Saturday, April 30, 2022

My Feature at Company Newsletter

My work was featured at my current company's newsletter. Sharing the contents i shared below-

About Sketchnoting: 
I have been hooked on to an art-form called as Sketchnotes for last 2-3 years now. For Starters, Sketchnotes are the rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes and visual elements like arrows, boxes, and lines. My choice of subject- I like to Sketchnote timeless ideas- the ideas that are as relevant now as they will be 20-30-40 years from now. 
Sketchnotes helps to: 
- Simplify the complex 
- Enables connection and synthesis of ideas 
- Raises attention and engagement 
- Organizes and summarizes insights 
- Eases clarity and comprehension 
- Enables quick grasp and better memory retention of concepts 
- Easily share and communicate 
Where can you find my work: 
You can find some of my work at LinkedIn  or at my blog  
Inspiration behind my journey: 
For me, pursuing Sketchnotes as an interest really came in at the intersection of 3 of my other interests- Reading, Writing, Story-telling. Let me briefly share my journey. 
1 I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember but 4-5 years back i got a sense that reading wasn't energizing me as much. Upon introspection, i realized that i was probably reading more than i should (am even guilty of chasing vanity goals like reading xx books a year). During this phase, by sheer coincidence, i came across this mindset changing blog- "Consume less, Create more". In summary, this blog was about mindful consumption (reading, watching videos etc.) and doing something meaningful with the reading you do (i.e. synthesize, create and share). With most social media apps having infinite scroll as a default feature, we are on an never-ending consumption treadmill every day. To preserve sanity, it is important to be intentional about what we let inside our minds and engage our minds meaningfully by creating something. Once I understood this, it created a big shift in me. 
2I love to handwrite. A virtue that is becoming rarer by the day. To take my interest forward, I pursued and completed a professional qualification in Handwriting Analysis back in 2005 and since then found ways to leverage this skill and also continued to hand-write. 
3Who doesn't like listening to stories. Stories have a power to improve the comprehension and amplify the message. Around 2013-14, I had an part time stint at Tech Journalism (people reached out seeing some of my work shared online) that helped me develop and improve story-telling. 
Once i discovered the art-form called Sketchnoting, it really brought the above 3 aspects together and I was hooked. 
What i learned from my journey so far- 
"Follow your Passion" is an overrated advice. To sustain any interest and achieve mastery, the purpose alignment is paramount. Purpose is unique to ourselves based on our life stories and experiences.  
The story behind the “The bosses we remember” Sketchnote: 

I drew this sketchnote because I loved the ideas shared here. Little did I knew that this will resonate so much with the audience. Even now, after an year or so of creating this, I get this in my WhatsApp groups and being constantly referred to at LinkedIn. It probably raked in multi-million views and shares. More that virality, what struck me was that this Sketchnote helped create conversations between great managers and their teams and evoked nostalgia. Made me truly humbled to observe how many memories and past connections this simple visual was able to rekindle. 

The Story after Editing:

Saturday, April 23, 2022


The book “Trillion Dollar Coach – The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell” is a moving tribute by the seasoned leaders Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg & Alan Eagle. It succinctly captures the learnings from the life of Bill Campbell (former CEO of Intuit but more widely regarded as Silicon Valley's greatest coach). I found it moving because Bill's protégés came together a wrote this book on learnings they gained from their association with Bill. An ultimate act of showing respect!

The book also brings to the fore the role of a coach. In sports, a coach's role is taken as given but it's not so much pervasive in the corporate world. In a way, the authors challenges that notion. A quote from the book- "Whereas mentors dole out words of wisdom, coaches roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They don’t just believe in our potential. They hold up a mirror so we can see our blind spots and they hold us accountable for working through our sore spots. They take responsibility for making us better without taking credit for our accomplishments.”

One particular lesson that caught my attention is that Bill used to practice 'Free-form listening', which is about paying careful & undivided attention to the person you are dealing with, really listening carefully. Only then did he go into the details of issue. There was a particular order to it. Intent listening came first.

If one were to make a list of underrated professional skills, listening would find place somewhere closer to the top. Most understand that it is important but like building a muscle- rarely practice it. How does one practice mindful listening ?

