Rakesh Godhwani – Author and Head of IIMB Alumni Office
Today we have a very special role model’s interview. I would like to introduce you all to an amazing and inspiring person I have met in my life. It is a pleasure to share the interview with Mr. Rakesh Godhwani, who heads the Alumni office of IIM Bangalore. He is going to speak about his second book – Seek:Finding your true calling!
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
RG: Rakesh Godhwani
Me: Hello Rakesh, welcome to CWS! Can you speak about yourself, your background and your interests?
RG: After spending amazing formative years in great organizations in the High-Tech space like Wipro, Intel and Qualcomm, doing different roles in sales, product marketing and business development, I realized that my passion is to make other’s reach their maximum potential and help fulfill their dreams. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than shaping the young minds and learning from them. Teaching has been my passion over the last 16 years. My goal is to create a fun filled learning environment and create effective communicators and leaders who can persuade and motivate people to action. I currently head IIM Bangalore Alumni Association and the Development office, coach entrepreneurs in the hi-tech space, am an Adjunct Professor of communication at IIM Bangalore and IIM Trichy, earn a fraction of what I used to but live a million times better. My first book “Plunnge” was released in July 2011. More details are on www.plunnge.com or www.facebook.com/plunnge . My second book Seek: finding your true calling was released in July 2013. More details are on rakeshgodhwani.wordpress.com.
I am an alumnus of KREC (now NITK) Surathkal, Class of 1997 and of IIM Bangalore PGSEM Class of 2004. I am currently pursuing his PhD on Leadership Communication from Cardiff Metropolitan University UK. I enjoy reading and indulge in food with the company of my family and friends.
Me: What fascinated to you change from technologist to academician to now, an author!
RG: Actually, I still am a technologist. Its something that cant go away from me since I worked for about 12 years in the hi-tech sector in a variety of roles of business development, sales, product marketing and tech marketing. But deep inside me, I would love teaching communication related topics like how to present, how to sell and how to get things done through connecting with your audiences. Even when I was in the corporate, I would teach on the weekends or on any opportunity that I could get without diluting my work. Slowly, I realized that I was enjoying this side of my life more than selling technology. I tried to take the Plunnge in 2003 as well. But got cold feet. And then finally gathered the courage and plunnged in 2008. My intention was not to start with a plan. I just quit, cooled myself for about 2 months and then started the alumni office of IIMB. That was my way to do something for my alma mater which helped me discover myself. And I asked myself – do I really like teaching. Then answer was still a big yes. So I started to consider this as a full time career, signed up for a phd and started teaching at any college that would give me an opportunity. IIMB was kind enough to also allow me to teach in the first year program of PGP and last year, I started my elective called Communication for Leaders for second years and executives as well. Writing was a accident. Though I always wrote a journal, I never considered myself to have an ability to write a book. So a very strange thing happened when I plunnged. I started to meet amazing people. They were always around. But now I had time to spend and observe things very differently. Each of them was a story. One such story was Pratap – my neighbor. He left Infosys to become a full time farmer. We both headed out to his farm in Kerala one lovely morning. And during that journey, I asked him plenty of questions like “why did you leave?”, “how will you pay bills?” etc. That night, at his farm house, in the pristine beauty of God’s own country, I penned down his answers and it became the first chapter of my book. And from that day, writing has become a serious part of my life. Plunnge came out in 2011 and taught me how to write a book. And I knew I had to write Seek as well for my students as I met so many alumni who had so much knowledge on how to make career choices. I don’t think I am an author yet. I think I am a curator of stories and a teacher.
Me: What is your overall theme of your book. What was the drive behind the book?
RG: Seek is a book that attempts to provide simple advice on making career choices to students between 18 and 25 years. As the Head of Alumni & Development of IIM Bangalore, which also happens to be my alma mater, I meet alumni from all our programs and batches every day. And as an Adjunct Faculty of Communication, I get to teach students as well who would become alumni some day. So it was very natural for me to connect the two and help the students through the vast knowledge of the alumni.
Anecdotal data suggests that most students leave their first jobs within one or two years of joining. And I find this very alarming. It is a huge loss to our country, not just to the industry or the individual.
In this book, I have attempted to go towards the side of the students and probe about career choices from their perspective. This word ‘calling’ is not an easy one to explain and understand from a student’s perspective. The students are smart and much more informed than the older generations like mine and prior to mine. The world has become extremely competitive. The students are burdened with education loans at a very young age. So it is very important that we try and step into the shoes of this young generation and understand them better. We must try and appreciate how they make career choices and what are the various drivers or factors of making these choices. Using that as a foundation, I have attempted to carve ten handpicked stories of alumni of IIM Bangalore who have done well for themselves and found their calling. They are the following: Arun Balakrishnan PGP76 HPCL, Malavika Harita PGP82 Satchi&Satchi, N Ravi PGP82, Foreign Services, Bhargav Dasgupta PGP92 ICICI Lombard, Apurva Purohit PGP89 Radiocity, Vivek Sharma PGP 89 Phillips, Haragopal M PGSEM01 Infosys, Rajiv Maliwal PGP85 SabreCap, Deeptha Khanna PGP98 P&G and Vikash Daga PGP00 Mckinsey. For some it might have been a eureka moment, for others more thought out and clinical. I have used their collective experience to provide a framework for the current students to make well-informed career choices which will help them discover their calling.
Me: While each person in itself is a story, did you see any common themes across the people who find the calling?
