Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Kalam on Leadership

Let me tell you about my experience. In 1973 I became the project director of India's satellite launch vehicle program, commonly called the SLV-3. Our goal was to put India's "Rohini" satellite into orbit by 1980. I was given funds and human resources -- but was told clearly that by 1980 we had to launch the satellite into space. Thousands of people worked together in scientific and technical teams towards that goal.

By 1979 -- I think the month was August -- we thought we were ready. As the project director, I went to the control center for the launch. At four minutes before the satellite launch, the computer began to go through the checklist of items that needed to be checked. One minute later, the computer program put the launch on hold; the display showed that some control components were not in order. My experts -- I had four or five of them with me -- told me not to worry; they had done their calculations and there was enough reserve fuel. So I bypassed the computer, switched to manual mode, and launched the rocket. In the first stage, everything worked fine. In the second stage, a problem developed. Instead of the satellite going into orbit, the whole rocket system plunged into the Bay of Bengal. It was a big failure.

That day, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, Prof. Satish Dhawan, had called a press conference. The launch was at 7:00 am, and the press conference -- where journalists from around the world were present -- was at 7:45 am at ISRO's satellite launch range in Sriharikota [in Andhra Pradesh in southern India]. Prof. Dhawan, the leader of the organization, conducted the press conference himself. He took responsibility for the failure -- he said that the team had worked very hard, but that it needed more technological support. He assured the media that in another year, the team would definitely succeed. Now, I was the project director, and it was my failure, but instead, he took responsibility for the failure as chairman of the organization.

The next year, in July 1980, we tried again to launch the satellite -- and this time we succeeded. The whole nation was jubilant. Again, there was a press conference. Prof. Dhawan called me aside and told me, "You conduct the press conference today."

I learned a very important lesson that day. When failure occurred, the leader of the organization owned that failure. When success came, he gave it to his team. The best management lesson I have learned did not come to me from reading a book; it came from that experience.

Thanks to Nirmal for forwarding me this!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ennai Paar Yogam Varum

4 Reasons why I can identify myself with a donkey:

1. Once upon a time, paper was a staple diet for me.
2. My singing skills.
3. I like 'kick'backs!
4. My dad, whenever he is annoyed with me refers to me as "Erumakada" - being a guy, I can't take it from my dad. So I choose not to be erumakada, but rather, a kazhudhai!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tagged.. Once more!

1. Last movie you saw in a theater?
Jodha Akbar.

2. What book are you reading?

Finished up Cat O' Nine Tales by J.A and have started on The Dante Club, by Matthew Pearl.

3. Favorite board game?
Does Carrom 'Board' count? I also like Battleship and Monopoly (Business Game in India)

4. Favorite magazine?
Sportstar, Readers Digest and Outlook in India.

In the US, its been US News, Time and Readers Digest.

5. Favorite smells?
I really love the smell of freshly laundered clothes, right off the dryer.

6. Favorite sounds?
I love the babble which infants make and also the sound when the ball hits the meat of the bat - if you see cricket on TV, you'll understand what I'm talking about...

7. Worst feeling in the world?
When you know you can't do anything to change a particular thing of your life, though You'd love to be able to.

8. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up?

Should I sleep 15 minutes more or wake up now? :D

9. Favorite fast food place?
Taco Bell, thats where I get to go often, thanks to my friend with whom I eat often.

10. Future child's name?
If and when I get married, I think my wife would make that call. I have no preferences, except for the fact it should not 2 miles long as mine is.

11. Finish this statement. "If I had lot of money I'd....?"
I'd invest it in real estate in India and stocks in Brazil and try to live off on the interest.

12. Do you drive fast?
Depends. I love driving - be it my poor TVS Victor in India or my car here. And my speed depends on who is travelling with me. If its someone who loves long drives and the music is loud, I drive really fast, while going to office in the mornings, I could be as slow as Venkatesh Prasad's leg cutter. :D

13. Do you sleep with a stuffed animal?
God!! NO! I'm allergic to people who are the cho chweeeet kinds who sleep with a 'teddy' bear!

