Friday 30 December 2011

Incredible India: Improving the Koenig Solutions brand - Part I

Between expansion and improvement
As my trainingclasses draw to an end today, it has literally been 23 days of intensivecoaching with just Sundays off. There were days I just could not take in anymoreeither by reason of fatigue or incapacitation brought on by the differentenvironment I was in.
Koenig Solutions intheir training services have become a brand and one can understand that everyorganisation has to balance the demands of growth and improvement. As I havenoticed here and in many places, one always seems to take away from the other; the organisation has to be so utterly unique to manage both expansion andimprovement in tandem without falling a victim of its own previously acclaimed success.
The trainers are really good
The core resource poolof Koenig Solutions is their trainers, young, highly educated, probably drivenand maybe ambitious. It would appear the minimum academic requirement foracceptance into the training pool is a Masters degree, though I cannot say muchfor the other areas of their personal and personality development.
From what I haveobserved of some of them, they need some adventure and this cannot be acquiredby just meeting with trainees who come here from all the corners of the globe.
Language proficiency
English with allits complexities, exceptions and nuance is probably one of the most forgiving of international languages, even where the command of the language is nigh on appalling,if the trainer is quite conversant with the material, they can deliver thecurriculum well enough to the understanding of a majority of trainees who insome cases have English as a foreign language too.
In my view, I thinkKoenig Solutions should invest in more English language training for betterexpression and usage, not necessarily in the format of formal classes but inbonding encounters around debates, discussions, games and team-building. Thatway, people do not feel too exposed for their poor command of English eventhough they are brain boxes on the curriculum.
Koenig Solutionsrecently announced that certain courses will be conducted in French andconsidering the visitors from other Hispanic, Germanic and Lusophone countriesone would expect Spanish, German and Portuguese to follow; it is doubtful thatItalian will become one of those languages though Chinese will be aninteresting addition.
Employees include others
Koenig Solutions appearsto be a good employer when it comes to its trainers but those not the onlypeople in the employ of this organisation; I leave India mortified at theliving conditions of the staff of Koenig Inn and those of the people runningthe various apartments as reported by other trainees.
Beyond the maindistinguishing factor of good trainers, the only other basic advantage oftraining in India is cost and that is hardly a great differentiator anymore.Training organisations in Europe are trimming their costs and offeringincentives to attract the locals that will normally trot out to India.
Besides, Malaysiaand Thailand which I dare say are somewhat more exotic locations are offeringgreater competition and it is only a matter of time before experienced Koenig Indiastaff are lured away to train for these fledgling organisations that will behave newer and better equipment whilst offering even better support than KoenigSolutions has dared to attempt.
There are manyareas where Koenig Solutions is in need of considerable improvement and it is atask that requires purposeful and immediate attention.
The reason why Idecided to take my training in New Delhi rather than at the other 3 centres inIndia was because I felt there was no way I could visit India without seeingthe Taj Mahal. However, New Delhi is under a constant haze of fog and pollutionit is really unhealthy at the best of times. The winter months are probably thebest months to come here but Dehradun and Goa will be in my list of options thenext time.
It is surprisingthat there are no training centres in Bangalore, Bombay or Chennai (Madras), Ido not know if Koenig Solutions plans to open centres there.
Sometimes thingshappen within this organisation as if lessons are not being learnt. I can charta trail of management disarray and disorganisation from information I receivedfor getting my visa, through my being picked up at the airport, a poorintroduction process, tardy problem resolution from information dissemination,testing facilitation to internet connectivity and many other things that appearinconsequential but are major operational problems that show an organisationthat is not being run like a tight ship.
From observation,it is almost impossible to say that Koenig Solutions has been in this activityfor over a decade, for all the growth they seemed to have remained a tyroorganisation repeating the same mistakes, offering the same excuses and hardlyshowing characteristics of a learning organisation.
To suggest many ofthe systems are old is to proffer an understatement. I have taken pictures ofsystems that charities will probably reject. Much of the equipment is out-datedand they are not keeping up with technical advancements in the industry.
For instance, theyoffer a 3-month after course support but what is required beyond the classes isgood access to the labs, even lesser organisations put a lot of stuff on thecloud. As I have noted before, it is amazing that an organisation that trainsin current networking trends and systems cannot offer remote labs when we arepresent in India and for a limited period of time after we have left India.
Koenig Solutionsmight not be allowed to upload core curriculum material but having been in thisbusiness for over a decade, they should still be able to provide genericaccessible systems in the cloud for trainees and ex-trainees to use to helpreinforce the training they received in India.
Having been in theMN-1 & MN-2 buildings, I cannot vouch for the other buildings but it didcross my mind that fire safety rules did not matter, I could see the one accessinto the office areas and quite restricted exits if anything happened. InEurope, none of these locations will pass a fire safety test or be granted afire safety certificate.
All that said, Ihope that one fundamental piece of information has not been lost by KoenigSolutions, the idea that trainees that attend courses in December are probablyquite senior type personnel in a month that is not as busy.
They will formimpressions about the whole gamut of services apart from training provided byKoenig Solutions and that could well inform their recommendations in terms ofadvising others of attending courses here.
To think there ismuch incentive in the paltry sums offered for recommending others is a fallacy atbest, a service will be recommended if it exceeds expectations regardless ofcommission.
In general and myhonest opinion is this – Koenig Solutions offers excellent training in terms ofthe personnel, uses average equipment in the delivery of the curriculum, can bequite mediocre in addressing issues raised by trainees either at the trainingcentre or at the residences and really does not pass the muster of exceedingexpectations.
I might return toIndia, I am not fully persuaded of a second helping of Koenig Solutions butthen, I have only been in New Delhi; things can be different in Dehradun wherethey have their largest training centre, in Goa or in Shimla – there is much tobe desired but the experience has been eye-opening and wonderful.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Incredible India: Up Against the Koenig Imperative

