Category Archives: Customer Centricity

Online, Digital, Social – 9 Insights from the lens of a Marketer

A few months ago, I was in conversation with the CEO of a multi-billion$ global consumer goods company. One of the topics of discussion was around online, digital and social strategies that the enterprise was embarking on (yes! They are  some-what “old school” in operations even in 2014 and as I learned there are so many companies who are NOT ONLINE, NOT adopting DIGITAL, and NOT really SOCIAL – and many are successful with impressive growth targets), and the conversation got exceptionally interesting when we spoke about the below questions:

  • Is there a boundary between online, digital and social strategies?
  • Does business strategy drive online marketing strategy?
  • Does digital drive social?
  • Does social drive digital?

The questions stayed with me..

A few days later, I was in discussion with another entrepreneur friend who runs a successful manufacturing unit which has a diversified business portfolio of apparel manufacturing and agricultural machinery. He was planning to launch a social campaign and again had some basic questions

  • Is online marketing necessary?
  • Digital / Social marketing – What first and What second? Why?

And then a few days back I had the opportunity to connect with a high-end fashion designer who again asked me the same question?

  • Should I do social? Which social channels?
  • Should I have a digital marketing strategy?

All led to long long long conversations and some interesting insights. Before I get into my views, I did some online research on the basic definitions.. Sharing snippets I found relevant:

Online Marketing (or Internet Marketing) refers to a set of powerful tools and methodologies used for promoting products and services through the Internet. Online marketing includes a wider range of marketing elements than traditional business marketing due to the extra channels and marketing mechanisms available on the Internet.

Digital Marketing refers to any marketing delivered via an online platform or involving an interactive response channel including mobile. Digital marketing is: Building awareness and promoting a brand or product using all available digital channels

Social Media is the social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.

Without much ado, let me now share my key insights from the lens of a marketer

(1) Business Strategy should drive the Marketing Strategy; and Marketing insights can drive Business Strategy For e.g: If your business strategy is to provide a portfolio of products and services to your customers, your marketing strategy should be aligned accordingly. And if your marketing insights indicate that your customers want you to add a new service, then your business strategy should be open to the consideration

(2) Marketing initiatives should ALWAYS be based on marketing objectives

(3) Online, Digital and Social Media Marketing are marketing channels and a marketing strategy. The boundaries blur. Below is a conceptual view

Online Digital Social

Online Marketing examples include web-sites, blogs, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SEM (Search Engine Marketing), online ads, e-mail marketing, online Press Release (PR)

Social Media Marketing examples include leveraging social media platforms like Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn for your marketing and promotional activities

Offline Marketing examples include print ads, Press Release, Direct Mail, Telemarketing, etc.

Real-world Social Marketing refers to marketing through ‘real-world’ social interactions and conversations at events, word-of-mouth publicity, etc.

(4) It is (near) impossible to show quantitative ROI (Return on Investment) for every marketing initiative – specially for Internet Marketing initiatives. In marketing parlance, the qualitative ROI can be subtle, long-term and not directly attributable. Below is an good way to showcase ROI

ROI

[Src: http://www.infographicsshowcase.com/roi-on-internet-marketing-services-infographic/ ]

(5)  “No Money Marketing” is often misunderstood. It is NOT about ZERO $ marketing spend, but optimally leveraging marketing channels coupled with creative marketing strategies to have maximum customer reach and impact in line with marketing objectives

(6) Social and Digital – What comes first? : It depends on your business, and your understanding of social and digital. I know of companies whose digital strategy drove their social media marketing strategies, and I know of companies whose social strategy drove their digital initiatives. Suffice to say, the digital world and social world are closely coupled and if you do one, you (or / and the ecosystem you’re a part of – like partners, customers, community, suppliers) also make inroads into the other. In most cases, Social Media Marketing is a sub-set of Digital Marketing.

(7) The choice of which social channels to use depends completely on your social media objectives and where your customers are. Don’t do Social because everyone is doing social and because it is the new buzzword. Do it because you believe it will add value to your business and marketing

(8) It is better not to start social media initiatives if you don’t have a long term plan, management commitment and the “right brains” behind your social initiatives. Too many companies start and stop too soon, and that impacts your brand negatively

(9) Digital and Social are evolving and will continue to evolve. Everyone is learning, so be open to learning, failing and course-corrections. That is the only way to succeed.

What do you think? Leave a comment to let me know…

How to fuel your creativity? – Here are 20 ways..

Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity” – Charles Mingus

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, the just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while” – Steve Jobs

Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people” – Leo Burnett

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will” – George Bernard Shaw

The “creative genius” is in different states for each of us
For some it is perpetually active :)
For some it is seldom active
For some it is dormant
And for some it is asleep :(

In this post I am listing 20 easy ways to fuel / spark / re-kindle your creativity. I have personally tried all of these and they work!

  1. Do nothing for 30 minutes a day. Just lie / laze around and let your thoughts flow. You will be surprised at the impact this has over a 1 week period!
  2. Dream – Yes! Day-dream :). There is something about dreaming which sparks better creativity
  3. Take a walk “ALONE”
  4. Disconnect for 15 minutes with the electronic world (including mobiles, TV, internet, Google, Twitter, Facebook) – Refreshingly liberating and aids significantly in “creativity”
  5. Listen to music
  6. Talk to someone you love (parents, friends, siblings, children, spouse)
  7. Look at the sky for 10 minutes (especially early morning or evening) – I don’t know why! But this always helps
  8. If you’re a right handed person, use you left hand for 15 minutes a day. In 1 week, you will experience the difference
  9. Indulge in physical exercise – Run, Dance, play a game, do whatever to get your heart pumping and hormones flowing!
  10. Meditate
  11. Read something you’d never usually read
  12. Watch a program you’d never usually watch
  13. Learn something new (For e.g.: Cooking, A new language, Art, Ikebana, Puppet making, make-up, yoga, photography, etc.)
  14. Laugh – Indulge in anything which makes you smile
  15. Sleep – Sleep is the best medicine for so many things, and can solve many a problem (no matter how complex or complicated)
  16. Think about the HAPPIEST moment(s) of your life – There’s something about a good memory which sometimes sparks the best creativity
  17. Look at old photographs
  18. Re-live the “good old days” in any way you can 
  19. Take a shower
  20. Your turn. And be CREATIVE :)

Have you tried any of these? Did they work for you.. Leave a comment to let me know

T for Thought Leadership..

There are some buzzwords which will not go out of fashion in the business / corporate world. “THOUGHT LEADERSHIP” is one of them. When I first heard the word more than a decade ago at the start of my professional career, I was in “awe” as the word sounded important and impressive.

My first thoughts were “Don’t we all have a zillion thoughts zooming in our minds every single day, so what qualifies for thought leadership? How can anyone demonstrate leadership with their thoughts? Who decides that it is thought leadership? How does one demonstrate thought leadership?
With time and experience, I found these answers. Today, “Thought Leadership” is an integral part of my professional responsibilities.
And here’s the thing|
1) It is still in vogue to be associated with this “T” word or / and have it in your professional resume
2) It is still important and impressive to an individual / organization

According to Wikipedia, the term ‘Thought Leadership’ was coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz & Co magazine Strategy & Business, and used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had business ideas which merited attention

Thought Leadership is simply about becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.” By Michael Brenner

I think Thought Leadership is many times about asking the RIGHT QUESTIONS too. In fact many times the questions are more important than the answers – as they get one to think and provide the direction for your strategy and plans.

Thought leadership should be an entry point to a relationship. Thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire even people already familiar with a company. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.” By Daniel Rasmus

I fully concur with this definition. The only thing is that very many times “Thought leadership” is incidental or accidental, and consequently so are the relationships which is possibly and probably not a good space / place to be in for any business.

According to a Forbes article,
A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.

A thought leader is an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognized as such.

I agree with this view. The most challenging part is to become a Thought Leader, or the big HOW? I’m not so sure if Thought Leadership always results (directly) in increased profitability. It can – provided it is marketed / positioned well, and reaches the right audience / reader.

Wikipedia says that “Thought leadership is often used as a way of increasing or creating demand for a product or service. High tech firms will often publish white papers with analysis of economic benefits of the product as a form of marketing”

Agreed! It is really about putting your voices and views in the marketplace and promoting it on multiple online / offline channels that your prospects view.

Why is Thought Leadership important today?

Simply because it is a competitive marketplace and every individual / organization has several thoughts on a periodic basis. Establishing “continuous leadership” on your thoughts is a direct testimonial to the kind of team that you have and a clear ‘market message’ that nurturing and sharing these thoughts is important to you / your team and your organization. Thought Leadership can sometimes be your one and only “key differentiators” in the GTM (Go-To-Market) Strategy. Hence it is imprative for organizations to build, nurture and demonstrate “Thought Leadership”

How to demonstrate Thought Leadership?

With your content. With you communications. With your conversations (online / offline)

Who should drive Thought Leadership?

The beauty of Thought Leadership is that it

Integrates with a SME (Subject Matter Expert)
Integrates with content and social media functions
Integrated with marketing functions
Integrated with Leadership

And so it really is a collective collaborative constructive responsibility of an individual / team / organization to showcase / demonstrate Thought Leadership over a period of time.

