Amazingly weird people – what would we do without them?

October 26, 2010 at 10:56 pm 3 comments

Every year for the past 5 – 6 years I have been working with individuals who have dedicated much of their valuable time toward making sure that the depth that exists in the Pakistan IT industry is recognized domestically and across the region. They have spent countless hours, days and many a sleepless night working with companies and individuals to ensure that they are ready to face the tough criteria laid down by the Asia Pacific ICT Awards (APICTA) Judging Committee. The same criteria is used to assess applications submitted for the P@SHA ICT Awards.

Each year I continue to be amazed by the selfless dedication of these individuals. Why do they do it? Some people think it is because I bully them into it, that they can’t refuse otherwise I would nag them to kingdom come. But that is not it – that is not it at all.

These gentlemen have faith in the expertise and talent that exists in Pakistan and they have a strong belief that the applications developed here are second to none in technological innovation and quality. Customers that our companies have worked with are already aware of this. However, the message needs to be broadcast far and wide for us to be able to scale up as only we know we can. And what better way to do that than to ensure that we are present at international events where we can benchmark our applications with those developed in other hi-tech markets – and prove ourselves beyond question to be at par with them, if not better.

On several visits to APICTA we have taken over conference rooms, executive lounges, lobbies or hung out in one of our rooms with several teams of nominees till the early hours, going over presentations, demanding they be rebuilt from scratch, tweaking the way presentations are delivered, asking tough questions, being absolutely ruthless in our comments. The reason? It is better that nominees go through this “hell”with us rather than in front of an international panel. Sometimes I wonder what goes through the minds of CEOs, CTOs, VPs and Directors of organizations as they are ripped apart by these seasoned judges a few days, or sometimes even the night before they are to make their presentations at APICTA.

Do they hate us? Do they ask themselves “Who do they think they are anyway?”. Do they curse us in the deep recesses of their hearts? Well, apparently not (or maybe they are just not admitting it?) 😉

This partial message from one of our nominees at APICTA 2010 warmed our hearts:

Getting crucified & pushed forward at the same time by the judges has given us tremendous confidence in what we’re up to. And by trying to show you why ‘xyz’ is important and how we can make it grow faster, we have also learned why it’s important and how to grow it faster. So you probably made us learn a lot more than you know 🙂 I wanted to write to you to show my sincere appreciation for the awesomeness, dedication and competence of the entire team.

It is one of several messages that we have received so far and it shows that nominees understand and appreciate that no matter how “vicious” the training may seem, the intent is a good one and usually delivers results.

It is only when people travel with us, or are involved in training locally before the teams depart for an international destination, do they realize the “blood and sweat” and teamwork that goes into prepping for these Awards. From the time the nominees win the local Awards, they are connected with mentors in the three main cities – Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, and the rigorous task of training them for international participation begins.

Those who take advantage of this opportunity, and implement the changes that they are asked to, benefit. Those who don’t, wish they had. It is a lesson learnt the hard way.

Although it is important to take some of the same Judges to APICTA each year because they have built up a rapport with judges from the region, and also have a certain amount of credibility with the organizers, it is also important to add on new judges so that the pool of mentors and judges continues to expand over time. So each year we recruit at least one new judge. This also shows our friends in the region that we have a large number of qualified professionals within our industry.

And you know what? It is not only the judges that adopt this “all for one and one for all” attitude. Nominees to APICTA and previous winners are also drawn into the magic circle. You can see them helping each other, working with each other, making suggestions, and celebrating the success of their comrades. The unity is great to see, wonderful to experience.

As I watch these guys each year mentoring, coaching, demonstrating, as they fight sleep and are ready to pull their hair out while explaining for the umpteenth time why sales presentations won’t work at competitions such as APICTA, I can’t keep the smile from my lips. These are people I trust, people whom I have great respect for and whose opinions matter to me and to all the teams that they have worked with over the years. I am proud to count them amongst my circle of friends. Thank you Jawwad, Zafar, Sultan, Nadeem, Adnan, Badar, Yusuf, Imran and all the others who continue to contribute to the success and growth of this industry that we all believe in and cherish.


I just re-read the post Jawwad Farid wrote as he left APICTA 2010 and I simply had to add these two bits from his post (though I really would suggest that you read the entire post he has written on this subject):

The process changes all of us. It changes the participants first of all because they are now able to look beyond their sales presentation and look upon themselves as ambassadors to the region. It changes us as Judges as we see the quality of work and the commitment of our delegation to not just winning but putting our best foot forward as a group. But most importantly it changes everyone who sees the results from APICTA EXCO members to delegates from twenty two countries in the region, who look at how far we have come in the last few years, despite all our challenges and handicaps. More importantly it allows us to reset the benchmark for everyone; for what qualifies as the best of the best in the Asia Pacific region when it comes to technology and the impact it must create on every life that it touches.

At the Jakarta APICTA Awards in 2008 all our hard work was validated with three wins. TPS, Pixsense and Kraysis came back home with the winners trophies. The 7 merit awards across 6 diverse categories at APICTA 2010, Kula Lumpur, Malaysia, this Friday, proved that our wins in Singapore, Jakarta and Australia were not flukes. Great software gets written in Pakistan by great engineers who with a little bit of brow beating and abuse from their mentors (onsite and offsite) are able to stand on their own and make great pitches in front of international judges. Even nominees that don’t pick up the first two wins no longer come home empty handed. They come back with the respect of their fellow delegates, of the panel of judges who reviewed and judged them and of the mentors who worked with them. For in the end the difference between success and failure is but a few decisions and that has never been more truer than at APICTA.

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Hasnain Akhtar talks about his APICTA experience P@SHA News Special Edition!

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