Friday, July 29, 2016

India's I.I.T. dream

India, a giant nation with an amazingly ancient culture, and that has always considered high-quality education a key component of society irrespective of challenges, is on the horns of dilemma today. We have to ensure a steady place for ourselves in the brave new technological world, our resources are limited and we do not have the luxury of time either.

IIT, Indian Institute of Technology, Engineering, BE, BTech, Ph.D., Government, Technology, MIT, India, USA, PT education, MBA, IAS, Sandeep Manudhane
The IIT spectrum
In the modern global economic order, the strongest and ablest nations are America, Japan, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and Korea. These nations invest heavily in science and technology, stress on basic research, and are good at dominating markets using the products of the R&D machinery. Most of the technologies that you and me use today, were born in these nations. If we scan the horizon a bit more, then for defence products, Israel too will be a contender. But irrespective of how we look at it, then except for a few sterling examples like ISRO etc., India is largely absent from the science and technology markets of the world. The nations mentioned have not only invested consistently and heavily in science and technology, they have also ensured great linkages between industry and academia.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

What is the difference between Intelligence and Common sense?

I will analyse it using an unfolding story!
Yahoo (and Lycos, Alta Vista..) made a search engine much before Google did. That’s first-mover intelligence.
All of them failed to see Google’s inherent strength when they could have smashed it - that’s lack of common sense and wisdom. And very bad luck.
Google decided to plod on, and build on it. That’s tenacity coupled with intelligence.
Some early investors made a killing. That’s foresight, intelligence and luck combined.
Yahoo still did not see any value in it. That’s a total lack of common sense.
Google kept building on its success. And then launched social media tools (Wave? Buzz?). That’s ambition, and tenacity. But with little wisdom.
Facebook romped home with a much better strategy and product. That’s intelligence.
Google continued fighting. Continues to. With G+.
Facebook trampled it. That’s tenacity coupled with intelligence.
Whatsapp emerged. That’s super-intelligence. Yahoo - the employer - misses again.
Yahoo got hammered in the long run.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Youth, Fundamentalism and Violence

Wherever you scan the scene, there's one incident plainly visible - an increasingly large number of youth attracted towards fundamentalism. In a connected world, this becomes a problem as minor incidents become visible to all, and can be twisted out of context. Across Asia, Europe and America, policy-makers are worried as to how to reverse this trend, and turn it to a positive movement.

To understand this problem, we need to get a handle on its various dimensions.

Let us first take a look on the most crucial life goals for a young person. I can understand five - a good job, nice salary, reputation in society, happiness of family and hope of stability and success over the next 10 years. If a young person considers himself able to achieve these, or some of these, then his/her entire personality and interest turns positive, otherwise it's not too tough to misguide him. Whenever political instability is the norm, youth try to find their own ground. When it happens in a democratic setup like India's, we get leaders for the future with a strong sentiment to tackle the nation's problems.

But the real problem arises when youth find a completely disintegrating system. A good example is the age of the Arab Spring (2010 to 2015) when the young people of the Arab world aggressively challenged the old, family-driven regimes. In some nations, they could achieve their goals, like Tunisia, but in others it created a full-blown crisis. Fundamentalists were able to whip up passions enough to turn young people into terrorists. By referring to mistakes made by colonial powers like Britain, France and Russia a hundred years ago - for example the Sykes-Picot agreement which dismembered the Ottoman empire to create new States - the Islamic State (I.S.) was able to create its own ground. By promising religious solutions to some real-world problems, young men are being used to carry out atrocities and crimes that are unimaginable.

Emulating this successful model was almost like a formula for fundamentalist preachers in other nations too. Since the formal education systems are generally unable to generate real capabilities that can be fruitfully used in a changing job-market, frustration is rife at various levels. The young, who are working hard to get a good material life were bombarded by media (through advertisements and programmes) with life-ideals that further accentuated frustration. These young people (15 to 25 years) saw corruption all around, leaders building personal palaces, the handicapped police, and ideals for sale in the examination systems. In the middle of all this, when elders at home teach virtues of treading the ideal path, the youth is unable to digest it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

What is wrong with the Indian education system?

I have been teaching students some of the toughest courses since 1993. My analysis of the mainstream education’s failure to deliver is summarised in 5 points below.
  1. Wrong ownership - Colleges and schools are largely owned by people who have no stake in actual process of education inside the classroom. Typical owners - large landlords, business tycoons, real-estate moguls, politicians, civil servants (by proxy), liquor manufacturers, etc. Principals are powerless, teachers fixated by routines and Boards unwilling to radically alter their approach. So all pillars are ossified. Who’ll bring the change? Definitely not the ones not holding the chalk.
  2. Wrong models - Today, and here on, learning has to be truly border-less. While one needs a certain syllabus and boundaries to make it concrete, the free enquiry model of learning is nowhere present. Teachers themselves don’t know how to leverage the internet and technology to teach. Installing a so-called “smart” class is considered the ultimate leap into 22nd century. What a grotesque application of money to solve a deeply intellectual problem. Results are obvious. 
  3. Wrong grading process - Over the years, grades and marks have turned into a joke. Everyone with a decent effort scores so high, lacs emerge with perfect ten pointers. What’s the point? Boards compete with each other in ways not entirely productive to overall raising of standards. While this is all debatable, the grade inflation is killing a genuine separation of chaff from the grain. And in parallel, everyone is preparing for some competitive exam using entirely different yardsticks. This schizophrenia is perhaps unique to us! As a school-owner jokingly told me - “We know all parents know ki asli padhai to ghar par tuition laga kar hi karni padegi!” (real education will be only through personal tuitions at home)
    building blocks, schools, colleges, universities, learning, PT education, PT's IAS Academy, Sandeep Manudhane
    Re-imagining the building blocks
  4. Sham in the name of government schools - The most well-funded part of the education system - government schools - are largely broken. Until by law we make it mandatory for government servants’ kids to be educated only there, nothing will change. Just do that, and see the miracle in 5 years.
  5. Distorted social ideals - Society needs degrees for marriage, for jobs, for parties, for marriage receptions, for matrimonial advts, for prestige and for dowry. Skills are no one’s concern. And most companies only want genuine skills. No doubt, carpenters are earning thrice what normal engineering graduates are. And doctorates? You have to meet some of these newly minted “doctors” and have a 10 min rigorous discussion with them to realise why India has turned into a consumer nation, not a creator nation.
Indian mainstream education needs not just a rethink, it needs total redesign. Society and its drivers have changed dramatically in the past 10 years. More drastic changes are afoot. In that light, are we really prepared? With each year’s delay, we are consciously turning our demographic dividend into … you know what.

This article from Times of India dated 11-July 2016 by R Jagannathan summarise the jobs scene neatly. Yes, our education system is not responsible for this change that has happened, but it is responsible for responding appropriately. Students in schools and colleges have to be prepared for this world, not the one that existed 20 years ago. (you can zoom in to read)

Thanks for reading, and have a good day!

A comprehensive, topic-wise and useful collection of my various posts and answers can be found here. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

What do intelligent people do with their phones?

  • They do not allow the phone to become the master. It remains a slave, serving a purpose & not becoming the purpose.
  • Sleep is very essential for all. The phone too gets adequate rest each night.
  • Literally, Deus ex machina? Nah.
  • The phone is taught manners early on. It keeps quiet largely.
  • The phone helps relationships by staying out of sight on crucial moments.

Long live the well-mannered phone!

A comprehensive, topic-wise and useful collection of my various posts and answers can be found here. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Can Rahul Gandhi upstage Modi?

Since the Congress Party is pitching Rahul Gandhi firmly against Narendra Modi, it is assumed that in the next general elections (2019), he will be the prime ministerial candidate from INC. So a natural question often asked is if he can upstage Modi.

UK, Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, India, Politics, PT education, PT's IAS Academy, Sandeep Manudhane, MBA entrance, IAS
What? This is what they give me for winning the second world war for them? Atrocious. 

Clement Attlee won against Winston Churchill who had just won the second World War for Britain. Strangest things can happen in politics, just when the incumbent thinks it's all settled. The collective consciousness of the voters is a notoriously fickle animal, loyal to no one.

Rahul Gandhi too can beat Mr. Modi politically. Here's how I think it can happen-

