Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When hiring use survivor bias

I have had opportunity to conduct interviews on behalf of my company for over a year now. Most of my colleagues who have been on the interview panel have asked me why I spend lot of time asking candidates about tasks and jobs that they failed at. Well this is what helps me differentiating between the good and the best candidate. I call this technique ‘Survivor Bias’ – an important statistical principle that can greatly affect the future of my company and quality delivery to my clients.

Let me site this with a simple example

During World War II, the English forces sent planes each day to bomb the Germans. As you might expect, several of these planes were shot down. And, the ones that did come back typically returned with multiple bullet holes. Now, the English obviously wanted to maximize the chances of its planes and soldiers returning home so English engineers studied the planes that returned. In doing so, they found patterns among the bullet holes. Specifically they found lots of holes on the wings and tail of the plan, but few in the cockpit or fuel tanks.

As a result, the English added armored plating to the wings and tail. As you might have already concluded, this was the wrong thing to do. The better decision would have been to add armored plating to the cockpit and fuel tanks. For, the planes that were shot in those places were the planes that were shot down and never returned. The English engineers' analysis missed this data because these were the planes that they were unable to examine. This is "survivor bias"-- their inability to include this critical data in their analysis since it was unavailable or didn't "survive".

So why does it matter to you when you are talking to a brilliant candidate with superb success record? When you hire candidates who have only worked at successful companies, you may fall victim to survivor bias. They may not have learnt many of the lessons that individuals learn when they fail.

Now I am not advising that interviewer shouldn’t go for candidates who claims that every one of their projects have been successful. I personally believe to differentiate a good candidate and the best ones, as an interviewer you should use survivor bias.

Do take couple of minutes to share (below) the unique techniques you have used while interviewing for aspirants for your company or portfolio.
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

IBM’s crystal ball Tech Predictions

Big Blue continued its annual tradition and released technology predictions after surveying its 3,000 researchers to find five ideas expected to take root within five years. The list includes (not in order of my preference though!)

  1. Air-powered batteries – Rechargeable batteries that could use the air we breathe to react with energy-dense metal, eliminating a key inhibitor to longer lasting batteries.

  2. 3D-enabled Smartphone – Will use special cameras that could be placed in cell phones in order to enable real-time video chat with a 3D hologram of friends and family

  3. Adaptive traffic systems –Computer programs will use algorithms and real-time traffic information, traveler patterns and behavior to provide more dynamic travel safety and route information to travelers. Thereby avoiding traffic jams and shortening the commute time.

  4. Citizen scientists – Technology that will allow communicating environmental information (generated by sensors in cars and phones) to help fight global warming, save endangered species or track invasive plants or animals that threaten ecosystems around the world

  5. Cities powered by the heat thrown off by computer servers – IBM predicts to efficiently recycle the thermal energy from data centers to provide hot water for an office or houses using novel on-chip water-cooling systems developed by IBM.

Like we have seen in the past not all Big Blue predictions pan out as expected for example cell phones reading our minds by 2012, instant speech translation etc are still years away from reality.

I personally like IBM releasing its technology predictions in last few days of 2010 when everyone else is just taking about the year that went by (viz. person of the year 2010, gadget of the year 2010 etc)
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Role change - You get a new avatar. Now what?

Role change @job is probably the most awaited thing for any employee who has put in his mind, heart and soul to meet his targets. So it was for me few weeks back till I received a C&B letter mentioning my new job role. I was all excited about it till my wild imagination got entangled with the phrase “Get ready for the greater accountability”. Once again it is time for me to re-calibrate myself to ensure I live up to my new responsibilities. A time when

a) Upgrading skills is a must –Suddenly your smooth sailing ship reaches uncharted waters that need new maneuvers at the blink of an eye. To keep your skills with the new job demand, figure out trainings that can get you there. Put yourself into learning as fast as you can. A swift upgrade of your skills will boost your credibility and go a long way toward improving your overall professional image on paper.

b) Getting a mentor – Is a must for the professionals who are adjusting themselves to the “challenges of the reward”. If you know somebody inside your company who has already traversed this path and is willing to help, you can make your upward transition really smooth else make sure you search for one outside your company.

c) You should work harder than you need to – It takes extra effort when you start learning a new game. Make sure you put your best foot forward and everyone notices the hard work you are putting in the initial few months. Keep your enthusiasm high and ensure that it speaks for you every time.

