A Piece of Rant Club…

15 05 2008

X: I Am Good At Management…

Me: Why Do You Think So?

X: Umm… I am good at coffee table conversations. I am good at talking to people. My communication skills are super. Top of the world actually. And, finally, I think I am good at coordination (really, any one can schedule meetings and handle logistics! ) and I enjoy doing it.

And finally as the discussion proceeds, I realize that its either the lure of flexible time, or the seemingly easy work that acts as a persistent motivator than the idea of career.

There is a lot of misconception about the so called management roles, at least in the field that I work in. Thought most of the senior people in those roles seem to be doing only talking, preparing pretty presentations, or spending most of their time in meetings, there is lot more under the hood than that meets the eye. One doesn’t account for the years of experience or the knowledge that they are equipped with to handle client demands on the feet, or the experiential insight that they bring in while addressing specific issues. Even bad communicators may have sound understanding or a strategic approach to the problem at hand. We can’t ignore the skills that they bring to the table because someone has bad presentation skills, just the way we can’t give weight for garrulous mouthing of words with little essence.

For those who are contemplating management career or decision making roles, a little bit of soul searching is crucial. List out all the reasons and hidden factors that propel you to consider this option. You can give a load of convincing answers to the world, yet please don’t deceive thyself.

Do you have it in you to face tremendous odds and come out trumps? Can you handle tremendous pressure or do you get fizzled out at the drop of a hat? Do you have the never-say-die spirit or do you give up easily and are driven by the principle of fatalism, i.e. the belief that you don’t have control over your deeds and some external force like God determines that.

After going through these discussions umpteen number of times, and talking to aspiring MBAs my mood turned nostalgic as I leafed through those memories of college days. I am blessed with a great mentor during my engineering days, and I am sharing a piece of those exchanges. These are times when I feel that the basics of these questions hasn’t changed over 5 years.

Why you want to do MBA?
1. Is it for money?
2. Is it for fame?
3. Is it for getting power?
4. Is it for getting a good job?
5. Is it for getting social recognition?
6. Is it because you want to make a career in Management?
7. Is it because you like to take challenges?
8. Is it because you want to broaden your horizons?
9. Is it because you have an academic bent of mind?
10. Is it for the sense of achievement?
11. Is it to get yourself equipped with an additional degree so that you can have an edge in this dog-eat-dog world?
12. Is it because you get turned ON by business and economy like nothing else?
13. Is it because you have nothing else to do?
14. Is it because of peer pressure?
15. Is it just for the sake of it and enjoyment?
16. Is it for making yourself more eligible in the marriage market?

It doesn’t require a great deal of analysis to figure out the secret motivator behind picking brain about management roles. For most of us in corporate field, its unavoidable. As we add on experience to the work life, most of our work or output depends on the deliverables of others. Thats when people management, communication, planning and organization skills come into play. For some, a management degree is a way to break free from the technical roles or a launchpad into different industries. For students, MBA is either a lucrative career option or a way to extend unemployment. ( Pun intended :) )

But for those with mammoth goals and lofty aspirations, I am sharing this piece of advice that I received years ago from my mentor.

“A person doesn’t become a CEO just by doing MBA or just having the desire. The culmination is only due to untiring efforts and careful grooming over many years. Do bear that in mind. Although, having lofty ambitions is laudable, being nervous even before the battle has begun doesn’t behoove you. You need to have the emotional poise to handle things at ease. “

And finally, chill. We are all good at management in one way or the other. We all are managing our lives without much catastrophes. Acquiring management skills isn’t rocket science if we put our mind and heart to it. They say, vision without action is a dream and action without vision is a nightmare. Be true to the choices of life and be true to your dreams and longings. Life will sail on much more easily and happily.





How To Be A Good Leader..

18 12 2007

Now that’s a question that rings in my mind quite often, since I joined the corporate world. Am trying to capture some reflections and experiences here, distilled from some real life’s learnings. Its tough to be a good leader or a boss, and its even tougher to acknowledge our weaknesses and the impact that we have on others. Yet, the more we grow in age, experience and cadre, the more our efforts and work is dependent on the contributions of others.

Now, what are the personality attributes that can make someone tick as a good leader or boss? They are pretty much visible to commonsense and are for experience. Tell me how many good leaders have you met in a daily work life context? Yet, there are some real qualities that differentiate them from the common managers and leave a lasting impression in mind. Here is a collection of some of those in an effort to identify, acknowledge and probably inculcate them..

Humility And Courtesy

Ok Ok.. That was pun intended! :-) yet, On a serious note, see most of the people who are in influential positions to be most humble and open to people around them. In any knowledge and people intensive industry, what differs one from another is how they apply their uniquely gifted talents and skills. No one is superior or inferior to another and the more we acknowledge this, the more enriching we become.

In fact, those guys who are most likely to throw their weight around are typically in the middle management or in support group as they are often responsible for executing decisions taken by others whether they agree or disagree. Hence, the craving for false significance which reflects in the demonstration of pseudo authority through bossism and shortsightedness. Watch out if you are indulging in this. This behavior can help you get along the day, but not far.

Celebrating Success and Credit Sharing

Celebration is fun. Sharing the success and joy builds the team spirit and unity. Celebrating successes and failures is the essence of life. Don’t you think so? Yet, so often, going through the rhythms of the corporate mumbo jumbo, we often rarely stop for that little pat on back. Hold a little party, acknowledge others’ contribution and live up to the saying-’one for all and all for one’. Everyone loves to feel important and wants their work to add value to the organization and team. Be genuine and say thanks to all those who made your graphs sparkle in whatever minor way.

Sense Of Humor and Fun

Quite needed in high pressure environment. Humor brings in fresh perspectives and makes us more open to challenges and other possibilities. Added to that, a sense of fun energizes workspaces and makes us more productive. Life is a huge practical joke. Identifying the humor and playing along can really soothe nerves. Don’t wear sleeves on heart, try the vice versa.. :-)

Staying Calm And Leading By Example in Moments of Crisis

There is no fun in scrambling around and getting worked up on minor crisis situations at work. Accept it. Risks and failures are a part and parcel of life. Its no fun indulging in blame game and taking a free ride on the tension swing. Stand for oneself and for the team and show that you are there and you care. Be around like a breather or a tower of strength in moments of crisis and exude confidence and positivity. Tough call? Indeed. It requires continuous effort.

