(Alumnus PGDM 1992-94)
Chief Strategy Officer, Initiative 20+ Years in the Field of Strategy and Advertising
The ability to hold a multitude of perspectives is an invaluable skill in the real world. I think the biggest gift from IMDR, at least to me, is perspective. It is only when you are able to hold these perspectives that you can understand and appreciate situations and problems in their entirety. It was at IMDR with my exposure to the many subjects, particularly the course on systems theory, and the many debates and arguments in and out of the classroom that I truly began to appreciate the interconnectedness of things in nurturing perspectives.
‘Whoever told you that life is fair, did you a big disservice’. These words shaped my career. These words from an esteemed visiting professor in IR still ring in my ears. It was the first few months at IMDR and my classmates & I, during this particular class, were being vocal about that all-time favourite topic for management students - campus placements. True to form we were ruing the inadequate efforts of the institute in sourcing quality visits to campus during placement season. The professor patiently heard us out and then uttered the opening quote of this paragraph. Then without mincing words he told us not to feel entitled just because we were doing an MBA but instead embrace the reality that it was our choices that had bought us to IMDR and not IIM (A). And that reality had consequences which we could choose to ignore and continue to grumble about placements or we could accept this reality. And the biggest part of accepting this reality was that we would have to work twice as hard to get what we truly wanted. I have never forgotten that lesson. The second big influence was our advertising and marketing professor. An industry stalwart, he was instrumental in nurturing my love for the subject. His unconventional approach with an emphasis on case studies and his sheer knowledge of the subject opened my eyes to the power and joy of marketing.
I think I made the classic marketing mistake when I was young. I tried to mould myself around what companies that were glamorous might want. In hindsight, what I should have been doing is really focus a lot more on understanding what I wanted and then found a company that would serve that desire. This is about being honest with yourself and when you are honest with yourself things become easy, including job interviews and salary packages. And this is truer today in an era that is clamouring for brand authenticity, than it ever was in the past. Your words and how you live up to it, the dignity you maintain in your life and the good old fashioned twins of truth and honesty are the foundations of creating trust with not just your professional network but also your personal networks. Without that trust, nothing else will matter.
Contrary to the popular belief that one should not be choosy in their first job, I would say that one should be choosy in picking up jobs at the entry level as well. Choose wisely and choose what you want to do and not what appears to be the popular and the glamorous choice. However, job hopping in the beginning of career is not advisable and that is why you need to choose wisely. When you make a choice based on what you truly want the chances of job hopping are minimized. That being said, the focus at the beginning of your career should be on learning as much as possible and as long as the job delivers that, stick with it. Job hopping is often confused with career growth. One must understand that career growth doesn’t happen by simply hopping jobs because the other job pays more. Only when the roles and responsibilities grow, so does one’s career.
What makes someone a ‘good manager’ or a‘bad manager’ is often a debate worthy topic. There have been times in my career where I have been good and there have been times where I have been bad. If I reflect on the learnings & lessons from the times that I think I was good, 2-3 things stand out – First and foremost a focus on the problem and/or opportunity that I was dealing with and understanding that as deeply as possible; second – listening carefully to very talented people around me and not falling in love with my own voice & ideas and finally doing what I believed was right (with the right reasoning) without being unnecessarily swayed by the dynamics and politics of the situation. I have always been a fan of the Occam’s razor. No matter how complex a situation, there is always a simple solution. And that simple solution invariably comes from breaking down the problem into its components without losing sight of the larger goals (The systems approach).
Certain industries require you to be creative and innovative. In my industry what keeps me creative is that when I started out in the media & advertising world I used to make presentations on transparencies with markers and used DOS based software programs to run statistical analysis. Creativity was defined by TV and print ads and AI was a Star Trek myth. The same business today has been disrupted beyond compare. That was reason enough to innovate and up-skill.
Me and IMDR
My most memorable moment during my two years at IMDR would be the endless debates in the canteen, fuelled by what transpired in the classrooms. And perhaps my conscription into what became known as the ‘Khadi brigade’ – A bunch of us who were caught, on campus, indulging in a liquid known for its tongue loosening effects and consigned to khaki attire and ‘kar sewa’ for a specified period of time. ‘Kar sewa ’ essentially meant cleaning a portion of the garden near the library, cleaning the front porch and many such duties. Talk about being innovative in dishing out punishments!
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