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Missing Drupal - will try Drupal 8 now!

I think I have not installed any fresh Drupal setup in the past 2 years. What a shame! I used to love Drupal. For the past 2 years I am 100% focused on Atlassian tool set, which I thought is a wise decision. You can't do everything at the same time and it is nearly impossible to get really good in one thing without letting go the other. I like JIRA as well, it is amazing tool and the Atlassian ecosystem is amazing. I first got the opportunity to work on JIRA when I was working for Alcatel-Lucent. It has been 8 years I think when I first worked on JIRA. I was given a task to manage users in JIRA. I used to hate it and the the interface was not really great. At that time I was totally into Drupal and I was making comparisons. Of course both are for different purposes but when you have a decent level of expertise working on a web based tool that can be configured, you draw comparisons. My initial work was just to manage users and nothing much. Later on I was given some tasks to make some configuration changes in JIRA. Like creating new custom fields, adding them on screens, attaching it to the projects. At that time I was managing www.ggsipu.info which was one of the biggest and only source of information for students seeking information about IP University Delhi. I used to spend hours making that site better and more useful. I learned working on Drupal on that site and when I started diving more into JIRA world I realised that JIRA is actually a very smart tool. The way things are configured in it is really powerful.

I love building solutions. When I used to work on Drupal I was not really making websites. I was building a solution around it. I understood the architecture of Drupal and how it works. That knowledge along with my passion to build solutions was my plus point. After few months of working JIRA I was liking it. In the year 2009 - 2010, JIRA was not that mature as it is now but I think the fundamentals and the concepts were same as today. I have to admit that I tried JIRA only because it was part of my job, otherwise I was mostly into open source tools. I tried several open source applications and could never find one that can satisfy my needs. Project Management has always been my core interest. I used to work as Project Coordinator in Alcatel-Lucent and also in Kaplan, my company prior to Alcatel-Lucent. I am a certified Microsoft Project Server Administrator, I set it in the company, then I also build a very powerful tool in Excel with the help of VBA to do some project management. Later in the company with the help of 6 interns we build a custom project management and competency management tool. Later I was also managing my own projects in Sparxsys. At the time when I was learning JIRA I was well versed with what is expected from any project management tool.

I loved the way JIRA can be customized and any process can be mapped on top of it. The idea of add-ons was something that excited me. Just like Drupal. The only bad thing was that everything was paid but I realized later in life that you can't always get the best things for free.

In the past 2 years I have been doing more and more Atlassian Consultation work and I will be honest. Money wise it is far better than Drupal. However I do miss working on it. Just because of Drupal all of it was possible, even before Drupal I was doing freelancing services on various things but none of it was good enough to give me enough leverage and courage to start your own company from absolute zero. I am little biased towards Drupal and these days my bread, butter and beer is coming only from Atlassian tool but I have decided to get back to Drupal. To start with I will probably upgrade this site to Drupal 8. In fact most of my sites are still running. I will make it my weekend project to upgrade them to Drupal 8 or to the latest Drupal 7 at least.

Weekend is almost here and I will surely work on it.

Bye

Back to posting picture on flickr

Many many years ago I used to post pictures on flickr which was also linked to this blog and all the pictures were posted as a blog. It worked fine until I stopped doing it. Many years passed and it doesn't work anymore and honestly I don't want to do it now. I used to post stupid pictures of cats and dogs and it was really meaningless. Now I am a matured person and will act like one as well (or pretend).

London Paddington

This is London Paddington station, one of the biggest train station I have seen in my life. It has 14 platforms. It connects not just the national railways (GWR) but also the airport line and the infamous London Tube also know as underground.

Holborn

This is Holborn, heart of London and this building is a masterpiece. It looks really nice in sunshine, which is quite rare in London. This building reminds me of CST, Mumbai.

My flickr photostream: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ravisagar

What else, not much. Life is same as earlier. Mid life crisis I guess but yeah lot of travel and interesting projects to work on. Things are on the right track or seems like they are. I got sick last week after a long time. Bad cough, can't even speak properly. Little fever is also giving me trouble. Whenever I get sick, it reminds me of all the days when I got sick. As a kid I used to get sick a lot. May be my immunity was not that great. After growing my immunity suddenly got a boost and I now don't get sick that often. Just once a year but I don't like it at all. I used to scared as a kid of getting sick. It meant taking those bitter medicines and probably an injection which I am still terrified of. Anyways, I hope I will be fine in few days.

Lot of things have changed in the past few months. I no longer do Drupal project. Not really I don't love it anymore but mainly there is no good money in Drupal or in creating web applications. I might do it again provided it is good project and money of course. Now I am completely focussed on Atlassian tools and that is where the money is. When I started working on Drupal long long back I never really though that I will ever do something else. I was so much into Drupal. In fact I was able to start my business because of Drupal. That really gave me the push and the technical knowledge I built upon Drupal was the main reason that I was able to sustain that business for so long. When we started doing Atlassian consultation mainly on JIRA and Confluence we already had a running business and processes. It was not difficult for me. Had I started Atlassian consultation company from scratch, it would have been extremely difficult. So my only suggestion to anyone starting a new company. Be open to change and divert your path. Keep your options open.

