Gender Microaggressions: Invisible Discrimination at Workplace

Priyanka Pandey

A 2020 headline read, ‘The number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 hits an all-time record’. It sounds like a great news until you start reading further. Only 37 of the 500 companies on the list were led by female CEOs which is just 7.4%. But it also marks a considerable jump from its preceding years’ rates which were 6.6% in 2019 and just 4.8% in 2018, i.e., 33 and 24 companies respectively. Another report by McKinsey & Co. on the advancing of women’s equality in the Asia-Pacific region, tells us that just around 25% of India’s workforce is female, and only 5% of them make it to the top. This decline in percentage is due to many women dropping out of their jobs. One of the major factors for women to take this decision is ‘sexism at the workplace’.

It has made its way into the ‘work-from-home’ world as well. Imagine this scenario: In a discussion about hiring employees for a new project, a male committee member says, “I think we should hire more men as this project requires spending extra time and effort“. In this case, it is not very difficult to identify the prejudice. But let’s consider another scenario- there is a need to move some machines for which a person asks for help saying, “I need a few strong men to help me lift this“. Most of the time people will not realize how problematic this statement is. This is an example of ‘gender microaggression’. But what exactly is a microaggression? Microaggression is verbal or nonverbal behavior that, intentionally or unintentionally, can communicate denigratory behavior towards the members of a minority/oppressed group which often goes unnoticed and unreported. In simple words, it is a form of discrimination that is subtle yet harmful. There are mainly 3 forms of Microaggressions: microassaults (purposeful discriminatory actions), microinsults (communicate a covert insulting message), and microinvalidations (dismiss the thoughts of certain groups). Different kinds of gender microaggressions are sexual objectification, second-class citizenship, use of sexist language, assumption of inferiority, restrictive gender roles, invisibility, sexist humor/jokes. According to Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, people typically don’t raise their voice against everyday sexism because it can be seen as too small to make a fuss about, but it matters. As the Women in the Workplace report also reflects, “Microaggressions can seem small when dealt with one by one. But when repeated over time, they can have a major impact.”

Let’s go back to the above example for people who could not identify what was wrong in that statement. When people use phrases like ‘strong men’, it tells that only men are strong and conversely, that women are weak. This statement does not have to be focused on gender at all. It can be rephrased as “I need a few strong people to help me lift this“, and people around can determine for themselves who the strong helpers will be. Few other examples of common gender-related microaggressions are:

  • Mansplaining – Explaining a subject to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often oversimplified manner with a presumption that she wouldn’t know about it.
  • Manterrupting – Unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man whenever she is trying to convey her ideas or thoughts.
  • Bropropriating – A man taking a woman’s idea and showing it as his own hence, taking all the credit for it.
  •  ‘Boys will be boys’ – A phrase used to dismiss any traditionally masculine behavior and not holding men accountable for their wrong deeds.
  • Using differentiated words when describing women and men, such as ‘Bossy’ versus ‘Leader’, ‘Annoying’ versus ‘Passionate’.

The pandemic has given way to a new surge of microaggressions for working women. A law firm Slater and Gordon conducted a poll of 2,000 remote workers and found that 35% of women reported experiencing at least one sexist demand from their employer since the lockdown started. For video conferences, some women were asked to wear more make-up or do something to their hair, while others were asked to dress more provocatively. Their bosses also tried to justify this by saying it could ‘help win business’, or it was important to ‘look nice for the team’. Nearly 40% said these demands were targeted at women, rather than equally with their male peers. Also, a lot of women are being micromanaged by their managers while their male colleagues are not. This sends a message of distrust towards them. Researches have indicated that experiences with these microaggressions, and many others not mentioned above, are related to a negative impact on the standard of living, physical health as well as psychological health, such as unequal wages, migraines, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and body image dissatisfaction. As a result, women who experience such insidious, everyday forms of sexist discrimination, are three times more likely to regularly think about leaving the organization. Hence, sexism can not only impact the individual but also the overall performance and working culture of the organization. Eliminating such behavior at the physical and virtual workplace is extremely important and will enable the organization to break down the barriers for equal access to different career opportunities for leadership for women and will help include diverse thinking, perspectives, and experiences in the workplace at every level. As an individual, the most basic yet effective thing to do would be to develop an honest awareness of our own biases and stereotypes.

Unless we tackle everyday sexism, the most innovative policies and initiatives designed to advance gender equality and inclusive and effective organisations will not deliver the change we need.” – Kate Jenkins

Here’s a small story of grace and grit which might inspire some, to take a stand against such gender-related microaggressions. Back in the 1970s, when feminism was a word unheard of, an incident took place. A woman saw a job advertisement by a telecom company, which said it required only male engineers. On seeing this requirement, she wrote back a postcard to the company’s Chairman questioning the gender biases. She was then called for a special interview, where they told her their side of the story – “We haven’t hired any women so far”. To which she replied, “You must start from somewhere.” Her name was Sudha Murty, who is now Chairperson of Infosys Foundation.

So, the next time when conversing with a colleague, consider all of this and be kind!

About the Author –

Priyanka is an ardent feminist and a dog-lover. She spends her free time cooking, reading poetry, and exploring new ways to conserve the environment.

Tuning Agile Delivery for Customer and Employee Success

Ashish Joseph

What is Agile?

Agile has been very popular in the software development industry for empowering delivery to be more efficient and effective. It is a common misconception for Agile to be thought of as a framework or a process that follows a methodology for software development. But Agile is a set of values and principles. It is a collection of beliefs that teams can use for decision making and optimizing project deliveries. It is customer-centric and flexible, helping teams adapt accordingly. It doesn’t make the decision for the team. Instead, it gives a foundation for teams to make decisions that can result in a stellar execution of the project.

According to the Agile Manifesto, teams can deliver better by prioritizing the following over the other.

  • Individuals and Interactions over process and tools
  • Working Model over Comprehensive Documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation
  • Responding to Changes over following a Plan

With respect to Software Development, Agile is an iterative approach to project management which help teams deliver results with measurable customer value. The approach is designed to be faster and ensures the quality of delivery that is aided with periodic customer feedbacks. Agile aims to break down the requirement into smaller portions, results of which can be continuously evaluated with a natural mechanism to respond to changes quickly.

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Why Agile?

The world is changing, and businesses must be ready to adapt to how the market demands change over time. When we look at the Fortune 500 companies from 1955, 88% of them perished. Nearly half of the S&P 500 companies is forecasted to be replaced every ten years. The only way for organizations to survive is to innovate continuously and understand the pulse of the market every step of the way. An innovative mindset helps organizations react to changes and discover new opportunities the market can offer them from time to time.

Agile helps organizations execute projects in an everchanging environment. The approach helps break down modules for continuous customer evaluation and implement changes swiftly.

The traditional approach to software project management uses the waterfall model, where we Plan, Build, Test, Review and Deploy. But this existing approach would result in iterations in the plan phase whenever there are deviations in the requirement with respect to the market. When teams choose agile, it helps them respond to changes in the marketplace and implement customer feedback without going off the plan. Agile plans are designed in such a manner to include continuous feedback and its corresponding changes. Organizations should imbibe the ability to adapt and respond fast to new and changing market demands. This foundation is imperative for modern software development and delivery.

Is Agile a right fit for my Customer? People who advocate Agile development claim that Agile projects succeed more often than waterfall delivery models. But this claim has not been validated by statistics. A paper titled “How Agile your Project should be?” by Dr. Kevin Thompson from Kevin Thompson Consulting, provides a perspective from a mathematical point of view for both Agile and Waterfall project management. Here both approaches were followed for the same requirements and were also affected by the same unanticipated variables. The paper focused on the statistical evidence to support the validity of both the options to evaluate the fit.

While assessing the right approach, the following questions need to be asked

  • Are the customer requirements for the project complete, clear and stable?
  • Can the project effort estimation be easily predicted?
  • Has a project with similar requirements been executed before?

If the answer to all the above questions are Yes, then Agile is not the approach to be followed.

The Agile approach provides a better return on investment and risk reduction when there is high uncertainty of different variables in the project. When the uncertainty is low, waterfall projects tend to be more cost effective than agile projects.

Optimizing Agile Customer Centricity

Customer centricity should be the foundation of all project deliveries. This help businesses align themselves to the customer’s mission and vision with respect to the project at hand. While we consider an Agile approach to a project in a dynamic and changing environment, the following are some principles that can help organizations align themselves better with their customer goals.

  • Prioritizing Customer Satisfaction through timely and continuous delivery of requirements.
  • Openness to changing requirements, regardless of the development phase, to enable customers to harness the change for their competitive advantage in the market.
  • Frequent delivery of modules with a preference towards shorter timelines.
  • Continuous collaboration between management and developers to understand the functional and non-functional requirements better.
  • Measuring progress through the number of working modules delivered.
  • Improving velocity and agility in delivery by concentrating on technical excellence and good design.
  • Periodic retrospection at the end of each sprint to improve delivery effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Trusting and supporting motivated individuals to lead projects on their own and allowing them to experiment.

Since Agile is a collection of principles and values, its real utility lies in giving teams a common foundation to make good decisions with actionable intelligence to deliver measurable value to their customers.

Agile Empowered Employee Success

A truly Agile team makes their decisions based on Agile values and principles. The values and principles have enough flexibility to allow teams to develop software in the ways that work best for their market situation while providing enough direction to help them to continually move towards their full potential. The team and employee empowerment through these values and principles aid in the overall performance.

Agile not only improves the team but also the environment around which it is established by helping employees to be compliant with respect to audit and governance.  It reduces the overall project cost for dynamic requirements and focuses on technical excellence along with an optimized process for its delivery. The 14th Annual State of Agile Report 2020 published by StateofAgile.com surveyed 40,000 Agile executives to get insights into the application of Agile across different areas of enterprises. The report surveyed different Agile techniques that contributed most towards the employee success of the organization. The following are some of the most preferred Agile techniques that helped enhance the employee and team performances.

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All the above Agile techniques help teams and individuals to introspect their actions and understand areas of improvement in real time with periodic qualitative and quantitative feedback. Each deliverable from multiple cross functional teams can be monitored, tracked and assessed under a single roof. All these techniques collectively bring together an enhanced form of delivery and empower each team to realize their full potential.
Above all, Agile techniques help teams to feel the pulse of the customer every step of the way. The openness to change regardless of the phase, helps them to map all the requirements leading to an overall customer satisfaction coupled with employee success.

Top 5 Agile Approaches

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A Truly Agile Organization

Majority of the Agile approach has been concentrated towards development, IT, and Operations. However, organizations should strive towards effective alignment and coordination across all departments. Organizations today are aiming for greater expansion of agility into areas beyond building, deploying, and maintaining software. At the end of the day, Agile is not about the framework. It is all about the Agile values and principles the organizations believe in for achieving their mission and vision in the long run.

About the Author –

Ashish Joseph is a Lead Consultant at GAVS working for a healthcare client in the Product Management space. His areas of expertise lie in branding and outbound product management. He runs a series called #BizPective on LinkedIn and Instagram focusing on contemporary business trends from a different perspective. Outside work, he is very passionate about basketball, music, and food.

Vision for 2021

Sumit Ganguli

CEO, GAVS Technologies

God, grant me the serenity to accept things, I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

The events of 2020 have reaffirmed in me the ethos conveyed by this stanza, from the Serenity Prayer.

For us, COVID has been up close and personal. One of our key clients, Bronx Care Hospital has been an epicenter of the pandemic in New York City. The doctors, staff and support staff, including GAVS’ IT support engineers have experienced the devastating effect of this pandemic, up close and personal. GAVS’ technical team supported the ICUs and patient care units at the hospitals during the peak of pandemic.