When you have mentor in place, you are spending time to upgrade your skills and working hard to leave everyone impressed, it won’t be long before you realize you have paced yourself to the new responsibilities without any increased stress!
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Friday, December 17, 2010

WebP - A new images format 4 web

WebP pronounced as "weppy" is a new image format for web by Google that gives you a file size reduction by an average of 39.8% percent, without affecting its quality. To make Internet more faster and loading pages in lesser time, Google plans use this new image format. As 65 % of web traffic comprises of images, WebP can potentially make the web faster.

The WebP format works with Google's Chrome browser. And since it is an open-source project, others would be able to provide compatibility to this format without having to pay a fee.

Visit Google gallery page that puts JPEGs and converted WebP sample images side by side to compare.

Read more about this image format in Richard Rabbat blog
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Drawing from some of the most pivotal points in his life, Steve Jobs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life's setbacks -- including death itself -- at the university's 114th Commencement on June 12, 2005.  Here is the video and transcript for this address - You've got to find what you love

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Up for a probability challenge?

Today after a long time I came across an interesting probability question. I think there are two ways to solve this problem but don't know which one is correct. Leave me a comment if you know the right answer.

"A couple has two children and at least one of them is a boy. What is the probability that their other child is a boy?"

1) 1/2, it is equally likely that the other child is a boy or a girl.
2) 1/3, in terms of order of birth, there are four possibilities for the couple's children: BB, BG, GB, GG. At least one child is a boy, rules out the the possibility GG, ;leaving you with three possibilities: BB, BG, GB. With two of these, the probability of the other child being a girl is 2/3. Leaving the probability of the other child being a boy at 1/3.
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Sunday, May 30, 2010

BAM: real-time versus historical


The ability to report business performance metrics is a major differentiator among BPM suites. BPM vendors are rushing to include this type of business activity monitoring (BAM) capability in their suite through acquisitions, partnerships or enhancements of existing tools. On the other hand customers are usually confused about how to best use BAM capabilities.

Real-time BAM components are tightly integrated within the BPM solution to monitor metrics for work-in-progress activities. Advanced real-time systems can do such things as record an execution pattern signaling process failure so you can avoid them in the future. Real-time BAM also predicts work loads for better resource utilization. Filtering and reacting to business events is also a key feature. For example, based on a certain business condition (such as receiving an electronic order), the following actions can start: send e-mail to a user, automatically start another process instance and send alerts to dashboard/console.

Historical BAM components, in contrast, provide analysis reports to draw conclusions from purely historical execution of already completed processes. Process-specific key performance indicators (KPIs) and service level agreements (SLAs) can then be compared against this data. These tools can also integrate with existing data warehouses and may require a different server platform than the BPM server.

Collecting execution metrics also enables “closed loop” modeling in which process simulations can be adjusted to improve efficiency.



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Sunday, January 24, 2010

notes to self - Sunday, January 24, 2010


  1. An Audience With....John Everhard | Theo Priestley-- John Everhard of Pega systems thinks many companies stepped-back from software investments in 2008 in the US and took the time to plan significant transformations as preparation for an economic up-turn which has started during 2009. It seems the UK and Europe are 9 - 12 months behind the US cycle and Pega is seeing the results of similar planning exercises in the guise of RFI’s and RFP’s in recent months.

  2. Gartner Reveals Five Business Process Management Predictions for 2010 and Beyond | Gartner Newsroom-- Gartner, Inc. has revealed its key predictions for business process management (BPM). Analysts have identified five predictions on the advancement of BPM, a management discipline that treats processes as assets that directly contribute to organizational performance.

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