Boot camp revamp
I had a majorfalling out with my trainer this morning on a number of issues regarding thedelivery of the curriculum leading to a certification I am in interested.
When it comes to bootcamp training, it can be difficult to balance the issues of time, completecoverage, teaching, explanation and preparation for tests.
Much as I will liketo attain my certifications as soon as possible, my learning methodology hasnever been by rote, accepted views or concepts have to have undergirding logicand I need to know that I am extending my body of knowledge.
The burden of history
For someone who hasbeen in the ICT profession for 23 years, one can safely say a good deal of theconcepts we take for granted today have their foundations in fundamentallyprimitive things we did decades.
People new to thefield may have no need for the history of how, why and what things are today,maybe that is an advantage or disadvantage but it is impossible to expect thosewho have experience to just become sponges of new thinking without referencingknowledge they already have or activities that have practical affinity with thetopic under discussion.
Intensive versus effective
Again, thecurriculum is delivered in 6 8-hour days and sometimes Sundays, the danger ofsaturation looms, the trainer wanting to cover the requisite material, thetrainee wanting to pace the absorption so that the quality becomes of greatersignificance than the quality.
In other words,there might be a case for 5 hours of effective training over 8 hours ofintensive training, each trainee knows what they can handle before they beginto wilt and that is only just human.
Delivery prowess
Then, there areamazing differences between the two trainers I have had, the Microsoft OfficialCurriculum is tied to Powerpoint slides that were followed quite closely andmade the taking of notes less easy especially in a one-on-one teaching setup.
The better deliverymethod with regards to the Powerpoint slides should have been having the slidesoffered as notes to trainees to annotate thereby helping link discussion withconcept and reference.
In the case of myCCNA trainer, she is no less than prodigious, in the 4 days of my trainingalready, she has not one referenced a note, she fills the board with pointafter point with literal total recall, in the probably 500 sentences she haswritten on the board, she has only once asked if one point had been written andthat point was probably the least significant of the lot.
Rhyme without reason
Things began toreach a head yesterday when first certain definitions appeared to challenge theconventional use of language, English being the medium but meanings appearingto indicate the opposite.
I could not absorbthe idea that Least Feasible Distance could go on to mean Best Option,regardless of tone, context, syntax or semantics, this was an exceptional anomalyand I felt quite uncomfortable with this.
I dare say Englishis not really the same between what is spoken and written in America and whatthe English speak especially when there is a purist determination in one’s modeof expression – that is just a fact.
English usage and meaning
I have worried thatI might get caught out with American usage and Americanisms and a typicalexample I give is our pants are never exposed whilst Americans wear theirsopenly. Alright, pants are underwear in England but trousers in America ifviewed from an English perspective just as a negative is always a negative onour side of the pond no matter how many you string together whereas in Americathe mathematical double negative take precedent to yield a positive or theaffirmative.
Another usage ofActive and Passive which had the implication of opposites in the class seemedto be given a much more acceptable reading when explained in another contextfrom other material I reviewed.
Just as we haveEnglish and US English dictionaries, I am beginning to think whilst allowancescan be made for similarity and difference, there might be a case for clearlydifferentiating the material and not assuming English is really the same aroundthe globe.
However, it waswhen a formula was written on the board that combined two unrelated units thatI had had enough. I was not in class to jettison my engineering background andthere had to be a reason why that formula was the accepted code.
Oranges and apples
At this point, Iwas impervious to the illogical and scientifically incorrect; I could notimagine that all the engineering in Cisco had produced a dimensional andmathematical inexactitude withoutreason.
That reason was notforthcoming, I was to absorb this by law and learn it by rote – for a personwho was first precocious, then inquisitive, interrogative, curious,questioning, researching and challenging assumptions no matter how widely held,this was one of those moments where without reason there could be no progress.
Yesterday, I gotup, closed my book, slammed the lid of my netbook and was ready to walk out ofthe course, she was able to placate me but I was far from satisfied.
Now, I know
On returning to myhotel, that was the first topic I researched and then I saw the extensiveformula that got condensed to what was written on the board, the engineeringand mathematical proof was evident – that for me is what you call theimpartation of knowledge and the fulfilment of understanding – the why and howwas there to see.
So, in the morningI took my discovery to my trainer and she acknowledged she knew this but it wasbeyond the scope of the course I was on. Whilst that was appreciated, I felt aconflict brewing because I was not just going to take everything as gospel butwill require clear detail where assumptions are made that seem to challenge theconcepts of language or science as predicated from my “wealth” of experience.
By the time we hadexchanged a few good views about the material it was time for my trainer to sayshe could no more continue the training and I felt we had reached an irreconcilableimpasse.
I then had ameeting with the officials and technical manager where generally what theyseemed to be concerned with was the method (The Koenig Imperative – course materialdelivered within constrained time-frames leading to certification).
In some ways, Iacquiesced and we agreed to continue the course because the curriculum isreally an abridged version of the more serious engineering concepts that I willfind more interesting and aligned to my engineering background.
Patching up
I can understand mytrainer’s frustrations though I cannot say she fully appreciates that I cannotextend my knowledge of these concepts just by faith without seeking thefundamental reasons for why and how such conclusions were arrived at – it isjust the bane of my kind of background, that I have become a somewhat difficultand impossible trainee after her having delivered this curriculum to well over500 trainees is unfortunate.
I am not a robot,God help my intellect and we both need a healthy dose of patience with eachother.
We appeared topatch things up and continue with the training, an interestingly eventful day. 

