Year In Review 2021: Learning and Career Management (Post #2)
I had laid the backdrop of this review in the opening post of this Year in Review 2021 series. The roots traced back to my Year in Review 2020 series, that appeared as a Featured Snippet on Google, ahead of billions of search results. In the earlier post, I had written about the first two parts, Digital and Technology, and The Intelligence Stack. I will be writing about the next two segments in this post, covering learning and career management.
Each of the seven Parts in this Year in review series has three pointers – a 21 gun salute to 2021. This will be followed by a grand finale, as we bring two and two together to welcome 2022. So, let us dive right in!
Part 3 – Learning to Earning
Although the world continues to change at a very fast pace, the education system just refuses to keep pace. The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), introduced recently, envisions taking education in the right direction. However, it may be a case of either too little, or too late, for a lot of people. A lot more needs to be done on the ground right now for those who will continue to face the chasm, and will need to bridge the gap between academia and the real world. Or, as I have mentioned in the title of this segment, making the transition from Learning to Earning.
#7 – Mind The Gap
The basic principles of economics postulate the dreadful outcome for suppliers in case supply far outstrips demand. This is true of both key milestones in the lives of the youth. Firstly, getting admission into a good college for graduation and secondly, getting a good job (or any job) once they pass out of college.
As part of this competitive race, students (and parents) often are so focused on the upcoming milestone and the next hurdle, that they tend to neglect the bigger picture. Even if we clear that next hurdle of college admission, or our first job, we forget that it is just one hurdle and the race of life has only just begun. And, the race of life is a marathon, or probably a decathlon (a sport that requires proficiency in ten different areas), rather than a sprint or a hurdle race.
I had the opportunity to share some of my perspectives on the skills, attitude and aptitude that you require to succeed in work life with a highly engaged audience at a session organized by JITO. The session lived up to it’s intent to create a bridge between education and job. I was happy to receive and address a lot of queries of the enthusiastic and inquisitive audience.
The New Normal requires a significant adjustment to the skillsets that will be required in the workforce. The education system will take several years to adjust, and it is incumbent upon us to find our own solutions. Moreover, it will not address the challenges of the working professionals in a big way. Shout out to the JITO team of Ashok Bengani, Rohit Surana, Rajesh Bhutoria for organizing this, Ankit Shyamsukha for moderating the session and special thanks to Bhaven Kamdar for putting the wheels in motion.
In 2022, I would encourage everyone with experience, to share their perspectives and guide the younger ones along the way. No contribution is too small, and no level of experience is too little. For someone wanting to get admission in a college, even a first year graduate student is experienced enough!
#8 – Financial Literacy
There were multiple events during the year that pointed me to the subject of financial literacy, or the lack thereof. As a backdrop, I must confess that I am doubly blessed in this regard. Or, as the theory of curse of knowledge would imply, I am doubly blind to this problem.
Firstly, because I belong to a community that has been known for it’s commercial acumen, and secondly because I am a Chartered Accountant and an MBA. However, I would say that the society-wide problem of financial literacy, even amongst the highly educated classes of the country, only recently made their way into my consciousness.
The first such moment was on International Women’s Day, celebrated this year with the theme of Choose to Challenge. One of the campaigns by PayTM highlighted the issues surrounding financial literacy for women in a beautifully crafted video. You can find the video embedded in my article on choose to challenge financial dependence on Women’s Day.
Secondly, I also realized that this is problem is widespread and cuts across genders, age groups and educational backgrounds. I see a lot of people even at my age, struggling to manage their financial affairs, despite being well educated and even having studied finance related courses during their education.
Once again, the economic uncertainty over the last couple of years has highlighted the need to have a resilient financial plan, that takes care of not just the income-expenditure balance, but is equipped to create wealth and financial assets in the (not so) long run.
In a nutshell, if you don’t have your foundational finance pillars in place, a New Year is the best opportunity to gather some momentum and set things right! Take care of your financial health in 2022, too!
#9 – Interesting Lives
My journey from learning to earning to over a decade as a CEO, has been interesting, to say the least. However, life is not lived in silos. Our personal lives have a significant impact on how our professional lives take shape. Many of you who have been following my writing over the years, know that I write a lot about parenting and my interactions with my children. My children are currently in 12th and 10th grade respectively. With their growing years and sensibilities, I am less inclined to reveal details of my interactions with them!
However, I did get some such opportunities during the year. I was fortunate to be invited to a podcast, ILooP (Interesting Lives of Ordinary People) by Rohini Rathour. Apart from being a wonderful host, she enforced a format that forced me to really think hard about my journey. I went through a couple of cycles of introspecting and shared key turning points of my journey. In particular, I spoke about how parenting and interaction with my children shaped my career choices, and even led me to the autodidactual path of self-directed learning. I don’t have any qualms in admitting that I learnt more in my 40’s, than I remember from my Director’s Merit List days at IIM Bangalore. And this includes learning about technical subjects, not just soft skills or life skills.
The podcast is available here, and while you are at it, do check out other interesting lives too! We often seek answers from the outside world, failing to see within. However, if we introspect hard enough looking at our own journey, we can infer a lot based on our decisions!
Actions speak louder than words, but thinking about such actions can help shape our future!
Part 4 – The MBA Chronicles
And since I am down memory lane to my MBA days in the late 90’s, let me stay there for the next segment. I always find speaking with the youth energizing and an extremely reflective exercise. We often tend to take our present for granted, but the present is nothing but an accumulation of our past. At the risk of not remembering my integral calculus, for which I did not find much practical use, (until just now….lol), the present is the integral function of the actions and consequences summed over time, from birth (or from previous birth, if you want) to this moment in time.
#10 – When I was in your shoes
It is only when we look back hard at our journey, are we able to determine this equation of life. As most of you who have struggled with integral calculus (or run away from it) will appreciate, this problem is not as simple as it sounds. Hence, if you ask people to summarize their learnings from the journey of life, or how they got to a particular point, they will typically struggle.
I was forced into such an introspective mode, when I was invited to deliver a talk for the students at IIM Udaipur. As an aside, Prof Janat Shah, the Founder Director, has shaped the institute very differently from its inception and his holistic approach to building careers and institutions, is an inspiring read.
I asked the students to select the topic for the talk in a poll, and gave them interesting options around Digital Transformation, AI/ML, Career Management etc. However, they ended up choosing the topic “When I was in your shoes”!
It was a lot of fun getting into the act, and even though I could not literally find my shoes from over 2 decades earlier, I did find my IIMB sweatshirt in pretty good condition. And, sure enough, I did wear it for the occasion – donning the same campus gear after more than 20 years! Yes, it does speak to the affection with which I hold memories of my campus, and is not an indicator of how well I keep every other material object!
In this review series, it will not be possible for me to re-iterate the points that I ended up discovering about myself and my journey. But, that is not the point, in any case. The key learning is that having recollections of good times or bad times is one thing, but to extract learnings for oneself and for others, is a different ball game. Try playing these introspection games, even if you are out of practice. Once you get into the groove, you will truly enjoy and discover yourself with a new lens!
Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing this time of the year? Okay, you can bookmark ‘introspection’, and think about it, after finishing this review.
#11 – CXO Talk Series – Career choices
I also had an opportunity to share my journey with alumni of my alma mater, in a close-knit session organized by the Bangalore chapter of IIMB Alumni Association, as a part of the CXO Talk Series. The association invited me to speak about career management and making the right career choices. Kudos to Amit Tyagi, Subodh Patil, Anil Radhakrishnan (and others whose names I may be missing), for going out of the way to curate these sessions and ensure that the sessions provide value to the audience, as intended.
For those of you who may not be aware, I have made quite a few ‘interesting’ career choices, as I also mentioned in detail in the podcast that I had written about earlier in this series. I will not go through those details again, which can be deduced from my LinkedIn profile.
However, my focus during this session was to help the alumni create their own ‘mental model’ of how they should make their own career choices. It was not just about telling the audience about the choices I made and why. It was also about helping them live through those experiences, and overlay their own experience on top of a general purpose framework, that can be applied in their context too.
I am grateful that these efforts bore fruit and the session was widely appreciated by the audience. Since we are in the introspection zone, it also helped me realize (yet again), that very few things give me as much joy as helping out others, by leveraging my knowledge or experiences.
If you want me to state this explicitly, then, you will do your future self a huge favour by spending some time thinking about what you really love doing, and weave that in your career and your life in 2022 and beyond.
#12 – A Keynote on Ethics
In the last couple of sections, I have written about the difficulty, or non-obviousness, of culling out learnings from our experiences. Even though our experiences are as real as it gets, we find this difficult. I faced an even more difficult task during the year, when I was asked to deliver the Keynote Address at a seminar dedicated to Business Ethics by Jaipuria School of Business.
I have delivered keynote speeches at various forums earlier, whether it is a gathering of technology or finance professionals. However, Business Ethics is a rather abstract topic that is closely intertwined with one’s personal sense of values and morals. As I played out the scenario in my head, I knew what I had to do.
I imagined listening to other people on this topic and thought about what I would want to hear. It was easy to get the audience into the ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ mode, and one thing that I needed to avoid at all costs was to sound preachy, or to approach the topic from a higher model pedestal, just because I was delivering the Keynote Address.
I also came to the realization that Business Ethics is academically ‘unimportant’. It accounted for only 1-2 credits during my entire MBA course, as far as I can recollect. Consequently, students and industry folks in the audience may not be too much interested in theories around it. Shout out to the organizers for bringing this to the fore, and particularly to Dr. Vartika Chaturvedi, for stitching together everything seamlessly and the Director, Dr. Jitendra Kumar Mishra.
Once again, it was as much a learning experience for me, as I am sure it was for the participants. I infused a few metaphors and linked ethics with both purpose and culture, to make the session entertaining and insightful.
As a side note, I remained logged in to the event after my keynote address, and learned a lot from the engaging panel discussions thereafter. A lot of keynote speakers leave immediately after delivering their address, and while we all do have commitments, we learn more when we think and when we listen, rather than while speaking!
Let’s try and find those learning opportunities and make use of them. Once we change the way we look at our interactions with people, we will be surprised with the massive amount of learning opportunities that are hiding in plain sight.
Note to self: Not everything that gets measured is important, and not everything that is important gets assessed! Keep distinguishing between the two in 2022!
Coming Up: Part 5 and 6 of Year in Review 2021
I hope the above sections on education and careers provided you with some food for thought. All the best for making life changing decisions and making the most of these times in 2022. And, while you are at it, do not forget that people around you, including your colleagues, team members and even bosses, are probably in similar boats!
So, in the next post, we will turn our attention to the uber important HR function and the big picture at work. Just to clarify, uber is used as an adjective and not as a reference to the company, Uber, whose founder was infamous for the way he treated his people!
In case you missed reading the first post of this series, you can read about the Year in Review 2021 that dealt with technology, digital and the intelligence stack (data, analytics, artificial intelligence, etc.) and also the 21 lessons for 2021 that I wrote in January 2021, along with my Year in Review 2020 series, that appeared as a Featured Snippet on Google, ahead of billions of search results.