Playing back 2017, on Christmas day


I started 2017 on a rather sad note, having lost our older fur baby Boss towards the end of last year. A year has passed since the day he went to sleep on my lap and that pain lingers – though I must say old photos of him do make me smile more now.

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To their credit, Hobo and Ollie have been trying their best to cheer me up since Boss left us .

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On the bright side, I also had started in a new role in IBM as the GM of Cognitive business in North America, which made me excited and nervous in equal measure .

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I inherited a team that was 4 times larger than my last one , with an extra zero at the end of my target numbers . Almost every one of my direct reports had managed me at some point in my past career – so I had a group I had known very well and trusted each other for a long time. I had a new manager, whom I knew from before but hadn’t worked with since then (who turned out to be a great friend and mentor) . To make things even more exciting, I also got a portfolio that was a mix of our bread and butter businesses and our hyper growth businesses .

We were not short on opportunities or challenges this year. Giving confidence to clients across North America to pioneer new technology, modernizing our skill sets and business models , integrating new members into our gang and bidding farewell to several friends , learning the parts of the business I did not work on previously, Acting as a sounding board to my team mates , Getting mentored by great leaders … it just was a blast !

I learned a lot too!

One of the biggest learnings for me was that “Authority is an illusion “. I had heard it before but now I have a first hand appreciation of what it means. I had to learn how to influence and motivate more than use formal authority. I am far from mastering it, but I have started on that journey.

I have always prided myself as being good at delegation. And yet it became clear that as scale increases, you have to unlearn and relearn how to lead. And to delegate effectively, I needed to recruit and train better , and learn how to motivate a large heterogeneous team and so on . Clearly I had several areas where I could spend time to improve . And I chose education as my primary theme for the year, while trusting my team to take care of other important aspects of the business .

In retrospect, I am glad I prioritized learning.

We are a services firm which means we are a people business. We are competing in a fast changing market where you become obsolete very fast if you stay still for even a short time. Sponsoring our first business leadership school ( Bee school ) and our Technology school (T school ) also gave me several invaluable benefits I did not expect . I got to meet hundreds of consultants and engineers and learn about their work and what their hopes and fears are . I got a whole new appreciation of several back office functions like Ops, Finance ,HR, L&K and so on than I ever had in the past and as a result I will never take them for granted anymore and will be very grateful for what they do. I met several leaders who volunteered as faculty and learned from their experiences. What an absolute blessing it was !

Some things did deteriorate this year as well . I nearly didn’t read as many books as I usually do . I am getting caught up towards the end of the year, but it’s something I need to keep an eye on for next year.

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I also did not blog as much as before – which I am not actually unhappy about . I just switched to more short form posts in LinkedIn . I did have two fleeting moments of internet fame – one for defending Watson and another for highlighting the challenging life of product managers 🙂

2017 turned out to be one of the few years when I didn’t go to India. But my parents and my mom in law visited us here, so at least part of the India visit was covered indirectly .

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And I only had one international trip this year , to Japan .

Clearly I was on the road enough to retain my executive platinum in AA and diamond in Hilton Honors with room to spare. Travel continues to be the most unproductive part of this profession that needs an urgent disruption .

One experiment on personal front that I am happy about is on gardening front, thanks mostly to my mom in law staying with us for several months this year .

Between assorted flowers and a small vegetable garden, I started reliving the joys of childhood ! Plenty of rookie mistakes made , but what the heck – it was a lot of fun .

Also, on the (very) positive side – I got to spend more time with my wife and daughter this year than usual. The highlight was the trip to DC and Maine to check out National monuments and fall colors. The big regret on that front was not being able to make Shreya’s concert at school this fall when I was stuck in east coast .

I have practically stopped competing in dog shows, but I was fortunate to visit a few as a spectator and hang out with my old friends and their fur kids. Also for the first time, managed to see the Great Dane Nationals, which happened in Chandler. Icing on the cake was that for the first time since I moved to US, I found 3 friends from India that I showed dogs with back in the day.

All things considered, I am truly grateful for this year. I just wish I spent more time slowing down to smell the roses . Well, there is always the next year to do that, right ?

Wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy 2018 !

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