Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.

                                                            Leonardo da Vinci, Artist, Scientist & Inventor (1452-1519)

In a world that continues to experience fast technological advances and associated societal changes in short time windows, the need for lifelong learning has never been more real. Ever since I completed my graduation in Electronics and Communication engineering and joined Indian Telephone Industries Limited as Research and Development (R & D) engineer in early 1974, learning has become an integral part of my working life. It continued as I shifted my roles to totally different domains other than the one in which I was initially trained, not once, but four times.

The first twelve blogs that I had shared over the last six months, highlighted my understanding of various abstract aspects of life – affection, detachment, duties, etiquettes, fearlessness, inclusivity, simplicity, spirituality, etc., derived through observation of / interactions with a few family members and peers. As briefly explained in my recent blog on 4S framework, drawing analogy from nature, some of my understanding may have happened due to genetic orientation (seed) and a few others due to constant association (soil) with people.

I had spent most of my working life spread over forty six years in four major areas  – R & D (1973-84), Enterprise Management (1984-2001), Academic research (2001-9) and Social work (2002 onwards), which can perhaps be considered as the four seasons. As much as each of the seasons pose specific challenges, which over time humans have learnt to equip themselves to face these challenges, I too managed to understand the challenges, addressed a few and came out of each of the areas as a modified person.

During the recent years when I analysed the reasons for transitions that I had made into areas other than the one in which I was initially trained, I came to the conclusion that we humans are generally driven by one or more of the four Cs – Convenience, Compliance, Competition and Capacity. Invariably, I had not evaluated my capacity to begin with, before entering into any specific area, but generally went by the outcomes of my earlier area(s) of work till such time I faced difficulties.

The difficulties that I had faced at each of the transition years are due to either my own limitations or situational constraints. Prof. Geoffrey G Jones of Harvard Business School in his recent book Deeply Responsible Business: A Global History of Values-Driven Leadership[1] profiled business leaders motivated by bedrock values and sometimes driven by faith. Through his research he concluded, deeply responsible business leaders argue that everything they do should make a positive contribution, including the product or service they provide. Such leaders highlight the problems of their age and find solutions that will neither hurt values nor business. This concept very much aligned with the decisions that I had made during those transition years, as I was very particular that my decisions should neither hurt my family nor the organisation / enterprise that I was working for.

As R & D engineer, I found my work was quite exciting during the first five years. After the product that I was working on got successfully productionised, I found limited scope in the Public-Sector environment for further excitement, except for the financial security it offered. Perhaps, having acquired a Post-graduate Diploma and a degree in management (part-time basis) during those five years, I got more interested in managing a business enterprise. When I completed a few of my family responsibilities (education / marriage of younger siblings and modifying our ancestral home) and got married myself, I decided to venture into business world in 1984.

The first few years of managing business were quite hectic and the growth was phenomenal. However, a few setbacks in the family and a few raids by government agencies based on anonymous complaints made me to introspect. I seriously evaluated the risks of continuing, as my business acumen and risk-taking abilities were very limited. Some of the difficulties that I had faced during my entrepreneurial years may also be due to my perceived value system and family situation. I handed over the business to my then partners and exited by 2001 from all the three enterprises of which I was one of the founding members.

I decided not to get into any new venture / assignment again, but to pursue research in the area of entrepreneurship and registered as an external Research scholar with Bangalore University in 2002. Meanwhile, having joined Rotary International, a well established International Service Organisation in 1988, I decided to use my free time for service projects apart from the research work. After completing my thesis in 2009, I continued with developing and implementing service projects on Rotary platform apart from being an advisor to a few institutions.

Though each of the four areas that I got involved posed a few challenges, they also provided me certain insights. While working in each of the areas, I understood a few more abstract concepts which I will share in the manner as I did in my earlier blogs – highlighting the role played by a few individuals who enabled the understanding process.

[1] Jones, Geoffrey. Deeply Responsible Business: A Global History of Values-Driven Leadership. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2023.


April 08, 2024 | Ravi 76