Women don multiple hats !

This blog post is dedicated to women in our society on eve of International Women’s Day !

I personally have spent my schooling days either in all-boys or co-ed but never had imagined or experienced that we had a kind of divide existent where-in there is unconscious bias in social structures globally with respect to women; may be I was too naive to make that judgement! Here are some anecdotal stories that will build a perspective!

katherine-hanlon-bHhEJAXyFOg-unsplash

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

While I start to relate and reflect , it seems how my mother once used to play cricket in good old days but never made to a sporting career ( she ended up on academic side as a teacher beyond just being a house-maker , a wife , a guide to her children ) to present day where Shafali Verma is playing and achieving new heights as part of the India Women Cricket team. Just to remind my readers , Shafali used to dress up as a boy to get opportunity to play ( you can call that progress because my mother would not have even gotten away by dressing up like a boy )

Airports in India ( at least Mumbai where I live ) , offer facility of women cab drivers , but there are explicit counters for it and you are asked about your preference. Think how this signage creates a bias in your mind to have them as driver ? Honestly I have taken the offer to be driven by women cab drivers and found them to be far more careful as well having 10 times cleaner vehicle than their male counter-parts!

My wife who juggles between being a micropreneur and home-maker has made me discover a whole new world of self-empowered women , who are very well educated with double major and are trying to be creative in various fields and carry an identity of their own. You would state that well , is that not good ? . Yes it is but the support infrastructure that is needed for them to juggle their many roles , sometimes questions their effort and makes it transactional and asks how much do you even make by following your passion! ; whilst we should have celebrated the spirit of them being really entrepreneurial !

There are many more such stories that will raise fundamental reflections around gender diversity. Whilst I personally feel that my country which has historically seen very skewed empowerment numbers has taken simple steps to increase symbolism around empowerment ( Read article details ) , there are things that we can do to encourage larger cultural change around us.

We should :

  • Reject bias and remove it
  • Create empathy and walk-the-talk
  • Understand and acknowledge diversity as fact of life
  • Stop Judging
  • Celebrate success in diversity

Again to all the women out there ! Big Shout-out ! Happy International Women’s Day ! It’s on a Sunday so enjoy it to fullest !

“She believed she could, so she did.” –Unknown

Power of Letting Go & Leadership

Through second half of 2019 , I experienced lot of open ends around me. It was related to everything from not feeling well , to meeting deadlines & managing expectations. I had started to miss my runs and schedule. I was beginning to stress over all & how things were going to unfold.

Realization : It was time to retrospect!

I am still in early phases of this , but I wanted to share one of the dimensions that I am trying to put in place related to power in letting go ! I realized that balancing aspiration , controlling all tiny details and continuously structuring was leading to what I call over-indexing!  From what I have read and observed , continuity can only be maintained if we focus on what we are doing and when our part is done then shift it into background and / or move on to something else.

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Photo by Ankush Minda on Unsplash

As leaders you might be thinking about tomorrow or yesterday as it pertains to the topic at hand but as you do so , keep following things in mind:

Having a Clear Goal

Be clear of the goal you are trying to reach and differentiate between what “snaps-you” versus what is the actual “pain”. Having that in mind allows one to goo little deep in defining goals and objectives that are more sustainable and avoids us to slip in chaos. This way you may be able to iterate for longer duration.

If this is not the case it will lead to many starts & stops thus creating higher involvement towards delivering purpose.

Operating Boundaries

For you as a leader to operate with more bandwidth given multi-tasking is necessary evil , setting operating boundaries and see that the network effect takes care to connect you to the goals with others around you. We talk about connected world but then suffer to operate with our personal baselines in attempt to move faster. Establish accountability & coach people to exercise their judgement.

Do not benchmark everything centered around yourself as leader. You will never be able to let go if that remains the case. 

Informal & short-run feedback

Improve your ability to give feedback to your network so that it improves its efficiency to collaborate & deliver results. Over sustained period of time feedback loops activate creativity at problem solving and thus aid towards a broader balancing act in the system.

As a person , you need to trust the network or else you would not get into cadence of letting go.

Coach To Lead

If by any stretch one deems himself to be in leadership position , the onus to find and groom people to lead is very pertinent. This is not very easy and will not come fast. It is time taking & involving exercise. If the network around you has to respond to future then we need more from within to lead and carry the weight.

It is matter of time , when you as a leader will start feeling the pain of not having focused on this , thus creating a pull back effect – an impediment towards our desire to let go.

Hope this helps current and future leaders to create a healthy balance that helps to practice the power of letting go . I am personally trying to put these in action as I realize life is a marathon and not 100-meters dash!

Welcome 2020!…#motivation

I did a reflective post in 2019 , where I summarized small things that can help us in pushing towards your personal and / or professional goals. Maintaining that tradition , I have come up with a set from 2019 now , that I would like to share with my readers. Even if any one of these help you push the dial , I will be a very happy person! & if you have your own reflections , then please do leave them as comments 🙂

 

Walk on water“Walk on water” by paullancaster1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For me year 2018 moving into 2019 was about #keepgoing and now from 2019 to 2020 is about #motivation. This could be for anything but it is necessary to have #motivation

#be-uncomfortable 

This one is my favorite , I guess over years my biggest driver for motivation!

If you think that you are spinning wheels everyday then talk to your peers or manager about this. For others who may think entitlements( work from home , comfortable office location etc.)  are necessary for best case outcome , should know that we are part of a large human experiment! . One should know that people who always retrospect whether they deserve all the privileges are the ones who shape the future of a mission as they get up every morning to better themselves and make themselves feel worthy.

So being uncomfortable is something you should embrace. Putting yourself in new and unfamiliar situations triggers a unique part of the brain that releases dopamine, nature’s make-you-happy chemical. This unique region of the brain is only activated when you see or experience completely new things.

#keep-yourself-updated

This one thing which is very important. Things around us are changing very fast. The change of pace is increasing and if you are not aware of landscape , do not read books , articles , then you will be totally out of context to start a conversation or hold up to one. It is very necessary tool that allows you to foster relationships , collaborate and connect in the age of distributed economy.

#take-care-of-people

Ben Horowitz is the cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z) and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs. In his book ‘The Hard Thing about Hard Things’ he shares his experience of being a founder-CEO and the hard decisions he has had to make.

One of the things he mentioned in the book struck me alot:-

TAKE CARE OF THE PEOPLE, THE PRODUCTS, AND THE PROFITS—IN THAT ORDER
― Ben Horowitz

#stay-fit

This is a carry over goal. I do not think this is going to go off my list 🙂 . Remaining fit is very important to have positive and open mind towards solving problems. It also reduces friction & improves efficiency for sustainable future & society.

Wishing all my readers a very happy and prosperous 2020 !

"Cranes by A-Runway of Haneda Airport" by ykanazawa1999 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Re-platforming – Lows & Highs

Evolution is all about looking forward – Gerard Pique

"Cranes by A-Runway of Haneda Airport" by ykanazawa1999 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Cranes by A-Runway of Haneda Airport” by ykanazawa1999 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

When you talk about re-platforming to an online business , it starts to give butterflies to everybody around you! The feeling is an obvious one given that it is not going to be straight forward and will touch everybody in the organization. A re-platforming phase will cause strain on internal resources and the impact to business is also not ruled out, as one starts to touch the very foundation which it uses to conduct it’s business operations.

First reflections always would be to label re-platform as a bad idea but in reality it is a necessity not only to keep the stack fresh and adopt the next wave of tech but also show doors to huge opportunities that might be in front of us.

While many would view global expansion or launching to new marketplaces as an exciting business evolution, re-platforming also needs to be treated as a first class citizen for its successful outcome. Re-platforming is not migration or a parity generator for past but a re-look into where the market is, where the business fits in the current (and future) landscape and reviewing everything from customer experience to technology. For example being on mobile was considered competitive advantage but now it is part of standard behavior. As new age start-ups come into vogue and adopt newest stacks , things that were considered high barrier to tech adoption have become default offering. Continue reading

Platforms & More…

It has been time since I shared any thoughts. Have been irregular for sames reasons always .. caught in web of work and finding time for everything ! I tend to forget always that “yes I can do anything but I cannot do everything !” . Enough of self-infliction , will try to get back into groove and be honest to myself to do things which I like doing !

I am an avid read of Founding Fuel(who have the vision of creating  playbook of entrepreneurship through multi-channel knowledge sharing using their esteemed network of thought leaders) . While reading one of their articles from last week , I found it interesting enough for sharing it as blog post with some personal retrospection on it.

Read On…

Roughly last week on Founding Fuel an article was published about how much control is too much control for a platform. This article talks about some interesting history in early 1930s of how one the Bell Lab engineers Clarence Hickman developed a working model of answering machine but the underlying technology around magnetic storage and the research around it was shutdown by Bell Labs due to reasons related to people’s perception in relation to its usage and ramifications thereof on Bell Labs future ( Remember that Bell Labs remains most prolific entity in world that would have produced most Nobel laureates outside university / academia infrastructure as private company !) ( refer Tim Wu On the Master Switch )

Another powerful example is related to guiding principles of TCP/IP by Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn aimed at interconnecting computers. It had no central control and does not offer any specific optimization for an application. an extreme end of platform design

Above and many other examples mentioned in the article relate to following facts:

  • Businesses heavily control platform strategy
  • Controls are often misguided with too much or / less making a platform subservient to stakeholders or / negative usage
  • Enterprises struggle with definition of platform success
  • Enterprises struggle to see if the platform is balancing act for every stakeholder
  • & Platform itself does not know when it has failed on above parameters!

