Category Archives: education

A Vague Sense of Order, No Sense of Purpose

Earlier this month I spent a couple of days as a ‘guest’ at Infosys Mahindra City (district finals for Aspirations 2020 - a TopCoder style programming competition). Interesting experience.

No laptops allowed. No storage devices either. Cameras are okay, but “please don’t take pictures”. Phones are okay too. The usual complimentary grope as you enter. Random security guards ask “Where is your ID card?” at random times. Buses bringing in hordes of people. Couples being couply in food courts. Reasonably good food. Formal clothes, without regard to the weather.  Everyone smiles when talking (unless they’re security guards). Respectful deference to hierarchical authority (with a big smile & explicit announcements of gratefulness). Unlocked cycles to travel around the campus.

A vague sense of order, but no sense of purpose.

This is what people are trying to (and mostly succeeding) in making Engineering ‘education’ resemble. If you’ve made peace with how engineering colleges are, you’ll feel completely at home at Infosys. Accident?

What do you do when only 0.3% of School Teachers pass the Eligibility Exam for Teaching?

You increase the time from 1.5 hours to 3 hours and give them another chance, of course!

Keeping in mind the welfare of children and the need for teachers to fill vacancies, the government directed TRB to conduct re-examination for candidates who failed to obtain 60 per cent marks.

The government has directed TRB to increase the duration of the test time from one-and-a-half hours to three hours with additional 30 minutes for blind candidates.

(from the Deccan Chronicle)

What wonderful concern for the future of our country/humanity. I also wonder if there is such a test for College Lecturers, and how the pass percentage for that would be.

Update: Teachers now protesting against ‘difficulty’ of test, asking for “Grace Marks”. Oh well.

(via PavadaNada)

 

Story of Average Indian ‘Techie’

Note: I am just reformatting + putting this in one piece rather than have it split across multiple comments on reddit. Am not the original author

Beautifully laid out by someone in the under-trafficked r/india:

my state has 300+ engineering colleges and my parents decided that i am going to be an engineer. so, i wrote an exam and got into one institute (luckily i can make it into a good institute where there are campus interviews.. the luck being i might have gotten 2 multiple choice questions correct than an unfortunate guy who will be discarded by our society)

Here i am in college. Nothing big here, professors are very friendly and if you are good to them(i always made it a point never to refuse whatever they ask ,,, please do not think i am homo), they will give marks, or you can later request them and because your future is at stake they will give you some marks.

when the admin password for our oracle installation did not worked, my professor in DB class wondered if we could have tried it with some more s (***) instead of 6 *s(as in ***). This is one of the A+ rated institute in the country and the professor is a phD in CS. No, the password is not made of * characters.

In the examination we are supposed to write the code (yes, the code) on paper and submit it. Most of the guys did scored more than 80% by writing an universal program (includes, defines, main (), some function names related to the problem, the usual i j k and l, loops and finally adding fflush () and return at the end ) nobody can dare try to understand what is in between.

We had this big campus placement drive, when we got the usual aptitude (if ram worked for 4 days and shyam for 5 days, in how many days the work is completed) and tricky questions ( can you write a one line c code to find if a number is even) and the most complex of them (string reversal, tree traversal) questions, leaked one day before from the previous college the company went to recruit. we all prepared well and some got lucky. most of the times, even if fail to answer any of the questions, but smile pleasantly, you got in. sometimes, even the smiling part it not necessary, you just have to act how stupid they are to ask such questions to you..

when we joined this big company, we got trained in how to use the PC and every programming language and every operating system and every technology, each one not taking more than a couple of days. We worked hard and successfully completed the training. the test is on a PC, but the question bank is known (airtel friends ad).

Now, we are put into a project, we are given a contact number of the manager and office location and were told to meet him there. we, group of 3 people (we are friends by now) try to locate the manager hard for 2 days and finally get hold of him. we explain him that we are sent by Ms.knowallthingsbutactuallydumb to work in (t)his project.

He jovially introduces us to the technical lead. TL says he will give work after some time, but meanwhile asks us to 1) collect all the birthdays,contact number, mail id, designation details of all the team members, make an excel sheet and mail it to everyone. 2)sit with a senior engineer who is doing testing (pressing keys and entering some form data in a webpage and checking the output) and we enter the data all day and give him the screenshots at the end of day.3)attend team meetings (why we are the only ones to get there first and wait for everyone for 30 mts) make MoM and email it to every one and track the action items (yes, now we know these terms.. you cant put us in noob mode)

Then this goes on for 4 months, still no real IT work. we are wondering why we are not given any work (this is the 8th month we are in the company, drawing salary). we try to get some real IT work from the seniors, but they always seem not to notice us and not taking us serious. But, being new to the environment and in doubt of our capabilities, we let this go. we make merry of the free time, enjoying the cafeterias, making (cute) friends from other teams, roaming around the big campus and then one day, the manager calls us all in. this is not the typical meetings we are experienced with, because the manager talked to us into the meeting and scheduled it as high priority calendar invite, only to us, the freshers.

Wondering if any of us did anything wrong (it is a relief to find ourselves not doing anything at all, still) we walked into the meeting. The manager is very blunt. Higher-ups (client and Delivery manager) is questioning about the productivity and inquiring what the freshers are doing in the project. Manager tells us that we need to show output and contribute to the project work. One member replies him that we never got any work assigned. Manager becomes more serious. he questions our lack of initiative and tells us that we should deliver results. He calls the team leader into the meeting and tells him that we should be working on any pending issues and asks him to track our progress.

We are scared, confused, and do not know what to do. then the TL takes us to his desk and on a white paper strip (of size A8) draws a diagram (Euclid would know better shapes) explaining to us the product, process, standards, and every other thing (you should never touch the code, you should never email anyone without it being shown to me first …) and gives all of us guest permissions to a directory/machine.

We are all happy now, we got into real IT work somehow (may be the manager is angry, but we can impress him with our work later and change it). we also heard, if we perform better we will get sent to the USA and can stay there for 3-6 months. this really motivated us. we immediately logged into the machines, started reading the code.

We could understand nothing. The code is nothing like we wrote or tried to write during our college days, it is not even like whatever is taught in training. everyone of us scared now, we the freshers. now we talked among ourselves, first to know if other guy had any answers and then to know if they dont. to approach the seniors, who always seem to be busy, either at their workstation or at the printers (i do not know why such a rush at the printer area) and to disturb them with our silly questions seemed like bad to us. so we turned to GOOG.

everyday we gone through each source file (php, html, JS, shell) and googled the meaning of everything we do not know and that is everything. the TL never bothered us after the first meeting. we are also making notes of the things and looking back, i think we could have made a wikipedia then. such was our effort, but at the end of a couple of months it did not made any sense to us, except that we now know how to write a hello world alert page in IE (sorry, it is in HTML, JS).

So, we completed 1 year in the company. our reviews are coming up but we have not done anything yet. again we are in a panicky stage. Meetings are going on, but we are just continuing taking the MoM and distributing it. Now and then, we are hearing some terms (forms, tables, elements, script, position, width, validation, anchor, cursor, layout …) we learnt from exploring GOOG. it made us feel good, but we thought we are not IN yet.

Somehow we finished our annual reviews, all of us got mid-rating and manager explained to us later that we do not get much hike as our ratings are average. One of us who stayed late hours in office because he came late everyday(he lived in some faraway place) got 1% more hike than us.

This went on for 3 more months, we using GOOG to learn some terms, and doing some job works to other team mates. like one day, i stayed overtime, took printouts of the client webpages (pages and different instances) and stacked them neatly, so the senior engineer can go through them (i do not know the need for this yet), and like this another day, when i have prepared this big excel sheet and entered Pass/Fail from another automated report and this excel sheet generated some more sheets with nice charts. Another friend of mine tracked the billing hours similarly..

