Thursday, August 21, 2014

Facing BIG opportunities/risks in Career

I started my first proper job in Mumbai with the treasury of ICICI, a large Indian Project Finance Provider (those days), as a money market trader with additional responsibility for the interface to IT department. I left ICICI to build a treasury software product. I joined Logica to build a retail banking software product and moved to manage a money market trading software product at Trigyn. The first Career Curveball (#careercurveballs) came through while at Trigyn.
I was headhunted by VC's to join a startup called 3Genesis trying to wireless enable enterprises using 3G technologies. The offer was far too attractive, but potentially changing my sharp focus on financial services. I thought a lot and took it up. My experience of working in a typical startup, where everything is questioned every fortnight and everyone pulls their weight comes from there. While this experience added value, we were far too ahead of the game and had to move into hard core telecom software for the survival of the company. I suddenly was out of place, the guy with least immediately relevant background. My wife bought me a book on Telecom networks by Raj Pandya proactively and that set me on a journey. I read voraciously day and night asking lots of questions to whoever could answer. The speed at which I picked up deep Telecom impressed the current CTO of Techmahindra (Raju Wadalkar) so much that he nominated me as external examiner for 2 M.Tech Theses of IIT Bombay related to networks. I was as excited about the Parlay API's in Telecom then as I am excited today about OASIS in Insurance. Within in a short while I led from the front with the Parlay API's in winning two large complex projects and delivering one large complex product development and implementation project successfully. We retrained the J2EE experts I had hired into C++ and Telecom and delivered successfully disproving multiple nay-sayers. The product built then went on to huge number of other installations around the world. Unfortunately making software was easier than making money and I did not make much money as my huge ESOP became toilet paper.
But I think this experience has left me with the confidence to learn any new domain quickly and handle large complex projects, which was very useful when I joined NITL with little insurance domain experience. While the NIIT Technologies CEO had some doubt whether I was an appropriate hire, I was confident due to above experience. In fact, learning insurance was far too easy compared to learning Telecom because I have learnt how to learn a domain quickly. Essentially it involves understanding the key concepts/entities, relationships, business-flows/cycles and the the skill primarily lies in asking the right questions to the right sources with finding the answers being the easier part in the age of Internet. It is the ability to ask the right questions that enables faster and better learning.
It is due to the above Career Curveball that I today have a good understanding of BFSI, Telecom and Retail (I learnt that at iGate by dealing with CPW and Ladbrokes) domains. The human mind is amazing, the more you know the easier it becomes to learn something new.
So my message to you is to to take up that BIG opportunity even if you have some doubt in your mind and put in your heart into succeeding at it. You will learn a lot and it will help you in more than one way over the short and long run. Running away at the first sign of problems is never a recipe for success in any walk of life. Face the unknown in your career with courage as advised in the Psalm of life.
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