Currently it is Atlassian consultation for me but who know what is next!

Need to catch a train now. Bye!

Why you should bootstrap your startup

These days everyone is talking about startups and entrepreneurship. It is quite cool to start a company, build a product and get funded. I am writing this blog based on my own experiences that how I am able to run a company successfully for several years and why you too don't need a funding.

So you have decided that you want to start a company, it is a topic of another discussion and I will write more about it but you should always think twice, thrice and ten time before starting a company and you should have solid reasons for that. Now coming back to the topic why you should not take any funding and why you don't even need it in first place. One thing I feel is very important for all the wannabee entrepreneurs is to answer whether they are starting a company to gain something for themselves or to give back something to the community and society as a whole. In my case I had very strong reasons to start something on my own. I never got satisfaction (technical) in any company work wise. Except my last company my managers and colleagues in previous companies were not technically sound as I am and I never really enjoyed working in company of non intelligent/smart people. May be I am little harsh here but this is just the fact for me and I always wanted to do something cutting edge or at least do something were I have control over my work so eventually I know where my effort is going and the money that you earn working for someone is good and decent but there is always a saturation after few years. More than anything else I always wanted to do something on my own. May it is the way you are brought up. Money was never really the concern for me. I was earning decent salary and but I could never give my 101% on my job. For me starting a company was always about myself and personal gains. I never really wanted to do something for the world. I have always been quite selfish person. I do everything for myself. I could not imagine even now how people can spend 12 hours in traveling and working for years and they don't get much in return. They miss out time with their family and they sacrifice major part of their lives. I knew from the very beginning that I will eventually do everything for myself only.

So before you even think about getting funded you should have the reason to start a company very clear because getting funded depends on that reason.

Now why people seek funding. This is my opinion.

1. It is cool to get funded.
2. You will get respect from other after getting funded.
3. You need money to sustain your company.
4. You want to hire more people to work in your company.
5. You will get rich after getting funded.
6. You and your company will get famous

Technically all these seem like valid reason to seek funds but you should keep in mind that someone will give you money in return of control/stake of your company. You will not be free to do whatever you want. You will loose authority over your company.

For a moment lets go back to the reason why you want to start a company and for whom you want to do it and think again about these points above. Getting funded is sometimes really need because you may want to scale up your already running successful business but these days I see people think that will build something after getting funded. I think it is stupid to jump in the funding process with just an idea or prototype. Recently I also came across people who want to be like serial entrepreneurs, they want to start with an idea, develop prototype, launch and seek funding all within a span of few months and if that doesn't work, do everything again with a new idea. I think this is again very stupid. One should spent sometime in the market, at least few years. Nothing really happens in few months. When I met these people I ask them again the reason why they want to start the company in first place and they could not convince myself or even themselves. They just want to look cool.

I realised this a little late in my career that earning money is probably the easiest thing that one can do. If you have the skill then you will find a market for it. I think everyone who is working for someone as an employee and frustrated in life can do something outside their job to earn money and which is again starting a business only but you need a good reason to start a company. It is not like you wake up one day and start a business. Your reason to do something on your own should be very solid. In case you are not happy with your job then you probably need another job.

There is no shortcut
Do you know that I have worked in 10 companies in my career? I changed many jobs until I found the one that was somehow not bad for me and I stayed their for my last 6.5 years. I have been freelancing since my college days. I started taking small projects back in 2002, so when I started my company in 2010, I had already worked in the market for 8 years. I started with Visual Basic projects then Linux consultation and training and then I started doing Excel VBA work before moving to web development. I started working in 2003 and did job for almost 12 years. Starting from 2002 till 2015 for almost 13 years I was working almost 7 days a week, After my job hours, I would work on my projects and I got married, had kid and also managed to live a normal life but it required lot of discipline and extreme hard work. I had very strong reason to work hard continuously for 12 years. I sacrificed a lot, I hardly took family vacations and spent time with my friends but it was all worth it now. I did all this because I just wanted to reach a point where I can easily leave my job. May be in your case you need to give at least 5 years but I do not understand why people expect magic to happen in few months. There are no shortcuts. If you do not have the determination to work hard then you are probably better with your job. I did all this and gained a lot now. At this point of time I am of course generating more revenue, I have regular clients, big clients and we are the best in what we do. It took us 12+ years, so what. If I include my freelancing time then I am in the market for 14 years now. That is a lot of time.