Friday 23 December 2011

Incredible India: Seeking Koenig Solutions to Atrocious Conditions

Something of the heart
There are othermatters that might appear peripheral but are pertinent and demand urgent andeffective action on the part of those who have the power to implement change.
The need for arecognition of the fact that the broad experience of the boot camp trainingregime means we interface with more of the lower cadre of workers in the KoenigSolutions hierarchy and we cannot be oblivious of certain obvious and worrisomethings.
Apart from thetrainers who we interact with for about 8 hours a day, it is the young men atour accommodations that cater for our other needs in providing meals,facilitating our laundry, doing the housekeeping and sometimes having to tackleissues and problems they are barely equipped to handle like when the wirelessInternet connectivity service fails.
Such appalling conditions
One cannot fail tocommend these men either at the main Koenig Inn or at the other apartmentsdotted around New Delhi.
However, you canimagine my shock when I noticed that in a 24-room inn which is barely of 2-starquality I arrived to see that two of the workers at the inn were sleeping onthe floor. It is something I have seen a few times since and you just do notget used to it at all.
For whateverworking circumstances exist in India that might differ from those in elsewhereand for whatever satisfaction these men might have with their jobs, the momentthese conditions are exposed to those from outside India, the situation isuntenable.
It becomes anunbearable stain on our consciences where we dare to be humane and have a basicsense of dignity that people who toil tirelessly for our comfort are housed inconditions so appalling.
Shock does not describe it by half
Beyond that,reports from at least one apartment under the management of the KoenigSolutions entire indicate the workers have no toilet facilities that it is almosta moment of ululation when a guest leaves just because it affords them theopportunity to do things in a more healthy way.
I heard this, daysago; the shock of the news is just wearing off, but it is something that needswriting about and sorting out. The management at Koenig Solutions havingreceived prizes for being one of the best places to work for in India makes onewonder what kind of criteria is used to determine such an accolade.
Fundamentally, ifKoenig Solutions provides world-class training services, it is only incumbenton them to make provision of a better class of working and living conditions fortheir staff at these places.
Perish the thoughtthat Koenig Solutions for all the praise it has gotten the ignominy of being aprovider of world-class sweat shop conditions becomes the enduring experienceafter we have left for the comfort of our homes.

Incredible India: Conditions and Transitions

Silence is not absence
There might bereaders of my blog concerning my training in India who might have thought I hadalready screamed myself hoarse and finally settled down to the scheme ofthings. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have been busyand in many cases exhausted but there is so much to write about that the rightframe of mind is necessary to be as articulate as possible.
As you would havenoticed, I have registered no new comments with regards to my Internetconnection that is not because the Internet access problem has been solvedproperly or that the service is anywhere near acceptable, I simply could notafford to suffer another night of absence of service that the next day I got amobile Internet dongle that gives me close to unlimited access for the rest ofthe time I will be in India.
My colleagues atKoenig Inn have endured more frustration than I have the capacity for in termsof that as it were “funny” service. I have on occasion used the wirelessInternet service but I suppose because I have contingencies, I am no more asaffected.
Acquiring a Microsoft-infused mind
The main tranche ofmy course finished yesterday. It was a whirlwind tour of the Microsoft Windowsenterprise framework strategy. We covered so many topics, I think I wasstretched, learning new stuff, relearning interesting stuff and unlearningobsolete stuff – on the latter, there was much to unlearn with experience comesthe vagaries of change that compel you to adapt or be face obsolescence.
Koenig Solutionsalso gave me a birthday present, not a free course but a complete set of alltheir souvenirs – Thank you.
Much as I seem tohave some bravado to face some examinations in order terms I feel I am not asprepared as I should be. It is saturation environment from now on as I dopractice tests on my mobile phone, read up on obscure topics and playbackvideos of the CBT material whilst awake and whilst asleep – my thinking has tobecome Microsoft(ed) if any such word exists.
Parting with mytrainer, I can only commend his knowledge of the material, his understanding ofthe fundamentals, his confidence in the face of thorny questions and hisappreciation of other perspectives that people bring in with regards to thepractical experiences they have had. I will hope that I make a friend of himfor the invaluable service he has offered.
Feng Shui we need
I received an emailyesterday with regards to the next course that I hope to obtain a Ciscocertification for. I cannot say much for the attention to detail when thelaboratory room number indicated I was to be in a different building from whatthe email suggested – I am not complaining, just observing.
The training roomis in the basement of another building, I would hate to think that I am alreadysuffering the effects of bad Feng Shui and other complications of sick buildingsyndrome – basically, I had basement offices and I have suddenly noticed that Ihave been in classes without windows, breathing processed air and usingartificial light.
The part aboutbreathing processed air is useful because New Delhi is in a constant haze ofpollution, there are places you can go that give you serious throat irritationin a matter of minutes.
The same and different all the same
So, after findingmy training room, I walked down the length of the corridor noting how clean thewhole place looked and could not help but notice that unlike the otherbuilding, the sugar bowl had a lid that was used with the notice, to alwayscover the bowl after use. I still have issues with the spoon being in a cup ofwater, I would rather they had a proper sugar dispenser or plastic disposablespoons.
In all, many thingsare the same all around the place, the coffee machines, the water coolers, theserviette boxes, even the microwaves and yet all different – a concept of bulksimilarity but varied utility depending on location as regards the trainingcentres and the managed accommodations.
A visit to the gentswas a bit more comforting, a lot cleaner in looks than the aging other placebut with a façade of the worn, maybe by reason of age, one cannot say.
The lessons havestarted and this looks like it will be exciting stuff – there is much more toreport some of which is almost too incredible to talk about but it will beremiss of me not to cover these matters in the next few blogs I post.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Incredible India: Usurping Sly Bastards (USB)

