Wednesday March 16, 2005

Here are my previous blogs that were posted on thoughtworks.com.

21 February 2005 – One week on

Namaste!

Phew! I am exhausted! Seven days in Bangalore have passed by so quickly and yet they seem like a lifetime. Every pico moment has given me something new to see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think about. That’s why writing this blog has been so hard, as there is just so much I have experienced. But I’ll do my best to give you a taste of the story so far.

Leaving the UK I was sad, scared and excited. By the time we reached Bangalore the tired, sad me was very much in control.  Kerri and Ninna, two TWers organising the bootcamp meet us at the airport and after some confusion over missing bags we made our way to our apartments. And this was when reality hit. It was a true culture shock.

The apartments are part of a corporate block right next to the TWI offices and we had already seen some photos of the complex however, these didn’t really reflect the scene at night. I could see no glistening swimming pool or associated sun loungers. The room I was allocated was clean and tidy but lacked the modern decor and sparkle I had expected. It reminded more of the digs I had stayed in in Bulgaria than of the hotel I had been staying in in London just the night before. More than this though, the caretaker situation was a stomach punch shock.

It appeared that the maid service we had been informed of (which I already considered odd) actually consisted of two men who lived in the lounge and looked after everything. I hadn’t been given a key because they would always be in. This alone was odd. They also presented me with flowers and called me Madam. I felt quite scared to left with them but smiled and told Ninna I would be fine. I tried to ask them their names and how I could make a call home but they do not understand my English very much. I went to bed that first night feeling confused and afraid by my new situation.

Fortunately when I woke the next morning all seemed so much brighter than it had the night before and it’s been pretty much a great experience from then on. Saturday and Sunday were filled were defined by meeting new TWers and fellow boot campers. Saturday I had my first true taste of Indian food when I had masala dosa (a bready pancake with a spicy filling) at breakfast. Even better than the food was our first rickshaw ride to MG road.  Anyone familiar with bumper cars will already know something of the feeling you get riding a rickshaw. These guys don’t mess about, if there is a gap in the traffic they lurk for it regardless of whether it is even on the right side of the road. Buses hassle cars, cars harass rickshaws and rickshaws bully bikes. The result is a jerky, noisy adrenaline filled ride. Fantastic!

Monday was get a new career day, after all the reason I was in Bangalore and TW was to start a new life as an IT consultant- whatever that was. We began the bootcamp classes with an overview of the camp and the company and took part in some “friend-making activities”. I particularly enjoyed talking with the Indian interns and hearing what they had to say about their culture and country. It is so good to have someone else’s perspective on life to make you truly see the world in front of you. I swapped a few phrases in Kannada, the official language of the state of Karnataka, with a few lines of Cockney Rhyming Slang with an Indian guy in one game – his words probably being more useful to me than “apples and pears”.

Get a new career day turned into party night as we celebrated our first bootcamp birthday by heading into town for dinner and drinks. I had a great night chatting with new friends and buzzing about our new life. The rickshaw ride home was a highlight of the week as I got to drive it! This came about after leaving the night club at 2 am to find that rickshaw numbers are low and we had an odd number in our group. Rickshaws comfortably sit three in the back. There were seven in our group. Four in the back of a rickshaw is uncomfortable and so the driver kindly allowed me to sit up front. After a little while I took the handle bars. Not too sure how my fellow boot campers felt in the back but I was thrilled. I wonder if you can get them imported to the UK!

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were a mix of technical and social classes. Sitting with new people, chatting and learning. I’m having such a great time and so many new people. Everyone should get a chance to come here and see this place. It will blow your mind.

More soon
Suzie x

28 February 2005

This week has been all about Indian hospitality and funky dancing! I guess it all started as soon as we arrived in Bangalore — immediately the ThoughtWorks India (TWI) office opened its arms to us by inviting us to socials and movies in the office as well as our fellow Indian bootcampers taking us into Bangalore and showing us the best places to party.

Within the first week we had visited a couple nightclubs in Bangalore and this week the trend continued. On Sunday 20th, to celebrate our third bootcamp birthday, we started the night at a stylish bar on the 13th floor of a commercial block, originally named The 13th Floor. Here the dancing began with some TWers strutting their funky stuff to jazz and motown tunes. From here we moved onto a slightly less alluring venue, Club X. This place is unique. Nowhere else have I ever been able to barter on the entrance fee or been told that my male friends could only enter the dance floor if accompanied by a female. How strange! This rule, you could appreciate perhaps if the place was particularly full but it was Sunday night and this was not the case. The dance floor was empty. So devoid of groovers in fact that one young Indian woman had taken to dancing in the corner to her shadow created by the disco lights — an interesting sight to behold.

