Friday, August 23, 2019

What I learned from my fellow panelists at the "Career Stories Panel Discussion" ?

It's an honour when you are invited to be among the panel on sharing your career stories. I recently got to experience this feeling when i was a part of such panel in my organization.

Career stories panel discussion
The panel comprised of an diverse mix of people in terms of experience, functions, gender and career paths. Apart from me, the panel members were
Krishna Priya (Sr Cloud Ops Engineer), Subramanian Krishnan (Principal Software Engineer), Gagandeep Kaur (Senior Customer Success Manager), Komal Bharadwaj (Principal Product Manager), Neeraj Sharma (Services Relationship Manager)

I went into the panel with two goals in mind:

1. To share whatever I could, to the best of my ability.
2. To learn from the fellow panelists everything I could, to the best of my ability.

The session had the live audience in the room and the audience attending live via a webinar. In the end, it proved out to be quite an engaging session.

How did i know it was an engaging one ?
Firstly, while being at the panel, i didn't have the visibility around the online audience but I rarely saw any of the live audience leave the room for around 1.5 hours the session was on. Being a part of many trainings and meetings, I do know this doesn't happen often.
Secondly, I judged the engagement by the questions that came-up at the end of this session.

By means of this blog, I want to touch upon what I learned from my fellow panelists and here are some of the learnings as I experienced it:

1. Beat the comfort zone: All the panelists had moved roles or technology domains quite actively during their career spans. It doesn't need to be proved but does bears repeating that "Growth comes to those who are willing to move out of their comfort zones."
Further reading recommendation:The book Be Obsessed or Be Average

2. Lean towards giving back: Most people in the panel had indulged themselves in giving back to their respective teams, organizations in their own ways. There were examples specific to giving training sessions, enabling team members towards greater goals, mentoring the junior teams or managers creating opportunity for team members. Mostly these were selfless acts without expecting anything in return. To me, the following two quotes sums up why we should default towards giving back:
“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”- Samuel Johnson
“The more I help out, the more successful I become. But I measure success in what it has done for the people around me. That is the real accolade.” - Adam Grant
Further reading recommendation: Would highly recommend the following book for anyone interesting in getting better at Giving Back: Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

3. Embrace Non-Linearity: One pattern that emerged clearly from the panelists was that most of the people had embraced non-linearity in their careers. They tended to follow the path that wasn't common, moved around horizontally, changed functions, changed domains. Despite being at the varying level of experience, all were battle-hardened after embracing the disruption that comes with not sticking with the conventional path.
Further reading recommendation: My conversation with Chris Fleck, VP and Technical Fellow at Citrix on this topic

4. Build networks: I learned from the panel that the networks are built by either helping people out (sharing your expertise) or asking for help. When we talk about business, keeping the numbers/goals/objectives aside for a moment, businesses are really about people relationships. What keeps the organizations moving forward is the constant give and take and sense of reciprocity among the people.
Further reading recommendation: A while back, I read this New York Times article about the toughest cycling event "Tour de France". Key learning:
Teamwork becomes more effective if there is an unsaid reciprocity in the relationship among team members. It is key to note that the sense of reciprocity should come out of respect for each other and not as an obligation. If it is the latter, then it may ruin the relationship.
5. Be the CEO of your career: All the panel members seem to agree on the fact that the only way to grow in your career is to take charge. What is meant by taking charge ? Taking care of the acts like reaching out to manager, making your work visible, actively husling, creating opportunities, being aware of organizational gaps, taking initiatives that add real value, taking care of your own motivation etc.
Further reading recommendations:
a. Learnings from Ravi Venkatesan, Former CEO of Microsoft India:
b. Learnings from Sudhakar Ramakrishna: Former Exec at Citrix:

6. Have a start-up mindset: The phrases like beginner's mindset, start-up mindset, tweaking your mindset appeared repeatedly during the panel discussion. Human beings are not born experts, our default state is that of a beginner. We cover the journey of being an expert from beginner by flexing our learning muscles, building skills and working hard. A fundamental aspect to taking up new roles, changing domains is how good a beginner can we be. And to master it requires us to shun any pretenses about our past skills and be open to learning from all available sources including books, people and networks.
Further reading recommendations:

Overall, it was a fulfilling experience being a part of this panel. This blog is my attempt to express my gratitude towards all the panel members, who taught be a lot in the 1.5 hours i spent with them. Also extending my thanks to Sreepriya Jayaprakash, who designed, did a lot of diligence in preparing and eventually hosting the session to perfection.

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