These are no deals

I remember writing years ago about deals that people get from hawkers of fake watches and gadgets that roam the social outlets around Gran Canaria commercial centres.

In my view, greed is almost always at play, the hawker looking almost too respectable to be true, sweet-talking patrons about an unmissable deal.

The patrons out for some fun are caught in the trap of viewing what they do not need and depending on how pliable they are will almost always acquire what they do not want.

Weeping in silence

If the deal is struck, the hawker makes away with the cash, a veritable confidence-trickster who has taken advantage of the gullible who have irresistibly allowed they vanity to get the better of them and in so doing acquired a dud with no guarantee but the word of a stranger with no address, shop or traceable from of contact.

When the dust settles, the patron realises they have been taken for fools, though they silently mourn their stupidity and in self-flagellation and self-pity swear to themselves never to be caught in such a scam again, but they do.

Usurping Sly Bastards

Now, in New Delhi, as I went for a walk, I was accosted by persons hawking off 64GB USB sticks for prices that made your eyes pop – surely, those goods must have fallen off a lorry.

I did not need a USB stick and there was no reason to add to my collection of sticks just because it looked like a deal. The best deal is one where you can return it if you are not satisfied.

A few days ago, I was told those USB sticks were duds, now, I did not know how dud they were until this afternoon after lunch, a trainee colleague showed off his bargain buy.

Another colleague took it off him and prised it open to show an empty cavity – that blew me away, I expected some circuitry, at least – nothing but a USB connector and a plastic case pretending to be a product of Kingston Technology, one of the market leaders in memory and storage products.

Bang them up

It is one thing to sell counterfeit products, maybe another to sell stolen goods but to be a purveyor of goods where the hawker deliberately sets out to cajole, deceive, extort and dishonestly con unsuspecting tourists on the streets of New Delhi, one is well advised of the need to walk with caution and offer no acknowledgement to persons unknown, no matter how attractive their wares.

One would hope these people are taken off the streets but it probably is part of the mystique of Incredible India to which some have unwittingly become the fool soon parted from their money and left holding a dud for a souvenir of their dumbness.

Incredible India: A Close Shave at Koenig Inn

Air ran out of the taps

The backstory to the vivid picture of me in a bathrobe with shaving foam all around my ears and over my head is that as I was shaving I ran out of hot water completely.

This was at just a few minutes past 7:00AM and barely a week after I was told hot water will be available for 24 hours at Koenig Inn.

Things had in the space of just a day moved or generally acceptable to precipitously untenable with no Internet access overnight and then this.

As the water then began to trickle out of the tap I used my hand cloth towel to wipe off all the foam and then had a hand cloth wipe in the place of a shower.

Meanwhile, for whatever reason after the staff came up to see the problem, there was a leak in the bathroom, I went down for breakfast and gave my key to the staff not returning to the room as I left for the training centre.

The new Internet Policy

I could not wait to get out of the Koenig Inn this morning to start at the training centre where I hope no construction firm had inadvertently dug up the cables again like they allegedly did a few days ago.

A new notice had appeared on the wall in addition to the many notices that we have to read, this one might well add insult to injury – whilst I appreciate that the provision of free wireless Internet service comes at a cost for the training centre and the abuse of it for other purposes is not fair, it is one thing to have a poor service and quite another not to have it at all.

Nowadays, we select hotels for the simple reason that wireless Internet is available and free; much as one would expect that a training centre of the calibre of Koenig Solutions will not impose extortionate costs on access for purposes as voice chat (Skype) since being far away from home is partly compensated for with the ability to communicate affordably with friends and family back home this might become a core consideration in choosing this training centre in the future.

If anything, the new Internet Policy is a radical disincentive, a service downgrade and an unfortunate development, especially after last night.

Conversely, I think I am now reading the sign clearly; it reads - "Welcome to India"

Incredible India: Without Internet Access, Koenig Inn is a Prison

My connection was down

When in a distant land, well away from friends and family there is one bond that we take for granted because we have taken it in trust and it factored into all the decisions we made to leave the comfort of our home for the adventure which might well be the one of a lifetime.

