Sunday, March 11, 2018

My Address at Illinois Institute of Technology's 19th Graduation Ceremony

I was recently invited at the Illinois Institute of Technology, India's 19th graduation ceremony as a dignitary and had to address the graduating masters students.

Sharing the part of the speech that i could reproduce as below:

I always see myself as a sportsperson pretending as a corporate professional. I have never been a natural advise-giver but in the spirit of trying, i will share some things today.

Stay in the present, enjoy the moment:
In Jan 2018, I ran Mumbai marathon. A full marathon is a distance of 42.195 Km. Depending upon your speed, it may take up to 3, 4, 5 or 6 hours. Marathons are also considered as metaphors for life because a runner has to typically deal with so many ups and downs while on track.

I was running in my zone and completed till about 30 km when I bumped into a runner who looked very exhausted, his shoulders dropping and barely able to move. I decided to break my momentum, slow-down and talk to him (with intention of helping him). He told me that he was a first time full marathon runner and finding it quite hard at the moment. (Around 30 Km mark is incidentally also known as “hitting the wall” in marathon parlance. It’s when your body is out of every ounce of energy, your legs are heavy and feet blistered and you are mentally battered with the constant pounding your body has undergone in the last many hours.). Eager to learn and finish the run, this runner asked for my advice. I clearly remember the advice I gave him-

"don't think about the finish-line, don’t think about how you will feel at 35 or 38 km, don’t think about the up-slope that’s coming, just think about the next step, then the next one and then the next. And block your mind of anything else. If you are able to compartmentalize your life to just thinking about the next steps for 2 hours or so, you will see the distance.”

I was very glad to see him at finish line close to 2 hours later.
In short, what I was telling him was to stay in the moment and not to get overwhelmed by enormity of what lays ahead.

This is the first thing i would like to mention to all of you. It's your big day, and I know unknowingly your mind would be playing tricks today and lure you to think about the future- how this degree will help you, how will it shape your career, how will  you make a giant leap.
I would ask all of you to take a step back, and with all your senses embrace this moment. Just block all the future thoughts and bask in the glory of current moment. You deserve it with all the hardships that you have undergone to reach this stage and it will be a shame if you are not able to enjoy the today. Today is the great moment in your lives and the careers so stay in present and seize the moment as well as you can.

Let this not be the defining moment of your life:
Secondly, I want to tell you a short story related to India winning the Under 19 Cricket World cup recently. After winning the world cup, the legendary coach of India team- Rahul Dravid was asked about his comment on the victory.
After praising the team that achieved a spectacularly one-sided victory, he said something like "It's great to see the team win so comprehensively but i don't want this win to be a defining moment of the young team's life. They should be thinking bigger than this."

He then went on to say- "the 2012 final featured India and Australia; the result of the final will tell you that India beat Australia. Six years down the line, while only one of those boys played a couple of one-day games for India, four-five Australians have gone on to play for Australia. So, more of their guys have gone on to play first-class cricket. The debatable point is actually who won that final, if you look back six years later."

I found this so simple yet so profound. Profound because the core purpose of U-19 tournaments is to build the talent pipeline for the future, which Australia had clearly achieved despite losing the world cup.

With due respect to all the efforts you have put in to attain the degree and with due respect to Illinois Institute of Technology for providing a wonderful platform, I firmly believe that 

“Educational Qualifications are not the ends in itself, they are the means to achieve something greater.”

Please don’t let this moment become the defining moments of your life. In all fairness, this is a great milestone (as I had said) but you should promise yourself that 5-6 years down the line when you look back at today, you would have defined and achieved your own world cups, scaled your own mountains and you would achieved something bigger and made your company, surroundings and the society better.

Embrace Non-linearity:
One last thing I would like to share today. It would be clich├ęd to talk about the impact automation powered by technologies such as AI/ML. There’s a lot being said about it by the industry leaders and a lot of contrasting opinion emerging.

However, I do want to mention that the workplaces are
undergoing tremendous change. The skills have much shorter shelf life. I means skills do have an expiry date and this expiry date is shortening by the day. During the dot com time of 2000, it was said that if you know Java, you are set for life. There is no such phrase as “set for life” in today’s world. Continuous learning is not a differentiator anymore, it is a mandatory.

I would request you to consider the phrase- “non-linearity” when planning for careers. All the respected dignitaries who spoke before me and the ones who will speak after me- none of them had a career that followed the linear path. I am sure their motivations weren’t to just reach the next level. Their motivations would likely be to enable and create as much impact as possible. Their missions were neither tied, defined nor limited by job descriptions. They thought beyond the traditional organizational career paths and defined their own path.

The concept of “non-linearity” also would be instrumental in dealing with the fast changing world that we are approaching. In our career-times itself, we would be competing with one important variable- machines for the jobs.

Jack Ma, the legendary CEO of Alibaba, recently said in an World Economic Forum event-
“If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now we will be in trouble. -These are the soft skills we need to be teaching our children Values, Believing, Independent Thinking, Team Work ,Care for Others -We should teach our kids- Sports, Music, Painting, Art”

More we focus on perfecting the human skills, the more we will differentiate ourselves in the future. Empathy as a skill will find a large space in careers of the future. I don’t see as many courses on empathy today, as I find on AL/ML/Blockchain. I feel that will change in next 5-7 years’ time.
Satya Nadella in his book "Hit Refresh" mentions-
"It is impossible to be an empathetic leader sitting in an office behind a computer screen all day. An empathetic leader needs to be out in the world, meeting people where they live and seeing how the technology we create affects their daily activities."
I would like to sum-up my talk by reiterating these 3 nuggets:
  1. Stay in the present.
  2. Let this degree not be the defining moments of your lives.
  3. Embrace non-linearity.

I too have done majority of my higher education alongside with the job. I bet you would unanimously agree with me the role your family members have played to let you reach where you have. As i end my address, i would want all of you to give a big hand to your family.

Congratulations once again, Thank you and all the best!

Images Source:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

One Minute Blog: Why did Facebook Acquire ?

Consider some of the recent challenges faced by Facebook-

1.     In 2017, Facebook admitted that the suspected Russians were paying to boost posts in the US to influence 2016 presidential elections. Facebook has millions of advertisers and buying ads just needed a FB page and a credit card and some trivial details.
2.       Facebook recently admitted that nearly 10% of its 2.1 billion user base are the fake accounts, arguably a leading source of fake news.

3.       In the event of you forgetting FB password or accounts being locked, Facebook needed to ask users to email the copy of the photo ID and do the verifications offline.

In all probability, to deal with these challenges, Facebook recently acquired identity origination platform company-

So what does do? 
Based on thecurrently available information,
  • offers to existing customers an API that lets companies verify the authenticity of government-issued IDs.
  • It's service also handled biometrics and facial recognition data.
  • The company can combine data pulled from an ID card with biometrics data pulled from a mobile device and facial recognition to verify the identity of a person.

Next few months would really tell how this technology is helping achieve the possible objectives of the acquisition but with the trust-deficit widening in the digital world, this technology may just pave the right path to instil more accountability in online interactions.
Here's a sketchnote explaining this acquisition: 

References and inspiration:

Sunday, February 11, 2018

One Minute Blog: Does Your Decision-Making Style Sucks Energy Out of You?

Sometime back I read about why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same t-shirt to work every day and the reason he gave has stayed with me. He does so to avoid something called as decision fatigue.

All of us have limited will-power during the day. An engrossing event like decision-making sucks up the will-power. And a routine event like deciding what to wear, often consumes the diminishing will-power. Not only Mark Z, but the likes of Barrack Obama, Satya Nadella and many successful personalities have such tactics in place to cut-the-decision making crap and focus their limited energies on the right areas.

As the fastcompany article revealed, Jeff Bezos is a big believer of streamlining the decision making. He has even instituted a 4 step process:
  1. Decisions that are reversible, can use a light-weight process.
  2. Don’t wait for 100% information before making decisions. 70% is just-about right. Waiting for 90% information to be available usually slows down decision-making.
  3. Stakeholder alignment is important to achieve the results from the decisions. However alignment is also harder to achieve. In those cases, it’s helpful to say, "Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?"
  4. To avoid energy drain, escalate misalignment issues early, and immediately.

What is your decision making style? Does it return you energy or take energy out of you? While you ponder over this questions, do catch-up with this sketch-note.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

One Minute Blog: What Really Separates Best Performers from the Average Ones?

India recently won the ICC U-19 Cricket World cup. Like with the various moves India U-19’s legendary coach Rahul Dravid makes (being his huge fan), I followed his post-tournament interviews with much admiration. One of the things that struck with me was this quote of his-
"It was interesting because the 2012 final featured India and Australia; the result of the final will tell you that India beat Australia. Six years down the line, while only one of those boys played a couple of one-day games for India, four-five Australians have gone on to play for Australia. So, more of their guys have gone on to play first-class cricket. The debatable point is actually who won that final, if you look back six years later. So I think those are interesting chats and conversations to be had."
Most people choose only failure as a credible source of learning. Here,Dravid brings a very refreshing perspective on performance. Not only is he insisting to learn from success (by choosing to look 6 years back) but also rather than choosing to bask in the glory of current achievement, he chose to take a larger view of time. 

I was recently reading this mind-opening book- Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. One of the chapters did talk about how best performers choose to look at life so differently than the rest, like Rahul Dravid does.

Do observe, assimilate and apply the below learnings I have organized from the book-

Monday, February 5, 2018

One Minute Blog: Marathon Running- A True Metaphor For Life

In the last 4 weeks, I endured and completed:
1. Ultra Marathon: Bengaluru (50 Km) [7th-Jan]
2. Mumbai Full Marathon (42.195 km) [21st-Jan]
3. Oxfam Trailwalker: Bengaluru (100 km) [2nd-Feb]

With many marathons over the years, i have deciphered that-

"Runs end, Running doesn't".

Each run teaches you something about life. Here, I am sharing this reflection from my recent runs.

Following are usually the phases one goes through while going through the marathon-

0 km: I know I can do it.

21 km: It's getting painful. Did I make the right choice choosing to do it?

30 km: Why the hell did I start?

38 km: I am close to giving up.

40 km: I think I can push a little

42.195 km: Never experienced a high like this.

Does this cycle sounds familiar with anything insurmountable you have attempted?

The cycle begins by taking a high risk, bringing in high energy, dealing with (often) self-created doubts, questioning the very reason to start, almost giving up, and while on the verge of giving up- putting in that additional 1% effort (baby steps) that gets you closer and eventually embracing glorious and glittering medals of success.

The path to eventual success in high risk ventures was never linear, will never-ever probably be.

Realized that Oprah Winfrey was bang on target when she said-

 "Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it."

Here's a sketch note about this experience:

Thursday, January 25, 2018

One Minute Blog: What Could Google’s Acquisition of Redux Mean for Future?

Redux builds technology that uses vibrations to turn surfaces of phones or tablets into speakers or provide haptic feedback. Haptic as an adjective means "related to the sense of touch."

Simply put, this technology-
  • could potentially turn phone surface to speakers
  • could eliminate the need of having any buttons on the phone.

The technology uses signal processing algorithms to direct tactile sensations at specific touch points throughout a device's display. Actuators then deliver different effects to different fingers simultaneously, with the result being a "feeling of pressing a mechanical button or moving a slider control underneath your fingertips on the screen with button click effects coming directly from the display."

What this could mean for future is-
  1.  Future phones could be even more compact. No need for micro-speakers and releasing valuable internal space for extending battery or other components.
  2. Google gets the lead when in future instead of wifi sound will be used to transfer data. Yes, there’s already a buzz around such tech
  3. Potential for future phones being speakerless and button less and bringing new experience including making phones truly water-proof.
Blog #SketchNote

Referenced/Simplified from the below sources:

In One Minute or Less

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word- Simplicity.

Most likely you get an image of something that's uncluttered, doesn’t require much effort to understand and retain.
Martin H Fischer once said-
"Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification."

Simplicity is more a need of hour now than it was ever before in the history of mankind. We as human beings are biased towards complexity for some reason. We tend to find "complex" more credible than "simple". 

In our worlds dominated by technology and always alluring screens, we gulp content from all the sources at a pace that is never-ever experienced by generations before us.

We are at a dire need to uncomplexify our lives more than ever. And to do my bit towards this, i intend to stand this short blog series called as "In One Minute or Less".

My mission with "In One Minute or Less" series is to present seemingly complex topics while embracing simplicity. Human beings can read close to 250 words per minute on an average and my intent is to keep the content i produce just within that range.

Been always inspired with this immortal quote from Leonardo da Vinci:
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." 

And to achieve that sophistication is my mission with this series.