Being Flexible And Playing The Good Listener

Are you that kind of boss, who stares at the laptop when your teammate drops in for a quick chat? The most vital part of leadership is to acknowledge that people have different priorities and your task list may not figure out on the top of theirs. Acknowledge their personal priorities, be flexible to work out win-win options and always be open, approachable and listen to what others are saying or not saying. Be a people developer and lend an ear when needed. Life may seem to be measured on how many millions we made, yet what counts in the end is how many lives we touched and how many smiles we spread.

Clarity and Expertise in Work

Be sure of what you are talking about and what you want to achieve. Most of the bosses I know falter at this. Often the delegation looks like this.

If you are not sure of what you want, not even the best of the world teammates can help you achieve it. Have clarity on what you want to achieve and then communicate it effectively to your team. It can do wonders.

And, trust me, no one wants to work for a dull head. Never stop learning and understand the significance of the contribution that you are making. Do you think only talent shows? Stupidity is even more tantalizingly evident. Don’t make suggestions under the pretense of adding value. :-)

Trust and Motivation

The last on my list and the most important one. Believe in team, assert your trust, enlist them in your mission and give them space to carry on. That’s what is called effective and efficient delegation. Noone really wants to work for a boss who don’t trust their capabilities and hovers around like an intrusive security camera. Ask the one who tried. He probably doesn’t have a team now.

As beautifully put by Antoine de Saint-Exupery,

“If you want to build a ship
don’t herd people together to collect wood
and don’t assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for the
endless immensity of the sea.”

Ultimately, it all boils down to this. People are leaders because they choose to lead. Else, they stay managers.. Now I see why this became a huge article! I can actually title this as ’7 habits to be a successful leader’. :-) It’s tough to make sense of what makes a leader tick. If I missed anything, let me know.





Management Failures..

5 12 2007

Ever wondered what would that mean? I had a brush of it in the corporate context. I have seen some great teams collapse due to sad leadership. I could see some real gem of talent migrate to greener pastures and some great ideas being nibbed at the start due to management failure or ego hassles. Sometimes it feels hopeless to see all this wastage and negative energy happening around just due to the dearth of management and leadership skills.

Why is it so difficult to sense the potential of people around us, how difficult it is to give credit to people for what they have done, and how much time does it take to acknowledge someone’s contribution? All it needs is a little bit of listening, a modicum of concern, enthusiasm, energy and genuine warmth, which became like a rare phenomenon in today’s context. Placing trust has become so difficult on today’s managers who are driven by their goal sheets and checklists with little concern to the people reporting to them. Probably being a part and parcel of knowledge intensive industry, I can see how the manipulation of energies of the people can make or break businesses in the current day context.

What an intoxicator power or authority is! I saw it change sweet smiling people into work extraction units. Yes, I understand professionalism is about of focusing on outcomes, and being work oriented but why cant we have a sensitivity to the expectations of the people around us? Just because we have an authority to wield the stick, we can’t really expect to get the work done by throwing our weight around. I see a lot of intellectual racism in action with a lot of unproductive team meetings, where people engage in blame game due to lack of time management, role clarity, and lack of trust and focus from management.

I see different types of managers around me, but those who work on their personal learning while aiding to the professional growth of their team are quite rare. What I see are those people who engage in politics and credit snatching, those who rest on the shoulders of their team and hammer them down to rise taller. Guess one of the toughest challenges of the current organizations is middle management. And I cant deny the importance of organizational culture in developing team, people and management skills. We talk about business continuity, right? How much onus are we placing on the leadership for talent migration, team failure, productivity concerns and team motivation levels? Guess we need some soul searching there..





Credit Sharing…

30 11 2007

Am just back from a little crib session and this was a hot topic there. How surprising it is to see this issue popping up in so many conversations. Credit Sharing is an important aspect of managing any team structure and I am sad to see many ignore it in their way to glory.

I am not trying to bring in Ayn Rand philosophy of selfishness here as in the current organizational context, in Indian industry, we work with people and the more we grow in our career, the more our success is dependent on the inputs and support offered by the others. Especially in IT industry, where a lot of work is structured around groups and teams, it is even ridiculous to ascribe the credit to a single person in the success of a project. Yet, I see this phenomenon of credit snatching and credit hiding instead of credit sharing. I don’t see any logic in blaming team for failure and appreciating manager for success.

In fact, some of the best leaders I have met in the industry are successful in their career are those who realize the potential of the people working for them and put it to effective use by aiding to their professional and personal growth. Though I hear some say that don’t mix up emotions in professional life, how can it be possible that we are emotionally insensitive to the people around us?

I can sense that people follow leaders, not the rule books. Please be the guiding hand to those you work with, making sure that they don’t need anything instead of dictating their lives and taking credit for their efforts. A little bit of recognition can do wonders for motivation levels and the work environment. And all those entry level people, it also means acknowledging the existence of the security personnel or those receptionists instead of treating them like pieces of furniture. A little pat on the back, a gentle smile or a small nod can do wonders, trust me.





Work Life Balance..

7 11 2007

One of the most quoted phrases in HR lingo.. And what a powerful myth to dream about! Balance.. Hmm.. Isn’t work a part of life? And how easily we use this, as if we can apportion our time between work and life. Somehow I have always felt that the more I call something work or job, the less I am interested in doing it..

Whenever I think of this phrase in particular, some of the assignments that I did as a part of Indigenous Management course in IMDR flashes in my mind. I have interacted with a lot of people in indigenous industries and its impressive to observe how their work is entwined in their life. When we bunch of students went and saw their work locations, what caught out eye was the pride that radiated in their faces when they were displaying their wares. What struck me was how much love and purpose they could sense in their life and how closely connected are their personal and work lives. Their career instills a sense of purpose into their personal life.

How much ever I wish to compartmentalize my life, its not always possible. Whatever tensions I face in my professional environment rubs off in my personal space. I never seem to attain that magic balance. Life for me is intense and I plan to explore it to the fullest. Work is fun and focus. Either I love the work I do or do the work I love. Period! And where there is love, fun and a sense of enjoyment, there seems a lack of caution, control and balance.. Don’t you think so?





Choice Or Default?

12 10 2007

Generalist Vs. Specialist?? Guess this thought always rings in my mind.. Unofficial commonsense says that you can understand and learn the tricks of the trade in any specific work in 6 months.. Not convinced? May be one year. Could be two as well.. It ultimately depends on your comfort level.. Official Office Wisdom suggests that one becomes an expert if he has parked himself in the same stream for years together. Happens quite often in industry, right?

When people talk about Job Hopping and Loyalty and when I come across the so many specialists, a nagging thought always pops up in my mind. Are they in this field by choice or by default? Sometimes its so easy to stick on to what we know rather than go ahead and explore what we want. Especially when we are choosing our profession or a specialization.. We go by market trends or popularity index.. We drown ourselves in that work, be it SAP, ERP or MBA seldom giving it a second thought. Whenever that mindless frenzy tires our souls, few people would be able to answer what drives them to work on Monday morning? Is it love for job Or is it just another Manic Monday (ala Bangles fame)?

Career choices can be so tricky. Most of us make their careers in one specific direction just because someone advised them so. Or its just that they ended up doing what they are doing by fluke and are afraid to venture into a new field as it could be risky.

Robert A. Heinlein says, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

I know its totally out of context. Yet, is it? If you work in the field that you love, years pass on like days and that thirst for knowledge and zeal to learn never dies. I have seen some real specialists whose love for the job keeps them going. Its amazing to watch them live on the job. They work to live to their internal standards and for their individual passion.. On other side are those Generalists who venture into every field they come across, taking life and career as it comes and being adaptable to the demands of life.

Whatever category you belong to, always be on the side of those who has the luxury to wake up to do what they love to do everyday! It could be your choice (that was the field you dreamed into your life since childhood! ) or what fate has conjured it for you (yes, there is a long list of situations, responsibilities, fate, destiny with you to corroborate) . Yet, my only piece of advice is this. Love what you do or do what you love. Else, you will end up in a perennial crib club ride in life!





I Went Strength Hunting

9 10 2007

Today. Yes, I took this Clifton StrengthsFinder at our office. It is considered as a exercise to find an individual’s dominant themes, strengths and talents. Apparently, this is not a free online test. One has to purchase one of the Gallup Organization’s books which has a one time test ID along with them. Though its an optional test, curiosity got better of me and there I was getting the course ID, switching on the music and logging on to discover myself. :-)

The verdict is out! My dominant talents out of the 34 themes are Woo, Input, Achiever, Arranger, Self-Assurance. Initially, I felt a little quizzical at the names of those themes! Input? (Sounds like processing stuff!) Woo? (It got a nice ring and rhythm though!) Yet, I have reserved a marked respect for these tests, having gone through Pulin Garg’s research, MBTI during my academic days. Its always easy to play the cynic, than to be pick the best out of something. So I took a closer look at the descriptions of these five themes. The least I could do to the years of research Don has put into this project. Am posting them online over here though and am not sure of copyright. Take a closer look!

Woo
People strong in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.

Self-Assurance
People strong in the Self-Assurance theme feel confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right.

Achiever
People strong in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

Input
People strong in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

Arranger
People strong in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.

If I muse on at all sorts of the personality profiles and tests that I took so far, I guess they do have their merits. They offer an insight (some do!) into oneself, facilitate introspection (the moment someone is talking about us, we reflect), and make us feel good! Chalo, let me admit this. I guess friends can better vouch for them than a thirty minute personality test. Who can talk about myself better than me? I would say that this test could profile the kind of activities that I indulge in a pretty decent fashion. Now my thought process mirrors like this. What is the use of this information? How can I capitalize on this? Any thoughts?





Nurturing Inner Talent..

7 10 2007

This is the first completed book of mine after coming to Bangalore. And I realized that the credit goes to the author duo than to my wish when I gaze over the five other books that I am struggling to complete.

Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton who are associated with Gallup International Research and Education Centre came up with this Strengthfinder model which helps one to identify and appreciate their natural talents and nurture them to their strengths. Most often than not, organizations focus on Area of Improvement zones for enhancing productivity of the employees instead of goading them to capitalize on their strengths. I am sold on the concept of capturing the natural talent of a person and building upon it rather than straightening out the weakness areas.

In this book, Don and Marcus talk about 34 themes which kind of capture the universe of talent in some level. After interviewing about two million people , they have devised a Strengthfinder test which throws up related statements and counts on the intuitiveness of the individual to select the choices to grade him under the top five related themes. The beauty of these themes is that they are quite diverse. They include quality of individuals (e.g. analytical) , behavior parameters (e.g. Discipline, Empathy) and personality traits (e.g. Achiever, Arranger). Though some themes are a little different from the common language usage (e.g. Input, Relator, Woo) they are bang on in identifying resonant patterns of behavior of the individual. I found it quite insightful to wade through the different themes as I could connect different people to the related talents. And the beauty of this work lies in presenting scientific analysis in simple and sensible language so that many can identify with it. I read this while waiting in queue at a seamstress place. :-) I would definitely recommend to take a look.





Who Said Resignation Is Easy?

30 07 2007

It did take a lot of struggle, loads of head and heart ache, countless gyan sessions to melt that idea of dream job away. And finally the matter is decided in perfect solitude, over a cuppa, away from the noises of the world, throwing caution and comfort zone out of window.. And thus the event happened out of an instinct! Thanks to a few great pals in TCS, I got my release almost immediately and here I am, back at my easy chair, relishing rare days of unemployment at home before I head to join Accenture in Bangalore..

Goodbyes have always felt awkward and sentimental for me since ages. Its none so different this time. Its so tough to handle them for, I believe that people who matter are never far and those who don’t were never in the picture anyways. Yet, there are things, places, and patterns that can grow on you.. I managed somehow to break free out of it..

When I came to work at TCS, its like a dream come true. Working for Tata Group has always been a cherished idea for me. Guess I fell in love the engaging company culture, quality of work life and especially the down to earth and casual air of the people here. I loved what I did for an year and half.. Yet, there is this nagging need for change, and a persistant sense of direction which provoked me to take a detached view of the career and life in front of me. Finally patience didn’t do the trick. TCS is a great company, yet there aren’t many opportunities that came my way in the area that I choose to be. I am not exactly thrilled by my decision, yet sometimes, I guess its ok to say ‘I have to’ for reasons unknown even to oneself.

All is well in the end. I have had quite a bit of learning by living through this experience of uncertainity. I have made new friends, changed some relationships, gleaned whatever I could and I moved on, away from Chennai: a city which I called home for two years and far from TCS: my first love in the dream company list. No regrets apparently!





A Real Life Experience..

27 05 2007

This article is written by Sudha Murthy. Sudha Murthy is a widely published writer and chairperson of the Infosys Foundation involved in a number of social development initiatives. Infosys chairman Narayan Murthy is her husband. I must have gone through it many times, yet everytime I go through it, it never ceases to inspire me. The humility of the Tatas and how it impacted Sudha’s life is so evident…

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It was probably the April of 1974. Bangalore was getting warm and gulmohars were blooming at the IISc campus. I was the only girl in my postgraduate department and was staying at the ladies’ hostel. Other girls were pursuing research in different departments of Science.

I was looking forward to going abroad to complete a Doctorate in computer science. I had been offered scholarships from Universities in the US . I had not thought of taking up a job in India .

One day, while on the way to my hostel from our Lecture-hall complex, I saw an advertisement on the notice board. It was a Standard job-requirement notice from the famous automobile company Telco (Now Tata Motors). It stated that the company required young, bright engineers, Hardworking and with an excellent academic background, etc.

At the bottom was a small line: “Lady Candidates need not apply.”

I read it and was very upset. For the first time in my life I was up against gender discrimination.

Though I was not keen on taking up the job, I saw it as a challenge. I had done extremely well in academics, better than most of my male peers. Little did I know then that in real life academic Excellence is not enough to be successful.

After reading the notice I went fuming to my room. I decided to inform the topmost person in Telco’s management about the injustice the company was perpetrating. I got a postcard and started to write, but there was a problem: I did not know who headed Telco.

I thought it must be one of the Tatas. I knew JRD Tata was the head of the Tata Group; I had seen his pictures in newspapers (actually, Sumant Moolgaokar was the company’s chairman then). I took the card, addressed it to JRD and started writing. To this day I remember clearly what I wrote.

“The great Tatas have always been pioneers. They are the people who started the basic infrastructure industries in India , such as iron and steel, chemicals, textiles and locomotives. They have cared for higher education in Indiasince 1900 and they were responsible for the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science. Fortunately, I study there. But I am surprised how a company such as Telco is discriminating on the basis of gender.”

I posted the letter and forgot about it. Less than 10 days later, I received a telegram stating that I had to appear for an interview at Telco’s Pune facility at the company’s expense. I was taken aback by the telegram. My hostel mate told me I should use the opportunity to go to Pune free of cost and buy them the famous Pune saris for cheap! I collected Rs 30 each from everyone who wanted a sari. When I look back, I feel like laughing at the reasons for my going, but back then they seemed good enough to make the trip.

It was my first visit to Pune and I immediately fell in love with the city. To this day it remains dear to me. I feel as much at home in Pune as I do in Hubli, my hometown. The place changed my life in so many ways. As directed, I went to Telco’s Pimpri office for the interview.

There were six people on the panel and I realised then that this was serious business. This is the girl who wrote to JRD,” I heard somebody whisper as soon as I entered the room. By then I knew for sure that I would not get the job. The realisation abolished all fear from my mind, so I was rather cool while the interview was being conducted.

Even before the interview started, I reckoned the panel was biased, so I told them, rather impolitely, “I hope this is only a technical interview.”

They were taken aback by my rudeness, and even today I am ashamed about my attitude. The panel asked me technical questions and I answered all of them.

Then an elderly gentleman with an affectionate voice told me, “Do you know why we said lady candidates need not apply? The reason is that we have never employed any ladies on the shop floor. This is not a co-ed college; this is a factory. When it comes to academics, you are a first ranker throughout. We appreciate that, but people like you should work in research laboratories.”

I was a young girl from small-town Hubli. My world had been a limited place. I did not know the ways of large corporate houses and their difficulties, so I answered, “But you must start somewhere, otherwise no woman will ever be able to work in your factories.”

Finally, after a long interview, I was told I had been successful. So this was what the future had in store for me. Never had I thought I would take up a job in Pune. I met a shy young man from Karnataka there, we became good friends and we got married.

It was only after joining Telco that I realized who JRD was: the uncrowned king of Indian industry. Now I was scared, but I did not get to meet him till I was transferred to Bombay . One day I had to show some reports to Mr Moolgaokar, our chairman, who we all knew as SM. I was in his office on the first floor of BombayHouse (the Tata headquarters) when, suddenly JRD walked in. That was the first time I saw “appro JRD”. Appro means “our” in Gujarati. This was the affectionate term by which people at Bombay House called him.

I was feeling very nervous, remembering my postcard episode. SM introduced me nicely, “Jeh (that’s what his close associates called him), this young woman is an engineer and that too a postgraduate.

She is the first woman to work on the Telco shop floor.” JRD looked at me. I was praying he would not ask me any questions about my interview (or the postcard that preceded it).

Thankfully, he didn’t. Instead, he remarked. “It is nice that girls are getting into engineering in our country. By the way, what is your name?”

“When I joined Telco I was Sudha Kulkarni, Sir,” I replied. “Now I am Sudha Murthy.” He smiled and kindly smile and started a discussion with SM. As for me, I almost ran out of the room. After that I used to see JRD on and off. He was the Tata Group chairman and I was merely an engineer. There was nothing that we had in common. I was in awe of him.

One day I was waiting for Murthy, my husband, to pick me up after office hours. To my surprise I saw JRD standing next to me. I did not know how to react. Yet again I started worrying about that postcard. Looking back, I realise JRD had forgotten about it. It must
have been a small incident for him, but not so for me.

“Young lady, why are you here?” he asked. “Office time is over.” I said, “Sir, I’m waiting for my husband to come and pick me up.” JRD said, “It is getting dark and there’s no one in the corridor.

I’ll wait with you till your husband comes.”

I was quite used to waiting for Murthy, but having JRD waiting alongside made me extremely uncomfortable.

I was nervous. Out of the corner of my eye I looked at him. He wore a simple white pant and shirt. He was old, yet his face was glowing. There wasn’t any air of superiority about him. I was thinking, “Look at this person. He is a chairman, a well-respected man in our country and he is waiting for
the sake of an ordinary employee.”

Then I saw Murthy and I rushed out. JRD called and said, “Young lady, tell your husband never to make his wife wait again.”

In 1982 I had to resign from my job at Telco. I was reluctant to go, but I really did not have a choice. I was coming down the steps of Bombay House after wrapping up my final settlement when I saw JRD coming up. He was absorbed in thought. I wanted to say goodbye to him, so I stopped. He saw me and paused.

Gently, he said, “So what are you doing, Mrs Kulkarni?”
(That was the way he always addressed me.) “Sir, I am leaving Telco.”

“Where are you going?” he asked. “Pune, Sir. My husband is starting a company called Infosys and I’m shifting to Pune.”

“Oh! And what will you do when you are successful.”

“Sir, I don’t know whether we will be successful.”
“Never start with diffidence,” he advised me. “Always start with confidence. When you are successful you must give back to society. Society gives us so much; we must reciprocate. I wish you all the best.”

Then JRD continued walking up the stairs. I stood there for what seemed like a millennium. That was the last time I saw him alive. Many years later I met Ratan Tata in the same Bombay House, occupying the chair JRD once did. I told him of my many sweet memories of working with Telco. Later, he wrote to me, “It was nice hearing about Jeh from you. The sad part is that he’s not alive to see you today.”

I consider JRD a great man because, despite being an extremely busy person, he valued one postcard written by a young girl seeking justice. He must have received thousands of letters everyday. He could have thrown mine away, but he didn’t do that. He respected the intentions of that unknown girl, who had neither influence nor money, and gave her an opportunity in his company. He did not merely give her a job; he changed her life and mindset forever.

Close to 50 per cent of the students in today’s engineering colleges are girls. And there are women on the shop floor in many industry segments. I see these changes and I think of JRD. If at all time stops and asks me what I want from life, I would say I wish JRD were alive today to see how the company we started has grown. He would have enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

My love and respect for the House of Tata remains undiminished by the passage of time. I always looked up to JRD. I saw him as a role model for his simplicity, his generosity, his kindness and the care he took of his employees. Those blue eyes always reminded me of the sky; they had the same vastness and magnificence.





Shades of Grey…

23 04 2007

I have always loved a rainbow. Since childhood, wondering at their splendor while dancing in the rain, I always wanted to catch one, and perhaps live on one. Life comes to a full circle while I watch them take shape and vanish like a dream. Guess I have always loved the idea of embracing life in vigor and color. Things are always how they appeared for me, either in black, white or mauve!

Until now…

Until I entered the corporate dog eat dog world, that is!

I have learnt to recognize a fib from honest verse, I have learnt not to trust empty promises, I have learnt how carrot stick approach works in reality, and I have seen this world in all its shades of Grey. Is it the burden of competition that makes people materialistic, or is it the opportunistic surroundings? Agreed, its a tough world and everyone has to make his mark. Yet, why do we forget in this maddening run that our actions have impact on others’ life? I see a dearth of leadership, a sense of confusion, lack of focus, especially in the middle levels where its vitally important to have a strong sense of vision. Its an age old crib, I know.. Or may be I need a better glass to look around!

Yes, I do understand the value of diplomacy, yet I appreciate the value of appreciation and honesty better. I wish to believe that we are not living in stone ages and everyone is entitled to have a version of the big picture! I have a vision to see everyone contributing for common beliefs, in their own uniquely gifted way. May be I am an idealist. Or may be I just hate the bureaucracy and the idea of working for work sake! Rainbows to corporate world..sounds like a disconnected journey, isn’t it? The word is out! World is insane, I am too!





Grapewine and Politics

7 03 2007

Two years into job and am all ready wondering about the mammoth importance that grape wine and politics has in an organization. Thinking aloud, I have seen a lot of organizational dynamics that goes in getting the job done. Here the term ‘politics’ strictly applies to the social relations involving positions of authority or power. There happens a huge struggle to keep that child alive with in a pseudo environment during which the excitement about the uncertain future turns into a dreading of the predictable rhythm.

There is little importance given to frank, outspoken attitude as a lot of work demands diplomacy and discretion. Well, that doesn’t stop the coffee vending machine talk though! To read about affinity groups during B Schools days is one thing, and to see them in action is a different issue altogether. Managing people and relationships in the organizational context becomes a tough rope walk as one had to strike that right balance between personal self and professional discretion.

A special mention goes to the pseudo power group though! The sad part of life is that you need to get the work done in time on short notice, especially true in case of support groups. And you end up with little recognition and appreciation as your direct mark or importance is felt only if you miss your job. Well, that leads to the unwanted power display from the support section. Job gets done in time only if you do aggressive follow up and have some key people who are comfortable with you as a person.

