Discovering your dream job

One of my ex colleagues called me up today and stated that she wanted to change her job. When I enquired the reasons for the same, she said she was not happy with the team. I have heard some say they dont enjoy their job anymore. There could be many other reasons for not enjoying whatever you do in life.

One of the most complex questions in life is – “What do I enjoy doing in life ? . Each of us are trying to discover the ever elusive joy in whatever we do. The good news is that we are not different from others. While this may look simple, it is possibly the most difficult to answer to find oneself.

It is fine to live in a world of ambiguity and keep discovering and rediscovering ourselves till we reach a stage, where we feel we have arrived in life. This is true for life and also for career or vocation.

I remember reading an article in the Harvard Business Review long time back entitled -“Job- Sculpting”. Our sculpting a job or vocation is like a sculptor crafting a piece of art. Many a time the sculptor may start with something in mind and end up producing something else. It is no different in life.

Our ability to try many times, fail or succeed and redesign our path will possibly take us closer to our dream destination. It is almost like someone searching for happiness around the world till they realise that happiness lies in discovering it from within and not without.

Most of us in the past took a field of education not because we were excited about it but because our parents or elders or well wishers thought that it was the best for us. They may have been right or even wrong. We may discover this along the way. As we complete our education and move on to a career or business or vocation, we may realise that what we studied is not what we wanted to. It is important to realise that this is fine and we need to learn to move on with life.

Our career choices are no different. If we started our career in a particular function, we may have done so because we did not have a choice when we started or it paid us well or was near our home. While mid way in our career, one day we may realise that this is not what we enjoy.

We need to realise that most of us go through this dilemma and it is natural and nothing to be worried or ashamed of. However, what is important is to discover what you want to do and how to do it ? If we spend the rest of our lives trying to discover what we enjoy doing, then we may not get much time to do that very thing.

The earlier we ask ourselves searching questions, the better it is for us. It may help to have a life coach, who can help us ask the right questions and find answers ourselves. Once we know the questions, it may be easier to find the answers. It is like if we know where we want to go and our destination is clear, it is easier to decide the path we want to take.

Another important factor for those in a job is about not only enjoying what you do but also enjoying the company of your team along the way. We need to remember that the world is not ideal and nor are we. Just like we have our strengths and improvement areas, so do others. If we wait for the day to work in a dream team, where every member is ideal, it may remain a dream.

It is like the best players in a team will not look to play in a dream team. They will always look for how best they could contribute to make their team a great team. If we start looking at life as full of possibilities, then it turns out that way. On the other hand, if we think that there is a speed breaker in life at every corner, then may be it will be that way.

It may be easier to change oneself rather than attempting to change others. This is the simple truth of life. The best players in sports excel in whatever they do. They not only compete with others but try to compete with themselves to be the best version of themselves. In life, we need to believe that the world is looking at us rather than we looking at others to excel.

As in the photo above, a drive through the forest may kindle your love for nature and that could be the career break you are waiting for. You could become a naturalist or a forest service officer and spend your life in forests amidst nature.

Life is a journey of discovery every day. We need to enjoy the journey, the company and the destination. We need to believe in ourselves more than others and look at life as a string of possibilities always.

Let us discover ourselves everyday.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th April 2021

Godmen & Godwomen

A friend of mine asked me as to why people in general throng to God men or God women alike cutting across religions. I said I really dont know but could be because most people who have some weakness need an emotional anchor to cover it up.

I find the rich and the famous thronging to religious leaders of all faiths. This could be because they have grown their wealth but lost out on their health – physical or mental. On the other hand, the common men and women also throng to these spiritual leaders – may be to seek what they have not achieved in life so far with a short cut.

All of us aspire for something in life. We work hard and also trust our luck to get us where we want to reach. But sometimes, either our luck or lack of efforts does not take us there. Then we possibly take refuge to God men or women to accelerate our path to success.

We may also look at these religious leaders to be an emotional anchor in our lives. Many of us do not have real family members or friends to support us although we have many in the social network. Then we get swayed to these leaders to seek emotional refuge.

