Saturday, December 26, 2009

Career Planning - Local vs. Global Optima

Most people I know love to make to-do lists. We love to plan our days, our weeks, our careers and our vacations to the last detail. Our culture worships planning. Everything must be planned in advance. We have diaries, calendars, blackberry notes, alarms, schedules, checklists, targets, goals, aims, strategies, and even mission and vision statements for our lives. Career planning is the most insidious of these cults precisely because it encourages a feeling of control over your reactions to future events. As that interview question goes: where do you see yourself in five years time? This invites the beginning of what starts as a little game and finishes as a belief built on sand. We guess what employers want to hear, and then we give it to them. Sometimes this batting back and forth of imagined futures becomes a necessary little game you play in order to 'get ahead'.

The overwhelming thought in most peoples minds when making choices is that we want to make a choice that fits with our values and beliefs – a choice that we can stand for in the future. But do we really know what we want in future? Will we want the same thing in future ? My guess is that people frequently don't know what they want and just make an educated guess based on what others are doing and our current perceived insecurities.  
That's why career planning, or at the very least just deciding what you're going to do next, is so unpleasant. It's no fun at 18 years old when people ask what you want to do. There seem to be so many different options, each with myriad branching possibilities, many of which lead in opposite directions, but all equally tempting. Surrounded by these endless spiraling futures, it is no wonder that many a school-leaver sticks with what they know and follows in parental footsteps.

I do believe however that whatever career choices we make as an 18 year old is all reversible. An artist at 18 can still become a scientist at 45 and there are examples of doctors who do end up joining an investment bank. If not such a drastic and dramatic about-turn, most of us definitely have the choice to reframe and re-prioritise our career parameters like ambition, entrepreneurship, money, philanthropy, leave-me-alone-ism, power etc.

The problem comes when you still don’t know what you want in the throes of mid-life.

If it's hard at 18, it's even harder in midlife when people are theoretically better equipped to make their choice. In reality by your 30s wide-eyed optimism has normally been replaced by a more cynical outlook on jobs and the workplace. Now it's clearer what the downsides of certain jobs are. There's not only our own experiences of work but we also have friends at work, all of whom colour our perception of their careers.

Everyone has their own internal trade-offs. How much routine do you like: boring but safe? How much do you like travel: exciting but you'll be away from loved ones? How much do you care about earning more money: and taking a more boring/stressful/less fulfilling job? Would you like to be creative and nobody or mundane and somebody? Whatever the outcome of all these swings and roundabouts along with many more, the reason that deciding what to do with your life is so difficult is that it involves predicting the future and making choices. More so the mid-life choices are a lot more irreversible and they are the most difficult choices to make.

There's many reasons why it seems we should be good at prediction what we want. If I know that I'm enjoying what I'm doing now, then I should enjoy it in the future shouldn't I? On top of this I've got years of experience building up a set of things I like - cinema, books, sitcoms - and things I don't like - trips to the dentist, severe embarrassment and flu, especially not all at the same time. If I've got this huge bank of likes and dislikes it should be easy to predict my wants in the future. And yet, it seems we are often surprised by what the future throws at us.

Most of the times, most of us are very poor at predicting what will make us happy in the future. Most of the times our grandiose plans for our future when actually executed do not fill our hearts with the warm fuzzy feeling we always thought it would. We plan every moment, every detail, every angle to reach that global optima (to borrow a mathematical simili) and yet when we are at the top of the wave of that global optima and look down and back at our lives – we wonder what all the fuss was about.

This leads me to the key hypothesis which I believe might be the answer though I might be proved wrong ten years later. Let’s stop the search for the global optima and strive to find the local optima. Lets just do what we think is right at any moment of time. Lets just make the choice which makes us happy today and not worry about where this will lead us tomorrow. This can only be done in the belief that the sum of these local optimas and the feeling of residing on 65 peaks of local optimas in our life will give us more happiness than being constantly on the upward curve of trying to find that elusive global optima which  we might or might not find.
At the very least we will begin to recognise that looking for happiness is a much less precise science than we once thought.

The argument about looking for local optimas applies to any area of our lives which involves making a prediction about what we might like in the future. Career planning becomes painful precisely because it's such an important decision and we come to understand that we have only very limited useful information.

The best strategy for career planning would then be to make your best guess, try it out and don't be surprised if you don't like it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Do din talak.........

tum na aaye ek din kaa vaadaa kar do din talak
ham padhe tadhpaa kiye gmail pe do din talak

dard-e-dil apanaa sunaataa huun kabhii jo ek din
rahataa hai us naazaniin ko dard-e-sar do din talak

dekhate hain Khvaab men jis din unhii ka facebook
rahate hain ham do jahaan se bekhabar do din talak

gar yaqiin ho ye hamen aayegaa tuu do din ke baad
to jiyen ham aur is ummiid par do din talak

kyaa sabab kyaa vaastaa kyaa kaam thaa batalaaiye
ghar se jo nikale na apne tum agar do din talak

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is there a Connection between Courage & Leadership ?

I have recently been thinking about the meaning of Leadership and the role that courage plays in Leadership. All this has come from my strive to look for a new assignment in Shell and invariably you come across questions which make you ponder about what you want to do in future, where do you want to get to and what does it take to get there. Invariably the answer is Leadership position but then what kind of Leader ?

The whole Leadership musings reminds me of something that used to happen in fifth grade. At recess, we kids used to play football or Hand Cricket (don’t bother yourself if you don’t know what hand cricket is – its just an innovative way of playing cricket where you use your hand as a bat instead of a proper bat and a rubber ball instead of the normal cricket ball !!!). Somehow I became the person who decided what we played, and who played what position. I don’t know how this evolved. The fact that I was the worst guy in Studies might have had something to do with it. My memory of this is that all these guys would stand around me in a circle, jumping up and down and waving their hands and asking, “Can I be on your team?” “Can I bat first?” “Can I be the goalkeeper?” And I thought, Why are they asking me?

Nevertheless I tried to be fair and inclusive. I tried to make sure everyone had a good time. This was my first lesson in leadership: You never know exactly who’s looking up to you, or why. I concluded from this that I might as well become the kind of kid who was worth looking up to(infront of those kids), just in case anyone’s looking.

Many years later when I thought about it, I realised that some people led by virtue of their institutional authority (as teachers or coaches, for example), and some people lead by virtue of their voice or vision: their passion or conviction or courage. And other people led because they were not good in studies. :-)

One of the things that we often hear about Asian culture and from a lot of senior as well as middle management is that most Asians tend to sit back and are not very authoritative. The Asian style is not to question authority as opposed to Western people who can be a lot more challenging and are thus more conducive to be natural leader. And of course this has often been given as an excuse and a reason for why we don’t have more Asians in senior and middle management positions.

Plus, Asians aren’t comfortable with leadership, or so they say.

So I decided to pen my two-pence about leadership from an Asian context nad what I quickly found was that leadership has nothing to do with nationality or any other boxes that we create to categorise people. The key attribute boxes as far as I am concerned are 'Courageous' or 'not Couragesous'.

Thinking further about it from an Asian context - even if some of us might have been born leaders, we were not born into a society that welcomed leadership as a natural trait. Possibly because parents and family play much larger part in our upbringing and therefore play a big part in our decisions during our growing up years. So we have to give ourselves permission to go ahead and lead.

I was talking to a group of new joiners in Shell about work-flow etc, and I told them that the current structure gives them authority to demand work, to ask for clarity of vision, to take risks, to define their own career. During the discussion, one of the guys stood asked, “Why should we need someone else to provide clarity and give us authority? Shouldn’t we just go ahead and do it or just take what we need?”

Ah, I thought, these guys are COURAGEOUS.

But a lot of OLDER Asian people - and I can put myself in that group now because I just turned 30 - compared to the 23 year olds joining the Shell organization - still need permission to be different from the “sugar and spice, everything nice” kind of attitude that we were raised to be. We need to give this permission to ourselves. We can’t wait for our parents or our senios to give it to us.

It occurred to me that this in itself is a definition of a leader: a person who defines himself or herself and his (her) world. To define is to make clear. The courage to have ihs own definition

How YOU define leadership will be different from how I define it, and that’s good: we need an ASSORTMENT of leaders.

So What is Courage ? - Courage is Courage of conviction. Courage to disagree and courage to stand on your own legs. Every theory in the world has a flaw – hell they even challenge Einstein’s theories these days and he was a smart guy no doubt – So why worry about other people challenging your theory. Showing conviction and courage to stand by your thoughts is also a means to testing yourself whether you have the ability to get to where you want to take the project based on your conviction.

I think if we give ourselves permission to lead; and the habit of being courageous – we can define the rules of the game for ourselves. It takes courage to deal with opponents, frankly - though no more, really, than it takes to be a good son or daughter in the face of extenuating circumstances. The word courage has its roots in the French word, coeur, for heart. And courage always involves fear - if it's not scary, it doesn't require courage. So courage is when you're afraid, and you act from the heart anyway. Courage is cumulative, I’ve noticed: the more courageous you are, the more courageous you become.

All of us have little boys & girls in your lives - or women and men - who stand around us in a circle, jumping up and down, waving their hands, waiting for our instruction and inspiration and advice. “Can I play?” they ask. Or, “Can I be on your team?” You might know their names; or you might not even be able to see these people. But they're there, looking to you for permission, for a sense of what’s possible. They’re looking to you to learn how to grow up, how to be men and women, how to be leaders themselves, how to define the world in ways that make sense to them.

Its up to us to standup and have the courage to become the Leaders.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Whats your Salary ?

My friends at work have no idea that on weekends I put on my Super Man costume and run around stopping crime, flying in my invisible jet. (The previous sentence is a lie, everyone knows that there is no such thing as an invisible jet. It's really a specially designed Flying Carpet.) Question in my mind is, do I want my colleagues to know about this? (That's the reason this blog should have been anonymous.) But now let me come to the topic of the Blog.

I recently had a conversation with some Shell Staff in STI where they were discussing their salaries and a senior staff passed by and on hearing the discussion "advised" that we should not discuss your salary with your co-workers.

I am thinking Why ?

I can only think of two reasons: 1. People are largely immature whiners. 2. Everyone else makes more money than you do.

Let's deal with the points in order. Point 1: Truly, I have found that people like to whine, whine, whine about their salaries & IPF's. Sometimes their whines are legitimate, but often time they are already overpaid or brought their own misery upon themselves.

I've been fortunate (or unfortunate) to have an inquisitive mind .....In other words I do like gossip and so more often that not I do indulge in gossip talk and I must say salaries as a matter of discssion do come up.

Why do you want to know how much money everyone else makes? It's probably not truly academic. You want to know so that when you find out that the guy who comes in late every morning and pushes all difficult projects onto you and then proclaims his greatness at every opportunity makes more money than you, you can go to your boss and whine. "He makes more money than meeeeeee!!!!!!"

Then, when your boss does nothing, you go whine to your colleagues and your partners and your buddies outside work. "My boss won't give me a raise and I deserve it!"

I'd think most managers try to pay fairly and give a fair IPF. Employees sometimes have a difficult time seeing this, as they don't truly understand what their co-workers do. Your "slacker" co-worker who comes in late every morning may have negotiated this schedule when he was hired. He may work 3 hours at home every night. Or perhaps he has some specialized skill that is in high demand.

Point 2: Everybody makes more money than you do. Let's face it, it's true. So why do you want to know that? Keep yourself happy and pretend that you make the most money of anyone in the office. (Of course that will keep you awake nights as you ponder how the president can afford yet another Gulfstream 5 when you can barely afford your Honda Civic.)

If you really think you are underpaid, go interview for a few jobs. You'll find out rapidly if your current salary is good or bad. (If no one wants to hire you, your current salary is good. If everyone wants to hire you for more money than you make now, your current salary is bad.)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Musings about alternate career paths........

I was talking to a colleague today and ended up listening in to a conversation about how she is dissatisfied with what she is doing and not really sure what she wants to do in her life. I could sympathise a lot with her given that I am prone to such musings myself but a ‘cynical alter-ego’ inside me was also telling me that she needs to take charge of her career. While I was thinking about it, a relatively more senior colleague (seen it –done it kindz) dished her the same advice about her having to take charge of her career/life and I found myself wondering whether my ‘cynical alter-ego’ was just a manifestation of the Organisational dominant logic – that somehow one has to just learn to love their job and not look for that perfect job.

Another parallel hot-conversation topic in the confines of our work-floor has been about a Strength finder test that everyone in our team has done recently and apparently my perceived strengths (in my mind) are: Strategic, Activator, Relator, Futuristic and Ideation. And of course I have done a fair few similar profiling like MBTI and Belbin etc etc. None of the profiles of-course though give a definite guidance regards best career choice and are fairly open to mixed interpretations.

