Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Active socially and still an introvert – may be!

I recently read two books that had little in common but for one idea… both authors chose their topic to build on how organizations should treat Thursdays for their employees. The first book "The Social Factor" was all about leveraging the Social Networking Tools to enhance collaboration in the organizations. The second one 'Quiet" was on how in the world full of non-stop talkers an introvert is still required (and sometime desired). Little in common or maybe I thought so…

In her book on using social networking tools, Maria Azua talks of using Thursdays as days to celebrate innovation. Organizations should give freedom to employees to engage in projects they desire to work. All they need is to publish the idea, have a team join in and present on different intervals. She thinks this collaboration helps motivate the work force.

On the other hand, in "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking", Susan Cain advocates a different approach. Let Thursdays be a "Do not disturb" days where-in you cannot speak to each other. Use emails if required. No meetings can be set-up. This is the day to reflect and respond. She thinks it helps in bringing in-depth perspectives and helps solve challenges.

Both authors also developed further on helping organizations to innovate with such measures. While IBM stood for first, iWoz was quoted as core supporter of the other in Apple. While both these ideas sounded far from practical for my consulting life (sorry but I don’t think we are using Fridays as step back days that consulting fore-fathers envisioned it to be), I felt there would be a strong liking for both ideas in my client teams. Anyways, my idea of this post is not to debate which idea is better but which idea would I be more comfortable with and why?

The more I thought about this, the more I got convinced that I would rather go with the later one. I think I have always been a reflective type throughout my life. I started thinking more and more on this and then had this very interesting discussion with a friend from BCG on being introvert and extrovert. The more I read "Quiet", the more I got convinced that I have traits of that of an introvert far more visible. I deliberately stayed away from classic definitions of the terms but more on traits.

I also realized that where the level of my introvert nature was not constant in all my life, I made much stronger progress when I remained and retained things to myself. While some of my friends from my under-grad days would find this unbelievable that I am making such a claim, I am sure others from my school days or even MBA days would say "absolutely' to that. Today, I think I am taking a more in-between path but it comes with a lot of thinking, prep work and conscious efforts. For those of you already convinced with my argument, you can skip the next 13 points and can jump straight to next section. For those who don’t believe it yet; let me share some history with you:

1.      As a kid, I used to be very aloof in my class. In fact for a long time in my primary school, I went to the Teachers' staff room in lunch breaks and ate with my class teachers (yes!). I was afraid that someone in the class would hurt me or say something harsh. Funny that my mom even paid these teachers for my lunches in case my teachers decided to go out for lunch!
2.      In my second grade, when we went on a family vacation to Singapore, I would shy away from interacting from my dad's friends. I would not speak much… partially I felt language handicapped, but mostly because I had nothing to talk about for most part. My dad pretty much thought that I have some mental handicap – okay this may be going too far! My sister, on the other hand, was very much a fun kid to be around. She spoke whatever came to her mind and was an instant hit with those very same people. However, it is worth mentioning that when my mom wanted to go to a mall 2 KM from our hotel to do her shopping, I knew the way like a map in my brain! (Remember this was a 2nd grader in a different country altogether)…
3.      Later in my high school, I shied away from making too many friends. No marry band for me, I kept one or two close relations for most part and sought happiness in those. Even when I had the limelight, there was no flamboyance. I was the kid teachers would be proud of; but may be not the best of the classmate to have. To make things worse, whenever I said anything, I really went to extreme. My introvert and reflective nature knew where to hurt the most. Till date I am ashamed of some of the stuff I did or the comments I made to my fellow classmates… Not fun for a high school kid I say!
4.      It was but natural for me to develop some lonely hobbies as well (now it all makes sense). I started writing poetry in my 5th grade and by 9th grade, I became so good at it that I could fill-in for some of those make shift poets at the "Kavi Sammelans" – of course I never did that and confined to publishing anonymously in newspapers and magazines.
5.      My games were quite weird too… I would come back from school and would play with the old Auto parts in our backyard and make my own spaceships for hours... I could play competitive Tennis, Hockey, even Cricket all by myself. You may ask me how I made it competitive… I would take turns and call myself (say Australia) as I tried to hit the ball bouncing off a wall… give myself 6 balls and keep scores. Then India would bat and in mostly would win against the Australian team. It seems funny now that I almost felt a remorse if India could not win! May be my dad was right in thinking that I had some mental disorder growing up…
6.      Anyways, so what happened when I did go out to play…, don’t get me wrong I did a lot of team sports too… but I ended up picking a fight with someone or the other. Not that I wanted to but somehow I could not adjust to little things like pushing around someone on the field… not necessarily me… someone just anyone… I hated bullying and went all after that. The more I think of it now, it wasn’t the caring me that wanted to show-up there, it was more the isolated me that found it difficult to adjust to an otherwise normal life event. I went out some, and mostly came back with a swollen jaw or a swollen hand for most part!
7.      Even within my cousins, when we were far chirpier, I was more contained. The things we would do together would be more like running, swimming and painting competitions! I think it is also interesting to give a perspective here from my family culture: being talkative was not taken well for most part (compared to crows, and other stupid noisy animals). On the other hand, being silent was a sign of wisdom. You would only speak on a need basis – was the mantra I had heard so many times. It was but natural for the reflective I to embody that message for most part of my childhood and even later as a grown up.
8.      My ambitions also reflected my behavior and my intrinsic nature to a large degree. I didn’t want to become a consultant ever (even when I was 21, I didn’t know what the heck is consulting), my ideal was to be a scientist at NASA… not an astronaut mind you… most of those guys had too much personality for me, Scientist me lad!
9.      As I grew up, I tried to change my natural self a lot. I almost gave upon me when I stayed for one full year in the confines of my study room to prepare for the engineering entrance examinations. I hated myself…. Oh BTW, a fair audit on all those 12th graders that have fun solving those Irodov's physics problems, you are being tagged by me right now!... anyways so I changed and changed dramatically – I was full of drama, excitement as I stepped in to the wonderful world of IIT Delhi. There was a lot to do as well – sports, cultural activities, festivals, politics, drinks, … and I wanted to do it all. Just for the first time in my life, I was not reflecting back and I lost my goal and purpose in entirety… I forgot it is a college and my prime objective there was to study. However, even after having done it all and to a greater degree having successfully done it all, I sometime confided myself to my room and wrote Poetry and Drama. I sat on the last seat of the classrooms and didn’t interact much with my other classmates from Electrical Engineering. Most of them would not even know me had it not been my other self trying to prove that I can do things outside of academia. Aptly, I was given the "Absentee of the year" award at the end of our 4 years and even more apt was the fact that I didn’t go to that farewell function.
10.  It was also the time that I started developing some of my rash behavior. "I am going to try it out and not ponder over it a lot" was my motto and gosh I went rash. It is no wonder that Chitra till date thinks I am intrinsically fabricated like that as I met her then… I hope she would find a different me equally interesting now!
11.  Life moved on, I was in the corporate world where for most part I was working long hours … managing teams and was expected to form relations. For most part, I preferred to work late in the nights (until 4AM for most part) in the empty office and formed a few friendships. However, this time I made a conscious effort to balance out the other side of my nature… more of this later in the post but first let me cover the 2 more phases of my life where being an extrovert was almost a given.
12.  Business school – the Mecca of extroverts. You spend as much or even more time on teaming and networking inside, outside, left, right, center, upward, downward … pretty much in all directions you can THAN you ever spend in reading through the latest case study for the next day's class. My defense mechanism was most prominent here – I did something stupid in my undergrad and I am not going to repeat that! If there was a prize for attending minimum numbers of Tailgates, Happy hours and Parties; I would be one of the top contenders for that. Networking for job was a necessity and I hated those events. If it were not for my enterprising roommates, I would not have known most of my class.
13.  At BCG, I got my first feedback related to this nature on my first case itself. "… look to form a more than just transactional relationship with his contacts" (gosh our feedback system works!!!). I was indeed lucky to be on travel cases, having an excuse to travel to Michigan to meet with Chitra over weekends for I really found it tough to mingle with my outgoing colleagues. The fact that everyone (even nerds like me) finds a fit in BCG was really coming out to be true. Unlike most of my friends at work, I struggled with multi-tasking, didn’t like the change with every new projects and worst of all felt the need to speak only on need basis. True I didn’t struggle with most of my teams, but then we had a lot of content to talk about. What I was avoiding was the office dinners, Friday happy hours, and even more important from the organization perspective opening up myself to my cohort, seniors and juniors in the office. I didn’t know anyone's birthday let alone their marital status, how many kids and their names, pets and their names… and many more connection points. All this would have been fine, if I was scoring the highest marks in my Physics and Statistics exams so that people would take note of me, unfortunately there wasn’t one. The case feedback sort of filled some gaps, but then there was almost a MBA like non-disclosure unless you harp about it – and I being I, was not suited to do so…

So what if I am an introvert? For the believers or now turned believers, I want to bring something that my communication coach mentioned to me. It seemed to her that I am selectively introvert – How it that the same introvert person enjoys being on stage for a play, stand for leadership positions, manage big client groups, and have a good number of friends to talk to… I didn’t think so but in answering to that question the secret dawned upon me.

