Upcoming JIRA Training in Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai

Life is full of ups and downs. Last two months especially December and January were not very exciting for me. I was no able to work productively and I need some break time. However in late January and so far in Feb things are super exciting for me. As I am moving ahead in my life I somehow feel that I am getting closer to what I want. At of the day if I feel happy and satisfied then everything is good. When I started my own company I had this tendency to try different kind of work, being in service industry it is tempting to try to get as many clients as you want. I did this mistake of doing any kind of work that brought money in the company, but everyone is difference. We started trainings on Drupal and then on JIRA since the beginning of our company inception but just recently we have decided to focus primarily on trainings.

We are currently not accepting any new Drupal website development work right now. That is a tough decision to make but it doesn't mean that we will not do Drupal. We have over 40 active projects to support with over 15 internal projects. We are happy serving these clients and since our trainings are bringing more cash than development work so we are happy to stay that way now. Trainings are tough business but more rewarding. We are now working on re-branding and putting life in some of our dead portals that were famous some year back.

Drupal development is costly and most of the Indian clients can't afford us any longer and we don't have the capacity to handle mediocre work now.

Now the exciting news is that recently we have been able to provide JIRA in various companies across India. It is amazing experience to travel these cities and meet different people. We always need to deviate a bit from our course. I personally never thought that this will happen. In fact when I first started using JIRA I didn't like it much.

In the month of February and March I will be traveling to Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Pune for JIRA trainings. It is going to be quite hectic for me but after every successful training, it feels amazing. I always get nervous and little scared before every training. Various doubts and questions come up in my mind whether people will like my training or not but I guess it is good to get scared and later overcoming your fears makes you more confident and stronger for next challenge.

I am trying to blog more often now, I feel good after writing.

Bye.

How I struggled with depression

How to cope with Depression

This blog is about my struggle to fight depression despite doing good business.

I used to be quite arrogant about the fact that I am quite disciplined when it comes to managing my time. I do everything on time and when they are supposed to be done but over the past few months, 5 months to be precise I am loosing this good habit of mine. As an entrepreneur or freelancer you need to be self-disciplined to do accomplish your daily tasks. Last 5 months were not really very great for me, it is not that my work is suffering or I am not making money but I have this feeling all the time of not achieving enough. It is really causing lot of trouble to me and I feel sad most of the times. Initially I didn't even realize anything was wrong with me.

Personally I like to challenge myself all the time and though last quarter was quite great for my company but personally I didn't do much myself. Everything was in fact great for the company - because I worked really hard in the 2nd quarter and sparxsys did really well but in the 3rd quarter I just didn't do enough, may be because everything seemed so right. Due to that fact I feel the work might suffer in coming months. I lost few leads and could not deliver some of the projects on time. I also planned to finish the JIRA video series which I wanted to launch last year. There are just so many "Pending" tasks in my issue tracker. I feel very bad about it. I realized that the reason for all this bad feeling that built up in me was primarily because I was not using my mind very much for doing new things. I worked really hard for few months followed by hardly any work for couple of months and it really affected me.

I was depressed
May be I didn't want to say that but probably this what depression is :) I have been working from home a lot these days and eating too much. Gained little extra weight. I am watching too much TV and just spending time on useless things. I think it is ok to get into low phases, you can't stay happy all the time but good thing is that I am getting out of it now. I did not even work at all for many days continuously because there was no motivation left or may be I was not doing anything exciting enough to give me "kick" (like Salman Khan movie).

It is not at all good to stay depressed as it will lead you to make bad decisions and it affects your relationships with clients. I really fought with few clients (sorry for that). Clients are usually annoying but since they pay us so we have to learn to tolerate them and still provide good service. There are lot of factors that contributes to depression and you need to keep a balance of every aspect of your life.

I think I am almost getting back to normal now and following things helped me. Just wanted to share with everyone.

1. Stick to a routine
I forced myself quite harshly to follow a daily routine. I started with organizing my work-rest-eat-sleep time on google calendar and I pasted notes all over my room. Yes this is crazy, when there was no space left on the walls I started writing on the door. I went crazy but I really need to remind myself to get into a discipline. Nobody likes to work hard and especially without any motivation it is even difficult but once you spend your day productively it feel really good and gives immense satisfaction.