Seeking funds in the very beginning is for losers who don't know what they want in life and they just want to follow others. You should first start a business, start generating revenues and seek funding only when you want to scale up. By the time you are running a company successfully you will probably not worry about getting funds. You will find ways to scale up yourself without external inflow of money. I am by no means highly successful business but being a 6 people company we are making quite an impact in the market, we are one of the most sought after Atlassian consultants in India and whole Asia pacific for that matter. We have been into Drupal development since the beginning and have developed expertise for Non Profit Organizations. All this is done by just 6 people. We do not have a fancy turnover to showcase to other but we are quite content and happy about our work. We are growing steadily revenue wise, client wise and we hire more people only when we really need to, not for the sake of it.

In the past I did have low time and thought of winding up everything and going back to comfortable job but I never could do that, not because I am emotionally attached to the company but because I am used to earning a lot more money in less time now. No job could pay me the money that I am earning now. I worked hard for it and I want to grow more from here now. I live a pretty humble life but I enjoy earning money. It gives me high and I feel good and happy. I may have become greedy but we have developed a skill set and people need us. So why not get the most out of it.

So coming back to the topic that you should think first about the reason to start a company and for whom you are doing it - yourself or for the society. One should take funds only after you are running a successful company but not in the beginning. You will loose the focus right in the very beginning. One should start with the ambition to learn something, one should focus on earning money from the very first year and stay in the market for few years then decide that do you really need more money or not. May be someone will give you money based on just an idea and a stupid prototype but it is like begging someone to support you. Why should you take money from someone when you don't exist anywhere in the market. I think one should stay in the market and run the company for at least 3-5 years before even thinking about getting funds. In Sparxsys we are primarily into services and we have had few successful products in the market, we will probably build more products this year too and based on my experience I don't think I will ever think about seeking funds. There is no fun in it for me. I find it shameful asking someone to give me money and finally one should learn about running a company. You run a company for 5 years and you will learn far more than any graduate from A grad business school.

If you want to get in touch with me to share your experiences then you can write to me at ravi [at] sparxsys [dot] com. May be we can learn from each other.

My top 10 goals for 2016

Ravi JIRA Training in Pune
I am trying lot of different things recently both in personal and professional life. Since last one and a half year I am taking my work not quite seriously. I work only 5 days a week and don't even open my laptop on weekends. This is working quite well for me. I feel much better now as I have less to worry. Working less doesn't mean less business. We are doing pretty good, my company Sparxsys is doing great and I am happy about it. Just that I am not to ambitious these days and I make small achievable targets. My idea is to feel good about whatever little I achieve and not set very high goals.

Last year was not very good health wise, I didn't go to gym regularly and I gained few kilos. This year I have made lot of plans for myself that may require giving up some pleasures but I know in the end it will be all worth it.

My 2016 plans

These are plans for this year. People say you should not share your plans with everyone but I don't know how sharing it with other stop me from achieving them.

1. Read 24 books
I recently purchase a Kindle and that is good enough reason to indulge myself in reading. I have been reading actively for the past few months but I need to speed up and read more books. 2 books per months seems like not difficult to me. I have created a new page to list all the books that I have read.

2. Get 6 pack abs
In past I have managed to built few packs but never really complete 6 packs. This year I have decided that it is now or never. Get back in shape and get at least 6 packs.

3. Less beer
I really like beer, may be I am addicted to it but I don't know why I have it almost everyday. I know it is not good, it adds fat to waist. This year I have decided that I will have it not more than twice a week, less is of course better.

4. Cycle and running twice per week
I own a road bike and recently purchased MTB too. I am planning to get more active on cycling and ride at least twice per week. I haven't been doing any running recently but now thinking of starting running twice per week.

5. Improve my public speaking skills
I do lot of corporate trainings and speaking in front of 50+ people continuously for 2-4 days is quite normal for me. I feel I can improve a lot here, it will no only help me professionally but personally I also want to become better speaker. I feel good when on stage and it give me high. I am thinking of joining Toast Masters club, I went to their session in the recent past and really liked it. Most likely I will join them as a member too.

6. Continue learning French
I joined french classes last year and I really learned a lot, this year I will continue to learn this language and I wish to converse with someone entirely in French this year. I joined one institute called Just French and it is quite good.

7. Learn guitar
I recently dusted off my old guitar and started practicing simple tunes by watching youtube videos but this year I want to learn from some professional. May be I will join some classes.

8. Grow my company
This year I want to scale up a little bit and grow my company. I want to increase my business both money wise and also want to grow my team. We are doing quite good but there should be hunger and desire to do even more. I want to keep that desire alive.

9. Start building a product and launch it
I have always been into service industry and our major company comes from service only but I really wish to build a product this year and launch it.

10. Write another book in 2016
I have to admit that writing a book and getting it published was one of the most satisfying experience in my life. I was quite happy when my book "Mastering JIRA" was published. This year too I plan to write another book. Writing a book is a wonderful way to learn something and also to share it with the world plus it really establishes your credibility in the market.

This is probably not the complete list, I have other things in mind too but these ten items are my top priority goals. All the actions that I take and all my work would be focused to achieve these goals and as you can see most of these are personal goals and some of the goals will help me both personally and professionally. I believe everyone should plan their life with written goals.

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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