Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mentorship!!! Is it a SCAM

   Mentorship is a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger, but have a certain area of expertise. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn.

During the early days of my career, I was fortunate enough to work under some awesome people who mentored me. Naturally I believe mentoring adds a lot of value at work place, schools or elsewhere. We all need some one we look up to/learn from.

Recently I have come across/been part of some mentoring programs. Mentoring as a word has like 150 synonyms. Naturally it is an ambiguous term!!! I will write about my experience below.

Mentor High school children
I was part of a program that is catered towards helping troubled children(bullied, troubled families etc.) at a high school. I had to undergo professional training to be part of this program. In a nutshell, your role is to show up and listen to the kid, if he or she wants to talk. We all know teen agers do not want to talk to anyone, let alone a stranger. I(and lot of other mentors)felt that, most children that were part of the program, were there for 2 reasons
  • Miss a period.
  • Free morning tea

Since it is so hard to measure the effectiveness of these programs, are we doing it just to satisfy our guilt. Is this like how we donate money to charity and feel good about ourselves??

Mentoring at Technology companies
I heard from John (lets say an acquaintance, obviously I have changed the name) about the shambles of mentoring in their organisation. They bring in university students and mentor them (God save those students). I asked John, what kind of plan/structure do they use. He said, there is no plan. Its impromptu, learn on the go... Students show up, watch YouTube videos, play pool and go home. Organisations selfish motive! marketing. Students pair with mentors who can't code dig or drill (lookup its a programming puzzle) if their life depended on it. Some of the mentors resist learning new things citing, its too hard. I asked John, doesn't he feel ashamed to be part of something like that? Imagine your child being mentored by such people!!! (John does not have children that he knows of or is responsible for hahahahahah). John himself needs mentoring hahahahahah. He was curious to know, how to run these programs. I explained to him how Thoughtworks, with their university program does an awesome job of mentoring University students. He said, that's all too hard and he is too low in the cadre to bring in changes.

What bothers me is the future of the society with such mentors and such attitude. If these mentors have kids, imagine what they will leave behind. If you take the hypothesis of, next generation will be better at things than the previous generation; Well, will leave that for your imagination.

Now read the definition again!!!!

"Honesty is a liability worth keeping"
     ---- Keshav (trade marked)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to hire like an amateur

I am an engineer(Fake one, Computer Science that is). When I was looking for a job in Melbourne, I realised how broken the process of hiring is. Mostly it is all recruiter driven. On a job ad site like, you can't even see the name of the company before applying. I think thats rubbish. I will narrate my ordeal with an organisation and then express some ways of fixing it (I think).

This organisation is a property listing/searching organisation. People who want to rent/buy houses in Australia use this website. There was no phone conversation to start off the process. I received an email asking me to solve a hypothetical problem to assess my coding skills. After seeing the problem I replied with below email;

Hi HR,
    Glad to hear from you. Hope you are doing well.

I would like to express a few points with regards to this opportunity.

The problem that you have asked me to solve is old and outdated. If I search for solutions, I find hundereds of them on github. I don’t think the problem does justice to either my time or your developers time who will review it. Instead I would like to share my github profile so you guys can see the Open source projects I contribute to. I have also attached the codebase of a personal project that I have been working on since last 3 weeks. I saw an opportunity to solve a lingering problem in most systems, came up with the design and implemented the prototype. I have invested around 20 hours of time on this. This would give you guys an opportunity to see what I have to offer.

I would also like to mention that, I have interviewed with your organisation couple of years ago. I solved a few problems on a code evaluation site. I have attached the code of the same. I passed it with flying colors. I had few meetings with folks. In the end I was informed that I would get bored, as they did not have an opportunity challenging enough for me. Unless that is your way of saying I was no good, thats how it ended.

I am really passionate with my work, hope it will not be perceived as arrogance. I want to make sure it is worth my time and yours (this time around).

It would be great to have a discussion with your developers after they have seen what I have done.

My thoughts;

  1. Same strategy to hire everyone is not great. I am not a rockstar programmer but 19 years, 3 Continents, couple of failed startups with niche products and 18 months of Social Impact work, that makes a difference. I am not saying don't assess my coding skill. You should always start with a 15 minute phone call. Treating candidates as if their time is not valuable is ridiculous. Not everyone looking for a job is desperate.
  2. Contribution to Open Source is a great indicator. Its about time we in Australia start adopting good things from silicon valley.
  3. If there is a way to assess candidates hunger to learn, that would be awesome (can be done in face to face conversation)
  4. Assessing coding skills should be based on the resume, should not be dogmatic. When I interviewed at google India, I was not asked to write any code but I got raped (mentally) for 7 rounds. They did make me an offer.
  5. As an organisation, do you want to hire people who say yes or the ones that question the status quo? Answer to this question is very important. That will guide a lot of decision making when it comes to hiring.

I am a strong believer that, an organisation must get their hiring strategy right (other than the business model to make money). If that is broken, everything else will fall apart.

The very same organisation, boasts about their startup like culture etc etc.. at conferences and their hiring process has no respect for the candidate!!!

I haven't heard from them after the email... hahahaha.

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." - Abraham H. Maslow