Introduction to Shift Left Testing

Abdul Riyaz

Never stop until the very end.

The above statement encapsulates the essence of Shift Left Testing.

Quality Assurance should keep up the momentum of testing during the end-to-end flow. This will ensure Quicker Delivery, Quality Product, and Increased Revenue with higher Profitability. This will help transform the software development process. Let me elucidate how it helps.

Traditional Testing vs Shift Left Testing

For several decades, Software Development followed the Waterfall Model. In this method, each phase depends on the deliverables of the previous phase. But over time, the Agile method provided a much better delivery pattern and reduced the delivery timelines for projects. In this Software Development model, testing is a continuous process that starts at the beginning of a project and reduces the timelines. If we follow the traditional way of testing after development, it eventually results in a longer timeline than we imagined.

Hence, it is important to start the testing process parallel to the development cycle by using techniques such as ‘Business-Driven Development’ to make it more effective and reduce the timeline of delivery. To ensure Shift Left Testing is intact, AUT (Application Under Test) should be tested in an automated way. There are many proven Automation Testing software available in the current world of Information Technology which help better address this purpose.

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End-to-End Testing Applied over Shifting Left!

Software Testing can be predominantly classified in 3 categories – Unit, Integration and End-to-End Testing. Not all testing correspondingly shifts left from Unit test to System test. But this approach is revolutionized by Shift Left Testing. Unit Testing is straightforward to test basic units of code, End-to-End Testing is based on the customer / user for the final product. But if we bring the End-to-End testing to the left, that will result in better visibility of the code and its impact on the entire product during the development cycle itself.

The best way we could leverage ML (Machine Learning) and achieve a Shift-Left towards design and development with testing is indicated by continuous testing, visual testing, API coverage, scalable tests and extendable coverage, predictive analytics, and code-less automation.

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First Time Right & Quality on Time Shift Left Testing not only reduces the timeline of deliveries, but it also ensures the last minute defects are ruled out and we get to identify the software flaws and conditions during the development cycle and fix them, which eventually results in “First Time Right”. The chance of leaking a defect is very less and the time spent by development and testing teams towards fixing and retesting the software product is also reduced, thereby increasing the productivity for “Quality on Time” aspects.

I would like to refer to a research finding by the Ponemon Institute. It found that if vulnerabilities are detected in the early development process, they may cost around $80 on average. But the same vulnerabilities may cost around $7,600 to fix if detected after they have moved into production.

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The Shift left approach emphasizes the need for developers to concentrate on quality from the early stages of a software build, rather than waiting for errors and bugs to be found late in the SDLC.

Machine Learning vs AI vs Shift Left Testing There are opportunities to leverage ML methods to optimize continuous integration of an application under test (AUT) which begins almost instantaneously. Making machine learning work is a comparatively smaller feat but feeding the right data and right algorithm into it is a tough task. In our evolving AI world, gathering data from testing is straightforward. Eventually making practical use of all this data within a reasonable time is what remains intangible. A specific instance is the ability to recognize patterns formed within test automation cycles. Why is this important? Well, patterns are present in the way design specifications change and, in the methods, programmers use to implement those specifications. Patterns follow in the results of load testing, performance testing, and functional testing.

ML algorithms are great at pattern recognition. But to make pattern recognition possible, human developers must determine which features in the data might be used to express valuable patterns. Collecting and wrangling the data into a solid form and knowing which of the many ML algorithms to inject data into, is very critical to success.

Many organizations are striving towards inducting shift left in their development process; testing and automation are no longer just QA activities. This certainly indicates that the terms of dedicated developers or testers are fading away. Change is eventually challenging but there are few aspects that every team can work towards to prepare to make this shift very effective. It might include training developers to become responsible for testing, code review quality checks, making testers aware of code, start using the same tools, and always beginning with testability in mind.

Shifting left gives a greater ability to automate testing. Test automation provides some critical benefits;

  • Fewer human errors
  • Improvised test coverage (running multiple tests at same time)
  • Involvement and innovative focus of QA engineers apart from day to day activities
  • Lesser or no production defects.
  • Seamless product development and testing model

Introducing and practicing Shift Left Testing will improve the Efficiency, Effectiveness and the Coverage of testing scope in the software product which helps in delivery and productivity.

References

About the Author –

Riyaz heads the QA Function for all the IP Projects in GAVS. He has vast experience in managing teams across different domains such as Telecom, Banking, Insurance, Retail, Enterprise, Healthcare etc.

Outside of his professional role, Riyaz enjoys playing cricket and is interested in traveling and exploring things. He is passionate about fitness and bodybuilding and is fascinated by technology.

Site Reliability Engineering

Vasu

Vasudevan Gopalan

Software engineering is akin to having children; the labor before birth is painful, and the labor after birth is where we dedicate most of our efforts😊.

Software engineering as a discipline spends more time talking about the first period, but research clearly suggests that 40-90% of the costs are incurred after the birth of the systems. These costs are incurred to keep the platforms reliable.

Why should platforms be reliable? Because the average consumer demands speed, convenience, and reliability from every digital experience. While availability focuses on the platform’s operational quotient, reliability focuses on the platform’s useful quotient.

Site Reliability Engineering is a practice and cultural shift towards creating a robust IT operations process that would instill stability, high performance, and scalability to the production environment.

Reliability is the most fundamental feature of any product; a system is not useful if nobody can use it!

Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) are engineers – applying the principles of computer science and engineering to the design and development of computing systems, generally large, distributed ones. As Ben Treynor Sloss of Google states – SRE is what happens when a software engineer is tasked with what used to be called operations. Automation, Self-healing, Scalability, Resilient – these characteristics become mainstream.

An SRE function is run by IT operational specialists who code. These specialist engineers implement a software-first approach to automate IT operations and preempt failures. They apply cutting-edge software practices to integrated Dev and Ops on a single platform and execute test codes across the continuous environment. They possess advanced software skills, including DNS Configuration, remediating server, network, and infrastructure problems, and fixing application glitches.

The software approach codifies every aspect of IT operations to build resilience within infrastructure and applications. Thus, changes are managed via version control tools and checked for issues leveraging test frameworks, while following the principle of observability.

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The Principle of Error Budget

SRE engineers verify the code quality of changes in the application by asking the development team to produce evidence via automated test results. SRE managers can fix Service Level Objectives (SLOs) to gauge the performance of changes in the application. They should set a threshold for permissible minimum application downtime, also known as Error Budget. If the downtime during changes in the application is within the scale of the Error Budget, then SRE teams can approve it. If not, then the changes should be rolled back for improvements to fall within the Error Budget formula.

Error Budgets tend to bring balance between SRE and application development by mitigating risks. An Error Budget is unaffected until the system availability falls within the SLO. The Error Budget can always be adjusted by managing the SLOs or enhancing the IT operability. The ultimate goal remains application reliability and scalability.

DevOps and SRE

We know that DevOps is all about culturally combining development and operations. While DevOps dwells on what needs to be done for this, SRE focuses on how it must be done.

DevOps brings the traditionally separate teams of development and operations under one roof to improve upon collaboration, communication, integration, and software releases. This is accomplished by the focus on end-to-end automation of builds and deployments as well as effectively managing the entire infrastructure as code.

SRE is a discipline that incorporates the various aspects of software development and applies it to issues and tasks in IT operations specifically. The main objective of SRE is to develop a highly reliable and ultra-scalable software application or system. The prime focus is to completely automate (if not all) the tasks to ensure reliability in the systems. The ‘relentless’ pursuit of automation in SRE helps brands eliminate manual work, giving developers more time to innovate and create.

Also, in comparison to DevOps, SRE provides a good set of detailed steps in each part of the framework to reach a particular goal.

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While DevOps and SRE sound like they are on opposite sides of the spectrum, both approaches share the same end goals.

  • To make incremental changes fast and efficiently
  • To reduce the number of organization silos
  • To have a flexible, open-minded, and adaptable working culture
  • Use automation wherever possible
  • To monitor performance and improve when necessary

Just to slightly go back in time. In the old school /era of system administrators – Sysadmin was mostly assembling existing software components and deploying them to work together to produce a service. As the system grows in complexity and traffic volume, the need to have a larger sysadmin team comes into force, thereby increasing both direct and indirect (differences with the dev team in terms of culture, background, skill set, goals, etc.) costs to the organization. While the Dev team would want to launch new features etc., the ops team wants to maintain the status quo, to ensure service continuity. Hence, the two teams’ goals are fundamentally in tension.

Toil is mundane, repetitive operational work providing no enduring value, which scales linearly with service growth. Taking humans out of the release process can paradoxically reduce SRE’s toil while increasing system reliability.

SRE – Google’s approach to Service Management

SRE is what happens when we ask a software engineer to design an operations team, the common aptitude being developing software systems to solve complex problems. Motivated by “as a software engineer, this is how I would want to invest my time to accomplish a set of repetitive tasks.”

SRE teams generally have 50-60% of regular software engineers, other 40-50% being near software engineers who come with rarer skills like Uni system internals, networking expertise, etc.

SRE teams should focus on engineering, to avoid the fate of linear scaling up of the team. SREs, ensure that service “runs and repairs itself”. SREs typically should spend only 50% on ops work, remaining time on coding for the project itself.

Where to start?

Organizations must identify change agents who would create and promote a culture of maximum system availability. They can champion this change by practicing the principle of observability, where monitoring is a subset. Observability essentially requires engineering teams to be vigilant of common and complex problems hindering the attendance of reliability and scalability in the application. See the principles of observability below:

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Tenets of SRE

For a given service, ensuring Availability, Latency, Performance, Efficiency, Change management, Monitoring, Emergency response, Capacity planning, etc.

Google operates a “blame-free postmortem culture”, with the goal of exposing faults and applying engineering to fix these faults, rather than avoiding or minimizing them.

Change Management

Data suggest that ~70% of outages are due to changes in a live system. Remove humans, and automate to achieve the following:

  1. Implement progressive rollouts
  2. Quick and accurate detecting of problems
  3. Roll back of changes safely when problems arise

SRE represents significant break from existing industry best practice for managing large, complicated services.

Benefits of SRE

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No more toiling, organizations should embrace SRE and make their end-customers happy.

References –

About the Author –

Vasu heads the Engineering function for A&P. He is a Digital Transformation leader with ~20 years of IT industry experience spanning 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 is a fitness enthusiast.

Moving Ahead as Managers

Bindu

Bindu Vijayan

When I was recently asked to drive employee experience at GAVS, I thought, what an opportunity to support a group who are deliverers of high-value systems! I have personally seen the Leadership’s wisdom and the passion to drive GAVS forward as a meaningful and purposeful company. This is an opportunity to help deliver fine-tuned responses through earnest feedback.  And thus, started a somewhat ministerial role – listening truly, relating to what is being heard, because we believe there is a huge potential to strengthen bonds.

Operational execution takes place from the Managers, and here at GAVS, the value system is entrenched in the belief that seniors serve the needs of others; the inverse pyramid.  I have seen our CEO, Sumit Ganguli, treating everyone like a Leader, and everyone is given the responsibility to know and understand the company and the business. The earnest attempt is to have employees relate to GAVS, be the best brand ambassadors for the values and culture we stand for. 

Often times, we as Managers are going through the stress from genuinely caring to get everything right and move projects and teams forward along with the company, but it might be a totally different story with the teams we are managing – things aren’t going too well, and even before we realize what is going on, people leave us.

This points us to a need to recalibrate ourselves and our managerial style, and sometimes our self-calibration can have profound implications for the organization.

Was it a single event that had team members leave? It most times isn’t, it is a collection of problems…no quick fixes or silver bullets, but let’s take the medicine, the whole course, that would turn things around. We have all been on both sides and know what it is to open up and give honest feedback, the genuine hope and excitement about change, and as Managers today, we are happy to actually have individuals open up.   

Who am I as a Manager?

Ed Catmull, President, and co-founder of Pixar writes, “We acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable

As a Manager, let me take a real hard look at myself in the mirror to see what I might be doing wrong.  Why are my team members quitting? How do I lead? Is it through ‘Power’, as in our real inner power to lead with positivity and assertiveness, or is my leadership about ‘force’, where my authority, screaming, bullying, manipulating, sycophancy that drives my team along with me?

Making time for everyone

Let us make time to meet every single person in our team even when we are managing large teams. Scheduling that one crucial hour with each team member is giving them the opportunity to be a reviewer, exchange seats with them, and see it through their eyes.  Keep the agenda for the meeting to speak only about how we can improve managing them, all defenses down.

Demonstrate we see them as our peers, listen…

Listen to everything they have to say, without interrupting. Be a true listener, and promises are to be made and to be kept. The worst thing for us to do is to have that ‘excellent chat’ and go back to the ‘same old’.

Get straight forward feedback from the team and give them immunity for saying it the way it is

Sometimes we need to hear the little harsh truths about ourselves. And the team doesn’t want to see us defensive about our ways of impacting them wrong. We have to hear them out, and everything they want to say, and that’s the first step for them to choose to stay. People should feel safe to talk about things they want as improvements, and to be heard on what is working vs things that are not working.

Don’t wait on actions

Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes, but no plans” – Peter Drucker

I don’t mean there is a magic wand that we can use for everything to turn good overnight. But continuous improvements, by way of small consistent steps, should be visible, and getting everyone involved in it would be a great way to get it right. Everybody wants to see progress.

Here are some toxic traits that call for recalibration;

  • Highly irritable, short-tempered
  • Arrogant, unapproachable
  • Getting defensive about constructive criticism
  • Overtly dominant
  • Belittling other people’s feelings
  • Highly controlling
  • Manipulative

Today, it is interesting to see lots of new-age companies where there are zero hierarchies, employees and leaders are like family. The millennials and the Gen Z are comfortable being who they really are, and we Managers from different demographics must simply jump in and learn from their signature authenticity.

About the Author –

Bindu Vijayan takes care of Employee Experience at GAVS, she works towards creating an environment that’s conducive to passion and make employees feel valued as individuals. She is an avid reader, enjoys music and poetry, and is a devoted mother and a grand-mother. An ardent Kafka fan, she relates to his famous quote, “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

#EmpathyChallenge – 3 Simple Ways to Practice Empathy Consciously

Padma Ravichandran

A pertinent question for the post COVID workforce is, can empathy be learnt? Should it be practiced only by the leaders, or by everyone – can it be seamlessly woven into the fabric of the organization? We are seeing that dynamics at play for remote teams is little unpredictable, making each day uniquely challenging. Empathy is manifested through mindful behaviours, where one’s action is recognized as genuine, personal, and specific to the situation. A few people can be empathetic all the time, a few, practice it consciously, and a few are unaware of it.

Empathy is a natural human response that can be practiced by everyone at work for nurturing an environment of trust. We often confuse empathy for sympathy – while sympathy is feeling sorry for one’s situation, empathy is understanding one’s feelings and needs, and putting the effort to offer authentic support. It requires a shift in perspective, and building trust, respect, and compassion at a deeper level. As Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft says, “Empathy is a muscle that needs to be exercised.”

Here are three ways to consciously practice empathy at work –

  • Going beyond yourself

It takes a lot to forget how we feel that day, or what is priority for us. However, to be empathetic, one needs to be less judgemental. When one is consciously practicing empathy, one needs to be patient with yourself, your thoughts, and not compare yourself with the person you are empathizing with. If we get absorbed by our own needs, it gets difficult to be generous and compassionate. We need to remember empathy leads to influence and respect, and for that we should not get blind sighted by our perceptions.

  • Being a mindful and intentional listener

While practicing empathy, one has refrain from criticism, and be mindful of not talking about one’s problems. We may get sympathetic and give unsolicited advice. Sometimes it only takes to be an intentional listener, by avoiding distractions, and having a very positive body language, and demeanour. This will enable us to ask right questions and collaborate towards a solution.

  • Investing in the person

Very often, we support our colleagues and co-workers by responding to their email requests. However, by building positive workplace relationships, and knowing the person beyond his/her email id, makes it much easier to foster empathy. Compassion needs to be not just in words, but in action too, and that can happen only by knowing the person. Taking interest in a co-worker or a team member, beyond a professional capability, does not come out of thin air. It takes conscious continuous efforts to get to know the person, showing care and concern, which will help us to relate to the myriad challenges they go through – be it chronic illness, child care that correlates to his/her ability to engaged at work. It will enable us to personalize the experience, and see the person’s point of view, holistically.

When we take that genuine interest in how we make others feel and experience, we start mindfully practicing empathy. Empathy fosters respect. Empathy helps resolves conflicts better, empathy builds stronger teams, empathy inspires one another to work towards collective goals, and empathy breaks authority. Does it take that extra bit of time to consciously practice it? Yes, but it is all worth it.

References

About the Author –

Padma is intrigued by Organization Culture and Behavior at workplace that impact employee experience. She is also passionate about driving meaningful initiatives for enabling women to Lean In, along with her fellow Sheroes. She enjoys reading books, journaling, yoga and learning more about life through the eyes of her 8-year-old son.

Balancing Management Styles for a Remote Workforce

Ashish Joseph

Operational Paradigm Shift

The pandemic has indeed impelled organizations to rethink the way they approach traditional business operations. The market realigned businesses to adapt to the changing environment and optimize their costs. For the past couple of months, nearly every organization implemented work for home as a mandate. This shift in operations had both highs and lows in terms of productivity. Almost a year into the pandemic, the impacts are yet to be fully understood. The productivity realized from the remote workers, month on month, shaped the policies and led to investments in different tools that aided collaboration between teams. 

Impact on Delivery Centers

Technology companies have been leading the charge towards remote working as many have adopted permanent work from home options for their employees. While identifying cost avenues for optimization, office space allocation and commuting costs are places where redundant operational cash flow can be invested to other areas for scaling.

The availability and speed of internet connections across geographies have aided the transformation of office spaces for better utilization of the budget. Considering the current economy, office spaces are becoming expensive and inefficient. The Annual Survey by JLL Enterprises in 2020 reveals that organizations spend close to $10,000 on global office real estate cost per employee per year on an average. As offices have adopted social distancing policies, the need for more space per employee would result in even higher costs during these pandemic operations. To optimize their budgets, companies have reduced their allocation spaces and introduced regional contractual sub-offices to reduce the commute expenses of their employees in the big cities. 

With this, the notion of a 9-5 job is slowly being depleted and people have been paid based on their function rather than the time they spend at work. The flexibility of working hours while linking their performance to their delivery has seen momentum in terms of productivity per resource. An interesting fact that arose out of this pandemic economy is that the number of remote workers in a country is proportional to the country’s GDP. A work from home survey undertaken by The Economist in 2020 finds that only 11% of work from home jobs can be done in Cambodia, 37% in America, and 45% in Switzerland. 

The fact of the matter is that a privileged minority has been enjoying work from home for the past couple of months. While a vast majority of the semi-urban and rural population don’t have the infrastructure to support their functional roles. For better optimization and resource utilization, India would need to invest heavily in these resources to catch up on the deficit GDP from the past couple of quarters.

Long-term work from home options challenges the foundational fabric of our industrial operations. It can alter the shape and purpose of cities, change workplace gender distribution and equality. Above all, it can change how we perceive time, especially while estimating delivery. 

Overall Pulse Analysis

Many employees prefer to work from home as they can devote extra time to their family. While this option has been found to have a detrimental impact on organizational culture, creativity, and networking. Making decisions based on skewed information would have an adverse effect on the culture, productivity, and attrition. 

To gather sufficient input for decisions, PWC conducted a remote work survey in 2020 called “When everyone can work from home, what’s the office for“. Here are some insights from the report

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Many businesses have aligned themselves to accommodate both on-premise and remote working model. Organizations need to figure out how to better collaborate and network with employees in ways to elevate the organization culture. 

As offices are slowly transitioning to a hybrid model, organizations have decentralized how they operate. They have shifted from working in a common centralized office to contractual office spaces as per employee role and function, to better allocate their operational budget. The survey found that 72% of the workers would like to work remotely at least 2 days a week. This showcases the need for a hybrid workspace in the long run. 

Maintaining & Sustaining Productivity

During the transition, keeping a check on the efficiency of remote workers was prime. The absence of these checks would jeopardize the delivery, resulting in a severe impact on customer satisfaction and retention.

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This number however, could be far less if the scale of the survey was higher. This in turn signifies that productivity is not uniform and requires course corrective action to maintain the delivery. An initial approach from an employee’s standpoint would result in higher results. The measures to help remote workers be more productive were found to be as follows.

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Many employees point out that greater flexibility of working hours and better equipment would help increase work productivity.

Most of the productivity hindrances can be solved by effective employee management. How a particular manager supervises their team members has a direct correlation towards their productivity and satisfaction to the project delivery. 

Theory X & Theory Y

Theory X and Theory Y were introduced by Douglas McGregor in his book, “The Human Side of Enterprise”. He talks about two styles of management in his research – Authoritarian (Theory X) and Participative (Theory Y). The theory heavily believes that Employee Beliefs directly influence their behavior in the organization. The approach that is taken by the organization will have a significant impact on the ability to manage team members. 

For theory X, McGregor speculates that “Without active intervention by management, people would be passive, even resistant to organizational needs. They must therefore be persuaded, rewarded, punished, controlled and their activities must be directed”

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Work under this style of management tends to be repetitive and motivation is done based on a carrot and stick approach. Performance Appraisals and remuneration are directly correlated to tangible results and are often used to control staff and keep tabs on them. Organizations with several tiers of managers and supervisors tend to use this style. Here authority is rarely delegated, and control remains firmly centralized. 

Even though this style of management may seem outdated, big organizations find it unavoidable to adopt due to the sheer number of employees on the payroll and tight delivery deadlines.

When it comes to Theory Y, McGregor firmly believes that objectives should be arranged so that individuals can achieve their own goals and happily accomplish the organization’s goal at the same time.

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Organizations that follow this style of management would have an optimistic and positive approach to people and problems. Here the team management is decentralized and participative.

Working under such organizational styles bestow greater responsibilities on employees and managers encourage them to develop skills and suggest areas of improvement. Appraisals in Theory Y organizations encourage open communication rather than to exercise control. This style of management has been popular these days as it results in employees wanting to have a meaningful career and looking forward to things beyond money.

Balancing X over Y

Even though McGregor suggests that Theory Y is better than Theory X. There are instances where managers would need to balance the styles depending upon how the team function even post the implementation of certain management strategies. This is very important from a remote working context as the time for intervention would be too late before it impacts the delivery. Even though Theory Y comprises creativity and discussion in its DNA, it has its limitations in terms of consistency and uniformity. An environment with varying rules and practices could be detrimental to the quality and operational standards of an organization. Hence maintaining a balance is important.

When we look at a typical cycle of Theory X, we can find that the foundational beliefs result in controlling practices, appearing in employee resistance which in turn delivers poor results. The results again cause the entire cycle to repeat, making the work monotonous and pointless. 

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Upon the identification of resources that require course correction and supervision, understanding the root cause and subsequently adjusting your management style to solve the problem would be more beneficial in the long run. Theory X must only be used in dire circumstances requiring a course correction. The balance where we need to maintain is on how far we can establish control to not result in resistance which in turn wouldn’t impact the end goal.

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Theory X and Theory Y can be directly correlated to Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs. The reason why Theory Y is superior to Theory X is that it focuses on the higher needs of the employee than their foundational needs. The theory Y managers gravitate towards making a connection with their team members on a personal level by creating a healthier atmosphere in the workplace. Theory Y brings in a pseudo-democratic environment, where employees can design, construct and publish their work in accordance with their personal and organizational goals.

When it comes to Theory X and Theory Y, striking a balance will not be perfect. The American Psychologist Bruce J Avolio, in his paper titled “Promoting more integrative strategies for leadership theory-building” speculates, “Managers who choose the Theory Y approach have a hands-off style of management. An organization with this style of management encourages participation and values an individual’s thoughts and goals. However, because there is no optimal way for a manager to choose between adopting either Theory X or Theory Y, it is likely that a manager will need to adopt both approaches depending on the evolving circumstances and levels of internal and external locus of control throughout the workplace”.

The New Normal 3.0

As circumstances keep changing by the day, organizations need to adapt to the rate at which the market is changing to envision new working models that take human interactions into account as well. The crises of 2020 made organizations build up their workforce capabilities that are critical for growth. Organizations must relook at their workforce by reskilling them in different areas of digital expertise as well as emotional, cognitive, and adaptive skills to push forward in our changing world.

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 two independent series called BizPective & The Inside World, focusing on breaking down contemporary business trends and Growth strategies for independent artists on his website www.ashishjoseph.biz

Outside work, he is very passionate about basketball, music, and food.

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.

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:

Office 365 Migration

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.

Quantum Computing

Vignesh Ramamurthy

Vignesh Ramamurthy

In the MARVEL multiverse, Ant-Man has one of the coolest superpowers out there. He can shrink himself down as well as blow himself up to any size he desires! He was able to reduce to a subatomic size so that he could enter the Quantum Realm. Some fancy stuff indeed.

Likewise, there is Quantum computing. Quantum computers are more powerful than supercomputers and tech companies like Google, IBM, and Rigetti have them.

Google had achieved Quantum Supremacy with its Quantum computer ‘Sycamore’ in 2019. It claims to perform a calculation in 200 seconds which might take the world’s most powerful supercomputer 10,000 years. Sycamore is a 54-qubit computer. Such computers need to be kept under special conditions with temperature being close to absolute zero.

quantum computing

Quantum Physics

Quantum computing falls under a discipline called Quantum Physics. Quantum computing’s heart and soul resides in what we call as Qubits (Quantum bits) and Superposition. So, what are they?

Let’s take a simple example, imagine you have a coin and you spin it. One cannot know the outcome unless it falls flat on a surface. It can either be a head or a tail. However, while the coin is spinning you can say the coin’s state is both heads and tails at the same time (qubit). This state is called Superposition.

So, how do they work and what does it mean?

We know bits are a combination of 0s and 1s (negative or positive states). Qubits have both at the same time. These qubits, in the end, pass through something called “Grover Operator” which washes away all the possibilities, but one.

Hence, from an enormous set of combinations, a single positive outcome remains, just like how Doctor Strange did in the movie Infinity War. However, what is important is to understand how this technically works.

We shall see 2 explanations which I feel could give an accurate picture on the technical aspect of it.

