Few years ago, a personality test revealed that I am an INFJ, the rarest of 16 personality types that exist in this world. Most of the time I was in senses, I used to ponder on why my brain is wired differently from the people I hang out with. Words that describe me are conscientious, determined, organized, planful, creative, thoughtful, introspective, value-driven, private and altruistic.
I don’t quit. I work on my growth relentlessly until I achieve the goal I have in mind. I am my biggest critic. I always have a burning desire to achieve more. For me, it’s never enough. I have a purpose in life — To become better in my abilities and sharpen my skills with each passing day and I strive to make it happen no matter how long it takes.
I choose friends carefully. I have few friends whom I trust. I don’t regret it. Less people I sit with, less bullshit I would have to deal with. And this gives room to pursue my hobbies and expand my horizon in personal development.
More than people, I find solace in solitude and art. Be it writing or playing piano or do photography. But I also find it torturous to spend long time alone.
I don’t share my knowledge in person unless asked. Instead my curious mind often comes up with zillion of questions for the problem the other person discusses. And sometimes, it helps them out. My contribution to the Tech community (GeeksforGeeks) is pure altruism.
I give time to people who are worth my time and energy. Selfish, self absorbed, judgemental and negative people turn me off. I prefer to spend time on my hobbies instead.
I am an easy going person because of good listen quotient and great understanding nature. I have been seen from many people at work as a great team player. Rarely have I met someone who didn’t enjoy a face to face conversation with me. From English literature to urdu poems, from politics to fantasy, from finance to technology. I can talk it all except sports. I don’t very much like talking about politics with serious people. I have seen it turning relationships sour.
I choose who to travel with. Good companions make amazing trips.
I walk out of an argument when it’s getting worse and not going anywhere. I cut off people when they sound judgemental and make comments unless they know me personally. It makes people think of me as a rude and arrogant person.
I take constructive criticism very seriously and use it in my benefit. It has helped me in every aspect of personal and professional development in life so far.
I am on open book if you know how to read well. Otherwise I might be the greatest mystery.
Precaution is better than cure. I try my best preparing for a situation before it disturbs my calm mind and sleep. I like plans and value punctuality. I tend to be more of a meticulous person than a spontaneous one. My brain works like a decision tree and it likes to ponder on the various possible outcomes of a decision and decisions of that decision.
I appreciate talent. You might not be the greatest pianist in the world. But if you play good, I feel fortunate to know you in person.
I care for people I am close with. I usually put thoughts and conscience before saying something.
I am fascinated by high quality things — Good food, nice cloths, great ambiance. I appreciate beauty and craftsmanship. I might disagree that looks don’t matter to me. But that would be a lie. I like beauty around me. Minimalistic by nature, I prefer to dine at finer restaurants twice a week than chilling out in below average eateries every alternate day.
I am quite social and often come out as charming. I make friends instantly when they share some mutual interest.
What is your personality type? Have you tried rewiring your brain to improve it?
I am working on #8 and hope to come out of it soon.
Vampires, we’re. Bright screens are our sun. In broad daylight, we love to stare at the geeky characters under shiny roofs. Caffeine is our rescue in times of exhaustion.
Before I begin with my journey at Microsoft, let me tell you that the views and opinions expressed are completely mine. Please bear with me as I speak, for my style is pretty inconsistent. Drowned in the pool of experiences, I am reinventing myself while writing all this. This post is bit long even for me. After all, squeezing 5 years of experience is difficult to fit in one blog. Go and grab a cup of coffee. I will wait.
Where do I start? Sticking to one place is no joke and I don’t expect anyone to stay this long, unless they are really happy. My chase for money faded away long ago and work contentment, for me, has been the driving force ever since holding the utmost importance in this agile Tech world.
When you reach the stage where you can afford all the food you want, all the travel, the cars and the entertainment, you want, what else is remaining? It becomes a never ending battle to reach to the top. A rat race, I would say. A wise man once said, “Save nothing but experiences”. If not, you would end up having all the materialistic pleasures, but your life would be wrapped up in emptiness. It would lack the sense of fulfilment you seek. While slogging away in the name of money, a day will come when you’re gonna ask yourself, “Was this all worth it?”
