All posts by Chinmoy Panda

About Chinmoy Panda

Founder and CEO of Mindfire Solutions. Interested in all things tech. Building the greatest team of developers in India. A-players only. Author - Chinmoy Panda

Common Sense vs Bureaucracy

An organization gets bureaucratic with age. Meaningless rules and policies are thrown around, often ignoring common sense. I came across an instance recently, and wondered what we were thinking.

One of our years-old, loyal clients worked with a specific team for few months. Things were done and sealed, and when they shifted their back-end from a local server to the cloud (who isn’t doing that nowadays?) some things stopped working. The client reached out to the technical lead they had interacted with.

He was met with a curt “the developer is working on something else” – and of course policies forbid us from having him help on anything else. No remorse, no work-around, no investigation, no solution. More importantly – no empathy or understanding of the customer situation.

Obviously the irate client voiced his displeasure. Things were done and all it took was a couple hours. But it left a very bad taste in the mouth.

Why was this necessary? What was on the minds of people? That once a project is over we are not responsible? That a customer should be made to pay for every small thing? That avoiding a headache is better than understanding what the problem was? That policies are useful to throw around as excuses?

Why am I relating age to this? Well, think of a young group of hungry people. Would they dare to imagine saying a curt “No” to a loyal past (and potentially future) client? Or would they go out of their way to fix the problem at hand?

Often, clients prefer Mindfire due to our age (almost 15 years!), our stability and proven delivery. Buf if we lose common sense – the hunger to do the right thing – clients should go to younger hungrier (albeit riskier) companies!

Of course we don’t want one customer to pay for time that goes toward solving someone else’s problem. But isn’t it common sense that if something has gone down, a solution has to be found promptly? But do we have strait-jacketed developers who won’t put in an extra couple hours (night? weekend?) to help a situation? Or will the current customer say no to some hours being transparently redirected, with appropriate discounting if necessary?

Solutions are hidden in plain sight. Excuses are also conjured out of the same thin air.

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3 points of worry in Off-shore Software Development

Recently, I connected to a prospective client on LinkedIn, and he shared some concerns:

“I was referred to you by a friend who has worked with Mindfire and highly recommended your services. I was impressed by the technical competence of my emails and discussion with your group. However, (and I’m sure you know this), I have been “warned” by people in the SaaS business I know over here, that subcontracting to some offshore firms can be “a nightmare” and that work, though much less expensive, can take three or four times as long. Some even say the quality of the coding is poor.”

This summarized some top points of apprehension for anyone about to start a relationship for off-shore software development. All 3 problems and points of apprehension are true in general, but at Mindfire we have these points covered . Although working with us is the only way to get a real impression of things, let me share thoughts about these as they relate to Mindfire.

1. Quality of code is poor: yes, in many cases.

Most IT/software companies in India do everything – from programming to design to graphics to SEO to data-entry to marketing and so on. You cannot be the best at everything. Often you end up being mediocre in each. We do only one thing – “off-shore small-team software development” – and we do it very well. Starting from hiring to testing to reviews to environment to training to culture, we are focused on being the rock-stars of software development – only.

2. Takes longer: yes, in many cases.

Sometimes it is due to incompetence (related to first point above) and sometimes it is intentional over-reporting for financial reasons. We have neither problem. Money has never been a driver – we want to earn with pride and only want money that we deserve. We have been around for 13 years now and want to be around for much more than that – you cannot violate Truth and Integrity, and last that long.

3. A nightmare: yes, in many cases.

Sometimes it is due to communication issues, sometimes it is due to clients expecting magical solutions to unexpressed desires (our people may weave technical magic, but no other types!). Sometimes it is due to lack of mutual respect, sometimes it is due to plain old incompetence or inexperience. In any case, we offer a pleasant experience to our clients. We have selfish reasons – when our clients can relax about work, they can focus more on growing their business, which will create more work for us! When you are focused on the long run, things are quite simple actually.

 

This small exchange has not touched upon even more issues in off-shore software development! Those related to communication, culture, engineering replication, understanding, attrition – the list goes on.

It is sad to have to accept these points, but often they are, indeed, true. At Mindfire, we are building an organization that accepts and addresses problems in off-shore software development, rather than denying problems. Every day we find ways of doing things better, and each of them adds up.

Author – Chinmoy Panda

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The Customer is Always Right?

