Comment


“A beszédes változónevek egy idő után elhallgatnak.”

“Descriptive variable names become silent after a while. “

“This should have been mentioned in the school” – said by a colleague, sitting enervated after a giant failure in a demo. Theory often fails in real environment.

Last week spouse had a brilliant idea: she attends to a course to learn child caring, and pass the exam enabling her to found a day-care. Such day-cares are supported by the government to extend the capacity of state kindergardens. Recent government has expressed their support many times encouraging people to invest on this area.

She attended the course on Monday. On Tuesday the government made kindergardens mandatory to all children above 3, and this kind of day-cares are not accepted any more. Nobody sees this coming, really nobody.

She was at the course, surrounded by disappointed and upset people, because the service area they were learning about had just disappeared. The coach lost her job and her existence instantly. They invested several million HUFs (HUF 1 million = EUR 3260) to open three day-cares, which has no client any more. Fortunately we were in the beginning of the investment period.

There are 690 day-cares in Hungary, employing around 1500 people and taking care of 3500 children. In state kindergardens there are 2-3 years long queue. Often people signs up before they even know their child’s name. If your kid was in a day-care today, you need to wait years to get him into a state kidergarden, very likely he will attend to the grammar school before you are able to get him into a kindergarden. In the meantime Mum must be at home or take some (more expensive) service.

Later on this week, on Thursday the government has taken over all (ALL) pension savings of Hungary. ALL. I’m paying it since 1998, I had EUR 17000 on my private account, and this has disappeared today.

IMF delegation left on Friday. I really wish they won’t return any more bringing any money to this government. Since Hungary is not recommended to invest. Not at all. In my oppinion it’s a pure kommunism, led by legal terrorists. Darkest period in the last 30 years.

Anyone offers me a job abroad I’ll go instantly together with my family.

/Did you notice “In my oppinion” phrase above? It’s because media law allows the government to charge me up to EUR 85000 if I write something they don’t want to see written. This is far more than me and my family posesses at all./

/picture: http://www.hungarianambiance.com/2011/02/hungarians-remember-victims-of.html/

I decided to post more, but normally I have no time to log in to the interface, therefore I have activated post by e-mail feature. Hopefully you will see more but shorter posts from me. I hate twitter, but sometimes I have to tell my impressions in short messages, they will appear here, through e-mails.

Let’s try now!

My friend applied for a job in one of the biggest telecom provider of Hungary. As the first step of the interview process she was invited to fill a personality test. She arrived in time, but there was a crowd of hundreds.  At the door she was informed that she needed to pay EUR 2.5,- to fill the test. He entered into a discussion with the guard guy, and it turned out that the nice office was rented for only these two days. She left immediately.

EU. Hungary. Budapest. Today.

I must react on a post of Tamás Cservenyák, author of “Tudatos vezetés” (Deliberate Leadership) blog. He introduces a book of Mintzberg: the Managers not MBAs. Mintzberg made sharp criticism against MBA courses saying that the attendees were not mature enough, they haven’t had several years of leadership behind, and the MBA classes gave too much analytical skills instead of soft ones. He concludes that MBAs are not skilled managers, instead, they are not trained to manage.

I might agree with his points. MBA does not change your personality and attitude. It gives you techniques and methodologies, and a completely different approach to the business. I know it from my experience. I was not a leader when I started the MBA. It was in 2004, and I have just been promoted to be the leader of the testing group, including one person only. I must say that I had no leadership experience in job that time, but in the college I had had some experience in motivating and influencing people. This was the starting point.

The MBA class that I attended also focused on hard skills, but among them there were some classes and roleplays, where we were able to see how other people react on our behavior. Then I attended some other soft skill trainings, but I must say that the thing helps me most in leadership is my attitude and the ethical intelligence I gained during my childhood and studies.

I think Mintzberg is wrong. When you are to hire a technician you should examine two things: hard skills, how he know methodologies and technology, and soft skills, how he can behave in your team. One can say that as we go upper in the organization, the soft skills becames more focused than hard ones. I think this is not true.

If you are looking for a manager to employ on a high level management job, you must look for both hard and soft skills. But this time hard skills are not technical ones. They are management hard skills. To motivate others you may have soft skills, and if your personality and attitude allows, you will be successful in it. But there is another angle. If you know some different motivation theory and technique, you are able to pick the one, which is most suits your attitude, and you may be able to use it. This is a management hard skill. Knowing different management techniques, methodologies is necessary to be an effective manager.

In Hungary the average manager does not have management hard skills. Once I wanted to introduce Gantt chart in project time planning, they said that they didn’t want to learn such new techniques. Gantt chart have been invented in 1897… The most of Hungarian managers are not on the level of the profession as Henry Ford was in 1920. They do not even understand basic rules of management, they have no clue what gross margin is. They have no clue why their team does not do what they ordered.

Therefore, I think, at least in Hungary, having an MBA is a plus giving you a manager, who has management hard skills, and this is what you cannot get from anywhere else in Hungary.