2. Track your activities
I have been creating weekly sprints for our team every week, but it doesn't really help if you are struggling to manage your time and without a boss it is more difficult. I cannot expect my team to complete the weekly tasks if I am not doing it myself. I tried a different technique for few weeks. I simply kept track of how many hours I am working vs planned hours. Plain old effort variance technique. I know number of hours at desk doesn't mean productivity but I just wanted to stay focused and wanted to make sure that I am at least sitting in front of computer. During my down days I didn't even feel like looking into my laptop. So this technique kinda helped me. If my work efficiency was over 75% for 3 consecutive day then I would reward myself (more on that).

3. Find a boss
Leaving my full time job was a major decision. Of course I did that only when sparxsys business was well above threshold and we were making good money. One thing I didn't foresee before leaving my job is how to stay disciplined without a boss. I have been my own boss for a long time now but it happens all the time that I start loosing my focus, mainly because there was no one to ask me questions or there is no weekly report to submit to anyone. I felt the need of a boss. After lot of thoughts I finally made my wife my boss. She has her own business and she stays quite busy with her work and taking care of our 2 year old daughter but I asked her to spend some time on keeping an eye on me and my work. Now I share status of all the tasks, projects, revenue with her and she make sure I do what I am supposed to do to achieve the targets and I started paying her salary for her time. May be I will hire a new boss if more time is required in future.

4. Reward yourself
As I just said earlier that sometimes when you achieve something you planned for you should reward yourself. I really like to eat rogun josh, I could eat it every day but I tried to first finish my tasks and also achieve work efficiency of over 75% for atleast 3 days in succession to treat myself.

5. Separate Workplace
As I am writing this blog I can hear discussion on upcoming Delhi elections on TV in the other room. Sometimes when something really interesting comes up on tv, I leave everything I am doing and run towards the other room to watch the whole thing and when I check the clock, it is already 2 hours wasted. It is very easy to get distracted and I cannot help it, I am also human being and I too get distracted. There is no other way but to cut the distractions. I work in my separate home office where no one is allowed to come when I am working. I also try to keep this room as clean and organized as possible. Dirty room doesn't motivate to work for long hours.

6. Share your targets with others
During my weekly sprint meeting with my team I discuss the the upcoming personal and team targets with everyone and we discuss how much was achieved out of what we planned, we don't use any metrics to measure but it is mostly a feel of work done. We discuss openly and it really is embarrassing to achieve the least amount of work. For the past few months it was me who was not achieving a lot but I knew there was some problem that I need to fix with myself. When you share your goals with your team it also encourages you to take action on those goals no matter how small or big they are.

7. Ask family members to not disturb you
Working from home is something very new to Indian culture. When family members see you working from home they think that you are available for daily chores and little stupid chit chats. It is difficult to say no to them and even if you do they don't take it seriously. So you have to be harsh and make rules. I do my daily chores like bringing Milk, Eggs, Bread, throwing garbage early in the morning and other misc things are scheduled post 7 pm. I am still struggling to make more effective rules but I know this is quite important and you too should make a point to ask your family to understand that if you are at home all the time it doesn't mean you are useless creature. I am probably earning more money than ever, all by sitting at home and people who travel to Gurgaon and waste many hours in traveling are still better than me, at least in my family's mind. Indian families are not ready yet to accept that money can be earned by working smartly.

8. Unwind after work
I wake up between 3-4 AM and then I work till 6 AM and then I go to gym everyday. Health is prime important to me and even during my down days I made sure to not miss the gym. After 7 PM I usually go for evening walk. It really helps to unwind and relax your mind. I usually call my friends around this time. During the day I really look forward to this time. I come back home and spend time with my family and play with my daughter, by 9 PM I am usually dead tired and find it difficult to stay awake.

9. Take vacation regularly
Last month I took a small vacation and it really helped me to relax. When I came back I was quite energized, in fact now I feel that vacation was all I needed. Last year I worked really hard to bring business to sparxsys and achieved lot of goals. As of now we are probably the best JIRA Consultancy and Training company in India. During the last few months of the year I was probably too tired mentally to think straight and I made this mistake to continue working without taking any breaks. Now taking regular vacations is my goal. In fact this year I am planning to work even less. I will experiment working only 4 days a week and lets us see how it goes.

10. Pomodoro - really amazing technique
Finally I would like to mention one technique that really helped me to stay focused on the work. It happens with me quite a lot and in fact everyday that I am working on something and all of a sudden I switch to something else for few minutes not realizing that the other task/activity will suck my energy and when I come back to the original task I am all drained. Also it is difficult for me to keep working on a task continuously for a dedicated amount of time. Pomodoro technique says that you work continuously on a single task for 20 minutes, take a break of 5 minutes and again work for another 20 minutes followed by longer breaks. If you interrupt yourself then start again from 0 till 20 minutes. There are lot of apps for this technique. Search on google to know more about it. Really helpful.

Lastly I forgot to check what I wrote long time back - Are all startup founders unhappy? Things are fine with me now, I am back to normal work. After all this I am quite happy with the fact that I know what went wrong and I will make sure that I will not make the same mistakes again. One of which is over working. I wasted couple of months because I was exhausted myself completely and it took time to recuperate and just like body, mind needs rest. Most importantly I knew something is wrong with me and I tried ways to change it.

I am exploring ways to meditate these days. Lets us see how it goes. I will share the outcome and also I have been writing after a long time. Writing is really my passion. Whenever I am in doubt I write and it clears lot of confusion just by writing my thoughts.

Have a nice day! Enjoy

How I usually start my new month (to increase the cash flow)

Every month in the beginning I take 3 empty page, write something on it and stick them in my room where I can see them everyday. What are these three pages?

Page 1: Pending Money
I don't have the luxury to hire an accountant or someone who can simply take care of collecting money for all the work that we guys do at sparxsys. At any given time we usually do 5-6 projects, sometimes more, sometimes less but we do have lots of projects which are in maintenance. Every month we need to ask our dear clients to pay us pending dues, that is important activity for us so that we can pay our salaries and cover our expenses. Every month I prepare a list of all such pending payments. The active projects priorities are also defined by how much cash flow is coming and from which client.

For instance there are two client. One is paying x amount for 2 month project and other is paying x amount for 1 month project, so obviouly we give more attention to the later. We make it very clear to the client that amount of money is directly proportional to the service and quality of work. Of course we never work below a certain limit.

Page 2: Open Leads
We always have projects in pipeline and many people contact us regularly, either for Drupal services or JIRA Training. Getting new projects and making new clients is also important. It also ensures that we have plenty of work that will pay for our expenses. Now sometimes we do get lazy on this aspect but as a business owner who need to make sure that business is coming otherwise the company will eventually fail.

Page 3: Daily Time Table
I follow a well defined time table everyday, expect when I need to meet someone. I divide my day into various slots and each slot is dedicated to my work based on their priorities and more importantly the value they bring to the company and every month I spend some time thinking about what activity need to be done at what time, so I can utilize my time wisely and have a productive day in the end. I keep improvising my daily schedule a bit but I always keep some uninterrupted time only for myself that is usually 3AM to 6AM in the morning when no one calls me. I don't check emails or browse the net. I disconnect internet sometimes during this time too. Rest of the day can never be planned ahead. A new client could ask you to meet or people will call us.

Running a company is not easy. In the end the cash flow matters, especially in service industry where we work under pressure. We just work 4.5 days a week and this has only been possible because we plan ahead with great precision.

How to unbrick Netgear WGR614v9 router after failed upgrade

Today I was playing a bit with my router, trying to explore what all I can do. Actually I was trying to enable port forwarding, though it didn't work yet. I noticed that in the router there is an option to upgrade, I click on it and it said that there is an update available, I downloaded the new firmware "WGR614v9-V1.1.2.30.chk", but when I uploaded it on the router, the upgrade procedure started but failed and as I feared, the router stopped working at all. I also reset the router, it didn't help either.

I search and found this link, where it is explained very well on how to fix your router in such situations.

I am just repeating the steps here, with very little changes.

  1. Disconnect the router from all cables except the power cable.
  2. Push reset button for 30 secs.
  3. Without releasing reset button, disconnect power cord.
  4. Hold the reset button for another 30 secs.
  5. Replug the power cord.
  6. Still hold the reset button for another 30 secs.
  7. Release the reset button and give the router about 10 secs to resettle.
  8. Disconnect power cord for another 10 secs and then reconnect.
  9. All should be in default settings now.

After that I connected the LAN wire with my computer and tried to open the default ip 192.168.1.1 and nothing happened. I also tried to ping but in vain.

What to do if you are not able to access 192.168.1.1

If pinging 192.168.1.1 does not work, check the IP Address of your computer and make sure it is assigned an IP address in the subnet of the router IP. For simplicity sake you can assume "192.168.1.x" is good. If you do not have a good IP, the DHCP Server might not be working. So set your IP manually to something like 192.168.1.77 with 192.168.1.1 as your gateway and then try pinging the router again.

Power the router on with a continuous ping running in a command window:

ping -t -w 2 192.168.1.1

(The -w 2 parameter forces a lower timeout for the ping answer, this makes easier to get an answer from the bricked router.)

Prepare your PC, firmware file and TFTP software and play with the timing of powering it on and starting the TFTP session just after applying power (or as soon as you start to see ping replies). If you try it a number of times (at least 10) you will probably rescue the router with no fuss!

Microsoft Windows contains a TFTP client. Windows Vista will require that you enable it in Programs and Features. With TFTP, all of the information about the transfer is specified during the initial setup; there is little client/server interaction as compared with standard FTP. To flash a router using Microsoft Windows, open a command prompt, change to the directory containing the original firmware to use for this boot (this example assumes the firmware file name is firmware.chk), and then enter the following command (assuming your router IP-address is 192.168.1.1):

tftp -i 192.168.1.1 PUT WGR614v9-V1.1.2.30.chk

Here I gave the path of the latest firmware. The command will take few seconds to finish.

If you don't have a TFTP client installed, it doesn't work or something else, then try using this TFTP program called tftp2 available here (this will start the download): tftp2.exe

Now your Netgear WGR614v9 is working like before, but with latest firmware with default settings, and all there is left to do is set it up using the normal web interface using http://192.168.1.1!

Source: http://forum1.netgear.com/showthread.php?t=30453

Best time so far for Sparxsys

The first half of this year was not so good for our company, there was a tremendous drop in our company's revenue, we had some projects running but were not able to deliver the best quality work. There were no good projects coming in too. Also personally I made some wrong decisions in the company by hiring wrong people and choosing wrong clients, but most importantly I didn't work hard enough. Somewhere in the middle I knew that things are not going in the right direction but I didn't act promptly. It continued like this for 6 months, since we are a small company we often see results - either good or bad, too quickly. In July I decided to change all this. I know my capabilities really well and in the past I have able to come out of such situations so why not this time. For the past 3 months and now in Oct I have been working extra hard, with focus on minute details and not delaying anything at all. We all have tendency to procrastinate but there is no cure for it. Sometimes you don't like a particular work but you have to do it because it is important for your business. Since July I am working like that only, if something has to be done then I do it without thinking much about it.

You just need to start
I have realized that we delay things without any reason. Of course not everything is exciting to do I understand that but by just delaying tasks we make things worse. So now I just start those boring tasks and break it down so it doesn't look too difficult. The moment you start acting, things get into motion and you start liking your work.

Keeping reminding yourself
I have been working mostly from home these days, as I don't want to waste time in traveling, even though our office is quite near. I just stay at home. I have a big whiteboard where I write by major goals, I stick paper notes all over my iron almirah and I didn't even spare the door in my room. I have written my time table all over it.

So I have created an environment where I just can't forget what I really need to achieve. The moment I walk into my room, I am in the zone, you can say ;) Of course I was in trouble, I had a pressure from family to take up job. I could easily get good package in big MNCs but I don't want to get back to the job thing. It is not for me. Earning decent money is quite important and that was also one of my goal. so I had no option but to succeed again and to bring things back on track. For few days I did consider going back to job but I realized I would probably get salary one third of my current salary. So it was not worth it.

I plan not just my day but even my hours
When you have lot of things to finish in a day then you need to make sure you do things in right order and at right time. Everyone has a to-do list. I have it too, but I start my day spending some time on the to-do list and allocate them in the right hour of the day. So when my days starts I already know what I need to do that day.

Enough of gyan :)

I wanted to share that Sparxsys is back on track. We have recently won 3 great Drupal projects that we need to deliver by November and December. One of them is in fact a government project. We have 4 confirmed JIRA and Confluence trainings for the next 1 month and we recently delivered 2 projects successfully. I focused on sales aggressively in the past 3 months and that's why we have been able to win these new projects.

Things have never been better. This quarter our revenue is all time high, but by the end of this financial year, we will surpass this figure too and I am really very happy.

Now get back to work
We are totally booked for the next 3 months, we have couple of project leads that we will probably convert too but it is currently very difficult to manage all this work.

Take a look at our JIRA Dashboard, the burn down chart is no where ideal but I love new challenges, it will be fun to burn all those story points that we never burned in 15 days.

JIRA Dashboard, Oct 2014 Sprint

When one problem goes, another one comes, and that's the fun thing about entrepreneurship!

I always wonder why nobody complains about how difficult it is for any startup to survive. Especially those who are in service industry. I always try to be honest about my journey. I don't want to pretend that I am doing great. I would say I am doing just fine, there is no end.

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