What it takes to be a writer

To be a good writer, you have to be totally honest and not afraid to speak out. You have to have the ability to work hard and the stamina for a long haul. Sometimes you will sit for hours staring at a sheet of blank paper in front of you. You will have to have the determination not to get up till the sheet is filled with writing. It doesn’t matter if you fill it with rubbish. The discipline will prove worthwhile.

Always do your homework. A writer’s responsibility — whether he’s an essayist or a novelist — is to inform his reader while he provokes or entertains him. The challenge is to tell him something he doesn’t know. And don’t talk down to your reader; level with him.

– Khushwant Sigh, page 91, Khushwantnama

Design School : Year One

After last semester, I wrote what I had learned. At the end of this semester I was confused what really happened in that one semester. So I thought I could use this post to talk about other things that I experienced this year.

After last semester, I wrote what I had learned. At the end of this semester I was confused what really happened in that one semester. So I thought I could use this post to talk about other things that I experienced this year.

Being a Quizzer, you end up having an ego because you have all that information in your head, ready to spout out at the slightest notice. I really believe that that knowledge repo originating from a well read childhood is one of my strengths. Still I was humbled in Girish Dalvi’s typography workshop when I couldn’t answer any question that he threw at us. I mentioned last semester that reading is crucial. But this semester was when I realized that the reading stack is hundreds of books high. Actually, its infinite.

Open Elective although a major disappointment (atleast I got to meet some awesome people) had a good theme this year – Old age. Our world is increasingly getting older but most companies out there are busy trying to solve endemic problems. In one year, I might end up in the same industry and that actually made me wonder if I should try to end up someplace else where I can really make a difference.

Good research is important. Last semester made me realize that. I also realized that surveys, interviews mostly masquerade as research methods. I have lost faith in both of them while at the same time learning that custom research methods(like this one) make for better insights. I have begun to believe more in end user testing.

Talking about things make them better. I learned that getting people to critique your idea or talk to them about it is the best way to get out of that creative rut that you find yourself in. When you are working on it all by yourself you will not see be able to see what it is that is not working with your design.

I learned and built my first grid based presentation which was well received by the Jury. Except for my Cognitive Ergonomics work, the rest of what I presented seemed to have been appreciated. This is a big improvement from last semester where I was mostly clueless about the work I was presenting.

I’ve realized that the design process you follow is really important. I still have a long way to go before I learn to use it well. Working on MSR’s Design Expo this year made me realize the value of a good process. When working on Meteorites, I somehow formed a process unknowingly and it did help me to produce the end result. It’ll help you where your skills wont.

And you can learn anything given that you want to. At the end of last semester, I only knew Photoshop which I had largely picked up while at TCS. Now, I am comfortable with Illustrator and I even made a short film on Adobe Premiere Pro. A desire to create things in crunch time really helps me learn faster. Hence deadlines are good.

Hard deadlines are even better. Work only gets done if they are enforced. Most of last semester’s projects did not turn out so well because I kept procrastinating. Maybe because…

I fear big projects especially due to the lack of experience. We have not done anything big academically and I wonder how equipped I will be to deal with full projects all alone. Hope I can confront that fear this semester. Geronimo!

One of my favourite moments of last year was lying on @nid_b’s roof and looking for shooting stars. The cold, the company and the squeals when you spot a golden trail all made that night magical. Also worth noting are the Paldi campfires. This time next year, I shall be lamenting the end of 2 years and I shall miss ‘this’ life dearly.

You can read Rasagy thoughts on ‘Year One’ here.

Why big IT companies are wrong for you?

Its 2012, startups are making big bucks. You are studying engineering and have dreams of someday coding the next Big thing and when placements happen you happily jump towards the big IT companies who usually come first. Well if being a “rockstar” or a “ninja” is what you crave, then you are going down the wrong path, my friend.

What happens when you join a big company is that they see you as a raw material, ready to be moulded as they desire but you obviously have other plans. Before you know it, you will be branched into streams and your “rockstar” career may just go up in smoke. There is no measurement of aptitude for the job just seemingly random distribution into the various streams. This is the easiest way of tackling with the ‘how to split these people’ problem. Academics play an important role in this filtering. So there you are , getting trained in a technology that is either boring or getting obsolete by the year and your passion for the profession is slowly being sucked out of you. Once you are done with the “training”, you get allotted to sections of the company and your IT career begins.  You normally start being a team member, answering to seniors and initiated into the project. Appraisals happen and your pay increases by a measly amount every year and you dream of going “onsite”. You are no longer a “ninja” and most probably are cozy in this simple life. If thats how you want to end, well my friend, all the best. But if you really want to be somebody step outside the mould, live life, take risks, code a side project, learn what you want, get enlightened, dream big, execute ideas and be honest to yourself. We are all unique, we are not assembled. Today’s freshers are more likely to revolt atleast that’s what i see around me. Attrition rates are quite growing. Consider this, for every 100 new freshers joining , approximately 60-70 experienced people are leaving IT companies. This results in a vacuum of middle leadership and thats why companies recruit all year long. Most people leave because they are unhappy at their current job. In a recent survey conducted by Karthik, the results seem to confirm what we already deduced. 25% every morning, don’t look forward to go to work. 34% feel their work is mundane, and not challenging. 20% feel that there is no clarity in the work and process. 45% are currently planning to change jobs and 75% are in their first jobs! Alarming statistics actually.

If you fall in the unhappy lot, then well i suggest its time you sat back and reflected on where you are headed and decide if thats the road that you want to take.

P.S. This was meant to be part of a bigger post which i abandoned because i got busy with work and the transition from work to college life again. I currently am studying ‘Information and Interface Design’ at the National Institute of Design, Bangalore. I wrote this post out of frustration and it was based on the real life situation around me at that time.

Scratching your own Itches

“So if you want to start a startup and don’t know yet what you’re going to do, I’d encourage you to focus initially on organic ideas. What’s missing or broken in your daily life? Sometimes if you just ask that question you’ll get immediate answers. It must have seemed obviously broken to Bill Gates that you could only program the Altair in machine language.”

 -Paul Graham in  Organic Startups

Last Night, Faris came up to me with an idea. “Why not make a timetable for our dinner eatouts for the coming week?”. We always end up wondering where to go and after some confusion settle upon a place. I realized that this was a brilliant idea. So we set about making a Excel file and placed it in our Dropbox. I mean thats a good start to scratch our itch.

There’s a lot of truth in what Paul Graham says. You would find the highest motivation only to repair something broken in your day to day life. That’s what i have kept in mind these past few months whenever i thought of building something. Why would i be passionate about building something for someone else? You wouldn’t be.

Everyone has an itch that needs scratching. You only need to find it. Think for a while. Think simple. I am not telling you that you could come up with something that could bring world peace but maybe..just maybe you can find an itch and a solution for that itch.