It doesn’t seem long back when I set foot in the Microsoft campus. But when I look back over the years I spent here, I oftentimes, get overwhelmed. Microsoft, as a company, what has always seemed to me is a great place to work at, while leaving my imprints across the globe as billions of users get to use its products.
My fascination for Microsoft products goes back to as early as 2002. In those Windows 98 days, we used to have sixty minutes of computer class once a week with one PC being shared between a class of ten students. I used to wait passionately for just 5 minutes of my hands on the PC.
May 2009 – When it all started
Memories of the tough time and the difficult decision while joining Graduation college are as fresh as morning dew. 2008 recession had plagued the software industry and associated opportunities adversely. The sheer fear of decreasing market demand of software engineers had panicked young blood to not pursue engineering in Computer Science. Despite the risk involved in those times and an admission in not so famous university, my passion & optimistic mind entwined their wings and somehow worked together, and here I am, penning half decade of my experience at Microsoft, in astonishment and all flabbergasted.
July 15, 2013
Fresh blood joins. All the vampires rejoice.
5 years it’s been and it feels like it were only yesterday when I wandered the corridors of the humongous campus for the first time. Days bled off into years. I have seen people come. I have seen people leave. Life moves on. Everyone is replaceable. The higher, one is at the management hierarchy, lesser is the tolerance for mistakes.
The time I joined Microsoft, peers around me were celebrating 5 years of completion and I had one naive question. How come they never thought of a switch? Spending long time at one place is quite a thing and more than the place, it tells a lot about the person – Happiness, Patience and sometimes they just let life go with the flow. Well, for me, it never really occurred to me that there is a world outside Microsoft that also builds awesome products and has huge user base. Having worked on world class products like Microsoft Excel and its underlying complex architecture, I feel my existence in this universe is making a mark upon people changing their lives through technology.
In this short span of time, I got to work on 6 version-1 projects each having different complexity and its own problem space. The journey has culminated in a great experience, adding a check to my learning curve at every stage.
The world of flow-charts and diagrams – Office Visio
My career started as SDET in Visio team, a part of Microsoft Office division. It was embarrassing that I was going to work on something I never heard of. Visio is an enterprise software not so famous among students. It captures a huge market for clients looking forward to create flow charts and diagrams. In a nutshell, it is something that simplifies tens of millions of human life. As a test engineer, I designed test suites and wrote automation for various features to make sure the regressions are caught early and help stabilise the product.
K2 phase: It’s Android baby
When I had a feeling that I have learnt enough that would help fasten my deliverable, a reorg happened and devalued most of the things that I worked upon. As they say, only skills acquired through the process matters in the long run, skills to understand and solve a problem. New team and new manager, it was a tabula rasa. Satya’s vision to focus on mobile and services landed me in Android team. Familiar environment and some prior experience, starting was as smooth as butter. Nightmares begun when I was assigned a problem to apply effects on an image. The office codebase is huge, medieval and it’s an ocean if you don’t know where to start. I still remember those hard moments when I was just looking through the code to pick hints, searching keywords like pImage, IImage in the hope that at least the naming convention would lead me somewhere. It was one of the fastest paced project and I was (un)lucky to be a part of it. Learning was great and sleeps were compromised. My team owned low level Graphics rendering stuffs, everything that you see on screen.
It was an exhilarating roller coaster ride as I had never worked on a project of that urgency before. K2 is the second most dangerous mountain to climb and so was this project. Satya’s leadership and his vision for the company was as clear as a bell. We didn’t want to box ourselves in the Windows world. This was a big leap from our past rusted thinking and it was the beginning of reinventing the company. In Satya’s words, we needed to Hit Refresh. Even if we lost the war in Mobile Operating System, Microsoft could make a mark by releasing products on other platforms. SaaS (Software as a Service) was on the top of mind and Microsoft wasn’t behind. But to truly unlock its potential, we needed to annihilate the platform barrier. The world was transitioning at steep pace and the way users used the computing devices was reshaping. Desktop PCs and laptops were no more in trend and to succeed as a company, users needed to feel connected wherever they go. What is the benefit of all those technologies when users can’t edit a document on mobile while going to office and resume on laptop? Delaying this project could have been catastrophic. Decisions are good as long as they are taken at right time.
