Monday, July 2, 2018

Menteeing: How I've chosen my mentors

Knowing that I always would be menteeing under someone, recently a colleague asked me how I go about choosing a mentor for myself. I have never followed a process, but based on my mentee journey so far, I seem to seek mentor for three specific needs:

1. I get a chance to work with an expert and also feel that I can/need learn something from them on their area of expertise. Some examples:
  • Even after joining NI, my heart was still in start-ups and I still was nursing the dream of being an advisor to start-up. I figured I was not knowledgeable on the VC/funding part, which I found very intriguing. So, I signed up the CFO of my previous company to be a mentor. I used to have skype calls with him 4-6 times an year and usually used to go with specific questions.  
  • Other one was with an expert on Innovation. This is tricky as he has been my friend/peer for a long time. But I specifically wanted it to be called that way, as I got interested in how to go about Innovation. We used to meet 6-8 times in an year and I used to ask a lot of questions and his answers made me think and I was able to implement a few of those.

Both of the above lasted for 1.5 to 2 years and I came out of it being knowledgable about the theoretical aspects of these two subjects.

2. I identify a development need (usually has come from my boss either as a weakness that needs to be fixed or a new skill to be developed for future growth) and then find out who in my circle (or usually in the circle of other mentors) can mentor me. Some examples: 

  • My upcoming plan to approach a very senior person specifically on being a project sponsor from a remote site
  • Few years ago, I had signed a well known Leadership/Org Development consultant in Bangalore to help me lead technical people after I moved over as a manager to Wireless domain from the EDA domain

Note that #1 above is more of an interest, whereas this one is an identified development need.

3. Finding feet in a new org and to build relationships within the org. This is most important when you join a new org. Even otherwise it is always good to have someone as a mentor outside your own BU especially for folks in remote sites. 

  • Almost as soon as I joined NI, I signed up with a senior person at the HQ and it continues till day. During my initial days, this mentor introduced me to lot of people, helped me understand how decisions are made at NI, key philosophies, key decision makers etc., Over the last few years, he is mainly acting as a sounding board (encouraging me to grow and calling out stupid ideas without mincing words). He also lends his shoulders to lean on, offers invaluable guidance on org development and has been one of my big supporters along with my boss.
I owe all my success and growth to a host of my mentors (and bosses that I'm lucky enough to be coached by). When the likes of Steve Jobs and Roger Federer have mentors, why not me and you have a mentor?

Some things that I'd made sure include:

  1. You want to be willing to do it voluntarily. Have a belief that there’d always be some blindspots or areas of improvement and be humble enough to acknowledge that we can always learn from others.  Many times I've not liked what I've heard or the things that mentors make me do, has taken me out of my comfort zone, but this precisely is the reason to work with mentors.
  2. I always set-up the meeting based on mentor’s availability and what works for him 
  3. I diligently work on things they suggest (do something or read something) and keep them posted (fair amount of email conversation between meetings)
  4. I show up for meetings and own-up something that I’ve not done (don’t give excuses)
  5. Sometimes mentors do ask for favours (usually for others, rarely for themselves) and since I’m taking their useful time, I’ll act on them.

Please note mentors do not get anything in return for their time and efforts. However they do get a lot of joy in seeing their mentees grow and succeed. I'm therefore very careful with their time.

In summary, I've sought mentors for the following:

  • For a reassuring pat on the back
  • For an unapologetic slap on the face
  • To explain why my fears are unfounded
  • To tell me why my excuses are BS

(and for everything else you've a friend/partner/spouse that tells you exactly what you want to hear, make you happy in the short run and therefore possibly irrelevant in the long run).

Now go find a mentor.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Reading List for Feb-14

Not been able to finish reading books from last month's list. Only book for Feb.

Your Life as Art by Robert Fritz
I came across this book repeatedly while (and whenever) reading The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge. I had previously read Fritz's The Path of Least Resistance and had liked it very much. However, this particular book has been out of print and not available in India and I managed to find in my trip to Austin in Jan.

This book is about creating your life just as the artist creates a painting, a composer writes a symphony, or the poet writes a poem. Robert Fritz further develops his special insights that he introduced in his best selling book The Path of Least Resistance. In Your Life As Art, Fritz shows the relationship among the mechanics, the orientation, and the depth of the human spirit within the creative process, and how your life itself can be made like a work of art. Your Life As Art breaks new ground, shakes up the status quo, and, at once, is common sense and revolutionary insight that can change the way you understand the dynamics of your life-building process.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

10K10d: Welcoming 2014 by running 10K on 10 consecutive days

Wish you all a great 2014. May all your dreams for 2014 come true.

Running has become a passion or even a life style for me in the last three years. However due to lack of discipline to maintain a training regime has ensured that my progress (measured in terms of length of the runs and/or timing) is limited. More often than not, I drop off from the program for couple of months and need to start all over again (I extensively refer to the training programs (5K, 10K, HM and FM) given in the book Run Less, Run Faster). Fortunately, I've two friends whose head I'd be eating regularly for guidance and motivation (both are accomplished marathoners themselves) and one of them had recently run six HMs (half-marathons, 21Kms) on six consecutive days to celebrate his birthday. Inspired by him, I thought I too would do so, albeit 10Ks - this was a "spur of the moment" decision (both my friends mentioned above have this capability to inspire by their talks and deeds). I then had serious doubts of pulling it through, as I had only run 10K on two consecutive days and generally get tired at the end of 10K.

However on the night of 25th Dec, I was discussing with my friend, this wonderful article 15 Business Lessons I Learned Quitting The Biggest Race of My Life). My friend pointed out a quote from the article that read - "Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever". I personally liked another quote "Learning to “tough it out” is a life-long skill worth mastering" and I made another "spur of the moment" decision to start the very next day to run 10K for a week, each day. So, in the next 8hrs of having made the decision I was on the road on my first 10K of the week.

Hence started my 10K week on 26-Dec. I did pretty fine on day two also and decided that I should now instead make it 10 consecutive days and thereby by stretch it to 2014 and possibly make it my way of welcoming 2014.

Then the inevitable happened on Day-3. I "heard" something going wrong in my right leg (calf muscles) and sure enough it started to feel different. I had just completed about 3.5 kms, and this was just the 3rd day (and immediately after keeping the goal at running for 10 consecutive days). I decided to run through the pain atleast for this one day and I completed, by literally having to drag the right leg for the next 6.5Kms. I could see that the whole body was moving as if it were two parts - the whole body except for the right leg and the right leg itself. I wanted to quit several times, but just kept moving. After I reached home, I could see some swelling. Decided to do more stretches/cool down exercises and started liberally applying the magic spray - Volini, through the day. The objective was just to somehow run on the 4th day, then the 5th, then the 6th day and then eventually the 10th day. Am I glad I did it!

Its been crazy 10days. Getting up at 5:30AM on a chilly morning when the whole world is on vacation and start running. I like running in the dawn, to savour the early morning "chili-pili" of whatever birds that are still around, moon on top of you, very few folks on the road (mostly joggers/walkers) and the beauty when the sun rises and darkness disappears. Eventually the run ends, a satisfied smile appears, the aroma of sweat starts spreading and the great feeling when you do stretches. One feels truly blessed.

Except the scare on the 3rd day, rest of the days went peaceful. Though the going became progressively difficult from 7th day onwards. Running became very very difficult after 5-6kms on 8th, 9th and 10th days with heavy legs, couple of blisters and tiredness. The mind was asking me to quit about 10 times every kilometer. I decided to "tough-it-out", increased my walk percentage, ignored the timing (it was never great anyways) and somehow made it. Recovery too started taking more time. Couple of blisters developed, both legs have became sore and heavy.  Nevertheless I enjoyed the experience. Also made a few friends that are early morning runners and got some valuable suggestions and loads of encouragement. About two years ago, I had run my first 10K and had documented a few lessons learnt. I did learn quite a bit with this 10day running even too and just thought of documenting here:

  1. You never know what you are capable of, until you try for yourself.
  2. Most constraints we place on ourselves are coming from the "lazy mind" and we should learn to ignore it.
  3. Nothing beats the sense of satisfaction we get when we complete a stretched goal.
  4. Goals have a magical way of making sure you "prepare" (I read somewhere that almost all the people have a "will to win", but very few have the "will to prepare to win" - and I understood the meaning of the same little more better).
  5. When you enjoy doing something, nothing seem to come in the way (Even getting up at 5:30AM was an event I was looking forward to).
  6. Never underestimate the influence of great friends/mentors/coaches to inspire one to achieve higher levels

Based on the confidence gained from this experiment, I now see a realistic chance of running a half-marathon (21kms) atleast this year. Need to work on gaining little more speed, reduce weight and do lot of "strengthening exercises". Life continues to be in perpetual beta. Love it.

Have you had a similar experience? Would love to hear.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reading list for Jan-14

Wish you all a great 2014:

- May you find time to read all the books you always wanted to read
- May you find time to summarize your insights of the books that you just read
- May the books you published get into more reprints
- May you start/complete your next book

I've come-up with my reading list for the whole year 2014. One new year resolution is NOT to buy new books till I've completed reading the unread ones (about 150+ at the last count), so that I can stick to my reading plan. Here are the books that I plan to read in Jan.

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How we Live, Work and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger
“Big data” refers to our burgeoning ability to crunch vast collections of information, analyze it instantly, and draw sometimes profoundly surprising conclusions from it. This emerging science can translate myriad phenomena—from the price of airline tickets to the text of millions of books—into searchable form, and uses our increasing computing power to unearth epiphanies that we never could have seen before. A revolution on par with the Internet or perhaps even the printing press, big data will change the way we think about business, health, politics, education, and innovation in the years to come. It also poses fresh threats, from the inevitable end of privacy as we know it to the prospect of being penalized for things we haven’t even done yet, based on big data’s ability to predict our future behavior.

In this brilliantly clear, often surprising work, two leading experts explain what big data is, how it will change our lives, and what we can do to protect ourselves from its hazards. Big Data is the first big book about the next big thing.

Confidence: The Surprising Truth About How Much you Need - and how to get it by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

We're told that the key to success in life and business is confidence: believe in yourself, and the world is your oyster. But building confidence can be a challenging task. And, as leading psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic argues confidence can actually get in the way of achievement - self-esteem is nothing without the competence, the core skills, to back it up. Confidence is feeling capable. Competence is being capable. None of the figures whose success is put down to supreme self-belief - Barack Obama, Madonna, Muhammad Ali - could have achieved their goals without the hard-won skills (and years of training) behind the confidence mask. Successful people are confident because of their success, and not the other way around.


Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind  - Jocelyn K. Glei

 Stop doing busywork. Start doing your best work.

Are you over-extended, over-distracted, and overwhelmed? Do you work at a breakneck pace all day, only to find that you haven’t accomplished the most important things on your agenda when you leave the office?

The world has changed and the way we work has to change, too. With wisdom from 20 leading creative minds, Manage Your Day-to-Day will give you a toolkit for tackling the new challenges of a 24/7, always-on workplace.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Reading List for Dec-14

Lots of holidays in December and I want to make best use of it. So, I've a rather ambitious plan for December.

Product Strategy for High Technology Companies - Michael McGrath

This is one of the "must read" books for senior managers in my organization and I thought of reading and understanding the two critical components taught in the book - Core Strategic Vision (CSV) and Market Platform Plan (MPP).

This is a guide that continues to be the only book on product strategy written specifically for the 21st century high-tech industry. More than 250 examples from technological leaders including IBM, Compaq, and Apple—plus a new focus on growth strategies and on Internet businesses—define how high-tech companies can use product strategy and product platform strategy for competitiveness, profitability, and growth in the Internet age.

Profit from the Core: A return to Growth in Turbulent Times - Chris Zook

This is another "must read" in my organization.

In a new economic environment, where should executives look for the next wave of profitable growth? How can executives make the right choices for their businesses, even when faced with a new and different set of opportunities and challenges today? Achieving sustained and profitable growth is extremely difficult in any economy. But as the economy recovers and returns to a path of growth, building from a strong and differentiated core is even more critical now than ever. In this updated edition of "Profit from the Core", strategy expert Chris Zook shows that the most enduring growth pattern builds from a strong or dominant core business that benefits from continual reinvestment, constant adaptation to circumstances or business environment and persistent leveraging into new markets or geographies, applications or channels. In particular, Zook shows senior executives and their management teams how to rebuild the core business by following these four crucial steps: define the core business; identify the sources of differentiation that will continue to create market power and influence over customers, competitors and the industry profit pool; assess whether the core is operating at or near its full potential; and, use a strong core as a platform for expanding into adjacencies. Based on over ten years of Bain & Company research and analysis and fully updated with new research data and examples reflecting today's unique challenges, "Profit from the Core" is the bible for achieving profitable growth

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work - Chip and Dan Heath
Chip and Dan Heath, the bestselling authors of Switch and Made to Stick, tackle one of the most critical topics in our work and personal lives: how to make better decisions.

 In Decisive, the Heaths, based on an exhaustive study of the decision-making literature, introduce a four-step process designed to counteract these biases. Written in an engaging and compulsively readable style, Decisive takes readers on an unforgettable journey, from a rock star’s ingenious decision-making trick to a CEO’s disastrous acquisition, to a single question that can often resolve thorny personal decisions.

Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger - Peter Bevelin
Seeking Wisdom is the result of Bevelin's learning about attaining wisdom. His quest for wisdom originated partly from making mistakes himself and observing those of others but also from the philosophy of super-investor and Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charles Munger. A man whose simplicity and clarity of thought was unequal to anything Bevelin had seen. In addition to naturalist Charles Darwin and Munger, Bevelin cites an encyclopedic range of thinkers: from first-century BCE Roman poet Publius Terentius to Mark Twain-from Albert Einstein to Richard Feynman-from 16th Century French essayist Michel de Montaigne to Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett. In the book, he describes ideas and research findings from many different fields. This book is for those who love the constant search for knowledge. It is in the spirit of Charles Munger, who says, "All I want to know is where I'm going to die so I'll never go there." There are roads that lead to unhappiness. An understanding of how and why we can "die" should help us avoid them. We can't eliminate mistakes, but we can prevent those that can really hurt us. Using exemplars of clear thinking and attained wisdom, Bevelin focuses on how our thoughts are influenced, why we make misjudgments and tools to improve our thinking. Bevelin tackles such eternal questions as: Why do we behave like we do? What do we want out of life? What interferes with our goals? Read and study this wonderful multidisciplinary exploration of wisdom. It may change the way you think and act in business and in life.

Dare to Run - Amit Sheth
I've been a runner now for 2 years. The frequent breaks that I take after training continuously for 5-6months, is not helping me to move to next level (whatever that is). I restarted my training 2 weeks ago and was looking for some inspiration and ran into this book by an accomplished runner and I was not disappointed.

Dare to run is the inspiring story of Amit and Neepa Sheth, a husband-wife duo who took up running as a sport in their late 30s. In this collection of essays written over five years, Amit, a self acclaimed couch potato takes us long with him on an incredible journey of determination, discovery, courage, self-awareness and self-belief. He takes us with him from his first, almost fatal, 200 meter jog on a beach in Mumbai, to the finish line of The Ultimate Human Race: the 89 km Comrades Ultra Marathon in South Africa. Along the way, Amit uses a combination of poetry, philosophy and scriptures to explain his unique perspective on life, religion, spirituality and running. This is a book not just about running but about the need to relentlessly follow your dreams and passions, no matter what they may be. It is a book which encourages you to be the best you can be in all walks of life while at the same time maintaining a certain sense of balance and appreciation for the beauty of existence. It encourages you to enjoy the gift of life to its fullest.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Reading List for Nov-13

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon - Brad Stone started off delivering books through the mail. But its visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn't content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become the everything store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To achieve that end, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition
and secrecy that's never been cracked. Until now...

Brad Stone enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, giving readers the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon. Compared to tech's other elite innovators - Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg - Bezos is a private man. But he stands out for his restless pursuit of new markets, leading Amazon into risky new ventures like the Kindle and cloud computing, and transforming retail in the same way Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing.

THE EVERYTHING STORE is the revealing, definitive biography of the company that placed one of the first and largest bets on the Internet and forever changed the way we shop and read.

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence - Daniel Goleman

For more than two decades, psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman has been scouting the leading edge of the human sciences for what’s new, surprising, and important. In Focus, he delves into the science of attention in all its varieties, presenting a long overdue discussion of this little-noticed and under-rated mental asset that matters enormously for how we navigate life.

Goleman boils down attention research into a three parts: inner, other, and outer focus. Goleman shows why high-achievers need all three kinds of focus, as demonstrated by rich case studies from fields as diverse as competitive sports, education, the arts, and business. Those who excel rely on what Goleman calls Smart Practices such as mindfulness meditation, focused preparation and recovery, positive emotions and connections, and mental 'prosthetics' that help them improve habits, add new skills, and sustain excellence. Combining cutting-edge research with practical findings, Focus reveals what distinguishes experts from amateurs and stars from average performers.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Reading List for Oct-13

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness - Richard Thaler

Nudge is about choices—how we make them and how we can make better ones. Drawing on decades of research in the fields of behavioral science and economics, authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein offer a new perspective on preventing the countless mistakes we make—ill-advised personal investments, consumption of unhealthy foods, neglect of our natural resources—and show us how sensible “choice architecture” can successfully nudge people toward the best decisions. In the tradition of The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, Nudge is straightforward, informative, and entertaining—a must-read for anyone interested in our individual and collective well-being.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions - Dan Ariely

Irrational behavior is a part of human nature, but as MIT professor Ariely has discovered in 20 years of researching behavioral economics, people tend to behave irrationally in a predictable fashion. Drawing on psychology and economics, behavioral economics can show us why cautious people make poor decisions about sex when aroused, why patients get greater relief from a more expensive drug over its cheaper counterpart and why honest people may steal office supplies or communal food, but not money. According to Ariely, our understanding of economics, now based on the assumption of a rational subject, should, in fact, be based on our systematic, unsurprising irrationality. Ariely argues that greater understanding of previously ignored or misunderstood forces (emotions, relativity and social norms) that influence our economic behavior brings a variety of opportunities for reexamining individual motivation and consumer choice, as well as economic and educational policy. Ariely's intelligent, exuberant style and thought-provoking arguments make for a fascinating, eye-opening read.