Category Archives: career

7 laws to live your life by

We humans, are the product of 13.4 years of evolution. We have been gifted with consciousness of the world and of our own selves. Beginning today we are living the rest of our lives. Here are 7 laws of life which will make our lives more enjoyable and productive.

We don’t get second chances: This is an obvious truth which we know but don’t ponder upon. This life of ours is short and we don’t get second chances. It is imperative that we utilize our time in the best possible way. We should not fritter away our time in useless pursuits, petty bickering and idleness. We need to make certain that we make every day count starting right now. So be mindful of the fact that “You only live once!”

Drop excess baggage: This is an extension of the earlier truth. Our lives our short and there is no second chance. To live our lives well we need to drop excess baggage from our minds. We need to drop our animosities, petty jealousies and hatred we may have. We need to forgive, forget and move on. There is a need to move lightly through life and not expend energy in wasteful activities as mentioned above. We could utilize our energies and efforts in more fruitful activities.

Wake up to the world: Is your life too mechanical? Do you feel that you are on auto-pilot in life? Are you bored with this fast paced life? Who is to blame for this situation? Clearly there is nobody else to blame but you. This world of ours provides so many opportunities for doing creative and new things. If you think your life is boring and lifeless then you really need to wake up and open your eyes to the beauty of the world. Take a vacation, go places, make short trips to exotic places. Do some bird watching. Spend some time in the beach. Do something, in fact do anything. There is so much to see and experience in this world of ours.

Make fitness your watchword: To live life fully we need to be both physically and mentally fit. Make sure that you pay adequate attention to your physical health. You could either hit the gym daily or do something as simple as a brisk walk at least 4 times a week. Eat healthy food. Focus on being physically fit.

Besides physical fitness one also needs to concentrate on mental fitness. Think good clean thoughts. Avoid hatred, anger and envy. Read good books. Exercise your brain by learning some thing new. It could be a musical instrument, painting or writing a blog. Exercising your brain is important to avoid later issues in life.

Settle for common sense: When in doubt settle for common sense. Many times we take hasty , emotional decisions and then regret later. Other times we are caught in an analysis paralysis oscillating between extremes. In all situations temper your decision with a dollop of common sense.

Love the job you do: This may seem contradictory to the common refrain of ‘doing the job you love’. Since many of us will not have the luxury of choosing to pursue our passions we will need to learn to love our day jobs. Be creative about your day job. It will not be as boring as it appears if you take interest in the bigger picture of your daily job.

You are the not center of the universe: Often we go about our lives as though the universe was centered on ourselves. In reality there is whole universe outside of us. Instead of thinking about your life, your problems and your ambitions, try to look at the world through the eyes of others. See what difference you can make to the lives of the less privileged. Do some social work. You are not the center of the universe!

The above are laws are not something new. They have always been around and we know it, yet seem to be oblivious of them. Ponder on them and make a difference to your life.

You are what you dream. You are what you envision. Think big!

Go about creating the future you want 1 day at a time!

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How do you want your life to turn out?

In life we are in for the ‘long haul’. With the advancements in science the average life expectancy is 70+ years. This is a fact that escapes most of us.. So as a child, teenager, a college student, an employee or as a middle-aged person we go through life in a myopic fashion. We don’t seem to see more than a few years ahead in our life.  As a result many of us take a roller coaster ride through life.

In fact our vision in life becomes better and better as we age, tending towards a perfect 6/6 probably at doorstep of death.

As someone who has crossed the 50+ age barrier I have the privilege of looking back at my life and the lives of many of friends, colleagues, classmates and acquaintances, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin.

I have found that lives of people fall into several major categories. The progression or retrogression in lives falls into a few main categories. I show the examples of several life trajectories below. Note: That the lines are not as smooth as depicted but are wavy in reality. Anyway here some of the main  ‘trajectories of life’

The ‘Crash & Burn’ type: These people taste success very early in life. Due to unreasonable demands from their parents, society or excessive expectations of themselves they rise very fast. In fact they explode into limelight and burn out due to excessive stress on themselves.

1

The Plateau’ers : These people are full of energy early in their lives. They push themselves relentlessly and work towards success. This happens for many years. They advance rapidly in life and move higher and higher in their professional and social life. Then all of sudden they seem to lose steam and simply give up. Then they start to plateau and plateau. It is as if they suddenly lost interest in everything in life.

2

The ‘Rise and Fall’ types: These people like ‘the plateau’ers’ do well early in life maybe till their mid 30’s. Then for some reason, not only they lose interest in life, they also just seem to work against themselves as though they need to undo all their success. They decline rapidly.

3

The Drifters: These people just drift aimlessly in life. They are not driven by any ambition in life. They take life as it comes. So their lives have a lot of ups and downs and they really don’t care. They just go through the motions of living

4

The Steady Climbers:  These people probably have the best approach in life. They have moderate ambition. They go through life at a steady pace.  They make incremental advancements in life. They know that life is a marathon and not a 100 meter dash.

5

The Random Travelers: These people go through life in a random fashion. They pursue a career for 8 – 10 years. Then, all of a sudden, they decide to travel around the world for several years. Then suddenly, when they are tired of traveling, they do social work or start preaching. There is no plot for these types

If you are young and just beginning to embark on a career then it is really useful to decide how you would like your life to turn out. In most case the ‘steady climb’ is a good approach. Life is a marathon and it is necessary to move ahead in manageable steps. If you are middle-aged and if you life thus far has been roller coaster ride, you could make necessary course corrections and move into a steady climber. So it is up to you to decide how you want your life to turn out.

However I would like to point out that if we ask the plateau’ers, or the rise & fall types or the drifters they may have reasons for leading such a life. For e.g. the drifters may say that while their life has drifted in general they been able to live a fuller life as they were able to appreciate several aspects in life for e.g. arts, culture etc and that is perfectly fine too. It is up to each one of us to decide what is important and what is not important in life.

So you will have to decide how the ‘trajectory’ of your life should turn out to be and work towards it.

Manage your future …Now!

There are 3 types of people in this world. The first type generally drifts about in life. They go wherever life takes them. They have neither interest nor passion about anything. The second category of people are the highly stressed lot. They are usually tossed about from one crisis to another and they are highly strung and overwrought in life. The last category of people are those who have a purpose in life.

Life is all about having meaning and purpose. What is really important is that we sit down and take stock of our life. We have to actively manage our future and we have to do it now!

It is in our own self-interest that we take an active interest in how we manage our future and our life. To do this we have to ask these pointed questions to ourselves

Where am I now?

This is the first question you have to pose to yourself. Are you happy with life? Are you frustrated? Are you content? We have to look at our lives in all possible angles. Are we having a good family life? Are we spending quality time with our spouses, children, parents, brothers and sisters? Ask yourself, “Am I enjoying my job? Am I getting the salary I deserve or am I in the right place with the right designation? How is your standing in the social circle – you old school, college friend and you old colleagues. We have to ask these questions and we must try to answer them honestly.

The next question that we have to pose ourselves with is –

Where do I want to go?

Given a clear view of where you are currently where would you like to be in the next couple of years? We have to have a realistic view of what we want to do in life and what we want to achieve. Imagine your future. Are you looking for respect among peers, a larger social circle or a better position in a larger organization?  Would you like to own a house, a car or send your child to study in a foreign university? While being realistic in your dreams make sure you sprinkle a lot of ambition. If you can dream it, you can surely achieve it.

And finally

What am I going to do about it…Now!

You have understood where you stand in life and you know where you want to go in your future. The next step is act. To put into motion things that will get you started on the path to achievement, to the path of your dreams and to your future. As they say “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Act now and act decisively. In management parlance it is all about “execution”. We must execute on the plans starting now to achieve what may seem impossible.

So, take control of your life and drive bravely to a brighter future.

Making time for a career health check

This is a regular activity that all of us in our professional lives should do. It is plain and simple common sense. A couple of years into any job and we get into a rut. We keep doing the same thing over and over again without pausing to think or reflect. Our jobs may be stable and may also pay us well. Our professional life may seem to move like a well oiled machine. You may actually be having a good time. But every 3-4 years one needs to sit back and do career health check.


By this, is meant that one should just sit back, and take a hard and critical look at the way our careers is shaping up. By doing this we achieve a couple of things. First we need to see where we are currently in our career and where we intend to go in the next 5 or 10 years. Are we on track for this? Are we well networked in our office? Have we acquired the skills necessary if and when we get the promotion.

On the other hand we also need to look at some really dark scenarios and see how we would fare if they should occur. For example what if you were to get laid off, fired or just had to relocate to another city. If you had to look for another job tomorrow what are your chances of you getting the job you desire, with the kind of salary you want. How long will it take to get another job? This is a very important exercise and we need to do this periodically in our professional lives.

The issue is we generally get comfy with our lives, and assume that things will continue to bright and sunny for years to come. We get into a rut and start drifting around. It may also so happen that your current job is very niche and there are very few organizations in the world which require such skills. While you may be important in your current organization what would happen if your organization ran into issues and you had to look for another job. It is possible that you are doing something that is obsolete but is required in your organization. It may be highly valued skill in your organization and you may be getting well paid. But outside your organization it may be absolutely useless. It is here that one needs to make a proper objective view of one’s situation and take pro-active action and try to learn up new skills. We need to prepare ourselves for any eventuality. One could some learn some other technologies and pick up on new skills. One needs to enroll in courses and make sure that one is up to date with the requirements of the industry.

Another very important exercise to do along with this is to continue to network with other friends in the industry and learn the key developments in the last couple of years. Friends are a great source of information and can keep you abreast of the happenings. This will let you know which areas you need to work on.

While this is common sense most of us ignore the signs and we start to get desperate when things go out of control. We need to constantly monitor our progress in our career and make mid-course corrections and adjustments as we move along in our professional lives.

This will prepare us for any eventuality and keep us sailing smoothly in our careers.

Give techies a chance

Published in WSJ,India Real Time,Career Journal – Give techies a chance

India’s otherwise successful information technology industry has failed to foster a culture of technical innovation.

Instead of ensuring the growth of employees in technology development roles, the typical Indian IT company seems almost indifferent to their career progress. They often don’t provide a clear career path for techies and have little room for them at the top of the hierarchy.

If India wants to stay competitive, this must change.

The Indian IT industry took off in the late 1980s and 1990s mostly as the back office for Western companies. The explosion of technology, India’s relatively cheap services and its English-speaking labor force gave it an edge over some other countries.

But as Western companies have grown more confident in the capabilities of India’s technical talent, they have been sending more complex work this way.

To tackle this challenging workload, in the last few years Indian IT companies have tweaked their organizational structure to have two ladders — one for engineers interested in management roles and another for those who want a purely technical career. Unfortunately, like the Indian rope trick, the technical ladder disappears into thin air after a few levels.

Engineers who choose to stay on the technical track can get  few promotions in the first 15 to 18 years of their careers, at which point they become principal engineers or equivalent. But after that — kaput! These people report to directors who come from the managerial side.

Rarely do technical people get promoted to senior decision-making or strategy positions in the company, making the technical track a virtual cul-de-sac.

On the other hand, those climbing the management ladder can aspire to become top executives and hold designations such as vice-president and senior vice-president.  Promotions on this ladder also come more quickly. The message is clear: If you want to get to the top fast,  you have to be in management. This forces even those with technical inclinations to take the management track.

It is not surprising, then that there are so few engineers in India who want to work on technical innovation for the rest of their careers. Instead, many choose to switch to project and people management early on.

The general perception among senior management in India is that technical professionals are only good with their machines –  with little or no idea about people dynamics. What they don’t realize is that senior technical experts have to deal with everybody in the company: from its executives, to  its sales people to its developers. Barring some exceptions, technical experts who have been in the industry for a couple of decades should be able to juggle programs and manage people with equal ease.

Also, top executives spend a lot of their time making strategic decisions – rather than managing people on a daily basis.  There’s no reason why techies can’t do the same.

A company’s business strategy could benefit from knowledge of senior technical experts, who are used to dealing with things that are a lot  more complex than balance sheets and a firm’s cash flow situation.

Let’s compare what happens in India with what happens in the West. In the U.K. or the U.S., it’s common to find people with 25 years of software or technical experience in senior designations at par with vice-president. Companies like IBM and Microsoft Corp. and Apple are known for encouraging technical experts. In many cases, these companies were founded and managed by the techies themselves.

Unless Indian companies also give real recognition to highly qualified experts in the organization, there is a little chance of the country producing serious technological breakthroughs. Only by creating an environment where technical experts can thrive and deep technical learning is encouraged, can India’s IT industry enter a new era and become a software force to reckon with in the world.

Key strategies to power your career

Success in professional life is rarely accidental. It is the result of a well thought out plan carried out to perfection as one moves from rung to rung in the organizational hierarchy.  Here are some key strategies, which if pursued, will give a better control over your career and will make your rise in the organization fairly smooth

Learning to learn: This is by far the most important quality we need when we enter the professional world. We need to learn how to learn. We need to be able to absorb the essence of our task, assignment or project. Any work that we perform we need to know both what to learn and how to learn. We need to able to look above the immediate project requirements and appreciate its function in a holistic way. We need to fully understand the product, the technologies involved, what problem it solves and how it ultimately benefits the end user.

Depth over breadth and vice versa:  If you are in the technical ladder make sure that your swim deep and long. Spend time learning the implications, intricacies and nuances of the technologies involved. Learn to appreciate the various tradeoffs that have to be taken in the work being done. On the contrary, if you are a project or a program manager focus on breadth rather on depth. Understand the benefits and shortcomings of the involved technology and various allied technologies. Understand industry trends and how the project fits in the organizational business plan.

Make the right moves: At every stage one has to be aware of where one is with respect to the goal. We need to monitor and make mid course corrections. It is quite likely that as you move along in your professional life you may want to switch technology domains or shift to management. These are conscious decisions that you will have to weigh and take as you go along. As you grow you have understand where you want to go and how you want to get there. This is the mark of a true leader. We will hit several crossroads during our career. Our decisions should be directed towards our long term goal. Make sure the choices you make contribute to your professional, monetary and emotional accounts.

Look from the other side of the fence:  If you are technically inclined learn the basics of project & program management. Understand and appreciate the challenges of people management. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into a technical-only slot. If on the other hand you are a project manager you must spend time becoming tech savvy. Try to get an all round view of all related technology. Technical people prefer managers who are tech savvy.

Plan for Success:  This is critical for career growth. Make sure you plan for success. In the words of Yogi Berra “If you don’t know where you are going you might wind up someplace else”.  Bring focus to both short and long term goals and work towards achieving them.

Understand and appreciate “Management Speak”:  This is something that is very critical to your career growth. Make sure you understand the jargon that senior management tends to use “for e.g. 10,000 ft view”, “project risks”, ”quality improvement”.   Do not shy away from this type of management jargon. In the early years most of tend to take management jargon lightly. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes and understand and appreciate the challenges he faces. It is good idea to understand the direction your organization is heading with respect to other peer organizations

Network: Networking is a critical to your success in the long run. Get to know your peers, subordinates, your boss and his peers. The more you network, the better are the chances of your success. It is imperative that you not only grow your professional network but also keep it well-oiled. You will learn a lot of people skills by networking.  Networking will keep you abreast of all the latest trends in the industry, besides many organizations prefer referrals while recruiting.

Visibility speaks: Success in the professional world depends a lot on your visibility to the top management. Make sure that you help or lead any effort that is organization or at least department wide. It is very important that you grab opportunities to lead. This will not only increase your visibility but will also improve your organizational skills and make you understand the challenges of making things happen.

You will spend close to a quarter of a century in your professional avatar.  Having a proper plan and working towards your career goal is important to both your financial and emotional well being. So ensure that you make all the right moves in your career.

Key strategies to power your career

Success in professional life is rarely accidental. It is the result of a well thought out plan carried out to perfection as one moves from rung to rung in the organizational hierarchy.  Here are some key strategies, which if pursued, will give a better control over your career and will make your rise in the organization fairly smooth

Learning to learn: This is by far the most important quality we need when we enter the professional world. We need to learn how to learn. We need to be able to absorb the essence of our task, assignment or project. Any work that we perform we need to know both what to learn and how to learn. We need to able to look above the immediate project requirements and appreciate its function in a holistic way. We need to fully understand the product, the technologies involved, what problem it solves and how it ultimately benefits the end user.

Depth over breadth and vice versa:  If you are in the technical ladder make sure that your swim deep and long. Spend time learning the implications, intricacies and nuances of the technologies involved. Learn to appreciate the various tradeoffs that have to be taken in the work being done. On the contrary, if you are a project or a program manager focus on breadth rather on depth. Understand the benefits and shortcomings of the involved technology and various allied technologies. Understand industry trends and how the project fits in the organizational business plan.

Make the right moves: At every stage one has to be aware of where one is with respect to the goal. We need to monitor and make mid course corrections. It is quite likely that as you move along in your professional life you may want to switch technology domains or shift to management. These are conscious decisions that you will have to weigh and take as you go along. As you grow you have understand where you want to go and how you want to get there. This is the mark of a true leader. We will hit several crossroads during our career. Our decisions should be directed towards our long term goal. Make sure the choices you make contribute to your professional, monetary and emotional accounts.

Look from the other side of the fence:  If you are technically inclined learn the basics of project & program management. Understand and appreciate the challenges of people management. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into a technical-only slot. If on the other hand you are a project manager you must spend time becoming tech savvy. Try to get an all round view of all related technology. Technical people prefer managers who are tech savvy.

Plan for Success:  This is critical for career growth. Make sure you plan for success. In the words of Yogi Berra “If you don’t know where you are going you might wind up someplace else”.  Bring focus to both short and long term goals and work towards achieving them.

Understand and appreciate “Management Speak”:  This is something that is very critical to your career growth. Make sure you understand the jargon that senior management tends to use “for e.g. 10,000 ft view”, “project risks”, ”quality improvement”.   Do not shy away from this type of management jargon. In the early years most of tend to take management jargon lightly. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes and understand and appreciate the challenges he faces. It is good idea to understand the direction your organization is heading with respect to other peer organizations

Network: Networking is a critical to your success in the long run. Get to know your peers, subordinates, your boss and his peers. The more you network, the better are the chances of your success. It is imperative that you not only grow your professional network but also keep it well-oiled. You will learn a lot of people skills by networking.  Networking will keep you abreast of all the latest trends in the industry, besides many organizations prefer referrals while recruiting.

Visibility speaks: Success in the professional world depends a lot on your visibility to the top management. Make sure that you help or lead any effort that is organization or at least department wide. It is very important that you grab opportunities to lead. This will not only increase your visibility but will also improve your organizational skills and make you understand the challenges of making things happen.

You will spend close to a quarter of a century in your professional avatar.  Having a proper plan and working towards your career goal is important to both your financial and emotional well being. So ensure that you make all the right moves in your career.