Sunday, May 29, 2022


 One of the stories that I have often cited and shared with my teams

is that of Brian Fitzpatrick (Google). This case appeared as an HBR article a few years ago. (link in comments). Gist of this story- Brian joined Google as a Senior Software Engineer. In his quest to better the end-user needs, he identified a strategic gap in the organization. Precisely that gap was- Google wasn't doing good enough job in giving users better control of their personal data. He discovered and teamed-up with individuals who showed similar inkling towards the problem, built alliances and led the project that eventually took shape as Google Takeout . Takeout allowed users to export the captured user data from various Google Services (like Gmail, Blogger, Calendar, Chrome, Photos etc.). So much was the impact of this project that the then CEO Eric Schmidt started highlighting Takeout to regulators and customers to build a strong case for Google's focus on user's privacy.

How many times do we perceive the organizational problems as "too big", "too political", "beyond my role" while working the organizations ? Brian had a choice to simply ignore the user privacy problem as "out of scope" and move on but he didn't. What explains this mindset ?

Ravi Venkatesan is his recently launched book- "What the Heck Do I Do with My Life ? How To Flourish In Our Turbulent Times
" explains the concept of Meta-Skills. Meta-Skills are the higher order, general skills that enable you to develop new skills. These skills are durable, timeless and will remain valuable for long.

The 3 skills Ravi categorizes as Meta-Skills that I feel have a strong parallels with Brian's story are:
1. Learning Agility: Simply put, it is a person's ability to quickly size up to new problems. 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.

2. Entrepreneurial Mindset and Skills: Ability to identify gaps, make most of the opportunities. Overcome/learn from setbacks.

3. Soft skills: A combination of common sense, people/social skills and a positive attitude. 
(Have included the sketchnote summary of the chapter from this book)

"What the Heck Do I Do with My Life?" is an exciting, insightful and a thought-provoking book. It makes you think and challenge your assumptions about life broadly and your career specifically. I will be writing more about the learnings from this book in the upcoming posts. Would highly recommend not only reading it but revisiting the concepts periodically. Post reading it, I get the same sense of reflection as I did after reading Clayton Christensen's- "How Will You Measure Your Life?"

What other skills would you add to the list of Meta-Skills ?

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