And lastly who determines it to be “Thought Leadership”?

This is a tricky one since it depends on who is the addressable market for your offerings / solutions / services / products and who is the (potential) target customer. What may be “Thought Leadership” to one may not be “Thought Leadership” to another. The point is that there should be an “industry / community / group” of experts who “publicly” ratify a thought as “Thought Leadership”…

Agree / Disagree? Leave a comment to let me know

Recommended Readings
What Is Thought Leadership? 5 Steps To Get It Right
What is a Thought Leader?
How to become a Thought Leader?

50 Things I wish I’d truly understood (as a WOMAN) when I started my corporate career

A lot of times I get asked questions around what it takes to be a career woman in the corporate world. Invariably, my answers vary based on whom I am speaking to. Simply because a lot of things make up that elixir – Desire to work (or need to work for some women), Passion, Dedication, Commitment, Hard-work, Experience, Qualifications, Personal Brand, your professional networks and advocates and the kind of person you are.

While a lot is written and discussed on this subject, some critical points often get missed out. In this post I am sharing 50 things I wish I’d truly understood when I started my corporate career, albeit many of them are less spoken! While I have burnt my fingers many times on many of these points, the aim of writing it is to probably help you / some working woman in her career journey.

1)      The word CAREER starts with CARE. So take full responsibility to CARE for yourself, your professional growth and success

2)      Have career goals and objectives – Both short-term and long-term. You will go and grow only as far as you want to!

3)      Plan your career in line with your goals and objectives. Have a Plan A. Plan B. And Plan C. Many women are guilty of having no real career plan

4)      Know yourself – Discover your strengths and weaknesses. Be aware of them, accept them (including the fact that you are a woman) and find ways to improve and improvise.

5)      Believe in yourself. If you don’t there’s a chance that others also won’t

6)      Value yourself if you want others at work to value yourself

7)      Learn to say NO – at the workplace and at home. And No means NO. Make sure you understand it, and those around you understand it too

8)      Find a mentor. Having one early on in your career can sometimes be the only factor in determining how long your career will span, and how far you will go

9)      Invest in professional networks. They will hold you in good stead on the rainy days.

10)  At work – Show up. Own up. Speak up.

11)  You are the “CMO” (Chief Marketing Officer) of your work and career. Promote yourself and your work. Again, a lot of women lose out because they don’t get due credit and visibility for what they’ve done

12)  Read the news / Know what is in the news – General knowledge is always good

13)  Invest in your physical health and wellness – This will be one of the most important variables if you are serious about a long term career

14)  Learn to use technology for your benefit. Make an effort to know what you need, understand the power of technology and find ways to make technology work for you.

15)  Stay relevant in your field – read, take examinations / certifications, participate in community discussions, etc.

16)  Build your personal brand image – At work and out of work. Brand YOU should stand for something unique and reflective of you

17)  Communication is critical to success – Invest in enhancing you oral and written communication skills. This can sometimes be the most critical aspect of your career growth

18)  Presentation skills – Both creating presentations and making presentations is a must-have skill. Invest in learning

19)  Learn to negotiate. It does not come naturally to most women, but it can be learnt over time

20)  Learn to ask for help . It is OK to ask

21)  Make a personal resolution to learn something new periodically. Learning is one of the best ways to love yourself

22)  Find ways to improve productivity at work and home. Small things make a big difference

23)  To have a fair chance at success as a working women, learn to prioritize your work

24)  Knowing when to shut-up and when to speak-up is a personal asset. Speaking when you shouldn’t and not speaking when you should can become a liability

25)  Choose your battles wisely – at work and at home. You have finite energy and time, and not every battle is worth a fight

26)  When in doubt, use common sense, presence of mind or the Buddha Expression. They almost always work!

27)  Every now and then ask yourself the difficult questions. They will burst your bubbles and show you the clear picture

28)  Develop a daily routine and stick to it. For at least 3 months before you make any changes.

29)  Periodically, think and measure your ROTI (Return on Time Invested) for the things that you do – at work and out-of-work. If the returns don’t justify your time and efforts, pause and reflect and change course

30)  Give yourself some “ME Time” – every week to do at least 30 minutes of something you love. This will rejuvenate you

31)  Understand that while emotions define most women, control on your emotions will define your career path and its longevity

32)  Have “genuine” interests outside of work. Cooking, Dance, Writing, etc. Whatever! Find something and do it every now and then

33)  Have friends out of work. They will be critical to keep you going through the rough tides, and will provide the much needed ear, shoulder and perspective on those dark gloomy days / nights

34)  At work, it is about business. Don’t take / make everything personal

35)  Office politics is real and here to stay. Find a way to deal with it

36)  If you are at cross-roads / in a tough situation at work, make sure you speak up and share it with the right audience at the right forum. Even if it does not directly help you, it will indirectly help all the women who may face a similar situation in the future. One small voice can be the start of positive change, right?

