Monday, August 26, 2019

Career Stories Panel Discussion: Reflection on a few Core Career Principles-1

In the Career Stories Panel Discussion at my organization last week, I was asked this question:
"a couple of weeks back you mentioned about some core career principles that have worked for you"
I thought it would be apt to articulate some of the principles I shared. Before I delve into the principles, it bears stating explicitly these principles are mostly a work of recollection based on the key phases/events of my career. Of course, I do have a  benefit of hindsight in sharing these but I do sincerely hope these helps you in navigating your career.  I will try and answer this in multi-part blogs. Below is the part-1 on this subject.

1. Learning ability vs Learning agility:
When i started my career, I was told by my early managers, team leads that your growth in IT industry is directly proportional to your ability to quick learn and grasp new concepts. I recall we used to get measured on how quickly were we able to learning a new technology, or a work item and deliver on the results. This was the 'Learning ability era'.

Though I used the word 'era' to describe 'Learning ability', by no means I mean that it is not needed in the current era. What I really mean is that 'Learning ability' is more a tables stakes skill (i.e. minimum that is needed) and not a differentiator anymore.

My Sketchnote on the 'Timeless skills for the new world'

Leveraging what I learned from Ravi Venkatesan (former CEO of Microsoft) and from my previous blog, the measure of Learning agility is:

If a person is thrown into a situation that they have never seen or experienced, how quickly can they figure out what it takes to succeed. 

Learning agility is a muscle, the more you practice, the stronger it becomes.
People who have learning agility
1. tends to be intensely curious about everything,
2. they tend to like to read,
3. they tend to like new challenges,
4. they don’t like predictable things,
4. they like ambiguous situations.
No matter what you know today, in 2 or 3 years it is going to be obsolete. The ability to forget and relearn new things goes a long way.
Each time you take a risk and put yourself out of the comfort zone, learning happens. That's how this muscle called learning agility develops. Repeatedly throw yourself in a completely new situation. This is one of those horizontal skills that you can see that will never be obsolete.

As we enter the world that's dynamic, where future seems hazy and uncertain, it's the extent of Learning agility that will help us survive and thrive.

2. Which is a better measure of Experience- Years or the Extent of Learning ?
One of the things that amuses me is the unthoughtful use of time as a measure of experience in our industry. We have often seen the job descriptions that says-
"Must Have 6+ years of experience in Object Oriented Programming"
or individuals stating theie experience as:
"I have 10+ years in Program Management"

The moot question that I am convinced of answer to is that the passage of time in one's career does not always equate to the extent of wisdom gained. I think it was in Robin Sharma's books or one of his writings where I remember to have read:
"Some people spend the same year 75 times and call it a life"

The career-equivalent version of this quote could be "Some people spend the same year 30 times and call it a career".

The thought here is that experience comes from variety, it comes from experimentation, it comes from making mistakes, it comes from courage to try something new. Experience does not come from hanging on to status quo (which many of us are guilty of), not willing to try unchartered paths.

Wasn't it Mark Twain who had said: 'Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.'

I was reading Chandramouli Venkatesan's book- Catalyst, where has argued:
Experience is an output, Time is the input. When we equate Experience in years, what we are essentially saying is "Output=Input", which is incorrect.

Experience is always about maximizing what you can learn within a given time (it is not equal to time). Experience is about how much better can you possibly get in the time available with you.

Next time, try not to equate your experience in years. It is a short-sighted view. Try and equate your experience in what memorable body of work have you created, try to articulate it in terms of how effectively you learned from your mistakes.

Stay tuned for more career principles nuggets in the upcoming blogs.

Focus on Functional skills alone vs Focus on Functional + Timeless skills:

No comments: