Posts Categorized: Experience

Entrepreneur Sympathy

Entrepreneur SympathyIf you follow some startup communities or have a social circle which has many entrepreneurs almost every day you will be exposed to new and fresh products or services or apps that beg for your feedback and support. It could approach you directly or could be as simple as a Facebook post or tweet introducing a new “idea” and asking for feedback. Now it is not possible that you are positive about absolutely everything. Yes you can find positive things about the product/idea but that everything that you will come across will be good reflects poorly on your choices/thinking more than it does on the ideas that you see every day. Even then most of us do not share the negative feedback. Even if you feel that the idea is “stupid” (I know it is a harsh term but I will be lying if I say that this has never come in my mind when seeing a new startup) you will most likely not say it for the fear of being labeled a closed-minded pessimistic naysayer. Even when you can clearly see the poor build quality, extremely bad choice of technology and design and even platform, not a word is said to the fellow entrepreneur other than congratulating him and wishing him luck. It happens every day when I see such posts where fellow entrepreneurs, even the seasoned kind, will praise the lefts and rights of the product or if nothing the entrepreneurial spirit of the person completely neglecting the elephant sized problem that they identified within the first 5 seconds of seeing the product. Is the fear of being called a negative guy that big that you do not point out that appalling font that the developer entrepreneur has used?

I have taken a lot of flak a lot of times for giving the most direct and cruel feedback without any sugar-coating or even a single word of praise. Most of the new entrepreneurs thank me but it is easy to figure out which ones are pissed with my lone critical comment in the deluge of praises and good wishes. And yet I continue to do so. For I know that by not doing this I will be doing a disservice to my fellow friend who will never even know what he did wrong. If I give him validation just because he seeks it and I don’t want to “sound rude” would mean robbing him of the opportunity of improving himself. But most importantly I do this because I want this done to me. I like to claim that I am where I am because I made mistakes and then took lessons from those mistakes. The process of finding these areas of improvement becomes even more efficient if you point out my mistakes as soon as you see them.

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Why everyone should learn to drive

Why everyone should learn to driveAs I was driving over to meet a friend this Saturday, crisscrossing between the moderate traffic of a weekend, i came upon a realization. Driving, as a skill, is much more than just the ability or independence to transport ourselves from one place to another. There are a lot of lessons learning to drive or driving regularly can teach us what we can use in almost all aspects of our lives. I am convinced to the extent that I feel that absolutely all entrepreneurs (and everyone else must too) must definitely learn to drive.

Everything is scary at the beginning - Learning to drive is scary. At least for most of us. We all are scared that we might hit something or damage the car or something bad might happen. But eventually we learn, practice and master the skill of driving and soon we are driving in dense Delhi traffic. This applies to all the new things in life. You don’t know if it is actually difficult unless you try it, unless you take the leap.

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Lets do something thunderous today (aka Aaj kuch toofani karte hai)

Aaj kuch toofani karte haiAs it is being very cleverly shown by the multitude of highly creative illustrations floating around on the social media we are but a tiny speck, a mere grain of sand, when compared to the grand scheme of the universe.We all live, breath, breed and disintegrate just like all the multi-cellular organisms that roam on the face of this earth. The only this that differentiates us from lets say a zebra is the ability or to be more apt the opportunity to influence others. A zebra can at the max influence the lives of some zebras of its pack and maybe a few predators but we humans have the ability, opportunity and the means of influencing almost everything under and beyond the sun. Whether you use it for good or bad is totally up to us but the important thing is that we always have that opportunity. Every day that we spend going with the flow, just living by and not making use of this opportunity to make something awesome is a day wasted. It is never too early or too late to decide that now I will do something that will make a dent in this universe. Every day is the best day to start something awesome.

Sure not everyone will reach the heights of the likes of Gandhi, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg but in the end you will always know in your heart that there is some awesome in this world because of you. I had never thought in my life that someday I will quote Salman Khan (Bollywood actor and not the Khan Academy guy) but as he says in the amazing Thums Up ad campaign “ A thunder is never big or small. A thunder is a thunder.”. You have the chance to create your own thunder. Make it happen. Or as it is very often heard in the premises of Green Apple Solutions

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Why you should pay for my services even if you have a (much) cheaper option

Why you cannot build a BMW with Hyundai partsI cannot even count how many times I have been asked “_Why are you so expensive when XYZ firm is willing to take this firm at a third of the cost that you have quoted?_” or “_Why is your hourly rate so high?_” With intangible products and services you always run the risk that the customer will compare you with a cheaper service and might even be inclined to go that ways. Usually while doing so the customer is assuming that both I and the cheaper alternative are providing the same or at least similar output. There is nothing “extra” that he feels he is getting out of it.

Now let me start by saying that I am not “really” expensive. My “expensiveness” is the same in sense as a BMW is expensive compared to a Hyundai. There are people who need a Hyundai and there are people who need a BMW. Those who need a BMW pay a higher price because they know they are getting something extra and something better. Even if this something extra is the semblance of a status symbol, it is still something extra. The difference can be justified and in most of the cases is tangible. Unfortunately this is not how the consulting industry works. Yet this difference exists even in our industry. So let me try to show you why it makes sense for you to still hire us for your project even if I seem expensive. Also I = Green Apple Solutions :)

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Get Hired Series: Telephonic Interview Checklist

Telephonic Interview ChecklistSo far I have in this series I have shared 2 checklists that a job applicant should consult when he is applying for a job. In the first part we discussed how he can make sure that his résumé is free of errors and avoid common pitfalls. In the second installment I shared the do’s and don’ts one should follow when composing the email that you send to the prospective employer. In this post I will discuss the points a job aspirant should take care of when faced with a Telephonic Interview. A telephonic interview is a common practice in the tech industry where a recruiter can have a brief discussion with the applicant and make a judgment as to whether the candidate should be called for the next round. I personally am fond of this process as due to its convenience for both the parties. Also most of the times within the first few minutes of the conversation you are aware if the candidate is good enough to be called. So it makes sense for candidates to be ready for a telephonic interview. This time again I’ll be sharing the points in the form of a checklist and will be providing explanations wherever required.

  • Am I ready on time – Never forget that you have a telephonic interview lined up so that you can make yourself free for it.
  • Do I have a sensible caller tune – Although it is a personal thing I’d still recommend that you go with the standard ringer or some sensible caller tune. Not many employers would be too keen to know how “your milkshakes bring the boys to the yard” or how “bit**es are none of you 99 problems.”
  • Have I chosen the best possible spot – the beauty of the telephonic interview is that it happens at the place of your comfort. Stand where you know the signal strength is good and there is no/minimum ambient noise. It would not be beneficial to you if you have to scream or repeat every answer.
  • Do I have my résumé in hand – always keep with you a copy of the résumé that you had to this particular recruiter. Ideally you should remember what you have written in your résumé but you should be ready just in case some “weird” interviewer like me asks you the objective as mentioned in your résumé.
  • Do I have a paper and pen ready – Just in case you have to solve some small problem or atleast note down the variables that the interviewer is providing.
  • Have I prepared my fundamentals? – In a telephonic interview it is not possible for an interviewer o ask lengthy or detailed questions that might require explanation or the need of pen and paper, so most of them stick with asking short and basic questions about the fundamentals.
  • Did I greet them properly –Although it is a good life policy to always answer the phone with a polite and gentle hello, please be more careful when expecting an interview call. Arrogance is good but only in your work.
  • Are my answers to-the-point and precise – telephonic interview is only the first level of screening so it is advisable that you keep your answers short and to-the-point to avoid unnecessary lengthening of the process. This does not mean that you skip a detailed answer if it is required but just don’t make redundant statements.
  • Have I kept my clicks and flips silent? – Although we expect you to not refer to any external source for answers, we would really appreciate if you made an effort to make sure that we don’t hear you clicking on your laptop or flipping pages of a book.
    These are all very small but very important points that can determine if you ever get a call to get to the next round. If you keep this mind, you will never have a bad telephonic interview.
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Wrong reasons to do a Startup

Wrong reasons to do a startupI am extremely lucky that I am associated with, friend with or at least have an acquaintance with a lot of entrepreneurs. Most of them are amazing people with some really cool ideas and great insights about their industry as well as mine. The conversations are enlightening as well as highly enjoyable. But there are a few that I encounter from time to time who I feel are doing a startup for not so right reasons. Now there are no “absolutely” right or wrong reasons to do a startup but there are some that I feel are more right than others. If you are doing a startup just for any of the following reasons, I request you to think again before you move forward.

I don’t follow orders / I don’t want to work for someone else – this one is the most stated reason and the worst one in my opinion. If you can’t follow orders you will not know how to make your team follow you. If you have never worked for someone, you will never be able to understand how your colleagues feel and would never be able to utilize their potential optimally. A bad follower cannot be a good leader. Be a follower, be a good follower and then try to be a leader. Unless you have the right family name, most of us have to work hard to lead men.

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Get Hired Series: Job Application Email Checklist

Email ChecklistIn the first post of the “Get Hired” series I shared a list of points that a job applicant should keep in mind when creating his résumé. Taking this a step further, this time I wish to share a few pointers about what needs to be taken care of when you email that resume to a prospective employer. This email is essentially the most important part of the entire “getting-hired” process. This is you first interaction with the employer and whatever impression this email makes on him will affect how he views your résumé, if at all,  and at some point in the future, you. This means this email can make or break your chances of landing your dream job. Hence it makes absolute sense for you to be extremely meticulous about this email and make sure that you send the best mail possible. This time again I’ll be sharing the points in the form of a checklist and will be providing explanations wherever required.

  • Am I using a sensible/presentable email id? This is the first thing the reader of your email will see. As I mentioned in the last post, get an email id specifically for this purpose if your usual email id is too funky. I will be very hesitant in hiring loverboy4u@yahoo.com or lazylad24x7@hotmail.com
  • Am I providing a subject to the mail? –_ As I shared some time back, I avoid strong negative words like hate but I absolutely hate receiving an email without a subject. Never send any email without a subject to anyone, ever._
  • Is my subject clear enough? – The best formats for subject are “Application for post of {Whatever post}” or “Job Application – {post}”. Avoid sending mails with subjects like “My resume” or “Latest resume” etc. You want a job, act professionally.
  • Is the formatting of resume uniform? Use fonts, font sizes and colors uniformly. Comic Sans MS is a strict no-no and so is an all-caps email.
  • Am I using a salutation? Am I using a proper salutation? – Many of the emails that I receive do not have any salutation at all. Always use a salutation. A simple “Dear Sir” or “Dear HR Manager” should be fine.
  • Am I giving an intro? – If the entire body of the email is “Please find attached the résumé. Please consider”, then please don’t even bother writing even that much. I’ll see the attachment, I’ll download it. Write a brief intro about yourself. Something concise that should be a snapshot of your résumé. A well written intro can sometimes cover the errors in your résumé.
  • Have I mentioned the reference, if possible? – It is going to greatly benefit you only to mention the reference from which you came to know about the opening. If you have been referred by an existing employee or a client then it could greatly help in building your first impression. Most importantly mentioning the reference would be a key factor in determining whether your résumé should be opened at all.
  • Do I have a sensible email signature? – Mention your name and phone number and that should be sufficient. Avoid html, images and quotes as much as possible.
  • Have I proofread the email? – Never ever send the first draft of any email to anyone. Your career is worth spending a few extra minutes to verify that everything is in order. A simple trick would be to write the draft in MS word so that it tells you your errors (most of them) as you write. That would take care of your basic spelling and grammatical errors. Try to keep the tone of the email neutral and professional.
    Professional email writing is a skill that I value dearly in my team mates and if you can impress me with your application email, you have almost ensured that your résumé is not only opened but also considered if the opening is there. If you have not read the previous post about the résumé checklist, I recommend that you give it a look. In case you have a feedback or wish to add a point or two you can post your comments in the comments box below or catch me on twitter @akhilrex
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Learn to say NO

Learn to say NOIn one of my previous posts I had shared a trick that I use to increase positivity in my life. I do that by minimizing the use of negative words and replacing them with neutral or even positive phrases. Now one exception to that rule is the word “NO”. No is something that one should never shy away from. We all know the powers of YES. It opens new gates for us and provides us with great opportunities. It is a good idea to say Yes and try new things in life and Yes is the true symbol of positivity. But that does not mean that No is less important or less powerful. It is in fact equally important as a Yes. When I was working as a software developer, before Green Apple Solutions, one day my boss told me – “Akhil, You have to learn to say no”. At that time I did not truly understand as how saying no to my client and my work would help me in any way. But now I know. I know the power of No and the benefits it can do when used wisely.

Say no to people who waste your time. Say no to friends who are not there when you need them. Say no to the anchors who are pulling you down while claiming to be your friends. Say no to teachers who expect you to just remember and not understand. Education is beyond the questions at the end of the chapter of the textbook. Say no the job that you are not really enthusiastic about. Don’t let desperation take you over & don’t follow the herd. Identify what you want to and fight to make it happen. It’s easy to get pressured or distracted and get stuck in a rut of a life. Say not to pressure and distractions. Say no to thankless bosses who feel that they own you. Work only when you work with them and not for them. Say not to incompetent employees. Look harder and you will find the right one. Say no to clients who don’t value your work. Who feel that they own you and don’t give you credit for the work that you do. Who purposely delay your payments or undermine your work. Say not to abusive relationships. If you don’t get what you deserve you don’t have to stay. Say no to stupid Facebook updated and random friend requests. Say no to bad habits. Say no to anyone who doesn’t treat you right. Say no to the status quo.

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Get Hired Series: Resume Checklist

Resume ChecklistTime and again I have blogged the tips and tricks of how by following some simple guidelines job seekers can become employable, freshers and experienced alike. In the spirit of providing even more precise information I am starting a series of checklists that a job seeker can consult and get a competitive edge over others and stand out. I will try to cover all topics from creating resume to closing the deal. I will try to be as concise as possible but will provide explanations wherever needed. So here we go. My comments in italics.

  • Is the format of the file standard and will open on all devices and platforms uniformly? I personally prefer pdf but a neatly formatted word doc is good too.
  • Is the name of the file sensible and descriptive and “not stupid_”? Never send “new_resume(3).doc” to anyone. Always prefer “{Yourname}-resume.pdf” ex ‘Akhil Gupta – Resume.pdf’_.
  • Is the formatting of resume uniform? Use fonts, font sizes and colors uniformly. Comic Sans MS is a strict no-no.
  • The images (if any) in the résumé are not skewed.
  • Do I need an “objective” in my résumé? If yes, is it unique? Do I know what it means and will I be able to repeat it if I am asked to? I always ask an interviewee the objective and have never found anyone who remembered.
  • Are my educational qualifications clearly mentioned? Never try to hide/obscure your educational details even if you did not score very well.
  • Are the details in a proper chronological order? I have seen resumes with last job at the end. Always mention everything latest-first.
  • Am I highlighting my past projects clearly?  Mention clearly the team size, your position and role in the résumé. Rest of the details will be asked in the interview, if needed.
  • I am not including any useless past achievements. No, the fact that you came 2nd in a recital contest in class 7 does not impress me enough to hire you as a developer.
  • I am not using any generic hobbies. Don’t stop at “listening to music and reading books”. Specialize. Find a genre. And no, surfing the web is not a hobby.
  • My contact details are clearly mentioned? Also please get a separate email id but don’t send me ladiesman4u@hotmail.com
  • Last and most important – I have run a spell check on the file and have taken care of every squiggly little red underline before sending it over.
    That’s about it when it comes to building a résumé. There are a lot of resources on the internet which can help you a great resume but if you at least follow these steps you will avoid getting rejected at a lot of places just because your résumé had a silly mistake. In the next post of this series I will discuss the checklist for the email that you send to recruiters/employers. In case you feel anything else can be added to this list please mention the same in the comments box below or catch me on twitter at @akhilrex
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How to smuggle positivity into your life

How to smuggle positivity into you lifeThis is a fast world we live in. This is a tough world. One has to be alert all the time to respond to all the hardships that the world throws at us. In all this work and effort and the struggle we tend to convert ourselves into fortresses so that no harm can come to us. But unfortunately most of the times these walls that we created to protect us stop the positivity from outside from reaching us as well. And whatever positivity we have within the walls keeps getting depleted. So what can be done to fix that? I say let’s smuggle some positive energy into our lives. I have a few tricks that I use to accomplish this and I am happy to share them.

Use positive words / Avoid negative words – This one is highly effective and I have been using this for some time. Try to use negative words as little as possible. Instead of saying “bad” you can say “not good” and maybe later replace that with “can be better”. I am all for calling a spade a spade but this way a lot of negative words are removed from our daily lives. Elimination of negativity helps in positivity to come to you. Please note that I am not asking you to use euphemisms but to deliberately try to not use negative words. Although saying cold hard “NO” to bad influences is an exception.

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