Friday, November 04, 2005

Mid-Week Getaway

thru the windscreen
This year, Diwali provided a much awaited opportunity for a mini-break. Stole away on the morning of Nov 1 and spent 2 lovely days at Hotel Uran Plaza, nestled right on Uran Beach.

The final 100-yards' access is through a rainwater channel that transports you to another world. Its like rumbling through a jungle track!

The Plaza itself is a cozy little place in the middle of nowhere. It's peaceful and affords a cool getaway: lunch laid out amidst a plantation of tall pines, delicious seafood & continental preparations a-la-carte, large coconut plantations and the beach for a little stroll & swim. Detox!

Sunrise thru the Palm tops

One of the attractions of the place is the Retired Admiral John Pereira who owns & manages the Hotel. Cousin to Ronnie Pereira (who served as Chief of Naval Staff from 79 to 82), the Admiral is a charming gentleman. He likes to enquire on his guests, providing the chance for a little tete-a-tete. Still sprightly & energetic, as his granddaughter puts it 'going on 18'. Good man, fun to listen to.

Sunset at Uran Beach

Friday, September 23, 2005

NCST Survival Guide: Experiences from the year that was

Met some guys from the new batch and found them experiencing the same frustrations as we felt during our time. So decided to pen this record of what it was like to be at NCST doing the Full time PG Dipl in Softw Tech, for no other reason than, -- at best an aid to new batch members who find themselves floundering, -- at worst, a record of past experience, lest I forget :)

On joining you are immediately faced with the challenge of solving non-trivial programming assignments in the genre of string, matrix manipulation, game simulation problems, etc, and also the frustration of attempting (and failing at) MGPTs.

The data structures and algorithms modules introduces a lot of alien concepts, not often used in day to day programming projects in the workplace -- but an important foundation for computer science graduates nevertheless.

The cycle of lectures -> lab sessions struggling to complete assignments -> reading textbooks and writing code -> module quizzes -> MGPTs & Projects, immediately dominates (becomes) your life for the year.

The schedule is gruelling and demands quick pick-up and application of learning. Time is always in short-supply and the pressure is relentless. You're taught advanced concepts in very compressed time-frames. Imagine covering the 'C' programming language in just 3 days (followed by 15 days of C++, but still).

The emphasis is not so much on teaching as on introducing the student to core (advanced) topics of a subject. You're expected to put in double-time on reading, exploring and applying yourself to the subject.

It is very easy to fall behind -- so you can't afford to let your hair down, or allow yourself to be flattened by setbacks such as flunking a quiz or a project. The schedule doesn't allow you to. An important trait for just sitting through this course from start to end, is perseverance -- put your shoulder to the grind, forget about whining and the stress, and just do it!

Never lose sight of your goal to successfully complete the course. Depending on how new your are to the subject, you'll either find it relatively easy or hard, but either way, you'll learn a lot.

On Teaching: Teachers & The Taught...
Faculty members come with varying degrees of presentation skills, but all of them come with good knowledge of their subject. If you want to maximise their value, be prepared to ask very specific questions about what you don't understand. But make sure you've read up and practiced on the lecture's topic beforehand. Some teachers might appear to be boring in the way they present, but its your job to extract knowledge from them. The more questions you ask, the more will the duration of the lecture get stretched -- so be prepared for the lecture to intrude on your lab-session time, and for your lab-sessions to go beyond regular hours.
One of the mistakes I made was to not ask questions. Ask; persist; get answers; but don't look for spoon-feeding. That becomes very apparent.

In some cases the lectures touch upon a subject very lightly, while the module project expects you to be quite knowledgeable about it. The time constraint (12 modules in one year) prevents in-depth coverage, relegating lectures on some topics to an exploratory style at best -- which affects peformance on the project.
One way around this issue is to collaborate in groups and to learn from each other, rather than struggling individually. Explore a topic, learn how it works, and transfer that learning to your group members. In this way you'll all end up covering a lot more than you could alone. But this requires commitment to the group on part of individuals, and strong bonding and groupwork as opposed to streaks of individualism.

The Learning & The Attitude U Carry
Many folks join NCST with the sole objective of landing a job. That's a key goal no doubt, but to place one's primary focus on it, is (IMHO) to miss the point.
To me, the uniqueness of NCST is in the learning opportunity that it offers -- and the way it changes the way you approach the world of IT from then on.

NCST is a place where you should go if you're keen to build a career in IT, and to acquire skills that'll equip you for life as a Software Engineering professional.
Landing a job is simple -- brush up on freely available technical-interview question papers, pray for luck, and practice on impressing the HR interviewer.
But surviving in IT takes more than that. It requires competence in a broad range of areas, the ability to assimilate new technologies at thought-speed and to adapt and be willing to work round the clock.

Chameleon-like...
One of the key skills that this course equips you with is the ability to pick up alien concepts in a short span of time. It forces you to assimilate new concepts and new technologies quickly and become accustomed to doing that on a regular basis.
In the real world too, new projects often demand that you pick up evolving technologies at short notice. At such times when most people would complain about the pressure, you feel at home, because you've experienced similar situations in the course (in each module as a matter of fact).

I think 'Re-skilling' is the most important skill you can teach yourself during your stay at NCST, apart from getting to learn all the foundational Computer Science & core IT topics in use today.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Observations from visit to NCST on Sunday, 14th Aug

Dropped in to return a book to the library. PGDST 05-06 batch was undergoing first day’s induction. As the new guys came streaming out of the lecture room passageway into the reception, I was struck by their expression.

Reminded me of my own Day One! The excitement at being in a new environment among a group of strangers was tangible on their faces. I couldn’t help thinking how clueless they were (as was I) about what the year has in store. By the time you’re out, the expression changes from an excited one to a hardened (wizened), ‘I can take it – throw it at me!’ kind of look. The end of innocence, if you please!

Also couldn’t help thinking about the bonds formed during the year with batch-mates and some of the faculty (they’re ex-students too). It’s unsettling at the end when you find yourself minus the companionship enjoyed for a year. For the faculty especially, it must be quite an emotional wrangle -- to form friendships during the year, only to find the nest empty at the end, and then having to start the relationship-building process all over again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

An Ode to NCST-K

A year has passed unlike any other.
I stop to take stock,
of how we stand transformed,
and the things and people that have changed us.

When we first stepped through your doors,
we had no idea of what was in store for us.
We knew the syllabus ‘tis true,
but didn’t know how much hair we’d lose
in getting to learn it.

We knew we’d find teachers, we didn’t expect
to find mentors who spurred us on in the face of odds.

We joined a reputed training institute, we were
surprised to find a world-class learning institution,
with facilities unmatched and commitment unparalleled.

‘Tis rarely that you find a place filled
with people who want to see you learn,
and take the the pains to make it happen.

A place filled with guides and inspiration,
chock-full with endeavour,
such a place is NCST.

To name a few, would be to miss many more,
and unfair to the many individual contributions
that have made this experience so special.

And so we thank you all,
The Administration and Security for planning to perfection and looking after us,
the Faculty for your unflinching commitment,
the Support Staff for keeping the lab going 24x7x365,
the TAs for your technical and emotional support in times of deep misery (read Projects --> deep mess --> messiah),
the Canteen Staff for feeding us (and I don’t care what people say – I love NCST’s lunch),
the gardeners for the thankless job of maintaining such a scenic campus come rain or shine,
the Placement Support team for landing us our daily bread (& better :),
and the higher authorities for conceiving and enabling such an incredible institution.

We carry with us a wealth of learning and memories of many happy moments shared and bonds built with you and amongst ourselves.

These, we will cherish forever. And for that Thank You!

for FPGDST 04-05

Nikhil
Veggies Section

Dinner Party on 5th
Hold on 2 yr glasses :

Dinner Party on 5th
MIB, Ladies in Many Hues

Dinner Party on 5th

Monday, July 11, 2005

NCST

Anusmaran 2005 Alumni Meet - www.livejournal.com/users/astra1111/69492.html?#cutid1

Sasi Blog - http://www.livejournal.com/users/the_little_sasi/
& home page - http://staff.ncst.ernet.in/sasi

Monday, June 13, 2005

Thoughts on Project Management

I gladly took up the challenge of being Project Manager for the Software Engineering module of an advanced course in software technology that I'm close to completing.
Initially I'd thought that the learning would be primarily technical (getting a hang of developing Project Management Plans, Scheduling and Estimation). But as I got started I realised that people issues and long meetings take up a lot of your time as PM. Coordinating the activities of a group of 55 people spread across 4 teams is a challenge that puts to the test your communication, problem solving, ego-tussle resolving, and a host of other skills. What can I say... I'm lovin' it! (apologies to McD's ;-)
- Nikhil