37)  While earning is important, managing your finances and investments is even more critical. Save regularly, invest wisely and review your personal finances periodically. If you can’t / don’t have the time, hire professionals to do it. It is a worthwhile investment. Again, a lot of women are guilty of being clueless about where all their money went

38)  “The most important career choice a woman makes is who she marries” BY Sheryl Sandberg. This is 100% true. Understand its depth and accept its reality

39)  Work-Life Balance is elusive, and somewhat of a misnomer. Bottom-line, it is your work, your life and your balance. If it works for you, then all is well

40)  There is great inspiration and power in the “All women social networks”. Find one or two that interest you and become a member. Listen, Express and Share.

41)  If and when you become a mother, there will be a time-period (ranging between weeks to 3 years or more) when there could be a career break / you need to apply the career brake. That’s OK! If you are serious about a long term career , positive and objective, things will fall in place over a period of time

42)  Focus. Flow and Flex are the three foundational pillars for a working mother’s career continuum. They all play their role in the career graph of a working woman

43)  Once in a way, take up the cause and help another working woman. Just imagine the difference it can make if 1 working woman supported 1 other working woman for sometime

44)  No matter how complex, formidable, complicated and unique you think your situation is / maybe, remember that there is at least one other woman in the world who has faced a similar situation and found a way out of the adversity. So it is possible. Believe in it

45)  Every now and then, connect and speak with a working woman who is finding her way amidst the jungle for her spot in the sun. Personally, I always take away some wisdom, nuggets or insights from every such interaction, and they help me tremendously

46)  Try to stay positive no matter what! It does you more harm than good, and easier said than done. But worth a try!

47)  Have an open mind to try out unchartered territories at work.

48)  Age and Karma almost always catch up on you – no preferential treatment for women here J

49)  Your happiness is in your hands. You are the “Chief Happiness Officer” of your life. Play the part, and play it well J

50)  Thank (often and in your own personal way) your parents, your education, your teachers, your friends, your colleagues, etc. who all played their bit in shaping your career. Nothing takes you from good to great as fast as gratitude.

On that note, Thank you for reading me. And have a great day and a long prosperous career ahead.

Originally published here

Love Thyself? Learn something new

Let’s start with questions | Are you 30+? When did you last learn something new?

Some of you may respond with all your wisdom by saying “everyday” as there is learning in every experience, and every day is a new beginning. Indeed that’s true.  You can learn from people, observations, interactions, reading, mistakes, emotions, thoughts, actions, events, conversations, social media (FaceBook, Twitter, et al.), books, food, movies and life itself. It all depends on your thirst for learning, your ability to assimilate and absorb the lessons from everyday experiences and internalize these learning’s.

Some of you may respond with silence.

Let me now modify the question | Are you 30+? When did you last learn something new ‘formally’?

The vast majority would respond with a silence. This was my response too last year. Looking back at my own life, after I completed my management education at IIMB way back in 2006, I’ve not really formally learned anything new!

Here’s the thing | For many of us who are 30+, you are somewhat settled into things and an everyday way of life. Life pretty much revolves around work / career and family / friends. There’s really no time for anything else – especially if you are a woman or a working woman or a working mother!

Being a working mother myself, I was no different. However, the silence bothered me for a long time and I decided to take action. So here’s what I did. One, I enrolled for a paid professional technical certification exam. This meant intensive reading, learning something new and a tough examination to crack. Thankfully, I cleared and that enhanced my knowledge and resumeJ. That done, I registered for a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on Social Media Analytics. Being online and self-paced with only an end date to meet, this was again a great learning experience for me.  The good part was that it also had an online assessment and I was awarded a certificate at the end of the course. Lastly, I took up a structured course on “Creativity”.  And I loved it!

The whole practice of “formal learning” has been a wonderful personal experience over the past few months [apart from the fact that it also inspired this post :)]

So what did I learn from all these experiences?

You learn because you really want to learn – Up until you are 30, you mostly learn because you have to learn and because you don’t really have a choice. But for most of us after 30, formal learning actually becomes a matter of true personal choice. So you can learn what you love and what you really want to learn. And there is immense joy and great personal satisfaction in learning a subject you are deeply passionate about.

One of my closest friends wanted to learn a musical instrument formally for years but it just never happened. Now in her mid-30’s, she is well settled in her career and life and decided to take this up. So she enrolled into one of the best music institutes in the world to pursue her quest for this learning. At this phase of life, you can afford to fund your own learning and you may be able to afford the best-in-class teachers and best-in-class institutes. Looking back at my own life, I can definitely say that learning from the masters in any field is truly unique and  an unparalleled experience. And if you can afford it, then it is worth your time and money!

There are so many things to learn – Whenever I speak to my peers and friends well in their 30+’s about formal learning, many of them ask me “But what to learn?” followed by “How to learn and Where is the time?”. I had these questions too. But as I discovered over the past few months there are just so many things you can learn “formally” based on your personal interest, even after you turn 30.

 Let me list down things you can learn (apart from the things you need to learn for your career / work) – Cooking, Driving, Painting, Photography, Doing make-up, Puppet-Making, Pottery, Baking, Dancing, A musical instrument, A sport, Yoga, Aerobics, Calligraphy, Sketching, Caricature, Writing, Programming, Stoy-Telling, Marketing, Social Media, Public Speaking, Communication, Personal Grooming, Management, Magic, New Languages, Designing, Technology . You name it, and you can learn it – both offline / online. For e.g.: 10 years back who would have thought that the common Indian could learn dance from Madhuri Dixit. Today, you can from her online dance school Dance With Madhuri.

 Another childhood friend of mine has always loved art and paintings but never got around to take this up seriously. Now that she is well into her 40’s, has teenage boys who are independent and is the Vice President of an international bank, she dedicates her week-ends to her art-work. She has a home tutor who teaches and guides her in her learning process. When I recently saw some of her paintings I was blown over! Each one of them was a true masterpiece.

 There is value in formal learning – The best part of “formal learning” is you actually learn within a stipulated time-frame. So your knowledge base expands and your comprehension of old and new things is significantly increased. Of course, you can informally learn lot of things, and I don’t discount it at all. But for many of us in this phase of life, the challenge is that we start with great gusto and are just not able to keep up with the informal / self-learning for an extended period of time even if we are deeply passionate about the subject. So if you learn formally you are more focused and do make/ take out the time .The icing on the cake is that if you are awarded a certificate of course completion that is definitely a feather in your cap.

 Now I know that value is personal and subjective, and to each his / her own. But there is something else that I do know for sure – Formal learning can add value to your resume, to others perception of you and most importantly, to your own perception of yourself. All three matter and do make a difference in the long run.

Learning provides opportunities for building new friendships and networking – In your 30’s, I can’t decide which is harder – making friends or keeping friends. Both have their issues and challenges, and many of us let-go of friendships and after a point we wonder who our friends really are!  

One of the best things about formal learning in your 30’s is that you get to meet and interact with new people who have an interest in a common subject. So you can build new friendships and networks due to a common passion.

Last but not least, you feel good when you learn something new. Like the runner’s high, there is a “learner’s high” – I speak from personal experience here. You just feel happy, energetic, positive and really really good when you learn something new. After my first innings of my learning high last year, I have made a formal list of things I want to learn in the future, and I am pleasantly surprised to find the list size is increasing by the day! Honestly, I am fine if I learn one thing at a time or even one thing a year.  But what I know for sure is this – I do want to be a lifelong learner.

And if this post inspired even one reader to learn something new, then that would be the best return gift in writing this!

Happy Learning. Learn, Laugh, Love – It is one life to live!

Originally published here

2014 : What I’ll be blogging here?

So its a new year! The time when everyone embarks on all new things
New Year Resolutions
New Year Wishes
New Year Changes

Well, as I mulled over what I’ll be doing here on my blog, the one thing that I was clear that I would continue to write..

So, how frequently will I post?
Once a week

And when will I publish a post?
Every Thursday at 3 PM IST

So what will I be blogging about?
Well.. The focus will continue to be on areas of professional interest which range from Marketing, Social Media, Leadership, Innovation, Strategy and Business.

So is there a specific plan for the postings?
Well yes!
Week 1 of the month – A post on Social Media
Week 2 of the month – A post on Marketing
Week 3 of the month – A post on Leadership
Week 4 of the month – A post on Innovation / Strategy / Business

Will I do anything different this year on my blog?
Well, there will be a few surprises along the way. So wait and watch.. And do follow my blog to know what these surprises are!

