Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Leaving The Emerald Towers Of Oracle

After nearly 7 years in Oracle, today is my last day of work here. It has been a great ride. This is my first job out of grad school. So obviously I have learnt a lot here -- a lot about American corporate environment and a lot about writing large scale business applications. My time at Oracle spanned across Oracle Exchange, iProcurement, Purchasing and Receivables teams and it has indeed been an incredibly rewarding experience. Working in PO and AR has given me invaluable exposure to both the buy and the sell sides of business.

I have also learnt a lot how big software development companies are run effectively. Oracle Apps seem to be run in a very lean and mean way. Resources are mostly utilized to their fullest. There is minimal wasteful expenditure, at least in the engineering and development organizations. Can't speak of sales and marketing though. Ha! I have heard rumors that Oracle sales guys sometimes have very lavish parties. Never seen it actually. Never in dev orgs.

Larry Ellison: So Near Yet So Far

My lament is that I could never meet our celebrity CEO Larry. He is never seen in the RWS campus, like you know, strolling around or something. But tales abound about people running into him and his bodyguards in the 500 building elevators. The closest I have come to Larry was once during his Open World keynotes in the Moscone Center when I got the first row seat. He is shorter than I had imagined.

I once wrote an email to him when I completed 6 years here. I requested a 1-on-1 with him. You know, regular business. Never got a reply. Hmph.

HQ Campus Cafes

The cafes are great. I really like 300 and 400. The 300 cafe has an Italian section for pasta, pizza and lasagna, a grill section for fresh fish like salmon, mahi mahi, etc. and also a salad counter. I liked the spinach salad "with everything". And it has a cafe which is open late afternoons. So 300 is a popular hang out for coffee drinkers during the 3:00pm hours. The 400 cafe has a grill with burgers and quesadillas, a self-serve section for salads and sandwiches and another section which serves exotic delicacies like pot pies served with cheese and macaroni on the side. Yum.

The Gymnasium

The gym is a sprawling facility. It has an indoor basketball court, an outdoor beach volleyball court, a full size lap pool, lots of treadmills and other strength and cardio equipments. Also a couple of ping-pong tables. The gym hosts a lot of activities year round. It hosts summer and winter leagues for volleyball, ping-pong, basketball, badminton, etc. And miscellaneous events like the Health Fair. And it runs classes for yoga and aerobics and such like. And there is massage facility too. Never utilized.

I have been part of the winning team once for the indoor volleyball recreational league. It was a memorable win. And once we were runners up in beach volleyball. Again recreational league. Just to be clear, there are 3 levels -- recreational, intermediate and competitive. So you know where recreational stands. And I have been a runner up in the competitive ping-pong league once. Doubles with Ben Ao. It was a great win when we beat the favorites in the semi-finals.

Lake Larry

The main lagoon in front of the HQ buildings is fondly known as Lake Larry. It is customary to take a walk around it after finishing up the lunch. The path has recently been widened which makes it easy to avoid bumping into the very many pregnant ladies that love to finish their quota of the prescribed daily dose of walk around Lake Larry. So much better now.

Anyways Dude, What's Next?

So I wanted to learn more about how the products that I develop in Financials and Procurement, are actually being used by our customers. How is life on the other side of the table? What are the issues in real business scenarios? And so on. I got this opportunity to be part of a big lovable company and work in their Corporate IT team, where they use Oracle Apps. I like the new role and the new company and decided it was time to explore new frontiers. So here I am at a very important point of time in my life. My last day at Oracle is today.

I am going to Yahoo! tomorrow.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Model-View-Controller (MVC) Song

MVC is a design pattern now heavily used as part of the base architecture in many business applications. For non-software folks, the phrase 'Model-View-Controller' may be as unintelligible as it can get. But for all the software developers out there, it is not less than the Holy Grail. And a really important topic for job interviews. Yes, really.

So to find a song written on this topic is quite amusing. I found it here in Peteris Krumins’ blog. The YouTube video shows a geeky Apple engineer, James Dempsey, singing this song in their worldwide developer convention in 2003. Here are portions of the lyrics that I found interesting:

Controller’s know the Model and View very
uahh - intimately
They often are hardcoding
which is very verboten for reusability.
But now you can connect any value you select
to any view property.
And I think you’ll start binding,
then you’ll be finding less code in your source tree.
Yeah I know I was astounded,
that’s not even a rhyme.

He looks a bit awkward and the guitar strumming could be better. And yes, sometimes it does not even rhyme. Yet, I still like the whole idea of this rendition. But again, an M-V-C song, come on... what next? A song on Ruby on Rails anyone?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cell Phones Leapfrog Drinking Water

I recently had an opportunity to travel to our native village Naithana in Garhwal, which is in the state of Uttarakhand in India. This is a tiny remote village with a population of less than 100 people in the hills of Himalayas in northern part of India. I had been there just once before when I was 6 years old and only had faint recollections of the place.

This time I had a very different experience. The village has dilapidated even more. The houses are in ruins. All this because of the one-way migration from villages to cities. My father's family migrated out 46 years ago. No one ever goes back there. Our ancestral house, which was quite palatial at one time, is now totally disintegrated. In Hindi language, we have one word to describe it -- khandhar.

No Water Supply For 2 Days

The village does not have drinking water reliably supplied to the houses. Although the water pipes have been laid out to some houses, the supply is erratic at best. I was there for a couple of days, and the taps had been dry for over two days they told me. So the people living there had to fall back to plan B -- fetch water from the natural spring water sources that surround the village. That is what they had been doing for generations, so actually it was not much of a plan B for them. It was more of a plan A prime, I suppose. They do not expect 24x7 running water in the taps at home.

I did not expect much signs of progress in this village. In the morning, we were going to the water spring outside the village. You know, for the shower. On the way, I saw a couple of village girls walking back, carrying bucket full of water on their head. But lo and behold, to my surprise, here is what I heard and saw next.

... To Fetch A Pail Of Water

As the girls approached me, I thought I heard a cell phone ring. Maybe it is a transistor radio, I wondered. But as they passed me by, I saw one of them pull out a cell phone from under her scarf.

And she started merrily chatting away. I was blown away by the sight. It was a great contradiction, something you can only see in India.

Leapfrogging In Developing Countries

Is this really the way things are supposed to progress in developing countries? You now have cell phone service in places where there is no drinking water service. Similarly, there is a burgeoning air travel market in India, leapfrogging the investment required to build roadways infrastructure. And India has more number of poor and malnourished people than any other country, yet 4 of the top 8 richest people in Forbes Richest People list this year, are of Indian origin. At the Delhi airport this time, the immigration line for foreign passport holders was much longer than the Indian passport holders. Yet, the Delhi airport is a shambles.

I am amazed by these set of contradictions. It would be wonderful to get an objective third-party account of the current conditions and progress in India, maybe from an American/European tourist. Much like the venture capitalist Mark Davis wrote during his recent India trip.

Maybe these are just the growing pains of India. These inconsistencies should smoothen out in a few years. That is what I hope for. Go India!