Perspectives from the *other side* on Software, Management and Life

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In favor of recession

Recession, contrary to common opinion, is a needed part of the economy cycle and more importantly for sustaining our civilization.
Booms while great, do have downsides. No need for me to write on the upsides of a boom since they're well known and even fantasized! So to the upsides of a recession:

1. Helps the 'humanity' aspect. During extended booms, its easy for individuals to became part of a rat race ie who has the biggest car, the exotic summer vacation etc etc. Recessions enable individuals to be grateful for what they took for granted. It helps reset the human clock on being content.

2. Improves professionalism. This is my favorite - during booms the dumbest of the lot start to believe an imaginary worth of themselves. During booms, the human resource shortage creates an impression in the heads of the 'not so above average' that they have abilities that need to be coveted by employers. Well, the wake up call during recessions, when the low performers are typically first to be let go helps them get out of their slumber. I've seen engineers being hired in booms who I would hesitate to hire as blue-collar workers, and that puts a dent in any organizations minimum bar of professionalism.

3. Sets up an environment for the next boom. Recessions help people realign such that the bad typically get weeded out and the great get some breathing space to kick around. This sets up the infrastructure for the next boom since exceptional talent is able to focus without being distracted by the not-so-talented.

So next time you hear that we're in a recession, stop and think if you're one of those who needs to realign and/or push harder to be the best that you can be.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rails Developers

I've recently started noticing the same trend in Ruby on Rails development as Java development was 10 years ago. Everyone who is anyone is jumping into it. From engineers to musicians. While its nice to have a lot of developers, the end quality remains elusive. So if you're thinking about picking up Rails, ask yourself this:

Are you in it for the money or are you in it for the passion?

If you're for the former, all the best to you, I really dont have much to say after that.

If you're the latter, then I suggest you strategize before becoming a code monkey, a list I'd recommend is:

1. Read the basics - ie know what Ruby is first and then pick up on the basics of Ruby on Rails
2. Write a simple application - but dont leave the 'magic' work under the hood without understanding it. Rip it apart, figure out why something works and why it doesnt work. Scaffold's and ActiveRecord in Rails make web development look like a walk in the park. But only those developers who understand what happens under the hood make it past the standard websites and onto the more interesting and challenging tasks of scalability and security.
3. Keep returning back to the basics. A sky scrapper would fall if its foundations were to be eroded. Dont let that happen to you.
4. Be active on GitHub. Nothing beats being the person who writes code that hundreds or thousands of other developers get to use. And you'll learn meta-programming in the process too!
5. Take on energetic developers as your proteges. Every now and then you'll get a question that'll make you think even when your current projects doesnt.
6. Avoid the 'I am god' syndrome. No matter how good you are, there will always be someone better. And nobody likes a snob anyway!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The light at the end of the tunnel for Off-Shore Web Development

If you're in the offshore web development business and think there's a train coming head on - you're probably right!

I've been pondering over this for a few months now and the conclusion I come up with is that offshore web development companies are like tiny fishing boats rushing into the ocean not realizing its the calm before the prefect storm. Most such businesses today are only concerned with one thing, recruitment. Gone is the thought that there can be a storm lurking just beyond the horizon and the more they recruit the bigger the downsizing they'll need to do.

If you're a developer, work hard to be the best. Since the best define their own destiny and even during tough times can find work.

Why do I believe this is a bubble thats going to burst:

1. Recent adoption of consumer devices eg iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry pad etc are sending most brands and companies into a panic attack, the same way the dot com boom of 2000 did. Most of the mobile apps being launched today are plain crappy - they add little value other than being installed on the device and allowing the user to enjoy a customized experience. But WAIT, didnt the web promise us the same? Oh right ...html just isnt ready to do the work these apps can, or is it. It doesnt matter which side of the argument you're on, we can all agree that html5 will become mainstream and these apps will be gone the same way desktop apps have.

2. It takes 3 (three) developers to do the work of one. One developer is doing the website, another the iOS and another the android (lets assume no body wants to develop for BB, WebOS and Symbian). Question: How many browsers are there? How many developers does it take to write an app for all of them? ONE! So we likely have a 3x Artificial/Temporary demand in resources going on right now.

3. Labor Intensive. All labor intensive industries have gone the way of disruption through productivity tools and automation. Software is no different, and we're already seeing the emergence of a new breed of RAD tools as well as technologies that enable porting to all devices by writing code once. Ahh - Java Applets, you were born prematurely! Flash - you suck. Microsoft SilverLight - you belong to the 'dark side'! HTML5, you'll do just fine.

So the million dollar question is, When is the bubble going to burst. Thats anyone's guess, but a market correction will come. Have you hedged your bets in terms of growth initiatives?

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Friday, February 25, 2011

StartUp! Why NOW?

I've been doing extreme forms of mental tightrope walking over the past few months. And the end result is me going my separate way. Each time I state to someone that I've left my X-Company to form a startup, I get asked "WHY" ??
So here it is, and for those that dont know me, I hope it helps you think about your own aspirations and next steps.


I've resigned as a CTO & partner of a mid size software services/products company specializing in web and social media applications.


My career path (you can check the details at started with a step into a 20-30 engineers company and then went on to working for a 50,000 engineers company. Then the downward slope of joining a 5000 man company and then to a dozen or so engineers based one. The latter being the place I'm just exiting from and now being over 80 and likely to be the next big software house in Pakistan.
Reading the above, it almost makes me want to pinch myself on leaving a technology company when I'm confident in its growth, and by and large being a great place to be. Even my exit speech left most confused if I had changed my mind to stay or if I was indeed leaving :)

However, my biggest fear was an image of myself that I saw 2 to 5 years in the future - an EX-engineer who's stuck doing management crap primarily troubled with recruitment and employee training. Growth for a software services company will always be about the ability to recruit the smartest engineers, thats because engineers create value and not the business managers. And constant growth pains isnt the kind of problem that gets an engineer-at-heart excited. And lets face it, services industry is not for the faint of heart. Its a shop thats open for business, and you dont get to choose your customers. The customers choose you. Read the story of the mac store employee to see how even top brands have to entertain jerks at times

***Disclaimer: Most customers are professional, but every now and then the few jerks can hit the raw nerve, or at times the firms own jerk engineers can cause perfectly professional customers to match them.

And then the light at the end of the tunnel, the product idea for mid to large businesses. I remember having to waste my weekends just to file paperwork while working at the fortune 500, and its still the same for my peers working in mid to large enterprises! Keeping the actual product ideas under the lid until its ready for the curtain raising!
The idea(s) came about during the usual client calls and even recruitment interviews with fairly experienced software development managers working in/for large enterprises. And it hit me that most mid/large sized companies are still stuck in the early 2000's ... a decade of catching up still needs to be done in how most companies run their internal software development units. Having worked in a fortune 500 while interacting with a couple dozen other fortune 100's, it was like a huge 10,000 Watt bulb switching on! The ROI and the pain each employee of a mid to large size firm goes through to get their job done is considered part of the job.

No more pain for employees of mid to large size firms is the value proposition of the fledgling startup!


I'm betting on 2011 being a great boom year, and that a professor of mine once explained to me the greek concept of opportunity or Kairos. MIDDLE EAST: Get your act together quickly, high oil prices are NOT good for the global economy!
And like any business that needs to be successful, the passion to excel and deliver must exist. And for me, its now! I believe in the mid to large businesses product space and more importantly the ability to execute on it. The rest of the matters will be tackled as they come (the "what if questions")

Lastly and probably more importantly, if you want to be part of a journey that is sure to be exciting and nothing short of a crash course in creating a great products based startup targeting the North America market AND you're great exceptional in UI design or Rails development, then get in touch with me! jobs (spammers - stay away!)