An interview with Parimala Hariprasad : 1 year @ Moolya

Nobody recognizes the value of freedom as much as Indian women of the previous generations do, where they were restricted from focusing on technical career. Not all of the women who get freedom in this generation (just like how men do), recognize that with freedom comes responsibility. A few among those are the ones who have the zeal to become a true leader.  That is why we have the first generation of leaders in Indian women, or maybe second. I don’t mind being wrong here on the number. I feel it is much more important for today’s generation women to set higher ranks to challenge the next generations to go beyond it.

Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco is one among the many who made it big and is noticeable. So is Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon. If you ask me who would it be in testing, I would bet it is Parimala from India. Talking is easy, walking through the talk is difficult. Parimala makes walking the talk look easy. She has a Parimala way of working and I believe she has a large influence on people working with her. Not all people who are touched by her blog, so some of what Parimala does remains hidden and secret. Through this interview with her, I am trying to see if I can bring to the world what she does and how she does that. What has Moolya been able to offer to this great woman, who doesn’t actually need Moolya to do great testing but Moolya definitely needs her to remain to deliver moolya.

When Mohan Panguluri joined us as the CEO, he was wondering how many appreciation emails does she get after looking at a stream of appreciation emails from our customer and their teams she works with.

PS: You were the first woman employee we wanted to hire and you joined us when we were just 4 people in our garage. Do you remember the words in the print out we put in our garage to welcome you 🙂 If you remember, you could share it with us here.

Parimala: “Today we have a 10000 Parimalas’ joining Moolya” – I think this was the quote as far as my memory goes. I was startled to know Moolya was so excited about me coming in J

PS: You were already a star in Indian software testing before you joined Moolya, what do you think has Moolya done to your star-ship?

Parimala: I did feel like a star every time my name flashed high in the testing community. That was usually momentary as stars are hardly visible during the day 🙂 . That was the star-ship prior to joining Moolya. Jokes apart, I was humbled and thrilled to join Moolya. Though I was confident of contributing in many ways to Moolya, I was aware that I’ll be faced with many challenges accompanied with great learning.

What has Moolya done to my star-ship?

I answer this question every single day to myself. I am shining a lot more thanks to Moolya.

PS: What  surprised you when you came to Moolya? What assumptions went completely wrong?

Parimala: The quote written to me on my first day was the biggest surprise.  It was humbling to know that Pradeep and Santhosh had so much respect for my work though I had done very little until then.

Apart from that, working out of a garage where we had to produce every little thing we needed was very shocking initially.  Over a period of time, these ‘operations’ stuff became a lot of fun because I learned a lot about human psychology during this time.

Another surprise was the challenges of working with an ‘All Guys’ team J. Being the first woman on board, many things had to be setup before we could hire more women. Even communicating a few things used to be hard, but then I was happy doing this for the rest of the women folks who would join later on.

PS: You were considered, regarded and respected as one of the highly influential members on the projects you worked in from our clients, how did you do it? What magic spray do you use? 😛

Parimala: Secret  Ingredients for my Magic  Spray (Team Moolya calls  it Pari Magic J)

Expending Emotional Labor at Work  ~ Seth Godin

As a consultant, it’s important to take a lot of pain. The clients have a lot of pain points they are unable to fix and hence hire consultants like us. If we as consultants make fun of those pain points instead of solving them, that’ll piss them off. Imagine hurting an already bleeding tiger – it will obviously attack back. It’s important to understand the challenges they are facing, respect them for the progress they have already made and devise a  strategy that works for them. If we help them solve their very basic problems and set a direction for them, they’ll be happy to carry forward that success story for several other projects.

As a consultant, I dream of this, “I have to consult so well that they wouldn’t need me after a while as they would have figured out how to solve the problem themselves” . Yeah, I mean to say I should be fired. This also means that I would have built such a great team while I consulted that they have an in-house consultant who is capable of playing a role same or even better than mine!

Empathizing with People

Testers are blamed every time something goes wrong. Witness some reasons – Testing schedule goes awry, Testing costs are high, a bug is found in production, Tester 1 missed 2 bugs which tester 2 found and what not?. How do I transform this thinking, I often wonder. I had to stop blaming others that they are blaming testers. Now, I empathize with people. I accept them as they are. I judge situations, not their character. This has helped me leverage the quality and quantity of work I get done in any project I have worked on. Sadly, many amongst us do the exact opposite, ‘Judge people and accept situations’. Attacking people won’t help. Attacking a situation does!

