An Update..

17 09 2008

Yes. I know. I have heard from you all about how I vanished from the place that I loved most. And seriously, I did have a wide grin when you said that you missed me. 🙂 Yet, playing to the gallery isn’t my forte at all. Life is caught in a swirl of change and am riding the wave in a gleeful manner. This time the change is in my career. A rapid shift in my career sees me taking a bit of stretch role in a new industry with a new set of roles and responsibilities. What could be a better learning experience than shirking the comfort zone in search of unexplored terrain?

I am so used to the lingo of R&D, a world high strung with drama, energy, passion and smart people since past three years that letting it go has been tough on me. Thanks for those rough weather friends who made this easy on me. Thanks for those long conversations, sweet many things, nice long walks and small special treats. I can’t thank enough for those special moments that filled my life during those moments of indecision and tension.

Sometimes I wonder if I take my life too easily and work way too seriously. Putting the glass down has been easy to preach and too tough to practice. And hence this long pause to indulge myself in contemplation and solitude. Farewell times are often tough, yet they are much needed for true friends to meet again. I am moving on with some bitter sweet memories to fill those nostalgic moments and somehow Bilbo’s last song steals the moment for the day.

“Day is ended, dim my eyes,
but journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.

Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.

Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I’ll find the heavens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the Star above my mast!”

Friends, Acquaintances, Loved ones, Well-wishers, the Diffident ones and the Random browsers, thanks for being there in those moments of silent need. You make this journey of life very special.





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.





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.





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?





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!