I loved the thoughts shared by Prakash Iyer in his article here-  Have listed the key points below and in my #sketchnote

1 Don’t multi-task
2 Listen with your ears. & your eyes too
3 Don’t fill in the blanks
4 Don’t think about how to respond while you are #listening
5 If you disagree with what’s being said, try and understand the opposing point of view
6 Engage. Clarify. Repeat.
7 Don’t interrupt. Let them finish
8 Get comfortable with keeping your mouth shut

How do you practice #listening ? Do you think it is an important skill to master ?

My LinkedIn Post:


 One of the chance book picks for me last year was this book called "The Third Door" by Alex Banayan. A book about the journey of an everyday guy who set this lofty goal of interviewing famous personalities in the world. One of the stories in the book touched me.

Story was about early days of Qi Lu's life (Qi served as executive vice president of Microsoft, leading development of Bing, Skype, and Microsoft Office, among other exec roles). Qi was born in Shanghai, China, and was sent to live with his grandparents in a remote village. During his twenties, Qi spent the extra time he created writing research papers and reading more books, striving toward his big dream of studying in the United States.

In China for going to the United States, people had to take two tests. The fees to take them was 60 dollars. His salary each month was equivalent to 7 dollars. That was roughly 8 months' salary just to take the entrance exams.

He usually spent Sundays riding his bike to his village to visit his family, but one of the weekends it was pouring rain so Qi stayed in his dorm room. That evening, a friend came by to ask for help. A visiting professor from Carnegie Mellon University was about to give a lecture, but because of the rain, attendance was embarrassingly low. Qi agreed to help fill the seats, and during the lecture, he asked some questions. Afterwards, the professor complimented Qi on the points he'd raised and wondered if he'd done any research on the topic. Qi hadn't just done some research-he'd published five papers.

The professor asked to see the papers. Qi sprinted to his dorm room to fetch them. After the professor looked them over, he asked Qi if he'd be interested in studying in the United States. Qi explained his financial constraints and the professor said he would waive the 60 qualification tests. Qi applied, and months later, a letter arrived. Carnegie Mellon offered him a full scholarship.

In Qi's story many things could not have worked (like had it not rained, he have missed meeting the Prof.), but they did eventually. The fact that he used his free time not just researching but also producing demonstrable research output helped him maximize the luck when the opportunity did present itself. He was simply the most prepared person in the room.

It's tough to argue for 100% as there will always be a chance element that we cannot explain but serendipity can possibly be nurtured and preparation is one of the ways to do it.

What are the other factors that can help you influence your luck ?

The perspectives shared by Vala Afshar in his tweet can give some ideas (captured also in my sketchnote)

What's your take on #luck & the role it plays in career success ?

(If you are interested to read more, do check the resources later in the post)


 One of the books that I was guilty of letting it remain in my shelf without reading for long was "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance ?", a remarkable account of IBM's turnaround in the 1990s. I did read it last year only to get richer with varied perspectives. It's a first person account by IBM's then CEO Louis Gerstner, Jr.

During the early days of his tenure, Louis made a statement when addressing the media. And it created quite a buzz. He said "...the last thing IBM needs right now is vision."
The theorists and the section of media had a field day with this statement and twisted it to their convenience. What Louis was alluding to was that IBM had never missed predicting any major technology trend at that time and yet it was struggling to be profitable. To him, Fixing IBM was all about execution and he had no qualm telling the situation as it was.

It takes courage, a great degree of fearlessness to say things as is, a trait that is valuable especially in the turnaround business situation. The book narrates many such instances where Louis simply demonstrated unwavering courage and took tough calls.

Does the need for courage as a skill show-up only if you have a high position or authority ? This is a question that Utkarsh Rai puts forward in his insightful YouTube video- "Learn F.E.A.R strategy to be fearless..."
Demonstrating #courage , #fearlessness is one of the underrated, less-spoken-about skills at workplace (not just for people in leadership positions). It is one of those skills that is certainly not taught in MBA or Graduation schools but is amply required to make an impact.

In his video (~6 min) (recommend to view in full) , Utkarsh shares his framework called as F (Forget). E(Empathy). A(Attempt).R (Roar) to embrace fearlessness in your day to day work. I liked the authenticity with which the points are put forward. My top 3 take-aways:
1. Overcome negative feedback: Your courageous stand occasionally might attract negative feedback. So what? It is all about experiences and this will help in growing and making the gut stronger.

2. Letting go of control to have upper hand. If you like others’ opinion better than yours, have courage to accept it.

3. Courage comes out when you speak with conviction.

Catch the summary of my learnings from Utkarsh's video in this sketchnote.

What else would you add to this subject ?

My LinkedIn Post: