Garo Garabedyan's Divergent Thinking Blog

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Design and analysis of algorithms is an ingredient of a software engineer

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While education can help you find a good job, not any course which offers you to get immediately hired is proper education and can replace the university education. Practical education aims at summarizing the current successes in the field in order to make you as efficient as possible in your future jobs. Design and analysis of algorithms is a theoretical summary of the practical know-how gathered from solving real world problems in more than a hundred categories of typical software problem types and their solutions. While covering cutting-edge technologies which are designed for solving common past problems makes you more efficient for short time since technology is constantly improving, covering algorithm fundamentals will boost your efficiency for career long time.

The bare minimum of theoretical algorithms can be found in the course Algorithms: Design and Analysis (click to view Preview of Part I and Preview of Part II of the course) from Stanford University. Let me warn you that following such lectures is not as entertaining as other tutorials and articles available on the Internet and it requires not only focus but devotion as well.

I do not want to mention bad habits and ill-intended people because I believe that people change or at least get motivated to improve their behaviour. Let me share that in Bulgaria here are courses where they taught you cutting-edge technologies and the trainers tell you that as you solve more algorithmic problems you will become better at it and this is the way to pass the course in order to get a job offer from the company hosting the course. While they teach cutting-edge technologies the course exams are on using that knowledge to solve algorithmic tasks, which by its nature is not a genuine but rather a frivolous academic process, because the exams are not on topics covered by the course. Sadly, if you do not know where to read from you might never realize that you are solving problems which have been summarized in theoretical computing. The letter can seriously jeopardize your career growth if you decide to change your job for a more challenging one.

To proclaim that a software engineer does not need theoretical knowledge about design and analysis of algorithms is like to proclaim that a master in chess can go without theoretical knowledge about the opening of the game, like to proclaim that a teacher/trainer can be anyone who understands the topic he/she is teaching about and like to proclaim that a surgeon is anyone who can handle a scalpel. The era when a software engineer was anyone who have read a single book on any programming language have completely passed and since then there has been taking place significant improvements making the IT one of the most fastly changing industries.

Written by garabedyan

May 18, 2013 at 08:07

Posted in Uncategorized

Common cognitive biases in communication

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After the elections in Bulgaria here are a few cognitive biases in communication which were used both public and private relations. I have seen them in business atmosphere first but they seem to be well understood by journalists as well. Since awareness is the first step to overcome irrational beliefs, it is my pleasure to list them here.

1. The first impression irrationally influences next impressions

The firstly formed impression remains irrationally long in our mind and influences the perception of the new behaviour from that person.

2. Release an unpleasant information just prior a moment when all concerned or at least the individuals who are likely to be contacted in relation with the information are out of reach

Even though you already can recognize that going away is a coward behaviour, people significantly lower their reactions and even do not react at all toward the unpleasant information (the provocation).

3. Generalizing an unpleasant rule to be addressing all but not only the party the rule is unpleasant for

As the scenario above people significantly lower their reactions and even do not react at all toward the unpleasant information (the provocation), too. Mostly the unpleasant feeling is desired by the perpetrator. The tactic is aiming to avoid revenge and hatred as a reaction toward the introduced rule.

Written by garabedyan

May 18, 2013 at 08:02

Posted in Uncategorized

Staying in the orbit

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Delivering custom solutions to clients of a product you were previously part of its development can be extraordinarily beneficial.

Most of the time we do not know where we are going with a client and this itself is beautiful. We do not know what problems we are going to solve. We try design a solution for one requirement and we have a huge impact in another requirement. Those are the moments that make working with clients really incredible.

Working with clients is most of the times an interdisciplinary venture. You take the insides of one discipline and combine it with the the product. It is an explosion of possible scenarios that can go from outstanding well to fail miserably.

Focusing on clients’ needs will help you grow. This is a short path to improve a potential innovation. You can easily complete the loop. You will learn to solve problems clients have and even problems they do not know they have.

In my case staying in the orbit of a product I was part of its development was a good career move, but due to circumstances not within my power I will not remain in it. I am very happy that there are managers who evaluate experience as the types of solved problems but not in years of solving problems.

Written by garabedyan

February 1, 2013 at 22:11

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Evaluating 2012

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In the eve of the New Year we all revise the last 12 months and make plans for the future.

2012 was the year I and my colleagues have received our B.Sc. on Computer systems and technologies diplomas. Even thought practical experience is crucial, the workplace will not teach you about the things that can be learned in the university. John William Gardner, one of the most thoughtful leadership “gurus”, lists what university stands for:

  • things that are forgotten in the heat of the battle;
  • values that get pushed aside in the rough and tumble of everyday living;
  • the goals we ought to be thinking about and never do;
  • the facts we don’t like to face;
  • the questions we lack the courage to ask.

In 2012 I have changed my job. I have applied for my first job from a recommendation of a friend of mine and it turned out not to be the place people speak about. As employee you give as much as you work but the evaluation of your work is in the hands of your employer. Let me warn you that taking steps to apply for a job in a company you have left and even eventually accepting a job offer from that company will send an unequivocal message that according to you that company offered you the industrie’s leading evaluation of your profession. Changing my job turned out to be a big career shift which have significantly broadened my horizons, of course have increased my incomes and helped me to better understand the needs of the clients and how the technology and the client needs come together.

The blog post about job interview tips have gained huge success in 2012. It is remarkable how many readers you can reach with a single blog post when you use a simple language and provide examples. The people’s job interview experience has changed for better.

The most valued skill in 2012 was the ability to work with little and even with no supervision. This skill has been valued and will be valued as a defining characteristic of leaders on every level. From a resources consumption point of view supervision is the most expensive thing after employer compensation (at least in a statistically average company) and, therefore, employees which can work with fewer supervision are generating higher profit.

I would like to use this high stage to thank my parents, my mother Vartuhi and my father Avedis, and my younger brother Hagop for their unconditional support during the past year. The family is the most important thing. My success is because of their indispensable support. I have achieved so much because of their faith in me, which is being confident in things they do not understand and do not see. Your support, Vartuhi, Avedis and Hagop, made me what I am.

Written by garabedyan

December 25, 2012 at 15:57

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Some thoughts for young entrepreneurs

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Having some memories from my participations in interviews and interactions with bosses and with the help of the vast library of XAGE HR Consultancy from Vietnam which among recognized books contains MBA lecture notes here are some easy to understand and apply technique which can be helpful to the diverse public among which are some young entrepreneurs I am very excited to talk to.

When conducting an interview:

1. Walk the person to the door. Call the candidate by name. Calling people by name causes sympathy.

2. Bring a glass of water to the candidate or something else for drinking during the interview. When the candidate has a hard time answering a question point to the glass of water to give him some time to think on the question while drinking water and later ask a different question instead of waiting for his answer. This will cause comfort for the candidate and you will spot the areas where the candidate is not confident. Say you will test the candidate’s English speaking and ask in the conversation in English the questions you consider as most threatening to the candidate.

3. Open the interview with introduction sentences like “We are interested in finding out about you as an individual and we will give you information about our organization”. Acknowledge that you have something in common.

4. The candidate is supposed to speak about 80% of the interview. Feed back what you hear to the speaker, by way of re-stating or paraphrasing what you have heard in your own words, to confirm what you have heard and moreover, to confirm the understanding of both parties (a technique known as active listening). Do not take notes while he/she is speaking. Tell candidates that you will be taking notes before you begin writing. Assess the candidate’s personal qualities: leadership, problem-solving, communication, teamwork, and motivation.

5. Use “we” and “our” to address the company, e.g. “we have a policy here about …” and “our way is …”

6. When calling candidate references call them at their lunchtime when it is likely to reach an assistant or voice mail. Leave a simple message “Please call me back if the candidate was outstanding”. If the reference responds quickly they were considering the candidate as outstanding.

The Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) technique of Context reframing can be used for indirect transformation of a known bad impressions from the real perpetrator to someone else and consequentely to less negative impressions. Since there is no guarantee of not wrong doing at work and in case wrong doings can cause bad impression or even insult one or more employees, covert reframing of the experience is a good approach to handle the problem in its post-factum phase. Even in a job interview an HR can reframe a freshly formed bad impression by an incorrect question by repeating the letter with an underlined and more powerful bad attitude aiming to take the negative impression on himself/herself. When the problem is not a concrete issue but the attitude it can be simply repeated with something more desired by the victim of the bad attitude aiming to make the victim accept the attitude as something normal or at least not personally against him/her. Any event depends upon the “frame” in which we perceive it. When we change the frame, we change the meaning. This is called reframing: changing the frame in which a person perceives events in order to change the meaning. When the meaning changes, the person’s responses and behaviors also change.

Employees will not stay in a company neither for the pride in the organization, nor for being lead by a respected supervisor, but will look for a place where to be valued and a place with a financial security. Part of the compensantion is offering a role where the employee will gain experience. Younger employees, like me, will look for place to gain experience and will be thinking whether will be able to support a family with their work.

Young employees are attached to their work and feel bad if they need to revert it or if the work will not get in use.

How to spot a sincere smile: A natural smile produces characteristic wrinkles around the eyes – insincere people smile only with their mouth; A false smile often appears stronger on one side of the face than the other, as both sides of the brain attempt to make it appear genuine. The half of the brain’s cortex that specialises in facial expressions is in the right hemisphere and sends signals mainly to the left side of the body. As a result, false facial emotions are more pronounced on the left side of the face than the right. In a real smile, both brain hemispheres instruct each side of the face to act with symmetry.

Written by garabedyan

November 24, 2012 at 14:31

Posted in Uncategorized

What will improve in the next 3 years

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After the huge success of the post about job interview tips the present post’s goal is to be as popular as or even more popular than the first. It is remarkable how many readers you can reach with a single blog post when you use a simple language and provide examples.

People underestimate what will happen in the next 3 years and overestimate what will come in the next decade.

Public relations strategies will become a powerful ingredient in approximately every business. Companies will make special efforts to create a positive image both as an employer and as a vendor. Consider the case of a competitor starting a promotion campaign just prior its rival is going to release an important improvement to the public. For instance, here in Bulgaria many companies create a bad image when reject an applicant who, in his turn, badmouths the company in Internet forums and among the most simple things that will bring change will be polite techniques to make the interviewed person feel comfortable and motivated to apply for a job again even if rejected. Consider a scenario when the HR advises you to drink water when you have a trouble in answering the question and the person who have asked the question asks another question and by that simply makes you comfortable to not answer the question and not feel stupid and not motivated to seek a way to present the company as arrogant. Consider a rejection mail that reads something like “We value your time in searching for a new job. We were not able to find a suitable place for you in our company where to fit and use your full potential. We hope that in future we can meet again and potentially hire you.” – will you apply for a job in that company again in future if already rejected once? The rational choice theory has been tricking managers for a while in making them believe that customers exemine all possible choices with an eye on details and chooses the best choice for their needs while in reality customers rely on rules of thumb. Clients are more credible than the vendor itself and all companies will follow tactics encouraging clients to publicly promote the vendor.

Knowing something more than the others will be an advantage for a short period of time in this dynamic and open world. Knowledge has become as rapidly obsolete as universally available. Most of the businesses fail offering the lowest price and the best quality in one, so they implement a strategies that add value to their goods like customer services and privilege in speed of delivery. Companies will promote active members of the customer communities which help other customers using the company goods.

New leadership style will emerge from social networks. We see how we all fastly get familiar with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social networks which innovative information sharing tools were unthinkable in the past–social networking is rewiring the way we communicate and collaborate. These new leaders will improve themselves in the social networks by the feedback they receive from ordinary people without even requesting it.

New leaders will facilitate collaboration in followers instead of distributing tasks and defining responsibilities among employers. New leaders will lead from the middle.

Employers will neither stay in companies motivated by pride in the organization, nor motivated by working for a respected boss. Breakthroughs and groundbreaking innovations are not keys to success of bosses and companies anymore: We see how Madonna, a shocking and always with a new view performer, is not so popular anymore as she was in the beginning of her career.

Communities’ wisdom and social networking data will enter in companies as a source of private feedback. Big data processing will be a new discipline in determining strategy and trends. Clients will not use general channels for providing feedback about small details that pisses them off but because the pleasant experience is crucial, the vendors will look in social networks for feedback improving their products and services. We know that Microsoft is querying Twitter’s database of public tweets for comments of new features in Bing search in order to improve it as Twitter is about broadcasting short messages.

Written by garabedyan

October 23, 2012 at 19:39

Posted in Uncategorized

Business trip in Finland

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I am on a 3 and a half week long business trip in Helsinki, Finland and I would like to share my impressions about Finns and their culture and lifestyle. My impressions prior visiting in person Finland, a Scandinavian country, can be expressed with the following drawing of a blonde young woman reading a book in a windy forest:

A blonde woman reading a book in the wind

I wanted to have a more detailed picture of how the Finns behave in life and work. I can happily share that Finns are very relaxed people who take things easy. What I can say for the short period I was in Finland is that Finns are little bit closed at least at the beginning of a friendship. In Finland the weather, except in July, is not for outside events and people stay most of the time in their homes.

Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, an island of about 15 min. with a boat from Helsinki, is a very beautiful place.

I was expecting a bad weather and I have took some university projects with me to finish them while being in Finland but happily the weather was excellent for trips in Helsinki and around it in spare time. At the picture from the island the wind blows very powerful but you can still come here and relax and have good time. We have got lucky visiting the island in a good weather and the place has that autumn beauty not seen for a while.

Working in a foreign country for such a short period of almost a month is not enough to get a general picture of how people work. The team I have joined are primarily technically oriented. Interestingly even the HR Manager has a second role in project management and a solid background of technical project management.

In Finland lunch is very fast because you pay a fixed price for it and eat as much as you need from an already cooked food. You do not wait for a waiter to take your order, the kitchen to prepare your lunch according to your wishes and later to take the bill and pay for it. Things are very simple and efficient.

In Helsinki Finns are proud of their high quality water. Here is more about it: http://www.hsy.fi/en/waterservices/drinking_water_and_water_quality/Pages/default.aspx

Finns respect their presidents. But it is very interesting that despite of the high respect towards the President he can be seen walking with a single bodyguard only going to shopping and no one will bother that the president is 5 feet next to him because presidency for the Finns is like every other job but for 4 years.

Finns are extraordinary direct. They have simply introduced the work to be done. We knew that good project managers are supposed to define the roles of the team members and leave them with as few as possible supervision. We knew that good managers should meet with all the people they manage (no matter if he/she is poor or good performer) and discuss their future in the company. These hard learned lessons of people management are the natural way of how Finns and maybe all Scandinavian managers work.

Written by garabedyan

October 11, 2012 at 11:02

Job interview tips

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I would like to share a few interesting tips I have discovered and came around during the several meetings I have attended and prepared for. Hope that they are useful. Please note that I am not a human resources professional but even if I was do not blindly follow advises about an important part of your career.

  1. Help interviewers picture you fitting the team. Wear the clothes for everyday work. The interviewers will try to picture you as part of the team. In case you can choose where to sit, try to take such place that all participants can see you without any extra effort. People who do not see you will have a more blur image of you.
  2. Be aware how your mind works: people like people like them. Interviewers who pretend that are tired at the end of the day are actually trying to trick you believing that they are like you with the aim to make you like them. When you go to many interviews you will meet a lot of new people and will be tired at the end of the day and this is something interviewers are aware of. People who feel bad, sick or tired are supposed to report to their boss who to replace them or cancel the meeting-this is something human resources experts and team leaders must know as part of their everyday duties.
  3. Release responsibility for areas outside of your control, including unforeseen circumstances. Activities rarely go exactly according to plan and often times, no possible scenario could make everyone happy. Your career decisions are yours only. Do not be trapped in trying to help someone else by changing your wishes because this is a defining example of manipulation when you are forced by your emotions triggered by irrelevant circumstances to take a calculated by the manipulator and mostly against your interests step.
  4. You are free to ask for a glass of water in the beginning of the interview as some websites advise. You can win some time for thinking about a tuff question by drinking water. But drinking water is not a solution for avoiding an interview question. Do not overreact with this. If you somehow skip the troubling question prepare for it because someone else can ask you the same question.
  5. Do not underestimate small-sized companies. They can offer you practical knowledge about clients’ expectations. The IT market like many other markets is very competitive and most of the clients are not motivated to make an extra effort in giving feedback in case they can easily migrate to other vendor which satisfies their needs. Clients are motivated to provide feedback about weak or lack of any features and this feedback is not a guarantee that there is a business potential in implementing the missing feature. Very few clients are motivated to recommend a particular feature of a product they are using.
  6. When leaving your current job make sure you have finished all tasks assigned to you and related to you in order to not make your colleagues feel bad that must do your work.

