Friday, December 16, 2016

Another personal landmark

This is an edit on top of blog post that I wrote five years ago when I completed 20 years. Original post is here.
Today I complete 25 years in the workforce. I started working for Bharat Electronics exactly 25 years on today's date, i.e. 16-December-1991. It is an important personal landmark so I thought I would summarize last 25 years of my life through this post.
Joining BEL
I completed my graduation in June-1991 and was asked to join BEL on 16th December 1991 in Bangalore unit. We had three months training and we were called probationary engineers till our training was completed. Once we completed our training, we were designated Deputy Engineer and posted to our units which in my case was BEL Kotdwara in the foothills of Garhwal mountain ranges.
BEL Kotdwara
I, along with the group of other 5 engineers from the batch, joined BEL Kotdwara on 11th March 1992. I still remember it was one day before the festival of Holi. BEL Kotdwara was fun, regular visits to Siddhabali, Lansdowne. We even drove our bikes to Dehradun, Mussoorie once. On 28th of September, 1994, I left BEL to join Motorola India Electronics Ltd. in Bangalore.
Motorola India Electronics Ltd., Bangalore
I joined MIEL on 3rd of October, 1994 in Bangalore at their office on St. Marks Road. The building was called "The Presidency". Since the building was full, after joining and training I was sent to work at a rented facility at Manipal Center at the junction of Dickenson Road and Cubbon Road. In few months the new facility of Motorola, called The Senate, was ready at Ulsoor Road. We moved there and I worked out of that facility for next almost 10 years. Eventually, Motorola built another facility in C. V. Raman Nagar in Bagmane Tech Park. We moved to that facility on 27th February 2004. I worked out of that facility till 2010.
Leaving Motorola
In June 2010, Motorola decided to close the group (Enterprise Applications Research Labs, Applied Research Center, Bangalore) in which I was working and I was one of the causalities of that decision. Anyway, it was time to leave the place.
In July 2010, I joined the startup with a few of my friends, to build a product in the telecommunication infrastructure space. We built a prototype, demonstrated to few tier-1 operator across the world and then we were acquired by Movik Networks in October 2010.
Movik Networks
I joined Movik Networks as part of that acquisition, did some interesting work for next few months and finally left them on 31st March 2011.
In April 2011,   I joined Hewlett-Packard in Bangalore.
Hewlett Packard
I worked at HP in the storage group. We built a scale-out file system for large storage systems. The work in place was reasonably good but the politics of the place just got to me. I left in October 2014 after little more than three years in the place.
I joined Oracle's cloud group and worked on Application PaaS. I found the company very suffocating for technical people. Even architecture documents were approved by managers there. So finally left the place after little more than one year.
Hubble Connected India Private Limited
Joined the company because they were running a cloud service that required a refresh and needed to be rearchitected to run at a much higher scale. Still working in the place.

To summarize, it has been an interesting ride for last 25 years. What is the most disappointing is the level of technology ownership in most of the Industry? I had expected that we would see more technology and product ownership with Indian industry, which does not seem to be the case. Hope things would improve in next few years.

When I started working 25 years ago, I was of the view that I will not work as an employee for more than 20 years. That is one milestone that I have unfortunately missed. I have not been able to transition from a salaried job to either freelance consulting or build a company of my own. That is probably the biggest regret that I have as I complete 25 years.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My problems with Aadhaar bill

When Aadhaar was launched by the UPA government, it was meant to be a system that provides a mechanism to authenticate people so that targeted subsidies can be given. Since most subsidies were not reaching target population it sounded like a good idea. When the registration started, I also registered for it because the biggest proponent of Aadhaar, Nandan Nilkeni, always maintained that it was only meant as an authentication system for government subsidies.

Recently the parliament has passed the Aadhaar law. As I read it, following clauses stand out and make me wonder whether it is a right thing or not.

Cases when information may be revealed: In two cases, information may be revealed:
In the interest of national security, a Joint Secretary in the central government may issue a direction for revealing, (i) Aadhaar number, (ii) biometric information (iris scan, finger print and other biological attributes specified by regulations), (iii) demographic information, and (iv) photograph.  Such a decision will be reviewed by an Oversight Committee (comprising Cabinet Secretary, Secretaries of Legal Affairs and Electronics and Information Technology) and will be valid for six months.   
On the order of a court, (i) an individual’s Aadhaar number, (ii) photograph, and (iii) demographic information, may be revealed.
So a Joint Secretary in the government of India can issue a direction for revealing all the information in the interest of national security with no clear definition of what national security consists of. As we have seen, even few students shouting slogans (inappropriate ones) can become an issue of national security.

This is only half the problem as far as the aadhaar is concerned. Aadhaar depends on two sets of biometrics. Finger print and retina scan. I believe both of these mechanisms have an error rate of 1 in 10 million. These are great for finding criminals, but once you collect data for a country of the size of India, things become difficult.

Let's say, in the situation of a national interest, police picks up a fingerprint from a crime scene and run it against aadhaar database. Given the error rates of 1 in 10 million, there would be 100 people in the country whose fingerprints may match. The way our judicial system works, the onus of proving that you are innocent will fall on you. To me it is really scary thought. Aadhaar is good enough for disbursing subsidies, if somebody else claims my subsidy, I will be unhappy but if I am caught for a crime I did not have anything to do with, I think it is a problem of a very different scale.