“Every day we witness these heroic acts: one example out of many this week was our own Kishore going into our ICU to move a computer without full PPE (we have a PPE shortage). The GAVS technicians who come into our hospital every day are, like our doctors and healthcare workers, the true heroes of our time.”

Ivan Durbak, CIO, BronxCare Health System

“GAVS Team was instrumental in assisting the deployment of digital contact less care solutions and remote patient monitoring solutions during the peak of COVID. Their ability to react in quick time really helped us save more lives than what we could have, with technology at the fore-front.”

Dr. Sridhar Chilimuri, Chairman, Dept. of Medicine, BronxCare Health System

The alacrity with which our colleagues in India addressed the remote working situation and the initiative that they have demonstrated in maintaining business continuity for the clients in the US have inspired us at GAVS and  have reaffirmed our belief that we are on the way to create a purposeful company.  

The biggest learning from 2020, is that we need to be mindful of the fragility of life and truly make every day count. At GAVS, we are committed to use technology and service for the betterment of our clients and our stakeholders; and anchor this with our values of Respect, Integrity, Trust and Empathy.

The year was not without some positives. Thanks to some new client acquisitions and renewed contracts we have been able to significantly expand the GAVS family and have registered a 40% growth in revenue. 

We have formed Long 80, A GAVS & Premier, Inc. JV and have started reaching out to Healthcare providers in the US. We are reaching out to some of the largest hospitals in North America offering our AI-based Infrastructure Managed Services, Cybersecurity solutions, Prescriptive and Predictive Healthcare Solutions based on Analytics.

“Moving from a vendor-only model with GAVS to a collaborative model through Long 80 expands Premier’s current technology portfolio, enabling us to offer GAVS’ technology, digital transformation and data security services and solutions to US healthcare organizations. We are extremely excited about this opportunity and look forward to our new relationship with GAVS.”

Leigh Anderson, President, Performance Services, Premier, Inc.

This year, we see the Premier team growing by an additional 120 persons to continue to support their initiative to reduce costs, improve efficiency, enhance productivity and faster time to market.

We aim to hit some milestones in our journey of enabling AI-driven Digital Transformation in the Healthcare space. We have constituted a team dedicated to achieving that.

We are contemplating on establishing the GAVS Healthcare Institute in partnership leading institutions in India and US to develop competency within GAVS in the latest technologies for the healthcare space.

GAVS is committed to being a company focused on AI, and newer technologies and promote GAVS’ AI led Technology Operations, Zero Incident Framework. In 2021, we will work on increasing our ZIF sites around the US and India.  

Based on inputs from our Customer Advisory Board, we at GAVS would like to build a competency around Client Relationship and empower our Client Success Managers to evolve as true partners of our Clients and support their aspirations and visions.  

GAVS is also making strong progress in the BFS sector and we would like to leverage our expertise in AI, Blockchain, Service Reliability and other digital technologies.

GAVS has the competency to support multiyear contracts and there will be a push to reach out to Sourcing Companies, Influencers and partners to garner these long-term predictable business.

We will continue to build competency and expertise around Innovation, and there are some initiatives that we will be putting in place to promote a Culture of Innovation and have measurable successes under Novelty of Innovation.

Our experience of 2020 has inspired us to once again remind ourselves that we should make GAVS an aspirational company, a firm that is purposeful and anchored with our values.

Palo Alto Firewall – DNS Sinkhole

Ganesh Kumar J

Starting with PAN-OS 6.0, DNS sinkhole is an action that can be enabled in Anti-Spyware profiles. A DNS sinkhole can be used to identify infected hosts on a protected network using DNS traffic in environments where the firewall can see the DNS query to a malicious URL.

The DNS sinkhole enables the Palo Alto Networks device to forge a response to a DNS query for a known malicious domain/URL and causes the malicious domain name to resolve to a definable IP address (fake IP) that is given to the client. If the client attempts to access the fake IP address and there is a security rule in place that blocks traffic to this IP, the information is recorded in the logs.

Sample Flow

We need to keep the following in mind before assigning an IP address to DNS sinkhole configuration.

When choosing a “fake IP”, make sure that the IP address is a fictitious IP address that does not exist anywhere inside the network. DNS and HTTP traffic must pass through the Palo Alto Networks firewall for the malicious URL to be detected and for the access to the fake IP to be stopped. If the fake IP is routed to a different location, and not through the firewall, this will not work properly.

Steps:

  1. Make sure the latest Antivirus updates are installed on the Palo Alto Networks device. From the WebUI, go to Device > Dynamic Updates on the left. Click “Check Now” in the lower left, and make sure that the Anti-Virus updates are current. If they are not, please do that before proceeding. The Automatic Updates can be configured if they are not setup.

Fig1.1

IT Automation with AI

Note: A paid Threat Prevention subscription for the DNS sinkhole is required to function properly.

  1. Configure the DNS Sinkhole Protection inside an Anti-Spyware profile. Click on the Objects > Anti-Spyware under Security Profiles on the left.
    Use either an existing profile or create a new profile. In the example below the “alert-all” is being used:

Fig1.2:

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Click the name of the profile – alert-all, click on the DNS Signatures tab.

Fig1.3:

Software Test Automation Platform

Change the “Action on DNS queries” to ‘sinkhole’ if it is not already set to sinkhole.
Click on the Sinkhole IPv4 field, either select the default Palo Alto Networks Sinkhole IP (72.5.65.111) or a different IP of your choosing. If you opt to use your own IP, ensure the IP is not used inside your network and preferably not routable over the internet (RFC1918).
Click on Sinkhole IPv6 and enter a fake IPv6 IP. Even if IPv6 is not used, something still needs to be entered. The example shows ::1. Click OK. 

Note: If nothing is entered for the Sinkhole IPv6 field, OK will remain grayed out.

  1. Apply the Anti-Spyware profile on the security policy that allows DNS traffic from the internal network (or internal DNS server) to the internet. Click on Policies> Security on the left side. Inside the rules, locate the rule that allows DNS traffic outbound, click on the name, go to the Actions tab, and make sure that the proper Anti-Spyware profile is selected. Click OK..

Fig1.4:

Software Product Engineering Services

  1. The last thing needed is to have a security rule that will block all web-browsing and SSL access to the fake IP 72.5.65.111 and also :1 if using IPv6. This will ensure to deny traffic to the fake IP from any infected machines.

Fig1.5:

Security Iam Management Tools

  1. Commit the configuration

Fig1.6:

Rpa in Infrastructure Management

(To be continued…)

References:

About the Author –

Ganesh is currently managing Network, Security and engineering team for a large US based customer. He has been associated with the Network & Security domain for more than 15 years.

The DNA of a Good Leader (PART I)

Rajeswari S

In our lives, we would have come across some people with great leadership qualities. They may not be leading a team, or an organization, but they exude an aura. They conduct themselves in a manner that sets them apart from the rest. As the debate rages on whether leaders are born, made, discovered, innovated, invented!? Let’s see what makes a person a true and admirable leader.

Generally, a good leader should be successful, progressive, and positive, must possess good personality traits, communication and delegation skills, charisma, agility, adaptability, and ability to transform the air around them by effecting positive changes.

Some people are able to bring out the best in others and that is the edge they have over others. So, let’s look beyond and list out those qualities that makes a person or YOU a quintessential leader.

  1. Be passionate: Obviously, you would think it is the dedication, commitment for one’s work to up the number of clients, revenue figures, etc. However, it is not just about that. The passion that you have which affects not only your attitude and energy but that of those around you. Your passion should spread like a wildfire and inspire action and positive change among others.

  1. Face obstacles with grace: If any leader knows exactly what a customer or market truly wants from the business, they would be hailed as no less than a God! But alas, life is always full of obstacles, and a true leader knows which battles to fight and how. Effective leaders approach roadblocks with a high level of positivity and maturity. They adopt creative problem-solving techniques that allows them to overcome situations that others might give up on.
  1. Allow honest mistakes, spot talents: An over-protected child learns nothing and cannot sail against the tides. A good leader allows their people to just GO FOR IT! Failure often provides us with some of life’s biggest learning opportunities. As uncertainty and risk are inherent to running a team or business. Some people do commendable jobs under high pressure situations. A good leader spots such resources in their team and makes the best use of their qualities.
  1. Be street smart: It’s hard to find a substitute for old-fashioned street smarts. Knowing how to trust your gut, quickly analyzing situations as well as the people you’re dealing with and knowing how-to spot a bad deal or scammer is an important aspect of leadership. Maturity and experience complement each other, and a perfect combination of this makes a great leader.
  1. Be intuitive and take ownership: Intuition is to art as logic is to math. Leadership is often about following your gut instinct. It can be difficult to let go of logic in some situations but learn to trust yourself. Having said that, if your instinct fails, leadership is also about taking ownership for what happened, learning lessons from it and NEVER TO REPEAT THE SAME MISTAKE.
  1. Understand opportunity cost: Leaders know that many situations and decisions in business involve risk and there is an opportunity cost associated with every decision you make. An opportunity cost is the cost of a missed opportunity. This is usually defined in terms of money, but it may also be considered in terms of time, man-hours, or any other finite resource. Great leaders understand the consequences of their decisions before making them.
  1. Be liked: You can respect a person who talks flamboyantly, has a brilliant mind, impeccable manners, and business skills, but do you LIKE them? A leader should not only be respected but they should also be liked. Liking a person is a not a quantifiable quality, is it? But, it can be achieved in the way a leader captains the team, spreads a positive feeling among them and make the group feel that they belong there.
  1. Laugh: Yes…you read it right. The proven routes to a person’s mind or heart is a healthy sense of humor. It works well in getting the best out of your team. Nobody likes a templated talk or expression, even if it is good news you are trying to convey. Also, effective leaders can laugh at themselves as they understand that they are also humans and can make mistakes like everyone else. Leaders who take themselves too seriously risk alienating people.

Unique brands of Leadership

A quick look at some successful CEOs, new-age entrepreneurs, and their unique leadership mantras:

  1. Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

Leadership mantra: 

  • An avid reader
  • Looks beyond the Horizon
  • Makes the right move at the right time
  • Makes every second count
  • Nurture strong company culture 
  1. Nitin Saluja and Raghav Verma, Founder, Chaayos, fastest growing tea startup of India,

Leadership mantra: Give people wings to fly and they will carve out their own journey.

  1. Mukesh Ambani, Chairman & Managing director, Reliance Industries Ltd

Leadership mantra:

  • Money is not everything but important
  • Have a dream and plan to fulfill it
  • Let your work speak for itself  
  • Trust your instincts
  • Trust all, but depend on none

References:

  • https://briandownard.com,
  • https://economictimes.indiatimes.com

About the Author –

Working in IP, into Content Development with 13 years of Technical, Content and Creative Writing background. Off-work, passionate about singing, music, creative writing; love highway drive, a movie buff.

Center of Excellence – Server

Our Server CoE is a team of highly skilled individuals and experts in various server technologies who promote collaboration, standardization and best practices to drive business or customer-valued results.

The CoE is focused on providing expert level support in technologies like Windows / Linux Servers, Exchange / O365 Messaging solution, Virtualization with VMWare / Hyper-V / Citrix / Linux, Patch & Compliance Management, Application Availability & Performance Monitoring and Backup / Recovery solutions, etc.

The Server CoE also focuses on in-depth assessment of customer end server infrastructure components to study and analyze the existing design implementations, configurations, and operations to identify strengths and weaknesses to implement technical and economical improvements to businesses, wherever applicable, and perform upgrades, migrations and transformations as necessary.

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A wide range of server technologies comprise the Server CoE and not every business or customer can practically leverage all of them. And in the same way, not all the members can practically become an SME in all the server technologies.

Service Offerings

AI Devops Automation Service Tools

Current & Upcoming Engagements

A farm credit bank of US – Server Assessment – In Progress – July 2020

  • MS Active Directory Assessment
    • MS Exchange Assessment
    • VMWare Assessment
    • MS SCCM Assessment
    • MS SCOM Assessment
    • Storage
    • Backup Assessment

A global professional services firm – Hybrid Exchange 2016 Migration – July/August 2020

  • SOW Sign Off – Completed
    • Background verification process for 2 Technical Resources – Completed
    • Migration Environment Setup – In Progress
    • Assessment / Pre-requisites Review – Next Steps
    • Migration Test Phase – July 2020
    • Production Migration – July-August 2020

A Multinational Dairy Company – Active Directory & Exchange Server Migration / July – August 2020

  • Microsoft Active Directory Server Assessment
    • Microsoft Exchange Server Assessment
    • Migration of Active Directory from Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows Server 2016.
    • Migration of Exchange from Exchange Server 2016 to Exchange Server 2019.

A Wellness Services Agency – Resolve Issues with Exchange Database / DDL – July – August 2020

  • Customer Call / Technical Solution / SOW – Completed
    • SOW Sign Off – In Progress by July 2020
    • Assessment / Migration – Next Steps

A Leading FMCG company of India – Digital Transformation to O365 – July – August 2020

  • Zimbra Mail to O365 Migration
    • Licensing Model Finalization – In Progress
    • Migration Plan & Execution – Next Steps

A Leading FMCG company of India – DNS Migration between Service Providers – July 2020

  • 30+ Domains are registered with Net4India
    • Availability & Support Issues with current provider
    • Assess current domain lists and Migrate to new Provider

A Diverse Hardware Group – Azure Cloud Integration & Support – July/August 2020

  • SOW – in Progress

Road Map

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Contribution to Organization’s Growth

The Server CoE’s contribution is not limited to one activity with one customer at a time, but involved with multiple simultaneous activities in different server technologies in different customer requirements. Server CoE contributions:

  • Participating in RFPs / Proposals by providing technical solutions to prospects’ requirements
  • Participating in full time Infrastructure Assessment projects for various customers
  • Participating in full time Implementations & Migration projects for different customers
  • Providing Standard Operating Procedures, templates & best practice recommendations in various server technologies
  • Provide internal training to individuals to upskill and strengthen the team
  • Responding to requests and providing solutions to issues faced in various customer engagements

The members of our CoE are dedicated to in carrying out all CoE related activities in addition to their day to day activities in their assigned projects without any impact. We aim to contribute to the organization in terms of technological capability establishment and financial growth with new business opportunities.

If you have any questions about the CoE, you may reach out to them at COE_SERVER@gavstech.com

CoE Team Members

  • Balamurugan Rajamanickam
  • Dilipkumar Dhanasekaran
  • Dinesh Kumar
  • Karthick Mani
  • Karthickmanikandan G
  • Manoj Akula
  • Marimuthupandi Kalimuthu
  • Ramkumar Janakiraman
  • Sabari Nivas
  • Sathishkumar Jayaraman
  • Selvaganesh Kothandan
  • Sivakumar Duraisamy
  • Lakshmi Srikanth

Design Thinking 101

Vasudevan Gopalan

Is the end-user at the center of everything you do? Do you consider human emotions while conceptualizing a product or a solution? Well, let us open the doors of Design Thinking

What is Design Thinking?

  • Design thinking is both an ideology and a process, concerned with solving in a highly user-centric way.
  • With its human-centric approach, design thinking develops effective solutions based on people’s needs.
  • It has evolved from a range of fields – including architecture, engineering, business – and is also based on processes used by designers.
  • Design thinking is a holistic product design approach where every product touch point is an opportunity to delight and benefit our users.

Human Centred Design

With ‘thinking as a user’ as the methodology and ‘user satisfaction’ as the goal, design thinking practice supports innovation and successful product development in organizations. Ideally, this approach results in translating all the requirements into product features.

Part of the broader human centred design approach, design thinking is more than cross-functional; it is an interdisciplinary and empathetic understanding of our user’s needs. Design thinking sits right up there with Agile software development, business process management, and customer relationship management.

5 Stages of Design Thinking

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  • Empathize: This stage involves gathering insights about users and trying to understand their needs, desires, and objectives.
  • Define: This phase is all about identifying the challenge. What difficulties do users face? What are the biggest challenges? What do users really need?
  • Ideate: This step, as you may have already guessed, is dedicated to thinking about the way you can solve the problems you have identified with the help of your product. The product team, designers, and software engineers brainstorm and generate multiple ideas.
  • Prototype: The fourth stage brings you to turn your ideas into reality. By creating prototypes, you test your ideas’ fitness.
  • Test: You present the prototype to customers and find out if it solves their problem and provides users with what they need. Note that this is not the end of the journey; you need to get feedback from the users, adjust the product’s functionality, and test it again. This is a continuous process similar to the build-measure-learn approach in the lean start-up methodology.
Design Thinking

Benefits of Design Thinking in Software Development

1. Feasibility check: Design thinking enables software development companies to test the feasibility of the future product and its functionality at the initial stage. It enables them to keep end-user needs in mind, clearly specify all requirements and translate all this into product features.

2. No alarms and no surprises: Once you’ve tested your MVP and gathered feedback from users, the team can confidently proceed to the product development. You can be quite sure that there will be little to no difference between the approved concept and final version.

3. Clarity and transparency: Design thinking approach allow product designers/developers to broaden their vision, understand and empathise with the end-users’ problems and have a detailed blueprint of the solution they should eventually deliver.

4. Continuous improvement: The product can be (and sometimes should be) modified after its release when user feedback is at hand. It becomes clear which features work and which can be done away with. The product can undergo some series enhancements on the basis of feedback. This leaves place for continuous improvement and software development process becomes flexible and smooth.

Real-world Success Stories

1. PepsiCo

During Indra Nooyi’s term as PepsiCo’s CEO, the company’s sales grew 80%. It is believed that design thinking was at the core of her successful run. In her efforts to relook at the company’s innovation process and design experience, she asked her direct reportees to fill an album full of photos of what they considered represents good design. Uninspired by the result, she probed further to realize that it was imperative to hire a designer.

“It’s much more than packaging… We had to rethink the entire experience, from conception to what’s on the self to the post product experience.”, she told the Harvard Business Review.

While other companies were adding new flavours or buttons to their fountain machines, PepsiCo developed a touch screen fountain machine, a whole new interaction between humans and machines.

“Now, our teams are pushing design through the entire system, from product creation, to packaging and labelling, to how a product looks on the shelf, to how consumers interact with it,” she said.

2. Airbnb

Back in 2009, Airbnb’s revenue was limping. They realized that poor quality images of rental listings may have something to do with it. They flew some of their employees to a city and got them to take high quality photos and upload it on their website. This resulted in a 100% increase in their revenue.

Instead of focusing on scalability, the team turned inward and asked, ‘what does the customer need?’ This experiment taught them a few big lessons, empathy being just as important as code was one of them.

3. Mint.com

Mint.com is a web-based personal financial management website. Part of their success is attributed to the human-centric design of the website which tracks and visualizes how a person is spending their money. Bank accounts, investments, and credit cards can easily be synchronized on Mint, which then categorizes the expenses to help the user visualize their spending. They built a product that illustrates a core principle of design thinking: truly understanding the position and mindset of the user. They had 1.5 million customers within 2 years.

Design thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

References

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226141981_Design_Thinking_A_Fruitful_Concept_for_IT_Development

https://blog.brainstation.io/how-5-ceos-used-design-thinking-to-transform-their-companies/

About the Author –

Vasu heads Engineering function for A&P. He is a Digital Transformation leader with ~20 years of IT industry experience spanning across Product Engineering, Portfolio Delivery, Large Program Management etc. Vasu has designed and delivered Open Systems, Core Banking, Web / Mobile Applications etc.
Outside of his professional role, Vasu enjoys playing badminton and focusses on fitness routines.

The Pandemic and Social Media

Prabhakar Mandal

The COVID-19 outbreak has established the importance of digital readiness during pandemics. Building the necessary infrastructure to support a digitized world is the current mandate.

Technology has advanced much in the past century since we were hit by the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, and it plays a crucial role in keeping our society functional. From remote working to distance learning, and from telehealth to robot deliveries, our world is set to witness a lasting change post this pandemic.

As with other major and minor events of the past few years, social media is playing a big role in shaping people’s perception of the ongoing pandemic. Not just that, the social media platforms have also contributed to spreading information/misinformation, helping people cope with the strange times, and raising awareness about some pressing issues.

Security Iam Management Tools

Social Media and the pandemic: The Good!

Social media is one of the most effective ways to share news nowadays (it may be the only way for some people), especially if you are trying to alert the masses quickly. First-hand accounts of those who were infected and recovered were available almost in real-time. Scenes of lockdowns from the countries that first imposed it gave us a heads-up on what was due to come. If only we’d paid more heed to it.

With most of the world stuck at home, our mobile devices have increasingly become the go-to option to connect with the outside world. Social media usage has surged during the lockdown, with various apps witnessing a manifold increase in their traffic.

From educating to entertaining, social media platforms have stepped up as well. Movie and video streaming apps have redefined movie/video watching behavior by introducing features that allow users to host long-distance movie nights with friends and family.

We also witnessed a surge in various ‘online challenges’ that people could do in their homes and upload online. While some may view them as naïve, experts claim these are part of the various coping mechanisms for people.

Social media surfing has gained a significant share in the pie of leisure activities. Be honest, how many of us living alone are doing anything but scrolling these apps in our free time? But thanks to the social media ‘influencers’, scores of us are being motivated to workout at home, eat healthily, pick up a book, or learn something new.

Posts from health workers and others on the frontline have also helped spread the word on the difficulties they’re facing and rallied efforts to help them.

Online solidarity has spilled over offline as well. People are taking to social media to offer support in any way they can, such as picking up groceries for those who are unable to leave home or sharing information on how to support local businesses who are struggling. Communities are rallying together to support organizations and individuals by opening fundraisers to a larger audience.

Social Media and COVID-19: The Bad

Unfortunately, the impact of social media has not been all good. News on social media spreads fast, fake news even faster. Misinformation can cause panic, and can even turn out to be fatal on health issues. As a practice, we should all do a bit of research and validate the information from ‘reputed sources’ before sharing it.

This next bit is more of a tip…Whether it’s a business or a personal profile, you should refrain from posting anything that makes fun of, ridicules, or trivializes the situation. Not only is that insensitive, but it could also spell trouble for you, especially as a business.

The ‘influencers’ have been found guilty of misusing their power and taking advantage of the situation. Various inauthentic posts had gone viral before being pulled down. Do social validation and fame know no limits?

It is true that people often turn to social media as a stress-buster, but experts say it is equally stress-inducing for some individuals. It is important to note here that we’re also in the midst of an ‘infodemic’ – an anxiety-triggering over-abundance of information.

It is easy to overlook, especially now, the devastation that mental health issues cause globally. Studies have reported an increase in mental health issues attributed to social media in recent years. Psychologists say the lockdown will only add to that. Needless to say, mental health has a bearing on physical health as well.

Anti-rich sentiments have also gained momentum in the past weeks, as the pandemic makes the class divides glaringly obvious.

Conclusion

From the transparency that we have gained through this current COVID-19 situation, we now understand that we were not prepared to handle it. Many developed countries have had their health systems overwhelmed, those on the frontlines are being overworked and even the most advanced nations are stumbling to get their economies back up. The next pandemic is not a matter of “if it happens”, but “when it happens”.We need to be prepared at an individual and collective level. Indeed, technology has advanced and will continue to advance exponentially, but institutions and societies need to accelerate in adapting to it and continue investing in building the technology systems for the preparedness.

About the Author –

Prabhakar is a recruiter by profession and cricketer by passion. His focus is on hiring for the infra verticle. He hails from a small town in Bihar was brought up in Pondicherry. Prabhakar has represented Pondicherry in the U-19 cricket (National School Games). In his free time, he enjoys reading, working on his health and fitness, and spending time with his family and friends.

Cognitive Computing

Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations

Kalpana Vijayakumar

Is it possible for a computer to think and act without human intervention? The answer is yes, and that is called Cognitive computing.

Cognitive computing includes technology platforms that combine machine learning, reasoning, natural language processing, speech, vision, and human computer intervention that mimic the human brain, and solve problems without human assistance. Cognitive computing involves deep learning algorithms and big data analytics to provide insights.

The purpose of cognitive computing is to build a computing framework that can solve complicated problems without frequent human intervention. To implement it, cognitive computing consortium has recommended the following features.

software test automation platform

Scope of Cognitive Computing

We do have to accept that computers have been faster at calculations and processing than humans for decades. But, in a few cases, they have failed to accomplish the tasks that humans take for granted, like understanding the natural language and recognizing unique objects in the images and processing them. Cognitive computing solves all these challenges. They can act in complex situations and have a far-reaching impact on our lives.

Pera study by the IBM Institute for business value – cognitive computing involves three capabilities. These capabilities are related to the ways people think and demonstrate their cognitive abilities in their day-to-day life.

VDI desktop virtualization software

The current cognitive computing landscape is dominated by large players – IBM, Microsoft, and Google. IBM being the pioneer of this technology has invested $26 bn dollars in big data and analytics, now spends close to one-third of its R&D budget in developing cognitive computing technology. IBM and Google have acquired some of their rivals and the market is moving towards consolidation. Below are the leading players in this market.

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IBM Watson

Watson assistant is IBM’s AI product that allows you to build, train, and deploy conversational simulators into any applications, device, or channel.

Most chatbots try to mimic human interactions, which can frustrate the end-user when a misunderstanding occurs. Watson Assistant aims to resolve that. It knows how to handle the end-user sensibly and when to direct queries to a human executive. It can be deployed on any cloud or on-premises environment.

Watson supercomputer processes at a rate of 80 teraflops (i.e. trillion floating-point operations per second).To replicate a high functioning human’s ability to answer questions, Watson accesses 90 servers with a combined data store of over 200 million pages of information, which it processes against six million logic rules.

Microsoft Cognitive Services

The machine-learned smarts that enable Microsoft’s Skype Translator, Bing and Cortana to accomplish tasks such as translating conversations, compiling knowledge and understanding the intent of spoken words are increasingly finding their way into third-party applications that people use every day. The democratization of AI is coming as part of Microsoft cognitive services, a collection of 25 tools that allows developers to add features such as emotions and sentiment, detection, vision and speech recognition and language understanding to their applications with zero experience in machine learning.

“Cognitive services is about taking all the machine learning algorithms and AI smarts that we have in this company and exposing them to developers through APIs so that they don’t have to invent the technology themselves”, Mike Seltzer, a principal researcher in the Speech and Dialog research group at Microsoft’s lab in Redmond, Washington.

Machine learning service provider

Google DeepMind

DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014 and is considered to be a leading player in AI research. If you have used Google, there’s a high possibility that you’ve interacted with DeepMind in some way, as its deep learning tools have been implemented across the spectrum of Google products and services. Some of the most prominent uses for DeepMind AI includes speech recognition, image recognition, fraud detection, spam identification, handwriting recognition, translation, Google Maps Street View, and Local Search.

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Google devices like an Android Phone or Google Home, have invaded our homes and has impacted our lives. Every time you say, “Okay, Google” followed by a question, DeepMind helps Google Assistant understand what you are saying. Unlike Amazon’s Alexa, which uses eight microphones to understand voice commands, Google Home’s DeepMind-powered voice recognition system requires only two.

Cognitive Scale

Cognitive Scale founded by former members of the IBM Watson team provides cognitive cloud software for enterprises. Cognitive Scale’s augmented intelligence platform delivers insights-as-a-service and accelerates the creation of cognitive applications in healthcare, retail, travel, and financial services. They help businesses make sense from ‘dark data’ – messy, disparate, first and third-party data and drive actionable insights and continuous learning.

Spark Cognition Spark Cognition is an Austin-based start-up formed in 2014. Spark Cognition develops AI-Powered cyber-physical software for the safety, security, and reliability of IT, OT. The technology is more inclined towards manufacturing. It is capable of harnessing real-time sensor data and learning from it continuously, allowing for more accurate risk mitigation and prevention policies to intervene and avert disasters.

Cognitive Computing Use Cases

According to tech pundits, cognitive computing is the future. Many successful and established businesses have already integrated the technology into their business affairs. There are a number of successful use case scenarios and cognitive computing examples that show the world how to implement cognitive computing, efficiently. Let us look at some successful use cases of the technology.

Cora- Intelligent Agent by Royal Bank of Scotland

With the help of IBM Watson, Royal Bank of Scotland developed an intelligent assistant that is capable of handling 5000 queries in a single day. Using cognitive learning capabilities, the assistant gave RBS the ability to analyze customer grievance data and create a repository of commonly asked questions. Not only did the assistant analyze queries, but it was also capable of providing 1000 different responses and understand 200 customer intents. The digital assistant learned how customers ask general questions, how to handle the query, and transfer to a human agent if it is too complicated.

