Thursday, 18 October 2012

It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint

I have been talking to young folks who are planning to go to college or just finishing their undergraduate degrees and getting ready for graduate school.  Most of their questions have been around what area they need to choose or pursue.

Marathon photo
Photo by Luiz Eduardo, available under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
In India, the conventional, traditional thought process has always been to pursue being a Doctor or an Engineer. Although I am an engineer and chose the traditional path, I don’t necessarily agree with that thought process. One can be successful in any field provided one has passion, dedication and discipline to achieve it.

One has a 40-year career and I understand that it is very difficult for an 18-year old to visualise or think ahead that many years. Typical careers span from your twenties till your early sixties. Do you have to work that many years? Not necessarily, but for those fortunate people who enjoy their work and have a fulfilling career would stick to their career for that many years. In those 40 years, business models, technologies, markets and interests will change, and one has to be ready to adapt to these changes.  For instance, on the product front, mobile phones have replaced pagers, and while PCs have been selling since the 80s, the market is slowly shifting from PCs to tablets and mobile devices. From a geographical point of view, the number of jobs in Emerging Markets is growing and the markets are also growing in these countries at a rapid rate. From a people point of view, the buying power of women is increasing and micro-transactions are increasing. Products need to cater to different sets of people. 

We are already in the middle of globalisation. The world is only going to get smaller. Young folks need to be more aware of the problems and the solutions across the world now more than ever. Their products will need to cater to worldwide customers. They also need to be able to work with people of different cultures and different backgrounds. I would encourage them to study and/or work in a different country. Living and working with people of a different culture is an education by itself.

Finally, and definitely most importantly is to choose a field that you are passionate about. I was watching the Mars Curiosity rover land on Mars on TV. The celebration at the successful landing of the rover from the NASA engineers caught my eye. Their celebration and cheer came from their heart and  their passion to see the Rover through a successful landing.

One of the biggest regrets I have is that I hurried through college. Make the best of the opportunities the university has to offer.You make friends for life and you start developing your network at the university. Even today, the learnings from playing team sports in school help me to resolve people conflicts at work. It also taught me to have the perseverance, to hustle to get the work done. Sadly, many people choose the best colleges, not because they like the curriculum, the subject, the professors, but to get the top paying jobs. In a few years, they become disillusioned with work. Whether you choose to be an Engineer, a doctor, a musician, a painter or anything else you have to really give it your all and be passionate about your chosen field. Only then will you be successful. The definition of Successful is different for different people. For some it could be money, for some it could be the impact you make, for some the enjoyment on a daily basis, for some it could be about helping others, and for some it could be about creativity and learning.  For most people it is likely some or all of the reasons above.

My advice to young people getting out of college would be that they need to get their fundamentals right with a wide base so that they can quickly adapt to new technologies and market. Your career is like a maze. Every time you think you have hit a dead end, you turn around and check if the next path will take you to your goal. Don't give up... It is a marathon; it is about having determination and the willpower to make it to the end goal against all odds. Be ready to run the marathon and not just the sprint. Pace your career and enjoy every minute of it...

1 comment:

  1. awesome post :) i have shared it in mine Google plus