Healing through Service


I had a made a personal commitment not to share comments about some of the major life events that I have had to endure. When I first started to write about my weekend with The Mankind Project and our few hours of service at The Midnight Mission, I realized it was an important part of the story. More importantly I thought it would help others dealing with their own hardship. I have turned some really tough corners lately, and I believe I am in a place in which I can share in a way that is positive and healthy. So here goes….

Turning some tough corners

For the past few years my personal life has been going through some great challenges. I was working full time while earning an MBA (completed in 2009), losing my home in Orange County and my marriage was ending. For most of the year I have been feeling like a failure. Failed my family, failed God, failed my wife, failed my grandfather (why him is another story)….failed myself. I was always an incredibly optimistic person, but I had become overwhelmed with trying to fight off the sense of despair.  I think it made me very awkward in many ways.  My confidence had been broke, and I couldn’t shake off the sense of shame, embarrassment and uncertainty.  If it wasn’t for some of my closest friends I would have made it through this very dark time in my life. I’m blessed to have amazing friends and family.

One of these close friends suggested that I attend a weekend retreat put on by The Mankind Project. The weekend was called New Warrior Training, and it was the weirdest weekend of my life. Like any organization, this one had its critics. All I can say is that it was a very positive weekend for me. More on the weekend some other time, but here is a quick explanation.

Even with all of the progress women have made in the world, socially Men occupy most of the positions of power: socially, economically, politically. This has been true for years now. The problem is that men are damaged, wounded. Our wounds have gone untreated and are hemorrhaging. These wounded men are then making decisions about war, society, the economy, and home mortgages. The goal of The Mankind Project is to target men and begin to help them heal and behave as men of integrity.

I have been through many programs that forced me to look at many parts of who I am and the man I am capable of being. All of them have been great life changing experiences. This weekend was important, not because it was some how different from the rest, rather it was timely given the greater context of my life.

The New Warrior Training was a pretty intense weekend. During one of the designed exercises, I was forced to confront some feelings I have had as an 8 year old child. Nobody prompted me to do so, this was an area of my life that surfaced for me as a result. Most of these feelings are around my parents turbulent marriage. There was one moment in particular as a child in which I felt particularly responsible. In reality I wasn’t responsible, but I still felt like my parents problems were my fault. That some how, it was my responsibility to fix my family. I think I still feel this way…albeit I am coming to terms with the fact that this is an unrealistic expectation for me to have. I carried this into to my own marriage and when it did not work…I blamed myself. Like I said, I have already gone through many programs to help me address my childhood. The conclusion I am coming to is that I will not be able to make closure. This will be a life long process and a life long journey for me. It may even be something i continue to deal with at various stages of my life. Since the end of the weekend I have been trying to process much of what I have learning. Its obvious to me that I am changing, but I want to make sure I change for the better. Regardless of my childhood, and regardless at my first marriage, I still believe in the institution of marriage. I still hope to be a great husband and an even better father.

Another great part of the NWT weekend was watching other men grow and change as well. One in particular carpooled with me to our weekend retreat in Arrowhead. He was facing many of his own life challenges and was hoping and optimistic that he was going to change. One particular challenge was his ability to relate to other men and have meaningful and deep friendships with them. So when he reached out to me during the holidays to see if I wanted to do some volunteer work, I was very proud of him.

I love the holidays. This year I decided that it would be best for me to “party” less and commit more of my time to public service. I was struggling to find a good opportunity for a one off volunteer day. So when my MKP brother called, I jumped at the chance to volunteer. This was the same brother I mentioned earlier, so I was not only happy for the volunteer opportunity but really proud of the leadership role he was taking.

The Service

I am not sharing my experience for recognition. Also please, note that I am not a very pious individual. In a way, I did this for my own self gain. Because I needed to deal with something in my own life. I do, however, hope to make volunteer work a regular part of my life. Not because I want to or have to. Just because I should.

Since 1914, The Midnight Mission has been located on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. The organization is dedicated to helping those on Skid Row by offering them food, shelter, recovery services and employment services. Here is where we did our service. I was also able to recruit my close friend Ash, who had introduced me to MKP in the first place. He too was looking for service activity for New Years. Along with 8 other men, we fed men, women and children for New Year’s Eve. It was honor for me to do so. What was ironic is that I felt like I needed to feed the homeless more than they needed me.

