“MacGyver defined your career”, whispered a voice in my head. That’s the conclusion I came up with after asking myself: how did I get here? There are many memories that replay in my mind before I came to my conclusion.  One in particular was my professor “Dr. H” who educated the concept of recursion theory – what computers can and cannot do?

Computer sidekick

As CEO we do not think about our sidekick doing repetitive work, in the blink of an eye. We do not think about the fundamental difference between us and the sidekick. That is, a certain task was designed for us and a certain task was designed for our sidekick – the computer.

There are many different types of sidekick in today’s world, but there are only two core versions, which is Unix and Windows just like cells – the smallest unit of life. There are animal cells like you and I and there are plant cells that vegetarians love to eat. I believe many of us used Microsoft Windows 10 and also used Unix type systems like Apple MacOS. The interesting part is that we literally created or gave birth to these sidekicks. As the sidekicks mature or grow, of course, they grew to give us what we want. Need the closest coffee shop? A search engine can do that for you. Need a ride to the coffee shop? Uber can get you there. All the software runs under either Unix or Windows-based systems.

Now how did you get here? The whisper repeated. As a child, I used to love watching MacGyver the TV series. He always seems to find a way to get out of trouble by building things that he can use to escape. As a CEO, I bet you somehow always find a way to solve your problem.

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“Are you saying that if I could find a caregiver at the last minute, you are willing to pay half of your profit?” She replies, “Yes, because I am losing the money on the visit anyway.  If a caregiver calls-out or cancels the visit for the client, there is no profit”. That is one of the reasons why I started developing the On-call Ma application. Owners of a home care agency had a problem and were willing to pay for a solution.

Start and Stop Development? No Pain, No Gain

It was clear to me that the problem could be solved, but not sure about the details. As a system engineer, I am aware that creating software is like writing a story. We know what to write about, but we do not know all the sentences within a paragraph. In fact, we do not know all the paragraphs we need to write or the exact amount of paragraphs we need to write. It is a journey with uncertainty. It is important to mention that once we start the journey, we cannot stop. Either we come up with a solution or all the time spent is wasted.

Another way to look at the journey is the movie Sanctum made in 2011 and directed by Alister Grierson. The move is about “an underwater cave diving team experiences a life-threatening crisis during an expedition to the unexplored and least accessible cave system in the world.”

If there is a cave next to the ocean, any cave driver knows that underwater usually always has a path to the ocean. However, there are, most likely, multiple paths. In the movie Sanctum, one of the main characters, Frank, one thing is clear is that once you enter a cave, either you exit on the other end or go back. However, Frank’s cave driver team did not have the option to go back. Either they exit the other end or die. That is not far from the truth when it comes to software development. Either we stop development or release software.

Another knowledge to keep in mind is that software has a cycle. We revisit our first draft and modify the writing on the next round to make the story better.

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Photo by Jasin Boland / Rogue Pictures – © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


The feeling of a father taking his first son to kindergarten registration is something hard to explain. Any feeling is usually hard to explain because it does not match up with logic. We all know emotion and logic do not go side by side. That is not far from the truth when it comes to developing the software for years.

“Mylul, your father is taking you to school today.” I did not understand the smile of my father’s face, but I did feel his happy mood when he took me to school that my sister attended. My dad paid 500 taka for registration, which is about $7 dollars in the US. I am assuming it is a joy only a father could understand. One thing that was clear is he did not care about the money. Raising a child and developing software does have some similarities. It almost seems as the software becomes the programmer’s child. The same could happen in a job where the employee puts enough emotional effort into the work they do.

Software Developers following their Intuition

As I am working on On-call Ma for home care agency, I am beginning to see extra details programmers insert that I did not request.  Sometimes the programmer changes certain detail from the requirements. For example, the programmer may  feel a report is important and adds an extra tab to display it. Experience programmer knows very well that “no good deed goes unpunished” is common. That is because programmer awareness of emotion and logic become concert.

There was I toward the end of my kindergarten year where I was getting hit with a bamboo stick on my hand by my teacher because I did not do exactly what I was told to do like standing up when the teacher enter the room to show respect.

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Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash


“Sis, can you just stop taking over me because I cannot understand what you are saying?”. I am sure many of us experience that over the phone. This is mainly caused by the delay or latency in your network (my previous post Softphone twins are not clones! provides some explanation). The phone system does not have a problem listening to overlapping conversations as we do. That is because it can separate out the conversation into two recordings-the callers and callees.

High Alert Conversations

First responders, such as police officers listen to multiple radios and have trained themselves to pick out keywords.  This allows them to respond even if they are having a conversation and watching TV at the same time. I learned this when I was working on an emergency communication system for airports in New York City. There was one fire chief who could listen to four radios, simultaneously, and can respond when needed. No doubt, it took years to train his mind to do such a task.

However, to train a phone system to do a similar task as the fire chief only took a month. Check out this On-call Ma application that can listen in on conversations and transcribe in the form of he said and she said. Just like the fire chief, responding to the radio, it picks out keywords and triggers certain tasks. Instead of years of self-taught experience, it happens after weeks of training and Artificial Intelligence model.  I am solving a problem for home care agencies where a caregiver would call-out at the last minute, leaving the client helpless. Can you imagine your grandmother needing to take number 2 and having to wait for a caregiver to show up in the morning?

I always say to myself, life is too good now and it can be worse.
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😠 She saw me as the Mango Killer. I cannot say that she does not love me, because she does. When I looked back I could see the anger rushing through her eyes. I still remember the running shadow in the crop field as the sun is at the highest peak. There I was, my grandmother chasing me with a stick. If she caught me I knew I was going to get it , but I was not worried. I have been in this position many times, since I had a habit of climbing trees and plucking mangoes just for the fun of it. The green mangos are not ready and that is what pisses my grandmother.

🌴  When software does not have good usability, you also get that same feeling. It is the same as eating a green mango expecting a sweet taste. When I design a Graphic User Interface (GUI) for On-call Ma SMS delivery, the first principle I think of is “don’t make me think”. The fact is people do not want to think. Making people think is the same as creating pain and users will try to run away in the face of pain.

However, that is not the case for my grandmother. My grandmother could simply tell my mother not to visit her, leading to me not visiting her. She wanted my company, but not my bad behavior. My grandmother wanted me to visit her for sure. I can see that in her eyes when she makes food for me in the morning time. Sometimes it can be difficult to see from someone else’s perspective. When it comes to usability, there is nothing wrong with just asking the user instead of guessing.

Arriving at good UX for SMS

👩‍💻 According to Google Senior UX researcher Jenny Gove, it does not take a lot of money to do some usability testing. In fact, you can pick a family member like your grandmother. I am sure my grandmother prefers me interacting with her instead of picking mangoes. To help me with usability testing on On-call Ma SMS messaging I asked my wife, two sisters, my brother in law, and my college friend. I picked these users because they have a job. SMS module was designed for business-to-business customers and I want to make sure my test subject is closest to the end user.

My goal was to leverage existing user behavior such as WhatsApp or Skype to handle the navigation of the GUI. The goal of usability testing is to understand the thinking process of the user as they do a certain task. An example would be “I clicked on the “Message (SMS)” tab because I want to send a text message and the word SMS meant I was in the right place. Then I clicked on “Send a new message” with a plus icon next to it so I can send the message.”

📂 As I was doing my usability testing, I have realized that using a template to send a message is uncommon and requires education. Regular users did not have enough existing knowledge to navigate. Therefore, I have added a help section within the template GUI “Need help? Click here to learn how to use a template.” There is nothing wrong with giving a helping hand just like my grandmother spending time explaining why bad behavior gave her stress.
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“Sunny, it seems like the government wants you to work from home,” said the big boss. “But I don’t have Internet at home,” replied Sunny. I myself live in New York City, I can say that there are more homeless people who have a smartphone, with internet, than actual food. In fact, there are “LinkNYC” hotspot kiosks located all over Manhattan and the outer boroughs providing free internet. It was designed to replace “pay phone”. About two decades ago, there were phone booths that allowed you to make calls for 25 cents for a few minutes. Now, Link kiosks allow us to make calls, plus provide an internet hotspot, all for free.

Your Carrier Data Limit

Smartphones also can provide hotspots or Wifi connections to a computer to work from home. However, one of the problems with smartphone wifi are the limitations. Most smartphones have a cellular usage cap, or data limit,  from the provider or carrier (eg: AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile). These carriers usually sell limited data plans on a monthly basis.

What makes this a big problem is a computer using a smartphone wifi connection can use the entire month’s capped data within a day. The reason computers use so much data is because of

  • 🎥  videos, streamed from a site like youtube
  • 📁  downloading large data files
  • 📑  3rd party applications running in the background that the user is not aware of

The solution is to minimize streaming video and run some network traffic control software, such as NetBalancer. You can configure NetBalancer to identify which applications can access the internet connection. For example, only allow your email application such as Outlook or Thunderbird. The network control software won’t allow any other applications to use the internet, preventing them from eating up all the data.

Unlimited data or Data Limit by Technology

It is also important to carefully read your unlimited internet package contract.  Carriers usually add some small fine print stating that after exceeding the data limit, they are allowed to push your internet connection to a different wireless technology. Usually, the carrier gives you an LTE connection for the first few gigabytes and then downgrades the internet connection to 3G. The user usually notices it right away because the internet speed is very slow. It is slow enough that using the hotspot is useless because you cannot do anything. Yes, Sunny was not far from the truth that he does not have the internet at home.

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Photo Credit: @LinkNYC twitter account

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