You always have an option, you just don’t know it yet.

This one is for all those people who are trying to figure out what they should do with their lives (and there is a fresh batch of these people every year) – No one tells you that you can grow up to be a famous porn star.

I see this great hullabaloo about the deadly cut-offs at the Delhi University this year. What course are you trying to get into? Commerce? Science? English? Pol Science? Why are you doing it? Because it’s the done thing to do? Because your parents think it will lead you to a secure future? Because your friends are doing it?

I bet most of you kids had some form of a career counselling in school. I had a sham version of it too when I was in the 12th. I call it sham because I remember thinking back about it recently when I discovered that there is this famous porn star – Jenna Jameson – who is apparently the Shah Rukh Khan of the porn industry. Heck she even has a wikipedia page to her name. How many of us will have the privilege of boasting about that during our lifetime eh? And I was thinking, no one ever counselled you that you could be a porn star when you grow up. Doesn’t that make you feel cheated? What else have they been hiding from you? They don’t even tell you that you can be Shah Rukh Khan. Hell they don’t even offer the encouragement that you can be absolutely brilliant at whatever you choose to do, provided you chose it and have fun doing it.

I remember this interesting anecdote from my career counselling session when one of the people in the counselling panel was rambling about the great future in one of the professions like being a doctor or an engineer (I don’t remember exactly which right now). This kid in the audience, one of us, stood up and said “Sir, you can choose to be whatever you want in life and be good at it. There are paan walas who sell a paan for rs 5 at the roadside kiosk and then there is this guy in a big shop in CP called Panchayat who manages to sell the same paan for rs 150. Both of them manage to sell paan all day long”. Now this guy understood life!

What I’m trying to tell you is that these famous and acceptable careers come and go as a fad each year. First it was law, then came this wave of everyone wanting to be a doctor, then engineering, then MBA. Actually now it’s MBA + engineering. I think the next wave may be journalism. There is enough masala to report on a daily basis. Or maybe becoming a baba and going on a fast religiously for any cause just or not will catch on as an acceptable profession too. Think about it. There’s good money in that and no one ever told you you could become one!

I was one of you too once. My parents wanted me to become a doctor. I guess my heart must not have been in it. Because now I am a person who studied Botany during graduation and through some miraculous twist of fate ended up learning how to design in an IT company. And trust me, it’s a lot more fun than Botany. At least for me. (although I have to say studying Genetics was a lot of fun too).

Over the number of years I have seen my friends take up a number of interesting professions. Someone went on to become a journalist. Someone chose to work in human resources. I know a guy who gets to play video games as a profession and he is good at it. My cousin gave up her job as a designer at a magazine to become a fashion designer. That radio jockey you love listening to every morning, guess what he chose to do with his life :-). Hey guess what JK Rowling decided to do with her life! My point is, keep your options open because there are a lot of fun things out there to do. You just have to figure out what is fun for you. The greatest learning in life will come from Experience so take in as much of it as possible. Stay away from home if possible. I never got to do that, but I have a feeling nothing teaches you better about life or gives you confidence like being responsible for yourself does. If you get through to DU, you have 3 years of college life. Bunking is a lot of fun. Do it! Cheat at least once during your exams! Trust me you will never forget for life what you cheated and it’s a great story to tell later. *Just be smart enough not to get caught*. Take part in extra-curriculars. Learn a new language! Learn how to program. Basically just soak in as much as you can while you have the time to. If nothing else, at least later on in life you won’t regret having missed out on the opportunity while you had the chance.

As for you parents – your kid not becoming a doctor or an engineer or not getting through to SRCC is not the end of the world. And yes it is perfectly acceptable for guys to take up humanities / arts in their 10+2! Trust me that is some regressive thinking if you don’t think it is and please, for their sake, snap out of it!

Of Botany, Project plans & Traffic jams

The thought had first struck me while we were in a meeting discussing a project deadline. Things were all going to be smooth from our side but there was the dependency of some inputs from the client. If the client does not respond in time, work could pile up at our end and create an unnecessary bottleneck. Sure one does buffer for it but the thought still struck me nonetheless. This was a couple of years ago and stayed at the back of my mind somewhere all this while.

And then it struck me again while I was driving to work yesterday. So by some chance of fate I find myself at a curve on the road  (which by itself is quite a  tricky maneuver most days) and I find myself behind this giant of a bus in my tiny Hyundai hatchback. And from the other side of the road at the same bend are a couple of more buses joining the chaos. This is regular weekday office-hour traffic for you on Delhi roads but the thought did strike me nonetheless. Because of the intersection of the path of these slow moving giants at that juncture, the pace of the traffic slowed down considerably for all those behind who had been moving at a decently fast speed so far. And till these buses made way for us to move, we would have to keep driving at their speed. And yet again I was taken back some 7-8 years to my botany class where we had been studying Blackman’s Law of the Limiting Factor.

Blackmans law of limiting factors states that if a chemical process is affected by more than one factor, then its rate will be determined by the factor which is nearest to its minimal value. Amongst the factors affecting the physiological process, the slowest factor affects the rate of the process. When photosynthesis is under the influence of several factors simultaneously an increase in that factor and the limiting  factor will bring about an increase in the rate of photosynthesis. (Source: http://www.tutorvista.com/biology/five-factors-affecting-photosynthesis)

Or …

Blackman (1905) proposed the law of limiting factors according to which when process is conditioned to its rapidity by a number of factors, the rate of process In limited by the pace of the slowest factor. (Source: http://www.photosynthesisinfo.com/factors-influencing-photosynthesis/)

So basically nature faces the same kind of problems that we face in our day to day lives. One thing interesting to note is that Blackman’s law essentially talks about external factors – which for plants are things like Light, Carbon-di-oxide, Water, Temperature etc – and is not so much factors that are internal to the system. If I try to map the analogy, in the case of a project, the external factors could be things like client feedback, supply of material etc and not necessarily an internal issue (assuming of course your planning is flawless 😉 ). In the case of traffic, the external factor could be this really slow vehicle that is slowing down all of traffic behind it (I bet some of you are thinking about those auto-rickshaws that insist on driving in the middle of the flyover), a traffic cop guiding traffic on the road, a cow which decides to cross the road … (I am refering to Indian scenarios here of course.)

Of course I am generalising here. While the Blackman’s law refers specifically to the quantity of the limiting material, I am simply refering to the slowest factor which can hold up / slow down the entire process.

And this might just be a sweeping analogy from my end. It’s been quite a number of years since I studied this particular topic back in college, but from the little I can vaguely recall, I am pretty sure that plants have figured out a way to cope with this mechanism. There is much brilliance in the way nature adjusts to or builds mechanisms to cope with adversities. And if we can learn from the process, we would perhaps be able to figure out interesting and innovative ways to overcome the issues that we face (project planning, traffic issues or any other such example where this can fit).

This also reminds me of what I had tweeted a couple of days back

… but we can surely get inspired.

Biomimicry is a known discipline and what I’m suggesting here is nothing new. Just sharing a thought that I had.

The one thing that we can derive from here for sure is that perhaps we can do with more Life-Scientists in B-Schools 😉

A simple mind

Call this post a cumulative list of grouches/wondering/rants. But there are a few things in life that I will just not understand and thus I list them here. They are in no particular order of preference and I am pretty sure I will keep growing this list. So here goes …

1. I will never get the kind of people who have LCD screens to watch movies in the cars. Now it’s a well known fact that I am an avid tweeter and I use my phone to text (at times) while driving and despite being a skilled practitioner, I know this is not a simple task. Infact, sometimes I find just changing the radio channels distracting. So I will not understand the kind of people who will want to see a movie in their car while driving because it can be terribly distracting! You are putting my life at risk and not even doing justice to that movie!

2. People who stop their car at the red light AFTER having crossed the stop line. It is there for a purpose people! Not just street art. Thankfully for us, we stay in a place like Delhi, where there aren’t very many people who use the zebra crossing because they have already jay-walked across the middle of the road while the light was green for cars. After all, there is a reason the Delhi cricket team is called Delhi Daredevils. It seems to be an apt title for all citizens of Delhi

3. Jaywalkers. #NuffSaid

4. Girls who in this biting cold wear close-to-nothing kind of sheer stockings to show off their ultra thin legs. It cannot be all about fashion in this  weather girl! Cover up for God’s Sake!

5. Taxes! … moving on …

6. No let’s come back to Taxes. Why do I have to pay them and why is it so much? And why is so much of my money being wasted in painting zebra crossings that no one is using anyway?!! *sulks*

7. Girls with ultra thin legs. I mean seriously! Where are you getting them from? … no wait… let’s change this to ultra thin girls. Do they not eat?!

8. Men who crib about lady drivers. Listen here dude! All the bus drivers, autorickshaw drivers, cycle rickshaw and cycle riders and most bike riders are men. And I am sure there is statistics somewhere to prove that in any given city, they are far more responsible for accidents than the women drivers. So STFU already will ya?!

9. Why is all the stuff that you love to eat always super fattening and the non-fattening stuff boring? With all the advances in science and technology, why hasn’t anyone figured out a way of making french-fries and chocolate that can be eaten guilt-free? Non-fattening beer? No? Listen, the earth is going to end anyway, we’re all going to die. So why not focus your funds and energies on things that can actually make a difference?!

10. Men who incessantly keep staring at you! You guys make me look down sometimes to check whether I’m wearing all my clothes. I am really not some piece of art on a wall you know. Give us some space!

11. Men who look past you. What are you gay?! 😉 *ok this is a fake point. Just had to put it in for the funnies*

12. PMS! No actually, guys who PMS. And seriously, ALL guys PMS. I will never get that. I’m sure there is science behind it but I am pretty sure most men don’t actually follow that. They just up and about decide – I am going to be grouchy today! And God bless the women around them then because not even chocolate will appease the beast 😛

13. MNS. Nope, I sure don’t understand it. Not yet. *It’s a private joke. Don’t ask.*

Well that’s about all I have right now. But like I said… I’m pretty sure I will keep adding stuff here. There’s a lot in life to amaze you. I’m sure you guys will keep giving me substance to abuse on my blog :P. And I am not inviting any arguments here after point number 8.

Let the games begin!

The moment we have all been waiting for since the first posters and signboards were put up announcing it 2 years ago is here finally. The opening ceremony for the Common Wealth Games – India, is today – 03 October 2010. It has been quite a ride and maybe a little more so for those who stay in Delhi. Sure many a things have been brought to surface, many a things that went wrong and were brought to light. For us in Delhi, or let’s say me personally, I have seen it change the face of Delhi in the course of these last 2 years. And on the threshold of the games, my heart does warm up with pride when I drive around the city which can truly be called world class now.

Common Wealth Games - Delhi 2010

Common Wealth Games - Delhi 2010 (image from http://hoowstuffworks.blogspot.com)

And before we know it, it’ll all be over. And we will move on to look forward to another event soon. To complain about the inconveniences caused, to root for its eventual success. And so will life go on. Many a events will happen and many will pass.  The mindset that comes with it – maybe it’s inherent. Maybe it will change. Maybe it is changing because people are demanding for it to.  Maybe things will actually improve (I believe they have already). Who knows. We have to wait and watch. For now, Let the games begin! 🙂

(I stumbled across this wonderful post while searching for an image for this post. All about Common Wealth Games, Delhi 2010 – Do find the time to read it.)

Nice people make nice designs

Like the name of the post suggests. It’s just a belief that I have had since I was introduced to terms like HCI, Usability, User Focus, User Experience Design etc etc etc. When I read and learnt more about these thing to start applying them to my work, I felt I was becoming sensitive to the idea in various aspects of my life.  The way you drive on the road, the way you treat strangers around you, the way you are sensitive to the needs of other people.

I remember standing on the Delhi Metro platform a number of times, getting pushed and jostled around, having people thrust their smelly armpits towards me, people looking away when they see an elderly/pregnant person standing so they wouldn’t have to give away their seats .. and I remember thinking, now this guy could never make a user friendly design. They are just not friendly to the people around them.