Now-a-days technology has made it possible to create a platform vision as a foundation to any business idea , but its economic model definition remains conflicting and suited to business itself on how it sees or visualizes the same but it is important to keep referring to core definitions of a platform business.

A platform is a business model that

  • Creates value by facilitating exchanges between interdependent groups. To make these exchanges happen, platforms harness and create scalable networks or users and resources.
  • Platform business needs to facilitate transactions and boost efficiency from the perspective of supply, demand or supply-demand relation.
  • A platform business, should ensure that transactions are carried out efficiently and profitably.

For a platform business, the essence is to ensure that transactions are carried out efficiently and profitably.  The key, undoubtedly, lies in whether a platform can deliver increased transaction efficiency from the perspective of supply, demand or supply-demand relation?

If a business can manage that, it will be able to rise above the fierce competition , ensure effective guardrails with inversion of control , and eventually grow bigger. When it grows bigger in terms of economic value than the creators itself , it starts to become a platform .

Scaling Analytics With Agility Part II

This is last in the two part series where I have have tried to explain approaches to achieving agility with data. If you have not already gone through part I , then follow this link.

Reminder of what we are trying to achieve by adopting any one or hybrid approach is as follows: 

  • Optimize Query performance 
  • Common Query Language 
  • Central data model for business analysts
  • Fast access to data insights 

The part – I of this series helped us understand the single Physical Data Store approach and now we are going to talk about Logical Data Store Approach

Logical Data Store Approach

In this approach we do not execute a Load of data to single store but tend to hand off more directly to data analysts ability to construct logical view or data models across various data sources without the need of lifting and shifting the data. There is a need to construct logical data models and to a large extent removes the need of developers to get involved straight up in any process.

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The above landscape tells us that Single Data Store architecture does provide some inhibitions to agility at the end of the day and this is something which logical data ware house architecture is looking to address.

Typical Architecture

The main theme here is that we are centralizing the data models as opposed to the data itself.

Let us now summarize the approaches across both major themes to achieve agility:

Considerations to Single Physical Data Store Approach

Pros

  • Brings data to one place and then use the store to do transformations

  • Takes an approach where the lake contains all relevant information in raw state post ingestion on continuous basis to cater to multiple personas

  • If used in conjunction to ELT architecture, it provides for a fine balance between developer and analyst community. The schematization of raw data is helpful and allows analysts to create logical data models post transformation within the store

  • Extent of development required depends on choice of ELT infrastructure adopted

  • It is not a hard choice or decision of CTO’s organization and in essence with less engineering resources you may still achieve quite a lot

Cons

  • It is dependent on the architecture that the teams would have followed in bringing data to a single store, implying that if customer connector architecture or ETL approach has been adopted with wrong choices then, the friction to get data in the store will remain very high
  • Storage of data and connecting to DWH will determine pricing of bring it all together along with other investments to standardize the ingestion pipeline architecture

Considerations to Logical Data Store Approach

Pros

  • It centralizes the data modelling and not the actual raw data store
  • It centralizes the modeled data for BI exposure
  • It provides for more self-service BI architecture

Cons

  • Maturity of organization and type of skill set to operate this kind of infrastructure
  • At what size should this be recommended?
  • How much help would be required for multiple businesses become self-serve on this model?
  • The CTO organization can make a choice for this but would need Data Ops to work alongside BI for creating & enabling data models that allow you to operate and leverage the power or else this can get reduced to being just another ELT infra that may not justify its deployment

Summary

Through this mini-series , one would get general idea of various methods by which agility can be achieved to unlock the golden joins ( as I call it ) that drives maximum value for the organization and provides data when it is needed most. 

According to me in order to make a choice , try to introspect and define the maturity index of following three parameters

  • Analyst Org
  • Engineering Org
  • Current DWH infrastructure
  • Budget 
  • Data set sizes 

In addition to this also be reminded that hybrid approach will always bean option if the organization is quite large and centralization in general to drive all the personas might not fit through one or the other working model.

 

Scaling Analytics With Agility Part I

Design principles and guiding forces for achieving unified analytics in the world of distributed data sources can vary. I thought it might be a good idea to just digitize some of my thoughts & where does it make sense to bring them all together and what are the trade-offs in doing so. In a multi-part series we will explore some approaches and then analyse what parameters are necessary to measure in order to pick an approach.