On Saturday TWI held their annual Family Day which we bootcampers were kindly invited to attend. This type of family orientated fun day is just another of the example of how ThoughtWorks’ culture stands out from the crowd. How many global companies take all their staff including their families to a leisure club and waterpark for a day of relaxation and fun? Not many, I’m sure. Again dancing was very much part of the fun. We began the day by forming teams and playing musical statues before creating a mammoth conga and dancing around the pool. Now, although the affection and happiness from everyone was wonderful I can’t avoid mentioning that however well intended and team orientated the mornings activities were, it did become somewhat tiresome after a couple of hours. There is a limit to a number of times you can be told by a very happy and over-excited MC to “keep moving, keep dancing!” without totally losing it!

As the rest of the afternoon was spent slipping down waterslides, playing cricket and generally playing the fool by the evening you may have thought that everyone would have been too exhausted to continue but on the contrary, as soon as the music started up the TWI staff were up and dancing immediately. This initially struck me as strange as I come from a culture where people avoid dancing at all costs unless they’re drunk. It’s good that everyone dances here though, as in the UK the first people that start dancing are usually the center of attention and its hard to get up the courage to be first. Here in India it seems rude not to join so I can dance to my hearts content without feeling self conscious — another great TWer attitude.

Sunday evening I found myself atop the roof of a three story house in suburban Bangalore at one of the Indian bootcamper’s family home. His family was gracious and welcoming. I felt honored, as I am sure we all were, to have been invited into our new friend’s home so soon after meeting him. Not only did he invite us round he had also organized a scrummy dinner for us all and then drove us home again at the end of the evening to avoid us having to get rickshaws back to our apartments. Such hospitability cannot be underestimated as it has been me feel so welcome here. Without it I am sure this blog would read really differently.

Monday was the great dance finale. As a big thank you to the Indian office for hosting the bootcamp we bootcampers organised a bangra influenced dance as a gift to be presented at the TWI dinner. Choreographed by two of the bootcampers, this master piece included shimmies, shuffles and NSYNC arm pumping. As well as dancing we also dressed in traditional Indian clothes to celebrate our hosts’ culture. Guys were in kurtas and pants whilst the girls were in sarees or ghagra-cholis. Even more impressive was that we managed to coax Roy Singham (our CEO) into dancing with us too. It truly was a feast for the eyes. Having been quite nervous to perform in front of more than 100 people, who undoubtedly had more experience at dancing Indian stylee then I did, I was particularly happy with my effort when one of the TWIers told me I looked almost Indian when I was dancing. I am dead chuffed. Thanks guys and gals for all your kind words and gestures over the last couple of weeks you have made me feel a truly welcome ferengi (foreigner) and I look forward to the next four months here. You are bindas!

1 March 2005

Wow, I have been a ThoughtWorker for one month now. Until now I haven’t been very disciplined with my blogging, choosing to spend my time out and about with my new colleagues and friends instead of documenting every last detail. However, I have begun to realise a real need to blog regularly. First it allows me to remember more of what I have experienced and gives me a chance to appreciate what I have learnt and felt while I have been in India . Also it is an excellent way to communicate with friends and love ones at home. I was particularly pleased to receive emails from friends and family this week who had read my blog and got a real understanding of what I was doing here. This has encouraged me to blog more.

Until now I haven’t really mentioned much about the bootcamp curriculum and what we have been learning on the work side of things. And the reason for this is that there is just so much that we have heard about and learnt in the last two weeks that it has been hard to consider it all. I guess there have been two real aspects to the lessons we have been learning. There has been a technical core of classes such as Fred George’s legendary object bootcamp (which I will talk about in more detail later, no doubt), Agile practises and Business Analyst (BA) skills as well as a secondary layer of soft skills taught to us mainly by H – a TW people person – which have included networking, interviewing and understanding diversity. Many of these topics have been interesting and thought-provoking; a minority have been frustrating and confusing. Some classes such as the lesson in Effective Meetings focused around Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, whilst initially appearing to be a waste of time, have allowed me to focus my understanding and really define what skills I need to acquire to be an effective consultant and TWer.

I have really begun to get an idea of why I was hired by TW and what I have to offer to the company. I learnt loads from H’s sessions on interviewing about what I said that made me suitable as a TWer and what I can continue to improve upon to grow within the company. I have additionally become more and more excited about development and although I don’t feel I want to be a geeky (!) developer quite yet I am beginning to understand just how programming works and I really want to continue to learn from my developer colleagues to allow me to be a better analyst.

What is even more exciting is that we have started to hear about what projects we may be placed on after the next week or so of classes are over. There are a number of opportunities open to us all at the moment and we have been allowed some degree of autonomy in which project we are placed on. On the flip side of this I have also seen that project allocation appears to happen very quickly and can change regularly. I had been previously advised by a number of TWers that until you’re on the plane or onsite not to assume anything about project placements and that last minute decisions are common in consulting however, now I have had first hand experience of this changeable project status phenomenon.

Last week Kerri, the bootcamp co-ordinator, called all us BA’s together to ask us who would be willing to stay in India until August to work on a project. This question came as a bit of a shock as I had only been in India ten days and hadn’t really considered the reality of staying longer term. However, I duly considered my options and decided I would be happy to stay, only to find out the very next day that the situation had changed and that I may be needed back in the UK to work on a new project starting there. No sooner had I informed my boyfriend and family that I maybe back sooner than expected I was again informed that I would probably be staying in Bangalore until June after all! Ahhh… the life of a consultant.

Switching between decisions is initially hard for me to deal with as I am renowned for indecision myself and as a result love to have nice fully formed plans ahead of me so that I can have the best possible chance of planning them correctly. However, I have learnt, and know this from previous experiences as well, that even the best laid plans can go astray and that the ability to adapt to this change is a real strength. And that is why I came to TW in the first place to learn from change and to embrace it instead of fear it. So although it would be nice to know what I will be doing in six months it is more exciting for me to not know what I am going to be doing but to know that when the time arises what I will be doing will be challenging and dynamic and will help forge my career in a whole variety of ways I could never have planned for.

I have also seen this week that the TWer is much more important than their role and that if I decided that I do want to head into development there will be opportunities for me to do to this. Additionally, I have encountered a number of different roles that I consider to be potential career paths for me. Those that have been particularly interesting and intriguing are the role of BDMs (Business development managers) and client principles as well as the enabler/coach role and Resource Manager (RM). All these roles seem, at least from the outside, to have the opportunity to allow me to work closely with people to help solve their business problems as well as promoting and growing the culture and nature of TW. I look forward to my TW life beyond the bootcamp.

5 March 2005

So we have come to the end of the core bootcamp and we are heading off into our specialisations. I will be taking the BA track, although I would have loved to attend the OO bootcamp as well I can only be in one place at a time and BA is where I am at right now. It was a little scary on Thursday when the main bootcamp ended and Ninna headed off to NY and China. It meant that we were about to leave the security of the bootcamp classes and were stepping into the unknown. That is a little intimidating. However, as some people reflected in the final retrospective, and I told H in my coaching session on Thursday, it is so much easier entering the unknown having learnt from the bootcamp than it was prior to the experience. I know that the challenges I will face in the coming months I will be able to deal with and manage and that if I do have problems I will be able to find a TWer to help me. In addition I now know 30 + people who are in the same situation as me and it is a fantastic feeling to know that you have so many people to turn to.

Yesterday and today we spent our final days together as a united bootcamp at the Agile India Conference (http://agileindia.org). This event was part organised by Owen Rogers from TW and consisted of lectures and classes lead by various TWers and other members of the Agile community in India. Today’s talks were much more stimulating than yesterdays and I was particularly interested in the lectures on user centred design. These lectures complimented the material that Luke Barrett had covered during the final bootcamp day on low fidelity prototyping – which was very interesting.

It was also remarkable to hear that some of the other conference attendees had not considered that the user and the customer were not necessarily the same person and may have differing needs from the software. I am certainly lucky to have had a good grounding in Agile principles during the bootcamp to recognise these differences. Also in my previous life as an academic botanist it was clear to see that many academics failed to see who (if anyone!) would be reading their floras and monographs and if the medium they were produced in really suited to the user. They were simply happy to churn out books that no-one would read instead of adapting them, say into a website, so they would be easy accessible and more user-friendly. I am keen to learn more about achieving high usability as well as business value and functionality in software development.

Many of the sessions at the conference yesterday covered topics we had encountered in the bootcamp and this allowed me to consolidate my knowledge and understanding of the Agile principles. Unfortunately, it was hard to learn more from yesterday’s sessions as in the main auditorium the acoustics were dreadful and it was hard to hear the speakers – this was very frustrating and after several hours of straining to hear we finally gave up and at 1700 some of us headed to the City Markets.

And what a contrast the markets are to an IT conference! Here I expect you could buy anything you wanted. We passed streets full of silk and textiles where Ian and Shane ordered their suits, rows upon rows of bronzes trinkets and idols, stacks of mattresses and pillows, stalls of garlands and incense, man carrying pots and pans, others with baskets and nets. There were oxen pulling carts and cows lying in the street. We ate custard apple from the side of the road and wandered haphazardly into a temple! The place is such a bombardment on the senses that you come away feeling a little dazed and confused. Tom, Michelle and Shane even got to see an elephant walking down the street – I was gutted to miss out on that one, hopefully next time.

Posted 3/16/2005 at 6:34 AM GMT on Xanga

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