57 posts categorized "Mentors"

Lessons learned: 2019

-Karthik Gurumurthy

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Thankful to lead an incredible team in Amex. It was a great opportunity to learn and serve an  amazing, passionate, sharp team of Engineers and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. As a TPM (Technical Program Manager) while  we finish one project/program, we always reflect on the lessons learned from the sprints/iterations/ projects/ programs. Likewise end of the year is a good time to reflect on lessons learned and how to make 2020 year better.

  • What are we thankful for? It is not enough to just count our blessings but to rehearse, relive and revisit them constantly. One of the things my wife does very well is to write thank you letters and she does that with our son on  a regular basis. Lot of times, it is easy to get complacent and tend to take things for granted.
  • What did the past year teach us? What are the good things that we are going to carry forward to 2020? What are the things that didn't go too well which we will improve upon in 2020.
  • Over the years, I am realizing the value of simplifying life is  to focus on the right priorities and remove the things in the agenda that doesn't add value. We all need to realize and reduce the time we spend on less important things/trivial which doesn't add value from our day-to-day routine. Past will equal future if we do not change.
  • One of the things that I learned from my boss  ( Dr. SV) is  to always have  a learning agenda. Whenever he had free time, he consumed himself with learning new technologies, getting his hands dirty and implementing what he learned. What do we need to learn or want to learn in 2020 to move on to the next level?  Cultivating curiosity,  expanding intellectual bandwidth sets a great foundation to move forward in 2020.
  • 2018 was awesome with regards to exercise and diet. With traveling and staying away from home for extended period of time in 2019, diet and exercise got really messed up. Developing a proper routine in 2020 with diet and exercise will pave way to better health.
  • Every day, asking ourselves “How can I be of greater service?” Volunteering to help prevents self absorption and serves a higher purpose. Who and how can we serve in little and big ways in the coming year?

Success is never an accident. Improving requires intent and we need to work on it on a day-t0-day basis.  Let us make the 2020 the best year of our lives. Happy New Year 2020!

 

 


Guru Purnima

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-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today is Guru Purnima. Guru Purnima is an Indian festival that is celebrated as per the Hindu Moon Sign calendar to express reverence towards your Guru, your teacher or mentors. Etymologically, the word Guru has been derived from two parts – Gu that means darkness and Ru that is the antidote to the darkness.The word 'Guru' is defined as a person who leads people on the path to enlightenment. Guru removes avidya, or ignorance, which is a case of mistaken identity.

I wanted to take some time now to thank all my Gurus starting from my parents, my teachers in School, College, specifically my Math teacher from Sankara (Shri NR), Dr. KS Viswanathan -IGCAR(currently at IISER), Dr. A.K Mishra -IIT Madras, Dr. King Jordan, Dr. L. Aravind -NIH, Chris Wintrode, Leslie Jones, Michael Wang, Randy Canfield, Sheila M and my friends, seniors, relatives (too many to name!) and my students who continuously have helped me evolve to get better, transforming me one day at a time. I cannot thank all the teachers enough to take time out of their schedule to dispel darkness from my mind. I seek blessings of my Guru(s) on this auspicious day.

 
 
 

 


Get out of comfort zone

-Karthik Gurumurthy

What I say is not adding value. I have some experience but not enough…. I will be found out. And made fun of. I don’t want to sound or be branded a phony;

Look into the mirror. You’ve been through it. Or experience this every  time you’re asked to take something up: Speak at an event, lead a team, solve a problem...

The first thought that comes through is “hey, I’m not ready. Perhaps next year. I will direct you to an expert, I’m sure he will do a better job!”.

You’ve had successes in the past, have exhibited brilliance and leadership but internally, you write it off as luck, the team and some heavenly intervention! This is called Impostor Syndrome

The only way to counter the impostor syndrome is to  get out of the comfort zone take it head on.

Do not let your own fear that you are not good enough stop you.

Say what you have to say.

Do what you have to do

What you have to say or do, do it; there is someone who needs to hear it. It will resonate and those who listen will get back to you. Feedback. It will substantiate what your doing.

Keep doing it and you will become better at it.

Two other methods that work:

  1. Talk to someone who is experienced in that field or a mentor who can help you get out of this syndrome and set you on the right track- your track!
  2. Write your accomplishments and showcase your successes.

Responding to critics

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I have heard a story about Winston Churchill and his extraordinary integrity in the face of opposition. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two gentlemen began whispering. “That’s Winston Churchill. They say he is getting senile. They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.” When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf.”

How you respond to critics is very important part of building yourself. It’s all too easy to get defensive when critics rub us the wrong way or misunderstand us. There is also a possibility of us  being wrong as well. Ask yourself why the criticism was made. Is the person trying to help, to make things better, to help you avoid making mistakes, to suggest positive improvements? Is the person just in a cranky rude mood, having a bad day? Is the person just mean, or jealous? Is there good reason for the criticism?My dad gave me an outstanding piece of advice when I first left to US. He said, “If you take the blame when you deserve it, you will take responsibility and will improve and become a better person." I have found that to be very true. Difficult, but true. In my experience, until someone in a group (or in a family) accepts blame, everyone stays very anxious and focused on fingering the person at fault. Once I take responsibility and be accountable, then everyone else can relax. And then we can all focus on what needs to be done.

Thank the person offering the criticism. Sometimes they’re coming from a place of wanting to help you. That takes courage, and is a very generous thing. Be grateful for that. Even when they’re not trying to be helpful, they’ve taken the time to respond to you — and trust me, getting a response is better than absolute silence. Provoking a reaction means you’ve done something interesting — and for that, you should be thankful. Either way, thanking the critic will help lead to a positive exchange.

It is also important not immediately respond but delay the response.  Delaying the response gives time to think it over and not be reactive. Calm yourself down before responding. Always. Responding to a critic in anger is never, ever, ever a good idea.Respond rationally and calmly. Instead of being defensive, be honest. Share your reasons, acknowledge the other person’s points if there’s any validity, and come to a rational conclusion rather than jealously guarding your way of doing things.

Or stay silent. If you can’t respond with grace, then just don’t respond. Silence is a much better response than anger or defensiveness or quitting.


Miss you NR Sir

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today I received sad news that one of my favorite teachers in high school had passed away. As children, we spend almost as much time with our teachers as we do with our parents. The teachers who have had tremendous influence on us are far and few and N. Rajendran Sir   (whom we used to fondly refer him as NR Sir) was one of them.  He created such a ripple effect with students that  there is not a day that goes by without thinking about him. I tutor Math almost on a regular  basis and I owe everything I learned in Math to NR Sir. I have lost close ones before, but have never felt such sadness and grief as I feel today. I really adored you Sir, and I will always. The infectious zeal with which NR Sir have taught so many of us continues to energize us even today. 

I was failing miserably in my IX grade in Math and was promoted to X with warning meaning I barely passed my Math in IX. In our school, Our X grade students were segregated based on our performance in our IX grade and luckily for us, NR sir was the assigned teacher.  We weren't sure what to expect of him as we never had classes with him or had an opportunity to interact with him. He sported a big moustache  which made him look scary. After I had classes with him , I soon  got over the moustache part and realized that he was a wonderful teacher who was able to connect us  really with the Math concepts. He used to make us do so many problems over and over that our hands used to hurt by the time we were done. I was sitting in the first row right in front of him, and for some reason he used to pick on me as well and asked me to go to the board and solve a problem.  I had low self esteem up until that point of time . His teaching boosted my self esteem big time.He always used to have chalk piece with him which he used to throw at someone who is not paying attention. He wanted to do everything under his control to help out students and  am thankful he took me under his wings to help me understand appreciate and enjoy Math to the fullest. I moved from barely passing in IX to being top of the class in his tests. I never had  the passion to  be the first or anything but getting a pat in the back meant a lot to me . I remember few tests which I didn't do too well,  He was very angry  at me and I was mad at myself for not giving my best and made sure I didn't  slack off after that. He was eminently fair, honest to the point of bluntness, ever helpful, but would brook no nonsense that would disrupt his classroom routine.  NR sir always exhibited extra bit of life in whatever he did and had the rare capacity to instill some of that in others he met.

I fall short of words to express my grief on the sad demise of our beloved NR Sir. I am what I am today only because of him.  The right way to pay tribute to him is to face this news boldly and go ahead and do a great job as his student and carry forward his legacy.

I hope his family can take solace in the fact that such a great man is surely looking down on them from the highest pinnacle of heaven.