On the other hand, sometimes we are stuck with consecutive tragedies in life and then we lose faith in ourselves, others and even in the super power, we seek refuge somewhere. It is at this time that the religious leaders take full advantage of our emotional weakness and mesmerise us to follow them blindly. We are willing to give away our wealth, health and even happiness to listen to them in every way.

In a democracy, every individual has a right to pursue whatever she or he wants. I have nothing against God women or God men. However, what I am against is their uncanny ability to exploit a human emotional weakness. They prowl around and catch hold of women and men in distress who are seeking an emotional support.

One thing I must admit that these Godmen and God women have something in them. They either have assimilated knowledge in their area of expertise or the gift of the gab. They also develop magical mystic and through their hypnotic powers are able to impress and sway their followers into blind disciples. Then these disciples in turn become their brand ambassadors. We possibly have an opportunity to learn from this strength of theirs.

In my life so far, I have met only one religious leader who did not follow this path. He was simple in living, high in thinking and attracted followers through his simple living and high spiritual powers. He neither sought wealth nor encouraged his followers to bestow their wealth on him. He never used cars, airplanes or material wealth of his followers to establish his credentials. That made him a real Guru.

On the other hand, all the others I have met in life so far have made religion a business. They not only have amassed wealth in the name of religion but travel around almost like a tycoon and wield their political power for other than religious or spiritual reasons.

As in the photo above, the kid displays how most Godmen or God women have misled people more than they have led.

I do envy these fake gurus who are making religions a business and feel sad for their gullible followers who seek refuge in them to get over their own emotional crises in life.

Is it time to discover who can be our real guru in life ?

S Ramesh Shankar

9th Feb 2021

Use & Throw

We have moved from a culture of “recycle & reuse” to “Use & throw”. I remember an interesting incident which happened a few years back. I was digging out my old coloured lights to light it for the festival of Diwali. Usually you use it for the festival and then dump it in some closet for the rest of the year.

You take it out just before the onset of the festival season and invariably find that a few bulbs are fused. The same thing happened to me. I picked up the light and went to an electrical shop to repair and replace the fused bulbs. The electrician was surprised to see me. He politely told me to dump the bulb set and buy a new one.

I belong to an era, where we were brought up in the family and the community to “recycle and reuse” things. So based on my upbringing, I went to the shop to repair and reuse my colour lights. The shopkeeper gently smiled and said that the cost of repair may be more than the price of a new set of colour lights. I followed the advise of the shopkeeper. I left my old bulbs with him and bought a new set.

When I returned home I reflected on this issue. I realised that life has indeed changed. The way we look at life today is different than the past. If we considered recycling everything in life as the right thing to do, use and throw is the norm for everything in life today.

It struck me that this may be true in our relationships too. We were brought up to respect our parents and elders right through our life. We were trained to be grateful to people who help us at various stages of life, throughout our life time. But today, we tend to use our parents as providers of comfort and tend to forget them as they grow old and may depend on us. We forget friends and relatives after we have benefited from their help and move on in our own lives.

Relationships have also transitioned from gratitude to usefulness. Gratitude symbolises renewing our relationship for our lifetime. Usefulness on the other hand fixes an expiry date for a relationship and we tend to “control+alt+del” or move on as soon as the usefulness of that relationship is over.

One may wonder if we are moving from “Selflessness” to “Selfishness” in life. It may be difficult to state whether it is right or wrong. After all today, we have mastered the art of justifying every action of ours. No value is absolute and sacrosanct any more. It is all relative and we find innovate reasons to justify our behaviour all the time to everyone around us.

One more learning I got in life. Once when I was buying new clothes for my family for a festival someone suggested that every time I buy new clothes, I could consider donating an equal number of clothes ( in good condition) to those who need them more than me. This may again be an old fashioned belief but it does help and is based on the philosophy of recycle and reuse.

Life comes a full circle. Today use of plastic bags is being banned all over the world as it is polluting the environment around us and choking the drains causing floods everywhere. We are urged to use cotton bags for our shopping and recycle and reuse them. I am happy with this change and I commit to do my bit in this direction.

One pair of shoes used to recycle to at least two generations in the past whereas now it does not even survive one person for more than a few years as in the photo above.

Is it time to recycle and reuse everything in life ?

S Ramesh Shankar

21st July 2018

How little I know ?

I spent a weekend in the city of Pune. It’s a beautiful city just about 150 kms from Mumbai. It is popular for educational institutions, defence establishments and the enviable weather. I took a city tour to see the major tourist places around the city.

The first thing which struck my attention in Pune is the greenery. Pune is very green and has trees, which may be centuries old. Everywhere you travel, you feel as if you are driving through a lane of trees all around you. This could possibly be one of the secrets of the Pune weather.

The second thing which strikes you are the huge defence establishments. Every part of the city is blessed with military establishments and you feel proud of the prowess and the discipline of our soldiers. The cantonment areas are clean and well maintained. They provide a glamour to the city.

The third thing which struck me are the research institutions. The central institutes like the National Metallurgical Laboratory, Automative Research Association of India and so on. I saw an institute of tropical meteorology. This was fascinating as I was not even aware that a subject like that existed. It proved to me “how little I know ?”

Another impressive part of the city is the array of educational institutions. You have arts, science commerce, engineering, medical, management and every subject you can imagine in the world. You have public university and private universities. You also have autonomous institutions of repute.

After spending a day in the city and visiting some interesting sites like the Ambedkar museum and the Kelkar museum I realised the rich heritage of the city. But what really impacted me is the diversity of research institutions. I did not even realise that there are so many areas of research, which I have not even heard of.

I am aware that I do not even know enough on the subjects or areas I have been working for the last 38 years. Having come across different areas of research, which is happening in our country was a gentle reminder of “How little I know ?”This experience grounds me.

I salute every researcher through this blog and their dedication. I salute the government in the centre and states which sponsor and promote such institutions. I salute the corporate organisations which are also contributing to pure and applied research in various fields.

Let the research institutions flourish and bring innovations and prosperity to human kind. They can also inspire us to assimilate more knowledge during the rest of our lives.

It may be good to realise “How little you know in life ?

S Ramesh Shankar

11th October 2018

Tea under a Tree

One of the most fascinating things in my life is to drive on a highway. A highway gives you great insights on life and living. Apart from the fact that I enjoy driving, every sight around you gives you new perspectives.

The first thing which strikes me is the mesmerising skyline. Whether it is the early morning crimson sky or the blue evening one it is always breathtaking. I wonder how nature paints the colours in the sky. I am amazed at the shapes and sizes of the clouds.

The blue and green mountains along the highway make you realise how small you are and the need to be grounded always. Their mighty stature makes you realise the wonders of nature.

Then you pass through rivers and lakes and they are spots of beauty. Rivers remind you as to how much nature gives you as humans and how less ` we give back to nature. They also make you realise the value of water as a natural resource.

Another interesting aspect of the highway is the road side food. I love to stop by a road side cafe for a cup of tea or even the local cuisine for lunch. People along the highway are very courteous and customer centric. They are keen to treat you as their personal guest and make you smile always.

When you stand under a tree like in the photo above, you experience the rhythm of nature and the taste of tea is invigorating. It not only refreshes you for the drive further but also makes you realise that it is worth syncing with nature.

I also enjoy the quotes written behind trucks and buses. Some of them are very creative and remind you of the potential talent in our countryside. They give you simple lessons of life in a very innovative way.

The long winding roads teach you the best lessons of life. There are times when it looks as if the road will never end and at other times the traffic will never ease. But every time you do reach your destination with or without any hurdles.

We all have the capacity to deal with the hurdles along the highway. It is similar in life. As long as we believe in ourselves, there is no obstacle in life which we cannot overcome. Yes sometimes it may take longer than we believe. It is like sometimes our destination may take longer than we had estimated.

It is up to us to enjoy the drive on the highway or keep cribbing about the weather or the bad roads along the way. If we enjoy the drive, the journey is fun and if we don’t then it is a burden. Life is no different.

The weather may change along the way. The roads may be good or bad. The car may even break down. But it is up to us to make a choice. Either we can crib all the way or enjoy the uncertainties along the way. Every obstacle may be an opportunity to learn something new in life.

