When techies at VMware took on Bollywood

What can you do to stir up a bleary Wednesday afternoon and give engineers something unexpected yet clever to sink their teeth into?

We hosted a Bollywood quiz for the R&D engineers of VMware and ended up unearthing some hitherto unnoticed skills in the process such as: 'can decipher minimalistic posters at breakneck speed'; 'knows all stolen Hindi numbers'; 'lit fanboy' and 'B&W movies ka don'.

The event was a small let-your-hair-down part of our offerings to the software company where we engage employees in meaningful ways that whets their curiosity and gets them into a shape that is conducive for innovation. Omkar Yarguddi was in charge of proceedings as the quizmaster.

For the 45-minute duration of the quiz, the cafeteria was brimming with cheers, laughter and childlike urge for attention (of the quizmaster) as the techies blitzed past questions such as "What one word connects Dilip Kumar, Suchitra Sen, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay?" to "In the late 80s, the civil war in Afghanistan came to a standstill because the Government was hosting the cast and crew of which film?" (Answers below.)

The audio round was enough to have people screaming above the tracks for the answers, in their enthusiasm to be the first - at one point Harish actually had to ask if anyone wanted to guess what the answer is even before the audio clip was played!

Just as filmy dialogues, melodies and stories are a part of all of us wherever we go, fun and enthusiasm should as much be a part of work and everything you do. It is nice to have a reminder of that once in a while.

Here are some more questions from the quiz:

3. What term connects the lead actress of “Rab ne bana di Jodi” with something that runs between Delhi and the town of Fazilka in Punjab?

4. Cautionary message at the end of which 1998 film?

“This film is an attempt on my part to reach out to all those people who took to violence as a means for their living. At the end of it, even if one of them out there looks into himself before he takes out his gun the next time, and understands that the pain he inflicts on others is exactly the same as he would suffer himself, I would consider this effort worthwhile.”

Answers to above questions:

1. Devdas
2. Khuda Gawah
3. NH10
4. Satya

What does a tomato have to do with managing your time?

Image: johnnyberg/freeimages.com The Pomodoro Technique, created by Italian Francesco Cirillo, suggests that you divide your working time into blocks of 25 minutes (when you work), followed by a 5 minute break (when you rest your mind, catch up on email etc.).

The idea is that it helps to alternate work and breaks, that it's hard to focus beyond 30 mins at a time, and that you can get more productivity by not mixing work & recreation (which has become quite difficult given the environments most of us operate under these days).

Some people who've tried it have opted to extend the duration of a period from 25 to 45, followed by a 15 minute break (essentially following a 60 min cycle, rather than a 30 min cycle). Which makes sense since switching in and out of context has to be budgeted for.

Others have just ignored it and stuck to their own messy but tried ways of operating. This model is hard to pull off if you aren't in too much control of your own work time: if you are interrupted by peers, managers, emails, calls, telemarketers, tweets etc. But we think it's worth a try.

You can use a simple alarm clock or set your mobile phone's alarm to do this. You even get specialised apps/browser extensions to manage this (we've tried them - mostly overkill and a reason to procrastinate).

Oh, and what does a tomato have to do with all this? "Pomodoro" means "tomato" in Italian. Apparently, Cirillo, used a timer in the shape of a tomato to try this method.

Yes, they have a website for it.