What is Education for?

This is something I had written a year ago. Sharing it here now.

What is Education for?

  • To create a society that’s culturally coordinated.
  • To further science and knowledge and pursue information for its own sake.
  • To enhance civilization while giving people the tools to make informed decisions.
  • To train people to become productive workers.

Our current education system, over the last few decades, has produced millions of graduates, post-graduates, Ph.D’s, etc. But only a very few have in them the above four societal goals. If the goal of the education system was to improve the cultural coordination, it clearly could have done a better job.

Why do we spend years together teaching complex mathematics to children who don’t understand it and  will never need to use them for the rest of their lives. We make the children study novels and literature, and end up teaching “Reading can never be fun”. The result being, we churn out Ph.D’s who cant teach and aren’t very productive at research either. The moment we associate reading a book with taking a test, we have missed the point.

An episode of Amir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate highlighted how even educated people torture their children, wives, families, etc for a silly or stupid reason. A man ( a well educated one) tortures his wife for not giving him a boy child. These “educated” men make really bad decisions which affect their families and the society as well. We have clearly failed in the third goal as well.

The education system, as it is today, was developed during the industrial revolution, when the industry needed more productive workers. But the world has clearly changed now. The current system, that meets minimum standards, is killing our economy, our culture, and us. We really cannot insist that the schools we designed for a different era will function well now.

What should 2013 computer graduates concentrate upon

It has been almost 5 years since I started writing computer software. In these 5 years, I’ve met a lot of developers. A few of my classmates, a few others. The one thing that truly separated the truly successful developers from the crowd is passion. Now passion is an overused and abused term these days. Too often people take it to mean a passion for being successful, for achieving a personal goal in their life. When I talk about passion, I mean love. I’ve been in love with computers since I was 15 years old, and I’d be playing with them even if I didn’t get paid for it. If software engineering is merely a means to an end, you’re not going to be happy in the long term working in this field, because much of it is God-awful boring unless you have a passion for it.

Being passionate about software is critical to being successful. A skill-set that will get you a package of Rs.6L today will be possesed by junior programmers in five years. And unless you’re constantly adding new tools to your belt, you are going to find yourself priced out of the market very soon. Many good projects will come to you because of the skill-set you already possess. And nobody is going to spoon-feed you with the skills. You are rarely going to get an opportunity to have your current employer pay for you to learn things, so learn them on your own and be in a position to leverage the skills when a new project comes along. But if you have passion for technology, you’ll already be doing it, without me needing to tell you to. That’s the reason why passionate people have a head start.

The new graduates, who are in their twenties, tend to jump into small companies or start ups, and that is the best thing to do. A junior developer at a startup is going to jump from one technology to another and learning many different aspects of the field where as at a big company or MNC, the developer is going to be working on the same thing for a long duration of time.

Pick the right technologies to learn. It’s easy to be seduced by the flavor of the month, and spend time learning something that will never gain significant traction. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t learn something new if you’re genuinely interested in it, but don’t follow the herd just because everyone is talking about language X or framework Y. Analyze and ask around, and only then start learning.

Also, play well with your team mates. Realize that there is more than one path to the same solution. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. Just because you find operating system Foo to be the most abysmal thing ever created doesn’t give you the right to call for Jihad against people who choose to use it. After all, you don’t decide that someone is your enemy because they ordered “Baingan ka Bharta” in your college canteen and you don’t like it.

Finally, remember that most of the time in your career, you will not be developing software for your own benefit. Whether it’s internally used code, or an end-user application, the quality and innovation of the work you do can directly affect the happiness of other people. Truly pioneering development can change the world. Google did it by giving a simple web page that shows you details of anything you are searching for. Linux did it, by creating a solid, flexible, performant operating system that you could throw into any kind of hardware product, because you didn’t need to license it. Try to find at least one opportunity in your career to move the ball a little, rather than just doing what’s already been done.

So, younglings, go out and do great things. I’m sure you will, just as every graduating class has, from the ones that gave us Alan Turing and John McCarthy to the ones that gave us Linus Torvalds and Tim Berners-Lee, and beyond. You know, the passionate ones.

-Varun Srinivas.
Co-Founder, SudoSaints

 

Note: This article was inspired by James Turner’s Commencement speech posted here

 

Gmail starts rolling out new Inbox to users

Gmail is set to roll out yet another update to simplify mail. They claim that they know your inbox always fill ups with different types of emails like from social media, promotions from websites your are subscribed to, Updates from your softwares, etc. To fix this, the new layout introduces Tabs. There will be a Primary tab that will have all the important mails. Then there will be the other tabs with the not-so-important mails.

The new Gmail will be available for Desktop, Android and iOS very soon. If you’d like to try out the new inbox on Desktop sooner, keep an eye on the gear menu and select Configure inbox when it appears in the Settings options.

What’s new in WordPress 3.6 Beta

We were extremely excited about the new WordPress beta release. So, to try it out, we installed it on our blog. And we love it.  Here’s a list of awesome features it has

1. First of all, the amazingly colorful default Twenty Thirteen theme. Its got a wonderful header image. As you can see above, Its awesome!

2. The Add New Post screen user Interface is really cool. Now, there’s option to add Image, Video, Audio,etc. Here’s a screenshot.
wp-new-post

3. The Navigation Menus also received a facelift. Theres a separate tabs for assigning menus to locations and the Edit Menus screen is simplified with a accordion-based UI.

new-wp-nav

There are many other very good features. WordPress has done it again. It has shown its true awesomeness.

Remember, WordPress 3.6 is still in Beta. The features will be more or less similar in the final release, but could still have changes.

If you love and work with WordPress I would advise testing version 3.6 beta and reporting bugs. More details here.

 

Entrepreneurship is Parenting

Yes, you read it correct. Entrepreneurship is Parenting.

Entrepreneurship is similar to parenting in many aspects. Your start-up is like your child. Its the most important thing in your life. You’ll do anything to make it successful, just like any parent does his/her best to make sure their child gets the best of everything. I have listed below a few aspects which highlight the similarity.

Giving Valuable Inputs:

Every child needs valuable inputs, right from the day the he/she is born. The parents help the newborn to grow up with good manners. Parents show them what is right or wrong and  how things are supposed to be done. The same thing applies with Entrepreneurship. Your start-up is new to this world and has no idea about the tits and tats of this world. Like a parent guides his/her child, you have to lead your company with right kind of inputs, nurture it and make sure it doesn’t fail.

Belief:

Yes, Belief. As a parent, one should always believe in their child. Have faith in them. Remember, believing in someone can be a huge reason behind his/her success. Who doesn’t want his/her child to have a successful life? Similarly, Entrepreneurs should BELIEVE in their company. Because sometimes, all you need is a small dosage of care and a strong belief in what you are doing which makes you different than others.

Encouragement:

Encouragement is an art. It’s an art of keeping your belief alive. Encouragement is the most valuable input you can give to your child.  If a child fails in a an exam or falls off while learning to cycle, the parent never says “You can’t do it”. Instead, he/she encourages the child to try again. Similarly, when your venture isn’t doing good or not growing the way you had expected, you should avoid criticising and blaming. Instead, you should spend time encouraging yourself and your team.

Being Strict:

Strictness is something every parent has to follow. The parent has to be strict to make sure that his/her child doesn’t get into any trouble. And being strict involves making tough decisions for the child’s future. Similarly, an Entrepreneur needs to be capable and courageous enough to make tough decisions. The decisions which are not easy to take, but ensures that your company is going to have a secure and a happy future.

Flexibility:

What would a parent do when his/her child is being stubborn or wants to till late night? Of the parents set some strict rules to follow, but what if your child insists to go and enjoy a late night party? Would you allow him/her this one time? Or would you just make clear that there are rules to be followed? You may or may not. But as an Entrepreneur, you need to understand your own flexibility. It can be in regards with your marketing strategy, your overall approach towards handling day to day activities related to your company. You should be flexible enough to dodge those strong winds, but also strong enough to be the last man standing.

Patience:

As a parent, one needs to have a great deal of patience with the child. I remember when I was a kid, I used to walk holding my father’s hand. There were times when I fell, but my father picked me up, blew the dust off my clothes, I again grabbed his fingers and started walking. Soon, I learnt to walk on my own. An Entrepreneur is a father whose fingers are in hands of his/her start-up . There will be times when the start-up is going through a tough phase, at that time, he/she will have to have patience with it, maybe today it fell down and finding it hard to stand or walk, but one day, it will be able to do well. And that day, all the patience will pay off.

Appetite to digest the Failures:

Yes, to have an appetite to digest failures is a quality which only a few posses. Do You? When I was in high school, I used to be very bad with maths. I never passed maths in internal examinations our school used to conduct. I remember my maths teacher saying one day “You are not going to pass in finals.” I went home that day, told my dad about it. He said “Don’t worry, you gonna do good in finals.” And well, I passed the final, that too, with remarkably nice grades. In fact I had the second highest marks in my class room. That was because I could digest the failure, so could my parents. The journey of an Entrepreneur is full of failures and rejections. But as an Entrepreneur you should be able to digest your failures and move ahead. Remember, Failures make Success taste sweeter.

Celebrate:

Yes, Never Ever forget to celebrate the Child’s success. Celebrations make the child realize what he/she has achieved. And there is nothing wrong in celebrating right? As an Entrepreneur, You should celebrate the success of your company. Give away some nice gifts to your employees. Make them feel special; make them realize what they have achieved, what your company has achieved. Celebration makes you and your company realize that all the hard work has finally paid off. And it will definitely push everyone to work hard, no, not hard (everyone else is working hard) it will push everyone to work harder.