Schedule

Maker’s schedule v/s Manager’s schedule

At 13 Llama Studio, we are a young and energetic team who works on multiple ideas at the same time. We are makers … people who tinker with code, libraries and see if we can put all of them together and create a beautiful kaleidoscope of an experience for our audience.

The Maker’s schedule

Designing, Development and any activity which involves creation for that matter is a thoroughly rewarding experience. However, it also puts you in a state of trance … a trance wherein you do not want to be disturbed. Not because you want to be rude and unresponsive, but because when you are in that state, you literally are building a castle in the sky.

This castle can quickly come tumbling down like a pack of cards if you were to be disturbed. This scene from the movie Social Network sums up how I feel when I get disturbed when I am wired in.

The maker’s schedule is not full of deadlines, it’s full of possibilities and experiments. The maker is someone who explores multiple options, plays with different things and creates something truly remarkable.

We do encourage makers, however, as a services firm, we do have deadlines. Which is why some of us have to shift modes from Makers to Managers.

The Manager’s schedule

In a year’s time we take on 20 or more challenging projects and deliver them (mostly on time and under budget :)). This requires constant updates with the business team, setting up meetings and achieving deadlines. This is where makers need to become managers and start actively managing the creation process.

At times it becomes really difficult to make this shift. A manager lives by the hour and generally has multiple tasks setup in a day. If an hour gets wasted, the other hours in the day can make up for that wastage. A maker on the other hand has few tasks in a day, but needs longer chunks in the day without being disturbed.

The shift

A lot of the work that we do is done in the wee hours of the night. This is not because we are suffering from insomnia or we love burning the midnight oil. This is because it is during these hours when we are not disturbed. It’s these hours (and the early mornings) that I try and schedule my most difficult tasks.

People who have worked in start-ups would agree with me when I say that most of the day is usually spent in discussing with the rest of the team as to what they have to do. This is the shift. The manager works during the day, the maker works during the night. It does wreck havoc with personal life, which is why most makers end up hiring managers as they grow.

The purpose of setting 13 Llama Studio was to have a team of makers ship awesome products. As an organization which is slightly older than a year, we are becoming more discerning with the people we want to work with (both employees and customers). However as we grow and scale up, we are going to require full time makers and full time managers.

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Happy Diwali

Happy Diwali 2014

Happy Diwali
Happy Diwali

Some highs which makes Diwali all the more sweet for me –

  • More than a year complete at 13 Llama Studio
  • We shifted to a brand new office
  • We are going to our alma mater for summer placements
  • All’s well on the home front
  • The kids are going to be alright :-)

 

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The new office!

The New office
The New office

We recently shifted our office to Sakinaka to a larger, much open space. Shifting to a commercial property has its charms, and it has its overheads as well.

This office will see us through for atleast the next couple of years, and hopefully we will be forced to move on to a much larger space after that!

Yes, the cake was our own celebrations on having finished the furnishing of the office. More teaser photos of our office here.

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The difference between a Good vendor and a Great vendor

9 months into this business, here’s a gem of a lesson that I have learnt. It’s good to have vendor’s guilt (you need to be clued in on Amit’s blog for this term, he is going to has shed more light on this – Vendor’s Guilt). It keeps you on the edge, it makes you deliver on time. However, it’s great to learn how to control this feeling and not get overwhelmed by the same. On a more personal note –

One of the primary reasons for starting a services firm was to beat the run of the mill service providers that I see in the Indian IT Services market. Service providers need to be value adding rather than extracting value from the organization.

Being steered by this value, the focus has always been on adding value. Getting recognition and paid for providing this value is the differentiation between a good and a great vendor.

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Creating a safe working place for Employees

I read about the recent Julie Horvath issue which is out there on the internet, and thought that I might share some of my experiences on this topic.

In case if you are not familiar with the Julie Horvath issue, Google it, or simply head over to TechCrunch who gave Julie’s side of the story.

tl;dr – Julie was an employee at GitHub who quit after feeling threatened at work

GitHub have tried to clean things up with a sincere and apologetic reply to Julie. They have taken some prompt action and that’s what matters.

So what went wrong?

In the entire episode, Julie must have felt threatened at work. Imagine having to battle out on multiple fronts with multiple people … and apart from that handle work as well. The nausea an employee might feel with so much politicking going on is natural. Who would not quit?

One of the most basic requirements of an employee (keep this term in mind folks) implicitly wants, is to feel secure. Be it financially, physically and mentally. These are the very basic requirements, if these are threatened, then the employee is bound to quit. If I were to use Maslow’s hierarchy as a model, then these would be the hygiene factors.

