Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Look back at 2019


Note 1: This blog is still in progress. Some sections are work-in-progress, to be updated in next few days.

Note: My inspiration behind this blog is Tanmay Vora's blog and David Perell's blog

At the outset, I have to be honest in admitting that I have not been as diligent as I think I should have been in doing an annual review of sorts of my life outside work (primarily interest areas). Like everyone in active jobs, I have done so with regularity on the work-related areas following the mandatory process that exists in the organizations. So my attempt with the annual review has a slightly different focus.
So i will dive right in sharing a few review notes of mine that matter to me.

Forever in Transition:
I know I said that I will focus on non-work related areas but I still thought I should start with mentioning a bit about my work. Why ? Because what I am mentioning here does not find a mention in the formal annual review process document.

I use Evernote for tracking my daily tasks. I have one Evernote 'note' page per month. And I started every month note by the following text:

  • themes for 2019
    • deliberate practice
    • story collection, story telling
    • drawing/sketchnote one in 14 days
    • connecting meaningfully with people
    • OKRs for everything meaningful
    • dwell in possibilities
    • consume less, create more
    • uncomplexify, one thing at a time
    • execute the complex
    • be a giver
    • treat work as a labour of love
At the start of this year, I had outlined these themes. There was no science in selecting these but I just picked-up these themes as these resonated very closely with my value-system. Putting this up in my task-list ensured that I get reminded of these every now and then.

Honestly, I don't have a measure yet on how these helped me or whether I was successful in following these but I do want to call out a couple of distinct experiences.

Late in 2016, I left the predictable career path (I was an Director Engineering at that time) to take the less-chartered path of non-linear career. I prefer to call myself an Intrapreneur (more about this in the summary of my recent talk here). In my journey over last 4 years, I have learned to transition to different functions and areas. As an example, in this phase I took up newer areas such as Technical Operations (Innovation, Tech Learning, Customer Briefing Center, Working with Start-up ecosystem, Engaging with Universities etc.), Product Management. It's just simple to say that I am in a mode of being forever in transition and finding creative ways to deliver value and outcomes.

One area that I accelerated was patenting my ideas. I teamed-up with a talented group and had 11 ideas  that were file as patents in US Patent Office (these are awaiting acceptance, which typically takes 2-3 years). As a part of my broader role in the last few years, I launched enabling processes that helped my organization improve the innovation output significantly but this year  I delved deeply into the innovation process and contributed actively in the patent process., which I am immensely proud of.

Portion of one of the successful patent filing letters I received

My Third Dimension:
I quite like this TED Talk by Vaishali Kasture and find it quite relatable to the way I live life. The talk is aptly titled as "Discovering your 3rd dimension". In summary, Vaishali calls various hobbies and interests as the third dimension as these help positively augment and influence the other two dimensions of life i.e. Work and Personal life.

Interests outside of work have a special place in my life and my engagement with these have certainly helped me shape my personality and become an evolved professional.

Over the years, I picked-up several interests some of which I couldn't pursue longer but at the same time, I could pursue others with passion. Let me introduce a few I did justice to in 2019.

Writing:
I maintain 2-3 blogs. My oldest blog (this one) is around 12 years old. Though I am not officially trained in writing (which I would love to at some point) but the duration and consistency of my blog makes one thing clear- I love to write.

I would call 2019 as a sort of watershed moment in my blogging career so far. I blogged 130+ times, which is the rate of one blog every 2.6 days. I have never been this prolific in my writing. So what changed this year ?
In my assessment, my reading the book- Stories at Work: Unlock the Secret to Business Storytelling
made a great deal of impact to my writing. I found this book provide a very practical insight into the subject of business storytelling but one thing in this book that stayed with me was the concept of 'Story Banks'. Sharing this reference to explain what Story Banks are:

Indranil Chakraborty advises readers to develop a regular habit of cataloguing stories: identifying key facts in stories encountered, creating tags for the subjects and usage contexts, and storing them as a story bank in applications like Evernote. “It will be nothing short of collecting gold dust,” he jokes. Story banks can be built from one’s own stories, stories heard or elicited from others, and from business books. Recording and repeatedly hearing one’s own stories helps pick up flaws; testing the stories on small groups of listeners, watching their reactions, and asking for feedback also helps (particularly when addressing new cultural groups).

Inspired by this, I committed myself to the mission of collecting stories and ended-up codifying the stories in the form of writing in my blog. Sharing a few of the blogs with 1000+ views (which i think is a decent indicator for a blog that's poorly marketed) [views data collected on 22nd-Dec]

Towards the end of 2019, I started actively sharing on LinkedIn. Some of my posts gathered good engagement and people found value/shared the contents further. [views data collected on 22nd-Dec]

My Self Rating (for Writing): A+

Reading:
One of the things that's been constant is my journey in the past decade or so is my indulgence in reading. I love to read and it's my favorite getaway from the routine world.

Like writing, 2019 was a turning-point of sorts in my journey as an avid reader. What really changed this year ?
All the while i have been reading, I always felt good with number of books I read in a year. At the height of my reading prowess, I would have read ~75 books in an year.

I was slowly realizing that no. of books read in a year is not a worthy goal to chase. The gradual realization was due to the fact I was experiencing myself that human mind just cannot retain words and concepts beyond a point. While I may meet my 'efficiency' goal of 75 books, but the real goal really is how much of what I read can I retain and apply in the real life. I call this aspect as an 'effectiveness' goal. Clearly, I was experiencing not so good vibes on the goal specific to effectiveness of reading.
Additionally, I have always associated reading with the joy it brings in. As the reading effort grew, I somehow experienced the feeling of joy being somewhat diminishing. I certainly knew that I have to change something with regards to my reading habit.
It was at this juncture that I came across this blog by Tanmay Vora. Reading this helped me diagnose my situation better and helped bring necessary clarity in my mind. What is this blog really about ?
In summary (from the blog):

Consumption is a critical element in one’s ability to create anything. So, consumption, by itself, is not all that bad. The problem of our times is  consumption by default. We first consume and then think if we really needed it. (Our goal should be to) Consume mindfully by having right set of filters that help you decide if something will *really* add value and increase your ability to create. When you consume mindfully, less is actually more. The time saved through mindful consumption is the time spared for engaging in creative pursuits.

So provided me with the necessary perspective to bring in shift in my reading habits and re-energize myself. I would have consumed ~40 books in 2019, some of which i highlighted in my recent tweet below:



https://twitter.com/anujmagazine/status/1212028219492167680

My Self Rating (for Reading): B+

Sketchnoting:
If my interest in reading fed consumption side of 'Consume less, Create more' philosophy, then my taking up sketchnoting fed the creation side of this philosophy.

Sketchnoting also helped me partly answer the question i was struggling with- 'how do i retain what i read?'
What is Sketchnoting ? Per wikipedia:
Sketchnoting, also commonly referred to as visual notetaking, is the creative and graphic process through which an individual can record their thoughts with the use of illustrations, symbols, structures, and texts.

Wikipedia definitions aren't always easy to fathom so let me narrate in plain words on how i took-up sketchnoting. My journey as a sketchnoter started sometime in 2018. A couple of reasons drew me towards it. One was an idle observation that the world around us was getting information-heavy and people cared less about simplifying the way we communicate. It became an inherent desire of mine to not contribute to already-existing complexity but try and provide a solution to this situation.
At the same time, twitter helped me connect with a few individuals who were actively sketchnoting and I got glued to the craft. I read a few books on this subject but mostly started studying the anatomy of the sketchnote and tried to learn for each and every sketchnote that came my way.

My early sketchnotes were drawn with pen and paper, which i enjoyed doing but it came with a caveat. My stationary box was getting bigger and almost unmanageable.
I moved to digital sketchnoting first with my Lenovo Yoga laptop with stylus. I enjoyed creating on this device till it got damaged.
Most of my recent work is on the next device i moved to- the iPad pro. As much as I am exploring the new device more, I am enjoying the experience at the same time.

