Last Week in Chennai

Time flies, this was my last week or last ten days in Chennai already. Again, they were having a pretty good sprint as well. Most teams can completed their stories but one team didn’t have enough QA resources and some stories need to defer to the next sprint because testing cannot be completed by the end of the sprint.

Sprint demo in progress

In this trip, I am happy that I have achieved what I want to do in Chennai. I gave developers technical support, gave training sessions, facilitated communication with Richmond team, gave suggestions to Scrum Masters and POs how to work smarter and more effectively, how to be more agile, make sure they follow scrum process, when to raise questions to Richmond team and make sure the questions are clear and precise enough to avoid emails back and forth for clarification.

I have also experience working in STI office. Their work environment is totally different from North America. Their office facilities are also different. However, their work ethic is the same as in Richmond. Everyone wants to complete the project on time, work extra hours, work extra hard and also making sure what they produced are high quality. We are all concentrate one sprint at a time. Make sure we can complete everything we sign up for in a sprint. I know we still have a lot need to be done and this project is crucial to us and to the company. However, if you look at it in a different perspective, we are also in a very good position to have a top notch ERP system for the market down the line.

This week, I have done a lot of lunch with teams and team members. I also invite all team leads to have lunch with me. Asking them what I need to improve, what they want from us in Richmond. Did we give them what they required.

Lunch with team leads

Lunch with team leads

Lunch with team leads

Lunch with team members

Heading to have chinese food

They also have monthly birthday cake

This was my last week so I keep explored some other new places in Chennai. I found a good Mediterranean cuisine restaurant. They served good Italian, Greece and Turkey dishes. They also has live music every night and you can also pick you only song for them to perform.

I am not a regular smoker but I like cigar. I enjoyed going out with friends with a glass of wine and cigar, chat about everything. I have a chance to go out with couple team members for wine and cigar and they found me a place that I can smoke cigar indoor! In North America I believe only Las Vegas allow smoking indoor or inside casino. There is no way you can do this in Canada. I am not encouraging people to smoke but I love smoking cigar once in a while to enjoy my precious spare time.

Snacks for cigar and beer

Dinner with live music

Enjoying my cigar

Dinner with team members

My buddy

Dinner with buddy

Even though I miss my family and all my friends in Richmond but I do enjoy every moment I stay in Chennai. I do miss this city and also the people especially the STI team members that I worked with them for a month. Good luck to them and hope all teams will have a good sprint going forward.

Mutton Biryani

At the Central Railway Station - Chennai Lankmark

Landmark of Chennai - Central Railway Station

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Week Three in Chennai

This week was the sprint end so everyone works extra hard trying to complete all their stories so that we can show all our work in the demo. Monday and Tuesday are the most intense; we tried to fix all the issues reported by QA and commit all changes so that the demo server can pick it up by the end of Tuesday. Our plan is to demo everything from the demo servers Wednesday morning.

This was the best sprint ever in STI for all three development teams. No just because I was there to assist them and help them but also they were working very hard. Culture in India is different, they worked hard because they want to achieve something but they also want to have some acknowledgements. We have ECE award to employees why not we also have something like this for STI team members? They enjoy being rewarded after spending extra effort to finish their tasks.

This is the Sage Sign near the elevator

Working in progress...

After spending three weeks in Chennai, I was getting use to the weather, traffic and people. I was starting to go out by myself alone. Taking TukTuk to visit places – what they called in here is Autos. People told me make sure I bargain with the driver for the fee, they might charge you way more if they know that you are foreigner. I actually asked the staff in the hotel to see how much it will cost me from hotel to my destination before I go bargain with the driver. One interesting thing was I have to pay more for the return and the reason was they usually charge more at late night than day time.

This week I went to watch Harry Potter by myself and also enjoy my weekend with a glass of red wine. This was the first time I ordered red wine in India and the tax for wine is way more than in Canada. I can’t believe the liquor tax for wine is 58%! One glass of local red wine is 500 rupees + 58% tax was 790 rupess which is CAD $17.55!!

Team member also told me I can try going disco in one of the hotel nearby if I like dancing and enjoy music. I did go but I was disappointed that they didn’t allow single except you are their hotel guest. But anyways, I ended up having a very nice authentic Thai food in this hotel.

Watch Harry Potter 3D movie by myself

Dinner with Automation lead

Dinner with one of the QA Leads

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Week Two in Chennai

After the first week struggling with illness and jet lag I was back to normal. This was also the week I really worked with the team together and I realized that it’s quite difficult and different working in here. The working environment was no comparison to what I used to have in Vancouver. It might not be anything wrong if you are locals but for me it’s a challenge. Everyone knows that Chennai’s weather is hot even though the office has air condition but you can also see fan all over the place. The reason for this is because the A/C is not powerfully enough to serve the whole floor.

Another thing I feel special is power outages happen at least twice per day. If this happen in Vancouver, everyone in the office will be running around and try to figure it out why. In STI office, nobody even care and continue with their work because this is a norm in here. The first time this occured to me was a shocked and what I was thinking at that moment was “What the f…, I need my air condition if not I don’t think I can concentrate on my work”. But usually power outages only stands for 30 seconds and it will be back up again. Now, I am getting used to this even this was happening during my training session to STI developers but I keep continue my training.

Sprint pre-planning session in office

August 15th is a public holiday in India so I got an extra day off in this week which was a bonus to me. During these three days of holidays I went to a lot of places. Thanks to my buddy and also some team members spending time with me and also thanks to the STI office offered me a free cab for all of my sight seeing travel.

Visit to St. Thomas Church

St. Thomas Church

One of the famous collywood movie in India. That lady was Miss World.

I brought my first Kurta - India traditional clothing

Chennai Citi Center Mall

Shopping at Chennai Citi Center Mall

Swimming pool inside the hotel

That's the famous big rock at Mahabalapuram

This was hand crafted from one big stone

Visit Crocodile Bank near Mahabalapuram

Funny picture with the sign

My buddy Vijay played with the waves at the beach near Mahabalapuram

Chicken Masala very yummy

Naan - the prefect match with curry or masala

Usually restaurant in here will give you this candy as mouth freshener

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Week One in Chennai

The first week for me was the toughest. Jet lagging was expected but my stomach not feeling well due to eating too much curries. Curry and Masala are the best that’s why I ate these almost everyday and causing me trouble. This is also the week that my first time seeing all my STI team members that I Skyped with them at night in Vancouver. I heard their voices many times but this is the time I am actually talk to them face to face. When I am in Vancouver, I can hardly remember who is who because I only hear their voice but now I can recognize most of them.

First couple days, I considered myself in day dreaming mode. I was not feeling well and with jet lag I can hardly working in top performance. I also need to Skype with Richmond folks to update my status twice a week. However, in the middle of the week I was getting better and starting to resume to my normal work pace. My impression with these teams in STI is they are hard working, they want to get their work done right and quicker and most of them are smart as well. People might say that STI not doing their job right, taking too long to finish a task or complete a story but my perspective is that they already did their best that they can control. Even though I can see some improvements that they can do better like problem solving skills, more agility when facing issues but some other problems are also due to communication, network infrastructure, time zone difference and not enough training for Accpac and Orion.

After work I sometimes go to the pub downstairs to have some beers. The famous local beer in India is called King Fisher but the first day I just ordered a Corona from Mexico. I have ordered fish and chip too but the fish was quite dry to my likings.

During the weekend my buddy brought me to sight seeing and shopping. This is the first time I was actually experience how people in Chennai do during their weekend. This weekend was hot and this was not the kind of weather I like for shopping outdoor or even indoor. After a short period of walk on the street my buddy decided to give me a bike ride to the beach. Marine Beach is the world 2nd longest beach. After spending an hour at the beach he also brought me to one of the famous church near the beach – San Thome. I was having a fun first week in Chennai.

