Posts in "India"

Interview Advice…by me

So if anyone out there has been keeping up with my blog, this week and last week I’ve been conducting interviews with ‘freshers’ (people fresh out of university) looking for around 6 people to be trained up by me in the art of programming, design, usability and quality control.

Side note: In the UK, it is often said (semi-tongue in cheek) that those that have the ability will use it, and those that don’t have the ability will teach it. So in a classic case of those that can, do, those that can’t teach, I can neither design nor programme computer code, and yet I will be instructing others in these arts.

I have now conducted 18 interviews and seen a wide range of candidates. Below I will detail some of the things that I was looking for and what I wasn’t looking for from the interviewees.

Note that these things are probably specific to computer programmers and graphic designers. I’m not saying this is how all interviewees should be, and if you decide to apply some of the stuff I talk about and don’t get the job, don’t come blaming me!

What I wasn’t looking for

Let’s start with what I wasn’t looking for…

a) I wasn’t at all interested in the career objective at the top of resumes about what the candidate’s goals are.. Once you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. Anyone can write a paragraph with buzz words like “challenging role”, “develop my skills”, “fast pace environment”, “work for the growth of the company”. It’s all contrived and not written with any passion.

If there is going to be a career objective in the resume, I would suggest writing something more honest and without the buzz words. Be different!

b) I definitely wasn’t looking at, or gave any relevance to, what the candidate had put down as their hobbies and interest. Unless you have a hobby or do an activity that is directly related to the job you are going to be performing, I would go as far as to say don’t even include it on a CV. Too many resume’s I read put their hobbies down as “watching TV”, “hanging out with friends” and “listening to music”.

c) Academic qualifications. This might sound quite shocking, but I wasn’t too interested in academic qualifications either. I was far more interested in seeing the persons motivation and enthusiasm for the subject.

What I was looking for

Now let’s see what I was looking for…

a) The biggest thing I was looking for was an honest enthusiasm for the job the candidate was applying for with a proven interest to learn about the specific role. If they were able to talk about it and show how they were motivated enough to learn about new things outside the normal academic education (doing things off their own back), then they had my attention – far more than those that had extraordinary academic qualifications but showed no evidence of having the motivation to carry on the learning outside academia

b) Another factor I was looking for was the undertaking of projects either through university or personal endeavour related to the job role the candidate was applying for. In this case we were interviewing for PHP programmers and graphic designers.

For the programmers, I was very interested in seeing what projects the candidate had done by themselves and not been told to do by the university.

For the designers, my interest was seeing a full portfolio that demonstrated a wide range of skills in photoshop and other graphics packages. Unfortunately most designers fell down in this area 🙁

c) The final thing I was looking at was the openness and friendliness of the candidate. Some candidates were a closed book, others came across as quite arrogant. What I was asking myself was “would I like to work with this person”. This is going to be mostly down to the personality of the candidate.

========

Who knows, maybe I’m way off track with my interview technique and quite naive in my approach. But this is the first time I’ve ever been the interviewer, so if any of the older readers has any advice that I should take on board for next time, I’d love to hear it!

Bollywood Movies and Four Star Hotels

Life isn’t all hard work you know! This weekend I’ve been chilling out a little bit more (by that, I mean I haven’t spent 16 hours a day infront of a computer).

On Saturday we went to a really, really posh hotel called The Residency Towers which really is as nice as it looks on the website.

The reason for going to the hotel is because there are no bars or pubs in Chennai in the traditional sense, the only places that can get a license to sell alcoholic beverages are special wine shops and hotels – and only in a hotel can you sit down and drink.

Amazingly, the rooms cost just £37 a night for a single room. Very nice!

After a few beers and dinner (coming in at less than £10), it was off to see one of the famous Bollywood movies. As a side note to anyone that has never seen a Bollywood movie, the general format for all films is as follows:

– Boy loves girl
– Girl loves boy
– Some external force (parents, distance, religion) is keeping them apart
– Sing and dance about their love for one another
– Get married at the end

Although the films are predominantly in the Hindi language, the actors slip into English so often you can follow pretty well what is being said and what’s going on. Incidently, they can often be pretty funny at times too!

On Sunday, it was a little more relaxing, where it was off to a Starbucks style coffee house where it had everything but the Starbucks prices. Three panini’s, two coffees and two doughnuts coming in at under £4.

Then it was off to a Spanish bar/restaurant called Zara’s which wouldn’t look out of place in London. Again, this place is also a hotel, so they can serve beer here. Football on the widescreen LCD TV’s, cold beer in one hand, and a lovely lamb spaghetti in front of me. All for a mere £7.

There is of course the other side of life in Chennai, you simply have to step out side your luxury hotel or Western bar/restaurant to see families sleeping in the streets or the slum houses…but my host prefers me not to talk about such things!

And as a little bit of light hearted fun, you know you are in India when…

Speed camera’s are considered a complete waste of resources and money when a far more effective, entertaining and fun solution is to simply place a large metal barrier across one half of the road, forcing all the traffic into the on-coming traffic lane. It slows traffic down a treat. For 20 miles each way.

But where is the fun in just having one barrier when you can stick another barrier 30ft away on the other side of the road forcing all vehicles to sort of chicane their way down the road. Anyone who’s ever seen the Blues Brothers car chase should have some idea of the mass pile-ups that occur.

Click if you’ve never seen Blues Brothers

On a side note, if you want to send me some comments on this website (everyone will be able to see them), you need to register for an account on the right side under the login box. You’ll need to confirm your email, but once you have done that you can start posting comments 🙂

Mastering The Indian Language

India.

It’s an entirely different country you know. To master the Indian language, you would have to become a master of 15 different languages…and that’s just the ‘official’ languages. Unofficially, it seems every city, town, village, hamlet and quite possibly 3 member family has their own language.

In Chennai, the city where I’m staying, the official language is Tamil.

When I came over, I thought it would be only proper of me to learn a few words and phrases such as hello, please, thank you, yes, no, why is my dinner trying to escape from my plate, excusemewhereisthebathroomineedtogonowgetoutofthewayarragagghghghahg…mama etc.

Unfortunately it turns out that all the common phrases are spoken in English, so as good as my intentions were, they would have been in vain.

When you hear the Tamil language being spoken, it’s quite strange because there are English words mixed in – sometimes this is enough for you to get the jist of what they are saying, without actually understanding what they are saying…if that makes sense.

However, since most of their English is learned from american TV shows and movies, they don’t understand the brits when they talk. For example, when I was conducting the interviews, 70% of the candidates put that they spoke and understood English, but they needed a translator to say the exact same thing I was saying but in an Indian accent.

In other news…

You know you are in India when…

The motorbike you are on (ridden without a helmet of course) breaks down in the middle of the street. The problem is assumed to be no petrol in the tank. You park up the bike and wonder to the nearest gas station. You don’t have a proper petrol container, but that’s ok, because you just bought a 500ml bottle of mineral water and tipped the water out. Viola! Instant petrol container. Fill water bottle petrol container up with petrol. Spillages? No worries mate, it saves us having to clean the floor. Take petrol container back to motorbike and fill up gas tank. Motorbike still doesn’t start. Scratch head. Stare at ground. Give up. Push motorbike back home.

Photos and Videos From Chennai

I have posted some more photos of Chennai for your visual enjoyment on my Chennai Photos page.

I also took some photo’s of Agriya Infoway’s office, which is the web development company that I use for all my programming and development projects. The pictures were taken about 9pm India time so most people had gone home for the day.

I just want to take a moment to give a special shout out to my friend Sophie who sent me the following wonderful text message today:

Hi Peter! How’s India? Are you having a nice time? I hope it’s miserable! I think you should just come home!

