Monthly Archives: February 2013

My Top 10 Favorite Books

Aside from the technical (computer) books I read to keep my skills up-to-date, I’ve read numerous business and self-help books that helped me in my personal and professional life. Here’s a list of my top 10 books:

1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. I read this book when I was just starting my career way back in the early 90’s. This book has a tremendous impact in my personal and professional life. It helped me how to be proactive, how to manage my time, and how to prioritize my goals.

2. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twentieth-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman. This is the best book I read on globalization. It argued that one should be a “versatilist” to compete in a shrinking world.

3. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. This book explains that an idea, trend, or behavior can reach a “tipping point” where it spreads rapidly. The book is well research and has a lot of examples. I also like Gladwell’s Blink and Outliers books.

4. Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazi. This is the best book I read on networking. The best advice I got is that you have to be generous – ask other people how you can help them.

5. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I like this book because the author is a Computer Science professor at Carnegie Mellon who taught about overcoming obstacles and achieving dreams.

6. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins. This is one of the best business books I’ve ever read. It is based on research and careful analysis on companies that are doing great in the market.

7. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. This book explained how the universe and humans came into being, from a science perspective. It recounted the researches and scientific discoveries and inventions from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization. The author made the book very entertaining.

8. The Harvard Sampler: Liberal Education for the Twenty-First Century by Jennifer M. Shephard, Professor Stephen M. Kosslyn and Evelynn M. Hammonds. The book is a collection of essays by distinguished Harvard professors, showcasing diverse subjects such as religion, cyberspace, evolution, medical science, energy sources, morality, human rights, and many more. The essays are entertaining and thought provoking.

9. Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun. Aside from the Toastmasters manuals and magazines that I’ve read, this book provides tons of practical tips on how to conquer your fear of public speaking, how to organize your speech, and how to deliver your speech.

10. The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz. Very inspirational book – provides useful methods on how to improve one’s life and achieve greater happiness.

Getting Promoted in IT

One of the perks of serving at an Harvard alumni club (I am currently the Secretary of the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Worcester), was attending a 2-day Alumni Leadership Conference in Cambridge, MA. It was a nice break from work. I met alumni leaders from all over the world, talked to accomplished people (I met the writer of one of my daughter’s favorite movies – Kung Fu Panda), learned what’s new in the Harvard world, and learned leadership skills from great speakers.

One of those speakers is David Ager, a faculty member at the Harvard Business School. He totally engaged the audience while delivering his opening address – “Leadership of High Performing Talent: A Case Study.” We discussed a case study about Rob Parson, a superstar performer in the financial industry. In a nutshell, Rob Parson delivered significant revenue to the company but his abrasive character and non-teamwork attitude didn’t fit well into the culture of the company. He was due for performance review and the question was – Should Rob be promoted?

The setting of the case study was in the financial industry, but the lesson holds true as well in the Information Techology (IT) industry. There are a lot of Rob Parson in IT – software developers, architects, analysts, programmers – who are high performers, but they rub other people the wrong way. They are intelligent, smart, and they develop very sophisticated software — the bread and butter of IT companies. Some of these IT superstars aspire for promotion for managerial role. Should they be promoted? Too often we hear stories about a great software architect who went to manage people, but faltered as a result.

IT professionals who would really like to manage people should be carefully evaluated for their potential. They should learn people and business skills in order to succeed. Before giving them any managerial position, they should undergo a development program and they should be under a guidance of a mentor (or a coach) for at least a year. Most IT professionals should not take on the managerial role. They should remain on their technical role to be productive, but they should be given other incentives that motivate and make them happy – such as complete authority of their work, flex time, an environment that foster creativity and so on.