I had the privilege of visiting my Alma Mater (Loyola Institute of Business Administration) and giving a talk on ‘Transitioning from campus to corporate’. Here is a brief of the 3 points I shared with the students.
#1: It doesn’t matter what you have learned, what matters is your willingness to learn new things
Let me give an example of how I have seen automation evolve in the last 10 years.
When I started my career as a Management Trainee, my first project was to automate an MIS using MS Excel Macros. Fast forward a few years, at a consulting firm, I worked on a project to automate the loan cycle of a client using a Business Process Management Suite (BPMS). A few years down the line, automation hype was all about Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Now, even RPA has evolved into Machine Learning and Cognitive intelligence tools.
The point is that learning is a continuous process and you got to keep up-skilling. This journey called ‘career’ is an exciting cycle of learning, un-learning, and re-learning.
#2: Invest in building and maintaining relationships with friends, mentors, and team members
Invest in building and maintaining a relationship with friends and former colleagues, in the long run, this is a metric that will matter. Every job change that I have done till now, has been through referrals from my friends and former colleagues. Further, it’s easier to get an appointment with a friend, rather than him in his CEO avatar. Most importantly, a strong support system of friends and colleagues is great comfort in times of career turbulence.
Invest in mentors: Indra Nooyi once said - Mentors find you. If you ask someone ‘will you be my mentor’, and that person says ‘yes’, then they are just saying it for the sake of saying. Mentors have to find you because they feel there is something about you worth mentoring. Invest in being the best you can be both professionally and personally so that a Leader would find you and know that you are a ‘diamond in the rough’ worth investing their time.
Invest in your team, because teamwork is the most powerful and rare asset that creates successful organizations and delivers the impossible. Millennials and Generation Z don’t respond to ‘authority’ by designation. They follow leaders who motivate them and invest in coaching and mentoring them.
#3: Work smart, however with your feet on the ground
Work smart and aim for Customer delight: In this high-performing digital world, you need to aim for exceeding the expectations of your customer. Do this consistently, and your work will stand out. Even organizations have to consistently exceed customer expectations to be successful. An example of this is DBS Digibank in India. The customer experience that this “mobile-only” bank provided resulted in DBS gaining over 1.8 million customers just within 18 months of its launch.
Networking: Never shy away from networking within and outside the organization. Always have an elevator speech prepared when you meet a new colleague. Do lend a helping hand to internal organizational initiatives. In the long run, all these will create visibility for you and fast-track your career.
Be Humble: My Dad was a senior officer in the Indian Navy. During this tenure, he had done a lot of good work and was highly appreciated by his colleagues and seniors. A Lot of people in his team wondered how the department would function after his retirement. On the day of his retirement, my Dad said to me “No one is indispensable. Despite whoever leaves, organizations will continue to function.” For a week after he retired, Dad used to keep getting phone calls asking for clarifications. However, from the second week onwards there were no calls. Apple survived even though Steve Jobs is no more. Be humble towards the opportunity you have been given.
In summary, focus on learning, invest in relationships, work smart, and have a sense of gratitude. And while doing all this, never forget to have fun. Everything else would just fall in place.