Do you have problems with Niche Skills ?

nicheWe live in an era of ever changing technology. The development of the educational and training system has provided us with a huge influx of talented people. Technology keeps changing and so does the talent pool. People keep jumping into new endeavors to learn new skills and at times they get into something which is NICHE. Internet is full of pages with details about what Niche IT skills are but to summarize; a skill becomes niche when either the technology becomes very old like Fortran, TCL, BASIC, PASCAL or it is the very latest like NoSql, Mongodb to name a few.

Having niche skills in IT industry is a challenge, not because learning it is very difficult, but because coping-up with its demand is a big task. Niche skill-set can get you a decent paying job but finding this job remains a daunting task. And even if you find yourself lucky in getting a nice project you remain vulnerable. You will be one of the guys who knows the stuff, so most of the things come to you and then because its difficult to find new opportunities. its tough to negotiate with your demands.

Now the question arises when a skill becomes niche should’nt it be in huge demand? Not necessarily. Even if the demand is huge its stays for a very less time. And in most scenarios the demand stays but can’t be fulfilled. Most of the times it becomes difficult to explain to the recruiters about the technology for example in my case I had a hard time telling my recruiting manager that I have worked on Tcl Scripting and she only knew javascript. What’s this Tcl Scripting … ?

Its worse when you face a non-technical recruiter, explaining your skillset becomes a hell lot off a job specially when its so niche that even technical guys gape at it. So there comes a disconnect, Companies need guys with these skills but the recruitment team can’t understand the requirements and hence can’t find proper guys, while on the other side people with such skills sit whole day uploading resumes on useless non responsive job databases. Most of the times companies end up hiring people with some other skills and then they train them spending huge amount of money.

So what can be a solution to this problem?

In my view there can be multiple things which the bigger community of hiring managers, technical teams and recruitment can do.

The technical teams should be very specific and clear with the requirements. If the skills required are niche then the skillset should be very well defined with related information sources so that the hiring and recruitment teams get to know about the requirements in detail.

The recruitment team if into technical hiring should have atleast basic technical know how and incase they are looking for a niche requirement they should do some homework before hunting.

Even after all that the candidate with the niche skills still has to do some hardwork. He should be more expressive in his resume, if the skills are niche then put a bit more detail about the projects. On job hunting sites put the skill tags efficiently and use some related tags to guide recruiters to the profile.

The points mentioned here are purely based on my experiences and I expect comments and critical feedback from you on this. This would help.

Things I learnt from The Adventures of Jim Corbett

Not much introduction is required for Jim Corbett. As the Wikipedia says :

“Edward James “Jim” Corbett (25 July 1875 in Nainital, India – 19 April 1955 in Nyeri,Kenya) was a legendary British hunter and tracker-turned-conservationist, author andnaturalist, famous for hunting a large number of man-eating tigers and leopards in India.Book Cover

I have read some of his famous books like: Man-Eaters of Kumaon and The Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag and I would like to say that being an expert hunter he was indeed a great writer. His books tell astounding and amazing adventures and encounters with the wildlife, and while his stories remain a historical register for the events in that era, they are also a great source of information on strategy, planning, detailing and hardwork.

So coming back to the topic of my post I would like to share some of the key points which I learnt from Corbett’s experiences:

  • Passion: Reading even a single chapter of his books will tell you the level of passion Corbett had towards his work and duty. Though he was a freelancer and hobbyist but many a times his projects were funded by the govt, but that never made a difference towards his dedication.
  • Strategy and Planning: Jim Corbett’s secret of being so successful in killing so many dreadful man-eaters is not only his bravery but more than that he was a great strategist. He used to have specific plans for each of the targets. His tactics and plans were at times so novel and result oriented that even experienced hunters remained clueless of his ways.
  • Learning from Experiences: The greatness of Corbett lies in his strength of learning from his experiences. He tactics and maneuvers in the jungle were not always dictated by the target but at times he used his wits and learning to tame the game towards his traps. On many occasions he directed a tigress towards the trap just by calling her by imitating the call of a tiger.
  • Attention to Detail: Corbett used to use his environment and surroundings to his advantage. A flip of a leaf, a chirp of a bird, monkey and kakkar warnings were all used to locate the target. Wind directions were at times used to decide the location of the machaan (platform erected in a tree, ) or the trap. His analysis of the footprints of the animals was amazing, he could get so much information about the target just by the footprints like age, gender, speed, direction and the time.
  • Self belief and Leadership: It would be wrong to say that Corbett never believed on others that’s why he avoided taking other hunters with him on his expedition. It was his self belief and confidence over his subject. He never wanted to fall into a situation of cross fire and misunderstandings. So though he always worked as a team but he seldom took others into the jungle. He used other resources for tasks like trap building, food, logistics, preparation of the bait etc. He always lead from the front and as he always knew about the nature of the danger he avoided putting others into problem. On a few occasions he took his friend and a fellow hunter Ibbotson on his expeditions because they had a very good understanding and knew each others strength very well.
  • Hardwork: It would not be wrong if I say Corbett was a hunting machine. There were scenarios where he stayed on a very uncomfortable tree branch, or on ropes hanging from trees for more that ten hours and that too without making any sound and movements. He used to walk miles in a day on a terrain difficult even for the locals. On many a occasions he preferred walking over taking a horse with him just to avoid getting noticed and missing the target.
  • Care and Respect: Though he was a dreadful hunter but that was only for his targets, he was actually a person with a very nice heart. On most of his expeditions he himself faced the danger just to keep the villagers safe. On several occasions he stayed with the frightened people to increase their confidence. He slept alone in open to keep vigil and secure the people from the man-eaters. Many a times he went into petrifying situations in the jungle just to bring back the remains of the dead people from the clutches of the tigers so that the last rites can be performed.
  • Knowledge Sharing: Last but not the least the most important character of Corbett which I liked was the way he shared his knowledge with others. He shared almost all his tactics and methods with people. He documented most of his adventures taking utmost care towards detail. He used to analyse the cause of a tiger becoming man-eater and he found that in most of the cases these animals became man-eaters because of the human actions like hunting games, where tigers were wounded and left in the jungle to find easy human prey in the villages around. He tried to remove lots of misconceptions and superstitions surrounding the wild animals.

These were some of the things which learnt from Corbett’s experiences and the list is not exhaustive.

Would request your comments and feedback. Any additions to the above list is most welcome.

Create a simple TCL Package

Please find a simple way to create a tcl package:

We will take create simple calculator package named “calc” with two functions “add” and “sub”
So first we will find tcl library. It is generally the folder which has file with other shared object files which are sourced with the tclsh command.
Now we will create a folder named “calc” same as the package name
Inside this folder we will place two files.
First is the calc.tcl. This file will have the namespace calc with the procs add and sub

# Register the package
package provide calc 1.0
package require Tcl 8.4

# Create the namespace
namespace eval ::calc {
# Export commands
namespace export add sub

# Create procedure in the namespace
proc ::calc::add {a b} {
set result [expr $a + $b]
return $result

proc ::calc::sub {a b} {
set result [expr $a – $b]
return $result

The second file will be the pkgIndex.tcl.
This file will have a line with the package ifneeded command pointing to the tcl file with the namespace.
package ifneeded calc 1.0 “[list source [file join $dir calc.tcl]]”

After setting the files we can now check the package. Remeber the folder calc with the above two files should be in the tcl library path, which in my case is in /opt/tcl8.4/lib
Now we can go into the tcl shell using the command /opt/tcl/bin/tclsh
And use the procs like calc::add 5 4



bash-2.03$ pwd
bash-2.03$ cd calc/
bash-2.03$ ls
calc.tcl pkgIndex.tcl
bash-2.03$ /opt/tcl8.4/bin/tclsh
% package require calc 1.0
% calc::add 5 4
% calc::sub 7 9
% exit