If 2019 was a watershed moment for my habit of writing and reading, I would add sketchnoting to this list as well, especially considering the last 3-4 months of 2019.

In additon to helping embrace brevity in communication, sketchnoting helped me to balance my reading as i try and stay with the ideas I read longer (hence am able to retain longer) while I am drawing. It has added a new dimension to my writing too as everyone loves to catch a quick summary rather than reading hundreds of words.

I would continue to live by 'Consume less, Create more' philosophy and thank Tanmay Vora for introducing me to it.

You can find my sketchnotes here.

My Self Rating (for Sketchnoting): A+

Public Speaking:
review coming soon

Supporting Olympic Sports:
review coming soon

Giving Back to Professional Ecosystem:
review coming soon

Running:
review coming soon

Handwriting Analysis:
review coming soon


LEADERSHIP ESSENTIALS: Dreamers and Unicorns podcast Summary- Abhijit Bhaduri and Ravi Venkatesan


Continuing my summary (from previous blogs- 1 and 2) of Abhijit Bhaduri's Dreamers and Unicorns podcast with Ravi Venkatesan.

This blog is about the summary of third category- Leadership Essentials.


Section Summary from the podcast:

  • Article reference: 7 jobs of a CEO- HBR article by Pepsi CEO
  • How does leadership change in journey from being Dreamer to Unicorn?
  • Dreamer stage (Start-up stage):
    • Chief Salesman of the company: You are selling your dream, your vision, your aspirations.
    • Selling to investors, customers, the first few people.
    • Doing lots of experiments to find Product-Market fit: pivoting madly till you get there.
    • Worry about cash: it's a race against time. Your burn rate vs your learn rate.You want to learn faster than you are burning cash.
  • Unicorn stage (High growth stage):
    • Putting processes so that organization doesn't hire a wall.
    • Worrying a lot about talent. Biggest risk is that a job will outgrow the person.
    • Making sure that you are not the biggest obstacle to the success of the organization. Learn to be self-aware and manage your own weaknesses. Build a team around you that is strong at what you are not.
  • Well begun is half done.
  • Good bosses are an exception, not a norm.
  • One of the most important thing to do is bet on people. The idea of whether people are ready now is nonsense. Throw people at the deep end of the pool and see what they come up with.
  • Taking feedback and getting feedback:
    • If you have a fixed mindset, you tend to be very insecure and any feedback feels like an intense personal attack and such people don't welcome it. Cultivate a more open mindset that says- feedback is how you learn. You should train yourself to welcome feedback. It's never personal and it's just data and you can decide what to do with the data.
    • Build a team where there are x few people that will speak truth to power. You should have people around that will keep you grounded and honest. Staying connected with younger people, the front line employees is a useful thing.
My Sketchnote Summary:
coming soon

ADVICE TO PROFESSIONALS: Dreamers and Unicorns podcast Summary- Abhijit Bhaduri and Ravi Venkatesan


Continuing my summary (from previous blog) of Abhijit Bhaduri's Dreamers and Unicorns podcast with Ravi Venkatesan.

This blog is about sharing the summary of first category- Advice to professionals.

Section Summary from the podcast:

ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE
  • You need to be a learning machine. You need to be as voracious in learning about everything around you.
  • Learn also about yourself .Figuring about what you are good at, what you enjoy. You can only do that by trying many things.
  • Establish a reputation. You do that by being excellent. People underestimate the importance of really hard work and doing a great job. If you do it, you will get noticed and you will start attracting opportunities as your reputation spreads
  • You need to be very intentional about your mindset and your attitude. It's very easy to slip into a bad attitude. Nobody starts out in life aiming to develop a sour attitude. There is victim mindset- why did this happen to me. Blame other people for your circumstances as oppose to take responsibility. A problem mindset rather than a solution mindset. All these things set in fairly early. If you are intentional about it, you can adopt a positive attitude or what you call a growth mindset these days.