Till then, continue reading..
And LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE
Its one life to LIVE

Happy New Year 2014…

New to the IT Workforce – Here’s what counts…

New to the IT Workforce? – Here’s what counts…

A lot of friends and family and people who know me at work ask me this question again and again “What really counts in an IT job, especially if you’re starting you’re career?”. I usually respond based on whom I’m talking to, the personal context & background and the amount of time I have at hand..But then as I responded to this question for the Nth time recently, I thought why not post a response in on my blog..

So here, I am summarizing the response to this question – based on my own personal experiences in the IT industry spanning more than a decade, and the interactions with friends / colleagues and leaders in different organizations.
* Your knowledge on the areas / topics of study / specialization
So if you are an Engineer by education you should “know” what you learned by virtue of your degree. After all, if the threshold qualification for the job is of an Engineer, then you should at least demonstrate that you have the basic Engineering knowledge and background to qualify for the job. Similarly, if the job demands that you know the basics of a tool / product, then you should know it!

* Your self-confidence
Again, your own self-confidence in your knowledge, capabilities and strengths is what will make you stand out in a group of thousand people

* Willingness to learn
Learning is a continuous journey, and those who show that they are willing to learn – be it new technologies, processes and ways of working are the one’s who end up with more opportunities, challenging work assignments and diverse projects as a part of their career portfolio

* Openness to work
Again, you should be open to take up work assigned to you – at least in the initial few years of your career. Every single assignment adds to your own understanding of the IT business, and as you grow – you will appreciate how understanding different facets is so critical in your career growth

* Oral Communication skills
Again, many time you get selected / rejected for a job position primarily based on your oral communication skills. So speak up, speak in a clear and concise fashion. And continuously hone your oral communication skills

* Problem solving skills
The world is full of problems, and the IT industry is no exception. So there are all kinds of problems one can encounter – technology, product, process, people, customer experience, design, architecture, user experience, customer expectation management, etc. And one’s ability to truly understand and solve a problem usually makes all the difference

* Written Communication skills
Written communication is an intergal part of an IT job. On an daily basis, one will need to communicate with colleagues, teams, third parties, customers, etc. via the written medium (mails, documents, presentations, etc.). And how well you can articulate and write will make all the difference in how easy / difficult it is for others to work with you

* Your professionalism
Be professional in your interactions with colleagues and managers. Draw the line between your personal life and professional life – It makes a lot of difference in how other perceive you!

* Ability to collaborate and work in teams
In today’s day and age, it is all about collaborative ways of working to achieve business objectives. So how well you can work with a diverse (and in many instances cross-cultural team) will make all the difference in the output you / your team will be able to deliver

* Your personal drive and self-motivation
One’s one drive and motivation is what will set you apart, and is what can sometimes be the only factor in the kind of work assigned to you. So demonstrate this in word and action.

* Willingness to go the extra-mile, for the objective of the project success
At the end of the day what counts is the success of the project you are working on. And sometimes this requires individuals / teams to go the extra-mile. Make sure to stretch at times when it counts. This will make all the difference

* Truly “understanding” the customer requirements and project goals
Make an attempt to truly understand what is the customer pain areas or problems, and how the technology is enabling solve the problem. This understanding will help you work better and more effectively and deliver in line / beyond expectations!

How Social Media can help in Chronic Ailments?

Over the past few years, I have experienced close and personal what it means to have people you know / love / care about deal with chronic ailments – For e.g.: Diabetes, Chronic Renal Failure, Cancer, etc.

And if there’s one thing I can say with absolute certainty it’s this – Its NOT EASY!
It’s NOT EASY for the patient
It’s NOT EASY for the immediate family and friends

Dealing with chronic ailments which will most likely be a part of your life till the very end tests you on many dimension of life. Mainly

  • Physical – Your body goes through a lot lot lot! Hard for anyone to “truly understand”; Suffice to say that it has to endure! There is no escape!
  • Mental – Stress and Tension of every-day living; & dealing with emergencies
  • Social – Pressures of society : Questions, Pity, Free unwarranted Advice, Suggestions (many times useless and destructive), Criticism, Feedback, Opinions, etc
  • Financial – There is a financial strain, whether or not you have insurance
  • Emotional – Why me? Why us? Tears, fear, uncertainty. Lack of interest in life, When will this agony end?
  • Lack of timely knowledge – No clue of what to do? Where to go? Whom to ask?

And here’s where I believe Social Media can really help and make a difference – Both to the patient itself or to those caring for the patient.