The reason I was a bit upset by reading the article is that Mintzberg had given a weapon into the hand of managers, who think their management style is the best possible, and – accidentally – they have no MBA degree. And, unfortunately, they don’t even know that there are hard skills of management.

…I have learned two things:

  • Never send legal concerns in e-mail. If you do that, that mail will be the first evidence of your intentionality. Especially do not copy people living in “less democratic” countries. Enemy is always listening.
  • People from Japan may arrive at any time. It is very likely that your phone rings NOW, and your Japanise client tells that he is half way between the airport and the office, and he wants to meet you NOW. Regardless of the fact that you are currently at home spending your holiday. Japanese should tell me how it works. You just catch a plane going anywhere, and when it has landed you check where you are and call the closest clients? The journey takes 10 hours, please call me when you are boarding, not after arrival.

I am registered in Linkedin, so it weekly sends me recent activities of my connections. Sometimes it’s interesting to see when all members of a certain group of a company update their profile on the same day. It is an excellent primary indicator to predict unwanted turnovers, or send them an offer.

I normally ignore these mails, but today I clicked on a job advertisment of Laszlo Spiller, my favourite IT headhunter. Finally it turned out that the ad does not match with my profile, but its link led me to Laszlo’s blog. I’m familiar with this blog, we used to discuss and share our experiences on blog engines and job hunting on the Internet. I started to browse latest articles, and I found one, which totally, fully expresses one of my thoughts.

Here is the link, the article is in Hungarian. http://spillerlaszlo.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/rambok-alkonya-az-it-vilagaban/

Laszlo tells us what requirements his clients set against software developers. I remember, when I first hired developers, I focused on professionality. Attitude, personality and behavior defects were out of the focus.

Laszlo points at the changing trend. Nowadays a software developer, who is really professional but cannot communicate and integrate with others, cannot see the big picture, cannot understand and fulfill user needs should not be hired, or should be laid off. Soft skills has become the most important factor. Anyone can learn anything, but the attitude never changes.

„The best software developers of Hungary work in our company” says the statement I hear quite frequently. And then it turns out that these people works alone like many Chuck Norrises, and the code they produce needs long years of maintenance, but no one can understand that, except them. In these cases I normally say that „you may have excellent programmers, but not software develoeprs”. Sometimes these programmers are promoted to be the leader of the team, meanwile they are lacking all necessary soft skills, and – when the team disappears – they become the only member of a board, which is created specially for him. And the only thing they can and want to do is programming. Nothing else they willing to think of.

Back to the article, Laszlo asked his clients, how a software developer looks like, who they don’t want at all. The response is exacly what I always wanted to explain to my clients:

„We do not search for Rambo. We do not want to have a person, who wants to save the world alone. We don’t like such ones, however they solve the problem very well, but what they produce cannot be used on strategic level. Takes more to understand his code than write a new one from scratch. And an important question comes up: what does happen if Rambo is relocated from Vietnam to Afghanistan? How can we use his code? He takes the knowledge with him, and nobody can continue his job ever.”

Thank you Laszlo, this is exactly, what I think, I’m sure I’ll refer to this article many times. But next time please type an article to show me the best way how to explain these facts to a management containing Rambos, of course without being fired at the second sentence.  Thanks.

Yesterday I went to GE Hungary again to introduce the industry to my brother attending to mechanic engineer course (that will be a separate post as soon as censorship done). During the visit we had several technical discussions, and we talked about the “Emergency Stop” button among many other topics. A colleague we met in GE and I have a joint adventure with an emergency button from the time we worked together 10 years ago. Let me share the lesson we have learnt that time.

The system we worked on was a calibration and validation equipment for water meters. It consisted of many pipes, valves, boilers, pumps, tanks and sensors. My task was to develop the software to control the valves, and it gathered the measured data too. I needed to handle the “Emergency Stop” signal as well. Of course the project was in a large delay, we needed to demonstrate the base functionality within a few days. I created the function to control the emergency stop process. It looked like this:

void EmergencyStop()
 {
 //ToDo
 }

Yes, you are right! Of course I had no time to finish the code, we have started the equipment without having any emergency process implemented. When we needed to demonstrate the emergency stop functionality I just used the control interface to open and close valves one by one and stop the pumps as required. The customer didn’t even notice that the actions were not automatic. Then we completely forgot the issue.

Next time we went onsite to perform some testing. That was an unlucky day. First we tested the pump control algorithm, setting extreme low (few l/h) and extreme high flows (15 m3/h), and in parallel set the diameter of the pipes narrow or wide (pipe organ with different diameters driven with valves). The test was passed… almost. When we were at the pressure limit (higher flow with a bottleneck), suddenly a water flow with 8 cm diameter flew across the room horizontally hitting the customer in his chest. He immediately laid down behind a control panel, what was beamed by water. No injury was made, fortunately. We pressed the Emergency Stop button and … nothing happened! The water heavily sprinkled to the high-voltage control panel, the only equipment that would have been able to stop the pumps.