This however leads me to conclusion that my skills or strengths whatever we call it definitely crosses more than one type of profession and surely my skills don’t fit neatly into only a particular type of job or assignment. Would it then not be better to actually do three different jobs at the same time and look after my career like a portfolio? The idea is not to hold three bad jobs and wishing to figure out what to do with myself. Rather, it is a scheme to pursue purposefully and positively, as a way to achieve financial and personal goals or a mixture of both. This new type of career choice could include three different types of assignments in the same company at the same time, which are completely different from each other or having a normal job, alongside self-employment and some volunteer work.

I guess a lot of people – especially from the current generation feel alienated when they feel there is more to themselves that they have not shown in their work. Most young people I know and I would venture (deep down) most people in the middle of their careers as well look at the idea of the career as a vehicle to fulfillment, self-actualisation and a search for happiness. Therefore they are unlikely to be ever satisfied with the idea of one narrow career. This must be compounded a lot more in existing career ladders where we are bracketed into specific skills and competencies.

I suspect that the trick in a portfolio style career decision will be figure out the intersection of our skills and our passions. This has to be an on-going process and not a final destination and therefore a portfolio of part-time careers might be more conducive to this path of discovery than a single eight-hour-every-day career. I am guessing and now this is driven more by a personal hypothesis that the best balance of a portfolio type career will be best served if it has at least one creative assignment, one where we can do something for the general betterment of others and one intellectually engaging assignment.

Is it too much to ask for?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Nayaa saal fir kal aayega(HINDI)


Chalo utho tum
Piddi ki dum
Akadh daale ke
Baithe ho kyun

Kadam ghaseetho
Baat lapetho
Mastak se
Aalasya sametho

Naval varsha ke
Naye prabhat ko
Attahaas se
Kinchit seencho

Khud ko dekha
Badhe jatan se
kadam uthaya
utkall man se

Ek naya kal
Fir aayega
Fir baarish mein



Sannate mein
Pratibimb se
Akasmaat fir
Sar takraya

Jab aayega
Kal aayega
Bittu waapis
Laut aayega ?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Coz the balcony said so....(ENGLISH)

The balcony was a news flash
A few neighbors ago
There were no secrets you could hide
Coz the balcony said so.

If relatives had stopped by
The neighbors always knew
Looking at the sandals in the balcony
An extra bunch or two.

Coz then you'd see the fancy sheets
And towels on the cloth line;
You'd see the new table clothes
With interesting design.

The balcony announced a baby's birth
To folks who lived outside
As brand new infant clothes were hung
So carefully with pride.

The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed
You'd know how much they'd grown.

It also spoke of grief struck,
As flowers in balcony died in spring;
Then silence, and emptiness, too,
Lived in closed doors within

It said, "Gone on summer vacations"
With the empty balcony stare
It told, "We're back!" when the door was thrown open
With smelll of food in the puff of air

But balcony signs now are of the past
Coz doors are always closed
Now what goes on inside the door
To neighbors not disclosed.

I really miss the balcony tales
It was the best you know
When neighbors knew their neighbors
Coz the balcony said so

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Would you like some Tea(ENGLISH)

“Would you like some tea” she said –
She rolled infront of my eyes
She told me of her dreams to act, to dance and to sing
She took my heart and wrapped it
In a song of simple creativity
And her dreams became mine

“Would you like to have some more tea” she said –
And she poured forth her frustrations
The broken wings of desire
Her desire to break the rules of poverty
And reach-unleashed-for the stars
She tool my soul and wrapped it in a gown on despair
And her despair became mine

“Would you like some more tea” she said –
And she shed her pretense
She talked of broken heart
Of love lost and abuse
She took my soul and shattered it
And her shame became mine

“Would you like some more tea” she said –
And I bared my soul to her
She turned away – not tonight – got to sell more tea – really tired
She hid behind the crowd of humans
All of them people wanting a piece of tea
Filled with rejection and fear
She took my heart and twisted it
And her indifference became mine

“Would you like some more tea” she will say in a moment
“I guess not” I will reply
And my dignity will again be mine

Truth be Told(ENGLISH)

Lest you forget
Munnabhai of Gandhiri
Folded back a page
A page of consequence
On a night when he confessed
Confessed his love
Confessed his identity
To hang his destiny
For the desire of truth
For the desire of gandhigiri


Raat aaai hain….mera andesha hain
Ik udaasi laaai hain
Kuch ankahe shabdon ki aahat
Jaane kaun si nayi baat keh jaae

Thursday, September 14, 2006

and 4more RANDOM old stuff...(English & Hindi)

In these early days,living in different cities,
I send her letters in her Inbox
long after she has drifted to sleep,
so when the sun would rise,and the coffee would bubble,
and before she does her deals,
she could open her hotmail,
and read sweet nothings on email.
I want to leave her letters for next 50 years,
but want to leave them under her pillow................................

When my airplane lands there in two days time,
can we run toward each other in slow motion
through a crowded terminal,
and lock together in a whirling embrace?
Can we hold each other tightly,
with 3 bottles of chivas regal in one hand,
and a ciggerate in another,
touching faces softly,
your lips against my cheeks,
as if we have known each other for a million years
which by the way I think might be true ..................................

I’d like to sit in a chai ki dukaan
next to a khatara hero cycle with this gurl,
share a ciggerate, a chai and a paan,
and watch the chunnu munnnu and george clooney play in the mitti.
I want to tell her ki hum kitna mohabbat karte hain unse,
even cause her to cry,
and I hope bysundar sundar baatein I might say,
fill her heart with delight and sukoon........................................

We have both seen bridges of Madison county,
and saw two lovers with undying, unending affection.
We have both seen Mr. & Mrs Iyer
and seen their inexplicable connection
These last few days with you,
are like the first hour of them movies,
but with a connection stronger and stranger than the movies
but if there is going to be any next scenes in this movie
I would never ever want to the Rahul bose and Clint Eastwood
will make sure U never have regrets dat Sen & Streep had
The ending will be different.
It will end with us coming together
and singing a song around a banyan tree
hand in hand like they do in Yash Chopra movies.............................

ik baat kahoon jiiii sunti ho ....(HINDI)

(Old stuff again ...)

ik baat kahoon jiiii sunti ho
Tum mujh ko achhi lagtii ho
Kuch chanchal si, kuch chup chup si
Kuch pagal pagal lagtii ho

har raat ko tera itraanaa
"hey baby" keh ke muskaanaaur
roz mohallle waalon ki
mujhko fir yaad dila dena

ik baat kahoon jiiii sunti ho
Tum badhi shararat karti ho
is asamanjas mein bhi muskaana
bakwaas ke baaten sun ke bhi
mujhe pyaar se baaten samjhaana

har baat baraabar karti ho
har saans mein tere bholapan
Tum mujh ko achhi lagtii ho

daftar se fir gym jaana
gym baar barabar fir jaana
par ciggerate pee ke aaa jaana
bas khoob tabiyat rakhti ho

fir chai masala banwaana
yah ghar chaai bana ke pee jaana
tum chai bahut jee peeti ho
Tum mujh ko achhi lagtii ho

tum pyaar muhabbat ki baaten
is pyaar se aise karti ho
dil london london ho jaae
aur chup chup baithi rehti ho

tum baaten acchi karti ho
Tum mujh ko achhi lagtii ho
Yeh baat baat pe kho jaana
Kuch sunte sunte so jaana
but so kar bhi fir bhi yaad aana
Tum mujh ko achhi lagtii ho

Yeh kiss uljhan mein rehti ho?
Kia baat hai hum se keh daalo
kabhi chup ho ke fir muskaana
aur muskaa ke chup ho jaati ho

Hain chahney waaley aur buhat
par tum mein hai ik baat buhat
Tum apni apni lagti ho

ik baat kahoon jiiii sunti ho
Tum mujh ko achhi lagtii ho

OK - time to dump some old stuff....(ENGLISH)

Written some time back .....

and the thing I cant bear to think of is ...

to never eat watermelons with U
them sweet red and bright
to never get to drive you
in mah Fiat in the night

to never get to talk pinks tops
and metaphysical realms
to never get to make chai for you
when yu wake up from ur dreams.

to never have the chance
to just sit and talk with you,
to never get to bar 360
and smoke the fags with you

to never get to grow old
with Billoo Pinky n Chunnu
to never have to miss you
so bad it makes me cry.

to never let you sleep on time
and hear you shout n ire,
to never get to fuss oe'r you
in the corner of the bed when you cry.

to never get to kiss you
'til our lips can kiss no more,
to never see your face again
for then I'd never know

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


it happened. . .

it's real
finally I write and find words thoughts randomised
with inchoerence
Y ?
coz Hanuman sayz so
and Kapil Dev is very busy
Someonez gotta report
seemingly IMPORTANT news
and make sense
this nonsense

comfortably numb .... randomly gibberish .... going On Anon...

yup ME n miiiiiii

Where does it all start

right HERE....