Life is like a highway and we need to enjoy the drive.

S Ramesh Shankar

2nd October 2018

Diversity in friendship

One of the most fascinating things in India is its rich culture, heritage and diversity. I was blessed to be born in a family where my father was in central government service. We got transferred almost every 3 to 4 years and thereby transgressed the length and breadth of our beautiful motherland.

I was born in Trichy. I grew up in Kolkota, Jabalpur and Chennai. Then I have worked in Bhilai, Indore, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and now Mumbai. Every part of the country has taught me something. The place, the culture, the people and the traditions have fascinated me.

What has fascinated me most is the diversity in the friends I have in life today ? I have friends from the north, east, west, centre and south of the country. I have friends from various religions – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhist and et all. The beauty of India is its imbedded diversity.

After having worked in a corporate for many years, I find it interesting when many multinational organisations take diversity as a priority. India is blessed with diversity as an integral part of the nation. I have seen this physically and in spirit when I started my career in a public sector undertaking in central India.

We had people from almost all states of India and representing all religions, castes and communities. We all worked as employees living and working together. There was never a sense of discrimination or divisiveness. This may be equally true for all central government offices.

The concept of India is the essence of diversity. It is ingrained in the psyche of all Indians. We live in 29 different states. Each state has its own language and culture. But we all merge into one when it comes to India. Sports is a great reminder of of our diverse culture.

If you take any team sport, you will find people from all states and all religions. Although there is no reservation for team selection but it is evident that the best performers in that sport come from different parts of the country.

The diversity of friends have made me whom I am today. They have honed my skills and made me respect and learn from everyone around me. They have made me realise that meritocracy cuts across states and religions.

We are able to appreciate the food choices and festivals celebrated across the country. This has been possible because of the diversity of friends and colleagues I have lived and worked with throughout my life.

It has made me realise that in a way diversity is an attitude of the mind. The way we treat people around us. The way we respect differences. The willingness to be challenged by anyone or everyone around you. When you have people in your team who come from varied backgrounds including state, language or religion, they bring with them a wealth of diverse experience.

As in the photo above, diversity in unity is embedded in the Indian ethos.

I am grateful to God for blessing me with a set of diverse friends. They have moulded me into who I am today. I would be grateful to them throughout my life. They have shaped my career. They have made me a sensitive human being.

Let diversity shape us always.

S Ramesh Shankar

11th October 2018

Be the change you want to see…

Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see..”. The time has come today.

Everyone in my organisation today was waiting for the big announcement by our global CEO. Every employee was wondering what is likely to be announced and how it will impact her or him.

An organisation is a network of people. It is not buildings, factories or fixed or movable assets. It is the people working in them. So, if there is a change, it will impact the people more than any other asset. While we can rebuild a factory, office or any other asset, it is much more difficult to sustain the motivation of our team members during a change process. This is where we as leaders have a role to play.

The market place is changing more rapidly than we can anticipate. We are also transforming as an organisation. However, the speed of change is accelerating faster than the change itself and hence organisations have to anticipate this speed and be prepared for it.

We all should be happy that the board of our organisation has been proactive to anticipate this change and deal with it well ahead of times. We can be sure that the organisation change will benefit all stakeholders and especially our customers. We, as employees have to strengthen this process by being part of the change rather than worrying about it.

What can we do about this change happening around us ? First of all listen, be calm and welcome this change. Secondly, lets be the change agent. We need to lead our teams to a better tomorrow. We need to communicate effectively, listen to their concerns if any and address them empathetically.

The board of our company seems to be burning the midnight oil to prepare for this change. We need to trust their capabilities and their ability to steer this change. We need to prepare ourselves to adapt to this change and be the winning team.

A very detailed communication plan is being put in place and every employee will be touched through this plan. They are anticipating the likely impact on individuals, businesses and the organisation as a whole and are getting prepared to deal with it. As a fair employer, our enterprise will take care to deal with all issues with equanimity and fairness.

Apart from trusting the leaders in the organisation, we need to trust ourselves. We have to believe in our capabilities. For instance, we may have represented our country in the recently concluded world soccer championship. So, we may be among the best 15 football players in our country. But tomorrow, the selection may be for a continent – representing more than one country. We need to be the best among the best to be in that team.

The organisation of tomorrow will mean adapting to the radical changes of the business environment. We need to be ready to radically change. Our roles may change, our business may get redefined but our values and ethics will remain the same. Our customers will not change and hence we need to prepare ourselves to continuously and seamlessly deliver value to our customers.

Last but not the least, we need to be calm. There is no change in life which will not impact us in some way. Every change has to be dealt with calmness. If we are the best in whatever we do, there is nothing for us to worry about. If we are willing to adapt ourselves to the organisation of tomorrow, we have nothing to fear.

Our calmness will determine our success. We all strive for rapid change but when it impacts us , we may not be fully ready to face it. It is time to challenge ourselves. The best way to anticipate this change is to be a catalyst to the change process. A belief in our leaders and ourselves will help us deal with it.

Let us change for the better.

S Ramesh Shankar

30th July 2018

Anybody can fit into a frame …

I was passing through our domestic airport at Mumbai and was fascinated by people taking photographs in a frame. I realised that everyone – young or old, thin or fat could easily fit into this frame. I reflected and realised that life is no different. If we want to lead life happily, we can live life within our frames. On the other hand, if we are not content than we will not fit into any frame.

Life is a balancing act between need and greed. The day we convince ourselves that we can fulfill our needs but never are greed, we may be happier. The frame of life is drawn by us. It is not built by God and thrust upon us. Each of us have the liberty to draw our own boundaries in life.

Let me illustrate this through examples from my personal and work life. The first example I can share would be the people I have met in life, who live a simple life in spite of all the riches they have. They are symbols of humility difficult even to emulate. They can define the frame of life in which they want to live but on the contrary they fit into any frame they come across in life.

One such name that comes to my mind is that of JRD Tata. He could have bought almost anything in the world if he wanted but showed us outstanding examples of simplicity in everyday life. I was recently reading of how he used to buy chocolates for his gardener whenever he returned from his trips abroad. He used to take his secretary and her family for a treat on her birthdays. I have not come across many CEOs, who would show such gestures.

In my life, I have met people who will happily give credit to others for their successes. We see them in the field of sports every day. We see players, who play for the victory of the team rather than promoting their own personal glory. These persons create a space within their life frames for everyone in their life.

One such name that comes to my mind is that of MS Dhoni. Here was a leader who faded in the background of the team after India won the World Cup in cricket in 2011. He made Sachin Tendulkar lift the cup and lead the Indian contingent jog around the stadium. Such is their humility that if possible they may even disappear from the frame so as to let others get a place to be within it.

Even at the work place, you are privileged to work with leaders, who are willing to lead from behind. They are willing to lead the team in front and then follow the team. However, when there is a crisis they will be the first to be in the forefront. I recently visited Diu, where there is a memorial for our soldiers when an Indian ship was drowned by our enemies during a war in 1971. The captain of the ship decided to drown with his soldiers rather than save himself from the jaws of death. Such people create a frame large enough to fit everyone in their life.

Lets learn to live within our frames of life.

S Ramesh Shankar

4th August 2018

Technology & HR

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Everyone today is talking about technology and its impact on people. The impact on people could be from different perspectives. Let us examine it from the angle of impacting life and living.

I grew up in an era where the computer was not around nor the television in homes. Both these appeared in our offices and homes post the eighties in most countries and homes. How have they changed our lives ? Our quality of life has improved materially and physically although may have deteriorated emotionally ?

I remember many unions especially in banks were worried about introduction of computers and had resisted it for some time. Today a bank cannot imagine its existence without computers. We as customers do most of our banking ourselves on computers or mobiles. Has it impacted bank employees ? I would say it has helped the bank employees to improve the quality of their work and their productivity.

I believe the impact of technology will be similar in the future as well. Technology may develop more rapidly in the future than in the past. The quality of our lives and living may improve further. However, the same technology may be helpful if we are willing to use it prudently.

Let us examine the impact of technology on employees from a Human Resources perspective across the employee’s life cycle process – from recruitment to retirement. Technology may help in screening and assessing candidates more objectively and much faster. But I cannot imagine whether even artificial intelligence will ever be able to substitute human judgement in the future.

While it is true that a “Alexa” or IBM Watson may be able to derive logic from tons of data available to them but still may not be able to beat human judgement. It is like the development of technology, which brings the best of cameras in the world every day but none of them have been able to beat the human eye as a camera in its capacity and delivery.

We could trust computers and artificial intelligence to help in addressing routine tasks and also developing them in employees. However, the ability to respond intuitively like a human being may not be a reality in the near future. Even today the Alexa and Watson depend on inputs from human beings and programmers to derive logic from data fed into them.

Now, if we move to assessing and motivating employees, we need to examine the impact of technology. Technology can help us in objective performance assessment but the ability to empathise may not be replicable like a human being. I am aware of robots performing all types of tasks including love making but all of it will be without any emotions.

Similarly technology may help in making more precise decisions including in exits. However, human judgement is a combination of logic and gut. Logic can be built in by technology but not the gut. Most of the times in our lives, our decisions are based on gut and not by logic.

I believe technology will change life for the better in the future. But, no technology can substitute human emotions. We need to use  technology for improving our quality of life without getting impacted on our emotions. Today, we are willing to embrace technology and are increasingly losing the human touch.

Its like technology enables you to take a beautiful selfie without much effort as in the photo above. However, if we end up getting drowned in the sea taking a selfie on the beach, whom should we blame ?

Let technology lead us to a better tomorrow and we continue to trust human relationships to improve both technology and ourselves.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th May 2018

My ten learnings from a US holiday

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I have always admired the United States of America as a country for many things. Apart from being the wealthiest democracy in the world, it has a lot to teach the world as countries and individuals. I had been on a holiday for a fortnight to this wonderful country and learnt the following ten lessons as an individual :

1. Dream big : You need to kindle a dream in a individual and then strive hard to achieve it. Every American who migrated from different parts of the world to settle in this country dreamt of making America the best in the world. They have worked hard to achieve it and within a span of a century.

2. Unity In diversity : People from all parts of the world have come and settled down here. They are diverse in religion, culture, ethnicity and race. However they have evolved a common nationality. A common dream and a disciplined way of achieving their goals.

3. Discipline : A colleague of mine used to state of “Starting with enthusiasm and ending with discipline”. You can see it in action in this country. Every body is enthusiastic in whatever they do and enjoy doing it mostly. However they do not compromise on discipline. This quality you can see in most developed countries of the world.

4. Pride : While all of us are proud of our respective countries, one can observe a sense of patriotism amongst all categories of citizens. They display it in their behaviour and in discharge of their duties in whatever they do everyday in their lives.

5. Focus on your work: Everyone is focussing in what they are supposed to do. They are neither aware of what is happening around the world nor interested in knowing it. We spend most of our time in worrying about others and the world and lose focus in what we are supposed to do.

6. Every job is respected : We generally look at every job from a social status angle. Some jobs are more prestigious than others. However, what one learns from this place that every job is unique and needs to be respected. Every individual is respected in society irrespective of what she or he does.

7. Create a competitive spirit : Every state in the USA competes with the other to be the best. Every state is unique and wants to be that way. They set standards for other states and are not willing to compromise on their freedom or liberty.

8. Preserving your culture: While everyone is proud to be an American, they steadfastly maintain their state identity. They are proud about their culture and history and want to preserve it. Every state wants to lead the others in preserving and promoting their uniqueness.

9. Respect : The respect for senior citizens and the military is visible in their day to day actions. If you are waiting to board an aircraft, the active military personnel are given first preference after aged and the kids. They are given precedence over first class or business class passengers as well. This signifies the respect for the citizens who sacrifice their lives for their country.

10. Everyone wants to contribute : Everyone in the country wants to contribute in their own ways to make the nation the best in the world. This means that each of us have to strive to excel in whatever we do and not do it as a ritual.

The photo above is my tribute to Martin Luther King, one of the heroes of the American success.

I am not for one saying that there are no negatives in the USA. There are some things which I would not like to learn from here. But the positives far overweigh the negatives.

Let us learn from their positives.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th May 2018