It sounds to me like she’s a little bit jealous that she’s couped up in her little hamlet called Desborough instead of travelling across the globe on buinsess 🙂

Do you still think I should get a ‘proper’ job, Sophie?!

Here’s the link again the Chennai Photos and Chennai Videos

Interviews In India

For the past week I’ve been interviewing “freshers” from the Southern Indian universities. There are six positions available, 2 designers, 2 programmers and 2 quality controllers.

The plan is to take these freshers on for work experience – but unlike the UK, it’s not going to be for just a few weeks, this is going to be a 6 month stint.

During this time, I’ll be mentoring them and giving them real life projects to work on as a team in order to develop their individual skills as well as experience of working in a office environment. If any turn out to be real stars, the owners of Agriya may even look to take them on full time.

Unfortunately I can’t comment on the quality of the candidates as the interviews are still ongoing with another round taking place later this week.

If you haven’t already, check out the Chennai Photos. I’ll try and remember to get some photo’s of the office posted in the gallery tomorrow.

Chennai and Madras Photos

Just thought I would post a link here to the photo’s that I have uploaded of my trip to India. Here’s the link:

Chennai Photos

The site is still under development (I should stick a big fat “beta” sticker on the site somewhere), and only a few photo’s have been posted so far. Also, I haven’t gotten around to resizing all the images in photoshop, so be warned, some of the photo’s are huge!

On a side note, the design I have used to display my photos is 100% designed by me. This is kind of a milestone in my internet career because it’s the first design I have ever created from scratch using photoshop and creating all my own graphics. I hope you like it 🙂

I’ll be posting more photos and even videos as and when time permits.

Till then…

Indian Food

Now there’s going to be a few raised eyebrows for anybody that knows me personally when I tell you this…

Indian food is lovely!

Once we got over the fact that you don’t need to add 10 chilli’s to add taste, the food is really nice. Everyday is something different and always nice. Once the chilli is removed, you can actually start tasting the food. With chilli’s the only experience you have is your mouth catching fire.

I think I will start taking some pictures of the food I’m eating – anyone who knows me will be in for a shock!

Even the fact that it is all vegatarian food is not a problem for me – I’m not missing meat one bit.

The only downside is that the family are insisting I’m not eating enough, so even when I’ve finished an entire plateful of food, they want to keep giving me more and more!

I’ve uploaded some photo’s of Chennai but the links are not working yet. I’ll get that sorted this week some time.

Living in India

Wow, first blog post from India! I’ve been here for 3 days now and I’m still not dead. And as an added bonus I still haven’t caught any weird and wonderful tropical disease that turns your face inside out, makes your eyeballs boil and your skin fall off – but hey, there’s still time.

So far I haven’t seen too much of Chennai (the city where I’m staying), but my first impressions are that it is utter chaos and completely mad. Outside it is a whole world away from placid, surburban London. Inside you just completely forget that you are in India.

The second night I was here, I needed to get a mouse for my laptop. No problem, Aravind (the person with whom I’m staying with) said, we’ll go out to the computer shop now and get one. This was fine, hop in the car, buy mouse, drive home. Or so thought I.

What he had failed to mention was that we would take a motorbike to the shop. Oh, and don’t worry about little things like helmets and leathers. They are not much use anyway when you travel at 4 million mph on the wrong side of the road while looking the other way.

If anyone has ever been to Oxford Street in London over the Christmas period can begin to understand the volume of people that I’m talking about. But now put all those people in cars, motorbikes, pushbikes, and rickshaws. Everyone’s going different directions, there’s no right of way, no traffic lights and no roundabouts.

Right of way goes to whoever is biggest and which way the flow of traffic is going. This gets interesting at crossroads where the only way to get across is sometimes to weave between the traffic coming at you from the left to right.

To make it a little more interesting (so far it has been easy), you also have pedestrians wondering aimlessly through the traffic and even people taking cows through the streets of the city. Wonderful 🙂

So back to the motorbike journey. It’s an acquired skill to tailgate the vehicle infront of you by mere inches while cutting across various other vehicles. Don’t worry about using your indicators or checking the mirrors – they’re not there! Simply lean on your horn before you make any manoeuvre such as turning left, right, slowing down, speeding up, changing gear…actually whenever you start the engine, just lean on the horn until you have finished your journey.