Is the customer always right? And if he is not, what do you do? One of our Software Development Leads faced this dilemma in almost an “Arjuna moment”..

(In the epic Mahabharata, as Arjuna stood ready for battle facing an army composed of his own family members, he wondered whether it was right for him to fight the battle at all. This dilemma froze his legendary skill and warrior will into non-action)
Situation Detail
(you can skip this section which has some technical details)

The client wants to make a mobile-compatible version of their web site. The web site is an online e-commerce site, developed using Adobe ColdFusion server technology.

Client priority is to get the mobile site out as quickly as possible. The thought process is to reuse as much as possible ColdFusion code developed for main web site, while generating a screen-compatible and down-sized mobile “face”. The strategy he suggested was to use front-end CSS scripts that would be added for mobile access only. Pages would be processed and downloaded exactly as the main web site. Then the additional CSS would also be downloaded on detection that page was being accessed from mobile. This CSS would do front-end browser-level manipulation (such as menu manipulation, image size and so on) to give an entirely different look and feel to pages, suited more to mobile screens.

While client wanted to follow this strategy, our technical and professional opinion said otherwise. Our Lead had tried to explain to client that this was a sub-optimal approach in the long run. Entire pages being downloaded and then “mobilized” using front-end CSS was essentially a trick with high bandwidth impact and soaring expense on data plans.

The real solution would be to restructure the application to move logic to sets of ColdFusion Components (CFCs) and use those from ColdFusion. ColdFusion code would be separate for mobile and normal web pages, and site redefinition should be done to evolve mobile-relevant functionality and pages. In short, a proper path to a mobile site.

Summary
You have a situation where client wants to follow technical path X, which has disadvantages. And there is a longer path Y, which is the correct technical approach. What do we do? Should we do X just because client says so? Or should we do Y because that is the “right” way to do it?

Opinion
Clients make choices based on a wider set of thoughts and priorities, some of which we may not be aware of. There may be a trade show the client wants to attend, or venture capitalist they need to meet, and they need a “quick and dirty” mobile-enabled site rather than a true solution. Maybe the client has thoughts on how a split code-base may cause maintenance and consistency issues, in spite of code restructuring for logic centralization. Maybe the client is not savvy enough to understand the technical aspects of both solutions. Maybe the client is simply not smart enough. Many possibilities exist.

Although we work in 1’s and 0’s, the real world is not binary. There is no black and no white, it is a range of greys. There is no right and no wrong, it is a range of possibilities.

A client’s choice is not necessarily wrong just because it is not the technically superior solution – there may be aspects we are not aware of. When you understand those aspects, perhaps you would make the same choice in his shoes. Perhaps the same choice is correct in his context, even if it is wrong in isolation or in our opinion. And finally, the client may make a wrong choice – after all every human (including us) is born with the right to make wrong choices.

Confusion
As self-respecting professionals, following something blindly is, to say the least, a criminal sin. Client or no client, we need to know and express our opinion based on facts and expertise. We cannot accept day as night just because client says so. Doesn’t matter if he is the client, if something is wrong it is wrong. We are professionals, not clerical staff to follow orders blindly.

However, at the same time, we do have to accept client choices. This is a simple and fundamental truth. We do not work in isolation. We work for clients. Clients pay for work with their hard-earned money, and if a client makes a choice we do not agree with or understand, we still have to follow the client decision.

So what does this mean, how can you do both?? How can we preserve our professional integrity and yet accept something that goes against our professional opinion?

The answer is simple.

Clarity
Before choices are made, our duty is to advise the client, to update him with our professional advice and informed opinion on negatives and positives of available options.

Once a choice is made, our duty is to do. Our duty is to align and focus and do as per client choice, even when we professionally disagree with that choice.

Who gets to make the choice? The client.

Why? Not because he is paying and is the client – that is an immature and misdirected thought process. But simply because the work is being done for him, and only he knows the entirety and facets of the situation and conflicting priorities, and can make the choice that is right or wrong for what he is trying to achieve.

Bottomline
The customer is NOT always right, and it is our job to express that opinion to customers openly instead of blindly accepting whatever customers say. But it is also our job to respect customer decisions once they are made.
What do you think?

(This incident and thoughts reflect some opinions, beliefs and a way of looking at things. I hope sharing these will lead to debate and discussion)

 

Author – Chinmoy Panda

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Thoughts on mobile technologies and tele-repair

Innovation doesn’t always mean creating new things. Using existing things in new ways is also innovation. Innovation does not have to be big-bang, it can also be soft and silent steps which make an impact. Innovative application of current, boring and existing technologies could itself make the most trivial jobs better! A small example follows.