Away from those I know, I am four and a half or 5 and a half hours ahead of their own daily timeframe, it means ones bears it in thought that one will not call to speak in the morning because they will be asleep, neither can one during the day because the overlapping times of work mean the pleasantries of interaction are reduced to more business-like conversation.

The window of opportunity between my getting to bed and they having the time to chat is reasonably around 8:00PM their time which is just after midnight here or an hour later.

In terms of cost, we have found that Skype suits us best and that needs the Internet as the carrier, its availability is critically paramount.

A prison of life

The lonely world that is framed within the confines of the little room that is a prison of convenience for a month is opened up into a vast and limitless place through the Internet which serves as the beast of burden for email, social interaction, news retrieval and again a critical research resource that underpins the reason why we have left our homes for this place.

Whatever discomforts, nostalgia, loneliness or isolation is somewhat ameliorated with the feeling that one can through this invisible but tangible medium, touch the world and be in touch – at will and without let or hindrance.

However, this night will count as one of the least comfortable I have had in a long time, the darkness settled in figurative and literal sense at the doors to the world were closed like one were in a maximum security prison.

Freedoms lost

The guards knowing we should be free could not open the prison gates and we were completely constrained, our freedom lost and the silence of the night stilled to the hearing of sounds from outer space if ones ears were so attuned.

From about 9:45PM when I noticed, the wireless connectivity between my netbook and the wireless access point was fine but the wireless access point could not take me beyond itself into the world of the Internet – it was down.

An idea for partnership

The staff could not resolve the problem and there I was, cut off and thinking fast about what other alternatives were available at the loss of this service – none easily came to mind apart from one good idea – the need for a contingency plan which should come at no additional cost.

There are many hotels that are in the vicinity of my hotel, all broadcast the presence of their wireless access points, where the service in one hotel fails, there should be an arrangement between hotels to allow for guests in other hotels to hop on their systems whilst steps are taken to expedite repairs of the service we used to have.

A rotten moment

This must be the lowest point in terms of my sense of comfort; the absence of Internet access, the last resort is to switch the SIM card in my phone back to my home SIM card and roam – not the best but this situation must definitely not happen again, it just must not, again.

No, sooner had I changed my SIM card and began to roam, my 10MB of data was used up without having done much.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Incredible India: Happier with things at Koenig

Concentrating on the detail

The days at training seem to have settled into some sort of routine now though I am yet to kick into serious study mode.

Yesterday started well, I arrived early enough to at least socialise before my class started and soon we got into a topic I am not only keen of covering or learning, I was determined to understand the full detail of the subject.

This was quite pertinent because it was one in which I could find direct application and realise I had not been opportuned to use – my trainer took his time too to ensure I that I got the best grasp of the subject, it ended up being my longest day at the training centre.

Feedback on feeding back

Besides, early in the morning, as I logged into the “Center Automation System” that allows for a whole range of interactive activity with the organisation, I was presented with an “Interim Feedback” survey covering all aspects of my experience in India.

My trainer in my honest opinion obtained full marks other matters bordered from average to good but I did have a good few opinions about things that needed to be improved upon and felt it was best to reference my earlier 3 blogs on my experiences than itemise each issue again.

In terms of the survey, I felt the user experience was poor for the following reasons; it was not intuitive, the design was perfunctory and each of the rating elements lacked imagination in presentation, we were to offer most of our subjective opinions in terms of numbers from 0 to 10 and that was just not how to set up such surveys.

Words convey thoughts better

The redesign, if they so attempt to be so inspired and responsive is to change the answering model to modal words that in some cases will be one or a combination of the following sets of responses, {true, false}, {very satisfactory, satisfactory, unsatisfactory}, {good, neutral, bad}, {strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree} or {happy, unhappy}.

They could stretch these out to match a range of 10 radio buttons whilst the backend of the survey invisible to us might still use the numerate weighting if they so wish. The simple fact is words and phrases convey thought a lot better than numbers.

I also observed that for a training organisation they did not seem to be eating any of their own dog-food, for instance, if they offered CRM training they should be able to create useful surveys; as one that offered networking training, Internet access downtimes of almost 24 hours were just beyond the pale and most importantly, the labs which could be labour intensive and eat into essential class time to be remotely accessible to students to review and work on after-hours.

One would think that would help the reinforcement process considering most of the training manuals had content of up to 40% labs.

No sleepwalking into food bugs again

After the rite of passage in terms of my Delhi belly, I decided to be less adventurous with regards to food, I will stick to hot rice meals and make curd with honey part of my daily diet.

For my Tuesday class, I struggled to keep awake; the night before for restless and sleepless than I resorted to alarm-patting putting my wake calls into snooze mode every 10 minutes until I had to crawl out of bed and make for the training centre.

My trainer has not mastered the art of teaching into the dreams of nodding students, a skill I think he will do well to acquire.

The virtual prison of Internet down

Meanwhile, Internet access was down for a few hours but the centre proactively had someone bring round a notice to inform us of the problem and why. The road in front of the centre is being repaired and it appears the constructors had dug up the cables – the service was restored just around lunch but informing us ensured we did not end up being frustrated by the inability to access the Internet.

I was able to borrow a mobile dongle for about 15 minutes to check my email and other social networking sites and for short breaks I just go up to the terrace at the top of the building to take in some polluted air and smog, but then, that is New Delhi for you.

All over the world

I am meeting people from many places, as Angola, Tanzania, Cameroon, Eritrea, England, Germany, Iraq, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Nigeria evidently and so on. There is no doubt that the training is excellent; even those who came here with very little Information Technology knowledge, training or career backgrounds are passing their tests at first sitting – it is commendable.

What is also interesting is the number of people who have come here who do not live in their countries of origin, people like me who are in some ways world citizens and those with US military backgrounds; listening to some of the conversations, that setup appears to be an inscrutable bureaucracy rivalling the License Raj in the demotivation of personnel and absurd politics but awash in tax payers’ money expended on atrocious projects – enough said.

Some praise is due

After classes I was on a white-knuckle auto-rickshaw ride to the tailors to consider bespoke suit shopping, you had to be determined, not to be persuaded to buy what you do not want for needs that do not exist.

Dinner is now served as a buffet, the chefs constantly improving the menus and the setup now makes for less waste; that again was a suggestion that was heeded to. It would appear more people are moving from the apartments to our inn; word must have gotten out that things are at a standard that can be appreciated.

Well done to the staff at Koenig Inn and also to the Koenig Solutions team in New Delhi.

Other related blogs

Incredible India: Incredible Dissatisfaction

Incredible India: Honest to Koenig Solutions

Incredible India: We lost power to internet (sic)

Incredible India: The rime, the downtime and what not

Incredible India: Koenig Solutions being responsive

Friday 9 December 2011

Incredible India: Koenig Solutions being responsive

Shut-eye in class

I could barely keep my eyes open for most of today, I hadn’t slept that well and the passivity of listening and the occasional question or discussion makes for a rather dull man.

Even after the infusion of 2 cans of Red Bull, neither the caffeine nor the taurine appeared to produce the desired effect, most stimulants rarely ever get to engage my physiology to any level of stimulation, it is a matter of the will and the prop of a placebo, even a stinging slap at times that seems to do the job but not today.

Besides, there was a bit of discomfort that had me visiting the lavatories a few more times than necessary; not good at all.

Changes apace

Well after lunch, our centre manager came over for a chat to see how I was getting on, apparently, my blog had been read and a number of changes had been set in motion.

I had already noticed that the meals at dinner time had improved considerably in quality, I received an apology for the pick-up mishap and I have been promised some compensation, the hot water at the inn will now run 24/7 rather than just early in the mornings and in the evenings, all days of the week, the hand-wash bottles in the toilet appear to have been cleaned.

There is some progress, especially in the silly little things that Western histrionics take for granted; I would suppose the other matters raised are having a review too for the purposes of improvement.

Koenig Solutions making it happen

As I observe or learn of other things, my blogs will be duly updated. Let’s just say Koenig Solutions as I said before has the potential to offer a world class service and there are people able to facilitate that to acceptable expectations.

A responsive organisation has every prospect of earning confidence and that is worthy of commendation.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Incredible India: The rime, the downtime and what may apply

There is more to this place

Sometimes I wonder about being in such a beautiful country and finding oneself preoccupied with other priorities until that one free day that is a Sunday.

The daily narrative tends to be concerned with where I am staying and where I am receiving training, but there is definitely much more to India than what I have experienced or New Delhi at that.

Stickier than plain dust

I did not get too much sleep last night before I had to get up at 7:00AM and after the morning ablutions I made for breakfast. Having been told the milk served at breakfast was whole milk, I picked up a bowl for cornflakes.

Then I saw the bag from which the cornflakes had been poured into a bigger bowl, it did not look like Kelloggs, so I reached for it out of curiosity only to feel greasy grime all over the bag as if it had been kept in some unmentionably dirty place for an indeterminate time. I probably should have bothered more about the content of the bag but after the difficulty in getting the grime off my fingers with about 5 wipes, my appetite for cornflakes had disappeared.

Once again, I had pawpaw and pineapple slices for breakfast and just got out in time to catch the bus to the training centre on seats in the back that were not made for any comfort at all.

Still down for an email frown

The wireless internet connection issue that had not been resolved since 11:30AM the day before was still a problem, the only word I had to mention to the receptionist was “apparently” it summed up the matter.

At about 10:30AM, I asked the reception for her USB mobile internet dongle and had about 30 minutes online to read my email, respond to another and submit a complaint about the wireless internet problem to Koenig Solutions Customer Care and copying in my original contacts.

I basically stressed the importance of having the connection, the fact that the service was to be expected, the need for an immediate resolution and the demand for an alternative solution at no additional cost to myself.

Within 10 minutes of my sending the email, the receptionist popped in to say the wireless internet service had been restored. Since I did not receive a response to my email, I cannot really take credit for the notion that my email might have expedited things, I have no cause to complain if the service is restored.

Keeping up with the train

The training today was fast-paced and interesting, much of the material was familiar and at the same time the misunderstood areas were so succinctly explained for my enlightenment.

I downed 3 cans of Red Bull almost to no avail but was alert enough to catch things and raise questions about unclear topics, time just flew and it was almost 5:00PM by the time we covered the proposed topics for discussion.

