Saturday, September 28, 2013

Book Review: Prakashvata


Rating: 9/10
Summary: Autobiography of Magsaysay Award winner Dr. Prakash Amte (son of Baba Amte) who has devoted his entire life on the 'Lokbiradari Prakalp' project, working in the forest of Hemalkasa, district Gadhchiroli in Maharashtra, India.

This 150 odd pages gem can simply change your perspective towards life, make you rethink on your definition of successful life and achievements. It will make you pause for a moment and introspect your life.

To simply put he got his doctors degree, got married to another doctor, both went to the forest where no one would ever go, had no resources whats so ever, built a hut for self, learnt the language of the local Madiya Gond tribe and started giving the much needed medical help to them for free. Then he started free school for the children, zoo for the animals and did whatever it took to help those people. He just gave away his life for this purpose. Made every sacrifice for it.

There is no ego, no bragging about these things in his writing. He has simply written the facts, gave credit to people who helped in the process. There are no opinions, no grudges, no dramatization of the hardships they faced. The book is as glamour-less as the life he has lived. Its crude and pure. And hence its condensed into 150 pages.

I can't praise the book enough or can't even describe the hardships that the tribe there faced. There are many incidences described in the book that touches your heart. Here's one such incidence from the book, I have tried to translate it in English:

या कॉलेराच्या साथीतील एक प्रसंग मनाच्या तळात असा जाऊन बसलाय की तो हटतच  नाही. एक बाई एका लहान मुलाला घेऊन आली होती. उपचार केल्यावर, सलाइन दिल्यावर ते मुल जरा सुधारलं. त्याबरोबर तिने त्या मुलाला आमच्याकडे सोपवलं आणि ती लगेच जायला लागली. आमचा एक कार्यकर्ता तिला म्हणाला, "अशी कशी या मुलाला सोडून जातेस? त्याच्याजवळ थांब. त्याला पूर्ण बरं वाटलं की जा." त्यावर त्या बाईनं सांगितलं, "कॉलेराच्या साथीने काल माझा नवरा मेला. दोन्ही मुलांना लागण झाली म्हणून त्यांना घेऊन इकडे निघाले, तर एक मूल वाटेतच गेलं. त्याला तसंच झाडाखाली ठेवून याला घेऊन आले. आता याला जरा बरं आहे तोवर जाऊन त्याला पुरून येते." इतका  करून प्रसंग होता हा! आम्ही सगळेच सुन्न झालो. कोण  कोणासाठी रडणार? डोळ्यांतलं पाणीच आटून जावं अशी ही परिस्थिती.

Can't forget one of the incidence happened during the cholera epidemic. A women came to us with her child. After treating him, giving him Saline the child's condition improved. Keeping the child with us, she immediately started to leave. One of our volunteer asked her, "How can you leave this child in such a condition? Stay with him, let him recover completely and then leave." On that she told, "Due to cholera out break my husband died yesterday. Both the kids got infected so I started to come here, but on the way one kid died. I kept him under the tree and came with this kid. Now while this kid is ok, I'll go and bury that kid." It was very depressing! We all were speechless. Who will cry for whom? Eyes had all dried up to cry. 

The book ends with how next generation has started contributing to the work and how things are done by them. They now have website called Someday I would visit this place. Would like to see if I can be of any help.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Test Automation

Here are the presentation slides that I used for my talk on Test Automation. Last slide lists the reference material I used while preparing for this presentation. Also check out my post on making of this presentation where I talk about how I prepared for this presentation.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Making of a Presentation

Yesterday I gave a presentation on Test Automation in an event arranged by a college. My first participation as a presenter in some special event.

While preparing for the presentation, I took notes on things that I did. I wanted to make a standard procedure and have a check list ready to refer next time I prepare for any presentation. This post is about my observations while I was making the presentation.

  1. First of all I wasted a lot of time in searching for a good power point template. I knew its the content that matters and not the cosmetic things but still I wanted a good, professional template. I didn't find many. The one that I liked was paid and too costly. Finally I settled on to one decent, free template. I liked its color scheme and it looked pretty professional. Later I realized its the same template that Steve Huffman had used in his presentation. Great minds think alike, you know ;) I should have 2-3 more templates ready with me so that I don't waste time on selecting the template next time. Its the look and feel, color scheme and ability to draw diagrams in the same color scheme that I look for in the template.
  2. Once I decided the topic for my presentation, many ideas immediately started rushing in my head. I could cover this, I could cover that, I could give this as an example and so on. They came all at once to me. One good thing I did was I opened my notepad and started typing whatever came to my mind. It pretty much set the agenda for my presentation. I should do this next time I finalize on the topic for the presentation.
  3. Next, I spent lots of time searching for good material on the topic. It was not based on my experiences as such so I had to refer lots of material to include in the slides. And I searched on few non-common sites for the material. It surprised me because I would not have normally thought of visiting those sites. Here's the full list:
    • torrents
  4. Preparation:
    1. Unless you are the pioneer of the topic, you would read lot of  material on the topic. Your initial objective of reading is to judge the quality of the material and discard stuff that is not useful. In the process you note down which material could help you in preparing which part of the presentation. Like while talking about Agile and Automation I referred a completely different white paper found on some other website.
    2. Once you have finalized on the material that you would be referring for the presentation, start reading it. Thorough reading should be done. In the process you start selecting the topics, summaries that you think could be used for the presentation and start creating slides with headings on them.
    3. Start filling the slides, while re-reading the material and note down the sentences you want to cover in your talk.
    4. Spend good time on drawing the diagrams from the material in the color scheme of your slides. Do not copy paste the images from any material. It spoils the theme of the slides.
    5. Iterate over the process still you feel comfortable with the content of your presentation and amount of research.
    6. Note down the source of all the material referred and ensure they are listed on one of the slides.
    7. Finally, take printout of the slides and start writing on them points that you are going to say. Don't write sentences, just few words telling you what you are going to say. These are the notes that you will keep with you during the presentation.
    8. The whole objective of the preparation should be to go away from the reference material and put things in your own words. You should not have to memorize any sentence. That's a sign of danger. Everything said should be from your understanding of the topic. If possible try to make it sound like a story or some kind of a flow.
  5. One week before:
    1. Select the dress you would be wearing. Do whatever is required for making it ready for the presentation.
    2. Get your shoes ready for the presentation.
    3. Get a hair cut if required.
    4. Know the place where you would be giving the presentation. Know the route, how you would be reaching there and how much time you would need to reach there on the day of the presentation.
    5. If possible visit the place where you would be giving the presentation. I have always found it useful to know where I would be standing, where I will keep my notes, where the mouse, key-board would be.
    6. If its possible to visit the place, know where the rest room is, find a temporary place where you could sit and relax once you arrive for the presentation, where you could keep you bag and other stuff not required during the presentation.
    7. As described earlier take printouts of the slides and make notes on them.
  6. One day before:
    1. Be ready with your opening line without any confusion. Whatever it is, try not to change it. I use "Hello everyone, thanks for having me here. I'll be talking about..". Prefer "Hello everyone" over "Good morning/afternoon/evening" simply because it does not involve effort  to know what time of the day it is. Your presentation may get delayed from morning to afternoon. You don't want to get that wrong so avoid it altogether.
    2. Practice Session 1 - Practice giving the presentation out loud in your words. You should be able to explain the topics in your words without referring to the material. Note down the mistakes that you do, words/topics that you didn't want to say. Correct the errors in the slides etc.
    3. Practice Session 2 - A quick practice session deliberately avoiding the mistakes made earlier. Remember the complete flow of the presentation in your head, with sequence of slides and sequence of points to be covered in each slide. 
    4. Shave. You don't want to do it in hurry so don't do it on the morning of the presentation day.
    5. Clean your spectacles.
    6. Change the desktop wallpaper of the laptop you will be using for the presentation. You don't want to distract your audience just before you start the presentation.
    7. Backup you presentation slides on Pen Drive, Laptop and Cloud.
    8. Keep a nice working pen with you.
    9. Watch a video presentation/talk of somebody that inspires you or even of whom you would like to imitate. Notice how they started their presentation, how they ended it, how they moved from one topic to other, from one slide to other, how they took Q&As etc. I watched Steve Huffman's presentation couple of hours before my presentation and that's when I noticed he too was using the same template that I had selected for my slides.
    10. Put spare laptop charger in your bag.
    11. Keep small water bottle with you that you could carry during the presentation.
  7. During the presentation
    1. One of the problem that I faced in my last tech talk was that my throat went completely dry just before I started talking. It was so bad that I was thinking of giving up the presentation. This time I solved the problem. I carried a small water bottle with me during the presentation and it helped. Its just that I couldn't find proper timing to pause for drinking the water. It always felt awkward to drink water in middle of all the talking you were doing. I think I should have my pause timings planted in the presentation. For ex I could pause when a new slide with some diagram is displayed. I can ask the audience to take a look at the diagram while I take a quick drink break. Or I could ask them some question/quick poll, or ask them if they have any question and drink water while waiting for any answer.
    2. Keep your opening line ready.
  8. After the presentation:
    1. Don't forget any stuff that you received at the event especially any memento etc. I forgot the one given to me! It feels rude to the organizers.
    2. Immediately after the presentation, you know precisely how it went and more precisely what mistakes you did. Write them down before you forget. Write a blog post about it.
    3. Complete any communication that you are expected to close. Like mailing the slides/pdf, sending thank you note etc.
That's all I have for now. I am sure I'll come up with new suggestions next time I prepare for a presentation. May be I'll update this post then. Or may be I'll write a new post.

Hope future me finds these suggestions useful.