Healthcare Concierge by Welltok

Welltok developed an efficient healthcare concierge – CafeWell. It is a holistic population health tool that is being used by health insurance providers to help their customers with relevant information that improves their health. By collecting data from various sources and instant processing of questions by end-users, CafeWell offers smart and custom health recommendations that enhance the health quotient.

Personal Travel Planner by WayBlazer

Powered with cognitive technology, WayBlazer’s travel planner makes it easier for travelers to plan for trips by asking questions in natural language. The concierge asks basic questions and provides customized results by collecting and processing travel data as well as insights about traveler preferences.

aiops artificial intelligence for it operations

Such type of cognitive-powered tool helps travelers save time while searching for flights, booking hotels, and planning other activities. Travel agents have been successfully using such tools which have helped increase their revenues and customer delight at the same time.

Edge up’s Smart Tool to Manage Fantasy Football Teams via Mobile App

Fantasy Football is a very popular entertainment for more than 33 million people around the globe. With the help of cognitive learning and computing, Edge Up Sports developed a tool and integrated with their mobile app that helped users to draft their fantasy teams by asking simple questions.

aiops digital transformation solutions

The questions, drafted in natural language, making it easier for users to take a decision which is then analyzed by the system by browsing through data about a player across social media, news reports, and gauging user sentiment that help team managers make better decisions.

Conclusion

Cognitive computing doesn’t bring a drastic novelty into the AI and big data industry. Rather, it urges digital solutions to meet human-centric requirements like act, think, and behave like a human in order to achieve maximum synergy from human-machine interaction. It is believed that soon every digital system will be measured based on its cognitive abilities.

Cognitive computing will be a significant step towards digital humanism!

References

About the Author

Kalpana is a database developer. She strongly believes that “It’s not that we use technology, we live technology.” Outside of her professional role, Kalpana is passionate about travelling and watching movies.

Machine Learning from Programmer’s Perspective

Gireesh Sreedhar KP

Introduction

Machine Learning (ML) is key pillar of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) domain. ML solves problems which are unimaginable using traditional programming paradigm. During my interactions with people on ML, I am frequently asked following key fundamental questions.

  1. What is Machine Learning (ML)?
  2. What is the need for ML programs when traditional programs have served us well for decades?
  3. What differentiates ML from traditional programming paradigm?

Let me answer above questions from a programmer’s perspective to build understanding irrespective of your ML background.

Traditional Programming Paradigm

We are familiar with traditional programming, where we use selected programming language (like C, Java, etc.) and program specific instruction or rules to process inputs which creates output we need.

Let us understand with an example, a retail store wants to write a program to find amount to be paid (Amount) given Quantity (q) and price per unit (p). We will solve this by writing code as below.

  1. Read two inputs ‘q’ and ‘p’ (Data)
  2. Amount = p*q (apply Rules, Rules are part of program, but shown as input for illustration)
  3. Return Amount (Output)

The need for Machine Learning

Let us try to solve same problem of computing ‘Amount’ from inputs ‘p’ and ‘q’. However this time we are required to read the inputs (p and q) from a piece of paper with digits either handwritten or printed. This needs program to recognize the digits from paper (images of digits received by program) before digits can be assigned to ‘p’ and ‘q’.

Let us examine traditional programming approach (writing rules) to recognize the images of digits received by program

  • Are rules scalable?
  • Can rules handle recognizing digits written in different orientations and styles? Say, when image received is program should recognize the image as digit 8.
  • There are over 70,000 samples of handwritten digits which are commonly used (refer MNIST database, sample below), can we write rules to cover all possible combinations?

Now it’s clear to us that rules-based approach will break and it’s not practical to build all rules and program those. We need something else instead of rules to solve these types of problems and that something else which replaces rules is Machine Learning.

What is Machine Learning?

Let us ask ourselves

  1. What differentiates the first problem statement (easily solved using rules) from the second one?
  2. Why a problem easily solved by humans (recognizing different styles digits by vision), is such a difficult task for computers?

We humans learn to identify digits which are written in standard format, however when presented with digits written in different styles and orientations, we are still able to recognize the digits identifying the patterns which are the beauty of human learning process. Can we make computers (machines) do the same and learn like humans? Let us understand how we make a machine to learn this task and perform like humans.

We will feed the Machine Learning program (ML) with lots of data (examples) containing images of digits in different styles and orientations along with actual digit it represents (supervised learning). Say one data point will be an image and mapped to corresponding digit 8. We are providing data along with the intended output as input to ML for learning. Processing lots of inputs, ML comes up with Rules or Patterns or Models to map an input to output we need (like humans).

This Rules/Pattern/Model learned by ML will be used to process new incoming data to produce output or sometimes called as Predictions.

What differentiates ML from traditional programming paradigm

The major difference between traditional program and ML is, traditional program applies rules on input data to produce output. However, ML takes output (outcomes we need) as input and produces Rules/Pattern/Models as output which are then used to process new inputs.

Why Machine Learning

Data-driven decisions increasingly make the difference between keeping up with the competition or falling further behind. Machine learning can be the key to unlocking the value of corporate and customer data and enacting decisions that keep a company ahead of the competition.

Machine Learning at GAVS

GAVS has own in-house Artificial Intelligence research team building advanced Machine Learning algorithm and techniques powering its products and solutions. ZIF (Zero Incident FrameworkTM) Artificial Intelligence-based Technology Operations (AIOps) from GAVS is powered by state-of-the-art Machine Learning algorithms developed in house.

About the Author:

Gireesh is a part of the projects run in collaboration with IIT Madras for developing AI solutions and algorithms. His interest includes Data Science, Machine Learning, Financial markets and Geo-politics. He believes that he is competing against himself to become better than who he was yesterday. He aspires to become a well-recognized subject matter expert in the field of Artificial Intelligence.