Written by garabedyan

September 7, 2012 at 19:39

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As ACTA was rejected by the EU parliament music publishers can try using friend referral (internet social media) as an active way of promoting new music discovery

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As a music consumer it is very hard to find new music. Radio, You Tube and various artist sites are providing the user with fresh music content while social networking technologies are considered as a continuation of file sharing which violates copyright law and is alleged to hamper the financial development of good artists.

It is the mainstream opinion that the music industry has sought to isolate rather than socialize the music experience. Playing music in public was charged by the music copyright owners despite of the obvious fact that social events encourage listeners to buy the played songs and popularizes the performers among the audience and encourages them to participate in future concerts, if any.

While people enjoy publishing links to new songs or songs they currently listen or would like their friends to listen to uploaded in YouTube in social medias like Facebook, Skype, My space, Twitter, IRC, etc., the music industry has a long way to go to popularize the music in social medias.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), was rejected by the European Parliament today, and hence cannot become law in the EU. 478 MEPs voted against ACTA, 39 in favour, and 165 abstained. While debating whether to give its consent to ACTA, Parliament experienced unprecedented direct lobbying by thousands of EU citizens who called on it to reject ACTA, in street demonstrations, e-mails to MEPs and calls to their offices. Parliament also received a petition, signed by 2.8 million citizens worldwide, urging it to reject the agreement. ACTA was negotiated by the EU and its member states, the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland to improve the enforcement of anti-counterfeiting law internationally. Today’s vote means that neither the EU nor its individual member states can join the agreement. (Press service of the EU Parliament, European Parliament rejects ACTA)

Written by garabedyan

July 4, 2012 at 19:20

Posted in Uncategorized

Following graduation

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March was a very dynamic month for me and my colleagues in Technical University-Sofia, studying Computer Systems and Technologies. In March, 5 we have received our diplomas in a spectacular ceremony led by the rector of our university, Prof. Ph.D. eng. Marin Hristov.

In a similar graduation ceremony but in 2005 in Stanford Steve Jobs advises the graduates to live every day like it is the last of their life. Jobs is widely quoted saying “Almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” Jobs’ advise is to have passion for technology in order to be ready to face failures without giving up. We all should have passion in our jobs because we face people who succeed with little than our devotion and diligence.

 

Among the best characteristics for a developer is his pragmatic attitude and the ability to follow strict rules. A Turing award winner in 1999 for landmark contributions to computer architecture, operating systems, and software engineeringFrederick P. Brooks devotes an entire chapter in the first ever book about software project management, The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering (1975), about the psychological preparations to erase the first thing that you engineer. In chapter titled “Plan to Throw One Away” Brooks argues that in most projects, the first system build is barely usable. It may be too slow, too big, awkward to use, or all three. There is no alternative but to start again, smarting but smarter, and build a redesigned version in which these problems are solved. The discard and redesign may be done in one lump, or it may be done piece-by-piece. But all large-system experience shows that it will be done. Chemical engineers learned long ago that a process that works in the laboratory cannot be implemented in a factory in only one step. An intermediate step called pilot plant is necessary to give experience in scaling quantities up and in operating in nonprotective environments. Programming system builders have also been exposed to this lesson, but it seems to have not yet been learned, writes Brooks in 1975. Project after project designs a set of algorithms and then plunges into construction of customer-deliverable software on a schedule that demands delivery of the first thing build.

One of the things that have built leaders like Steve Jobs is disruptive innovation. Disruptive innovation is not a breakthrough but transforms a product that is too expensive and complicated that only few people with a lot of money and skills can use it into a more affordable and accessible and a much larger population can have an access to it. In the beginning of the computer industry there were only mainframe computers that only big universities can have one and from then there were a lot of disruptive innovations turning computers to desktops, to laptops and to mobile phones. Disruptive innovation democratizes the product to the point that everyone has an access to it and targets new larger markets.

Written by garabedyan

March 31, 2012 at 09:54

Posted in Uncategorized