Saturday, December 26, 2015

Zermatt - Sunnegga Winter hike or summer hike?

A winter hike turned into early summer hike this Christmas. I have been hearing a lot about lack of snow this winter, and it has been really sunny. But I did not realize the extent to which this has affected real life till I decided to go on a winter hike in Zermatt which turned into an early summer hike with only patchy snow.

In an attempt to find some real guaranteed snow, I decided to go all the way to Zermatt for a winter hike. Zermatt stands at 1400m and the mountains around at 3000m+, which means the town is typically snow covered by Christmas or at least you can find snow in mountains. This year the story was very different. There was very little difference between what we saw back at peak of summer, and now in middle of winter.

The hike starts from Zermatt church. There are couple of ways to get to Sunnegga. We took the path through Winkelmatten which seemed shorter and simpler. There was no sign of snow in the town or on the trail. Though once the trail leaves the town there were many icy patches on trail. These were covered by grass, stones and fallen larch leaves which were providing perfect traction. The trail was clearly very well maintained.

Matterhorn was constantly in the view. As we got higher, it became clearer, along with other mountains around it. After a while the trail does become covered in snow, which is still easy to hike on. Once at Findlen the ski lifts are visible. The small ski village has many restaurants. Here it was clear that a skiing slope has been created out of no snow. There was a road of snow surrounded by clear ground. View of Matterhorn is just amazing from here. The Sunnegga point is only 30 - 40min away from here. We stopped on the way at a perfect spot just short of Sunnegga to have lunch in clear view of Matterhorn.

At Sunnegga there is a small area where people were learning to ski. After hanging out there for a while, we returned back. I was a bit apprehensive about the initial icy patches on the trail, but there was no need to worry. People who made the trail knew what they were doing. Great end to a perfectly sunny winter day.

Monday, December 21, 2015

So this does happen ...

Yesterday I was on tram in Zurich and a guy comes and sits next to me. He looks at me again and asks - do you speak English. I say yes. Then he fetches something from his bag. I thought maybe he wants me to read something, and I am thinking I cannot translate it in German! He shows me a 2016 calendar - "for you" and I notice that he has bag full of those in many languages. I say, thank you - is it from your company? He said - no its for Christ - or something like that. I am flipping through it, its nice calendar and I don't mind what's written on it. I still say thank you.

Then he starts saying something about - our God died for humanity .... one true God. Something that I am not really interested in following, I have other things to think about. So I try to return the calendar and tell him - I am sorry I cannot take it, I am Hindu. Then I add I am not Christian, just to make sure he gets the message. He insists keep the calendar and then adds something like - you know ours is true religion because our God dies for sins or something like that. First I am surprised, then I am thinking should I keep the calendar? Then I read a line from calendar which could very well have been a line from Geeta about loving human beings. So I show him the line and say - all religions say the same, you have your belief and I have mine. He is still muttering something about someone died for something. Its my stop, so I getup, decide to keep the calendar, say thanks again and leave.

This is the first time ever that I have had such encounter. I often see people near hauptbahnof distributing calendars, papers about God. They don't stop you because they can see you are not least interested. Here I was a captive audience, and of course I accepted the calendar in first place, so can't blame him. I found it quite amusing in the end. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

traveljo - why do we travel ?

After cancelling 2 trips - New Zealand which was on top of my bucket list, a dream trip, and Barcelona which was falling perfectly during Christmas holidays, I have come to realize that I have lost my traveljo. I have started using expressions like "quality over quantity"! Which does not make sense for travel, its all about quantity of visa and passport stamps and borders crossed. This was a perfect summer, and instead of running off to Alps every sunny weekend day, I was comparing "pay-off".

All this got me thinking why do we travel? Is there something like too much travel? I wonder how many people travel just to escape the realities of life. When you are at a strange place, strange people, life's problems also become estranged. At that moment there are simpler problems like where to eat the next meal, when to catch the next bus, where to go and where to stay - roti, kapda aur makan aur transportation. Where is the line between traveling to relax and traveling to run away?

Or are travellers just this set of people who are on quest for more knowledge, more information, to know the world! Or is it just about bragging rights. Of course I want to believe the second - its all about quest for knowledge, knowing the different cultures, how people live, knowing the world. Most avid travellers don't stay locked in 5-star hotels, following set itineraries. They venture out, mingle with locals, enjoy the different way of life going around them.

As I prepare to spend a restless (travel less) Christmas week for the first time, I hope 2016 brings more travels for me, even if it is to escape life's problems.

Switzerland - you surprise me - still!

While I have written before how I have been surprised by Swiss efficiency again and again, today I have to write the opposite - the Swiss inefficiency in dealing with online anything. The surprising backwardness of Swiss in embracing the new technology - the internet (yes, the new part was sarcastic). Today I decided to create an online account for my health insurance so that I can check what's going on, bills and stuff. First I was surprised that there was an option to do so, knowing Swiss I thought there won't be. Well, so far so good. I fill out all the forms, sign the agreement, create user id, password blah blah. And then guess what - I get a screen telling me that they are going to snail mail "something" to me so that I can start using the account. Is this a joke! I created account in hope to pay off and get things faster, now I am sitting and waiting for some snail mail thing to reach me.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Why I left Google

When someone asks why I left Google, I usually give many different answers because there is no one big reason. When I first started my job search for leaving Google, I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I was very unhappy and frustrated by the way my then manager ran his team and managed the people. There was rampant favourism and too much politics. I had lost trust in all things Google. I just wanted to get away from that environment. Then I thought of all the wonderful years I had on different teams and decided to switch teams to give it another try. I managed to move to a team that met all my expectations of exciting work and great team environment. 

Something was still amiss though. There were still moments of frustration that made me feel I am not entirely happy. On positive side I could talk about that with my managers now, on negative side I felt despite their best efforts and intentions I was not seeing a satisfactory growth plan ahead for me. My previous job search had also set lot of wheels in motion both in my mind and on linkedin. So when a perfect opportunity knocked my door (CTO at a local startup), I could not resist. I started playing with the idea of leaving for real. 

Engineer at heart I made spreadsheets of pros and cons, best case scenarios and worst case scenarios. I could not really answer the question – why should I leave the best company and a great team. But I realized that question was not “if I should leave Google”, but “am I willing to let this opportunity go”. I was ready to move from an engineering driven job description to strategy driven job description, and it was becoming clear to me no matter how successful I am at my non-eng leadership tasks, I will not be fairly rewarded at Google. The new position provided exciting new challenges and opportunities. So I jumped in, it felt good, uncomfortably exciting. 

Looking back, I am very happy that I decided to give Google another chance by switching teams within the company. I left at a very positive note, knowing that I was willing to tradeoff security of Google for risk of startup even if the best case scenario at Google materialized in future. My decision was driven less by anger and emotion and more by rational thinking. I don’t have a one sentence answer for why I left, but lets say I had outgrown the engineering driven job profile Google had to offer and wanted to put my time and energy into leadership that I did not believe would be rewarded at Google. 

I think Google is still an awesome company to work for. The only criticism I have is the company repeatedly fails to develop and reward the people who are willing and capable to grow into good leaders. Instead it often throws great engineers who are unwilling or unable to switch to leadership mode into managerial positions. It often reminds me of the time when Sachin Tendulkar was made captain of Indian cricket team. A seemingly logical choice, but disastrous for the team.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Installing kafka / zookeeper

Its almost a month since I left Google and joined the startup, and its been 30 days of new challenges every day, some I handled beautifully and others strugglingly. Today after a very very long time I got to work with actual linux machine. I had to install Zookeeper and Kafka on 3 AWS EC2 machines. Of course these being well known apache projects had instructions everywhere. But when was the last time open source project instructions worked flawlessly! It was great to finally get the system working, hack away into the /etc/hosts files, try different things.
On to next challenge tomorrow - convert the 3 single-node machines into a single cluster.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

This s*** just got real!

If you are into weird hollywood movies, you know what that expression means, and sometimes some expressions no matter how fowl just express a situation well. So this is what happened. I left Google 2 weeks back and joined a startup in Zurich. The decision, last few weeks and then joining new company just passed by with express train speed. I always knew this is where I was headed, like I knew form 6th standard that I will be working at Microsoft in US (ok that did not exactly happen, but Google was close enough), but when where how - I did not know.

When the opportunity to join startup came, right in Zurich all stars seemed to align. I don't have to move, I was in perfect position to try something new - and I took the leap of faith. As Peeyush Ranjan said in his linked in post - Google is like a university, you learn learn learn, but at some point you want to take that learning and do something else with it.

So why it just got real -

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ironman Zurich

Yesterday was my 3rd time volunteering as course marshal for Ironman Zurich. This gets more and more inspiring every time. Especially the part towards the end where you see real heroes emerge, people who finish in 12+ hrs, who are really pushing their limits, are going through mind-and-body struggle and winning. They are the real winners of Ironman. This year I met a couple of people who had come all the way from India for this. I cannot imagine training for an event like this in the heat and pollution of an Indian city, and after that coming to a cold climate like Zurich to run. There was a Japanese guy who walked most of the marathon with a cramped leg. Every time he passed us, he had a goal to make it to finish line by 10:30pm, and I was sure he is going to make it. That is true will winning over body. There was also the usual stream of 50+ years old who can put all of us who are half their age to shame. Many of the athletes you can see were running in a trance, not caring about form or time, but just putting one foot in front of other to reach the finish line. There were of course few graceful exits who had done all they good and decided to give up, and few broken hearts who did not want to give up but were just not going to make it in time. Every year I see this, my resolve to try something like this becomes stronger, right now I am to the point where I want to try the olympic distance which is ~1/3rd of the full Ironman distance, though not with Ironman brand because I clearly have an issue with their brand name :)