Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tiger Kids

This post is dedicated to the kids!

If you want to build a high-end computer, watch the video above: Poseidon: Components Overview, followed by the more detailed Poseidon: Computer Build.  If you’re not curious about what it takes to build a high-end computer, you can skip these steps. But read on...

The video above is of Ronny’s personal summer project last summer. He’d just turned 17. The video was completely shot and edited by Rikki, who is 13.  I started my education on computers at age 19! Okay, you, say - that’s not a big deal, kids grow up with iPads these days, and, if you watch the videos above, it’s doesn't seem that hard...

It is! Especially, when, at 17, during your summer vacation, you’re also doing a 9-5, 5 days-a-week internship at a Silicon Valley internet startup! And you just returned from participating at the National Speech and Debate Championships with your team. And you have to IM your friends, play Starcraft. And Tetris. Prioritize! And you’re also expected to write a 10-minute original advocacy speech, which has to be approved so you are allowed to participate on the debate team next fall!  And you’re getting ready to start your college applications as the summer expires... and … Weekends? What weekends? You’re in a hard hat atop a second-floor scaffolding at a Habitat for Humanity project.

I did some extra-curricular stuff when I was growing up, but it’s ridiculous to put them in the same category!

A lot has been written on Tiger Moms and Tiger Parents and shuttle services! Yes - there is a lot of pressure parents create in driving their children to perform and succeed. No denying that, and us Asians have been known to do our fair share...

But this post is for the kids!

A few months back, I was asked by a friend’s son if I would agree to do an interview for a high school project essay about Google. Sure, I said, thinking I’d be happy to invite him to the famed Google lunch and show him the mini-kitchens and the nap pods and lap pool and the volleyball courts.  He comes in, and he asks about Google’s policies on privacy and user data! His questions were deep and covered a lot of ground. Egad! This is like a media interview! Be careful...

I should have expected this - these are tiger kids!!

The thing is this - the kids who are pushing themselves are not succeeding only because their moms have aggressive feline traits and bad driving habits! They are succeeding because they are driving themselves and their peers to a level of effort and performance that is difficult to comprehend. A sampling of Ronny’s tiger peers: One of his classmates has found an issue/defect in the whooping cough vaccine! Another is a math whiz at the national and global level. Another understands the U.S. economy better than almost everyone in congress! (I’m being dead serious here!) They are all at the state, national levels in speech and debate. And they built a world-level knowledge bowl team, top notch science bowl team (of their own volition) or went off and helped communities in South America. They take advanced classes - perfect grades, great SATs.  I don’t have time to talk about the Royal Bengal. And, we’re not really counting the things their tiger parents got them to do - music, this and that.

Some of them are too lazy to exercise! (I have to get that out of my system!!)

I know the parents.  Yes - we participate and volunteer time and I’m sure we push and prod and want them to succeed - to reach their potential. But the point that’s often missed is - these high achievers are driving themselves and each other to achieve. Achievers achieve!

And so far, I was not talking about the super-duper athletes that are in these schools, who are the next generation of Olympians. Who wake up at 5 a.m. to practice water polo before school and also practice after school because they are the best in the state. And travel. And have to manage their academics. And...

These are tiger kids. I expect (and hope) that most tigers will do well in their lives.

The unfortunate thing is that some of these kids will not get admitted to the college of their choice! Seldom, it will be because they will bequeath a slot to someone even more brilliant and accomplished. Sometimes, it will be because these schools want diversity and will take less accomplished applicants. Sometimes, ironically, it will be because of their parents - because they marked “Asian” for race in their applications.

It’s a zoo out there! There’s only room for so many tigers!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

From Googley to Googly

I have evolved to be more soccer crazy than cricket fan! Growing up in India, I did play cricket. I was a better bowler than batsman; I switched to batting left-handed; it was more stylish, and … wonder of wonders … I was more effective! (Baayein haath ka khel! - for my desi friends.)  I was a leg spinner. Once in a while, I did accomplish the effect of a Googly - it’s a tricky ball that goes the opposite way to what you’d expect. (I see from the Internet (which is always right!) that I used to accomplish the effect in a wrong fashion :-))

After almost six years of being Googley (being a Googler, doing things from the inside), I’ve become a Googly - I’m taking a different path going forward. This ball just took different spin.

I’m no longer with Google. I’ve joined a startup called Lexity! Lexity’s built a technology-driven marketing platform for ecommerce - filling an important need for merchants who would rather focus on running their businesses than figuring out how to deal with the complexity and nuances of online marketing using multiple channels. Stay tuned for more coolness!

Google was a unique company to work for - the focus on execution and innovation is amazing, even for a large company, which it has now grown up to be. I’ve learned a lot about company culture, open communications, empowering small teams, persistence, devotion to the consumer experience, and the tradeoffs required to rapidly launch quality products.  The food, the shuttle and the table tennis were icing!

At Google, I navigated several products - Google Search, Google Alerts, the Google Custom Search platform (that now powers several products), Google Services for Websites, Google Search Appliance and Google AdWords - many teams, many friends! This has kept me on my toes, but I expect the startup environment will teach me many new things!

New ball… new delivery!

I’m looking forward to continuing to deliver great products!

Stay hungry! Stay foolish!” - as a wise man said.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


This post is dedicated to an ex-colleague of mine - Neil Latarche - who passed away recently.

The photo above is at a Madrid hotel I stayed at  - these doors are elevator doors. The interesting thing about this hotel is that each floor was designed by a different famous designer and had a unique decor, character and personality. Each floor has its own attributes and parameters. You had a choice for which floor you wanted your room to be on. You had to navigate through these choices for your hotel room selection. Then get on one of these elevators. Doors to choices!

At every step in our lives, we're faced with options. Doors! Sometimes, doors shut, and sometimes, doors open. Sometimes, when we're in comfortable surroundings, we know what's behind the door. At other times, when in strange surroundings, we have no clue what's on the other side, but we walk through those doors anyway, hoping that there's light and warmth on the other side. Sometimes, there are friends and laughter on the other side. At other times, there are only strangers!

Every once in a while, the door leads to a room that has no floor, and there's only nothingness when you walk through. We'll all walk through that kind of door once - it will be the last door we open.

Neil was a really sharp guy - we overlapped at Verity (which no longer exists) - he spearheaded the implementation of Verity's parametric search - structured navigation with attributes and choices.

Verity's logo was that of a door - a portal

Neil - you will be remembered!