I’ve two bad habits.
I’m lazy. I dont like to do repeatitive works.
Also, I’m a perfectionist. I don’t like compromising on quality. Rather, I want my work to be at par with professionals at the least utilisation of resources.
I use resources available optimally to find a solution where there is no compromise on quality. Also, If required, I learn new things. If anyone can do it, I can learn it and can do it.
My Experiment with Database
I remember when I joined my first job, my department head called me one day and asked do you know MS Excel. It was the month of October, the month I joined. At the end of the financial year in March-end, we were preparing a lot of reports using Excel. I said, I’ve not worked yet, as I never worked on anything that needed its use. However, I’ll learn.
By next week, I had gone through various Excel and Advanced Excel tutorials available on the internet. I learned not just theories. But, also the capabilities of Excel.
I was working as a Facultative Underwriter accepting risks from all around the world. My job was to complete the paperwork and communicate. I was not the decision-maker. I found the database currently being used to maintain the details of risks we accept is more of a register rather than a database. There were gaps between entries for easy reading. There was no uniformity. We were entering the same source of business or countries with various names. Like the United Arab Emirates, UAE, U.A.E, U.A.E., etc. Further, there was a word template in which we were again entering almost the same information for approvals. Lastly, for preparing any report, we were then pulling information manually. You can understand if we input the garbage, the output will also be garbage.
So, by February, I decided that I can’t do the same repetitive work to enter same data at 2-3 times, plus if someone asks for a report, I require to sit extra in the office to prepare the report. I decided to prepare a database based entry system, from where I will fetch data to take the print out for approvals. The output of data from a standard database would be easy and minutes job, rather than hours.
I started looking at the options, I’m having. Microsoft Access was available as part of the package. But, I was not in the mood to get any help from my IT team. Otherwise, it will get stuck in approvals. Also, they might suggest to outsource it. Secondly, whether I succeed in my plan or fail. I want to be the owner of my work. So, based on my earlier exposure with Excel. I knew that even if Excel has some limitations. But, it can be used for my requirements.
I prepared a detailed plan and started reading various advanced functions of Excel. By the 1st of April, I was ready with my database based system. I presented it to my boss. After reviewing, my boss and department head praised me by clapping coming near my desk encouraging me. It reduced my working hours per offer tremendously. And, dramatically reduced the turnaround time, if seniors ask for any report.
Later on, I shifted from Facultative to Treaty Underwriting. I transformed the treaty database too. It was much tougher than as for Facultative. It took more than double time. I left the job after working for 6 years. Still, the system prepared by me is in use.
Compact and Smart Data Submission
Every insurance company protects its balance sheet by Reinsurance Arrangement. It’s in two forms. Treaty, a yearly contract with Reinsurers wherein various risks coverage are under pre-agreed terms and conditions. And Facultative, reinsurer go through each risk accept based on its merits.
In the first year of joining my first job, I was assisting in formating the data for treaty submission. The data sent to the reinsurer was in the arbit format. It was surprising. We were sending reinsurers several excel files as attachments of a word file along with several other documents. It felt as if it’s totally unorganized. The presentation was not up to the mark.
In the second year, I told my boss I want to change the way of presentation. I prepared the data as last year. However, I pasted those data in an orderly fashion in a word file as tables. I prepared a book. It was having a nice beautiful cover; table of contents; a writeup about local insurance scenario, introduction to our the treaty programme and its structure, update about the losses, any changes that we propose, etc; section-wise data and contact details of reinsurance team. It was a complete package. It was printer friendly, easy to read and most importantly organized and orderly. We were also sending the data in excel format if someone wants to work on them. In the first year itself, I received a lot of praise from my teammates and external stakeholders. Some even described it as the best submission from the Indian Insurance Market.
Later on, I keep on improving the quality of data that we were presenting. I started extracting the raw data from the system and was compiling it from scratch. My old colleagues are still using the same format to prepare the data submission.
Network File Repository
It was 2015. We were almost 8-9 persons in the department. In the last year, there was a lot of changes in the department personnel. Most of the senior persons from the department transferred to other roles in other offices of the company. We were not working on any centralised software. Transfer of senior persons resulted in a void of information. The seniors were maintaining one or another critical information on their Workstations as per their work. However, even if they had organized it wonderfully on their system, it was a hard time to find it. Further, we were not knowing whether they saved any particular information in their mailbox or any specific folders.
We were having old PCs of the transferred employees, IT had not taken it back. I thought to connect one of such PC with the network. A shared folder was available in each of these old PCs. The use of these folders was to receive scanned files directly from the scanner. Informally, I discussed with my IT team earlier to create a folder accessible only by department people. But, foolishly they declined it saying shared folders are more vulnerable to viruses. Already there was a folder in each PC which was accessible by any other PC in the internal network. I was just asking them to limit the accessibility from everyone to named ones.
Anyways, I don’t argue with IT people. I have worked in IT and computers much more than most of them. But, it might result in a conflict of ego. If you argue with someone who is regarded as an expert.