In letting a non-employee (the founder’s wife) sit within the working premises next to Julie, the physical security was in question. The mental security was being questioned by the love lost colleague and the founder in question. Add to it the way the organization reacted with radio silence and hushed tones, the financial security was also put in question. The next move should have been obvious, perhaps the reaction of the organization might have been to incite this move. The GitHub blog update suggests other wise, but we will never know that shall we?

Personal Catharsis

The reason I chose to write about this matter, is because recently we had a similar situation at work. One of our earlier employees went through this insecurity … thanks to my behaviour. It took some time for me to reflect and talk to a few other founders to understand what drove this employee in question to leave … leave at such a short notice. Do I regret this, yes. Did we lose a good player, perhaps. Can this be avoided in the future, definitely.

It’s a lesson learned for me that employees are not to be treated as co-founders. You can cross certain boundaries with co-founders … those boundaries are a strict no-no with employees … even if these are the people who help you grow your organization.

Sometimes, the founder can go to extraneous lengths to retain employees … not because the organization cannot survive without them, but because of the achievements that individual can do if properly channelled. In doing so, lines are crossed … sometimes it helps in bonding the individual closer to the organization … almost like a trial by fire. Sometimes, it backfires … and even worse spreads like wildfire on social media.

In Julie’s own words, what the founder did was to retain her at the organization … however things escalated to such an extent that the very opposite happened. This is what would happen when you mix professional relationships with personal ones. In trying to build a personal relationship with your team, you sometimes cross the boundary. Most of the times it pays off.

So what should a founder do?

A start-up would always face this issue. In order to do greater things, the team has to work outside its zone of comfort … constantly. How then do you build this sense of security within the team?

One simple approach would be to not fraternize with the team. I have seen many a good start-up founders do that … and to good effect. Reduce the fraternization only during moments of celebration.

One of my clear learning from the past episode is work towards fostering a sense of security for the employees … so that means take all conflict discussions offline. Conflicts which endanger the sense of security should not be openly discussed.

What I am saying is to clearly have two separate levels of information parity. What are the things that you have tried at work and it has paid off?

PS – I don’t have all the answers, however I am learning as I journey on.

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How-to-Ace-a-Job-Interview-Thumb

How to Ace a Job Interview

When I was going for my first interview, no one told me this … however as time went by, all of us learnt the hard way.

  • Always sit upright in the chair, slightly lean forward
  • Never cross your arms or legs, that makes your posture defensive
  • Always smile and be forthcoming about your weaknesses
  • Be honest and do not be afraid to say “I don’t know”

After a decade of working and interviewing people, this infographic is a great summary of what are the basic things you should do when going for an interview.

How-to-Ace-a-Job-Interview

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saving-paper-trail.jpg

Saving your Paper Trail

Saving your Paper Trail

In the course of our lives, we create a large paper trail which we take with us as a means of identifying who we are, this trail involves

  • Identification proofs such as driver’s license, pan cards, UID (hope that works!), ration cards
  • Bills (telephone, electricity, credit cards) and their respective receipts
  • Mark sheets and Passing certificates (and thank god I have gone through that phase!)
  • Certifications
  • Insurance policies and other financial documents (pass books, cheque books, shares)

The list of paper documents we manage is endless … in fact as I am writing this, I know that there is one drawer-full of electricity bills in my house, all of my family members have a separate file for certificates and documents which is at least 2 inches thick. Despite of maintaining this growing trail of papers, when the time comes to fill taxes (which should have been a mundane task since I have been doing it for the past decade of my working life), I end up running around till the last-minute.

The problem?

A paper storage and retrieval system which is messy at best and chaotic at the worst. I am not alone in this war against documents, businesses suffer the same problem as well. For start-ups, the first 5 years go in peace, in the sixth year though, there is a drastic need to get all of your papers in place. That includes TDS filings, bills for incidentals, purchase documents, sales receipts … the list goes on. So what is to be done?

This is where Document Storage Solutions come into play.

Document Storage involves storage and management of important documents, records management for example or simple archival of the existing documents to be fetched at a later time. These solutions are also useful for governments, for example the UK government does use strong record management facilities to support their Freedom of Information requests from the citizens. However, FOI can only be useful where the document is actually stored, what about those  documents which are destroyed? Some problems are beyond the scope of Document Storage :-)

What is important for us here is that sometimes maintaining and storing all these paper documents becomes an issue (in terms of space, in terms of finding the documents at the right time), and that’s why services which can effectively maintain these services are being founded and I find them just the solution for saving you (or your organization’s) paper trails.

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