Engaging People by their strengths

Few people like Test case design, few other want to test. Few others are passionate about check automation. A couple more  are interested in scripting. Discovering people’s passions and placing them in appropriate roles helps not just individuals, but organizations as well. In an ideal scenario, organizations may not be able to align business objectives based on individual passion. However, giving this idea a slow start helps in the long run to build motivated individuals. The trend will then change. If you as a leader give freedom for your team member to choose to do what he wants to do, then he’ll do what you want them to do. This is the key ingredient of my magic spray J

Put good word in to a right ear ~ Tomoko Kaida

Putting your thoughts and ideas into the minds of a group of people who care for the testing craft helps spread the message faster. It’s important to identify a small group of people who respect your ideas and help spread them to a wider audience. I am fortunate to work with such groups on all my projects.

Influential & Transformational leadership

The need of the hour is Influential Leadership, not an authoritative one. Testers are creative artists. They need influential leadership to make progress. Instead, if you are bossing over and hardly giving any help, they will cease to be good at what they are good at. It’s important to keep up the tempo with testers and other teams as well by providing an open environment where anyone can approach anyone for anything and yet get things done smoothly without affecting organizational hierarchy. This is where leaders with Influential & Transformational leadership are going to be in great demand in the coming years. I set this as one of the top goals for every project I work on.

On a side note, Position power  should be exercised as the last power in any organization. What is happening today is it’s being used first and often misused. In fact, it is the most abused power amongst other points of power like Relationship, Tasks, Personal and Knowledge [Read the book ‘Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager’ for more].

I believe these are some of the characteristics that my clients like in me!

PS: I have seen you set a culture in the team that you work that makes you go beyond most testers, in this world. Be it gifting them books at your own expense, buying them flowers, personally taking care of them when they need it. How did you learn to do it? How did you put it into practice?

My dad always said this to me when I was young, “Look at people who are less blessed than you and be contented. Look at people who are more successful than you and be ambitious. Your challenge in life is to balance both at the same time”. This piece of advice has stayed with me.

The widest door to happiness is to express gratitude in life. I learned it thanks to my family members who always helped one or the other person. Even today, my mom cooks an extra meal for 1 person daily as she thinks someone might come over for food.  I guess these acts of compassion took over me early on in life. As I grew, I discovered there are many people who are not happy with what they are and what they have.  Hence the need for recognition. I started appreciating small things around me. It almost became a habit. Nowadays, its a sub-conscious feeling to reward someone who has gone that extra mile almost instantly.

Instant recognition is important because the Rewardee gets an ‘I belong here’ feeling that further boosts his morale. It need not be money all the time. Even a pat on the back does wonders. That is how I started with Chocolates, Flowers, Thank You emails etc.

At my personal expense

Waiting for March/April to reward your team members is way too late. And waiting for your manager to approve the budget or bring in a process to award them – these things don’t work with me. Awards must be instant in my view. On the Spot! And why the hell should I ask someone else to reward my team when I know very well that they need to be rewarded. It’s my team, so I’ll reward them at my own expense. It feels really good when I reward my team. It’s my team!

PS: You were leading the secret “Tipper” project which we ended up scrapping. If you were to not tell the audience what it is but make a joke about  it, what would it be?

Parimala: We just got tipped by Tipper 😉

Honestly, That was my first “Project management” project. I learnt a lot! How many testers will get an opportunity to work on a product from scratch and virtually release it  to the market. I got one and  I am happy I made good use of that opportunity.

PS: What do you think you could learn in Moolya that would never be possible in any other companies you worked or know of? And why?

Parimala: Biggest learning : “What you know is not as important as what you do with what you know”

I learned in Moolya that it  is not enough if you learn what you need to learn. What you learn becomes important based on how many people benefit from your learning and subsequent implementation of your learnings to facilitate good testing and to help other testers learn better and better than yourself.

PS: Isn’t balancing life and work, especially with 3 kids (including your husband, as you quote) and lot of responsibilities in Moolya, a difficult task? Tell us how you do it?

My 3 kids take the most out of my time. I only wish I had more patience in life! Thankfully, my husband is very patient J. Balancing life and work was never a problem until my second girl arrived 18 months ago. The hectic nature of life shook me up many times after that and continues to do so. My parents and husband are extremely supportive, so I feel secure about my children. My first child Harshitha (mini question bank)  taught me that I need to be nurturing my children no matter who takes care of them.  I play a nurturer role while my husband plays the provider role. I do spend lot of my evening time and weekends with them, so it kind of balances out. My kids know that I am out for a long time, so they effectively utilise my time while I am at home J.

On the work front, I have learned to say No to unimportant things. I give 100% be it at work or at home. I try not to mix up either of these. I have cut down on my web presence as it directly affects my sleep time or the time I spend with my children. No regrets as my children are of utmost priority right now.

It’s very stressful at times and I do get depressed, but then my lovely daughters can pep me up irrespective of what mood I am in J. Hope and faith are key to having a successful personal and professional life and I appear to be doing a decent job here.

PS:We know you have fallen in love with Moolya, can you tell us about that love story? 😛

Falling in love with Moolya is sweet because it had all the people who I dreamt of working with. I knew Pradeep and Santhosh for a year or so before Moolya was co-founded. I had this strong feeling that Pradeep will surely invite me to work at Moolya. In fact, I was secretly preparing for it. The decision to join Moolya was made long before I was called J. I knew I had to be good at many skills before I join Moolya, but I was way too restless to wait. I thought I might as well build my skills while I work here. And I did and still do!

As  I complete one year, I still sense the freshness at work. It’s very rewarding to be able to choose my kind of projects to work for and build my skills while being able to help the company grow at the same time. I have enjoyed every single moment I have spent here. There have been some troubling times, but that has only made my bonding with Moolya stronger. Narayana Murthy’s quote “Don’t  love your company, love your job” is crap to me (This is purely my view and not my employers’ J). If that is how early Infoscions had thought, he wouldn’t be where he is right now. If you just love your job and not your company, you fail to identify the company’s objectives and visions clearly. This in turn will back fire because you can’t do your job well enough

I love my job, I love the people I work with and I also love my company. This love story is here to stay 😛 .

PS: Do you want to quote a few experiences you had in Moolya that are memorable to you in the first year

    1. Flower Bouquets
    2. Cut-outs in Moolya toilets
    3. Organizing BWST3 with Sunil
    4. Photo shoot for Testing Circus with Pradeep
    5. New Office Inaugaration pictures – I revisited 10 times on same day as I couldn’t make it that day
    6. “That won’t matter” comment from DS on a specific occasion
    7. Bullying Santhosh about his hair style all the time
    8. Smoking session with Pradeep and Mohan – No, I didn’t smoke 😉
    9. Umpteen number of lunch and gossip sessions with Moolya team
    10. Every time Pradeep appreciates my work J

And many more………….

PS: What  are your goals for the coming years? How would you like to help Moolya grow?

Parimala: Here is a list of goals I want to accomplish, some of which are stretched:

  1. Hiring testers from our wishlist
  2. Build strong leadership teams
  3. Facilitate building great testing teams at Moolya
  4. Build a dedicated coaching division at Moolya for the young kiddos who join us (has to be headed by me J)
  5. Learn to test better than now J
  6. Work on Negotiation, Strategy and Business skills

I have had the most fun working with Pradeep, Santhosh, Sunil and Dhanasekar for most part. Our work is mostly like meeting in a café for coffee and snacks. Working on projects with one another is so much fun, yet so challenging as each of us are differently talented. I personally thank all four of them for spreading the joy of testing alongside me. And not to forget Mohan, our CEO who has brought a lot of simplicity by owning up the complex stuff J. My success in this one year wouldn’t have been possible without these people plus our rocking Moolya team. Thank you Moolyavans. Looking forward to another great year ahead!

_end of interview_

Look at some of the amazing things she said in this interview. The one of empathizing with people was a gem of a thought and writing. To work with Parimala, I have to raise my standards, otherwise I start to look bad to myself. Even if I do not raise my standard, Parimala would respect me for who I am. Not because it is the so called Pradeep Soundararajan but because she treats everybody the same and respects people. She teaches us humility.


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