Food for this week

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Three weeks already passed in Chennai

Since I am in Chennai, I don’t’ even have time to update my blog. Either I am busy with work or too tired after getting back to the hotel. I arrived in Chennai on Aug 1st 2:00am after a 18 1/2 hours flight (13 hours from Vancouver to Hong Kong and 5 1/2 hours from Hong Kong to Chennai not including 4 hours wait time in Hong Kong).

Aside from places too crowded, air not the same as in Vancouver and some places are still not well developed, my first impression for this 4th largest city in India is quite good. People in general are very nice, they are usually willing to help if I am in doubt or have queries (the word they usually use).

The hotel that I have to stay for one month is a 4 stars Hotel. Their breakfast is complimentary with a lot of variety that you can choose. The lobby is nice and the room is clean. The first day also provide me a bottle of red wine which is not bad either.

The hotel lobby

At my floor

Viewiing from my floor to the opposite side of the corridor

This is the place where I have my breakfast everyday

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I am in Chennai!

Finally I am in Chennai. Chennai is the fourth largest city in India. Hopefully I can spend some personal time in this city and visit some of their places.
Tomorrow will be my first visit to STI office and experience what it will be like working in here. By the time I arrived to STI office there is already a lot of things waiting for me to do. Before I leave they are having problems in some of the UIs that they are working on. One of my goal is to remove all of their impediments and make sure they can work smoothly.
Someone might ask me why Richmond team (STR) doesn’t have much of these problems? Would it be STR people are smarter? I believe we are all talent employees.

In my opinion, I think there are two main problems.

1) STI is a remote team and we do not give them enough support. This problem is huge especially with big time zone different. We are running a two week sprint Agile that means we only have 10 full days of work. Let say STI is having impediments during the sprint and they requires our support. If this problem happens in STR, it might be solved within a couple hours (we have all the SMEs in Richmond). However in STI, with all the turnaround time including time zone different and email back and forth. It would end up spending couple days before they can have an answer and solution. 10 days – 3 days = only 7 days left to complete their story that they were planned to work in 10 days.
Do you think 3 weeks sprint would be a better choice for them? At least they have a bigger buffer to write-off the turnaround time spending to communicate with us. Not even mention the extra time spending on meetings like sprint planning and retrospective in a 2 week sprint. Would it be they can be more productive because they can have a longer and continuos time focus on their work? However, this might be too late to change and that means we definitely have to give them quicker and more rapid respond to compensate.

2) STI do not have enough Accpac views, VB UI and SWT knowledge.
Do they have sufficient sdk training (Accpac sdk as well as swt sdk)? How can they get up to speed to create new UIs if they don’t know enough about our SDKs. They have 3 teams – 19 software engineers and 12 QAs, just by myself I cannot fix every problems that they are facing.

I have so many questions in my mind right now that I need to answer during my one month stay in STI.


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I will be in Chennai Aug 1st

Finally, I booked my air ticket to Chennai leaving Vancouver on July 30th and will be arriving Chennai Aug 1st around 1am. Since my Visa expired on Nov and I have already had my vaccines taken so I didn’t waste any of these expenses. I have been engaged with STI teams for almost two sprints. I attended their retrospectives and also Sprint Planning. Even though these meetings are at very late night in order to fit into their time zone but its worth every minutes. I understand these teams better now but still not enough. From what I have seen so far STI teams are a bunch of smart hard working folks. They are willing to learn and wants to get the job done. There is still a lot of things that they can improve such as Accpac knowledge and also Agile/Scrum process.

Our organization starts the Agile methodology for only two years. We have learn a lot with a bit of struggle and try a lot of new things. We made some mistakes but we also implemented some good practices. Agile is about continue improving. When we make mistakes then we correct these mistakes and move on to next sprint.

STI teams even newer to Agile. Probably they also make mistakes as we did in Richmond but we want them to avoid making the same mistakes. During my one month stay, I will try my best to help them to be a more efficient team!


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