I did all the research on how to limit folders access. I was knowing the IT team use one administrative account to install printers or run any update. They were changing the password every week or so. However, the technician sometimes used to give the password in case there is just minor work, rather than coming in person. I had requested for a new printer. I got the delivery of the new printer these days. The technician installed it. But, there was still some pending work of duplex which has not arrived. Once, it came, he gave me an administrative password as a usual practice to do a minor change in setting. I completed the printer work, and also set up the shared folder in one of the old PC for limited access.
Then, I called in a meeting of department people and presented the idea of Centralised File Repository. I had created a hierarchy of folders in the shared folder for each sort of works in the department. Then, I assigned the task to Everyone as per their specific roles to complete the repository. I shifted the files which were already available in the PCs of current employees in specific folders. Some crucial documents were in hard format. As per the roles of current employees, I asked them to collect their hard format documents from files, scan them and organise on the network location.
It took 3-4 months to completely populate the Repository. As the folder’s main function was as to directly receive scanned documents. Any newly signed document can be scanned and kept as and when processed, before filing it. I used to take a backup of the folder on my system. As we were not getting help from IT, we could not use backup software, for real-time backup sync or version storage.
Afterwards, the network folder soon became a dependency for the department. The folder was used in the best way by our department head. Whenever there is a chance, he had a habit not to sit in his cabin. But, work from a desk where all of us were sitting. If someone is absent, he used to use the free desktop to work and be with us. For him, it was a time-saving thing and gives time to be in sync with his colleagues.
Tax planning or savings was not my priorities until the time I was in the government job. For tax saving part I was careless and for savings part, there was hardly some surplus to save. However, once I shifted to Private company after working in the government job for six years, my monthly saving was more than my salary from the government job. I started reading books on personal finance, savings instruments and investment. I realised at this point that savings and investment are two different things. The major difference is attitude. One related to storing your money, others related to growing your money.
The first problem I faced after getting such knowledge was unable to understand my current assets and liabilities. I never liked the loans. But, I use credit cards in a big way. I was unable to ascertain my Net Worth. I could calculate. But, it was a tedious job. I was not knowing, how well I’m able to increase my Net Worth after starting to save more. Further, I planned to start investing, once I’ve saved enough for Emergency Fund. However, for achieving it, I felt the need for some system which tells me in real-time my Net Worth.
I was on a new Assignment. I started analysing my requirements. Based on the requirements, I started scanning different tools available to achieve it. I required a web-based database system, which I could access from anywhere and any platform. I was having two prime options. Microsoft Online package and Google. Microsoft is a paid option. For Google, I was having G Suite account. Based on various parameters, I decided to utilise Google. Even though I was having G Suite account, the services required were free for any Google account. So, in future, if I decide to switch from G Suite, my tension will be less. Actually, I did shift from Google within a year.
It took around 2 months. The setup utilised Google forms (to fetch the data conditionally), Google sheet (to process and store the database), Google Data Studio (for beautiful charts and reports) and GitHub (for one-page web page hosting). I was not actively working on any web-based project at that time. So, I required easy hosting, which GitHub was providing at free of cost.
I was using Google form to enter all my financial transactions. The raw data was captured in Google Sheets and a summary sheet was processing the raw data captured, using the filter and other functions, to show balances in each of my bank accounts, credit card, loan account, shares, mutual fund, NPS, provident fund, credit to others etc. Using all these, I get my Net Worth. The data was real-time for shares and other financial instruments and I could access it from anywhere and any platform.
A Small Program
The year was 2008, I was having broadband of BSNL. They were giving night unlimited download starting from 2:00 AM to 8:00 AM. The important thing about the plan was that the connection should disconnect and reconnect at or after 2:00 AM. Otherwise, the data transferred will be considered part of metered data. I was using torrents to download my files. There was a scheduler in torrent client to download the files between 2:00 AM to 8:00 AM. The speed was 2 Mbps, i.e. maximum download per night of 5.24 GB.
The internet was connected using PPPOE on the modem. I could not wake up every day to restart my modem or reset the connection. I needed to do this automatically. Further, there was no point in keeping the computer on the whole night. Reconnecting the dial-up connection was easy. However, being someone not much familiar with coding, it was not easy to achieve what I desired. I require my computer to wake up every day at around 5-10 mins before 2:00 AM. Then, slightly after 2:00 AM, the modem needs to disconnect and reconnect the internet.
So, how did I achieve it? Firstly, I tried to find commands which can be run via PC to communicate with my modem. After, searching for a few hours on Google, I was able to find one, which was working with my modem. It could be run via Command Prompt. I knew that if we save the commands which could be run via Command Prompt in notepad using extension .bat, it could be executed by simply running the bat file.
I faced an issue here. The inbuilt scheduler was designed to do specific tasks or run executable files (.exe). So, to run the .bat file, I needed to find a way to convert it to the .exe file. Interestingly, after search for a few hours on Google, I find that there was a small program inbuilt in all Windows OS, which could convert .bat file to .exe. So, with a few research and using my brain, I was able to achieve what I wanted. This achievement helped me a lot in later years. I downloaded a lot of stuff in later years which transformed my thinking and overall my personality.
I’m an innovator. I have now developed a habit to use technology to simplify life. There are numerous such examples in my life where I achieved something which requires knowledge I didn’t possess. But, with determination. I read and read and read and tried to achieve my target. Google is my closest friend. I use its power to dig deep into the web and acquire the knowledge I desire.