Category Archives: Life
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
Getting back to work after maternity leave is a unique experience – both for the baby and the mother.
First is “THE” decision. To work or not? And when? And how? And what work to take up? Most mothers go through a range of deep thoughts and human emotions – ranging from worry, to guilt, to anxiety, to indecisiveness, to happiness, to questions, to what’s really the right thing to do, to how to balance professional commitments and personal priorities, to….. The list is endless.
From my own personal experience and discussing this with several of my mummy friends here is what I can say with absolute conviction: There really is NO right or wrong in the decision to work or not. It all depends on YOU…
What do you want? What is right for you and your family at that particular point in time? What kind of circumstance are you in? What kind of support system do you have? And most importantly, how bad do you really want to work?
I went through all of the above when I became a mother. And I decided to resume work after my maternity leave. Along the way I learned a few lessons which I am sharing in this post – with the intent that it may help some mother somewhere.
It’s a personal choice
Be clear on your priorities
Plan, Plan, Plan
Start the solid foods for your baby (if possible)
Get the right support network
Recalibrate your expectations of yourself
Express yourself & Speak-up
Converse with other mothers
Give yourself ‘Me Time’
Of course your situation is personal and unique to you. But then again, how unique can it really be?
For full reading, click here
More than a year and half ago (23 May 2012), an article in New York Times titled “An Open Letter to India’s Graduating Class” went viral. The post was written from a prospective employer; and was addressed to Graduates and Post-Graduates. When I first read the article, I nodded at every single point listed.
In the past 1+ year, I have had the opportunity to interact with several fresh graduates / post-graduates (unemployed / employed and waiting to start off their careers / employed with organizations for less than 2 years). And as a part of these interactions, I acknowledged and learned their side of the story.
In this post, I present the collective views and sentiments of this group.
Dear Prospective IT Employer,
This is your potential employee. We are a graduate / post-graduate looking for employment. We are potentially the future assets of your organization (assuming you consider employees as assets), the key contributors to your top-line and bottom-line growth in the years to come (assuming you continue to charge your customers for employee services, i.e., Billing Rate / Hour) and the keepers of your “brand name” (assuming you have a brand name). All of these will influence and shape your organization growth, your competitive differentiation and your longevity in the times of come.
Millions of us have recently graduated or will graduate in the near future. We are filled with a sense of excitement and eagerness as we complete our formal education, and start a new phase of our lives as “working professionals” and “officially” become part of the corporate workforce. Some of us have already landed our first job, and are ready to contribute.
In theory, life appears to be good – except that it’s probably not all-so-good. We look, speak and interact with our seniors and friends who are currently employed in IT jobs, and are filled with apprehensions and questions on how the future will turn out when we start working for you!
So why this letter, and why should you read on? Well, because based on collective “sentiments and opinions” of fresh graduates or post-graduates / newly hired employees, some truths have become apparent. Read on to understand what your future employees really want and how we can work together to create a “Win-Win” situation.
Before we get into specifics, we humbly acknowledge the following:
(1) In your assessment, we are “spoiled” because of the “India growth story”. We agree that we may be “spoiled” in your eyes. So let us just ask you a few questions:
“Who is to blame for the times / era one is born to?” – We? Did any of us specifically write a wish 100 years back that we’d like to graduate in 2011 / 2012 / 2013?
“Who is to blame for the kind of upbringing that we’ve had?” – We? Many of you must be having children, cousins, nephews, niece and other relatives who are in the same phase as us. What did you do as responsible adults to influence our upbringing?
(2) In your assessment, our “English Language” skills are sub-standard. Again,
“Who is to blame for the quality of English education that we received?” We?
“Who is to take responsibility for the English proficiency of the teachers who taught us in different schools and colleges across India?” We?
(3) There is a gap between what we learn at college; and what we are expected to deliver at the workplace
We are cognizant of the fact that there is a “great divide” on what we learn at school / college (however much / little this is!) and what you expect us to deliver at work
“Who is to take responsibility for this “GAP”?” We? OR “The systems, people and processes who run these educational institutes and who run these corporate organizations?”
So, without any further ado – We’d like to share with you our side of the coin, and what we’d like as prospective employees in your organization:
(1) You accept us for what we are
The first and most important point for us to be productive and you to get the best of us is for you to “ACCEPT” us for what we are. Yes, we are not perfect. Yes, we have limitations. Yes, we are not the “ideal employees”. Yes, we want things to be easy. Yes, We are the iPad / iPhone / Twitter / FaceBook generation. And we cannot change overnight just to “fit-in” to your view of the ideal employees
So for a start, would it not be EASIER if you ACCEPTED us for what we ARE?
(2) You give us work to do
The second point is that we’ve seen and heard so many of our seniors and friends join your organizations to “work”. Sadly on joining, they find that there is NO WORK to do. And many of us spend weeks / months / years (in some instances) on the “bench / beach” – As you call it. We did not join your companies to sit on “benches / beaches” – though we’d like to vacation and party in benches and on beaches!
So please give us WORK. Only if we work, can we learn and grow. Please give us these work opportunities
(3) You answer our questions, even the most basic ones
We agree that we may not have the “average intelligence” of your generation. So we request you to provide basic guidance as we make our first steps into the big BAD corporate world.
Yes! We acknowledge that we need to learn (a LOT), and are willing to learn. Provided your employees with all their “intelligence and industry experience” make the time and effort to answer our questions, even the basic ones.
In many instances, you’re employees don’t like being asked questions. And in several cases the ground reality is that they don’t know the answers to our questions!
So please give answers our questions. And if you don’t know the answers, please find them out! But, please provide basic guidance
(4) You collaborate with us to build our English language skills
There’s a lot of hue and cry on our sub-standard English language skills. Agreed, that our English skills are sub-standard. But did you not check that when you interviewed us? And if you did still hire us (because of the demand as you call it), then that’s the choice you made.
And the reality is that every choice comes with a price. In this case, the price is probably that we work together to build and enhance our “English language” skills.
So let’s collaborate on enhancing our English Skills
(5) You give us problems to solve; and let us “solve them”
We admit that our “problem solving” skills may be limited, and probably not in par with yours. Part of the reason could be that most of the important problems (of the world or country) were “solved” by the time it was our turn; Thanks to the collective genius of your generation, and the previous generations. So we got limited “hands-on” problem solving experience, as you’d call it.
Now, the way we see it – You are expecting us to “solve problems” – be it business, technology, process or customer experience. And we are willing to give it a try. So please let us try. We will probably struggle, and solve problems in the way “we know”; and not the way “you want”. So please be open to new ways of solving problems. After all with your expansive wisdom, we are sure you will agree that every problem can be solved in umpteen different ways!
So, give us problems to solve; and let us “solve them”
(6) You show us the long-term picture
As a group, we like to have a long term view of things. We are curious, inquisitive and futuristic, though we personally like everything “instantly”; in the here and now. So do share a view of where you’re headed, what you’re plans are and how the strategy will fall into place.
Unfortunately, most of the people we interact with in your organizations don’t seem to have a clue on the long term view of things. Agreed that they know their technologies and their projects, but there’s more to the IT world than that one customer project, right?
So please show us the long term picture!
(7) You lead by example – Especially on “being professional and ethical”
Our grandparents often said “When you point one finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back to you.” May be there is some wisdom in this statement.
When we join your organizations, we are at a fairly impressionable phase of our careers and lives. “Professionalism, Ethics and Values” are words which seem ‘high and lofty’ and many of us don’t really get what it translates to; in theory.
But we observe, and we see, and we speak, and we hear! – From the environment. So if you’ve already built an organization culture which is strong on “professionalism, values and ethics” – We’d be sure to follow!
But if you’re expecting us to build and create that environment for you, then maybe we need more guidance, mentoring, role models, some expectation management or you need a reality check!
So do lead by example. And we’re more likely to follow!
That’s the initial list. Hope it’s given you some food for thought, as you start on-boarding your new employees (or fresher’s) into your world!!
You’re prospective Employee