So, How can Social Media really make a DIFFERENCE?
(1) By providing information – One of the key challenges in dealing with chronic ailments is getting access to the right information at the right time. Especially in terms of treatment options and the institutes providing it at affordable costs. Providing this information as a “one-stop” repository will prove to be invaluable ; and help in decision making at a vulnerable and critical point in the choice of treatment
(2) By providing emotional relief – The emotional highs and lows that engulf the patient, family and care-giver are unimaginable. Social media can be a welcome break by making you laugh, changing your perspective or just feeling inspired to live another day!
(3) By being a mental de-stresser – The mental stress that the patient, family and care-giver go through can sometime be enormous, and hard to deal with. Social media can be a great de-stresser in more than one way – Providing information, connecting you to experts / experienced  / advisers who can possibly provide timely guidance and intervention to enable you to tide through the situation.
(4) By creating a “new social world” - Many people ailing from chronic ailments have told that when people from the real world get to know about their ailments, “something changes” in the relationship. They can’t pin-point what it is, but things are no longer the same – And this is from both ends. Many patients don’t want to / wish to interact with their “real-world” connections , and tend to distance themselves. At such instances, “creating a new social world” through the power of Social media can be a real blessing!

What Social Media Channels would be EFFECTIVE?
Honestly, I think choosing the right channel  is important, and there are abundant options available.
(1) Twitter - A twitter handle which shares regular updates on a specific ailment. Specific Twitter hashtags will aid in searching for specific information
(2) Blogs / Web-sites – Information sources which focus on a specific topic, and share useful information from patients, care-givers , insurers and people from the medical fraternity would be an invaluable repository. One of the best examples I can think of is BabyCenter.com – which has become the ultimate online resource for most expecting mother (I’m giving this only as an example here). Something like this for chronic ailments like cancer, chronic renal failure, etc. would be AWESOME!
(3) Pinterest - Boards around a specific topic / sub-topic containing information which can consolidate information, enable decision making or simply bring a smile to a “tired and stressed mind and heart” will make an ocean of difference
(4) Communities / Groups – Like a LinkedIn Community, Google+ Hang-out or a community blog where people can interact in a honest and transparent fashion can make a lot of difference. From what I’ve seen, just knowing that there are so many people out there enduring the same “pain and trials” on a daily basis – some better / some worse, makes it easier to accept and deal with one’s personal situation!

And I hope this post inspires someone somewhere to leverage the power of Social Media to help many people dealing with Chronic ailments!

Your PRIORITIES can make all the DIFFERENCE

Looking back at my life for the past few years, the one thing that has made a REAL DIFFERENCE is CLARITY on my PRIORITIES.

I don’t think I was so clear about my priorities till a series of events (which included loss of a loved one, becoming a mother and a couple of other “life-changing and thought-provoking” events) compelled me to introspect and reflect on my own life.

As I go down memory lane and look at my own life; and also see people around me, I note the following:
(1)    A vast majority of individuals DO NOT have clarity on their priorities in life – Be it as a part of their personal life or professional life. So if you ask yourself or someone to list the Top 3 Priorities for the day / week / month / life / home / work, majority will struggle to respond. And those that do will not be so sure about their answer.
(2)    Those individuals who do have clarity on their priorities in life don’t translate these priorities into everyday action. For e.g: In my priority list, health and fitness was a TOP Priority. However, if I looked at my everyday routine, I had not really factored any time for any physical exercise. So, there was a fundamental gap between Thought and Action.
(3)    A vast majority of individuals have too many items on their list marked as TOP Priority. And hence over a period of time (say monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.) – They are not able to show or see or demonstrate any visible / tangible difference in progress. And hence wonder what went wrong and where?

The other important aspects about PERSONAL PRIORITIES are:

  • Your priorities are personal to you – No one can decide them but YOU!
  • Your priorities WILL change as you journey through life – Be aware of these changing priorities and model your life accordingly!

How can CLARITY on your PRIORITIES help YOU?
Having clarity on your priorities can help you in umpteen numbers of ways. From my personal experience, the most important one’s are:

(1)    Focus: If you are clear on your priorities, it enables you to focus better on what you’re doing. Simply because you know what’s TOP on your priority list and what’s not can be truly empowering; and can aid you to focus on the task at hand.

(2)    Decision Making: Decision Making becomes a lot simple and easy if you have clarity on your priorities. You know whom to say Yes / No to and Why?, You know what can / can’t wait and Why?, You know

(3)    Letting-Go: Many times we hold on to things simply because that’s how it’s always been or because we don’t know any other way or because we don’t know what else to hold on to. But the minute you have crystal clear clarity on your priorities – You will recognize what you really need to hold on to, and letting-go becomes a lot easier – in the emotional and intellectual sense.

(4)    Expectation Management: Many of us live our lives living up-to “expectations” of others. Nothing wrong with that, but maybe it is also good to live of our lives up to our own “expectations”. And your expectations of yourself become a lot clearer if they are driven by your priorities of life!

