Headline: Learn, Unlearn and Reskill continuously to stay relevant
Adaptability, flexibility and the willingness to learn new skills and unlearn the old ones are key to achieving success today. Degrees or academic qualifications can only open the doors of opportunity but to sustain and stay relevant, young and aspiring managers need to keep their minds open, and continuously reskill. This was a common thread running across AIMA’s 2nd national Shaping Young Minds Programme 2022 (SYMP).
The programme had a brilliant lift-off with Dr. Radhakrishnan’s–former Chairman of Space Commission, Secretary of Department of Space, and Chairman of ISRO–crackling session. Elaborating on the five Es of the space industry, India’s Mars Man highlighted the various opportunities in this sector and emphasized that the industry could be both exciting and exacting, requiring nerves of steel to face failures, learn from them, and keep moving ahead. Most importantly, working in the field of space calls for a collective and collaborative effort rather than an individual approach.
Opening the conversation with Dr. Radhakrishnan, session moderator Shiv Siddhant Kaul, Managing Director, Nicco Engineering Services Limited, and Honorary Consul General of The Republic of Korea, Kolkata, touched upon how many STEM or science graduates, today, choose management studies over engineering-based careers. Dr. Radhakrishnan shared his own journey highlighting how he applied management learning in leading high-impact space initiatives. Expertise or an understanding of areas such as project management, strategic management, and technology forecasting is essential for engineering professionals to stay relevant, he added.
Moving on, he spoke about the importance of looking for opportunities in every challenge or failure. He recounted how the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean motivated him and the team at INCOIS to devise the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System, considered among the best in the world today. Leadership at times can be stressful, especially when you manage an organization of national importance such as ISRO. Dr. Radhakrishnan recalled how music helped him to overcome the twin satellite launch failures in 2010 and urged youngsters to pursue hobbies and interests outside their work sphere. Shiv Kaul then summed up the session flawlessly on how institutions are built by leaders and Dr. Radhakrishnan is a sterling example.
The national SYMP has been designed as a platform where young managers and aspiring students get a chance to listen to the stories of great leaders and interact with them. In her crisp address, Rekha Sethi, Director General, All India Management Association (AIMA) talked about how the pandemic allowed AIMA to experiment and connect to larger audiences across the nation, digitally. With over 17000 registrations for today’s program, the SYMP will continue to be a mix of physical and digital modes in the future too. The rate of change is great and so youngsters today have to continuously learn, and reskill to stay relevant, she concluded.
In the second session Shiv Shivakumar or Shiv, Group Executive president at Aditya Birla shared his career story spanning companies such as HLL (now HUL), Nokia, Pepsico, and Aditya Birla Group. He shared vital insights on how one can achieve success: the need to reinvent and reskill continuously, of being a professional and not a sycophant, the importance of standing for certain values, being punctual, and giving back to society. The session was moderated by Pranjal Sharma, a renowned economic analyst, and writer. In his conversation with Shiv, Pranjal discussed how youngsters were embracing entrepreneurship in India. A scenario that one would have not imagined a few decades ago. Aligning with Sharma’s thoughts, Shiv said India has the second largest home to startups and this was due to its large population and robust digital infrastructure. The scope for growth is tremendous if startups continuously refine their product offerings to cater to the market needs and realize that hope alone is not a strategy for success.
Recounting his tenure at Nokia, Shiv also brought to the fore that sometimes one could encounter situations that are beyond one’s control and could be perceived as failures. In such cases, one needs to reconcile to the situation. The key here is to ascertain whether one has put in their best efforts. If the answer is affirmative, then success is not far away. Shiv’s advice to young managers is profound: as you grow as leaders, you have to learn to give challenging feedback and make tough decisions.
I have been surrounded by strong women while I was growing up and I never grew up thinking that women did not have agency, recalled Shereen Bahn, Managing Editor, CNBC TV-18 in her conversation with Srinivas Dempo,Chairman, Dempo Group of Companies. Elaborating on her thoughts about leadership, she said: the role of a leader is to create an environment where great ideas can happen. For instance, the pandemic helped us to conceptualize a new show:Clutter Breakers, which aimed to inform views about the new normal and declutter the information overload. This idea brought in energy and motivated the team to keep going. Talking about lessons that have stayed with her, she mentions that she has learnt something from everyone she has spoken or interviewed. And for that learning to happen, it is important to develop the ability to listen, to listen without prejudices and with open mind.
Dempo opened the conversation on how she zeroed in on an unconventional career choice. “It is essential to get your hands dirty to truly understand a role or a profession. And hence, internships are crucial, she replied. Her decision to not pursue medicine and instead pursue communication and storytelling was a result of an internship that exposed her to the rigors of being a healthcare professional. Continuous reinvention, with a willingness to be adaptable and flexible, along with merit, hard work and consistency can open doors of success. Dempo succinctly summed Bahn’s advice to young managers: love what you do and do what you love.
The final session featured Sanjiv Mehta, CEO and Managing Director, Hindustan Unilever Limited in a session moderated by Nikhil Sawhney, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Triveni Turbines, and Director, Triveni Engineering. Starting with a reference to the timeless classic Alice in Wonderland, Sanjiv Mehta spoke about how life is about choices, how the path we choose defines who we are and what we become, and most importantly, the purpose behind those choices. Sharing his journey, he believes that the values imbibed in his childhood, like doing the harder right than the easier wrong, continue to influence his life even today. A philosophy that he has maintained all his life is getting immersed fully–whether it is to understand the details of naphtha production at Union Carbide, or visiting rural India to understand distribution nuances. He believes that one does not have to wait for a learning opportunity but can create them by oneself. One must take risks if one wants to follow their passion. Citing his own example, he said: I discovered my love for business when I was training to be a chartered accountant. From then on, though I am a CA by training, I worked across corporate finance, sales and distribution, production and crisis management. Many times, the fear of failure can prevent us from taking risks and it is important to overcome that to succeed. Risk is an important part, and one has to be cognizant about how you take a considered risk.
If you look after your people, they will look after your business. This is one principle that has stood me in good stead all through my career. One has to look at value creation from a long term lens and anchor it on three aspects–growth, hard to replicate distinctive capabilities, and high-performance. Opening the conversation, Sawhney asked Mehta about how he evaluates the choices he made, especially when not many youngsters may have mentors to help them make informed choices. Passion should be the most considered aspect when making a choice, said Mehta. And there are two ways of doing this–either one searches for a vocation that satisfies the passion, or learns to love what one comes their way.
The event was conducted in digital mode.