The idea of Shared code had always fascinated me and I got a chance to see how it works. The biggest challenge of developing apps on Android was device fragmentation. Apps you build might work like a charm on one device, while it might be completely screwed up on others. This project literally boosted my confidence as I was really quick when it came to building something on Android. It was an honor to be recognized as Subject Matter Expert. When I got empty hours, I contributed to Android community on StackOverflow and earned many medals. As of now, I hold 12 gold, 48 silver and 89 bronze medals.
Apple, A costly affair
Satya’s vision for efficient engineering annihilated the concept of tester & developer and rendered everyone a Software Engineer. I moved to Graphics team for iOS where I made core design changes and wrote code to be shared across various apps cross platform. The biggest challenge was to think of design that could sail well across multiple platforms and apps. Making changes at such a lower level was risky, heart throbbing and required solid understanding. Tolerance for mistakes was minuscule and the impact was so huge that making even a small mistake had big ripple effects breaking many features across the apps. Some of the nasty bugs gave me nightmares. It becomes worse when you have to fix the bug overnight and when you do it, you get response on the top of your fix mentioning that your change would be impacting twenty millions customers. Even 1 millisecond of performance regression raised eyebrows asking critical questions related to the design and the solution. I have learnt that this is part of life and as long as the learning curve is steep, things would just work fine. It has taught me the skill to never give up. Perseverance and grit are great virtues to survive in this industry.
Before the release of K2, shared code was a myth. As much fantastic as it may sound when discussed, it was practically not possible given the platform differences, language barrier at different end points and the engineering cost involved to bring the complex humongous codebase together. With the release of WXP on Android, we proved it to be doable and sealed it after moving iOS codebase to the same shared codebase.
Having got familiarized with both Android and iOS, I must say that I would choose Android over iOS any time of the day both as a developer and a user. Apple’s developer tool XCode hangs and crashes every now and then and sucks. Things that can be achieved in a straight forward way in Android can be pain when it comes to iOS.
Recalc or Die – Excel
About 30 years ago in a place far, far away, when C++ was still in diapers, Microsoft Excel was born. We even shipped Excel on floppy. We didn’t have much of C++ that time. So we wrote our own wrappers.
Shared rendering was over and I moved to Excel iOS team where I worked on Excel rendering component. Excel is one of the most complex projects and there are dozens of layers of architecture. Few of the bugs literally drove me crazy. I remember frying neurons of my brain for days without a clue on where in the code the problem might be. Some bugs were in the Apple library itself.
Excel on Mac
Another year, another project. Some familiarity with how Excel works, at least a part of it, landed me into another Excel endpoint. This time, it was Mac. It was way more complex than iOS. The quality was super important, for most of the people with big names use Mac, all of them being paid customers. A simple screw up could motivate one of the journalists to write and given how powerful social media are these days, it could have gone viral in no time. We did get good detailed feedback from a NASA scientist which reemphasized the impact we had been making.
While working on Excel and rendering technologies was fascinating because of the huge mass reach, lack of opportunities to add much design and code in Excel troubled me. The Data Structures and design used were fascinating. But they were written in 90s. Another good thing was that I never had to explain Excel to anyone. I remember meeting a college friend in Seattle who was widely surprised when I mentioned that we are fixing bugs in Excel. She always thought Excel to be super stable.
My restless mind, always looking forward to swim out of comfort zone to try and learn new things, found its medicine when a new SharePoint team in IDC was formed. I never realised the sheer potential of SharePoint until I started working on it. New technologies & tools, two decades old product, unknown territory, ownership of core components and never ending challenges, I couldn’t have asked for more.
Normal days at Microsoft
If you wonder how normal days as a Software Engineer at Microsoft look like, well it can be summarized something like:
You get a feature and are asked to come up with a design and various approaches to develop this.
You discuss various pros and cons and why one approach should be preferred over others.
You write code to develop the functionality. If the code is not shared, Bingo! your life just got easier. If it is shared across apps and platforms , you have to make sure it doesn’t regress anything. There are tons of test cases your code must pass.
If you get a bug due to your code and it is hi-pri, a hot mail thread starts overnight stating it impacted ‘X’ millions of customers.
If you get a bug not related to your code, well happy debugging. There are tens of millions of lines of code and you don’t have slightest of clue in what layer of architecture, the issue might be. I remember debugging a bug for 8 continuous days and at the end, I found that it was a race condition issue. The bug reproduced every once in 30-40 attempts.
Your code performance is super critical. I remember being part of a burning mail thread once because my code regressed the performance by 1 millisecond. I couldn’t see the difference manually as 1 millisecond is something your eyes can’t perceive.
You think you’re smart. Well think again. There are smarter people talking to whom is so much fun. You are stuck debugging an issue for 2 days. You don’t see anything working. You are pissed off. You send a mail to the people asking for help. They read your issue on phone, respond with a fix and it works.
In a nutshell, the emphasis is more on reading and understanding code than writing a new one. If you can’t understand well what is written, how are you going to modify it? This varies from team to team. Since office was released in medieval time when C++ was still in diapers, making changes in the code becomes a bit difficult, especially when you are making changes to an existing feature.
Microsoft is full of smart people. You can learn something from almost everyone.
Why I chose to stay at Microsoft?
There were many times I thought of a switch. The thing that always seemed to hold me was the thought that I would be doing the same kind of work that I am doing here. Besides, I am happy here, living life as I always wanted, trying out different things, exploring the world around me and pursuing my hobbies one after the other.
While we’re busy in earning money, life is busy in deducting time
If you ask me if I’m happy with the salary I get here. I would probably say, Yes. And I will shortly explain why. Pay is decent, but it is lesser than what competitive companies offer. Many of my friends have switched to other companies for higher pay. There was hardly a day in my 60 months of career at Microsoft that forced me to think of a switch, because of following reasons:
The best thing I like about Microsoft is the work-life balance. The timings are flexible. If you get a good manager who knows how to handle pressure well, you won’t have to work overnight unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Company culture and vision
At Microsoft, we strive to build products that amaze customers within thirty seconds of usage. If we fail to wow them, we lose them for life. That’s the underlying principle behind every Office product. Productivity and efficiency are taken very seriously. Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort makes all the difference.
I chose to stay at Microsoft because while working here, I can pursue my hobbies. You get plenty of time for things you want to do. I travel, do fashion and landscape photoshoot, play piano and write blogs, all while writing code in week days.
Money is a good servant but a bad master
The money I earn here is enough to survive and buy things of interest. If I would earn more money, I would buy bigger car or dine in more luxurious restaurants. The standard of living will improve. But the question is, how far are you willing to go for the sake of money. Run for money never ends. Having lived my fair share of life, I realized that life should be made up of moments. As long as you are happy with what you have, you are living a good life. With more money, comes more responsibility. Yes, there are times when I regret not being able to afford a Grand Piano, but I can settle with a smaller version of it.
Although Microsoft pays lesser than few startups, I love it. My granddad proudly says that his grandson works at Microsoft. Microsoft is one of few companies that has survived four decades while staying relevant. People are still crazy about it.
Products that I work on are used by billions of people. I can say that the part of picture manipulation code in Word/Excel/PowerPoint has been written by me. This kind of huge impact can only be felt by working at some of the biggies like Google and Facebook.
When Satya Nadella took over, the change was visible sooner than we had anticipated. The company was at the cusp of transformation and is going through a significant transition phase as we speak. It’s not just a Windows company anymore. The focus has gradually shifted to its mobile first, cloud first business. The reason is simple. With so many technological advancements and automated home & car systems generating a lot of data, the humongous data has to be stored somewhere. 90% of the world’s data has been generated over last two years. Microsoft is pushing hard to make a dent through providing cloud services and thereby, stay relevant.
Microsoft is in right hands. Its stocks are soaring all time high. Investors have confidence and they’re betting in its bright future. It’s far from pinnacle of success and there is a long way to go. But I believe in the company’s vision. And as an employee, it’s a great feeling and amazing place to be at, while being part of the major transformation. I can either watch it happen or be a part of it. Well, the former doesn’t excite me enough.
You might like my other posts along the same line:
Life can be smarter, better and more efficient by following 3 Cs: Consistency, Choices, Communication. More on these below:
Whatever you do, be consistent. Be it waking up in the morning or playing piano or reading a blog.
The less you involve your brain in thinking about stuffs that don’t add much value, the more you would get to spend time in creative stuffs. Reduce choices in day to day life. Ever wondered what Zuckerberg’s wardrobe looks like? He purchases apparels of same color and design. It helps him keeping focus on important things.
What is the first thing besides dressing sense you notice in a person you meet first time? We get to know a lot about a person by the way (s)he talks. Communication plays a very important role in your professional and personal fronts. Public speaking is one good thing you would like to master. Watch Ted talks and practice speaking in front of mirror. It would help boost confidence.
Be in company of smarter people
It is said that a person is known by the company (s)he keeps. If you are in company of smarter people, you would get to learn more. A wise man once said, “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room”.
Plan your day in advance
Note down things you want to do before you start your day. Not only this will help you manage your day efficiency, but it will help you remember easily forgettable stuffs. There are things you remember when you are not thinking much, but are easily missed when your have a busy schedule. Example, calling a friend, responding a mail or paying bills
No much TV series
If you are a TV series fanatic, you must be knowing how addictive it can be. It can affect your sleep if you don’t control your addiction. Watch less of series
Smartness is a continuous process. You need to work towards it each day. In this fast paced agile world, things change rapidly and you must adapt to the change or you would be outdated. Learn a new language or a new skill.
Take a walk and think
When you’re stuck in a problem and no solution seems to strike your creative brain, take a walk and think. It helped me many times in situations where I couldn’t think anything working while sitting in front of a monitor.
Remember 10,000 rule. The principle holds that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field. Practice a skill you want to be good at sometime each day.
If you like this, you might like other posts in the Hack your life series.
A feeling is hidden when someone says “I don’t care”,
A truth is hidden when someone says “I am kidding”,
A pain is hidden when someone says “It’s okay”,
A need is hidden when someone says “Leave me alone”,
A secret is hidden when someone says “I don’t know”.
A lot of emotions are hidden. Few just choose to hide them behind a fake smile. Sometimes, it’s good because not all people who ask how are you would really be interested in listening your story. People are busy and until & unless you are not their priority, they won’t care.
I hear people shouting outside. I hear bursting firecrackers. I hear them celebrating. Many of my friends already planned this night in advance. But to me, it’s just another year, another night. For the first time in life, I wish to pass this night quietly staying alone, no WhatsApp and phone calls. I don’t feel excited or find any kind of adrenaline rush in my veins. Have I grown too old for celebrations? Or is it a sign of maturity? Is that how mature people feel, life with no excitement? Is it because they have witnessed many of such moments that this is just another old, rugged hour?
2016 was the year of learning and exploring the meaning of life. None of us can make through life without suffering some pain. Having lived my fair share, I can tell you that most difficult to endure is loneliness. We must find someone or something to invest our time into. Last year was all about self-realization and finding peace in myself. It was about discovering that it’s not all about career and love. There is a whole big world out there screaming at you to be explored.
In a nutshell, I can sum up my life in 2016 in three points:
1. Visited 8 Indian states and one foreign land
2. Tried my hands on Photography, Piano and Poetry
3. Witnessed that life is a blessing and every moment is priceless after going through the toughest, darkest phase of my life
There are many unforgettable moments I had in 2016, and mentioning only one would be doing injustice to others:
Being inspired from movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You won’t get life again), I experienced sky diving, scuba diving, para sailing and sea walking. You can have a glimpse here:
Flying like a bird
A moment before scuba diving:
A walk on the sea-bed
Met an accident and spent 72 days of my life lying in bed devastated, traumatized, broke cursing fate and finding meaning of life. Funny part was I and my dad both lost 8 kgs of weight, I worrying about me and he worrying about me.