I noticed a service-person last week working on the water filter in our office. He was speaking on the phone and explaining something animatedly to the person at other end of the connection. The water filter was open showing its innards and he was fiddling with wires of many colors. Some eavesdropping revealed that he was explaining something about the wires – presumably to a person with more expertise – their layout, condition, color and so on. There was some heat and argument as our man was getting impatient with the expert – because the expert couldn’t get the exact status as he was explaining it.

He was on a mobile, they spent 15 minutes trying to get each other to understand the physical status as it was and should be – using mobile phones. Tele-repair? Yes. Could this be improved? You bet – a picture is worth a thousand words 😉

The visual aspect was the biggest missing piece. Without getting into 3G and live-video-enabled phones, a still-photo mechanism using the ancient MMS would also do the job while being economically viable. The guy at the other end just needed to see the damn pieces once!

Ideally, I would visualize a flex-cord (one of those twisty things that retain shape after you twist them) connected camera mounted on the mobile phone, which you can twist and point at areas of interest. With a speakerphone and the camera streaming visuals of the situation, field service personnel can “show and tell”, and effectively carry out instructions relayed by the expert at the other end.

This wouldn’t be big to do nor would it cost much. However, what is also important is the linkage among these. You may have the tools individually but not the mind unless someone has told you. You may have a mobile, a camera in it, MMS capability in it or GPRS/3G email capability in it, even dedicated software and flex-cord dedicated camera hardware – but can every service mechanic put these pieces together?

So what we are looking at for field service using mobile phones as enablers is a combination of equipment (hardware/software) and training to achieve the end result. And bang! – you have the ability to distribute deep knowledge and abilities of a limited number of experts over a large number of field service personnel and customer incidents – the ability to scale up your service abilities without corresponding rise in expert manpower. And it is not restricted to something as mundane as economics – having experts help on more repair incidents thereby reducing cost-per-repair. It is simply that you can create only so many experts in so much time.

This ability to distribute expertise over distance and scale up efficiency is the premise of tele-medicine, and can be equally well translated to tele-repair. Tele-repair of high-end and delicate equipment would still justify bringing in the experts, but for equipment like household goods or white goods repair, sundry electronics repair such as on TV sets, on-site repair can be tremendously enhanced using new technology. Happier people, faster and more accurate repair activities, happier customers – it is happiness all around.

Much of above is possible with existing technologies today. Making a customized system might make it more usable and beneficial, but the core pieces already exist!

How much would it cost to set up a mobile phone with dedicated flex-cord camera and a software application that integrates streaming videos into an “environment” that is easy to use? Perhaps the next thing to chew on for our embedded and mobile-computing guys 😉

Author – Chinmoy Panda

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Something Special

Building Specialized Skills…

Much has been written about recent top-level churn and executive exit at Wipro, Infosys, Mindtree and so on. One way of looking at them is as symptoms rather than the disease itself..

The disease probably is the storm clouds brewing on the horizon for Indian IT service providers. Vineet Nayar had an interesting piece on China as emerging threat – http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-10-13/india-business/28272876_1_ceo-vineet-nayar-low-labour-cost-chinese-counterpart. This was preceded by the Nasdaq listing of a Chinese IT services firm. While structural deficiencies exist among Chinese providers, these are being firmly addressed right now – and the days are not far when effects will be visible.

Interestingly, apart from the Chinese dragon, increasing off-shore and blended capabilities of MNC IT providers such as EDS, CSC, Cap Gemini, Atos Origin and of course, IBM and Accenture, point to a world of increasing competition, reduced sales ability, diminishing margins and more value to be provided to more demanding clients. Throw into this mix a rising Cognizant and protectionism, and you have all the elements for a perfect storm.

Not surprisingly, some Indian IT promoters are bailing out. Stock sales by founder-promoters and exits (such as Raju allegedly diverting money to land or Patni selling out) are indicative of a not-so-rosy future being seen by those who know more.

For senior professionals, a fast life has suddenly skidded into stagnation, on the back of a just-concluded recession. Which means the excitement of growth and an infinite universe has given way to politics, infighting and games among colleagues – given the increasing realization that the world is indeed finite. Not difficult to understand why there is churn at the top. As battle lines get drawn among groups, members get thrashed around on these waves – for every senior-most person who exits, there are aligned juniors who are suddenly clueless about their future.

