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12 May 2012

My evolution....

In the language of IT Products evolution, I am currently in version Ram4.0.
Ram1.0 can be traced to the first 24 years of my life. During that period, I was shy, nervous and self-doubting to the extreme. I was inconsistent in my studies, doing exceptionally well in some exams, and exceptionally poorly in others. Fortunately, in some of the key exams, I did exceptionally well. 
I completed engineering when I was 24. At that age, with a degree in engineering, I was the most self-defeating person that you can imagine. While externally I presented an air bravado, within, I was a defeatist. I could not start anything without the sinking feeling that I was going to 'sink'. To overcome my shyness and to cover up for the fact that I did not have self-esteem, I went to the other extreme, of trying to be funny, clownish and happy-go-lucky. The way I saw it, I won't achieve any goal that I set for myself, so might as well be happy-go-lucky and make most of it. 
My vision of the world was very narrow and naive. I assumed that everyone was like me. Of course there were those who got into IAS and IIM but they were from a different planet. I was not one of them, I could not achieve any such goals. In my mind I was week and slow in Mathematics. My mental picture was that of a fumbling, incoherent individual who will mess up all the interviews that he attends. 
It happened exactly as I had imagined. I still remember the time I went for an interview with BPCL. It was a prestigious company and the posting was in Mumbai. The company had a sprawling campus in Mumbai and my uncle was working as a director in that company. For all practical purposes, if I do well in the written tests and do reasonably well in the interview, that job was mine. 
I wanted this job. Good job, in a good campus in a good city. What more can you ask for?
Since I wanted this job desperately, I knew I was not going to do well in the interview, that is, if I clear the written exam. I was more comfy about the written exam since people are not going to be around asking questions. As expected I cleared the written exam. 
By the time I was called for interview, I had built up so much pressure within that I was almost shivering as I entered the interview room. There was a solitary interviewer, an old an pleasant man.
In the shivering state that I was, he was almost like a monster. I fumbled on basic questions like 'tell me about yourself?'. Technical questions on my favorite subject 'Thermodynamics' was responded with incoherence and fear. 
Within five minutes into the interview, both of us wished we were elsewhere. And we were, after about 7 minutes. 
Of course I did not get the job. 
Ram1.0 is littered with examples of consistent, systematic failures with occasional successes. I had all the tools, I had intelligence, was smart (I knew I was smart), possessed a high IQ. But like Karna in Mahabharata, I was destined that my tools will desert me in times of need.
Then I got a job with SAIL and I was in Durgapur. That was the start of Ram2.0 as it were. 
Ram2.0 took off from where Ram1.0 left off. I carried my diffidence to my work. I was immature at first and my immaturity got me career lows a multiple times. I was passed on for promotion a couple of times. I tried IIM entrance multiple times but did not clear the exams even once. While I put in a lot of effort for the exams, I had this mental block that I will not clear the written exam. In retrospect, it was the scary prospect of interview that mad me flunk in the written exam itself. I will have some self respect tell people that 'I did not clear the written exams. If I had, I would have got into IIM. Interview is not difficult'. I cleared the IAS preliminary exam three times but did not clear the final exam even once, there also the mental block being the prospect of attending interviews.
In Durgapur, I became friendly with a couple of girls and that changed me a bit. Brought a bit of confidence that girls could like me. Throughout my life I had studied in Boys / men only schools and colleges and for me it was difficult to talk to girls in a mature manner. In Kerala, I had always been failure while interacting with girls, being either comical or distant from them. So to be liked by women for being a man was a refreshing change. In 1995, I took study leave from the plant and joined MBA program at Kolkata university, having given up on my dreams of getting into IIM. I majored in Finance, and found that I had a flair for the subject. Even though I did not get a job after MBA (I was about 32, and as far as companies were concerned, I did not fit the 'profile' meaning I was old). So I went back and worked at Durgapur for another year.
The worst year of my career...
Ram3.0 evolved all of a sudden with a big decision that I took in 1998. I was getting a good salary and benefits in Durgapur, but in 1998, I quit the job to take up the role of a faculty in a management institute in Bangalore. The salary was pittance. Almost a fifth of what I was getting in Durgapur. But my gutsy decision made me realize that I have the potential and the ability to take tough decisions. While we can argue on the merits of the decision, it changed my perception of myself. I was no longer a failure. My future was in my hands.
Bangalore of the late 90's was an exciting place. There were opportunities everywhere for the right talent and knowledge. Even though I had no clue on IT, I had a lot of 'Domain' knowledge of production and a good grasp of Finance. I attended and IT course (which is detailed in this post) and joined Sonata software as an ERP consultant implementing Scala.
Soon I found that I had a flair for ERP Implementation. I could empathize with the users, talk their language (I had 10 years of working experience in the industry) and understand the full view of business since I had both manufacturing and financial knowledge. I found that I could quickly and clearly understand the problems of the users and provide very good solutions to them. 
As I notched up one success after another, my confidence grew, an so did my arrogance. My 'world view' of myself was that of an exceptional ERP consultant. I got accustomed to positive feedback and could not take kindly the well - intended negative feedback from my boss. I quit multiple companies and finally ended up in my current company.
I travelled widely during this period and developed a set of broad perspective and also learned to appreciate differences in people and cultures. 
And finally, in the current company, I learned humility. In a company full of knowledgeable people, I was again and again and again reminded that I was not as great as I thought I was. I was passed on for promotions multiple times. I have learned to be humble, while keeping my confidence that I am a good ERP consultant.
Now as I stand on the cusp of starting a new career, I am currently at the beginning of Ram4.0. I have learned customer service from my multiple successes and learned humility from multiple failures.
I am more confident and through age has become more wise. I have learned that there are good people everywhere and that you have to do the best you can. I have built up pan-industry, pan-application and pan-domain experiences in the last 10 years. I have travelled extensively and has learned lessons from people of different countries. 
Those are the tools and experiences that will be useful as I embark on the evolution of Ramaswamy to Version Ram4.0.
Wish me luck....

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