able to meet an employer on a flight journey, conference or social events and stumble on a job offer without any preparation.

Being employable is analogous to being physically strong. Just like how one should exercise every day to be fit and strong, the learnings and applications every day at workplace helps in strengthening our capabilities. It will also not come to us in a few days, it is a long and continuous process which should become a habit.

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Lots of success stories show us that the early adopters of new techniques and methods are able to stay ahead of the competition and the rest plays a catch up game. There are many companies and individuals today who consistently assess, try and adopt new technologies. There is also a significant effort involved to be on the cutting edge. The adoption is a time consuming process and the adopters are at the mercy of the fallibility of the new technologies or process. During the format wars of VHS and BetaMax, BetaMax adopters had to suffer the failure of that format. A stand-up comedian Steven Wright pointed out that “The second mouse gets the cheese”, making fun of expensive early adoption.

De Havilland decided to make commercial jet aircrafts with many firsts like comfortable seating, large windows, pressurized cabins. They came up with a great plane “Comet”, the world’s first commercial jetliner. It also flew very high which was also one among the firsts but metal fatigue caused the planes to crash. Crashing due to metal fatigue was one of the firsts as well, the other companies like Boeing got the lessons from Comet’s failure and produced better designs. After the failure De Havilland struggled to catch up and eventually became defunct in just 12 years after its state of the art jetliner made its first commercial flight.

The story about Comet is not that early adopters fail, we should always back early adoption with enough financial/human resources, tolerate risks & fail safe;  above all a strong need with significant business gains. Businesses backed with strong research departments; the culture of trying, assessing & using new techniques & methods; a good vision about the future will continue to make early adoption look easy. We should be careful enough not to be on the bleeding edge as it looks like an easy job from the success stories on the other side.

If numbers come into play then quantification is implicit. Most of the projects I begin, I start estimating use cases in “High, Medium, Low” or “Small, Medium, Large”. Before the development starts we need to know how long something is going to take, hence we estimate. When we arrive at an estimate and put a schedule in place, subconsciously every one gets tuned to the numbers.

The numbers help in planning and helps the first release goes through; then the economical activities begin. Questions start arising like ‘Why two use cases estimated to be of the same size when one of them have fewer tasks?’ or ‘Why did two use cases with similar sizes take different times to complete?’. The completion of the use cases is what shows up as progress and slowly an illusion is created that the reduction in estimate is equal to the money saved. This leads to addition of scope similar to salami slicing.

The effect of salami slicing becomes visible over the course of time and developers begin to compensate by increasing the estimate. This vicious cycle leads to inflation and deflation of estimates, which in turn affects the project management’s ability to predict and plan. Quantitative/Objective measurement gives an illusion of control but will eventually affect the team’s ability to deliver value because there are lots of parameters which affects how something can be done; attaching a number to it will create those numbers to behave like currency. When we have something like a currency then we have economics.

Should estimation be very accurate?; No, it is like saying that with all the historic data and current conditions, we will be able to predict the outcome of cricket matches accurate to the number of runs scored. We should have estimates only as a guideline for planning and acknowledge that pin point accuracy will never be possible. Productivity is a result of so many factors and trying to assess that with a single number will result in expending time and energy away from productive tasks.

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