Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Things you should know before buying Gold Jewellery

I am not a fan of Gold and I consider wearing gold as a weird thing. I don't consider Gold more valuable than some other element like Iron in the periodic table, but we live in a country where gold traditionally plays a major role in every important event in your life. During my engagement, very reluctantly I bought a ring for me. I chose the smallest ring that one might have bought for engagement and my wife still complains about it :-). Again there may be numerous occasions where you have to buy gold for your sister, your nephew and so on even if you don't like.

Since I had been to jewellery shops a couple of times to buy gold now, I learned a few things about purchasing Gold.

Here are some of the points I learned:

What is Karat? Why do the jewellers mention 22 Karat ?

24 Karat is pure gold, but it is too soft and ornaments made out of it may not last longer. In India what we get from jewellery is usually 22 Karat Gold. That means it contains a certain percentage of other metals like Cadmium and Copper. 22 Karat means it contains (22/24) * 100 = 91.6 percentage Gold and remaining percentage contains other metals. That is why it is known as 916 Gold.

Suppose it is 21 Karat Gold, then it contains 21/24 *100 =87.5 percentage Gold. So to get more value, make sure that you are buying 22 Karat Gold.

What is BIS certification?

To ensure the purity of Gold and to prevent fraud, hallmarking Scheme was launched by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The BIS certified jewellers can get their jewellery hallmarked from any of the BIS recognized assaying and hallmarking Center.
For example 916 hallmark from BIS ensures that it contains 91.6 percentage Gold or 22 Karat.
For more information see:

How do Jewellers Calculate Price of Gold ?
Jewellery price include the following:
1. Price of gold as per market rate for the day * number of grams of gold
2. Making charges
3. Wastage charges
4. VAT
Suppose you are buying jewellery worth 8gm gold and the market price for gold is 20000 for 8gms.
The price of jewellery= 20000+ making charges+ wastage charges+ VAT

What are Wastage Charges?

Jewellers claim that a certain percentage of Gold is lost when you make ornaments from Gold. I don't buy this argument since you are using machinery to make jewels these days and also even if there is a Goldsmith I heard that the Goldsmith can recover a substantial percentage of Gold wasted while manufacturing. Even if Gold is wasted, it may be minimal.

Unfortunately we have to pay for this wastage charge since there is no norm from government about it.The wastage charges vary from jewellery to jewellery and it is between 8 to 20 percent. It is where the jewellers make huge profit. If they are charging more than 10-12 percent you should negotiate to reduce the price. It may be possible to get it reduced by 2-3 percentages if you are making bulk purchases.

What are Making Charges?

Making charges are the cost involved in making jewellery from pure gold. It includes the price of additional metals and labor charges of the goldsmith. Most jewellers will club making charge and wastage charge together and name it as value addition charge. Some may charge it separately. Here also you can negotiate to reduce the price.

What is VAT ?

Value Added Tax(VAT) is a tax on the final consumption of goods or services and is ultimately borne by the consumer.It is usually charged at 1 percent for precious metals like Gold.

Some Important Points to Keep in Mind:

Jewellery is just another business- Don't go to a jewellery shop with the mindset that you are entering a temple. Ask the price of every item in detail like making charge and wastage charge. If you are a regular visitor or purchase in larger quantity negotiate on making charge and wastage charge. The better you negotiate the more benefit you will get. I had my own experience when my relative negotiated in a jewellery shop they said you are the first guy who negotiates in a jewellery shop like you are going to a vegetable market and they tried everything to make him feel ashamed. But he insisted and finally he succeeded to get a reduced price :-)

Buy gold only from reputed jewellers or jewellers you trust- All jewelers may not be selling 22 Karat Gold while charging you the price for 22 Karat Gold. Ensure that the 916 hallmark is present in each item you buy.

Check the market price and find out the making charges before you go to a jewellery shop - It is better to check that days market price before you go to a jewellery shop. It would be good if you can find out about the making charges also.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Getting into Technical Writing

A few years back, when I used to say I work as a technical writer many people didn't know and some of them used to raise their eye brows. I had a difficult time explaining technical writing to those confused souls around. I am not sure whether we should thank the training companies or the rumors about handsome packages offered for technical writers. But for some reason, these days I am getting a lot of queries from people from different sections of the society about technical writing. Most of them wanted to know how to get into technical writing for their spouses or cousins. So I am dedicating this post to all those enthusiastic individuals and trying to answer some of the common queries:

What does a technical writer do?

As a technical writer in a software company, you need to write documentation for different software and hardware products. You need to go through engineering specifications, gather information from subject matter experts, research about complex details and develop that information into clear and concise instructions that is useful for end users of the product. Technical writers have to create a variety of documentation outputs including user guides, online help, and installation guides depending on the requirements of users.

How can I get into technical writing? Do I need to join a course?

Like most of the other careers, technical writing can be learned on the job. In India very few universities provides courses in technical communication and if you have a basic degree, that is sufficient. But sometimes if you have a degree in journalism, English literature, or computer science it will give you an added advantage depending on the company where you apply. If you have no idea about technical writing, doing a technical writing course from a private institute may help you. But I wonder whether the institutes that charges you sky rocketing fees are worth joining. If you can learn Java or CCNA training course for 10000-20000 rupees (I have done CCNA and Java training courses and CCNA course definitely requires more expensive infrastructure), I can’t understand the logic in charging 35000-75000 rupees for a technical writing course. Most technical writing institutes are just making hay while Sun shines.

Most institutes provide you an overview of technical writing and teach one or two tools used by technical writers and most of these things you can learn by yourself. If you do a Google search, you can get a fair idea about technical writing and common tools that are used in technical writing. You can download trial versions of the tools and explore them in your own. Most commonly used authoring tools include Adobe Framemaker or Arbortext Editor for authoring user manuals and Robohelp for online help generation.Again, tools will be different from company to company and your mastery over one tool may not give you a lot of brownie points when you are searching for a job. Tools you can learn by practice but developing good writing skills requires a lot of effort and time. So technical writing may not be a good option for you if your writing skills are below average.

What are the necessary skills required for a technical writer?

The primary skill you require is an ability to learn new technologies quickly and write about the technologies in simple English for end users. You should have an aptitude for research that will help you to develop the primary information you receive from subject matter experts and given in the engineering documents into a form of content useful for end users. Good communication skills will give you a lot of advantage since you needs to interact with subject matter experts to collect information. Also, you should be familiar with the common authoring tools used by technical writers.

I have a fair idea about technical writing and I have the necessary skills, but I am not seeing many openings in newspapers or job sites. How can I apply for a technical writing job?

Technical writing community is growing in India but still it is relatively small compared to the other professions and technical writing openings are mostly shared with in the community.
Subscribe to Technical Writers of India ( and Society of Technical Communication India Chapter ( mailing lists for job openings. You can also check the jobs posted at Technical Writers of India Website
Getting into a big company is most of the time difficult if you lack experience, but many small companies hires technical writers without experience as trainees. So, if you are a fresher try applying in small companies and work for two or three years and then try in a big company.

I got an interview call from company A, but I have no idea how to prepare for the interview. What should I do ?

In most companies there will be a written test to assess your writing skills followed by one or two rounds of interview. The written test may have questions to test your knowledge about English grammar and also a few scenarios to see how well you can express your ideas in a layman’s language using technical writing principles. Based on your performance in the written test, you may be called for an interview. It would be good if you carry some work samples with you or you can point to your blog or content you authored online. The interviewer may ask you questions about the sample projects you have done, the process you followed or the tools you had used. If you are a fresher, expect questions from the subjects you studied in college. Try to learn about the company you are applying and the domain they are working. You can expect a few questions about the product domain of the company.

Finally I wanted to give some advice for those who just wanted to get into technical writing only because they heard from some body that it is a cake walk and pay handsomely.

Technical writing is not rocket science but it is not everyone’s cup of tea – True, technical writing is not rocket science and it can be learned. If you are willing to learn new technologies and you can write about technology in a simple language you can become a technical writer. But for all those creative geniuses, there is not much scope for creative writing in technical writing. Technical writing is only considered as a necessary evil by most engineers and you should be prepared to do a thankless job in many situations. Technical writer's time is mostly spend on routine tasks like interacting with subject matter experts, following up with engineers to get the content reviewed and fixing the errors in the documents. If you are working for a services company most of the time you have to work on unrealistic time lines to meet deadlines and the indefinite wait to get information from busy subject matter experts will test your patience.

Growth Opportunities are limited in technical writing- In India we give a lot of importance to titles and the general notion is one should become a manager in a few years. Definitely you can grow as a professional by learning new technologies, developing expertise in your domain and the processes related to your company as a technical writer. But, if you are too ambitious and want to climb the corporate ladder immediately you may be disappointed after a few years in technical writing. Growth opportunities for a technical writer are definitely less compared to other professions.
Some useful links:

Some books I found useful as a beginner:
  • Read me first! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry by Sun Technical Publications
  • Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook for Writers and Editors by IBM
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tips to Pass CCNA examination

I have cleared CCNA Routing and Switching examination last month and I found it a bit difficult to crack because I am attempting an examination after long time. Here are my takeaways from attempting the exam.

What is CCNA - My trainer asked this question to us in the first class. According to my trainer, CCNA is an examination that tests your ability to setup, troubleshoot and maintain a small network. It covers the basics of routing, switching and other fundamentals of networking. Whatever be the ideal definition, it is simply like another examination where it tests how better prepared you are for the examination and how do you manage time to answer questions than how much you know or your capability to set up and maintain a network. CCNA is an online exam of 2 hours (for non-native English speakers) consists of around 50 questions. The questions are a mix of theory and practical simulations. You may get 48-55 questions out of which three or four will be simulations. To pass the exam you need to get a strange 825 out of 1000. May be the people who first designed this exam got 825 when they tried it out :-)

If you have time it is better to join an institute and study even though you are aware of the concepts. It will help you to go through all the topics in a systematic manner. If you do self-study, sometimes you may not go through the portions where you lack interest. It would be ideal to attend the examination immediately after the training if you want to pass the exam. There are two reasons for this. One reason is you may forget what you have learned. The other reason is you need to do the simulation part really faster if you want to pass the exam and it would be ideal if you appear the exam after regular practice for some time. For practice you can download Cisco Packet Tracer.

If you want to pass the exam, set aside all your preferences. Even if you don't like switching part a lot like the boring how to find a route bridge, designated port so on remember for some reason Cisco loves switches a lot. May be because it gave those billions of dollars what they have now in the bank. Expect a lot of questions from switching and be prepared for that. Even if you work on Cisco routers set aside some time and study all the portions including concepts in switching. Some of the other important portions include sub-netting, access control lists, EIGRP, RIP, and OSPF.

One of the important parts of the exam is simulations. How do you handle the simulations decide if you pass or not. Usually there are 3-4 simulation questions. Try to finish your theory questions faster and then attempt simulations. Even if you do one simulation wrong the chances of passing the examination is rare. Practice mock tests and don't attempt the examination till you score more than 90 percent in the mock examination.
See which is an excellent resource for CCNA sample questions and simulations:

I have referred the CCNA book by Todd Lamle that explains concepts in a simple manner. Go through all the questions given at the end of each chapter in the book because many of them are repeatedly seen in the CCNA examination.

Lessons that I can share:
1. Study for one month dedicatedly and do rigorous practice for simulations to improve speed.
2. Go through mock tests.
3. Finish the theory questions as fast as possible so that you get enough time to attempt simulations.
4. CCNA is like just another examination where how well prepared you are for the exam is more important than how much you know.
5. Time management is very important since you have to attempt 50 questions and 3-4 simulations within 2 hours.

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