(5)    Saying NO: NO are two simple letters, but form an extremely powerful word. NO can make our life so simple if we just use them more often. And yet the fact is that most of us complicate our lives way too much simply because we find it so hard to say NO. And why are we conservative in the usage of NO? – Because we are not used to saying it or we worry too much about the implications of saying NO.

But when you have clarity on your priorities, it is a lot easier to say NO. Simply because you know that what’s being asked of you does not figure in your priority list, so it’s better to refuse! This one benefit is probably the most liberating!

The fact is all the above are critical for anyone playing a LEADERSHIP ROLE. And hence being clear on your PRIORITIES is of paramount importance for any LEADER

Call for ACTION Now
(1)    Write down (on pen & paper preferably) your TOP 3 priorities for your Personal Life
(2)    Write down (on pen & paper preferably) your TOP 3 Priorities for your Professional Life (Ignore if you don’t have an active professional life)
(3)    For each of these priorities, ask yourself

  • “Are these PRIORITIES taking you closer to your GOALS”
  • “Are you taking any specific action on a regular basis (daily, weekly, etc.) to address these priorities?

(4)    If yes, Great! You are on the right path. Best Wishes and Good Luck to you
(5)    If no, then Pause & Reflect. And make the required course corrections. It is NEVER too LATE!

As I end, I’d like to leave you with a few quotes on prioritization from the wise.

Action expresses priorities.” BY Mahatma Gandhi

Good things happen when you get your priorities straight.” BY Scott Caan

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” BY Stephen Covey

An Interviewers Musings..

During the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to interview several potential candidates for hiring against a specific job opening. Most of these candidates had an overall experience of 3 to 6 years ; and in their own assessment / as per their resume – They have the required technology knowledge, skills, expertise and experience to qualify for the specific job opening.

Unfortunately, when I interview them , I find HUGE GAPS.

If I had to summarize the key areas where the gaps were evident, I’d list the below areas:
(1) Gaps in “What their Resume said” and “What they said” : Let’s be clear! For starters, if you are applying for a job opening, your resume should be updated (up-to-date) and reflect what you are actually doing / did! So if your resume said something, and you say something else during the interview process – There’s a good chance that you’ve filled the interviewer with a ‘seed of doubt’. And once this doubt is planted, its hard to regain ground!

(2) Gaps in Communication : A glaring issue is on the basic communication skills of the candidates. Its common knowledge that majority of the interviews would typically start with the interviewer asking you to share details about yourself and a summary of your work experience. Suprisingly, about 80% of the candidates I interviewed were not able to articulate even this clearly! Giving them the benefit of doubt (And the fact that they may be tired or nervous or that many of us find it hard to speak about ourselves), moving on to the technlogy questions. Again! There’s a huge GAP! I don’t know for sure if they don’t know the answers, or they are not able to articulate. But here’s what I do know – A lot of work is required in the “Oral Communication” aspect

(3) Gaps in Technical Knowledge : Again if you apply for a job posting and claim to “know” a particular technology, you should “know” the basics in theory, and be able to explain what you know. Unfortunately, a BIG GAP in knowledge as well!

(4) Gaps in the understanding of their own past project experiences : This I find very suprising and interesting. I’d assume if someone has worked on a particular project, he / she should be able to explain atleast questions like “What was the problem you were trying to solve for the client?”, “Why did the customer want to do this project?”. After all, if anyone is working on a project and building a “technology solution”, there has to be a “problem to solve” – Right? And if you’ve worked on the project, would it not be natural for you to find out “What the REAL problem is?” – Even out of sheer curiosity? Sadly, most of the people I interviewed did not know the big “WHY?” of the project! And had spent years working on these projects! A big GAP again in my view. Technology is an enabler to solve problems, but if it is making you blind to the problem itself – Then something is really WRONG here!

(5) And the biggest GAP is the Gap in Expectations – What can I say here? Interview is barely over, and comes the list of expectations which go like “I want to go onsite as soon as a I join” – yes! sure : provided you have the skills that are required for onsite (read as communication skills, technology knowledge, relevant experience). “I am expecting an X% salary hike” – yes! sure : provided you demostrate during the interview process the value you bring to the table. “I want to lead a team” – yes! sure : provided you demonstate you can lead a team

Welcome to the Interviewers World! If you thought taking an interview was easy, No – Its NOT! Because everytime you say Select / Reject – You are in some way influencing / impacting / affecting someone else’s career, someone else’s life..

And with so many GAPS that exist, its somewhat easy and yet so hard to take that final decision…

What’s your view on this subject? Leave a comment to let me know..

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