That answer was preparation– a lot of that. I have over the years tuned my brain to think so much so that I can almost see myself on the stage without even being there, I can run through with all the scenarios, anticipate the reactions and prepare myself for the counter-actions. Rehearsing the script 30 times before the show helped as well. Same logic goes for the client meetings or even elections. I didn’t mind reaching out to people if I could anticipate reactions and prepare for the consequences. Anticipating that I may not know something or not knowing what to say also was in fact part of those scenarios and it worked.

When I first heard that some of my friends in business school had an excel file with names of each student of the class and would go back to that to set lunch meetings, I was shocked. This stuff was for sales reps to keep. But then, I was biased and missed the point on preparing yourself to have some meaningful discussion and dialog with people. It makes you think of the content you want to talk about – may be something is interesting in their background that excites you… or even the recent case in the class. It does not have to be about the weather always and it can be a way to build some depth in the conversation, enrich your perspective rather than a mere chit-chat. I don’t have an excel yet, but I am using the birthday reminders a lot these days. I follow the LinkedIn updates to see how people are moving through their careers. Every once in a while, I also update people about me so that they feel it's mutual. In fact if you are reading this now, I am connecting with you!

The process is making me a dreamer now. I am traveling to places without ever being there and still form a picture of what would it like to be there. My brain has even started forming some memories around those experiences… While I am still not the one to arrange happy hours, annual dinners, I don’t hate them as much. I am making efforts to engage myself the same way, building talking points, sharing my perspectives of fun with others and seek tips. I prepare to seek people I want to meet, things I want to talk about, and at the same time be ready to face new faces. I am and will remain an introvert, but it is helping to be socially active than being socially awkward!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Feb Update: on track for 8/10 resolutions

It's time for another update on how I am doing with my resolutions. I am happy to say that Feb was a very productive month overall. Not only I didn’t let myself slip on any of my in-control goals, I was able to make up some ground on Reading and family wish-list. This came on top of some of the high priority and pressure environment of work. Final tally is 8/10 goals in line, one under risk and one still going red.

Here are more details on each one:

1. Vacation planning:
Quite a fun this has been… going through all the fantasy tours of places we can all be together. Anyways, Family vacation is now going in to decision stage. I have talked to Dad, Chitra, Chetna Didi and Meenakshi and we have 3 options ready. The first one is to stay in a cottage in Uttranchal and relax and the other two involve some travel in Rajasthan. Hopefully, we would make a decision this month and start working on the logistics.

2. Cooking on Saturdays
I continued the impressive work this month too – on all 4 weeks. Tried Rotis as promised and made some good progress! Other items made this month included: Dal Makhni, Navrattan Korma, Paneer Butter Masala, Mutter Paneer, Veg Biryani and Gulab Jamuns!

If the pictures don’t impress you, look at those Gulab Jamuns again!

3. Washing clothes, dishes over weekend
All 4 weekends, did my duties religiously. This one is now part of weekly ritual so I would mark it complete (unless ofcourse I slip in future).

4. Develop an activity with Chitra
Gardening is turning out to be more and more Dad and my activity with Maanas observing. See the picture below for yourself. As for Chitra and I, we need to discuss something more creative soon…

5. Build a wish list for entire family
Started working on a few items for all in the family and making some good progress on the fulfillment part now as well. Yay! In addition to this, BTW, I have made a list of all important dates for the family members, so as to never be reminded again about a birthday, anniversary… never again!

Moving on to the Personal goals now…

6. Creative writing (10 poems and 2 plays)
Silence – RED as of now.

7. Creative reading (12 books – 2.5 Done!)
Just finished with this very interesting read called "Quiet" recently after "Social Factor". I guess I would be writing a separate blog on the book and the feelings it generated. The short term version is that I have got a new respect for my introvert self!

8. Finish level 3 of Spanish
Finished first Level 1 as planned and started Level 2. Slightly behind for this month, but mostly because I didn’t reload Rosetta Stone software for 2 weeks after my Laptop crashed recently. I think I can easily catch up again here.

9. Come to a 180 Lbs constant weight this year (touch 175 on scale)
One reading of 189 recorded finally for Feb, this is going fine right now, but I am afraid all the delicious food I am exposed to these days might make me stumble any day. Need to watch out for this.

10. Running a Half Marathon
First 6 miles completed this month! Ahead of plan thus far.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Resolution summary for Jan 2012 – 6/10 resolutions on target

Alright one month has passed and I am pleased to inform that I have done well with most of my goals. At least I am on track with 6 items, slightly behind on 3 and have to still work on 1 of the 10 goals. But, before I talk about specific goals and give you update, let me share two things stood out from my first month experience - Discipline and Multi-Tasking. For those of you interested in jumping to the results quickly, feel free to check this and move on.

For those of you who have decided to stay with my post let me talk on multi-tasking first. I had always taken pride in the fact that I have very strong levels of engagement. "If I am present then I am present!" I admired myself on that (even if it is a Div 2 game of some obscure sports, I always had hard time listening to directions from Chitra or counting 5 minutes to turn off the hot plates). This relentless focus helped me understand content better, deeper and probably faster. With my resolutions, however, not everything required that level of focus, in fact some required that I don't think about it much (e.g. running) and also there was not enough time in the day any more. So, this was my first learning. Running and planning the vacations while listening to music or thinking for ideas for the new poem or play went side by side; similarly ironing clothes and learning Spanish become one; playing with Maanas while watching TV or cleaning the lawn started to come naturally. I had to make the hard choices on making some activities passive and one key active task at hand, but realized it worked well. I got a sense of having done so many things that I almost become restless if I was doing just one thing, and felt worse if I was not doing anything at all. Before I knew, I was finding time to do new things.

Discipline went even above and beyond multi-tasking. I am realizing how important it is to put a more disciplined lifestyle if I want to make even half way through my goals. Again, not that I had not been a disciplined individual, but I let priorities define what to put under the discipline Radar. Not to be late on my deliveries, meetings, etc. were part of that. But when it came to going to Gym or other personal items, it was easy to slip and I had fallen time and again. This time, I could not afford it. And it was not about - no matter what time I would go to Gym. I had to build a stricter regime. I would go to Gym between 7&9 PM. I would do dishes every night right after dinner is finished and many more that went along with it. The beauty was to put multi-tasking and discipline together. So, I am building a discipline to read when I wait for the planes to take off or any sort of small wait for that matter. I force myself to think creative while on the treadmill (even go through resumes of candidates if I have to)!

So how am I doing with my goals with these learning now? Let me start with the Relational Goals first.

1. Vacation planning:
Here is how it looks for now. I am planning to take one vacation in August with all the immediate family members. While I have to finalize the exact dates and a place still, I am really excited about the response from Chetna Didi and Meenakshi thus far.

For the second vacation, Chitra and I are planning to go in Dec during her break. The idea is to visit some new geography and most probably in Southern-Hemisphere (I want it to be summer wherever we go). High level ideas - South America (Chile, Brazil), Australia/NZ, South Africa (okay this may be a stretch for now).

2. Cooking on Saturdays
This has been by far the most fun activity and quite full-filling too. I started on the first weekend of January with Channa Dal and Mixed Vegetables. Nothing really crazy but it was good to back to the hot plates. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Of course having Chitra next to me was a big help but I think I did quite good on my own too. I didn’t rush through it – I was really having a good time with cooking. I think having a glass of wine to go along had something to do with it. I was playing with Maanas, watching TV, talking to friends on phone. Pretty good time! Finally, when Dad told me this definitely does not looks like someone's first attempt, I was quite content.

The next week, I decided to go for something better – how about egg Biryani? Voila, the cook in me was back. It was good, in fact it was much better than good – it was great. I knew I am loving it now.

After one week break in between (as we had to go to a friend's place), I went back to Kitchen last week and wanted to experiment more. Malaai Kofta – why not, I said and went for it. Little did I know the intricacy of deep frying… tried and tried and tried more. Finally, Chitra came to my rescue with a few suggestions and I could have the dinner ready by 8:15. Going by Dad's comments again, "why are you wasting your time in consulting… " I think those were quite good!... another quote for the week BTW, "I am the chef, you are the cook… " (Stupid me to Chitra just before going for deep frying the Koftas)

3. Washing clothes, dishes over weekend
Nothing much to add here but for the fact that I learnt using our $1000 Washing Machine and know the difference between Eco Wash and Whitest White cleaning now. Also, one thing which surprised me is that unlike the dryers I had used in those big Laundries, our dryer had a sensor to understand if the clothes have dried on not. Pretty cool – isn’t it! As for the tracking, all 4 weekends, I have been doing my duties religiously.

4. Develop an activity with Chitra
When I thought about it, I didn’t consider this could actually be an activity for the entire family. Chitra and I discussed on how it would not be feasible for us to leave Maanas at home right now and given that constraint, we had to pick some other home based activity. So we picked up Gardening – with one big problem. Both of us had no clue about it. Chitra and I picked up some books from the Library and started working on it, but then came the surprise. Dad picked it up as well and with Maanas loving the outdoors as only he can, it has more or less become our household activity now. Still I would say we need to pick this up further, as both Chitra and I have to plant our first seed. Most of the hard work has been done by Dad with us being the mute spectator. Come on Chits – let's do it this weekend!

5. Build a wish list for entire family
First of all some background on this one… I am planning to build a Wish list for the immediate family. This can be an activity or a physical object that they had desired with some constraints such as – time, money, health… Also, I am looking at some the desired functional things as a part of this wish-list and not the aspirational one really.

Functional: for e.g. Having an iPad, Vacuum, anything sold on a store or even outside for example a puppy!; OR a vacation, visiting a theme park, a cricket game, meeting Amitabh Bacchan!, activities like riding a bike, learning a language, an instrument, bungee jumping!

Aspirational (not part of the list): for e.g. my kids do great in their lives; becoming a good father, mother, son or daughter; while meeting Amitabh is still under the realms of being functional, being on KBC for me is aspirational, winning a lottery of 1 million, being the president or an astronaut also fall in that category!

Anyways it would have been great to have a list with direct responses, but I think most of my family is that direct. So I am seeking help from different members to fill for each other. Let's see where I get to closing this by next month. If nothing, then I would start with some creative primary research.

Moving on to the Personal goals now…

6. Creative writing (10 poems and 2 plays)
While I had many ideas, I didn’t pen down anything yet, not even a line. Clearly one of the goal I am totally behind on.

7. Creative reading (12 books)
I started with the Social Factor last week. While I am a little concerned on meeting my target of 12 books, at the same time I do not want to compromise on where I am spending those reading hours. Hence, as much as it is taking me longer to build the reading habit, it is also taking a little longer to find the right material. Another goal that is slightly behind for now.

8. Finish level 3 of Spanish
I must admit the next three goals were the most difficult ones for me. Hence, I decided to put on some extra focus on these.

As a matter of background, on my current project there are many people from Spain, Mexico, Columbia, and US with some Spanish/South American connections. The entire 6-memebr BCG team can pretty much converse in Spanish and many a times even clients meetings can happen in Spanish if I am not there. While I have no intention to use my skills to conduct professional meetings in Spanish, I just think this is a great opportunity for me to learn a new language. It would certainly open a whole new world for me that I would understand better. Finally, knowing 3 out of 4 most spoken languages in the world can be truly fulfilling.

So where do I stand now – I have finished 3 out of 4 chapters of the Level 1 already and say 2-3 phrases now with some team members. Still have a long way to go before I start to build some understanding of the conversations around, but it is looking good. I want to change the phrase " Estoy aprendiendo Español" to "Yo hablo Español" soon.

9. Come to a 180 Lbs constant weight this year (touch 175 on scale)
While this one and the next one can be related, the medium and the requirement can be very different. After touching 200LBS last year on the scale, I had two options – one was to compromise with status quo and other was to try harder. I am currently on 193.2LBS and am striving hard to get to 175 for one this year. All in all, currently I am on track. Coming few days would definitely provide more color to this tracking.

10. Running a Half Marathon
So how are 9 and 10 not related… I think the means for 9 are eating healthy and constant exercise, where as for running a half marathon, I have to train myself in a specific way. It not only requires exercising but requires it in a particular way and commitment of long hours. I had not been a natural runner all my life, but when I started in early January I realized the situation is actually far worse. I don’t have now either the stamina or the muscles to support long distance running. First day, I could hardly run for 5 mins constantly and had to give up in 20 mins. But I had determined not to give up, not to get injured and not to worry about the minutes, miles but to go to gym every day. I was able to go to 5KM finally by the start of third week. But all this time I had been running almost synthetically on a tread mill. The litmus test came this week when rubber met the dust. Running on Road was difficult but far more fun. Looking at the Hills around Pomona can certainly help you re-energize. So currently I am able to run 30 mins on a regular basis (3-4 days a week) and don’t feel that exhausted anymore. The body is still feeling some pain but I am beginning to relish this pain now. Still miles to go before I say I did it… but the journey is becoming easier day by day!

Final Word

Given my experiences with Project management and being the flag bearer on the Smart PMO topic now, I have decided to put a plan with activities to be done in order to achieve my goals. I think some of you were looking for some creative slides to come out for tracking so I am obliging your curiosity as well.

As I step in to 2012 further, it would be great to hear your thoughts and your encouraging messages to help me. Of course, if you have a suggestion on a good book, a gardening or a running tip, or a great recipe for my next Saturday cooking, you are more than welcome to share that as well.

Time to to become a smarter, healthier individual and a better family man!

Late last year, when I was analyzing my life, one I constantly felt that I had never been so happy and content in my life. Sharing that feeling with some near and dear ones was in fact the icing on the cake.

While it felt great, digging a little deeper, I realized a lot of that had to do with the outlook people around me had for me. Fortunately or unfortunately, a lot of that had to do with how I was doing on the professional front. Although, most of these people had little to no idea on what I do, or for whom! (BTW, I must admit in the project driven culture of consulting even I am not sure about it sometimes). Even for those who knew my role and my company, they had no idea of the complex matrix culture at BCG (which also happens to be the second best company to work for as a matter of fact). I realized that people felt good because I projected a better self. Anyways, the crux is that - it is complex and in the last year I was almost entirely focused on my work. Even in this blog I have talked of work for a full paragraph. Bottom line is - I did well here, got some drive, a sense of ownership, and the financial stability go along.

So in a typical consulting feedback style I asked "what my areas of development (AFDs) are and what is missing? In particular, how was I doing for my family and for myself? I thought I was doing good, at least it seemed that way. After all, I was giving myself time on Saturdays to relax and rejuvenate. I was travelling back and forth every week coast to coast to be with my family. I was talking to folks back in India on all Saturdays. But something was really missing? And then it struck me. I am not asking the right question... or at least not in the same way that I was evaluating my professional life - what am I achieving? By spending time in front of TV watching all day games, the only thing I gained was a few more pounds around my waist and a sense of belonging to the couch potato community. As for family, I missed on wishing people for most of the birthdays (may be just an indicator of my involvement), had little idea on what people so dear to me are looking for from their lives and worst of all even for Chitra and Maanas, I was physically there for 2 days, but did nothing to have any sense of responsibility, help or accomplishment. It was not a good feeling and I came back from the vacations with a heavy head. The time to transform was here again, I was not happy and content any more.

Manish wants to become a  smarter, healthier individual and a better family man!

I had to go to Moslow's Pyramid again to structure what I want do better this time. The idea to come up with a list instead of just one thing came from a fellow BCGer (the Principal on my current case). I had to find 5 things each on the personal and family front to improve. On the personal front, it had to link with Creativity, Confidence and a Sense of Achievement. On the family front, it had to link with Spontaneity, Understanding and Respect. This is what I finally came up with:

Personal Goals:
1. Start on poetry and play writing again (goal for 10 poems and 2 new plays)
2. Read at least 12 new books (one a month)
3. Learn Spanish (finish at least level 3)
4. Come to a 180 Lbs constant weight this year (touch 175 on scale)
5. Run a half marathon this year (currently aiming for the Labor day weekend)

Relational Goals:
1. Take at least 2 vacations this year with family
2. Start actively participating in Cooking on Saturdays (dinner is on me now!)
3. Learn to use our washing machine and dish washer
4. Develop one common activity with Chitra
5. Work on a wish list for entire family

I had thought of many more that didn't make the final list more so because I felt those are linked to one or other activities (e.g. I want to link travel to a new geography with vacation planning) or were more passive (listening to music) or had little measurable impact (reducing time spent on watching TV). Another criteria was to not include any negative resolutions here (e.g. I would not eat at McDonalds) as I think the pressure you build with this kind of negativity is not good and if you fail once then it seems the entire list of now up for questions. And hence came up my list.

Next, I needed to create a commitment system to stick to these goals, and even further to create an incentive system to ensure I make these goals my realities... and these both came in easy. I took the idea of publishing my goals to FaceBook to build some commitment (another steal from my Principal) and also decided to publish the monthly summary for people to know how I am doing (and hence to start my Blog again was not part of the resolutions). For the incentives, I made a list of items I would gift myself on achieving these goals (First 3 - a laptop bag, 5 - headphones, 7 - iPad and all - surprise gift).

So this is where I am with a long list and a desire to change. Will try to keep this updated and hope I make it!

Friday, August 03, 2007

My Tenth Week of Internship

I have fallen in love with Austin. Frankly, it is because of this lovely City that I have been able to do so many things in the past. I started working out (well now on irregular basis yet there was a start) and I could quit smoking and I could enjoying partying again… the best of the city came about this weekend. But before that the things at work…

Monday was the Intern cultural event at Dell and we were supposed to cook something and take it to office. I realized it when I reached office and saw my calendar for the day. So, Abhishek and I decided that we will cook some Pakoras and take them. Having Mak's wife Arundhati at home really helped us a lot. Surprisingly, it was an all-desi affair it seemed, but for one Chinese and one Korean. Dude are we already number one in terms of intelligent population at least :)

The whole week was marked with executive lined up to speak with us. Starting with Ahmed Mahmoud, I met with Ron "the Moto Razr" Garriques, Don "the airline guy" Carty, Steve Price and Mike Cannon. I little search on these guys and you would know why I didn’t reply to your mails, why I didn’t write any blog and why I was so busy soul searching off late :) Mann… one thing is for sure, having such a battery of people to talk to sure is the best part of my work. And if this was not enough, I also happened to meet and ask questions from Mark Jarvis this week.

Now coming back to the lovely Austin, this Friday one of my friend Nikhil and another friend Shashank with his wife Shweta came from Dallas and we headed to Sixth right after playing some Beer Pong games! Saturday was booked for some fun and we went to Town Lake for some Kayaking. Unfortunately, our Kayak toppled because of my stupidity (I am trying too much I guess) and to my horror I was in water with two people (Shashank and Shweta ) that had no idea about swimming. All my assurances went light as I saw the horrified couple holding on to the Kayak. We floated for sometime until finally rescued by some people!!! Coming to think of it, I think it was a lot of fun for me… but for the fact that the whole responsibility thing :( … Decided to take the evening cool and went to play bowling… A bad first game followed by some cool 2,3 strike in a row game and I was back in the league.

If you are thinking Saturday's incident hampered my love for water sports, you are absolutely wrong as I headed for some tubing on Guadalupe river on Sunday. 3-4 hours of chillax tubing and I was so happy about myself. Also I could satisfy my craving for IHOP while coming back. As I went to sleep on Sunday, I could hear myself singing love songs for the Live Music Capital.

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How to manage your career

This was incredible. This was probably after a long time that someone spoke so much sense to me in an hour's time and changed my perception so much. Steve Price, the speaker, is VP of HR at Dell and his presentation on "How to manage your career" really helped me a lot. So i thought why dont I share with you all and here are the six bullets that Steve had for us -
  1. Have a point of view about your career - So many of us don’t know what they want to do, how is still far off and almost all of us know that whatever we plan we will do thing differently from that planning. However, having a point of view can at least lead us to make the right moves. So here is my vision statement - "I want to be an entrepreneur is next 10 years." I might take different, difficult path or even a longer time. But at least I have a vision and I would try to move towards that in whatever I am doing. So have a point of view and keep it broad enough to modify and narrow enough to get a direction. one thing that can really help you in choosing this is "why are you not doing so many other things" - Note down everything you hate about those jobs and then start narrowing the ones you chose and have similar attributes. Finally prepare what I call "A-Career Model"

  2. Think Self Inc. - This is probably the most important take away for any one who has not thought about this. So here is one concept from past - "Do your work sincerely and the company will take care of you" (I guess this is only relevant in context of Mafia now a days…or may be not even there). Now this concept worked very well for the generations before us. When Capitalism, Socialism and Communism were co-existing in the world, and each was trying to prove one is better than other. In today's capitalist world - I see this fallacy hurting too many hardworking employees. Steve talked about his father and I was thinking about my Dad the same time. "No the company will not take care of you, you will have to take care of yourself" and having understood this the next step is to think about "Self Inc". Think of yourself as a company, as a product and try to sell it. My pitch reads something like this these day "I am a creative problem solver and a transformational manager who understands technology well enough to solve business problems" and I know this is bad, but I am working on it big time. And here is how I am planning to work on this - Mind you this is my own 3X3 model for Self Inc. (which has not been used by anyone thus far and so I don’t know how useful this will be)
    Three Story - Three Versions Model

    For my boss For my friend For my Mom
    30 Minute Narration .....
    5 Minute Story .....
    1 Minute Pitch .....

    I think once I am done with the above-said exercise I will be good to go anywhere and everywhere.
  3. Follow your passion - Yes, and this is not too hard really. Many people have said it in many ways. The gist is do not do something for which you are not passionate, for people will see that and you will be tagged failure for no reason of yours. Keep that practical aspect of earning your living aside… if you are reading this and thinking seriously about your career chances are you don’t need a job you really need a career.
  4. Focus on building your career portfolio - You have this wonderful opportunity and you are think what should you do next. Let me show you this diagram before I say anything -

    So now that you have decided on following this 2X2 for making quick decisions, let me show you another tool that can help you a great deal and I call it skill-fit portfolio management.
  5. Own your career - Let me step back a bit and go to the "Career Manager" concept at Evalueserve. It was an interesting concept taken as it is from McKinsey like many of the other processes. But what's funny is that I managed more careers outside the 10-15 odd analysts assigned to me. In fact I never mentored these 15 and 100s other in the company used to come to me for advice. 6 of these 15 people left the firm later and I didn’t even know where the hell they went and for what reasons. Most of them lied to me during our meetings, made sure I give them a good ratings and present their cases well in front of management. BTW what happened to the people that didn’t lie. Let me ask this to you. There is this great analyst working under you and he is about to be promoted and move ahead… would you ever like to loose him… ??? The concept of career management was a recipe for disaster now that I look back. Sure you need guides, but no one is more responsible for owning your career as you are. I was asking my mentees to work hard when I was preparing essays for my B-School. At the same time, my managers wanted me to stick with my employment when they knew an MBA will be great for me! Oh BTW here is what one of my mentors at Dell had to say -
    "Have at least 5 mentors any time. Two inside the firm and three outside. Believe it or not it is the outside mentors who will ask you to stick with the firm and learn more before you make a switch!" and on one other occasion...
    "Also have three people in your life - one a senior, one a peer and one a junior - they will really help you grow in your life"
  6. Be prepared "Life Changes" - And you don’t have to be a 2001 or 2002 graduate to know this (of course if you are one then it helps to understand this even more)… however this is even more important for you working people. At times we are so stuck up in the day to day roles that we forget the world beyond. You may be the best person in your role but if there is somewhere someone doing it cheaper companies will desert you… so automation, outsourcing, in fact the changes in market forces are key factors. Be aware of them and keep adding new skill set to yourself. Every 3 months stop and see what did you achieve in the last quarter. The Sunday post the Q-end is probably the best time for this.

So having said all these, remember to work on these three components day in day out - Transactional (day to day activities - will earn your bread), Strategic Business Initiatives (business plans, done by some one else some where else and you champion them - will earn you rewards), and Innovation and improvement (deep thinking, your ideas, your business, strictly to your work - will earn you respect).

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Ninth Week of Internship

Overall a great week and I am beginning to enjoy my time here now… pity it is happening so late. Went to San Antonio on Tuesday and visited Six Flags. Seeing those huge rides reminded me of the Acrophobic person I have become off late and boye did I not scream on those level 1 rides. Anyways rain then spoiled it all for us as all the rides were shut off in no time after lunch. So far so good… coming to claiming it, I would have gone to all those rides if it were not shutoff due to rains :) … Anyways the rains also spoiled any chances of our going to River Walk or for the San Marcos malls. Good thing was - as we spent the entire day in San Antonio, it was a 4 working day week once again :) (Okay okay for all my friends in I-Banking internships … I am working really hard some of these days - such as going at 9:30 AM and coming back at 7:30 PM!!!)

As for the work, I have started working more around the ideas of working in Analytics. Probably one of the best places for me as I love numbers, business problems and working on solutions… pretty generic you may say - but let me also add I like to work in isolation for most of the time and I am geeky by nature. I talk to numbers in dark and I hate to sleep over problems. Add all these and you would want me in Analytics for whatever life I have.

Anyways, I also met with some very interesting people this week. Starting with my meeting with Richard first. An academia turned corporate Richard is an expert on Taxonomy. Click here to see his profile on LinkedIn. Sensing that I would join at the same level from B-School as him, really made me feel bad for him and boy I was thoroughly unprofessional when I mentioned this to him. Anyways, It was great to hear his thoughts on PhD, academia, his past experiences and then about his new role.

I also got to meet with Michigan Alums this week at the University of Michigan meet. Its funny how we were discussing about Michigan snowfall and how weird this summer has been in Austin than talking about any serious job related thing. Also, how the talks then shifted to how we beat MSU in number of people attending the event… I guess that is Michigan for you. Another interesting meeting was with a family friend working here. After discussing work related stuff for around an hour in that accentized language, it was but hilarious how we shifted to Jaatu as soon as we started discussing about our villages and childhood :) Both these events tell me the roots are hard to change no matter where you are and whatever you do.

Came Friday, and I headed off to Dallas to meet Nikhil and Shashank. Nikhil was my class mate in high-school and I met him after 10 good years and yet it seemed as if we hadn't changes a bit. Celebrating his birthday over the weekend, I went to his funny place called Abacus. More on that here. Spent my weekend in and around Dallas and came back to Austin on Sunday evening. Once again happy to be in small Austin when compared to the high profile Dallas.

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