Or when you’re driving on the road. God knows all those blessed with vehicles have also been blessed with rear view mirrors in the same. And we can safely assume (hopefully) that they are trained to follow traffic rules. But when people drive with their lights on high beams, drive at full speed in residential areas, swerve without looking in the rear view and think they own the road. These guys probably can never make a user friendly design.

I own a Hyundai i20 and though a few acquaintances have had a bad experience with theirs, I find the car a delight to use. The entire experience is focused towards the comfort and convenience of the driver and I simply love driving it. Now the people who designed this car – Nice people! 🙂

This is perhaps just an inherent belief. Maybe one that I have cultivated over a few years now, all through observation – of myself and others. Maybe I am just shooting a baseless arrow in the dark here. But I truly believe usability touches (or should touch)  all aspects in our lives. Especially for those who design for usability. Life around us is a wonderful training ground. Which is why I say nice designs are made by people who are nice … or get trained to be nice 🙂

[Disclaimer: The author of this post by no means wants to imply that she is a nice person or that she makes nice designs. But she assures you that she knows nice people who make fantastic designs :-)]

How power-fool are we?

We relish the animations on Ice Age even though we are the Global Warming generation. We have a voice and we believe that we can make a difference. We are the ones who tread into the future and leave behind a giant carbon footprint which we just cannot retrace. We have moved too far ahead to undo or erase. Not that that stops us from trying.

So we hold Green Day concerts. The intent is pure. For sure. We have to save the earth is the message. Be frugal today so there is enough left for tomorrow. And so we fly over artists from all over the world. We print posters, we make brochures. We make websites, we write blogs too. We sit in our airconditioned rooms and log onto the internet and cry our digital lungs hoarse. The voice should be heard by one and all, and in the process we have already borrowed more than we could possibly save at all.

We make airconditioners and inverters that save power. There are those offices designed green and batteries healthy for the earth’s spleen. So we set up more factories more chimneys that smoke. We need to advertise to sell so we fly around those stud blokes. Competition is tough so we will deliver till home, the hole left by your carbon footprint this time is just an inverted dome.

And then we host talk shows to discuss how hopeless the situation is. And like many others I too write a blog post using electricity, a laptop and internet connection and we talk and we talk and we talk … If there ever was a vicious circle this is one.

We all know the problem. And of course just like the spectators of a cricket match, we all know we could’ve scored better if we’d been playing. But the fact is that we ARE playing. … Playing with our own lives.

For some reason we believe it’s the bigger actions that matter. Everything should be done at a large scale. No single believes that his lone effort will matter. And it won’t. Not when it’s done by that one person and that one time. One power-saving air conditioner bought will not equate the millions spent in manufacturing, advertising or delivering it. One Earth-hour will barely save power equal to that spent in all the malls across a city in a month (I assume). One Green-day concert will make a big noise, enjoyed by a lot and still be forgotten. One more blog post will be written and add to the digital pollution (as if we needed another kind). So, no … our solitary efforts will not help.

But can you just imagine the power of a hundred solitary actions? And then those hundred solitary actions multiplied by a thousand. And that thousand multiplied by another thousand … and … well… you get the picture.

The sad truth is that we all know this. What I’m writing here is no apple dropping on anyone’s head. But then there was an apple that helped discover gravity and there was the apple that got us all locked out of Eden. And then this here is an apple that we all want to savour and all it requires is a little iEffort ;-).

So yes, that car pooling will help. Switching off the power while leaving the room – do it over the year and you’ve already done better than switching off just during the Earth Hour. Yes, do close the tap while you’re brushing your teeth. Use a bucket instead of shower to have a bath – may even make you relish the rain better :). Do please go ahead and buy that power-saving airconditioner – and use it as little as possible. Walk more than drive, Let’s help the Earth survive 😀

And as long as we are wasting digital power, let’s discuss more ideas, small efforts that we all can make to make things better. And after we are done talking about it, let’s do as Nike says and Just Do It!