Another cock-up

Back at the hotel, though tired, I learnt a trainee colleague was to embark on a long journey overnight to another training centre; the personnel having failed to contact him by email when they could not get him via a telephone call to alert him to the fact that no trainer for his scheduled course was available in New Delhi – an unfortunate lack of initiative and a gross administrative cock-up.

I exerted myself and broke sweat on the cross-trainer gym equipment and the abdominal exercise machine before a shower and dinner which was rice and cutlets of lamb, the chef having excelled himself once again.

For the rest

I did not have the presence of mind to realise the internet connection at the inn was also down but after dinner, I was informed the problem had been resolved – I was introduced to all the inn staff who I warmly greeted with a firm handshake and settled for a cup of sweet milky coffee as it is made in these parts courtesy of the concierge.

The day closes with an early night, a stirring in about 2 hours for my pills and hopes for a restful night in readiness for another day.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Incredible India: We lost power to internet (sic)

To the higher ups

There must come a day when I will have nothing to moan about but give effusive praise and I expect it to come soon.

I took the liberty of sending links to my last two blogs to the main contacts I had before I visited India. I received a short and a lengthy response but the long and short of it all was my concerns were acknowledged and passed up to those that matter, then some advice as to how to manage the situation and the clear support to be calm, insistent and acquire whatever remediation I require even if it involves escalation to whoever has the ways and means to right the situation.

I am well advised and will take heed to that view.

Books, lights and global disconnect

The day started early as we were picked and drove straight to the training centre. I arrived before my trainer and saw that the systems had been changed to cater to the next course on my schedule.

Soon afterwards, the manuals for that course arrived, all probably weighing 5 kilogrammes and constituting a spot of bother as to how one will cart them home without ending up in the cargo bay.

Just after 11:00AM the lights went out, there was a power cut but the systems in central uninterrupted power supply kept running; within 5 minutes the lights were restored with generator power. I cannot remember when last I experienced a power cut like that but it was interesting.

However, with the power cut went our internet connection, we could connect to the access point but not beyond the router. I patiently waited for this to be resolved and it was two hours before I went to reception to ask about the issue.

If it’s free, I ain’t paying more

Meanwhile, I had considered getting a mobile data card but the costs of acquiring one compared to the locals was basically a rip-off apart from the fact that there was no reason for me to seek alternative internet access, you could not miss the fact that free wireless access was touted to distraction on every page that that concerned the training centres, it was a service to be expected, period.

The less complimentary side to this matter was once again, no one thought it proper to inform us of the problem and the estimated time to recovery of the service. Besides, this is an organisation that specialises in training that pertains to networks and connectivity, one’s confidence is not helped if an internet outrage suddenly extends beyond the competence of the personnel to fix within a reasonable time frame.

Respite yes, solution, not yet

Four hours and fifteen minutes after the internet outrage and long after mains power was restored we still had excuses with no resolution in sight. The receptionist then kindly offered me a mobile data dongle that I got to use for about 25 minutes before I had to give it back.

For the sake of all that is good and wholesome, it is expected that this essential service will have been restored when we return to the centre tomorrow morning – here is to wishing and hoping that tomorrow brings contentment, praise and worthy accolades, but honestly, I will not be holding my breath.

By the way, I really enjoyed training today, it seems to be the only mercy of comfort left to praise.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Incredible India: Honest to Koenig Solutions

Growth at the expense of quality

Much as I would want nothing to curb my enthusiasm, I have been forced to curb my expectations but only for a while.

I am saddened to hear that despite the successes of Koenig Solutions in the delivery of Information Technology training that has made them recognised partners with global IT firms of repute and won them many prizes and accolades, their push for growth and expansion is affecting other essential matters badly.

Now, there is a great possibility that the expectations of trainees from the West could be radically different from those of trainees from other parts of the world, it should not make for poor standards of management, administration and trust.

Those silly little things

It is the little things in many places that add up to losing confidence and the encouragement to recommend these albeit good services to others.

For me, it started with the confusion about visas then on to the poor arrangements for picking me up at the airport for which I am yet to get a decent explanation or apology for that cock-up, my training centre where the coffee area is so dirty as to constitute a health risk; the foul dustbin just beneath the coffee machine, the toilet facilities show aging and the hand-soap bottles are best left untouched so as not to invite a plague.

I have somewhat overcome the shock of what to expect for lunch, vegetarian meals from Haldirams will suffice though I know my dentition is naturally intended for meatier stuff with a tendency to vampire lust.

Discontent and frustration

The cooks at the inn seemed to excel themselves this evening for the chicken wings appeared to acquire the excitement of taste by reason of the spices generously poured over them.

However, I sense a seething discontent, complaints about promises left unfulfilled tantamount to untruths on the part of some staff at the centre. The lack of record-keeping in terms of fees paid or books ordered and delivered.

Having conducted courses for years with people from all parts of the globe no discernible lessons have been learnt to facilitate the couriering of the heavy books and manuals to the students’ home countries; verbal arrangements are made to take tests at certain times only for the trainees to be told the tests cannot be taken on the newly arranged dates.

Frustrated opportunities

Trainees who feel that the only advantage of coming to India offers is an environment distant from the distractions at home, some of the trainers not ensuring that their activity is helping the trainees that they have decided to skip class rather than complain out of frustration that only apologies will be offered without effective action to ameliorate the situation.