Then, one day the Manager again called us. Asked us what we are doing, and it is good to see that he is very satisfied with our work. The TL also gave a good feedback and told the manager that we worked independently and always helped the team. The manager nodded, and told the TL to send our resumes to client and put us into billing. Again, we are worried. Tension is on our faces, what to put into the resume, how to answer any questions from the client…

TL asked us for our resumes immediately, we prepared them and sent it to him, but prayed to god, there be no client interview. TL called us in and told us that he modified our resumes (what a relief, but wait) and added Web technologies (meanwhile clients also know our names as we are in CC list and in some group mail lists) experience and Enterprise Apps (Oh, its time for GOOG again, for us) so that it will seem relevant to the client. We wondered what will happen, if the client asked us questions on those and we do not get selected. TL told us not to worry, he will take care of it…(this time we are courageous enough to ask the TL, because we do not want to bow our heads before a white guy)

Then, after 5 weeks (client manager is busy or on vacation hence the delay) it is informed to us that we got selected into the team. As we are already there for the last 1.5 years and working in the project and familiar with web and enterprise technologies, the client had no objection for us to be in the project. we felt so happy, manager and TL both congratulated us, and it felt like a new job joining day for us..

Now, everything is set. forget the education, trainings, friends, politics in office,, Now all that is left on the highway is to cruise at whatever speed we allow ourselves. We are all so happy, and one of the friends is already planning to move to a better paying company after 1 more year of working in Web and enterprise technologies. I am already thinking about when to ask for onsite opportunity, whether i should wait for couple of months or make my wish known to the manager right now itself?…

So, the D Day has arrived. it is the day(remember, the speech in Independence day movie).Hence forth, i will no longer be known as just me, but as a techie (forward 1 year i can add Sr. before that).

My assignment and the Project?? Usability Project.. testing the clients web platform for its usability and generating metrics and reports in rich media formats.(now, you know why the rush at the printer)

- anonymous

Sounds very true, from second hand experience of people who are working there. Anyone with first-hand experience to corroborate this?

3 reasons why people join ‘IT companies’

Source: Friend of mine who is sadly ‘training’ at a big ‘IT company’ now (He wishes to remain anonymous, and I could see why)

  1. Because everyone else did
  2. Because parents told
  3. Because it will be very sophisticated and relaxing there, with lots of recreational facilities

I’m just going to leave this here, and hope that when this boom does bust, it doesn’t leave too many dead bodies in its wake.

Why working at “Big Co” is unsatisfying

Update: As usual, good comments at HN.

I’ve been trying to put it in words for a while, and failing utterly every time. swombat gets to the crux of it wonderfully:

At the same time, something really bothered me about my work. It felt pointless. One project I did (whose output was basically a PPT and Word document outlining the successes and failures of a client project), which took two and a half months, had, as its only apparent purpose, the promotion of the person who had led the project. Accenture was paid (quite well) so that I would sit there and produce a piece of paper that justified this person’s promotion.

To me, that didn’t seem like a good use of the precious few years we have on this Earth. In fact, the feeling that I was wasting my time was really killing me inside (I’m not exaggerating).

My life in Accenture before Startups

Indeed. I’d be surprised if anything in the Indian “Big Companies” are any different – perhaps worse (thoughts/experiences?).

There is a silver lining though:

One of the most crucial things I learned in Accenture was how to hold back my habit of being blunt and direct with everyone. I learned to be smoother and far more effective. That’s a valuable thing to learn.

As Vijay would tell you, that’s something I’d definitely find useful – something that every geek would find useful (relevant link about geeks being assholes, and excellent HN comments). Perhaps a stint at Infosys would help me there? :D

“Infosys, TCS or Wipro?” “None”

Succinctly written post that every engineering college student should read.

Ofcourse, someone should write a post called “CS, EC or EEE?” “Neither” for high school students, because for a lot of people the answer to the question “Should you do Engineering?” is a huge “No”.

The comments section is even more awesome. Choice quotes:

A sympathizer/astroturfer/cognitively dissonant person writes:

Are you saying that anybody who can browse the internet and knows about the computer can do our jobs? Don’t you think we would find that a bit insulting? It might be true in many cases where the proper training can make a monkey do our jobs, but isn’t that true for many fields? Aren’t monkeys being trained to pilot airships?

And is responded with multiple ‘yes’es. I was quite astounded, surprised, even enraged when I heard someone working there describe his job as “I do nothing, really. I’ve to press buttons and record answers in excel sheets. Rest of the time I can hit on the girls and do my own thing. Nobody cares. It’s more fun than college!”. Sigh.

Also, another point mentioned by someone anonymous:

6. Brand name: Students feel that Infosys, TCS, Wipro are great brand names. It is far from the truth. Infosys, TCS, Wipro are embarrassing brand names to write in your resume with the exception if you want to join another Infosys, TCS, Wipro like company or Cognizant, Accenture like companies who are ready to hire any crap that comes out of Infosys, TCS, Wipro. Good technical companies know that these brand names are like balloons. They look big from outside but has only gas inside. Actually an engineer from a good but less popular startup has more chance than a person from Infosys to get a call of interview from a big technical company.

“Working at Infosys for 6 years!” only sounds awesome to maamis who want to buy you for their daughters.

Another typical attitude that boils the blood of anyone with a tiny bit of work ethic:

hello all, what if someone(CS/IT engineer) is not interested in engineering and he wants to do mba from a very good college. But he needs time for preparation. So he make decision to join tcs/infosys/wipro (cause he didn’t get job other than these companies), only for job experience and he can get time for preparation of CAT/XAT/snap/cet etc.. Will it be a good decision??

And of course, the actual ‘client’ who gets shafted:

I am quite alarmed by Sam’s response, especially his 5th point where he writes that the Indian vendors send their employees to work on client’s site not because they are proficient in technology but because you need to factor in everyone’s needs and desiers. Excuse me! We need good technology people. Why can’t you guys just be professional and keep your personal lives and poverty away while discussing technology?

I highly recommend you guys go and read the entire blog post *and* the comments. Especially if you’re still in college. The placement cells at many colleges make it appear as if these are the ultimate companies ever, that you should fast and pray for 30 days to get a job there – but they have no other go. This, and their reviews at Glassdoor (Infosys, TCS, Wipro, HCL)

I’m waiting for this boom to crash. And burn. Mass de-brainwashing is important for our future. This topic definitely needs a bigger rant from me someday.

Stolen Disclaimer:

ALERT: If you are not interested in making a career in engineering, lack the confidence to do so, or you are very content with working for one of these three companies for reasons that are valid to you, you may stop reading this and go back to what you were doing before landing on this page.

Thanks to Shankar Ganesh for pointing this out to me.

Enthusiastic Teachers and Naive Implementation of Gauss Seidel Approximations

This semester, one of our so called electives (despite the fact that we have no real choice in them) is Numerical Methods. I don’t quite like the actual way the subject is taught – mind numbing, error prone calculations with a calculator. However, the methods are pretty awesome.

The staff explained Gauss Seidel yesterday, and it seemed a straightforward recursive solution to me. So in the break, I cooked up a small python script that gave me all the intermediate answers as well – so for any assignments I could just run them through this and copy it to paper.

What happened after that was more interesting. The staff made an offhand remark that she hates the subject, since it involves so much mindnumbingly repetitive calculative work, and not something fun like probability theory. I picked it up, and we had an interesting conversation that ended up with me showing her a 3-function version of the above code and explaining to her how I got this. She was incredibly interested – and asked me how to explain each line properly.

Was a lot of fun. Sad that this is the first time in 3 years that I’ve had someone who is actually interested in what they’re teaching, rather than treating it as just a normal 9-5 job not much different from herding sheep. What exactly can we do to change this?

Blogging From Under The Table During Class

One of the major advantages of my netbook is that I can actually use it in class, under the desk – and most staff won’t notice ;) And even if they do, I can easily and neatly close the lid, put it in standby and become innocent good boy :D

I’ve zoned out from what’s happening in class a long time back. I just looked up, and it’s something I really do like (withheld to protect the name of subject). It’s being taught in a ‘marks-oriented’ way – “You need to write this for this much marks, and that for that much mark. Don’t you dare to miss this line, then YOU WILL GET ZERO MARKS!’. I look around. Most people are either texting others, or dutifully copying down what is being written on the board (which itself is copied from some TextBook). I zone out again.

8 hours a day. Waking up everyday at an ungodly 6 AM. Around 2 Lakhs not counting auxillary expenses. 2 hour commute that makes you wish you were dead, after giving you an awful back pain. A huge set of lessons in politics.

I wonder what I’m getting out of this. What anybody is getting out of this.