Learning has many aspects. One learns from teachers, from peers, and also on one's own. I was thinking of what I have learnt – to date.
Some time ago – a long time ago in fact – I dabbled with entrepreneurship, where I learnt how to manage people - people who work for you, people who look up to you, and people who are your customers. I learnt to anticipate other's needs, and to convert that need into an opportunity for me. I learnt the importance of planning, and the critical role that people play – as executioners of the plan or as surprise elements. I learnt how to manage for such surprise elements. I experienced the practicalities of running a business in the dynamic Indian business milieu. I learnt that in an ever changing world, there can be certain constants, and the importance of these constants. I realised the limitations of being a tiny player in a highly commoditised market. I also realised that a great way of growing is to harness the ambitions and aspirations of others.
I had once aspired to be a bureaucrat – part of the iron framework of Indian administration – the Indian Administrative Service. While that dream was never realised, the preparation for that was a great learning experience. I learnt the different subjects that a civil services aspirant is tested on, and it is widely known that the examination tests you on any subject under the sun. I re-learnt the importance of planning and proper execution in an academic sense. I met some former bureaucrats, fabulous teachers, some dedicated people who now have joined the services, and also some who are diligently working towards that goal. The relations I formed then are some of my most cherished.
Later, I became part of the business process outsourcing boom – working in a big international BPO company for a bank customer service process. I learnt that most people – no matter which time zone they are in – share the same anxieties. I learnt what drives the young, upwardly mobile people of my country. I learnt about the aims, ambitions, desires and wants of this new consumer class.
Communication has always interested me, so I enrolled for a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism. I met some of the most wonderful people here. The course gave me my most cherished academic accomplishment. It also gave me the opportunity of getting to know a very unique mind – that of a journalist.
I became a journalist – working for the world’s largest selling English language newspaper. I worked with some great individuals, some brilliant minds. I learnt what goes into making tomorrow’s newspaper. Believe me, it is not just wire feeds and sensationalism and pictures. I learnt why something that is at first glance trivial is deemed newsworthy while some apparently interesting or drastic event is ignored.
Then, I became a business communicator, working with a group that has been the pioneer of industry in India. In the restrictive Licence Raj days of India, they were the first Indian multinational with manufacturing plants in four continents. I was now on the other side of the fence. I had started as a service provider, working to establish relationships with customers. Now, I became the face of the customer for a host of service providers. I learnt the drivers of what the service providers would perceive to be my organisation’s needs. I faced one crisis situation – and I was exposed to the knowledge in processes that has been built up over more than a century. As an internal service provider, I learnt how to manage sometimes conflicting demands, and to manage projects which depended totally on others performing their allocated tasks – tasks that may not have been as important to them as for me.
I felt I had accumulated a lot of empirical learning, I needed a framework to analyse and digest this. I came to Cranfield for that framework. I am now learning some things that I had never heard of, some that I had heard, and some I had practised too. There are some interesting twists to bits of theory I had once thought I had understood.
Classes for the second term start tomorrow; it will be a new class, new subjects, new issues and new learning. Bring it on!