Well, we talk of software age, yet the feelings and expressions are passed on since stone age. That perfect organization and perfect job are never a reality as uncertainty in terms of the people factor hops in. We can only accommodate mindsets, we can’t really create them. So much as we dream about that idealistic professional environment for work, I really wonder if am going to like that so perfect place! Grapewine and politics are going to stay and it depends finally on us as to how we handle them.





All of My One Yr at Work!

16 06 2006

Knock Knock.. “Sowmya Wake Up!!!”
Wondering I enquire in daze ” Who the Hell is this? “
“Its me, remember those M&Bs and late night walks?”, inquires my forlorn, and abandoned self. “Oh dear- are u still alive?”- I ask in splendor.
Guess an year of corporatedom has taken my intelligence to all time low and I have ignored those inner rantings for so long that I didn’t expect a wave of nostalgia to hit me today!

Yeah, Am back to introspect, to blog and to connect with myself even if its only for a while! Its been so long since I turned mechanical.. staring into the screen as if am going to get a windfall, pretending to be Ms. Know All in the face of crisis, doing tap dance and tango in front of clients and muting those inner longings for tomorrow. I had so many wishes for tomorrow that it made me exhausted. I wanted a day to read that book, have that bicycle, own that garden, kiss my mamma, love my granny, be that wanton self and hold that hand!

I spent some time going through some interesting blogs and marveled at their ability to get connected to their inner souls. This whole week I spent VELA waiting for the tide to turn in my favor and my mood to get back to slog. At times I hate Microsoft for its MS Office! Word, or PPT all all alike!

Neither my parents visit last week or nor my great confirmation rating helped me to bring me back to normalcy. Now I know that if monotony is creeping in, its one of those warnings from the system to think something different. I had ignored them for long and that’s the cause for this long hibernation!

Lazy Reflections!

Looking back on my one year of work experience, am pleased to note that I am still intact except for a few bouts of boredom at times. There is quite a lot of things that I have noticed, realized and changed. The biggest realization is the value and the worth of building a network. In the corporate world, my success is not dependent on what I do but rather on how I take others along with me. That calls for being considerate for others, leading by example, having a ready smile and openmindedness.

After sharing experiences with friends, I have realized that having a good support and a good boss who lets you have your own way helps a long way in being yourself. I can use a little guidance on the way, and have noticed that I need to be proactive. Thanks to my boss and guide, who taught me to be on my own, I held my head high with enthusiasm and frankness. Honesty, Trust and Integrity are important as these values truly reflect on your interactions with others. I can sense the other person’s way of interaction, whether its business like, friendly or professional. I long for fair, informal and warm interactions in business environment as well.

We can take Business and professionalism to any level, yet we still remain humans. We are always impressed by the humanly qualities. I may doubt your success chances even if you have a great product, yet am willing to bet if you are passionate about what you are doing as that brings out your confidence, commitment and sincerity. Never loose that human touch or the feeling of appreciation about what you do. Always recognize the worth of people around you. Appreciate and cherish little details and stay beautiful. Welcome to a brand new year of excitement and challenge!





Tata Business Excellence Model

5 05 2006

Tata Business Excellence Model, or TBEM as its known in the short form, is a wonderful framework to enhance the quest for excellence in the Tata Group. I was fortunate enough to attend a three day session on this excellence model to observe the intricacies of this model. It was quite a learning experience and it made me realize the need for the alignment of goals, guidance of the vision. mission and objectives, and effective communication to create the focus on the results for the on going survival of the organization. After all, what is business if it works only for profit without delighting its stakeholders in the process?





A Small Patting!

14 04 2006

“Telecom as a Horizontal”, a whitepaper I have written is finally hosted on the TCS Website. It is accessible at

http://www.tcs.com/NAndI/default1.aspx?Cat_Id=220&DocType=324&docid=493

Here is the abstract of the Whitepaper:

Telecom is no longer a vertical market with a one-pony show called voice services. As we move into the Internet-everywhere age, we are moving onto mobile applications that reach into Enterprise private networks and extract data, applications and services from these networks. As Telecom offers the basic communication backbone, integrating next generation Telecom offerings within other domains in order to enable a converged world by creating New Revenue Channels and Cross Selling Models becomes the order of the day. Going forth, industries such as Retail, Financial Services and Insurance will utilize the services of the telecom market for communication as their core strategy to connect with their customers, thus ushering in the era of Telecom as a Horizontal.

To sum up the experience of writing a whitepaper, it was quite a work and rework with innumerable reviews until it took this shape. Thanks a ton for the different teams in TCS for putting this together. Special mention goes to my boss, without whom this whitepaper couldn’t have taken this shape. Well, it was quite fun!!





A Mentoring Session in My Organization

24 03 2006

Today I had a session with one of the senior persons in our organization. I wouldn’t call it a session anyway; it was more like an informal chat. He made questions like where do I put myself in 5 yrs, 10 yrs and so on which reminded me of placement days! I don’t know how relevant these questions are in this fast changing world. Yet, there are many pearls of wisdom one can garner from the experience.

Some thoughts to ponder after the discussion!

• If you think you are comfortable in your current job, then its time to move on!
• Learning slackens once you reach 5 years of experience as you end up doing more of a coordination role later on.
• As you grow, your job depends the most on others’ contribution and inputs and hence people skills matter the most.

It felt nice that I had this session. I love what I do, and guess I got enough to mull over from this session. I need to redesign the way I work so that I brush up my skillet and still retain the excitement. A long way to go!





Playing The role Of Organizer- Part II

1 03 2006

Yet another event organized by me! I can observe my reaction and the learning I got from organizing two major events. I was always kind of passive in organizing events was concerned. Since my childhood, I am one of those organized and obedient chaps who finishes her work in time. I rarely took initiative to organize events, and to compare. Somehow, I guess I have always enjoyed being a part of the participants or the audience. Guess, times are changing now.

When I ended up in my project in a Business Analyst role, I had no clue of what I am supposed to do! I thought its all about generating reports and presentations. Soon, I came to understand the unique culture of our project. I work in an ideation lab (a concept which is recently catching up!), so the kind of work I do is not quite imaginable at the first. I call myself as an unofficial mouthpiece and I have to interact with in numerous departments in our small office to get things done.

I have to run white paper presentation contests, and organize industry awareness sessions, discussion forums apart from the regular documentation demands from my role. Most of my work (almost 70%) goes in coordination and networking. And I love what I do (exceptions apply). Once a very good friend of mine told me that if u can give your job 6 out of 10, you should be happy. Guess I can give my role a 7. Playing my role can be fun. I know few people who play basket ball and darts in the office cubicle!

I have discovered quite a lot of golden truths along the way.
The key to make things happen is effective follow-up. (Matlab, you have to run after people until your work is done. Never trust on the memory of people, as I cant trust mine.)
Things often happens in the most unofficial way under the official cover!
Relationships matter the most in any organizing context.
However foolproof your preparation can be, there is always a thing to run in the end!
And last but not the least, Njoy what you do and the work becomes worthwhile, smile and the world smiles along with you!





My Convocation!

27 01 2006

I went to Pune on this 21st of Jan. 22nd Jan was our batch convocation at IMDR. The moment Chennai Express reached Pune, every grueling moments of the 23 hour journey was forgotten and I was giggling like an idiot! I never know that I was suffering from such heavy dose of nostalgia! The train journey was quiet enjoyable, thanks to my batch mate who gave me a good company. I went to my old flat at Mini Apartments on Bhandarkar Road. Everything seemed so normal…

I met an old friend there. He became sick without proper food and a lot of tension in life. Well, he is working in sales in the financial sector and guess there lies the reason for his unbalanced life. Financial sector frightens me with a strenuous work life. I just wonder about those poor souls who are facing the heat! I spent the evening with another friend over dinner catching up with the old times. Nothing changed infact!

On Sunday Morning, I had a great time running to the railway station for booking my return tickets.. That was quiet a long walk which rejuvenated my old memories. Infact, I went for walking for about 4 km a day throughout my stay in Pune.  I went for the convocation dressed in the Maroon Sari, a tradition of IMDR. I was feeling curiously strange as the convocation discussion was a little off the track. Surprisingly, I was a little tensed! Ultimately I was called on the podium as I stood first in Lady Students of our batch. I won a cash prize called “Late Shri. S.G.Barve free studentship.” Well, I felt strange that they decided to have a prize for a ladies topper and that ended up to be me of all probabilities! I was happy that the most creative award of the batch went to Reema Sahay. Who else? I can never forget the beauty and simplicity of her poems.

After the convocation, I had a grand lunch with my Mentee. There is a thing called Mentorship in IMDR where one senior takes the charge of one junior in the process of begadofying and guiding. That’s quite a fruitful relationship as it creates the pegs and relationships across the batches. After that hearty lunch, I went to my relatives place. I love their daughter, who is just 6 years old. She is too sweet and pleasant. Infact, I extended my trip in order to spend decent time with her.

My Observations

One thing that echoed common among a lot of my batch mates is disillusionment, as their expectations are no match to the kind of profiles in which they all ended up. I could sense the dilemma and the turmoil. Life has become a struggle in work life with the emerging challenges. The desire to keep the dreams alive is dwindling and life is rolling in pursuit of mundane tasks. Sad, yet true. I felt little lonely in the campus, guess that’s because of the lack of the comfort factor. A lot of things changed, isn’t it? That’s all about my convocation..





A typical MBA frustration!

17 01 2006

This is a mail forward I have received. The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, has poured his heart out on the kind of frustration he is experiencing over his job. His mail follows now..

*****Am sitting with the feeling of absolute aaram. No work only aaram, I’m developing this excellent habit of managing time pass effectively soon, i would write a book on effective management of Time pass or 101 ways of better time pass.

The day goes like this:

Soon after reaching their desks, everyone is excited about reading mails and all, once they are done with it, it calls for a round of breakfast with tea coming from there is like a big thing but, then we have after all come for work na?

Staring at the screen gives no clue as to what is expected of u or what ur tasks are anyway, it at least gives the impression, that u r involved in something and thinking about it deeply. Then, no longer than half an hour from breakfast, it calls for a tea session, where the usual topics of Bosses, our company etc. are discussed. Coming from there is like: there is now only a small duration to be passed before we assemble for lunch. Gone for lunch means at least 1hr. or may be more effective time pass. After coming back, the messenger starts and then no turning back, coz laziness grips u, so it feels better to gossip sitting on desks only but its not before long that somebody volunteers for tea, and asks for any more volunteers. Surprise!!! all the laziness is gone suddenly and there is a new wave of chalo chai peene, and what better than terrace for it?

After coming from there, a fresh new wave of excitement grips u that soon it would be 4:45 so, we will go down to canteen, come back at 5:30 or something and leave. But don’t think anyone sits till 4:45 too. every now n then out of nowhere, somebody comes up coz he is not in a mood to work and then suddenly u find, a small group of similar feeling waalas has formed and sounds of laughter emanate. Its 5:45 PM. Yippes. Bhaago. and no turning back. Don’t know where is this going to take us. *****

I felt a little sad reading this mail. It’s a clear example which demonstrates that how lack of initiative can affect the way of life of a person. This is something which usually happens for a typical MBA who ends up in a traditional company. Life is less of challenge, more of patience. I wonder how many are being equipped to deal with it. Everyone has a vision of how his/her life should be. Maintaining balance is absolutely essential. In an IT industry, where the companies have to have surplus capacity to deal with the capricious nature of the clientele, this kind of situations are not rare. The onus lies on the individual to make his own way. That makes the journey more interesting, isn’t it?





My Learnings In Six Months..