The common goal which we are always trying to search is geared towards any one of all of the following in combination:

  • Optimize Query performance 
  • Common Query Language 
  • Central data model for business analysts
  • Fast access to data insights 

Analyst Use Cases

While you can have many ways of looking at analytics , I generally tend classify things in two buckets to keep it simple. 

Report or Dashboard View

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Non-Dashboard view

  • Combine data to generate insights, or to do data scientific activities which drive marketing behavior
  • Process for pulling data together in the lake to analyze and create marketing pipelines.
  • Online / offline share, share on complaints and sample orders
  • Combining touchpoints => is customer searching on site, then contacting customer care and placing an order via e-mail => what kind of product?

Single Physical Data Store Approach

This approach requires you house all your data in place and follows the paradigm of building analytics on top of single warehouse technology

Data Ingestion Approach

Data ingestion approach is driven by adopting custom connectors or ELT architecture that allows you to get the data to your central data store

Custom Connectors

This is a very traditional approach where developers internally work using any programming language to run batch mode extractors and bring a highly developer centric approach to developing / deploying extractors. It lacks standards of extraction architecture and does not follow a templated based connector architecture paradigm. This approach comes with least flexibility and agility into ingesting data with agility into your store. The custom connectors basically serve as ELT pipelines and are prone to continuous upkeep.

Standard ELT Pipelines

Industry offers many standard ELT pipelines and these platforms are standardized as architecture approach to provide for wide variety of connectors. Two most popular ELT architecture platforms are Stitch and FiveTran

There would be more and other ways , I am not contesting that but trying to just convey the pipeline flow and certain things can be achieved.

Stitch

It has been around for quite some time in market and now has been acquired by Talend , it is a blend of following traits

  • Provides for standard connectors certified by Stitch, these are around 90+
  • Provides for standard Tap-Target architecture which is open source. Read more about it at singer.io
  • Offers Schematization in standard as well open architecture development
  • Has limited exposure of Google related connectors and meta information
  • You can control historical import of information
  • Fosters open source development
  • Great community support
  • Has got a good User Experience
  • It is now backed by a world leader in data pipeline architecture
Skillset requirements

As a Data Analyst you can deal with this Stitch easily, while if you do not have a connector then you can develop one using Pyhton skillset using a standards-based approach as offered by Singer and get certified by Stitch. Using Stitch Import API in conjunction to Lambda functions also allows you to send data to Stitch.

Stitch Approaches Summarized
Using Stitch’s Standard Connectors

Stitch supports more than 90 integrations

Using Stitch’s Import API

If building and maintaining a script to retrieve and push data from Google Search Console is feasible for you or your team, Stitch’s Import API integration can be used as a receiving point for JSON or TRANSIT posts that would then be loaded to the destination warehouse connected to your Stitch account.

Singer Development

Stitch also works with integrations built as part of our open source project Singer. Singer includes a specification that allows integrations to be built by anyone, and our team provides support to members of the community who want to contribute code to the project via the Singer Slack group.

Any community built integrations can also be submitted by their creator to our team for review and potential inclusion in Stitch as a Community Integration using this form. Otherwise, integrations can be run within your infrastructure with the Stitch target and directed toward an Import API integration within your account.

If you or a member of your team is interested in building a Singer integration, for Google Search Console or otherwise, I would recommend checking out our getting started guide, and bringing any development-focused questions to the Singer Slack group.

Sponsored Development

If this is especially time-sensitive or building an in-house solution isn’t feasible for your team, Stitch’s Enterprise plan can include arrangements for the development of custom integrations that are built to ensure your requirements are met.

Typical Architecture

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FiveTran

This is a new age ELT pipeline platform that focused on bring rich schematization & large connector architecture base to its users. It is blend of following traits

  • Provides very large connector base that covers almost all tools available
  • Is continuously evolving
  • Offers rich Schematization
  • Boasts of handling very large dataset with optimality
  • Is highly optimized to Snowflake
  • Comes with multiple destinations architecture
  • Provides for event stream ingestion architecture
  • API driven economy is available but evolving
  • Has in-depth exposure of Google related data stores
Skillset requirements

As a Data Analyst you can deal Fivetran easily. It is touted more as a data analyst friendly platform and while developers can get involved using cloud functions architecture, this is not something that is considered as an open source standard, you need to define and architect it as per the needs of the FiveTran platform.

Using FiveTran’s Standard Connectors

Leverage 100+ connectors from FiveTran

Using FiveTran’s Cloud Function Architecture

This is achieved using cloud function architecture where you need to deploy cloud functions on their platform and make that connector available for consumption

Sponsored Development

This is possible using enterprise contract

Typical Architecture

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Summary

I explained data centralization approaches using above facts and in next part I will continue to talk about virtual datawarehouse architecture and what kind of benefits it might entail.

Collaborate!

While the world diverges itself to allow individual growth and learning , group dynamics cannot be sidelined in larger scheme of things. Individual contributions must lead to productive collaboration. While the word team , itself comes largely from sports , it is always formed and meant to win games. Carrying same concept to work does not always translate into victory but should aspire to create a network effect.

Network effect helps individuals and group of individuals to do following:

  • Enables trust
  • Fosters better group dynamics
  • Helps understanding navigating workplaces

Sometimes it so feel that our group dynamics is working but still there are small sub groups tend to cluster around certain commonalities. Albeit this does not have any detrimental impact on groups outcomes , it is important that subgroups connect and bond to radiate positive energy through their actions.

Another key aspect related to effective collaboration is cultivating art of negotiation. Being able to successfully negotiate without burning bridges is a valuable professional skill.

Discipline is one more key thing to collaboration. It brings certain amount of seriousness to group dynamics and allows for a more cultured feedback loop within the group.

Micromanage Self!

There is a Chinese proverb “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still”.  We would never find a problem in employees that solve problems , are result oriented and are just good at there job , but this same attitude prevents one from being effective.

Steven Covey once summed it up that “We accomplish all what we do through delegation – either to time or to other people” . So yes one can do anything but not everything! It is important that one delegates to create space and opportunity both for self or individual. It helps find time for self and allows people around you to grow.

There are some approaches that can help one to get into the above mode. In general and at large hiring good talent is key to the process of delegation followed by a loose boundary of guard-rails with a let-it go attitude. Holding too tight to something is most severe damage one can to your own prospect or team morale.

Here are quick approach directions to think and dwell upon:

  1. Resource to work relationship is of that which has least friction. Find natural alignment of talent to type of work. Trying to over-train somebody into a role , can sometimes be self-defeating goal. Generally people do not speak up , but it is true , everybody is not meant to do everything !
  2. Set absolute performance benchmarks and guidelines but do not take away element of discretion in your management approach.  Be a minimalist who gives enough for people to deduce , operate and deliver.
  3. Play out your bets in conjunction to insight # 1. World is not a perfect place & therefore one has to try it out. Trying out people will allow you to either get better folks than you or may be they fail. If they fail , then one needs to take that as temporal set-back and focus on absolute performance.

Do not be a mechanical  about your choices and over-trying one option for delegation is not an option , that is termed more a fearful move to avoid failure ! In end , if you do not micromanage self , you will not identify streams that can be mapped out and get an understanding when to fan-in versus out!

Welcome 2019!…#keepgoing

While working through 2018 & reflecting back , I have gathered small reflections that have helped me personally to balance and continue to move another year in sustainable manner & yes there is no midlife crisis neither the musings of nirvana but pure realistic facts that have moved me all along the year gone by!

#stop-look-go

Very necessary that we pace ourselves and not go for the plunge directly. In world where agile , iterations , test & learn seem to be over-powering our traditional approaches , there seems to be no substitute for some amount of planning and pacing before one approaches his or her objectives. 

#value-at-work

Always question is your work another transaction output of an employment contract or are you delivering value while enjoying at work?

Working hard is different than working efficiently. just achieving a desired output does not mean much in today’s world so if you are having a flat tone , not re-inventing your own working styles then it is time to introspect. Identify your limiting factors to bring more joy to your work – #stop-look-go

paul-skorupskas-59950-unsplash.jpgPaul Skorupskas

#avoid-system-traps

Adapted from Thinking In Systems authored by Donella H. Meadows

When playing sustainable and long innings you can become susceptible to system trap of “eroding goals.” It is also called the “boiled frog syndrome,” from the old story (I don’t know whether it is true) that a frog put suddenly in hot water will jump right out, but if it is put into cold water that is gradually heated up,  it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. A drift slow enough can erase the memory of (or belief in) how much better things used to be, everyone is lulled into lower and lower expectations, lower effort, lower performance.

Always mark yourself with absolute standards regardless of your performance. Consider failures as temporary blocks towards achievement higher longer term goals. Always be reminded as a team this can have a catastrophic effect on end-goals

#stay-fit

Remaining fit is very important to have positive and open mind to solving problems, and reduce friction to improve efficiency for sustainable future & society. 

#keepgoing with #focus , have a happy and productive 2019!