A Decade of Working

As a 20-something, fresh out of B-school with a management degree in one hand and an offer letter in the other, who would have thought about the next 10 years? Honestly, not even the next 10 days. It was all about now. Live in the moment. Die by the moment.

But since the last couple of years, this milestone has been on my mind quite a bit. Not in a bad way but in a reflective manner. Last week, I completed 10 years at my job. Yes, a decade. An entire decade of working.

10 years is a very light word but a decade sounds a lot. Almost as long as a lifetime. And trust me, it feels like that too. Funny that is exactly how I felt when I completed 5 years!

I don’t remember too much about my first day at Oracle. I wish I had blogged about it back then. I remember it being a pleasant sunny day in Bangalore. There were 31 of us ‘new-bees’ who had joined one of the largest enterprise software companies in the world. That’s right. A select bunch of nobodies were now part of the big O. And none of us knew how to pronounce Oracle correctly!

I remember the induction being long and boring, but it kept us awake. Basic formalities and introductions followed by sessions from HR. And we had a welcome party in the evening. That was fun. Good way to unwind after a long day of power points. I don’t remember much about that night either.

The next few days were all about trainings, trainings and more trainings. Mock calls, role plays, sales pitches, listening in on sales calls, elevator pitches, attitude, swagger and the single biggest mantra of sales – close, close, close! A.B.C. Always Be Closing. It was all about visibility. Who heard you? Who sees you? Who saw through you! There was no room for complacency or hollowness. Either you had it in you or you did not. Period.

After a month of training, we finally got our postings. I was a BDC! Business Development Consultant. Yes, I know. Fancy job title of a new hire. My job was basically to find new business leads for Oracle. To reach out to potential customers, make the pitch and set them up for further followup with a sales rep. Sounds simple but trust me, I was terrified. All my training, management degree, projects and presentations on one side. A “live” customer on the other side was pretty much the end of the world. But I lived through it. Some good days. And some not so good. All in all, it did fine.

My first order was for a pharma company in CT. Now, ask me what I had for breakfast this morning, it may take me a while to recall. Chances are I won’t even recall. But ask me about my first order, my first WON deal for Oracle and I can tell you every single detail of that project. They say you never forget your first love. I say, you never “ever” forget your first order!

During my first year at Oracle, I went through severe highs and lows. Good thing was the lows came first. And then the highs. Eventually, I ended up getting nominated for a couple of sales awards that year. Sadly enough, I did not win. Getting nominated and recognized was good enough. But not for long. The following year, I bagged 5 more nominations and won 3 awards. I spend 2 years and 4 months with Oracle in Bangalore. During this time, I met some very good friends, worked under a manager who was less a manager and more a mentor. He taught me what I needed to know about selling. Not products. Not pricing. Not how to sell. But what is selling, really! Hand’s on. Sales is all about attitude and character. And this gentleman taught me what those words really mean.

And then it was time to find new pastures. I had lived in UAE all my life. My parents and family were still there so it was but natural for me to try and look for a job there. Nonetheless, God almighty was kind and I comfortably landed a position at the Oracle Dubai office. This time, it was direct sales. No more business development. This was in 2007.

And again, I remember everything about my first order as a sales guy in Dubai. This time it was a telco in Botswana (Africa). And what more, the pleasure of picking up that first sales comp. Absolute magic. And that’s where I spent the next 3 years of my life. Had 2 stellar years and my only bad year on record till date.

From the time I joined, roughly that was the time when Oracle had started acquiring companies to expand its footprint in the market. I was lucky enough to be part of 2 such projects where I was giving a brand new portfolio. First was when Siebel was acquired in 2006. And the next was in 2010 when Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems. This, my friends, was the turning phase. What I fondly refer to as ‘my true calling’.

Oracle has always been a software company. Always. But for the first time, it had ventured into hardware, where we started selling servers and storage machines. Real metal and iron. As luck would have it, things got going and I was offered a position to sell hardware for Oracle. It was only at this stage that I realised I was always a hardware guy.

The next 3 years were my best 3 years as a sales guy. Each year, I would exceed my target and raise the bar, and then exceed it again.

114%

145%

191%

Awards, promotions, commissions – it was all happening. I started managing a team. 6 guys started reporting into me. Now, I was no longer just a sales guy. I was running a team. My next challenge and the most enjoyable one, I must add. Running your own show is one thing. Looking at it from a team’s perspective is completely different.

Things went well and on the backdrop of all this, I got the best break of my career. I was assigned to manage and run Oracle’s Distribution business in Middle East and North Africa.

And that’s what I do for a living today.

From being a nervous newbie scared to pick the phone and talk to a customer, to running a multimillion dollar regional distribution show, I think it’s been one hell of a ride.

A ex-sales leader at Oracle said this a few years back and has stuck with me, always. He said,

“Sell with Passion. Sell with Skill. Sell with Integrity”

This has been my sales mantra over the years. Golden words, really. In the most simplistic manner, he said so much.

I remember thinking of setting short and long-term goals to better manage my career. To assign a target and exceed it. To compete with myself and beat me to hell. To raise the bar and then raise it some more. Never to stop when someone says “good job”. My mentor always said “you are as good as your last sale”. Stop at nothing.

And I did not. I am, and will always remain, a sales guy.

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That ulcer could be a baby!

A Dubai air stewardess gave birth to a 6 month baby during her 24 hour layover in a Johannesburg hotel. And that not the freaky part. You know what is? She was not aware that she was pregnant! Read more here. On having terrible pains in her stomach, she thought it was an ulcer.

It’s unbelievable. How can a woman not know she is 6 months pregnant? I understand if it is 3-4 months but 6 months? I feel sorry for her and her baby. Had she known before hand, wouldn’t she be more careful? She risked her life and the life of her baby due to carelessness and negligence. Thankfully both the mother and baby are fine now.

And I surely would like to know who that doctor was. If blood and urine tests cannot uncover a pregnancy, what can?

Moreover, I think the Dubai laws are very harsh in such cases. An unmarried women cannot have babies here. If she does, both the women and her partner gets arrested. That’s why the number of cases of abandoned babies are on the rise here.

Now I am thinking who is to blame? The mother for not being more aware or the doctor for not figuring it out despite the tests or the Dubai govt for such laws? In my opinion, all are responsible. But the onus lies with the mother. Its her body, her system, her baby. She should have known better.

Touch me not

A story has been making rounds in Dubai this morning. Apparently, a man in his mid 30s walks up to a 22 year old woman, who was shopping for wrist watches, patted twice on her butt and told her she needs to exercise. Read more here.

The women has reported him to the authorities.

But this incident got me thinking. How far can we go to comment on someone’s weight? Where should one draw the line?

Ofcourse the above incident is inexcusable. Any amount of physical contact is wrong even if it is just a brush. This is sexual harassment. Infact I think she should have slapped him first and then reported him.

But if that man had walked up to her and politely told her that she needed to exercise, would that be OK?

Or would she ask him to mind his own business?

I’ve never had strangers walk up to me and comment on me, my clothes or my weight. Atleast not offensive things. Though I’ve received a few compliments at times from complete strangers and I don’t mind that. Then why should I be offended if someone said something like, “dude, you look fat in that trouser” or “your shirt does not match your pants” etc. Hasn’t happened yet but would be interesting to know when it does.

For some, weight is an extremely personal thing. Infact it is for me too. When I loose weight and people around me compliment on my waist line, I love it. But when the opposite happens, it is not a pretty thing. But I wouldn’t mind someone I know walking up to me and asking if everything’s OK or if I am under stress or if that extra weight is due to comfort eating. Not sure how I would feel if a stranger said that though.

My point is, if we can take compliments sportingly, why not criticism?

But if someone touches my butt and tells me that, I’ll tear him into pieces. Period.

World’s tallest tower in Dubai

The world’s tallest skyscraper, Burj Khalifa (formerly known as Burj Dubai), was launched in Dubai last night by the ruler of Dubai. The height of this record breaking tower is 828 meters, which is a good 300 meters taller than its closest competitor, the Taipei 101.

And it was the grandest, the brightest, the loudest and the most spectacular of launches ever. The fireworks, lights and lasers could be seen from almost anywhere in Dubai.

The tower has 168 floors, 54 lifts with 911 luxury condominiums, 144 hotel condominiums, 160 hotel guest rooms and 3000 parking spaces. It has the highest observation deck in the world at the 128th floor. The total cost of construction was more than $1.5 billion. At peak construction activities, over 12000 people were working on the tower every day. And on a clear day, the spire can be seen from 95 km away.

A superstructure of such magnitude was never attempted by man ever. All boundries of technological advancements in construction have been crossed. All possible records have been scaled. Burj Khalifa is the highest man-made structure on the planet.

Hats off to Dubai government and the visionary leadership of Shaikh Mohammad for this record breaking venture. Truly bringing Dubai on the world map. Here are some photos of this marvel, starting and ending with my personal favorites…

Image courtesy: Google images, Gulf News, The Gaurdian & The Telegraph