These are all little probably inconsequential things that could easily be overlooked but when each apparently forgivable thing is collated into a list of issues, you begin to see what are systemic management failings that are creeping onto a heretofore tight ship and it is only a matter of time before the weight of this becomes the fundamental disincentive to those who at one time were persuaded to engage the services of this organisation.

Quality needs to gain new focus

All that said and done, my training is going apace; I am learning new things each day; the times have been productive and I am gaining confidence in the areas where I was once weak. My trainer is a fine young knowledgeable man.

There is no doubt that Koenig Solutions can polish up their act, they have all the potential even in India to make the whole end-to-end experience world-class, efficient, excellent and considerably worthwhile and as for all the quantity, quality will always be the distinguishing factor when we put the matter of cost to one side.

It all matters, every single detail; so far, a straw poll of those from my side of the globe indicates their other colleagues will not hear glowing reviews of how things are at the moment and that would be an avoidable shame.

Monday 5 December 2011

Incredible India: Incredible Dissatisfaction

Water wasters

A long eventful day it was for my first training day. My day schedule indicated I was to be picked up at 8:45AM in the morning for the training centre but I had set my alarm for 7:00AM to ensure I could have a shave and what passes for breakfast at the inn.

We are encouraged to waste in an unconventional way because the hot water is only available in the mornings and evenings except on Sundays when we have it for the whole day.

The hot water is not on the tap per se, we have to let the water run down the drain for nigh on 10 minutes before it gets warm enough for our cossetted sense of welfare. Then my bathroom sink drain had no plug, a problem that was solved with a bit of improvisation – tissue, but hardly water tight – I have to pinch myself with the realisation, I am far from the comforts of my land.

Rather than wash from a bucket like I did before, I decided to use the shower this time, I probably saved more water with that.

Peanuts don’t taste like pistachios

Trainees usually get picked up at 8:10AM, I first spoke to the concierge who muttered incoherently unsure of what information I needed and I went for breakfast. I decided to get on the 8:10AM taxi about the time the concierge asked the driver about the later pickup. The driver asked to see my letter, read it as if he comprehended it then gave me back the letter without a word.

I concluded, the many task-driven men around could only follow clear instructions, they had no aptitude for initiative, the most they could offer was an apology, sometimes the genuflection of the Indian nodding head and not much else.

There was no point expecting the epitome of professional dispatch and alacrity, so I rode with that early group to the centre.

A penalty of expression

We were sat at the reception for a while before we were called into a room to start the registration process, though none of the staff for almost another 20 minutes suggested why we were there.

As the silence got deafening, it got too unbearable for me, so I broke the ice speaking out and prompting those gathered round to introduce themselves, then everyone got talking which made for the passage of time before the staff brought in forms and more forms to fill in.

I was surprised that the extra days trainees stayed before or after training were listed as penalties, a topic that never came up when the original arrangements were made, I will suppose it was more a deficit of language on their part than anything else.

It was just unacceptable

The back page had questions about the arrangements for airport meetings and other issues. It gave me the opportunity to excoriate the process that allowed for passengers on the same flight to receive two different sets of instructions which lead to my having to wait another 70 minutes after seeing the driver who came to pick me up.

As the manager tried to belittle the situation, I forcefully made it clear that it was untenable, appalling and an outrage that such a simple arrangement could be so utterly mishandled that it would weigh heavily on my assessment of the arrangements around the course. I stated that the many issues I have will appear on my blog.

After that discussion, I was allocated a training room in another building and I was surprised to find I was the only trainee with the luxury of one-to-one training – I had felt a group will make for more interaction – I cannot say I have appreciated the full benefit of this arrangement yet.

A sick bag almost utilised

After introductions, we went through the schedule of the training scheme and began to work on the subjects.

Meanwhile, I had to book lunch on the management system and I was in shock that brought me close to severe emetic tolerance when the drop-down menu revealed such exquisite restaurants as McDonalds, Subway and Dominoes amongst others.

At the risk of snobbery most unintended, I gave the trainer a synopsis of my background that tailed off with the phrase, “… we don’t do McDonalds.”

These are places where even if one did have a pet, such will not be found masticating those substances pretending to nutrition and I did not travel 6,300km to India to end up in such places.

On advice, beside the training centre was a vegetarian buffet offering varieties of cuisine, though there were security checks at the door – with the help of my trainer, I found out what to do and had vegetarian sandwiches for lunch.

One expects

In all, the day was productive and useful; I gained knowledge of many things whilst at the same time I was able to share some of my experience. I would have had a coffee but the setting of the coffee machine was so foul that I gave that a miss; one will surely remonstrate on the morrow about the condition of that place.

For all the equality, egalitarianism and affordability taking courses in India offers, there are areas where the apparent excess of men to perform seemingly menial tasks has not been efficiently deployed. Such minutiae should not become a distraction bordering on regret and so amends will be expected to be made.

After training, I made arrangements to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra in two Sundays time and on returning to our inn, we first had room service of a roll of bread and a cup of soup and then managed the dinner which was barely edible but for the good company the setting provided.

I have decided I will not apologise for being so Europeanised in my outlook, if one expects, it is not vexatious to demand essential change.