Archive for March, 2006

Hot House!

Posted: March 31, 2006 in Me, Tech, Thoughts

29th March, 2006. The day finally arrived. The Hot House event finally got off. Started with all the speeches and talks about what would the work be. The best thing was that everything was precisely timed. No person could take more than the allotted time – not even the CEO. The count down clock started as soon as they took the stage and they finished their talks within the given time. Time had so much value these three days just because the amount of work was humongous and everyone had so less time.

By the time we all could reach there, the room was filled with lots of people. I could see around 50 people, all deeply engrossed in what was told. Just by the sight of the people around there, I could the say that the average IQ level of the people around in the room was way up there… real top notch. The very sight of this made me sweat! I tried to focus on what was being told because if I had to survive the next 3 days among these people I had to concentrate and understand what was to be done.

6 teams were to be formed each having a chosen business lead and a technical lead and they together had the task to form and lead the team. Forming of the teams were the most fair and fun kind I had ever seen. Each team starts with a fixed amount of money. They chose the best people for more money or retain money with less experienced people. The best performances at the end of each day would be given money as well. The team with most money at the end of 3 days would eventually be adjudged winners. So, the choice was to be taken by the leads. Go for the best people who would cost more and have confidence that they would make back their money with good designs or save money and hope that other don’t do well!

All people attending the Hot House had filled up their profile to specify how comfortable they were with each of the technologies listed. During the bidding process only these profile information was displayed without any reference to who it was. There were no names taken until the final bid was made. Each bid for a person would start at 100 pounds. The price of the profile keeps dropping every second. As soon as the leads think it was worth, they would lift their team’s card to place the bid. The team member is chosen this way and that much amount is deducted from the team. This was awesome fun and hilarious at times. We never knew which team we were till the last bid was made.

After the teams were selected, we wasted no time and assembled on our respective oval tables. Planning started with trying to analyze what the general skills of all the team members. Then the problem was analyzed and different solutions thought off. After nearly half a day of frantic planning, we could finally start coding the prototype that we had to show at the end of each day and the final big prototype on the final day.

I was lucky to be have one of my friends in the same team I was in. We had worked on some mock work as preparation back in India. We were in the same team then and were in the same team again. The work that was expected by us in the event was similar to what we had done in the mock. So that was a great start for us. That really boosted our confidence up. We had to do nothing new. All we had to do was be good at what we already had done. We both decided we would work the same way we worked in the mock. She designed most of the overall flow and I took care of the web-service communication which involved using Velocity for creating XML sending it across the network using HTTP, read the response XML of the web-service, parse it using XSLT and give it back to the flow. We had been doing this exercise since a week before. So we were way too confident about doing well as a team. All went really well on day 1 except a minor glitch. We did manage to put up a reasonable show on end of day 1.

Day 2 started off with a surprise. There were more teams added just to reduce the team size of individual teams which had grown out of proportion to the plans. Since my friend and I had similar skill sets, one of us had to part and join a new team. It was finally decided that she had to move but by then we had got the basic framework ready which made it really easy for both of us to work in both teams J

The rest of the work went on smooth and we did finish what was originally planned. By end of day 3, our prototype was up and running fine. But I guess the lady luck was never with our team. The prototype which was working perfectly on our machines faltered miserably during the final presentations. After all the hard work, the web-service din’t respond as expected and it displayed a huge error message on the big screen. L

Anyways, what was over was over. I had come here to have a good experience and learn a lot. At the end of the event, I think it was all worth the effort put in for the preparations and the actual work. I got to meet so many interesting people, top designers from many companies and top most management of our clients. It was really amazing to see the amount of quality work been done in so many different ways in so less time.

Great way to pull out fresh ideas real fast and effectively! I just loved the concept. The way forward from here… the BT management was going around visiting teams during all three days and analyzing the solutions and the work that was being put in. Now they would pick the best people, form a team and appoint a lead as one of their designers and actually come out with one complete solution in a 90 day work cycle. Looking at the kind of work that was done, anyone who would be selected would have the opportunities of their lives to work on something that’s really huge and interesting. Though I don’t have much hopes of making this team, I hope at least some of the people who had traveled with me from MBT would finally make it to the team.

All the best to whoever makes it…

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Mystical London. We were finally here. After a long 10 hour flight we got a chance to have a great aerial view of London, thanks to the air traffic. Our plane was going around the city till it got a clearance for landing. This gave us a nice 20 minute ride over London. I must say, right from way up above, the city looked way too beautiful. It is very well organized in terms of planning and usage of space available. The best part is, the city has retained a lot of greenery with all the development going around which is awesome. (Other countries should really take lead to follow London.)

Ariel shot of London1

Ariel shot of London2

 

Heathrow airport was way too big and very well maintained. I am sure there would be bigger and cleaner airports around the world, but for a guy who just came in from the Mumbai airport – this was huge difference.

 

The weather seemed good and manageable when I got out of the plane. All the talk about the temperatures hovering around 10 deg seemed too much of hype. But this changed as soon as I got out of the airport. Just as I stepped out, there was this blast of cold air which hit me. It was a nice surprise. It sent a shiver down my spine! First thing I did was to grab the jacket and wear it. I have never been in places with temperatures so less. It was a nice experience though. J

 

The first thing I noticed when I came out of the airport was this child clinging on to his mother arm and chattering away to glory. He had that typical English country look. That’s when it really hit me that I was actually out of India in another foreign land. Till then all seemed as though I was on a small weekend trip just a few miles away from home. But I am out here for a big reason, Hot House. Lot of work in stall. Lots of stuff to be proved, lots to be learnt. London was not our final destination of the day. We had to take the road to travel around 2-3 hours more to reach a place called Ipswitch. That’s where the actual work was going to be.

 

One of my senior who was already onsite had arranged for the travel for all of us. We get out of the airport and we see this huge Merc SUV standing waiting for us. We wasted no time to get into this mean machine and off we went. The warmers in the car were actually welcomed by all. J All the talk I had heard about London roads being well planned and organized suddenly made all sense to me as soon as I saw this device in the car – Talk Talk. This is a GPS device which is used as a tool to guide drivers through the roads of UK. We key in the unique postcode or a road name we need to travel and the whole travel plan would be in front of us. As we travel a voice will guide us as to which turn to take, how far is the next turn, traffic status, the best routes to take and as I heard it even indicates sometimes where police checkpoints are located. This really bamboozled me. How can all damn roads such a big place like UK be marked and understood!!!

 

All this was good and enjoyable until one of our managers got on the phone with one of the customers and learnt that our domain of work may change. We got to know that we may have to use OffBiz servers to deploy the code we crunch in the next 3 days!!! Knowing that knowledge about this server configuration and deployment among us was absolute zero, this news came in as a real rude shock. We started to chalk out back out plans to see how this situation could be tackled now! But I don’t know why I had a hard feeling that none of this would affect our work one bit and we would surely come out with something that would put us out of any mess we may get into.

 

I took time out of all this and started having a look out at the roads and the traffic. I was really surprised to see the kind of cars that were cursing on the roads. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I saw 2 Lamborghinis wiz past us. There were endless list of amazing cars. Everything from Audi, Mercs, Porsche, etc were seen in big numbers, all there in a short journey of about 2 hours.

 

We made it to our final destination and were surprised to see all shops closed at around 9pm. Then we were told that this is how it works here. All the shops usually close up at around 5 or 6 pm. So there was no way to grab food for the night. 😦 So there you go, we went to bed all hungry the first day in London.

 

Deserted Ipswich

 

Not a good start… Hope not everything will be as bad as this! Keeping my fingers crossed.

Over International Airspace

Posted: March 28, 2006 in Life, Me, Thoughts, Travel

It all started off on this wonderful day when I came to know that I may have to go to UK for a week for some really important work. I hardly knew anything about what was to come and what I could expect. No one was sure though who all would be going for this trip. Apparently our clients British Telecom would decide on who could attend this event. At least that was what we were told.

Hot House, an event organized by British Telecom very regularly is attended by some of the best designers from a wide range of companies who provide services to them. It’s the place where big business deals are made purely based on the performance of the teams that are sent to this event. I guess I won’t go into details of the actual event (just because I don’t know much myself as off now). The best time to write about this would be when I actually finish attending one off these. All I know now is that it’s one the best opportunities I have had in life till now. Just the idea of working with the best of the best holds me at awe. I really don’t know how I would fit into all this, but I will be trying to take the best out of everything that happens in the next week.

The flights that were booked for us were Jet Airways, a rather better choice than the usual Air India flights that our company usually books. We were all expecting a real good flying experience. But I guess for a person of my height, it is really hard to find a good means of transport. I realized this today. As I type now, its 5 hours into the flight and I am not able to grab any sleep. Thanks to the congested seating (For my height any seating would be really crampy). But the rest of the services are amazingly good. The people who travel regularly tell me that its better than the best international brands of flying. They actually said Jet would give Virgin a run for their money on this sector.

This was my first international flight and I should say, it has been a real scenic one till now. My flight flew over Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and is now approaching Greece. It would carry on flying over Ukraine, Germany and France before it reaches London’s Heathrow airport. Barren lands are all we could see over Iran and Pakistan.

 

Coast Line

This changed drastically as soon as we started passing over Turkey. The pictures outside were really amazingly beautiful. I have never seen such things in my life. Pure white color covered all the lands below. It really felt like someone had painted all the land with nothing but white. Snow clad mountains, frozen lakes – everything I saw was white. To top it all, these were all covered with wonderfully looking puffy cotton balls – the clouds – again white :).

 

Over Greece

It was all so tempting, I wished I could be down there touching and playing with the snow. If only I could ask the pilot to slow down so that I could take a plunge with a parachute on. Would have been perfect, wouldn’t it??? At least if only I could ask the pilot to fly low so that I can get a clear snap of all I wanted. Hmm… How I wish god would hear my call and he would see to that it snows either in London or Ipswitch when I go there to stay.

We are now approaching Ukraine. Looking forward to see lots of better things. The pilot told us when we started flying that the temperature when we land would be less than 10 deg centigrade. I have never been in places with temperatures like that before! Lots of first timers for me J

It is really nice that I have a laptop with me. I just felt like writing something and there it was. This is one reason that I can’t blog more. Whenever I feel like writing something, I never have any access to any systems. Anyways, I guess I ll go back to my window gazing now. Hope I have not missed anything till now.

 

More in the next entry…