While this goes on at the macro level, how does it affect individuals? As an IT professional or software engineer, what can you do to protect yourself in this muddy future? You now have to compete with eager youngsters pouring out of colleges across the world, and faceless professionals seeking equality in a flat world.

Often, you will get attracted by superficial steps to save yourself: keeping a boss happy, keeping a client happy, somehow delivering a project albeit with patches, hiding a problem you know of, and so on. You forget that all this is transient – your organization, your team, your client, your project, your manager – all are maya, illusion, transient.

The one thing that cannot be taken away from you is you. Who you are, what you can do. Focus on yourself and the rest will flow. Some suggestions are below.

First, usually nothing beats competence.
Fundamental talent, ability, skills, competence, capability, approach, attitude are timeless. They always carry value. Every bug is an opportunity to get better. Every hour is an opportunity to learn more. Every colleague is an opportunity to understand better. Every project is an opportunity to go deeper. Every question is an opportunity to widen knowledge. How many opportunities do you waste every day?

Be great at what you do. Style never goes out of fashion. Competence never goes out of demand.

Second, nothing beats specialized competence.
If the world could have commodity skills supplied by junior and an all-nations workforce, who stands out? What can you do that others cannot? The answer is specialization. Specialization along any of multiple parameters – domain or industry specialization, platform specialization, tool specialization, product specialization, technology specialization, etc.

Be not a tester. Be a healthcare tester, a Mac tester, a GUI tester, a performance tester, a Selenium tester, a Content Management System tester, and so on.

Be not a developer. Be not even a Java developer. Be a Java Struts/Hibernate developer, a Java newspaper-systems developer, a Java Web 2.0 developer, a Java JBoss MVC developer, a Java media developer, and so on. Maybe even more specialized.

Competence is ability. Specialization is expertise. Combine both and you are unbeatable.

Third, sit back, relax and enjoy the experience. This industry is here to stay, and if you know how to make your own career unbeatable – specialization makes you special – it is going to be non-stop fun 🙂

Author – Chinmoy Panda

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Peer pressure vs beer pressure

Much has been written about the effects of peer pressure – both beneficial and harmful. The nadir of peer pressure was of course depicted by Chatur (Silencer) in the movie “3 Idiots” – a case of constant comparison and competition. Unfortunately, not enough research has been conducted on beer pressure – the pressure felt subsequent to beer intake. This has caused a large leaking hole in our body of knowledge on these two types of pressure, leaving youth of the world clueless about which pressure to adopt.Let us compare these two so that we may choose between them as informed adults. I strongly feel beer pressure is the right pressure, and my fair and unbiased arguments will hopefully prove the same.

The Big Fight

1. Peer pressure leads to fear, beer pressure leads to cheer
Constant comparison causes anxiety and fear of various kinds to build up inside individuals. This anxiety can affect the quality of life and work of even the most saintly person. On the other hand, beer pressure results in instant and all-forgiving, all-forgetting cheer that warms up the soul and fires up the mind.

2. Peer pressure causes bottling up, beer pressure results from un-bottling
Those who choose peer pressure are always looking over their shoulder to look at who is drawing close, as if the race can have only one winner. Bottled emotions cause scarred lives and incomplete human beings. The very first act in beer pressure, on the other hand, is un-bottling, a magnificent celebration of the release of human potential.

3. Peer pressure causes loneliness, beer pressure causes belonging
When you choose peer pressure, you are alone – every friend is a peer is an enemy. When you undergo beer pressure, you know you have a purpose, a mission, and you belong to a worldwide movement called “No Bottle Left Unopened” – all in it together.

4. Peer pressure is a complex path, beer pressure is a simple path
Complex is the person who cannot get away from comparison. Peer pressure takes you down a complicated path built out of competition and deceit, slyness and jealousy, envy and hatred. Beer pressure generally creates for you a straight and simple path, generally to the nearest washroom.

5. Peer pressure makes you mad, beer pressure makes you glad
Peer pressure = can’t get badder
Beer pressure = gladder in the bladder
Mathematical justice for poetic art.

6. Peer pressure implies hierarchy, beer pressure means equality
Comparison inevitably assumes that there is an underlying hierarchy of superiority and inferiority, of humans stacked on an unequal ladder. Beer pressure assumes nothing and believes in fundamental equality of humankind. You build an equal world glass by glass.