In Quantum Mechanics, the following is as explained by Scott Aaronson, a Quantum scientist from the University of Texas, Austin.

Amplitude – an amplitude of a positive and a negative state. These could also be considered as an amplitude for being 0, and also an amplitude for being 1. The goal for an amplitude here is to make sure that amplitudes leading to wrong answers cancel each other out. Hence this way, amplitude with the right answer remains the only possible outcome.

Quantum computers function using a process called superconductivity. We have a chip the size of an ordinary computer chip. There are little coils of wire in the chip, nearly big enough to see with the naked eye. There are 2 different quantum states of current flowing through these coils, corresponding to 0 and 1, or the superpositions of them.

These coils interact with each other, nearby ones talk to each other and generate a state called an entangled state which is an essential state in Quantum computing. The way qubits interact are completely programmable, so we can send electrical signals to these qubits, and tweak them according to our requirements. This whole chip is placed in a refrigerator with a temperature close to absolute zero. This way superconductivity occurs which makes it to briefly behave as qubits.

Following is the explanation given according to ‘Kurzgesagt — In a Nutshell’, a YouTube channel.

We know a bit is either a 0 or 1. Now, 4 bits mean 0000 and so on. In a qubit, 4 classical bits can be in one of the 2^4 different configurations at once. That is 16 possible combinations out of which we can use just one. 4 qubits in position can be in all those 16 combinations at once.

This grows exponentially with each extra qubit. 20 qubits can hence store a million values in parallel. As seen, these entangled states interact with each other instantly. Hence while measuring one entangled qubit, we can directly deduce the property of its partners.

A normal logic gate gets a simple set of inputs and produces one definite output. A quantum gate manipulates an input of superpositions, rotates probabilities, and produces another set of superpositions as its output.

Hence a quantum computer sets up some qubits, applies quantum gates to entangle them, and manipulates probabilities. Now it finally measures the outcome, collapsing superpositions to an actual sequence of 0s and 1s. This is how we get the entire set of calculations performed at the same time.

What is a Grover Operator?

We now know that while taking one entangled qubit, it is possible to easily deduce properties for all the partners. Grover algorithm works because of these quantum particles being entangled. Since one entangled qubit is able to vouch for the partners, it iterates until it finds the solution with higher degrees of confidence.

What can they do?

As of now, quantum computing hasn’t been implemented in real-life situations just because the world right now doesn’t have such an infrastructure.

Assuming they are efficient and ready to be used. We can make use of it in the following ways: 1) Self-driving cars are picking up pace. Quantum computers can be used on these cars by calculating all possible outcomes on the road. Apart from sensors to reduce accidents, roads consist of traffic signals. A Quantum computer will be able to go through all the possibilities of how traffic signals

function, the time interval, traffic, everything, and feed these self-driving cars with the single best outcome accordingly. Hence, what would result is nothing but a seamless commute with no hassles whatsoever. It’ll be the future as we see in movies.

2) If AI is able to construct a circuit board after having tried everything in the design architecture, this could result in promising AI-related applications.

Disadvantages

RSA encryption is the one that underpins the entire internet. It could breach it and hackers might steal top confidential information related to Health, Defence, personal information, and other sensitive data. At the same time, it could be helpful to achieve the most secure encryption, by identifying the best one amongst every possible encryption. This can be made by finding out the most secure wall to break all the viruses that could infect the internet. If such security is made, it would take a completely new virus to break it. But the chances are very minuscule.

Quantum computing has its share of benefits. However, this would take years to be put to use. Infrastructure and the amount of investment to make is humongous. After all, it could only be used when there are very reliable real-time use cases. It needs to be tested for many things. There is no doubt that Quantum Computing will play a big role in the future. However, with more sophisticated technology, comes more complex problems. The world will take years to be prepared for it.

References:

About the Author –

Vignesh is part of the GAVel team at GAVS. He is deeply passionate about technology and is a movie buff.