Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Persistent Systems and Mr. Anand Deshpande.

I think in last 7-8 years Persistent Systems has grown by leaps and bounds. I always wondered what is the key to Persistent's phenomenal growth. Few months back I met Mr. Anand Deshpande (CEO of Persistent) during a CSI (Computer Society of India) event. Well, I met him for 10 min but I keenly listened when he was talking to others. I also had a chance to have some informal discussion with few other Persistent employees. I am impressed with clear and practical thoughts and ideas of Anand Deshpande. Consider following ideas.

1. Persistent employees are deeply involved in organizations like Computer Society of India (CSI) and Pune Open Coffe club, ACM Pune chapter
Anand Deshpande encouraged Persistent employees to get involved in organization like CSI, Pune Open Coffee Club for long time. Now Persistent employees are key to these organizations. Persistent also allows these organizations to use its infrastructure like conference rooms, training rooms etc. This policy has given some great advantages to Persistent. The developers who get involved in these organizations usually care for 'their craft'. They are passionate about software and about developing their own skills. Now consider a developer who is involved in CSI and is now interested in changing his job. First company he is going to consider is Persistent, because he already knows the people from CSI work. And Persistent is getting some good developers with such personal contacts.

If this is such a good policy, why other companies don't do it ??
Problem is a company will get these benefits only if it consistently does this for 5/6 years at least. So companies who focus visible benefits in short term will never do this. Most of the companies (i.e. their management) don't have this long term vision.

2. College projects
Typically companies who sponsor college projects do it this way.
  • Send a mail to all employees asking for ideas for projects.
  • Company insists the project has to be in the technology domain that company works in.
  • Usually at most 3/4 people reply. Some time nobody replies
  • So company has a list of 3 or 4 projects 
  • Since companies don't regularly work with colleges or give the list of projects to colleges, this works on personal contacts of students (i.e. students parents).
Obviously there are no great benefits to students or companies.

Usually companies publish 'list of projects'. Persistent publishes a list of 'mentors' and mentor's expertise areas And this is a Key difference. Now students work on their project ideas. And based on technology and problem domain and the quality of project idea Persistent chooses the projects and assigns a mentor. This way mentor's work in areas of their own expertise. As far as I know, there is no restriction that the project has to be the domain that Persistent works in. 

Now this process works great for Students and for Persistent. Students get to work on their own ideas rather than somebody else's idea. Students have to meet their mentors every week. And Persistent gets to know the students and can pick up good ones. Since the project students already know Persistent and its developers they are more likely to join Persistent than other company.

Persistent is the only company I know who have such practical policy on college projects.

3. Courses for college professors.
Last few years Persistent is running one week course for professors of computer science departments in colleges in the month of May. Again there is unique approach. This course is not about some latest buzz word techniques like 'cloud computing, Sliverlight etc'. This course is about some topic that these professors have to teach in next semester in their college (for example, 'algorithms'). So whatever these professor's earn in this course they will use immediately to teach their students in their colleges. 

Again Professors  benefit, Students benefit and Persistent benefits. We crib about quality of students coming out of colleges and quality of professors in such colleges. So Anand Deshpande concentrates on how to improving the skills of professors and indirectly the skills of students coming out these colleges. Now next time Persistent goes to these colleges for campus interviews, it will get to choose from the best. Also it already knows about quality of professors in those colleges. So it can decide which colleges to go for campus interviews. Again a win-win for everyone involved.

Just three policies told me a lot about Why Persistent is so successful. The secret ingredient of Persistent's success in 'vision and ideas of its founder Anand Deshpande'. My admiration for the company and especially it's founder increased many fold based on just one encounter. 

Congratulations Anand Deshpande for mentoring and developing a great organization. 
And Thanks. Just once chance encounter gave me lot of ideas. I hope I will get a chance to work with you.