ADVICE TO MID-CAREER PROFESSIONALS:
  • Experiment with many things and discover for yourself.
  • A very high risk of becoming obsolete. To avoid hard landing, you need to reinvent yourself.
  • That's what I did every few years. It's getting boring. Let's walk away from success and start all over again. A new S curve. My life and my career are a series of S curves.
  • Dealing with Obsolescence of skills:
    • You have to figure out how to make yourself valuable.
    • For that you have to be honest with yourself on where your real skills and aptitude lie and where your interest lie. And try to swim in that direction.
    • You have to go where the joy is and where the aptitude lies.
  • Navigating Organizational Politics:
    • Organizations are inherently political. Political usually has this negative connotation but it is simply a factual description of multiple people who have multiple interests, agendas, value system.
    • If you going to be a leader and get others to follow you and get things done, this is a skill you have to develop. And it's not a bad thing, it's not a pejorative term.
    • As you grow in the organization and reach middle management, these things become more significant as you are responsible for teams, you are negotiating more things with other people to get things done. If you don't develop, you hit ceiling.
My Sketchnote Summary:



My Tweet:


PREPARING FOR FUTURE OF WORK: Dreamers and Unicorns podcast Summary- Abhijit Bhaduri and Ravi Venkatesan


I recently got a chance to go through Abhijit Bhaduri's Dreamers and Unicorns podcast with Ravi Venkatesan (former Microsoft India CEO). During my executive management graduation time, i had a great opportunity to be face-to-face with Ravi as he taught us a subject based on his book- 'Conquering the Chaos' (about the playbook of doing business in India).

I have been positively influenced with Ravi especially the clarity of thoughts he brings in on myriad of subjects. In the podcast with Abhijit, he shared his views on the theme- 'Workspaces of the future'.

I learned a tons of stuff from this podcast and organized my learnings in these 3 buckets:

1. Preparing for future of work
2. Advice to professionals
3. Leadership lessons

This blog is about sharing the summary of first category- Preparing for future of work.

Section Summary from the podcast:

EVOLUTION OF JOBS:

  • In early days, we had jobs, then entrepreneurship and now gigs.
  • We are moving from a world of linear change to an exponential change.
  • Analogy:
  • In my father's generation, you entered a tunnel and emerged 35 years later in to retirement.
  • In my generation, you have to probably navigate around 3 tunnels.
  • In today's times, you have to navigate a maze. The game has changed profoundly.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT CAREERS
  • There is no such thing as a long term job and a predictable career.
  • Life is essentially a set of projects, gigs.
  • When one gig ends, don't feel bad about it, think about what's next.
  • Focus on your skills and the reputation capital, things will be fine.

MINDSET NEEDED- FUTURE OF WORK
  • Think like a freelancer, think like an entrepreneur, think about self employment.
  • If you are intentional about your ideas and think of experimenting, you will eventually find out what your path is.
  • The beginning can be quite unsettling.

BEGINNER'S MINDSET:
  • Love the idea of Zen mind or a beginners mind. Always nurture your childlike mind.
  • At any given time, take one area where you are a complete beginner. That keeps your mind active and alive.Repeatedly put yourself out of comfort zone by taking on fresh challenges.

ABOUT DREAMS:
  • Dreams better change with time.
  • Everything that I have done is in preparation of what I am to do next.
  • Figuring the highest value use of me.
  • Too many people park their dream, they don't pursue it.
  • Life is uncertain, you shouldn't postpone your dream.
My Sketchnote:


My Twitter Post:





Monday, December 30, 2019

Demystifying Microapps Terminology


recently announced the general availability of new features within Citrix® Workspace™ including an intelligent feed and personalized workflows designed to simplify work by eliminating digital noise and automating meaningless tasks so that employees can focus on their core jobs and be their best. One of the core enablers of the intelligent feed is an innovative concept we call as microapps. hashtagMicroapps are small, task-specific applications that deliver highly targeted functionality. As an example, instead of you having to navigate through the monolithic app to submit a PTO, microapps allows you to bring just the portion of functionality you need in your feed. If you are a developer, this announcement should excite you. Why ?
Because you can leverage your skills to help connect Citrix hashtagWorkspace to legacy, homegrown and cloud based systems and create engaging micro applications and micro automation using low-code tooling.
This was the focus of Citrix Converge developer conference that was launched in Oct 2019 and there are more exciting stuff lined up. Before you build microapps, it's apt to get familiar with the key terms and concepts.
You can read through about it here: https://lnkd.in/f6n2eX6

My Sketchnote:


My LinkedIn post:


https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6615876944305197056/

My Twitter post:


https://twitter.com/anujmagazine/status/1211671722656579586?s=20

Sunday, December 29, 2019

How to deliver mesmirising and impactful speech


One of the new endeavors that i took in the last few weeks is to join IIMB Orators club. I was a part of toastmasters club at my organization a few years back and somehow had to discontinue being a part of it due to competing priorities.

Public speaking is a well researched subject. There's already a lot of relevant stuff available. While on one hand, it is easier to consume such stuff but at the same time, it is hard to teach public speaking in a distinctive way.
That's why I valued a short talk conducted by toastmaster Tony V Francis in the recent IIMB Orators meeting. His approach towards was this session was refreshing and the content shared quite unique.
Sharing summary of key learnings (notes courtesy- toastmasters Chandana R and Anantha L):



PUBLIC SPEAKING IS ABOUT WINNING HEARTS

  • Public speaking is about winning hearts
  • Public speakers are performers
  • For you to be a good actor you have to loosen up
    • We as public speakers have licence to dramatise
OVERARCHING RULE- CONTENT IS EVERYTHING
  • LCD if there’s no laugh no cry no drama, don’t give the speech
  • A good speech does not preach or moralise - it connects and resonates 
ITs ALL ABOUT STORY-TELLING
  • Storytelling using pearls from your life.
  • Every story is about conflict and resolution
  • Suspense/ Bad situations make for better stories - things can always get worse - audience will probably like it anyways
  • Intensity and obstacle: most good stories are about a protagonist wanting something and having difficulty getting it
  • Always find a unique story for any toastmasters contest
    • From personal experiences
    • Otherwise it won’t be natural
    • You will always be worried what the audience thinks if it’s a researched story
  • We always believe that truth has to be told on the stage, it need not be like that
  • The properties of people and the properties of character in a story are never alike. Intensity is different
  • We hold back thinking this is not what actually happened
  • Forget that you will make a fool of myself
  • There’s a difference between performance and testimony
My Sketchnote Summary:

My Twitter Post:


https://twitter.com/anujmagazine/status/1203044663449407488?s=20


Update on 22nd-Jan-2020:
Glad that my sketchnote got featured in December edition of IIMB Orators newsletter. Copy accessible from below:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LhvdbdRYM8XXdxNxxotX00H2q_QVT5rR/view



The 5 Personas of Product Management

Which #ProductManagement persona do you like playing the most?

Given the breadth of Product Manager role, it is one of the toughest roles to slice and dice and define the boundaries for. PMs, by virtue of the diverse job description, perform a wide variety of activities.

Recently came across and quite liked the perspective shared by Jason Shen (he/him) in his talk titled: The 5 Personas of Product Management.

He introduces a 2×2 which includes the metaphors such as tree (tactical day to day stuff) and forest (big picture perspective) on one side, head (logical thinking) abd heart (empathy, people skills) on the other. And it results in 4(+1) roles as below:

EXPLORER: focused outward on how the product fits into the market and underlying trends.

TECHNICIAN: focused on the critical details of the product-tech, design, metrics, bugs.

ORGANIZER: ability to track people, projects and priorities

ADVOCATE: cares about the picture, but from the story, advocacy perspective.

and there's one more persona:

SHERPA: an analogy between #ProductManagement and climbing a mountain. As a product leader, you are supporting a group of people that is climbing the mountain.

Would recommend watching the talk : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRi3j2r-Ejc


My Sketchnote Summary:



My LinkedIn Post:


https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6613421888523853824/

My Twitter Post:



https://twitter.com/anujmagazine/status/1205764998292598784?s=20