7. Peer pressure is measured in numbers, beer pressure is measured in decibels
Peer pressure is based on comparison of numbers. Exam scores, weights lifted, goals scored. Numbers don’t have personality. Numbers are drab. Numbers are black and white. Decibels, on the other hand, are colorful. Beer pressure is measured in decibels. Decibels come in flamboyant red and flaming orange and fantastic indigo and fabulous turquoise and f… perhaps we should stop here.

8. Peer pressure kills, beer pressure fills
No explanation required.

9. Peer pressure is free, beer pressure costs money
True. But free things are not necessarily good things. And beer pressure does invariably cause free speech, so there.

10. Peer pressure is driven by expectation, beer pressure is driven by desire
You truly shine when the person inside you can come out and shine. Peer pressure hides your true self, since you act as peers cause you to act. Your life is driven by others, from outside. When you enjoy beer pressure, your life is driven by you, from inside. That is when you truly shine.

11. Peer pressure means a small view of life, beer pressure encompasses the universe
Restricting our world view to our immediate others – our peers – is such a limited view of this wonderful world we live in. Break those barriers. Adopt beer pressure and you will feel at one with the universe – vasudeva kutumbakkan – which may someday lead to world peace. It is our duty to try.

12. Peer pressure elevates performance, beer pressure elevates
There is an argument that peer pressure can also be healthy competition while beer pressure is unhealthy consumption. I agree that peer pressure can elevate performance under the right laboratory conditions. However, my learned friends forget that beer pressure elevates – period. Doesn’t matter what – performance, life, friends, family, memory, mood, work – beer pressure elevates all. Indeed, there are frequent instances of elevation leading further to levitation.

And the winner is…

Evaluating with a fair mind the dozen arguments presented above, it is crystal-clear that beer pressure wins over peer pressure. Peer pressure needs to be banned and banished, and a movement has to begin for beer pressure to be made mandatory.

Some readers will oppose this conclusion even after agreeing with above arguments – submitting unconsciously to the very peer pressure they need to oppose. However, please understand the simple significance of this matter. The future of world history depends on what we do today. Let us build a culture that wipes out peer pressure in favor of beer pressure.

Relevance to Software and IT Industry

Leaders and managers in software companies especially, have to build maturity and responsibility in their software engineering teams with young people who have just been liberated from years of peer pressure. This is a tremendous challenge not to be taken lightly even slightly. There is no better path to this goal than beer pressure. The way to build team spirit is to do it with spirit.

I hope all leaders recognize the dangers of peer pressure, and promise not to use peer pressure to create differences among people in pursuit of “better performance”. Instead, use beer pressure to bind people together. Performance is science, togetherness is magic.

 

Peer pressure is for losers. Peer pressure is un-cool. Cool is the person who is incomparable, for s/he is peerless. Be yourself.

Down with peer pressure. Hail beer pressure.
Cheers 😉

Author – Chinmoy Panda

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Software Testers: Who is your boss?

I was spending some time with a software test engineer (Software tester) recently and have a simple realization to share.

“How come this runs so slow?”
“Oh it runs just fine, just some problems only in IE browser”
“Why?”
“Probably IE’s Javascript doesn’t run so well”
“Yes but soooo slow?!?”
“Yes… but my Lead has seen it and knows about it”
“Which means it doesn’t matter?”
“Well not that… client has also agreed to Chrome-only support”
“The site will support only Chrome?”
“Yes, we described the problem and got client to agree to it”
“Do you have it in writing?”
“Yes”
“Very good. But why is this the case in first place?”
Developers told me the 3rd-party component doesn’t run on IE.” (look on face: how does it matter since client has agreed anyway)
“You mean a best-selling web UI component library doesn’t run well on IE???”
“Yes that’s what developers told me”

After some pushing and research, it finally turned out that developers had to use another method of data access and voila! – everything ran smooth on all browsers.

No doubt, the incident above and its subsequent resolution display several best practices. Get acceptance criteria in writing. Make sure client understands limitations. Don’t trust explanations! Be hard-nosed. Use common sense (how can a best-selling web UI library possibly not function well on IE!). Don’t let your personal love override the obvious (Chrome is great but that doesn’t mean you can force users to switch).

An aspect I would like to focus on is: to whom should the software tester be responsible? Project Manager? Team? CEO? Entity/person who is paying for work?

In the course of project teams and organization and “reporting structure” and salary and revenue and a zillion other things, we forget what is obvious. In reality, the Lead/Manager doesn’t matter. The developers do not matter. The CEO doesn’t matter. The client doesn’t matter! They are all illusion, maya.

The only person who matters, the only person who finally decides, is the user. A software tester is responsible towards only the system being tested, and users of that system.

In the short run, you can get away by keeping your Lead/Manager happy. You can get away by accepting superficial wave-of-hand explanations from web application developers. You can get away by getting clients to agree to something illogical. You can get away by using bureaucracy to cover your behind – “I have it in writing”.

You can get away because the short run is imperfect. The short run can hide. But the long run is all about the right thing. The good thing. The correct thing. Quality. Truth. Details. Finesse. Care. The long run exposes everything.

The right thing here is to find and fix the problem, or find a workaround if it cannot be fixed.

If you do not, all might be well at the surface. But when the user rejects it in the marketplace, everyone loses. And why? Because we ignored her when we should have paid attention. We got confused by irrelevant intermediaries (colleagues, lead, client, CEO) and forgot who the software is being built for.

In the example above, the user is taken for granted. The user is actually expected to tolerate slowness, or switch her browser if she wants to enjoy our system. The IE user votes No and many users are IE-only. Yikes, that pinched!

As a software QA tester (whether for a web site or web application or desktop system or mobile app or server software and so on), you are the user’s voice and warrior. Don’t accept reasons. Make your point. File issues where you see issues. Revolt till someone notices. Help in getting the right thing done. Ride alone if you have to, but ride the right path.

Honestly, you are not alone in getting deceived by quick things. It is the same thing in business. Business gets confused by targets and profits and “customer satisfaction metrics”, because those are the quick and measurable things, although they are not what business is about. Business is about doing the right thing for people, not only the legally right thing.

Software testing is about doing the right thing for users, not only the officially right thing.

Thanks!

Author – Chinmoy Panda

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Mindfire 2.0 – A Vision for 2011

Sometimes organizations take time – years – to reach a stage from where they leap. Mindfire Solutions is today at that stage.

As we move forward to our next year in operation, allow me to close my eyes and see where we are next year. In one year from today…

I see new faces. The 300 freshers we selected between Nov2010 and Mar2011 have joined us in Jul2011 and are getting on to projects after some intensive training. I also see the remaining 700 of us helping and guiding the new people to get on-board.

I see more and better facilities and infrastructure – our second Bhubaneswar center in operation since Feb2011, our new NCR (Delhi) center of 500 capacity just becoming operational, our Bangalore center with 150 capacity operational since Mar2011, and our search has begun for 150 capacity centers in Kolkata (or similar) – to suit the rapid growth we are facing. I also see construction of Mindfire Towers at Bhubaneswar with 1000 capacity going strong since Feb2011, on track for opening in Apr2012.

I see a new workplace environment. All our cubicles were broken down in Mar2011 and replaced with open-table Agile layouts, everyone works off laptops, there are bean bags and sofas scattered inside the office, Wii game consoles, napping pods and relax spaces, vibrant colors, LCD screens running mixes of interesting things ranging from the occasional matches to tech videos. Lot of people work from home either temporarily or permanently, and we have a virtual workforce distributed all over the country.

I see a new working style. Everyone works with cooperation and collaboration, helping each other improve. Competition is with self, not others – how do I improve myself every single day? Leads, senior colleagues, everyone in the team and outside is thinking of how to help everyone else. We understand that our value does not come from designation or position. Our value is due to the value we provide to others around us.

I see the most out-spoken atmosphere any company has ever seen. We discuss and disagree (and agree) openly and without fear. Sometimes our thoughts are appreciated by everyone else, at other times they are not – but we accept that as part of life and move on to our next thought. The more we express ourselves, the better we feel and the greater the progress of the organization. This has begun to happen now because we understand after some discussions during Dec2010 – that at Mindfire there is no senior, no junior, no management – we are all in this together.

I see fantastically improved quality of work. We are committed to the work we do – small or large project, small or large client, we do our best. And our best is much better than it is today. We take responsibility, we earn our respect from our colleagues by doing stuff and not by flashing our credentials, we take pride in our craftsmanship and results. The quality improvement and skill improvement focus, the learning and knowledge and better-talent initiatives we started in Dec2010 have succeeded.

I see more and better people eager to join us. From all over the country, freshers to experienced, different technologies, different skills, different roles – all kinds of people – we are flooded with people who want to join us. Growth and learning opportunities, salary, responsibilities, environment – people like what they get at Mindfire. Among other things, the new salary levels we announced in Dec2010 for campus hiring has helped us attract talented people.

I see more and better clients eager to work with us. New and old clients, clients who come to us on their own having heard of our good work from others and clients who we pursue to get their projects, tech-deep clients and big-business clients – all kinds of clients want to work with us. The new messaging we began in Dec2010 has resulted in a unique position in the minds of clients. The sales offices we established in 10 different regions in US/Europe, starting in Jan2011, have taken client touch to a whole new level and enabled new relationships of a different scale.

I see new areas of work. We launched our BI/DW practice in Feb2011, our ERP practice in Mar2011, and our RIM practice in Apr2011 and have already completed some projects in each. We launched our Technology-oriented SIGs in May2011 and our System-based focus areas in Jun2011.

I see a new set of leaders and new styles in old leaders. The new leaders we identified in Dec2010 and fast-tracked internally have delivered responsibilities they could not believe themselves to be capable of, the new leaders we hired in Jan-Feb2011 have carved a greater path for Mindfire, and current leaders are at a higher level of maturity and responsibility after seeing what Mindfire is truly capable of.

I see us blazing the trail in innovation. Mindfire Labs is fully in operation and has delivered 5 innovative products for a better world. Several of our online systems and communities have succeeded in their objectives. 100Drivers has generated employment for 1000 unemployed youth since taking off in May2011, A/B/C have caused action towards better safety, government and education, and X/Y/Z have collectively generated great traffic and revenues. Most of these ideas were brainstormed and finalized during Dec2010-Jan2011, and then developed using an open-source mechanism where all of us could contribute in creating systems for a better world.

I see us doing innovative good for society. We are taking care of the upbringing of 100 children as per the scheme announced in Dec2010, the shelter we had planned together is under construction to house 100 children since Apr2011 (to be ready by Mar2012), our education scholarship scheme launched in Mar2011 has touched 100 children already, and we have just completed our 25th medical camp having started in Jan2011.

I see a new level of trust among us. People understand what Unlimited Leave is and why we are unique in having it, what a zero-hierarchy organization is and why we have it, what a zero-rooms organization is and why we have it, and so on. Those who were not comfortable with such organizational ideas and believed in traditional industrial/factory models of work, those who want respect due to designation and not talent, those who do not match the fundamental principles of the new Mindfire, those who do not understand quality and do not worship work, those who cannot adapt to changes – they left us before Apr2011.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new Mindfire – Mindfire 2.0. This is it.

Author – Chinmoy Panda

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Why the name “Mindfire”?

I have often been asked why we are named “Mindfire” – what does it mean?

When I decided in 1999 to create an organization focused on software development, several candidate names cropped up. I was very clear that the name had to embody the factors and spirit of software development success, based on my observations of this industry that I was and am so passionate about.

Numerous names were tossed around. I felt “Mindfire” hit bullseye.

In any field of human endeavor – bull-fighting or buildings, singing or software – nothing succeeds unless you have a balance between “mind” and “fire” – between the smarts required to do something and the action orientation required to do anything. However the criticality of this balance is perhaps the most intense in the field of software.

In software organizations, I had observed two causes of failure. On one hand, you had young and intelligent people who had the raw “intelligence”, but didn’t have an adequate action orientation toward actually doing things, learning things, delivering things – that killer instinct would be missing. On the other hand, you also had a terribly large number of people who would run around being “visibly loud”, doing things and lot of things with a lot of “fire” – but who perhaps did not have sufficiently sharp minds required in software development.

Obviously, I wanted everyone who joined Mindfire to succeed greatly in their careers. For this, our organization had to constantly remind them about this balance between mind and fire that was key for them to succeed in their chosen career. And what better way than to name ourselves accordingly!

Hence, Mindfire.

PS: Having observed hundreds of software engineers in the last 11 years at Mindfire, I have come across a new rare species which makes me feel the name needs an addition. A couple engineers had both the mind and the fire in place, but thoughts and movement in the wrong direction! So today I would perhaps call ourselves “MindFireArrow”: to succeed in software development you need to have mind and fire in equal measure, and both pointed in the right direction.

Author – Chinmoy Panda
 

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