Rest in peace NR Sir, you're probably lecturing God right now or having a breakfast with your Math teachers. 

Sukumar_NRSir

I am thankful to one of our seniors Sukumar Rajagopal for sharing  his picture. Few years back he also honored this wonderful teacher..and am attaching herewith the video of the same (with his permission).

 


Why do great people leave/quit an organization?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Quitting is portrayed a bad thing usually. People who leave an organization after being there for long haul are usually portrayed as someone who is not paying the price, losing the dream.  But we do witness great wonderful people leaving quit organizations from time to time. Why is that?

People don't quit organizations, they quit leaders. It’s a sad but true commentary on the lack of leadership skills that are so desperately needed to thrive.

There are consequences to poor leadership and where it’s not present, people will leave to find it. Inevitably it’s the good hardworking loyal workers who leave. Left behind is a weakened and demoralized team forced to pick up the pieces.

But why do the good ones leave? What is the tipping point? The specifics vary, of course, but typically the good people leave for the following reasons.

No Backbone

This type of leader plays to the crowd and will say whatever he or she thinks you want to hear. The good ones had rather hear the uncomfortable truth than the pleasant sounds of a diplomat. The good ones want a leader who is not afraid to make the difficult decisions.

No Vision

The good ones long for and thrive in an environment where the leader has a vision for the future, can articulate it, and sets a course of action that will take them there. The good ones understand that without a clear vision for the future there is no future to be had by  just merely staying.

Cheap talk Manager

It will be hard to command the respect of your people if you have no skin in the game as it relates to your organization and its mission. You can’t expect a buy-in from your people if you are not fully invested yourself. The good ones seek to be with leaders who are as passionately invested as they are.

Not Adding value

If the so called leader does not move forward or makes effort in moving forward, the good ones will not sit idly by while the leader plays politics or favorites and be denied the opportunity to advance professionally.The good ones will thrive in a culture of excellence where their hard work and talents are put to best use. 

No accountability

The loyal great leaders fundamentally understand that accountability and transparency are the cornerstones of success. When a leader no longer feels the need to be transparent or be accountable for his or her actions, then the good ones will not stay. Trust is like glue for the leader, is there is none, people won’t stick.

Low standards

Ultimately, the leader is responsible for the culture of the organization. If proper boundaries are not being observed and inappropriate behaviors are being tolerated, then the good ones will not stay in that environment.

No Integrity

At the end of the day it all comes down to the integrity of the leader. The good ones want their leader to be a person of integrity and one they can trust. If integrity is lacking in the leader then integrity will be lacking in the culture. The good ones will leave to avoid the connection.

Many personal factors contribute to the reasons why the good ones tend to leave and move on. I have discovered that it’s not always for the money or a promotion or not willing to work hard. The good ones understand the wisdom of the words of John Maxwell who once said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” That’s why the good ones leave- to be with good leaders.


Who is your hero?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

It is totally fine to admire what a person achieves in science, business, or in sports, but it is not smart to turn them into a hero unless they are the kind of person you want your child to grow up to be. Sports people were portrayed role models were very appropriate because the media only reported their redeeming qualities. Tiger Woods might have succeeded as a golfer but he is not a great role model.Some great football players beat their girlfriends. What we can learn from Roger Federer/ Sachin Tendulkar is their dedication to excellence.  Here's the challenge- separating the message from the messenger.

There is also lot of confusion between being great at something and being famous. If you are famous, then you are admired. You can be famous for good, for being notorious, or just for being famous (Kardashian, Justin Bieber). If you are famous, people will flock to be near you, to have their picture made with you, and many of them will want to be just like you.

How many people choose a Teacher or Professor or a Mother doing whatever it takes to provide for the kids as a role model? Not many. More often we admire and adore singers, movie personalities and anyone who gets media attention.

We need to look at more than what they do, what they have and how they look. We must look at who they are and how they live.It is our responsibility to determine what we plan to achieve and then, find a role model who has succeeded in that area, using their standard of performance to motivate us in a specific aspect.

Just as we all have fallen short and failed in our endeavors, we have to realize that our heroes do not need to be all encompassing examples of inspiration. I have many role models. My dad, mom, many of my teachers/Professors /Cousins/Uncles/Aunts/ Friends. I doubt you have heard of any of them.