In 2007, I experienced a career-altering moment. After being in the general manager role for Sniffer's India R&D center (subsequently acquired by NetScout) for four years, my new SVP of Engineering asked me if I would accept being a functional manager for my current direct reports. As a good company man, I consulted with all involved leaders and my direct reports, and enthusiastically said yes, while, to be honest, not completely grasping the importance of the opportunity.
Last weekend, I was at one of the youngest IIMs - IIM Udaipur to be a mentor at their annual event Prarambh where students and young entrepreneurs slog for 32 non-stop hours to build a 'startup'. No, not just a cool code hack but a (near-real) startup. The event ends with the teams pitching to real VCs. And who knows what can happen
Last year, I started conducting an experiment in my classes. For the class assignment, I asked my students to write a blog post that they would need to share among all class mates. Also, I insisted that the blog post be visible to anyone on the internet. Here's why I did that:
A lot of us want to create an impact, especially the ones that comes in B-I-G font size. Change the world. Stop global warming. Establish world peace. Find cancer cure. Stop wars. Leave a legacy that lasts forever. We want to conquer the world with our ideas, our creation, our accomplishments.
It's been twenty years since I went to the magnificent seventh continent (which, ironically, became the first continent that I visited, apart from Asia, where I was born and grew up). I just have to close my eye for a few seconds, and I am still able to teleport myself back to majestic and pristine Antarctica, and the Indian station Maitriwhich was my home for 16 months during 1993-95.
On my recent visit to a wonderful new luxury hotel in town, I found it very interesting that an artist's work was commissioned right outside the restroom. It seemed, at least to me, that the only reason that painter, or rather her talent, was of any particular importance to the hotel designers was if she could paint something that fitted the small wall that welcomed people to the restroom.
I think the only reason why we (must) pay people is so they bring ideas to the workplace. New, big, fresh, stolen, borrowed, bold, controversial, unscientific, unproven, risky, weak, potential gamechangers, disruptor of status quo, creative, ridiculous, audacious (big hairy audacious is even better), slayer of mindless bureaucracy, harbingers of about anything will do as long as they bring something to the workplace, as opposed to just being a plug-and-play part in the giant corporate machinery whose daily activities are pretty much pre-decided as per the giant process manual.
I have been a passionate volunteer since last 20+ years. During this time, I have had wonderful opportunities of volunteering with global organizations such as IEEE, ACM, PMI and various Agile community groups like AgileIndia, while also had opportunities to volunteer with small, but not unimportant, causes, such as my apartment association and my community social. Why, I even volunteered to spend 16 months in icy continent of Antarctica — something no one in their right senses would ever do! (and here is the TEDx talk I delivered on it.) While some experiences lasted longer (and better) than others, all of them left me with invaluable learnings. In this blog post, I call out my favorite learnings: