Look after yourself – Your family and friends need you

Recently I attended the funeral of my maternal uncle. He passed away at the age of 54 due to a sudden cardiac arrest. He was not sick, was not admitted to hospital and all happened in just an hour’s time. It is only during a funeral I feels life is too fragile. Once I come out of the ceremony I get back to the regular life. This time I thought of writing this up. I attended my sisters FRCS admission ceremony at The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. Being an engineer I was fascinated to hear the challenges from the doctor and medical fraternity. The President of the college gave an excellent speech regarding the challenges that the doctors face and how to approach them. But I liked the last thing he mentioned in his speech. He said something similar to “Every professional should take care and look after oneself. The world always needs you as a professional (engineer, doctor, businessman etc.,) but your family and friends need you as a person”. This is very important. As a professional we are taught from the very beginning to work hard, be ambitious, go that extra mile, aim for perfection, achieve our goals, aim high etc., But there is a price for everything. Don’t pay your life as a price. There are so many books written on this subject. I am going to take only three things that I felt as important.

Share your burden

There is a famous saying “If you want to go fast then go alone but if you want to go far then go together”. Often as a professional we don’t delegate things. I am not saying delegate everything and sit idle. I mean there are lot of activities that can be delegated to people. And there are people who are longing for trust and responsibility. Trust the people, in my experience most of the people are trustworthy. If someone breaks it learn the lesson and move on.

Your current speed is OK

In today’s time, social media portrays something like everyone is successful, people are moving very fast, someone achieve a lot at much younger age etc., This brings in lot of anxiety and often one feels am I going slow? And in the name of speeding up one starts to spend more time on the ambition. There is no problem in spending time for the ambition. But if you exhaust all your time towards your ambition then when will you LIVE. And when you reach the ambition with whom will you celebrate. I feel the current speed at which you are going is OK. Even if you want to speed up do it in steps. Don’t accelerate too hard.

Take time out for yourself

In automobile we have brake, if you ask someone why do we have a brake? the standard answer is “to slow the vehicle or stop the vehicle”. But in reality the brake is there so that we can drive faster. The high speed is possible because of the brake. In life too the small break (vacation) that we take is to move faster. But most of us think if I take time out what will happen to all those responsibilities that I hold. Who will do all those work? Won’t I lag behind others in this big race? But in reality a short break will clear up your mind, let you move faster and get your mojo back. So take time out for yourself.

Value you life over all others. As I said in the beginning your family and friend need you as a person.

 

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Conflicting Requirements – Interesting Solution

Software architect’s job is interesting because often there are requirements that are conflicting with one another. As a software architect one has to come up with a solution that caters to both the requirements. And it is mostly a compromise that works. To give an example in the software world, People install an antivirus to safeguard the computer. Every user installing such a software has 2 requirements

  • The software shall protect the user from all the malicious (ok most of the malicious) software in the world in real-time.
  • The software shall not slow down the machine for regular use.

This looks to be a simple requirements from user perspective. Actually this translates to something like this “When a program is started, the antivirus should find out that it’s not malicious as soon as possible (under a second)”. But to do a complete check it will take lot more time. If you choose one over the other the product will fail. A software architect often takes inspiration from other real world situations. So in this case it is similar to an airport security check. There the goal is

  • Make sure all the passengers are safe and are carrying only safe stuff.
  • Board the passengers as soon as possible.

The same dilemma exists here too. If the check is extensive the boarding time will increase. If the check is not extensive passengers might take some dangerous stuff into the flight. How did they solve it? did they optimize for one and discarded the other goal? No the airport designers came up with an interesting solution.

  • Put all the things to be checked inside your handbag and send for a x-ray check.
  • Then walk through metal detector.
    • If there is nothing detected then you just collect the bag and walk to your boarding gate.
    • If a metal is detected then the security personnel will do an extensive check.

This way the security is not compromised and at the same time the whole process is fast enough. Now coming back to our software example, how does an antivirus software achieve both requirements? Here is how (I am not a security architect, I am only writing this for an example)

  • Check the software whether it is safe
    • See if it is digitally signed
    • If the user has white listed
    • The program didn’t originate from internet
  • If any of the above condition is met then let it run
  • If not then take the program for an extensive check

This way a trusted program starts very fast while a suspicious program will take time. And as always nothing works for all the 100% use cases. You can read up an instance when this method failed. There is a lot from the real world scenarios and solutions.

 

My target for the Year – To be happy

 

This is that time of the year, when company sets target for the employees. I too get a set of targets for the year. Over years people have asked me regarding my targets and how is it going? I always give the same answer, My target is “To be happy”. If I am not happy then most probably things are going to fail. Some took the response seriously and some thought I am just joking. But in reality whatever I said was true. I have never explained to anyone what I meant by that target. I thought this year I will reflect on it and give some shape to it.

Money is not the target

Most people think having lot of money and all those things that it can buy will bring in a lot of happiness. Even I thought the same. Yes money brings in happiness, but the happiness is momentary. For a short period of time I feel happy when I have that new gadget or whatever I bought. After sometime I get used to it and they became a burden. That I have to carry around & look after. My sister Rasia once summarized it well “If you are really good at something then never do it for the money”. So money is not the target.

Power is not the target

For some power gives lot of happiness. Sitting in the room alone, signing the approvals, showing authority over others, questioning actions, being tough etc., I somehow never felt happy doing any of these things. So I feel power is not my target.

I feel power should be something that makes someone feel secure, makes someone feel at home, lends the shoulders to stand on, allows someone to fail, provides enough freedom etc.,

Being appreciated is not the target

Appreciation from another person gives a lot of happiness. And the best part is its free. But in reality people don’t appreciate others that easily (they have a high price for the appreciation). Even when the appreciation is given it is not genuine some times. How does one differentiate between genuine and fake appreciation? The person receiving the appreciation knows most of the time. I have also felt sometimes why this was appreciated while the other one went unnoticed. After sometime I came to a point where seeking others approval and longing for appreciation creates more stress. So working for others appreciation is not the target.

Winning is not the target

Winning gives some amount of happiness. Winning arguments, competitions, other people, projects etc., And during every win there is winner and a loser. Only if it’s a Win-Win situation then it is a happy moment. But in a Win-Lose situations if am the winner I feel the happiness and I also feel the pain of the loser to some extent. So winning everything is not the target.

Award is not the target

Yes awards, the nomination, evaluation by jury, those jazzy ceremonies, that Oscar moment, pose for the photograph and the final speech. It does give lot of momentary happiness. But once you have been there and done that, it becomes boring and repetitive. Over the years it just becomes a ceremony. Award is not the target.

Target is to be happy

Yes I can hear the question. if none of this give happiness what gives you happiness. I can define a happy moment something like “During that moment time just melts, I am not looking at the watch & I cannot quantify that time. Sometimes a day feels like a few minutes, an hour feels like few seconds”. When does such moment happen? I cannot say when such moment will happen, but I can say when such moments happened in the past. For eg

  • Coding the solution for a problem.
  • Helping someone understand a core concept.
  • Having a creative discussion with good people.
  • Admiring others elegant solutions to complicated problems.
  • Managing complexity and simplifying something.
  • Investigating the root cause for a problem.
  • Fixing something once for all.
  • Finding new ways, new avenues, new opportunities, new people.
  • Writing this blog.
  • Creating a software tool for self.
  • Conversing with great people through a book.
  • See a solution evolve from a small start over time.

When I wakeup in the morning I seek such moments, if I find them quite often then my happiness quotient increases and the year becomes a successful year. If not the year turns out to be a failure. So that target is to be happy.

-Ferose