Another thing about India is that it’s a fusion (not my choice of words!) of old and new. You can be driving through a really run down area and slap bang in the middle will be the most luxurious hotel you’ve ever come across. Or it might be a Ford car dealership or some corporate offices like FedEx or Citigroup.

I’m going to be setting up a new area on this site to start posting photo’s that I’m taking – just need to find time.

Finally, it might surprise some people to know that the food here is absolutely fantastic, really nice and very filling! And no meat in sight! It’s all vegatarian.

Having a great time in Chennai 🙂

How Much Does It Cost To Go To India?

Oh my! The costs to get to India are just getting bigger and bigger – spiralling out of control. There’s so many things to do and buy. Visas, injections, money, tickets, toiletries, the list is endless.

Here’s a break down of how much it’s cost so far…

Tickets – £430
Money – £750 (damn! I was sold!)
Insurance – £75
Visa – £30
Injections & Malaria tabs – £150
New Travel Bag – £55
Mosquito Sprays – £25

Total – £1515!!!

Ouch, and I haven’t even got out there yet!

I’m slightly concerned about the travel bag I’ve bought because it’s about an inch wider than is allowed under the new hand luggage rules. I’m hoping I’ll be able to squeeze it into the box somehow as it’s not a rigid bag – wish me luck on that one guys!

Can’t believe it’s all happening finally!

An Englishman in Chennai, India

Hey, check this on. I’m on my way to India! Off to Chennai in the Madras region, which in on the South East coast.

OK, so everything isn’t confirmed yet. I have to go to the Indian Embassy in London to get a visa, get several different injections for diseases like Malaria, Yellow Fever and Diphtheria. The injections are going to cost a fortune!

Then I have to book a flight out there, not sure whether to go for a cheapo option and save money or pay that extra and go with British Airways.

The BA flights get in to the Chennai airport at 4am! It takes 10 hours, so better take a few books to read.

If all goes to plan, I should be leaving early September time.

While I’m out there, I hope to work closely with a couple of webmasters that I currently hire and train them in areas that’s difficult to explain over instant messanger.

I’ll also get to meet the programmers that have been working on my projects for the last year – which will be really fantastic to put some faces to names. I’ll get to see their working habits, and push them in the right direction (more work, less chatter! Just kidding!).

Finally, I think I’ll be doing a lot of stuff with the owners of Agriya, creating some joint ventures and projects.

I’ll be staying as a guest of one of the company owners…I haven’t found a good time to tell him yet that I don’t like spicey curry!

My biggest concern about going out there is catching what is affectionately referred to as “Delhi belly”. It’s where you vomit and have the runs near similtaneously for days on end. Probably not too bad if you are in a hotel and can lock yourself in the room, but in a house where others are living, maybe not a nice experience!

I’ll be taking my camera (that reminds, me, must ask parents if I can borrow their digital video camera, mine only takes stills) and hopefully will get to post some cool pictures of my trip. If everything goes well, I should be out there for 2 months, maybe longer. Or I might not last 2 days!

Current temperature in Chennai: 25 °C (82°F) and it’s only 5am in the morning!

Rain Rain Go Away

Rain. It was invented in the UK you know. But as with so many great British inventions in the past, other countries took our ideas and made them bigger and better.

Monsoon season has officially struck India, and we’ve gone from lazy sunny days to lazy rainy days. It’s been non-stop torrential rain for the last 72 hours. It’s like mother nature is attempting to dump the entire Indian Ocean over Chennai.

See, if I wanted rain – I’d have stayed back in the UK.

Chennai is now looking a lot like Venice with most of the roads being turned into great canels. For actual real life proof check chennai monsoon photos (opens in a new window).

Earlier on this month I told the world that I have a new love in my life. Now I know I caused distress and devistation to women around the world when I made these comments, so I thought it’s about time I put them out of their misery and come clean about this new love.

Coffee.

It’s amazing stuff. I drink it all the time now. Until I came to India I never touched it, ever. But now, being in India I decided to go a bit crazy and do things that I’ve never done before (such as eating that McChicken sandwich from McDonalds the other day), and drinking coffee is one of them.

Yeah, I know I’m being completely reckless, and some people are beginning to wonder where will all this crazyness will lead. A new hair style? Buying a T-shirt from a non-chain shop with a slightly edgy slogan on it? Buying a pair of non-branded trainers? Coming up with some jokes that don’t involve sex? Surely that will make me a changed man.

OK, I’ll pull my tongue out of my cheek now :~)

At the moment, I’m suffering (altogether now, Awww!) from a terrible cold. Once again, if I wanted a cold, I’d have stayed in the UK! Jeez.

A lot of the Agriya office is down with it at the moment, especially amongst the group of people that I work most closely with. All my freshers had it, my webmasters had/got it and Aravind has it too.

Thank God for paracetamol though! The worst thing about colds is the constant drip drip of mucus from your nose and coughing up all the phlegm as your body gets rid of all the nastiness. Yummy!

Finally, yesterday we had loads of candidates in the office as we gave a presentation on our newest business venture. The candidates are required to go out and about in Chennai and gather certain data and record it in digital format. The more data they collect the more they get paid. If they go all out, they can probably earn around Rs 4000 in a week – which is about £40. This is pretty good money in India though.

That’s enough rambling from me now. I just wrote this to put off some stuff that I really have to do but really don’t have the motivation to do. But I guess now it has to be done…

byeeeeeeeeeee

Is Someone Having a Giraffe?!

Who’s smart idea was it to work 14 hour days?! I want a quiet word with them about it. Possibly using a large stick to make my point.

My current working day consists of getting up at 9am (oh, woe is me I hear you all saying, but just listen, ok?), getting into the office for 10am, training up the programmers from 10am till 2pm – and they need a lot of intensive hands on training at the moment.

At 2pm, we have a shift change and the designers come in for their fresher training where I’m teaching the same things to different people.

At 6pm, the designers leave and I go and deal with my webmasters who report back any problems they’ve had throughout the day and let me know about any sales and support that needs to be addressed. I spend an hour working with them on anything that needs to be done.

Then Aravind, one of the owners of Agriya will contact me and ask me how the content is coming on for the new Agriya corporate website (he figures hey, we have a Englishman in the office, we may as well exploit his language skills for free! Who said slave labour is dead?).

Half way through writing Agriya’s content, a client from latin America will come online and inform me of the latest bugs and errors he’s found in the software he’s purchased, some of which would require me to drop everything and address these issues.

Often these issues need to be compiled into a report to be sent to the full time developers for them to take care of the next day.

Around 11pm we’ll leave the office, get back home, have some food, then it’s back on the computer to plan the training program for the next day for the freshers.

I finally get to switch the computer off between 1am and 3am.

So, hopefully now you realise that when I say I get up at 9am, it is a big deal!

I also want to point out to anyone that knows me personally, that even though I’m in India, I will be returning home just as white as I left London due to working every hour Muruga (he’s the local God in these parts) sends…and I will probably be returned as freight if Aravind’s mother has her way. Apparently there is a slight language barrier so that the words “no more food, I’m full” is translated into “please pile 4 more deep fat fried pancake type things on to my plate and please do take a seat and sit and watch expectantly while I eat”.

hmm. I love rants. Am I fishing for sympathy in this post?

…hell yeah! (I’m counting on you guys to provide it!)

Oh, in other news, here’s a picture of my freshers that I’m teaching.

They are all about my age, and university leavers.

======
* Having a giraffe is Cockney rhyming slang for having a laugh. giraffe / laugh. Gedit?