14. Storms - cool or scary?
Cooool. I love the rainy weather, as long as I don't have to walk in the rain. Driving in the rains is another favorite of mine.

15. What was your first car?
My first and only car is a Toyota Corolla, Sport Edition.

16. Favorite drink?
Amongst juices, its Lemon Juice - really clears up my mind like anything. Amongst the coffee/tea variety, I'd prefer Tea (I'm NOT a big fan of coffee or tea) and I used to love Milo back in India. Rosemilk is also a favorite.

17. Finish this statement, "If I had the time I would...."?
Learn a few languages apart from English and Tamizh, the only two languages in which I can read, write and talk.

18. Do you eat the stems on broccoli?
I don't even see if they have stems. Anything green is good to eat!

19. If you could dye your hair any color, what would be your choice?
10 Percent of my hair is already gray/white. So can I dye my hair black?

20. Name all the different cities/towns you've lived in?
Born at St. Isabel's, Mylapore (Luz) Chennai. Lived in Delhi, Ranipet, Chennai and now in Tampa. But would love to settle down in NYC or Chicago.
“Madras madiri varumma??” favorite dialogue in the movie Minnale.

21. Favorite sports to watch?
Cricket, Tennis and American Football. Basketball if the Lakers or Suns are playing.

22. One nice thing about the person who sent this to you?
Nirmal is almost like the good half of me. We share many likes and most importantly, Nirmal is a huge Minnale fan, just like me.

23. What's under your bed?
Dust and dirt, which I missed to vacuum last weekend..... :P

24. Would you like to be born as yourself again?

25. Morning person, or night owl?
Again, not a fixed thing.... but usually on weekdays, I'm sloshed with sleep by 10pm...

26. Over easy, or sunny side up?
Vegetarian - but not a vegan.

27. Favorite place to relax?
Beach or any place where there is a water body.

28. Favorite pie?

29. Favorite ice cream flavor?
Chocolate (Butterscotch in India). Vanilla is a huge turn on too!

30. Of all the people you tagged this to, who's most likely to respond first?
I don't tag anybody. If somebody likes to complete, go ahead.

And also, here's wishing the Taco Bell friend of mine a Very Happy Birthday on 11th April (today)!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Down The Memory Lane..... 2

I was, unashamedly, a HUGE fan of super hero fantasy series. DD was playing to my likes, back then and was playing He-Man on Friday evenings and it really did set the tone for the weekend.

Friday morning was one of the most expected (bettered only by saturdays when Young World used to be published along with The Hindu). Those were the days when you used to get a magazine called Siruvar Malar (சிறுவர் மலர் ) on fridays and I used to hurriedly glance through it, through the breakfast which my mom or dad (whoever had the time) used to feed me with (ஊட்டி விடுவாங்கோ !!!) - mentally noting which story had to be read over the weekend. In school, more or less, it was a discussion about what will happen in He-man for that week.

Coming to the series itself, I had an odd taste that apart from He-Man and Battle Cat, I liked Orko and Ram-Man - and used to hate it when Man-At-Arms or Teela used to help He-Man in his fights. My He-Man craze also made me buy those 'genuine' He-Man action figures from Leo Mattel and on many Saturday afternoons, I would be found with the action figures - My mother still ascribes me being mentally retarded to playing with those He-Man action figures.

My He-Man craze reached a peak when I somehow got a unbreakable look-alike of the Power Sword and many evenings, I will be sitting on my dad's bike (substitute for Battle Cat) and use my various neighbor kids as Skeletor or Orko (depending upon my current mood). By virtue of me being huge right from the day I was born, I was ALWAYS He-Man and guys who were designated as Skeletor really got bashed and more than once, matters reached the level where their mothers would come and complain to my mother - who simply had no option as she knew that if she scolded me then, later, she would become Skeletor and get bashed by me. :)

Though I also liked Spider-Man (the one liners were super) and Superman, He-Man, always remains my childhood hero!!!

For Old Times' Sake: