Sunday, 11 December 2011

If Life Offers you Lemons, Make the best Lemonade

I was a panelist at a conference last year and one of the concerns from the audience was, “My manager always asks me to do unappealing jobs and I am not able to say no. Hence I always end up with those types of jobs”. Having managed large teams, I believe that there are all kinds of jobs and all of them need to get done. It is true that some jobs are considered more appealing than others by some folks. However, it is possible to make a difference with any job you have.
A few years ago, I was asked by my manager to take up a Verification Management job. I had worked on all aspects of CPU design and was interested in continuing with design. But the available job was in verification. Typically verification teams are very large teams and the management had confidence in me to pull this through. For some reason, the company had lost most of the senior verification members. It was considered a suicide mission to take over at that point in time. I was open to taking such risks and I decided to take this new challenge in my life.
As I took over the verification job, the management changed. I knew the new management was very anxious and concerned if I could pull this off.  I started the team with a handful of people and we were clearly the underdogs. The goal of the verification team is to certify the quality of the product.  Having just moved from a failed project, there was huge pressure in ensuring that this new project was successfully completed. The team morale and confidence was very low. In addition, there were multiple reasons why verification was not considered THE career choice – scope of verification, lack of process, lack of stake holder management, perception of  being a support organization, etc… - I needed to fix this as well.
I approached the verification management job just like I approached any other problem solution. I split up the problem into multiple pieces, prioritized them and started working on each of them. As I got more involved, I found that Verification Management very difficult and challenging compared to managing the design team. As a Verification Manager you have impact on the product quality, features, feature development and implementation, schedule, people management and cost. Every bug that is not found pre-manufacturing has a direct impact on cost and schedule. In CPU chip design, cost is on the order of millions of dollars and schedule impact of a quarter or more. Without going into more details and cutting straight to the results, we had a very successful product at end of the year. The quality was so good that it was productized a quarter earlier than planned. You get quality by design not by chance. The quest for quality should come from within each engineer and I had the satisfaction of having inculcated this culture.

At this point I knew that my job was only half-done. I still needed to make verification THE career choice for an engineer. I asked to continue as a verification manager for the next project too and I was given additional responsibilities of handling multiple projects.  At the end of the five year journey as a verification manager, we had completed our second product and it was as successful as the first product and again a quarter ahead of plan. The verification team had grown from a handful of people to over 100+ people and we had helped many other programs in the company in addition to our own projects. The team morale and the confidence were at its highest and I knew the team would be able to deliver to any challenges that it faced in the future.
Few months later, when we were very short of designers, I had to ask one of my best verification engineers to move to design from verification. Five years earlier he had moved to verification from design along with me.  He declined!!  He had made verification THE career choice for himself. At that point, I knew I had done my job well.
I believe in giving my best shot in everything I do – on the job, on the field, as a parent. It is what you make out of that job that matters. You need to look for new opportunities, look for the next step up, but don't forget what you already have. For those who don’t believe that they have had the opportunity, see what you can do with the current opportunity you have. It worked for me…


  1. Namratha, good one!! You should thank the senior verification manager who left which gave you the opportunity and the above insight ;-))

  2. Hi Namratha, You have put it very well esp what we went thru.