Introspecting on a Journey Called Career
Success is a journey, not a destination
It is often said that success is a journey and not a destination. It was quite firmly entrenched in the mind of yours truly since the time of pursuing his Masters in Business Administration as often the teachers used to harp on this aspect, directly and indirectly. However, like most of the student’s the same didn’t get permanently etched in the mind, till the time he landed in the professional corporate world. A young MBA generally have lot of expectations from life in general and profession in particular,as it was one of the most sought after degree in an emerging economy (read India),during the late nineties, when Indian economy was booming and bustling with opportunities, and therefore he was no exception to be a part of the bandwagon. Joining and working with the leaders in the Paints and pharmaceutical industry upfront,provided lot of insights about the real functioning of the industry, its various departments and domains like Human Resources, Marketing, Operations, Accounts and Finance to name a few. There were tangible and intangible learning derived especially when one is asked to be vigilant, with eyes, ears and minds open at every point in time, while working in a industry.
Classroom and Workplace dynamics
It was the time when he started to realize the difference in classroom and real life learning. Thanks to the colleagues who had already gone through the grinding process after coming out from prestigious Business Schools, it was comparatively easy for yours truly to understand the significance of customizing ones theoritical learning before implementing it in the real life situation.
This made him realize that classroom performance, grades and marks secured, the praises lavished by the teachers, mentors and classmates, accolades from parents and friends were having a lesser role to play in the professional life, unless the bigger meaning were dervied from those. What was more important was the major highlights derived from all those experiences, learning’s, interactions and the ability to manage situations by using the knowledge gained therein, in spite of the perennial presence of the challenges. The success and failure in handling such situations differentiated the winners from the also-rans.
After working in the sales function of the leading paints company, he was given an opportunity to train the new staff in that sales depot. Although, the sales experience was thrilling (at times even matching a war like situation vis-a-vis the competitors in the marketplace),yours truly derived extra pleasure and satisfaction after imparting the training program to the new sales team.
This was the first moment of truth in his life when it was realized that probably, the persona of the individual is more akin to a trainer’s job rather than a sales position. The trigger kept on egging him till he decided to switch the employer from the leading paints company to that of the pharmaceutical sector. The best practices derived from the past experience was being customized and implemented as and when required in the new job, which brought in recognition and appreciation from one and all, including the competitors. There were new perspectives coming in from a new industry, and coupled with the blending of the old one, many a new approaches saw the light of the day.
Although the work horizon broadened, with the inclusion of marketing along with sales, yours truly was constantly on the look-out for those opportunities, which would provide him a chance to fulfill the trigger generated while working with his last employer. Fortunately, it was one of those days when the training department of the company needed experienced staff who could train the field sales staff so as to successfully launch new products in the hyper-competitive Mumbai market. This marked a turning point in the career graph as it was the first opportunity where actual, result and direction oriented training was to be imparted, which was neither experienced nor accomplished by him till date . A team of fifteen marketing staff from the mid-level was asked to assemble in the head-quarters in Mumbai so as to provide an orientation about the task in hand.
The job entailed doing a thorough research of the retail points of Mumbai and interviewing the leading prescribers so as to know about the presence and movement of competitors product, along with the branding preferance of the major stakeholders. The seven page questionnaire made with the help of the research team in the corporate headquaters made one understand the signifance of problem identification, hypothesis formulation, identification of potential sources of data, data collection techniques to be used, the overall research methodology, analysis of data, derving conclusions and on that basis modelling the training module. This germinated the seeds of research and training, which motivated him to switch industry and get into one which had a primary role of research and training.
The abrupt and sudden decision to join the training cum academia domain was accepted with creased foreheads, but he was confident of his move, as it was based on his career related experiments and the instincts present within. The close friends and relatives were surprised to note that yours truly left a challenging, lucrative and highly paying career so as to join the teaching fraternity which was mostly considered to be a ‘profession of lazy individuals’, who would like lecturing without any significant contribution to the end-user’s cause. All these and many more myths which were never busted for reasons unknown, were coming to the fore and the aspirant started to understand the actual meaning as he kept on moving towards the final frontier(read his ultimate objective of becoming a good teacher and researcher). It was during the exploration of the training and academia industry he understood that the world around needs the tribe of quality researchers and trainers.They were the ones responsible for bringing in new value additions, and grooming professionals including the tribe of trainers and researchers.
The initial few months were a tad difficult primarily because one had to switch from a profession which called for being on toes 24x7x365 to that where patience, perseverance,personalization,exploration and customization holds the key. The shift from active management domains like marketing to training and teaching also brought in a change in the persona of the individual as well. An aggresive intent of a marketer gradually transformed into an assertive approach of a trainer, the situational approach gave way to more systematic and process driven approach where focussing on ”horses for the courses” was the order of the day.There were many other behaviourial changes as well commensurate with the need of the new profession.
Sooner, than later, yours truly found out many of his latent skills, viz. mentoring, counselling, motivating, training, teaching and researching, courseware preparation etc. can be leveraged symbiotically in the overall interest of the employer-employee duo.These and many other hidden attributes started to surface once the profession of academia was embraced, which was never even called for during the industry days. These whole-sale changes brought in a revealation as a new individual was discovered, hitherto unnoticed owing to a myopic target based approach where everything else was put on the backburner.
The research soujourn
It was at this point in time yours truly felt the need to pursue his doctoral studies and opted for general management as a theme. The topics choosen were many as he was interacting with many prospective PhD supervisors. It was a sort of marraige where the supervisor was looking for an ideal researcher and vice-versa.Finally the right mix was discovered and in the right earnest the process of research started.
The supervisor inculcated the importance of smart work, commitment, dedication, sincereity and setting up of the periodical milestones, which in turn would help in shaping up the vision, mission and objectives of the project. Reaching the goal-post in line with the plan helped in optimizing the resources, predominantly, time. These basic ingredients ensured that the project went on a phase-wise manner even though there were hiccups and challenges in the road to glory. The transition in the life of the researcher, be it in the professional and personal arena were natural, but together with the central objective of fulfilling the dream and the motivation derived there-in, the target was realized quite comfortably.Fortunately, by the blessings of the almighty, guidance of the supervisor, continuous support and motivation from the well-wishers, yours truly could reach the goal of completing the PhD, started in the year 2004.
The biggest takeaways, apart from the domain know-how were patience, perseverance, determination and not deviating from the goal, in spite of the ‘deviating agents as negative catalysts’ coming every now and then. Pondering back those fourteen years covered across different industries in various parts of India, UAE and the Sultanate of Oman with small stints in Australia, yours truly understood the fact that consciously and sub-consciously learns at every point in time. The ability to decipher those learning and inculcate in ones persona and further implement in the day to day life depends on the concerned individual. This is where individuals get classified as ordinary and extra-ordinary.