Diving into artistic world
Channelized my energy in positive direction and tried my hands in artistic world – Photography, Piano and Poetry
Life is about trying out new things. How else are you supposed to know what are you good at. You get to live only once. Make sure it’s worth it. At the end of every year, I try to jot down the things I learned, all good and bad ones. While I find few of them worth cherishing, others are equally valuable to teach us lessons of life. 2016 was a wonderful year. Words would fall short to pen it. For the past few years, I had been wondering what my life is meant to be, what are the things out there which will render me with greatest pleasure, what is the secret ingredient of being happy. It was the year when I finally found the core where my happiness lies. While last year was fully devoted to my physical transformation, this year my focus was mainly on building my skills, to become a better version of myself. People often ask me about the trigger point of all these crazy stuffs that I do. Few people even asked me why do I not value money. All I can say is that they haven’t gone through the dark phase of life which I did. I have witnessed that anything can happen in the blink of an eye. We humans are mortals, made of flesh and blood. All it took me was an event to realize the value of life. Waking up each morning and finding yourself in best health is a blessing. 2016 was a year of diving into the artistic world – Poetry, Photography and Piano. Perhaps, someday I will compile another experience about these 3 P’s of my life.
So what was that event that changed me for good? My life was greatly influenced by the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You won’t get a second life). I literally wanted to live it big while trying out all the crazy adventures, exploring the world and having hands on new things. As of now I have tried Bungee jumping, Sky diving, Scuba diving, Para sailing, Sea walking, Flying fox, 18 kms River rafting. In one of the adventures, I met an accident which took from me precious 72 days of my life. It left me devastated and broke. I had no clue on what to do. You can earn lost money but not the lost moments. They are priceless. I could give anything to get back the old life. What kept me alive, more important than oxygen and blood was hope. I realized what Pandora’s box is all about.
All this time, I couldn’t stop myself asking same questions over and over again. Did I live my life the way I wanted to? Or was it influenced by how others wanted me to? What if there is no tomorrow? The answers of these questions steered my thoughts about how my life should be in a complete different direction. While I am done with adventures, I realized that there are other domains worth exploring. Toughest phase of life teaches you lessons nothing else can.
Following are 12 lessons I learned in 2016:
1. Live life as if there is no tomorrow. And if you get a chance to witness tomorrow, do it all over again
2. If you love something, make it a habit: Do it regularly, be it playing piano or photography. It will help you improve your skills and to become a better time manager
3. Don’t procrastinate things that don’t take much time doing: Ever forgot to pay electricity or credit card bills on time and regretted doing it instantly you got the bills? If a piece of work requires less than 5 minutes of your attention, do it immediately instead of postponing it. These small tasks usually pile up and then takes more of your time than it should.
4. Had a breakup? Build up your skills: I won’t lecture much on this topic. Love is the sweetest fruit. But sometimes it doesn’t go according to your wish. If you suffered a broken heart, keeping yourself busy helps a lot. Try to learn something new.
5. Find happiness in whatever you do: Science has proven that you learn something quickly if you enjoy it. Happiness plays a very key role in your success. Look at successful people around you. They are far better than others because they love what they do. Don’t do anything just because everyone else is doing. Do it because your passion drives you
6. Meet new people, they have lots to tell you. Examples are better than precepts. People experience life differently. Sometimes talking to them is no less than watching a fiction.
7. Hope is a good thing. Don’t underestimate it
8. Choose friends wisely. Not everyone you consider friend will understand you when you will be undergoing hardest phase of your life. I learned this the hard way
9. When you feel left out, a lone wolf, write your heart out. Believe me, this is how I started writing and it is fun
10. Your parents love you. They will support you when noone else will. You should always try to find time for them no matter how busy your life is. As a matter of fact, I have noticed that people are not that busy. It’s all about managing time and priorities.
11. Wake up an hour early to feel the power of time. Have you ever woke up early and found yourself binding up a lot of smaller tasks? Were you not amazed by finding out how much your day changed? You plan your day in advance and observe the difference between an adhoc and well managed day. Remember, you don’t need an assistant for that.
12. Every year go somewhere you have never been before. Every month take a day off from social networks
Each one of us have different ways of narrating story because we live differently, perceive differently and react differently. If you love reading my way of telling the story, you might like other experiences I penned here – My life experiences.