Saturday, July 2, 2016

Jottings : Slice of life – 23 (Notes from SanFranscisco)

Jottings : Slice of life – 23

Notes from SanFranscisco

I was having dinner the day before yesterday at Roy’s, San Francisco with Mark, a senior Architect with over thirty years of experience in the networking space. First, a few words about Roy’s, and then to core purpose of this post. If ever there is a prize for an expensive, most courteous and arguably the best Sea food place in America, I am sure Roy’s will be a top contender. Last year, when I was in Honolulu, I was taken to Roy’s, and the taste of Mahi Mahi served there still irresistibly lingers on my taste buds. Chef Roy Yamaguchi needs no introduction to connoisseurs of food. Not only is he one of the most delectable, competent and innovative chef’s in America today, with over thirty restaurants; he is also an eminent TV personality, philanthropist and social entrepreneur. Legend has it, that if Roy cooks, even the most tasteless piece of meat or vegetable turns into ambrosia and acquires immortality. Anyway, his Hawaiian restaurant in SFO is known for its decor, authentic aloha flavors, and more importantly the deserts they serve. Simply ethereal! Mark had a heavenly plate of Teppanyaki Shrimp in red sauce, and it was recommended to me to have their specialty Tofu, marinated in special Hawaiian sauce with Jasmine rice. When the dished arrived, and both of us tasted our first bite, there followed an absorbed silence for over twenty minutes. The sumptuousness of the meal gave us no time to converse. Every forkful of food evoked a million subtle sensory triggers, and by the time we ate the plate clean, we had a red flush on our faces. We had a look of total immersion and deep satisfaction - a nirvana of senses, so to speak. And then came the Deserts arrived hot and succulent from the kitchen. Freshly baked Pineapple cake with Ice-cream and chocolate soufflé with signature Roy’s syrup dripping invitingly from it. After all the Eastern spices and fusion sauces in the meal, the deserts wriggled smoothly down our food pipes filling our stomachs with that touch of sweetness, which always makes a fine dining experience so fulfilling and complete.

After this ecstatic experience, Mark and I started talking about technology and technology based companies. When the stomach is full, the brain tingles with energy and exuberance. Our conversation meandered through breakthroughs in Web services, the role of Google, their innovations and programming interfaces, the future direction of privacy and security, the interweaving of Big data and Data analytics and how our lives are so public these days that nothing we do is safe from the prying eyes of location based services. Mark was not only an accomplished and articulate Network architect with virtually every certification under his belt. His mature sixty years of age and wide enterprise experience showed in the way he was able to condense, understand and put the pieces together. He said (I am paraphrasing an hour’s worth of dialogue)

“..Bala, I completely agree with your statement today in class that a technologist shouldn’t be talking economics to a customer. The biggest challenge today for companies like us is we are so concerned with selling something at any cost, so much so, we often end up giving the customer a solution which do not meet their needs, or falls short of it. Our concern is to sell something, and meet our targets. But what we don’t understand is in the long run, our short sightedness will progressively reveal our initial failure to stand up and speak the honest technical language we should have spoken in the first place. In that sense, a Technologist should be candid about what works, and what will not. It’s up to the customer to decide if they wish to take that route. If a technologist begins to play the role of a Pre-sales or sales, then we are going down the wrong route.

Secondly I liked the way you stressed our core competency and bought together all different strands of technologies under one common vision. I guess, your broad spectrum of understanding IT comes in handy here. Honestly, I have never heard any technology instructor bring that kind of holistic vision into class. In fact, in my experience, most IT companies seem to forget their core competency and the bigger picture; with the result the employees often are not deeply in sync with what their company exactly sells for its existence. Very few organizations impart that kind of vision to its employees. Let me illustrate. I was consulting for one of the largest truck manufacturing companies. They make all kinds of Heavy duty vehicles for different purposes. And one of their core HR policies is that every employee, no matter what their role; from the CEO to data entry operator will go through exactly the same training program for first two weeks. And do you know what kind of training happens in those two weeks. Amazing! Nothing role based, technical or managerial. They are taught to drive every vehicle they manufacture. At the end of two weeks, every single employee is given a master key to be able to drive any kind of automobile in their massive factory floors and outside. The idea is this: no matter what role you play in the organization; each one must realize that producing heavy duty vehicles is their core business. I may be a senior developer, but my code is inconsequential if I cannot sell my manufactured vehicles, and I must be conscious that I am writing code that drives a vehicle. I may be a support engineer, but my job is useless if nobody buys my vehicles; so each call I handle must be done with the thought this call will enhance customer stickiness and more sales, and not merely as just one support call with its targets of closure. This core vision is missing in technology companies today. They are broken into hundred silos, and each one believes their work is uniquely measurable and sellable, when it is not. When that happens, the victim is the customer who gets pulled in different directions by each team, and what looks like a good sell in the beginning soon turns into a nightmare; and the cleaning up operation is far too expensive, frustrating and a drain on resources. As an architect, technologist – our priority should be to present our company’s core product strength first, and all other factors subservient to it. So when we call ourselves a “Performance” company, we need to understand what that means from all angles and then present our solution In a concerted manner...”

As the evening faded away, we weened our conversation to books, music and movies. Rarely, do I get to meet someone who is equally at home with hardcore technology and arts in general. It is conversations like these that brighten my days as a technical teacher and evangelist. Many ask me why am I so passionate about teaching. My answer is: for such moments of pure intellectual satisfaction.

God bless…

Yours in mortality,


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