  • Don't denigrate him, Upgrade yourself - Instead of finding faults with Modi and the BJP, Rahul's primary strategy now must be to upgrade his own positive communication. He has never run a Ministry or a Department in executive capacity. It’s easy to criticise others when you haven’t been in those shoes. He should accept this cardinal truth. And then, don the mantle of a serious CEO for some party project (as of now), to have the seed of positivity develop within. India can do well with more positive and dynamic leaders.
  • Take responsibility beyond tokenism - Not letting final responsibility for any failure land at the Gandhis' doorstep has become Congress's trademark strategy. But it cannot go on for ever. As we can see after every state elections, it is turning out to be a very bad idea. Leadership is not a pick-and-choose job; you get atop the horse into the battle all guns blazing. If it's death, so be it. Congress is losing a lot of voter base due to this. Rahul should take the lead in puncturing the protective shield. When defeated, he must come out (not smiling but with a sad face) and say he’ll try much harder the next time.
  • Stop patronising Indians - Modi treats his audience with tremendous respect. Yes, he plays to the gallery often, but in style. Rahul probably assumes they have no handle on world affairs. Even in elite colleges, the communication is beyond belief - it feels his speech-writers assume it’s still 1991 or 1981. In this age and time, he must reinvent. He'll gain immediate respect. He really needs to work on communication skills (beyond fluent Hindi and English), by becoming truly focused on what the youth want to hear. Technically correct stuff.
  • Study a lot - Rahul needs depth. No Prashant Kishore, Jyotiraditya or Digvijay Singh can do it for him (all of them tremendously talented). In politics today, standards have risen very fast (at least at the national level). Educated people who may be opinion leaders in media will give him traction if he improves. He should learn from Modi, who despite lacking the urban finesse in English, cracks it everytime.
  • Lead from the front - If you really want people to take you seriously, do what you say. Avoid the drama, get your hands dirty. Avoid bootlickers, get real taskmasters. Avoid the past, talk of the future. Rahul has the huge disadvantage of an elite pedigree. He needs to work double-hard. When you pull Modi down saying jobs haven’t been created, do tell us how you would have done it practically.

The BJP assumed it would be a cake-walk in 2004 when the Shining India campaign did them in. Nothing is permanent, at least not in the shifting sands of Indian politics. If Rahul truly harbours the dream of becoming India’s PM one day, and if he really does become the PM after 2019 or 2024, he will desperately need the above skills. The image below is from 2014, before the results came in.

I have not written on the standard line of argument - allegations of corruption etc. - because every single Party in India has its share of Netas for whom corruption is not anathema. That will change with time.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Quick Interview Handling Tips

To put it succinctly, the standard advice is - be honest, be yourself and be useful. Honesty will help you stay focussed on the reality instead of cooking up stories, being yourself will eliminate all artificiality, and being useful (to the interviewers) will prove you are a potential asset not a liability.

These traits work wonderfully well, across sectors and profiles. So be it a Civil Services panel interview, or an MBA selection board, or a job promotion screening, these will work.

(1) Humility, even if they're recruiting for the Chief Assassin's post. That is because no matter howsoever meritocratic the organisation is, humility makes the recruiters and bosses look at your much more favourably. However, make it as natural as you can ;)

(2) Eye-contact, as nothing evokes greater trust than positive, solid eye-contact. At least you look truthful doing that. Just make sure you look at everyone in the panel, and not a particular individual (you’ll scare the poor soul)! And yes, don’t stare, just look normally.

(3) Sense of humour, as that shows your human side like nothing else does. Just remember - you’re not inside your hostel room in the dead of night. This is a decent social setting, with seniors. So crack clean jokes. If you utterly lack access to such, please gather some consciously! And don’t crack jokes that take some effort to understand, either.
Success, Interviews, Modesty, Perseverance, Hard Work
Humour indicates depth. Self-deprecating intelligent humour indicates confidence as well.

(4) Groundwork, regarding the specific domain of the interview, is critical. You must read the entire website of the company (organisation); prepare summary notes; remember top 10 facts worth remembering and relevant to your job. This will make you supremely confident as you know the contours now.

(5) Google search the top keywords relevant to the job and company. It’ll throw up very useful data. Go through all those links carefully once. If lady luck favours you, the code would stand cracked!

(6) LinkedIn search the top bosses of the company. Their strategy would be visible to you at a primary level. But don’t cozy up with them immediately through connection request and such, they may not respond at all.

(7) Clean up the social media, boy! Before you land up for the interview, clean up your immediate posts on all social media. Delete the obnoxious stuff. If your social media is cluttered with horrifying insights into your deep persona, get ready for some stares from the panel. Hope you got the point! [ of course, it depends on the seniority level too ]

(8) Execute on the D-day perfectly. Take a bath, wear neat clothes, wear little perfume, don’t smoke (or drink!) that day, take your meals properly, be positive, switch off your phone prior to and during the interview (unless you need to show some online project work, App, etc.), carry a good quality pen, avoid conspicuous footwear, don’t be stubborn about tea/coffee/biscuits offered during the interview (like - Sorry sir, I cannot take tea/coffee. I’ve never taken it.), maintain positive body language (neither too informal nor too stiff) and carry a properly arranged portfolio! (Phew - it’s better to start a company than doing this - ha ha)

Remember, they need you as much as you need them. Go ahead, crack it!

Thanks for reading, and have a good day!

A comprehensive, topic-wise and useful collection of my various posts and answers can be found here. Enjoy.