Nov 28, 2010

mastery over randomness

My contribution to 3WW

a planner I am
systematic and meticulous,
checklists and to-dos
tracking the chores to the core

shuffling amidst life's mysteries
I trudge along, confidently
aiming for complete control
mastery over randomness

bills paid in advance
predictability on the rise,
boredom strikes soon
missing elements of drama

ignoring uncertainty
I take the stride as
it comes along, at times
pander for laziness

Music brings me back

I can't believe it's almost 3 months ever since I returned from my wonderful vacation at Swaswara. This personal blog has been gathering dust though there's some action on the professional blog. Words getting shape in my mind during my long commute doesn't seem to get translated into my blog. But there's enough to share about my other interests in music, movies and life in general.

Talking about music, 2010 has been one of the best years for Rahman fans like me. My last post on music was about Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya and it still continues to be my favorite album of this year even after listening to the brilliant songs 100s of times. I had mixed reactions to Raavan/Raavanan when it got released. But there are a few gems in this unique album as well. Being a Karthik fan, I just love both "usure poguthey" and the Hindi equivalent "Behne de". The mysterious slow start is followed by a foot tapping beat and his voice so beautifully blends with the feel of the song. Another song which is my favorite in this album is "Khili Re"  which I prefer more than the Tamil version "Kalvare". It's a perfect song to hear after a long, tiring day. The best song of Raavan comes when the end credits start to roll. I'm waiting for the Raavan special edition CD which will have "Jaa re ud jaa re" sung by Rahman himself.

When Endhiran's music was released, I didn't feel the urge to listen to the songs immediately since I was disappointed with the songs of Shivaji. But after listening to about 10 times, I started to appreciate the uniqueness of the music of Endhiran. "Kaadhal Anukkal" became my instant favorite because of Shreya's magical voice and her perfect pronunciation. Many of my favorite Kannada songs which I get to hear everyday during my Volvo commute are sung by her. The next favorite has to be "Kilimanjaro". It has a very new feel, thanks to the unique words and folksy beats. Chinmayi has become my favorite female singer with the sheer variety of her songs and she has done a fabulous job in this song too. I got to hear this song in person when she sang in the TEDXChennai event.

Let me share you a tip - when you have to get something done at work or otherwise, listen to Endhiran album in repeat mode. For some reason, my productivity is very high when I listen to this album!

I wish the music of "Jhoota hi sahi" had received enough attention. It felt like this movie came quietly and went out without creating any buzz. I love almost the entire album but my repeated hearings have been these three songs - "Cry cry", "Do nishaaniyan" and "Call me dil". Rashid Ali has given a feel-good touch to "Call me dil" with his peppy voice.

Though I got a taste of "127 hours", I haven't really listened to it with these previous albums taking away most of my time. I don't care what critics talk about how Rahman has lost it. His music is still very precious to me and I look forward to the release of each album that he creates.

Nov 15, 2010

Empathy - who has it?

In the recently concluded Product Manager's Conclave event at IIM, Bangalore, there was a panel discussion on qualities required in a product manager. One specific quality that really made a lot of sense was "Empathy towards customers". However, I'm still not sure how an interviewer gets to validate this quality during an interview for a product management opening.

As a product manager, we interact with customers and try to understand their current problems. If more customers complain of a certain problem, we give a higher priority towards solving it. Nothing new, it's just the basic driver of prioritization. But I believe the quality of empathizing with your customers is not just restricted towards product managers. Everyone in the organization needs to have this quality. I've been reading this book - Linchpin by Seth Godin and he talks about a powerful concept called Emotional Labor. A line that Seth highlights is that "In most jobs that involve a customer, you are getting paid only to do emotional labor". Aren't emotions the key differentiating factor between humans and machines? In an era where every task is getting to a programmable status, emotional quotient (EQ) can become the sole savior, in my opinion.

Talking about empathy and how every individual is expected to have this quality to make a difference to a customer, a product manager can take the lead in enabling other team members embrace this quality. A few ideas which you can explore:

When you communicate the product requirements to the design and development teams, ensure you first talk about the customer pain points and how their current alternatives are creating problems leading to certain negative outcomes - manual effort, loss of time, dependency on other third parties etc.

The same also needs to be communicated to the QA teams as well. Going over the requirements and possible test scenarios come in later. For every product requirement, provide a clear background on why it is important for the customer.

It would also be better if you can take along a developer or a designer during your customer visits. They get to experience a slice of the customer's problems in person which would help a great deal in designing the right solution.

If you have other ideas related to this topic, please comment.

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