Category Archives: Professional Development

Execution is Everything : An Agile True Story


Never in a million years did I think I was going to enjoy teaching/coaching of any kind until a few years ago.

My younger son was in third grade and trying out for the travel basketball team in our town that was know to have  a very strong basketball following. We were there on time and as the tryouts proceeded, I sat by the bleachers, cringing as he under performed. The kid was neither fast nor accurate. After a grueling two hours, we knew he was not going to be picked.

Prior to this, I’d thought he was going to do well. He had a passion for the game and would shoot hoops every spare moment he had. That was not enough for today’s competition. He could have used an adult to have trained him. A personal coach. He needed to be taught the fundamentals of the game and ball handling. Since his father was not around to do this, I decided I had to play a bigger part in making it happen. The boy loved the game and I wanted to make sure he had all the help he could get to make it to Travel the next year.

The Story:

I signed up to coach the under 9  or U9 basketball Rec league for our city. I had no prior coaching experience and did not know the rules of the game, as it was played in America. The last time I’d played basketball was as a sophomore at a boarding school in India. The rules I remembered were different and the terms were completely new to me.

To compensate for the above, I asked the City to provide me with an assistant coach who knew the game well. The city was only too willing to accept as during that time, it was difficult to find parents who were willing to coach.

The two time NBA Most Valuable Player, Steve Nash
The two time NBA Most Valuable Player, Steve Nash

Next, I bought myself a whistle, a whiteboard and a series of Steve Nash videos. The videos helped me with planning out practice and drills. I read about the psych of a male third grader and realized they had to be kept very busy. Their attention span directly correlated to their interest and understanding of an activity. That meant I had to prepare for every minute of practice so our time was beneficial to everyone involved.

The Plan:

The U9 Team.

The first day of practice, I was nervous to talk to this group of white kids and parents. Am pretty sure they came thinking 1. That I was a guy because my name probably did not give them a good indication  and 2. That I knew the game well. Both of which was not right. I was however, straight with them. Their kid was going to be coached by a Sri Lankan, American who hadn’t played the game in over twenty years BUT I had a plan to execute and excel. Parents were going to have a part in it if their child learning the game was important to them. The boys were going to be challenged and have equal game time, no matter how badly they performed.

Sprint and Retro:

We had practice twice a week and games every Saturday. Practice involved drills and plays with suicides for mis-behavior. They were kept busy and worked hard during the hour and a half. That was essentially our sprint plan. Five minutes before pickup, we would talk about what went well and what didn’t. Each kid got 30 seconds to talk or touch base with me later. They loved it. I told them they would grow up and do this when they got a real-world job and they all got a kick from it.

When a kid missed practice, I would send them drill instructions to practice in their garage. Parents were surprised we were taking it this seriously.


None of us expected to win every game but we did. We won all but one game that season with a record setting final game of the season. Not only did they have to reset the score board to 0-0 because we were leading by 30, I am proud to say that every player on the team made at least two baskets. It was the most exhilarating moment of my life to see the satisfaction in both the children and the parents.

Gauge Results:

It warmed my heart to see the mutual respect and excitement that grew within team, coaches and parents during those twelve weeks of games.

That Fall, when my son tried out for fourth grade travel, he blazed through. He made the team and that meant I could no longer coach Rec. I did however discover that I found great satisfaction in empowering others and that with a dedicated execution plan, we end up having surprisingly sweet outcomes.

4 years later, traveling with his basketball team.
4 years later, traveling with his basketball team.

A tribute to my hero

We start our stories with my hero of course. My mom.

A true Cinnamon Spirit girl herself,  she should be credited with all the confidence I have and here’s why….

  • Her ability to follow through.
  • Her sense of loyalty, honesty and  fairness.
  • Her sense of excitement and adventure.
  • Her ability to give generously to those who need and be excited about it.
  • Her ability to evolve and grow younger and stronger as the years progress.
  • Her ability to inspire change and progress.
  • Her ability to love everyone and appreciate the beauty in them.cinnamon-spirit-young-mom

When I was as young as eight I remember my mother telling me how beautiful she and my grandmother thought I was. I was way more dark skinned than my siblings. Thanks to mother, I grew up thinking I was super attractive.

Mother was born into a very respected Tamil family in Central Sri Lanka. This community was cultured but fairly primitive in it’s progressiveness. It continues to be a male dominated society. So much so that she was not allowed to pursue an education beyond grade 8.


Our parents were married in 1958 and lived in a joint family household for a period before my father moved to Colombo. Her cultural exposure most likely started in Colombo with lessons in cake decorating, sewing, embroidery and other vocations. She had a thirst for knowledge that 60 years later has not waned.

As most families do, our’s saw plenty of hardship. Death, riots, disease and disappointment but through it all our mother was one constant rock upon which waves flowed.

She took life by the horns and steered us with firm love. 

Her compassion has changed the lives of not just forty of my siblings and their descendants but countless others who she hosted for various reasons.

She has been more progressive than those who were born into power and privilege. Perhaps some of her strength came from the faith my father had in her ability till the day he died. Whatever it maybe, she was a force to reckon with.

When people say I look like my mother, it makes me happy. I hope I can be half as successful as she has been.

This is a tribute to my biggest supporter and friend…

Kodainayaki Rajeshwari Ganeshan


Brown Sparkles Too!

It’s Holiday Season again! All around the world people will be celebrating winter holidays like Pongal, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Thaipusam, and of course, bringing in the New Year (Jan 1st, 2015). If you’re searching for the perfect dress to show off your beautiful brown skin tone, what better way to sparkle than wear sequins!

Mindy Kaling – writer, comedian, star of her hit show The Mindy Project, and absolutely fabulous brown skinned fashionista embraces sequins as well as chunky jewelry and bright colors. Where many women of color will shy away from these kinds of bold moves, at Cinnamon Spirit we think you should be the shining star of the party!  Mindy agrees “I wear all of those things, because I like looking at it. It makes me feel happy and excited to wear it.” In the photo below, she wears a beautiful dress and skirt combination. This scene was from the Pilot Episode of The Mindy Project, and to be honest she looks gorgeous! I love that the kind of sequin pattern on top is so much different than the metallic embellishment on her skirt. From far away, it looks like a dress, but when you look closely we find that Mindy has connected the 60s disco-ball and the Victorian Era in the best of ways. While Mindy’s outfit does technically break the mixing-prints rule in fashion, it is a definitely haute look that I think any brown woman could pull off. sequin

Anouksha, 21 fashion blogger from the United Kingdom has found a way to glitter during finals week. Here, she wears a black bomber jacket from H&M, black stockings, and casual tan booties from MissGuided. Paired with her gorgeous vintage flapper, and stuffed bagpack, she get’s an A+ for style. SONY DSC

I found another stunning gold and black sequin dress from BeBe while looking for my own sequined New-Years-Me Dress. I can’t tell what is more radiant, the model’s deep brown skin or her dress. I’m too focused on how happy she looks while twirling around in it!


So maybe, you’re working for the holidays. You can still bring your briefcase of glitter with you! Katerina L., a 27 year old from Voronezh, Russia wears her sequins subtly. This outfit is a perfect day to night outfit that can be worn at lunch with friends, and then again at office party. Her sweater is also from H&M and her skirt is from Mango. She and her skirt, look delicious.Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 6.21.45 PMMy personal favorite is an Etsy Legend worn by a beautiful Indian Model, Menaka Iyer. She is 23 and from Toronto, Canada. I’m sure once you see this dress, you’ll be dying to have it.  She wore this vintage, one of a kind dress to New York City for the first time. “I had my first mimosa in NYC – Dream come true!” Menaka says excitedly. Although I couldn’t find the dress’s link, I did find that her feather earrings are from Spring and her muted (but also black sparkly heels) are from Nine West. tumblr_ng8w2oIHJP1tg7w7jo1_1280Obviously not many of us can afford to splurge and spend thousands of dollars on a holiday dress (we’re too busy getting presents for our friends and family), so I’ve compiled a few under $50 options:

Lony Women’s Sequinned Party Dress ($39 from
Shining Open Back Long Sleeve with Sequins Dress from (only $33.80 with Free Shipping Worldwide!)

Stay tuned to see what sparkles I picked for my holiday dress! Stay warm this season my brown-skinned beauties!

Take back your time

This months’s Money magazine had an interesting article on the typical hours a full-time worker spent in the office in America. 50 to 60 hours per week.  I’ve always asserted that one does not have to work these long hours if we are productive during our work hours.

Hope these tips help you showcase your talent at work and put time back in your pocket.

  1. Get your priorities straight: Tackle the most difficult task first. Starting with quick and easy tasks may be tempting but fear of the unknown can delay you getting the main task done and therefore you may end up working late. Try working on it for 30 minutes and going to an easier task for breathers.
  2. Showcase your skills: Tools such as Toggl will help keep you organized and stay on top of all your tasks and projects. They often have reporting capability so you can see how much time you spent on projects as well as step by step details on your progress. This should help with show-casing your talent to and productivity at your next review or daily scrum meeting.
  3. Plug productivity leaks: Turn off email/chat/social media until your break or after work. Smart phones can make you feel compelled to respond to friends and family. Let them know they should call you the old fashioned way if it was urgent. If you need convincing, track the time you spend on messaging and social media.
  4. Learn to prioritize your company email: Checking your email once every 30 minutes should suffice. Learn your email tool well enough to mark it for follow-up. Although it is tempting to respond immediately, not every email requires that, unless you are holding up someone else’s work day.
  5. Follow through: Communication is key to any job because it manages expectations and helps everyone be more prepared. Once you have your 8 hour work day done, communicate your  progress and state of affairs to a stake holder, to make sure the ultimate goal is still on target. If doing this everyday is not appreciated, try to negotiate a twice or three times a week approach.
  6. Take back your time: Be productive and happy doing an honest job for 8 hours and leave! The time you spend with your family, your hobby or interests outside of work, helps you recharge, rejuvenate and recognize how enjoyable work really is.