Category: People

An immigrant story

Nanaji told me a great story. When he landed in the UK after the Second World War the first piece of advice he got was that there are different toilets for men and women in the UK! The second thing he was told was that tissue paper in toilets is not the same as a handkerchief but for a completely different purpose so, he should not stuff it in his pocket.

Weird huh.

Apparently in 1963, India did not have separate toilets for men and women. Well… You really don’t need to and fancy places around the world are switching to unisex toilets just to ensure toilet equality for women.

The other interesting and heartwarming story is of when he arrived at Heathrow airport. He was supposed to be picked up by a taxi driver named Himmat singh. A Sardar, who was nowhere to be found. When he had all but given up, he was approached by a gentleman. He asked who he was looking for. Nanaji said, ” Himmat singh”. He said, “oh ok”.

Nanaji gave this gentleman a big hug because he was almost in tears and thought that Himmat singh must have cut his hair as all Sardars had to do in the UK. No one would hire a Sardar if he did not get his hair cut. The man was quick to correct his misconception. He was not Himmat singh but knew him since he was looking around for Nanaji as well.

Nanaji went to Nottingham. He knew someone there. This gentlemen just added a charpoy to his one room to accommodate him. There were other homes where immigrants like him booked a time to sleep and lots of people shared the same bed on rotation. He was glad he at least had a charpoy. Today this is called hot-bedding or hot racking in the army.

The next morning, his friend took him to a factory for a job the next day. This began the most horrible week of his life. 50 years late he still physically shuddered while telling me about dealing with hot oil, black and sticky and difficult situations. He was lucky to have
been able to apply for a post office job. They were th best jobs to get but only educated people could get these jobs. But even this was difficult. You had to get references for the last 10 years of your life from India to prove that you were not a criminal. He told me that at that time, post officers handled cash in the mail.

The interesting thing about this job was that the job was in London but he applied for it and was interviewed and tested in Nottingham and how his papers arrived from India, I have no idea.

Fifty years later he is a British citizen getting his roof fixed by Polish immigrants who are eager for his work. Unlike the resident Indian owned construction company that went bust and left his job in the middle.

He is concerned about Brexit and what that means for his son who is a teacher in Madrid and his Spanish wife.

–Anubhav

Getting out of a slump 

If you are working on something important in a large company, chances are a lot more people at going to be involved in this project than you imagined and you have to find a way to engage and align them. I thought I knew this but I did not realise how crazy things can get. I think I almost got depressed working on this new, important project as I figured out how many conversations I needed to have and how many presentations I needed to make to get alignment. Here is a quick summary of how I felt during the last one month working on the project. 

Thursday July 4th: Down and Out

It’s so easy to get yourself down. I am having a hard week because it’s been difficult to figure out product strategy questions while figuring out the politics around it. Stakeholders are asking good questions but I’m just seeing them as roadblocks. I’m also spending every waking moment thinking about clever retorts and smart one liners to put them in their place. Obviously this is not healthy. And, for the first time in my life, I had trouble sleeping two nights in a row. 
So.. I brought out the big guns. I relied on the advice from Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss and my dad and decided to: 
  • Write 
  • Listen to music 
  • Change my body language to feel how I want to feel 
  • Journal (gratitude, morning journal) : Could not get myself to do this. 
  • Exercise to get the good chemicals flooding in (swam or cross fit every day) 
  • Decided to treat it as my problem to convince the roadblocks and make them allies. 
  • Met an old friend from high school. Had a good chat, good Zin, unhealthy food 🙂 
  • I also decided to blog about my predicament. This was very helpful. 
I have three paths forward now: Engage my team to answer the objections Ask the roadblocks how they would pitch the idea Let my management chain know that I will need help It’s amazing once you do stuff… Depression disappears and opportunities appear. You think about things you normally won’t. You smile. You change your mindset. The nature of the problem changes. Your head reconfigures. Hope this helps you get out of your head and “save your soul” https://youtu.be/0wBDDAZkNtk https://youtu.be/0wBDDAZkNtk 

July 18th: Working through it. In Action. 

Was a really difficult week but rewarding at the end as I was able to resolve conflicts, raise issues as and get stuff sorted out within the company so that we can get good results in the long term. I did not win every argument. I did not get exactly what I wanted. But it really allowed me to hear other people’s points of view. And, a promising future. 

Update August 16th: A fantastic week

Things have gone well since I decided to stay in action and bring all stakeholders along. It prevented internal sabotage. I did have to have difficult conversations in person with some stakeholders but it was all important and necessary. Had I seen these folks as roadblocks and tried to steamroll my way through, it would not have worked. 
Onwards and upwards. 
–Anubhav 

Hiring a product manager in India

I got promoted in December 2014 and started building my team post Christmas. This involved hiring two associate product managers and one product manager.

I started hiring for a these roles in the first week of January and got the last person to join on the 27th of April 2015. It look almost 4 months from start to finish when sourcing resumes was not a problem because I work at Adobe in Noida and that other PMs referred almost 90% of all candidates. I looked at about 60 resumes.

The resumes seemed remarkably consistent on the surface. All of the candidates were engineers and had an MBA. Very few of them had any entrepreneurial experience or had a background in design. This is typical.

The candidates were rejected for the following reasons:

  1. Attitude and fitment – this mostly happened in the interview stage
  2. Claiming more than they actually knew – rejected during phone screening by me
  3. Lack of fluency in English – rejected during phone screening by me
  4. Lack of understanding of software analytics – rejected during phone screen

The candidates that were hired had the following characteristics:

  1. Hunger to learn
  2. Excitement about the job
  3. Basic analytical skills or sharpness to converse on various topics in the software industry
  4. Strong communication skills –written and oral
  5. Honest!

What did I learn from this experience:

  1. Do not trust resumes
  2. Talk to every candidate on the phone or skype before bringing them in for an interview
  3. Ask them to present the plans for the product they are interviewing for before interviewing them to ensure they can really build a POV on the product and communicate it well
  4. Ask for a writing sample where the candidate explains why they will be good for this job

I will post a follow up with more details on the demographics and educational qualifications of the candidates soon.

Thinking of Sarandeep Singh

Sarandeep Singh
Sarandeep Singh

Don’t know why I dreamt of Sarandeep two night ago. That dream is still haunting me. Not because it was scary, diagnosis medicine it is mostly because I thought I had forgotten about his death. I though everyone had. I don’t even remember how long ago he died, viagra tragically, no rx accidentally falling from his friend’s balcony. He is survived by his wife and child.

I interviewed him for a program management position at Adobe. He was working at Sapient. We all liked him and hired him. He reported to me for almost two years, I don’t remember now. He was good. Balanced and practical. Unlike some other Program managers in my team, I never heard complaints about him from peers. If anything, I would say he could have been more aggressive than he was but then again, he was good. Just a solid human being.

When I heard of his death, I was in the US. I could not believe the SMS I got from Neeraj telling me that he was gone. It was a short message. Adobe did a lot to help his family out. This was great to hear. It was also heartening to hear that a lot of people from Adobe went for his funeral. It must have been hard. He was so good and his son only 11.

Life goes on and so do companies. He was replaced by someone. I don’t know who. We all went about our lives as thoughts of him gave way to routine. The dream reminded me that I don’t have closure. Maybe I need to go speak to his wife. But I have nothing to say. I just so want to see that they are ok. Just to reaffirm my faith in family and life.

I also want his death to mean something to me. To make me change my approach to life. What if I fell off a balcony tomorrow? Will my family be ok? How will they remember me? How will they adjust to the new normal? I am also surprised at this sudden surge of sadness as I sit on a plane on the way the US again.

Dreaming of Saran reminded me that I want closure when there is no real impact of him going away on me but I still want to be good. Maybe as good as him. Someday.