RG: Absolutely. Majority of the alumni I spoke to believed that calling is a journey. And it evolves with time and maturity. Some people know it from very early ages and some can probably never know. But the key is to start walking and taking small steps forward. Sometimes, there could be a step backward too – as someone realizes that they have to re-calibrate their directions. Almost everyone believed that one should choose quality of work over pay packages and fancy titles. The importance of hard work stood out in every story and last, the ability to take things easy and have fun was also very obvious. A clear agreement in all stories is that if you do what you like to do, which is your calling, you will be much more happier and successful.
Me: What in your opinion is the biggest hurdle for youngsters to chase their dreams?
RG: Sundar, you will be surprised that there are 7 big hurdles in front of the youngsters today. Now I wont spell out all of them here and urge all your readers to pick the book. But I will give a sneak peek into few of them. The first big king-kong gorilla of a hurdle is loans. At a young age, this gorilla wont let students dream at all. The only thing students then do is to find any job that helps pay their EMIs and live a secure life. The next bigger gorilla is our own social circles, parents, friends, uncles, aunts, neighbours, facebook that will always impose their own view on the students. Many students are living their parents dreams. Parents even dictate what kind of job their students should choose based on pay packages, security of future and ability to settle down as early as possible. And last one in my list of Gorillas is the fear of failure. This world is unforgiving to those who don’t get good marks, grades or dare to dream. So the fear of failure forces students to choose low hanging fruits and settle for mediocre options that they seem would minimize failure. For the remaining 4, pick a copy of seek now
Me: Do you think there has been a change in attitude from routine of Indian Youth. Do you see more confidence and brave choices with youth today?
RG: Yes. I think so. We are going through one of the most interesting times of the world. We are in a state of transition. I see a new breed of youth who is willing to take risks. The numbers are still very small but I see that as an encouraging sign for the future. In my class alone, two students decided to drop out of placements from IIMB and start on their own. They both were extremely good students too and could have got a very high flying job. But they chose to take the tougher road. I am working with 3 young interns from class 12th and one wants to study political science, one wants to work for an NGO in education space and the last one has already started her own company. Now, one can argue that this is just a minor trend. But it will trigger a massive cascading effect very soon. Fortunately, our societies and situations are much better than what they were 20 years ago. There are enough resources available too. So overall, I am very bullish on the youth making more brave choices in future. I also believe that every generation is much smarter than its predecessor.
Me: Can you share some excerpts and interesting anecdotes from the book?
RG: There are so many. But here is one that comes to my mind right now. One of the alumni from the book, joined a marketing company after his MBA. In less than 2 months, he got a job in a bank that offered 3 times of what he was getting. In those days, getting 3 times more money was really exciting. So he took it and joined the bank. Within few weeks, he got bored and regretted his decision. Now, most of students today would think that their career is finished if they went back. And that the old company would either be very unforgiving or vengeful. But none of that happened. This alum apologized for his hasty decision and requested to be taken back, was very humbled that the old company took him back and went on to become one of their star performers. I think this anecdote throws light on few aspects of Seek – one, the world is not as tough as students think it is and two, the ability of someone to accept one’s mistakes and be humble is very important. There are many more anecdotes like this which shatter many myths students have today about the corporate world.
Me: What were your biggest challenges in writing this book?
RG: Actually none. My alumni are such amazing people. They are very busy but went all out to support me. My colleagues of IIMB extended their support and took all the work of alumni office on their shoulders so that I could steal time to write and teach. My family knew that when I start writing I become very reclusive and irritable. So they let me be. My publishers – Random House India patiently waited for my chapters. There were times I just didn’t write for weeks and had my own blocks. And in those times, I would just sit with my students over coffee at Prabhakar’s place and listen to their challenges. That would motivate me to write more because I felt that they really had a tough time and the least I could do is help them with this book. Honestly, I feel blessed and fortunate to have wonderful people around me who made this book a breeze.
Me: Now that you have two books to your credit, what are your future plans?
I don’t plan much. As of now I want to focus some time on promoting Seek, visiting colleges and spreading the concept as workshops in colleges/institutions. I am very keen to travel around the country and meet students. Am starting with Hubli and Mumbai this month and will start touring to other parts shortly. I wish that Seek can help change lives of students for the better. Besides that, I am very selfish and want time to myself and with my family. I still want to be back home at 5 every evening, take them out for a walk and see them grow. So don’t want to pack things and plan more than I can handle. Will take things slow and as they come. Seek also talks about this – don’t plan beyond a point. There is someone above who has made all plans for you. Just relax and enjoy them unfold in front of you.
Me: Can you share any advice for Indian Youth, who are willing to take a plunge?
There was a village where there was no hospital. The nearest hospital was miles away and there was a big mountain between the village and this hospital. It would take hours to go around the mountain to reach to the hospital and many lives would be lost. If this mountain was not there, the distance between the village and the hospital was not much. So one man, started digging a road in this mountain. Everyone thought he was mad. But he didn’t worry. He kept digging for 22 years. And finally built a road for his villagers to reach the hospital and save their lives. This is a true story. The man is called Dashrath Manjhi, popularly called mountain man of India. My only advice to youth of India is –You are gifted with education and opportunities. Now don’t waste it in a mediocre life that is all about paying bills and dying one day. Seek a mountain which is your calling, start digging and make a difference to the world around you.
Me: Thanks Rakesh for your time. It is fantastic to get back in touch with you. Wish you good luck with your upcoming tours.
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