Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Resolutions

It is a fad to have New Year resolutions. Some of the popular new year resolutions are Quit Smoking, Read a book etc. Now a days the Internet helps you to find ideas on New Year resolutions. Take a look at this and this and this. All these picked from a simple Google search.

Does an Institute make new year resolutions? It may be a little unusual but yes.

Tradition dictates that every 365 days, you should try to kick bad habits and start your life anew. So the idea is to sit down with a cup of coffee, a paper and a pen, and reflect: What kinds of New Years Resolutions will we make for Institute this January 1st?

I have a few ideas about a few things we should not do and a few things we should do as an Institute.

Develop a sense of belonging and ownership:

We are a very new Institute. Being a Government Institute there are no owners of the Institute except the Government itself. So what is meaning of a sense of belonging and ownership. The students and faculty now call this Institute my Institute. When the students will pass out and do not live on the campus any more, they will still call it my Institute. They will take pride in good things that the Institute does. The Institute will do well only when its faculty, students and its Alumni do well. It is a challenge of very high order.

Develop a Innovator's mindset:

I had said on many occasions that the Institute should be a technology play ground. I am afraid we are far from being a technology playground. To use technology and to develop technology should be trait with everyone in the Institute. We need to take some positive and proactive steps to kickstart this habit.

Develop an atmosphere of certainty:

Lack of precision and certainty is a prevailing characteristic of Indian way of life. IIIT has inherited some of these characteristics. In our communication, we need to develop a sense of precision and in our action, we need to develop a sense of certainty.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Foundation Day Debate

Finally, on 19th Dec we had finals of the Foundation Day debate.

I am an ardent fan of debates. I almost never miss Big Fight on NDTV. The debates bring the best minds to cross swords intellectually. My personal favourites are Suhel Seth, Swapan Dasgupta, Vinod Mehta. Our own Jay Panda also is a good speaker on national channels.

Recently, there was a interesting series of debates called Intelligence squared debate on BBC. The format is pretty routine. There are two teams of two members each. The teams speak in turns, take questions from the audience and then sum up. What is interesting is the way the winner is decided. At the start of the debate the audience is made to vote for and against the topic. Then, at the end they are allowed to vote. The winner is decided by the amount of audience win by a team. This format is very novel.

One of my favourite movies is The Great Debators. Directed by Danzig Washington, produced by Winfrey Oprah, the movie is based on a true story. It is about a debating team from a black college beating the Harvard team in a national finals. This movie was screened during the orientation programme of our first batch of M.Tech. Students. The arguments, rejoinders, rebuttals are truely enjoyable to watch.

I witnessed last 10 minutes of the Finals of the Foundation Day debate. I was a little disappointed. The audience was thin. The format of the debate was like a GD. The arguments were shallow. But the debators exhibited energy and passion.

Prof. Tanutrishna did put in a lot of hardwork to make this happen. She and Lipika did a good job of pushing a reluctant bunch of students to take a small faltering step in making what possible can be an iconic annual event of the Institute in future.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The CAT fails online

The failure of the CAT - the entrance examination is in news now a days.

My experience with On-Line entrance goes back a many years ago when XLRI tried to convert XAT to a on-line test. It was a disaster too. The entire exam was cancelled on the day it was supposed to begin. Problems were many: the company was inexperienced, infrastructure was inadequate, logistics of testbank delivery was uncertain. I had raised many of these questions with the company. They paid attention to the question bank security and overlooked the logistical issues.

Many of those problems are a thing of the past. The infrastructure is fairly good. There are many agencies who have made a business of on-line testing. The applicants are computer savvy. Hence, it is a right time for the IIMs to go on-line.

Are there any benefits of conducting a on-line test. To my mind there are none. The speed of processing improves by a few days. But it takes many more days to conduct the test. You have to buid a huge question bank which is a difficult task. The glamour associated with on-line testing is fading.

If a foreign agency conducts the on-line test, will it succeed. Not necessarily as the CAT experience shows. But the IIM have the excuse that they awarded the task to a reputed agency.

Why did the CAT failed online. One, heterogenous environment, two, the scale of operations, three, insufficient preparations.

There are lessions for software development in CAT experience. When you have no option but to take a bigbang approach to software deployment, what should you do. Prometric will answer with hindsight.