22 12 2005

Its kind of easy to mention, yet difficult to collate. The work life has been a little shocking to start with, yet it got normal with the passing days. But its still different from what I am used to! I spent a great deal of my first two months at Trivandrum, with beautiful sceneries and a ligament tear to deal with. Days passed on with no sense of purpose and clue as to what I am doing. I am never exposed to the working life of software industry earlier and I had a feeling of back to school with strick schedule and hostel work. We had quite an interesting time, dealing with the corporate expectations. I guess, even the company is perplexed as to what to do with the 200 odd MBAs attending the training. After the gala time and the tension of the allocations, I finally landed up at Chennai. The training process gave me an enriching perspective on the working style of IT industry. With companies having 30% of surplus capacity so that they don’t suffer opportunity loss, it was quite difficult to see the kind of roles I could play. Yet, I got lucky (I hope so!) to get into a demonstration oriented ideation lab which prototypes the next generation ideas on telecom platform.

Luck got a different dimension in everyone’s life. Some curse it, some love it and some doesn’t believe in it. Its good if it works in your favour and its better if it doesn’t. The work life brought in a new culture. It means marriage to your desk, professional relationships and new challenges! Often you like the job, often you won’t. Often you blame the fate, often your boss!

I got to learn a lot of new things from different people. I had my own Oh! Shit moments as well. Yet, through all this flow of life, I can find that the importance of learning is tremendous. I should never let the fire of curiosity die. If that happens, there would be no difference between the dumb terminal on which I am working and my own little brain. I realized that one needs to have a clear focus on the career and which direction one has to mold it into. Its like this old saying: ” If you don’t know the destination, the road doesn’t matter.”

I feel good in my job profile as it keeps me in touch with the industry leaders and influential persons of the TCS client companies. At times, its simply amazing to hear what they have to say. I work with a group which tries to make technology as a part of human life and the implications are far more prominent than one would like to believe. The fight in the telecom industry for the customer mind space, the importance of presentation, the need for innovation and the struggle for market share brings in a level playing field for all the companies big or small.

Marketing still rocks for me, yet I could see the mutual dependence among the different functions for the proper organization of the company. It added a new respect with which I view this functions like HR and Finance. I may not be a great number cruncher, yet I can appreciate those big heads in front of the screens working furiously on Excel. What impresses me the most is the ability to touch people’s lives in a pleasant fashion. Some of the people I met really amaze me with the kind of confidence they exude and the smile with which they carry themselves. Impressive experience is what I had until now. And many more miles to go!





My First Six Months Of Work Life!

16 12 2005

I have completed my first six months of work life and am waiting to complete another! The experience has been quite eventful till now! Guess this is the time to reflect and learn! I used to have a director at IMDR who always emphasized on the importance of reflecting after experience to garner learning. Guess I would listen to him this time! Well, I had an interesting team get-together with my colleagues at MGM resorts. We played cricket, handball, and sealed the day with a gourmet dinner. The heavy moment of the day was when we had to bid farewell to colleague who is leaving to UK the very next day. He is our project lead and somehow I grew comfortable with his guidance. Yet, life has to move on, isn’t it? The ambiance of MGM is perfect for team events. The resort has cricket pitch just beside the beach, and it was quite fun to play the match as I have never played cricket earlier! No wonder, I ended up duck-out (rather ducked out!). I had quite an eventful day, yet I had to back to office on Saturday! So more to key on in further posts..





A Fresh B-Schooler Attitude…

5 10 2005

In my three months of working life, I have had a lot of fights with my own fresh B-Schooler attitude. When I was in IMDR, I used to make strategic analysis, resolve case studies, making reports and giving presentations. It sure gives a kind of hype as to the future roles. Yet, when I look back, joining a B-School straight out of college has its own disadvantages. People tend to generate their own assumptions without a realistic exposure. The live projects do give a glimpse into the real scenario and they can be shaped in a more better manner.

When I joined TCS, I had a straight 40 days training where I was introduced to the software industry background and the TCS business areas. All I could take away are the life skills classes. The training was not focused or tailor made to suit the kind of roles an MBA is expected to perform. Its like asking too much because there were 200 batch mates and each would be put into different roles which have their own responsibilities and requirements.

I landed up in an in-house R&D project of TCS where I have to plan the marketing of the products designed by my team. Life is quite relaxed in TCS as I don’t have to strain myself and the work pace is quite relaxed. Sometimes, I got all the time in world for myself. I have all the freedom to explore library, or the Internet.. The way I respond to the situations depends on myself and my attitude. Things are done quite differently once I have started working.

One doesn’t need to be a Jack of all Trades. I need to focus on the current job and need to say myself that ” I am going to do the current job better than anyone who has done it earlier”. Competing with oneself always pays. It keeps me in better health and in better pace. The moment I start worrying about the future and the fast track growth (a gift from my fresh B-Schooler attitude), my mental peace is gone down the drain. Life is pretty much simple, I try to do what I like the best. I need to keep that constant urge to better myself alive.

Yet, those Philip Kotler days in IMDR come to my mind. IMDR was an oasis which sheltered me for two years. It was a different world, yet it makes makes me comfortable with myself. May be this self-awareness is one takeaway which I name from IMDR. Now, the journey is on and life rolls on..





Intermediate Education

4 05 2005

Today I went to one of the most reputed institutes in Andhra Pradesh for Intermediate Education, Sri Chaitanya to join my cousin there. I was astonished at the way they have provided the facilities for the students and wondered at the credibility of the name and fame they have amassed. They have two types of batches one called IC (Intensive Care) batch and the other one called the regular batch. Fees for the IC batch is 50 grand and the regular weighs 41 grand on your pocket. Though its costlier when compared to the standard of Andhra Pradesh, what surprised me is the stingy facilities they have provided. My cousin was offered a berth in a big room, which she has to share with 8 other girls. There is absolutely no privacy; neither there is a place to study in the room. They have kept a place separate for study.. Yes you can imagine, its just the same open place in front of the hostel. Well, I was reminded of the old stories of the great educationalists that studied under streetlights! But then they had no money to afford the luxuries. Well, I lamely enquired about the games and the entertainment activities. The coordinator gave me a queer look and informed me that they have Chinese-checkers and chess boards! Great!!! I can only pray for my cousin who want to be a Doctor as this seems the only way.. Oh! The plight of students!








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