Finally we stopped the system and found ourselves in the middle of a dark room, which is fled by 10 cm water. All of us were wet, especially the customer, who had spent the last few minutes laying in the water under an operating high voltage pump control cabinet, what is continuously hit by high pressure water… That situation really looked like a failed test case.

We learnt a lot. After cleaning the room the customer requested that the next function we needed to test was the emergency stop process. We agreed.

Then I implemented the following code (or something like this) and we decided to have another attempt.

void EmergencyStop()
 {
 Valves=e_state_EmergencyStop
 Pump.RPM=0
 Horn(e_state_EmergencyStop)
 }

We knew that we would not be able to stop a few tons of water only by closing valves; therefore we defined a pipe ring, where the water could circulate consuming its motion energy after all the pumps are off. This valve setting was represented by e_state_EmergencyStop parameter. The valves had much delay, so we started with switching them first, and then stopped the pumps, finally turn on horns and flashing emergency signals. This was exactly the same I did at the first demonstration, so we thought that would have taken the job.

We went on-site again, started a (medium) flow circulating. And – with a bit of fear in our heart – I pressed the emergency stop button. We heard the valves turning, the pumps stopping, and we were really happy to see and hear the visual and audible emergency signals. We were so relieved and the customer seemed to be less upset.

Two minutes later water began to appear everywhere, especially at the corner of the room. It was terrifying! None of the pumps worked, no water intake was open, but there was a lot of water coming from the ceiling!

After cleaning the room again, we investigated the issue. Last time when I emulated the emergency stop manually I switched the valves one by one. This time it was done in the same time by the emergency stop algorithm. Almost all large valves were pneumatic ones, and the supply pipe of the compressed air was too narrow. When all valves were activated in the same time the air pressure decreased, and some of the valves were not able to open or close accurately. The pumps were stopped immediately, but the water remained circulating due to its movement energy, and one of the valves directed the flow into a tank two floors above us. This tank was the part of the system; it stood in the corner of the local library and computer room on the 2nd floor. (It’s a good design to have an open tank in the library…) The capacity was only 400 l, so it was full in a few seconds. The sensor signaled the overload and activated the emergency stop, but we were still in emergency stop state, so nothing was to be done. Then in the corner of the library the water started to come down, through the high voltage laboratory on the 1st floor. Fortunately there was nothing operating actually in that laboratory, otherways it would have given some unforgettable moments to the operators there.

We learnt a lot again. I modified the valve control algorithm to know which pumps are pneumatic ones, and I delayed the parallel switches to let 0.5 second the pressure to recover.

In later testing and calibration we needed to use the emergency stop many times, we knew that the procedure was reliable and well designed. As finally it was.

Pics:
http://www.gostarcn.com/product_list.asp?ClassID=34
http://www.jatekcsillag.hu/nkv/product_info.php?products_id=2731

On 1st January 2010 new taxation rules have been applied in Hungary. In a nutshell this means that the 18-36% graded personal income tax has been reduced to be 16% direct tax, and families having children may achieve further significant decrement. The change will increase the net salaries by 10-100% (!) in the field of IT, but in special cases it can give more. On lower wages it is in the other way around due to other changes, but now I’m focusing only on IT sector in Budapest.

So, there will be a huge increase on the net salaries. Fine, we are happy.

But.

The tax changes are applied only on staff employed on the lawful way. You may say that most of the international companies employ their workforce legally, but it is not true. I don’t know how it works in Western Europe, but in Hungary companies outsource tax evasion by using leased resources.

Normally leased resources are used to cover peaks in your resource needs. They are a bit more expensive than others, but no long-term contract is made, they may be laid off even today. Multinational companies often bring their strict “no tricky business and bribery” policies from their headquarters, but locally they lease resources from (Hungarian) companies, which have tricky business and bribery as core strategy. They don’t employ the people they rent, or they employ them on a reduced salary, and give them the rest as “zsebi” (“pocket-money”), what can be up to 80%.

Let’s assume you have both employees and leased resources in your specialist team.

Employees make gross HUF 600k, pays 300k tax, so the net is 300k (roughly). Leased ones make gross HUF 150k, pays 70k tax, and somehow they find another 220k in their pocket every month. This is also net 300k. The wages in your team is according to your pay grades, and very well balanced.

Then 1st January arrives. Ceteris paribus the employee will make 600k, but pays no tax, because he has 3 children, so his net salary will be 600k, what is 100% increase. Your leased resource will make 150k, pays no tax as he has a half kindergarten at home, and receives the 220k pocket. So he earns 370k, that means 23% increase.

Both of them have had a large increase, but your pay grade system has exploded. 600k >> 370k

You will need to be prepared to resolve this conflict. I’m sure that the body-leasing firm won’t handle the difference. The strategy is up to you, but I’m sure companies need to be more flexible in headcounts if they want to keep their long term leased resources. Or, according to the Hungarian way, you need to fire all, who have children. Both ways work, and probably many others.

The choice is yours, but you have to build your strategy rapidly, because people get they pay checks in early February, and the bomb starts the destruction.