I was fighting the flu at that time, and fortunately I was already taking antibiotics, so I knew I was not contagious. The last thing I wanted to do was to get someone with no home and no medical coverage the flu. When we arrived at the mission, I elected to take the activity that did not put me in direct contact with food.

The facility itself is impressive, clean, organized, and well cared for. I have to be honest, I did feel a sense of anxiety while driving down skid row. I left my car in the secured parking garage provided by The Mission and took the elevator up to meet the other men. It was great to see them. There were some men I knew from my weekend while the others attended MKP during other years. One of the men brought his teenage son to also volunteer.  On the menu was pasta, snow peas, beans, toast, greek yogurt, and grape juice. All the food was placed on a single serving tray that our customers would line up and come and pick up. They sat down ate their food and left. In a period of two hours we were able to feed 691 people. I have no benchmark to know if that is a good number or bad. To be honest, I was hoping for a bigger number. However, many keep telling me that its pretty good.

I know the big question in your mind: What were the homeless people like? Well, you need to experience this yourself, so I’m not going to tell you. I will tell you this; I was shocked, scared, and happy to see many of the people we serviced. They came from all sorts of backgrounds. Its not my job to judge them, only to help. I stand by the fact that I needed them more than they needed me. I didn’t do much but feed and then clean up after them. More importantly, I only helped them for one meal. Their struggles continue.

My conclusion from the whole experience? Not really sure yet. I just know that I am product of what I did and that my goal is to continue to work with people throughout the year. Indeed, I have seen so much pain in my life. However, so have others, and while I am able and have the resources to do so; I should.

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SXSW Wrap Up on developerWorks


Scott Laningham has a pretty popular and respected blog on the IBM’s developerWorks blogs. So I was really excited when he asked me to join fellow IBM’ers Kate Motzer and Rawn Shah. We summarize our thoughts on SXSW and give some comments on the direction of social media. I hope you enjoy the podcast and feel free to comment. You can find the podcast here: http://ibm.co/gt3192

Passion Project: IndyaVids


Since I can’t seem to get enough of social in my day job, I have joined forces with founder/CEO of the popular Bollywood Entertainment website DesiYou. Ash Kumra and I are working together to launch a new user generated video website. IndyaVids will be a site dedicated to help ALL PEOPLE learn how to bring what they love about the Indian Culture into their own lives. This could be trying to cook their favorite Indian dish from their local Indian restaurant, or practice and fine tune their Yoga moves. The site will host videos that will help connect users with others that want to share their expertise in several areas that are rooted to the South Asian Diaspora.

We have come a long way and on February 28, 2011 IndyaVids will be presenting our business plan at the 2nd annual Irvine Entrepreneur Forum. I will personally present our plan….wish me luck! You can learn more about the competition here: http://bit.ly/fWo0lk

Below is what is motivating me to take on this project.  While I will always share updates on my personal handle’s, you can also follow our progress here from our office sites:

Web: www.indyavids.com
Twitter:  IndyaVids http://bit.ly/hs1OT7
Facebook:  IndyaVids Fans http://on.fb.me/dMa4rZ

I call this a passion project because I have always wanted to build a company that could bring to two cultural worlds together. My American identity (I was born in the US) with my Indian heritage.

During my senior year at UCLA, my parents thought it was a good idea to take to me India. I had not been since I was child, and I was threatening (that’s how they took it) to go on my own after I graduated. Fearful, that all the people in India would see that I have “America” written all over me and would thus somehow take advantage of me, my mom decided to plan a trip.

The three of us went to New Delhi, Agra, Amritsar, Beas, and Jaipur. I have plenty of stories about this memorable trip, but the one thing that really mattered was the choice I made to enter the corporate world and to no longer pursue of my PhD in Sociology. My desire to research the South Asian diaspora was strong, but I realized that now was not the time for me to pursue this goal. The choice was difficult and complicated. Whatever my reasons I promised myself that I would some how return to my goal of understanding and promoting the South Asian Diaspora. Through this I would help to build a bridge between people from different backgrounds.

I had first met Ash Kumra from a mutual friend. We met in 2010 during the NBA playoffs and bonded over beer and chicken wings. He told me about his company DesiYou and I was really excited to meet an entrepreneur that was trying to marry the South Asian culture with a profitable business (without exploited the culture). We both loved our work and loved our heritage.

After several conversations over the next few months Ash asked me to join his team and help launch this company. I am confident that we will build some that people will enjoy and benefit from. So get your camera’s ready, and get your Yoga pants on…..it’s time for you to make your videos and get them on IndyaVids!

You think you know technology?


Do you really think you understand how and why technology has evolved during the past century? I am confident the video below will help you understand.

The following video is another video that celebrates the achievements of IBM. I especially like these clips because they demonstrate IBM’s contribution to meaningful events in society. The clips focus on the real IBM’ers that were a part of each one of the projects. Over the past 100 year IBM’ers have changed the world we live in today. Here are some of the events that are highlighted tin the 30 minute video “They Were There…..”

1953: Policy Letter #4
1958: Project SABRE
1964: IBM System 360
1969: The Apollo Program
1974: UPC (Universal Product Code)
1981: The Personal Computer
2005: The Genographic Project

IBM Centennial Film: 100 x 100


As IBM celebrates 100 years of business we will release a series of videos document the companies history. You will also see videos on the what we will be able to do in the next 100 years. The video below gives a great highlight of top 100 innovations by IBM that changes the world. This shows how much IBM’ers like myself are proud of the history and culture that we are a part. This is longer than most corporate videos, but I am sure you will enjoy it.

2010 in review


The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 296 steps to reach the top. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2010. If those were steps, it would have climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa 4 times

 

In 2010, there were 8 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 12 posts. There were 2 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 41kb.

The busiest day of the year was June 10th with 91 views. The most popular post that day was Getting to know Informix.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were iiug.org, facebook.com, twitter.com, linkedin.com, and ow.ly.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for gandhi, ranjun chauhan, gandhi photos, glenn seade, and ranjun.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Getting to know Informix June 2010
4 comments

2

Social Action August 2009
1 comment

3

Reflections During Transition December 2010
1 comment

4

My life is about my experiences…not about me…. January 2009
1 comment

5

Little India August 2009
2 comments

Social Aggregators


Reflecting on 2010, I have noticed that Social Media aggregators have become a popular tool for many social media marketers. They come in many different shapes and forms, but essentially these tools help brands bring together disparate conversations across multiple platforms. Through aggregation brand are looking to demonstrate to their audience the volume of conversations around their products or services. The idea is that aggregating multiple streams of conversation into a single view will give the general public a holistic view of a conversation and thus the impression that their products or services are popular. It will also provide a single, easy to find location to allow new consumers to engage with an existing conversation. Brands are looking to use an aggregated page as a launch pad for existing influencers to engage with new advocates. Thus, aggregation will bring in fresh thoughts, opinions, and feedback to the broader conversation. I believe this is still an important component of a healthy community.

IBM and other companies have made attempts to use content aggregators across several events and programs. For IBM the initial use of social media aggregators has been around our large conferences around our 5 major software brands (Lotus, Information Management, Rational, Tivoli, WebSphere). We look to leverage the existing crowd at the conferences. Our attendee’s come together and have a great deal of stimulating content and face to face interactions that will prompt them to share and post their thoughts and ideas around our products and solutions. Perfectly sound logic. Yet, I do not believe that the tools I have seen thus far have done enough. Content aggregators need to evolve and develop beyond pulling content into a single view.

Media has always been a way to organize and rally people together. Radio, TV and the web have all been a way for a message to reach a broad audience. Aggregators are missing this very important process. What I want to see from an aggregator is the ability to help a reader find people relevant to what they are looking for. When I say “finding” you may think I mean search, but I think its more than just search. An aggregator must help a reader “discover” new people that are relevant to them. Relevant people can be subject matter experts, customer support, analysts or advocates. There is a person behind all of those status updates and posts.

Social media aggregators do a respectable job aggregating from the main social venues (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube). However, for a company like IBM, most of our customers are posting and engaging in forums specific to their industry or domain of expertise. Such forums can be found on our own developerWorks sites, but many of them are run and managed independently. These are great sites for our customers. People can easily connect with others like them and find the support and guidance that they need. I believe that the current generation of social media aggregators are limited because they do not capture these sites. More importantly, they require that marketers be aware of the sites and must manually aggregate content from these sites. As sated before, I don’t just want to be able to search and find content on these sites, as a reader, I want to quickly find the content and people that are experts. I want to know more about them and understand the contributions they make to the discussions.

Basically, aggregators do what they say they do….big deal! We need more. We need them to be effective, meaningful and to help the reading see the big picture.

I think I can go on about how aggregators need to do more. So I will stop here. However, I think the right thing to do is explain more about my approach. My next post will be on the 3 P’s of social media. This will help give some more context.