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.

Blogging for life

After a very very long time, I feel the urge to blog today. Not because I have news to share or need a channel to vent. But to re-establish what was once so dear to me.

Blogging was an integral part of my life. A mechanism to channel my thoughts. A mode to meet new friends, likeminded or otherwise. And a passion that gave words (sometimes paragraphs) to random musings. And with my increasing absence, it remains a journey half complete.

This I refuse to accept.

What started as an online record of my public-personal life, which also was one way of fitting in, to an ever growing spectra of social networking. Slowly, it became more than that. It was my own space on the World Wide Web. My own little identity. Blogging was beginning to be fun. Slowly the number of bloggers who I interacted with increased. At one point, every post had nearly a 100 comments. The tags, challenges, awards – Blog world was buzzing. The race to be the first comment on a post was what mattered. Who cared about another rat-race called life. For me, blogging had changed. It was now about meeting new people. Making new friends. But how this impacted my blog, I only realized later. The desire to get more visitors to my blog was now the key. The unsaid rule was ‘you comment on my post, I comment on yours’. The game had changed.

I was no longer blogging for myself. I connected this blog to my Facebook account and every post was flashed there. Who was I blogging for? Time to separate both worlds. Blogging and Facebook have to live two independent lives.

And maybe that’s why, I was lost in my journey. And as a result, I lost my passion to blog. Lost some good friends along the way. Some are just an obscure memory. Others a comment on some old post. And a select few on my friend list of Facebook.

Time was my best excuse. It still is. I got busy. Work got the better of me. Life was moving on. Why wouldn’t it? Isn’t that what life does. It moves on. And so did my life.

I was only a 26 year old bloke who had just relocated to Dubai and about to get married, when I started this blog. Today, I am 33, and father to 2 lovely kids. It took 7 years to get here. Where did all that time go? Seven years! Oh well, let me leave the nostalgia for another post.

Though it was this day, 7 years ago, that it all started. So here’s what I am gonna do. This space, this little logically obscure collection of my life, will not bite dust anymore. I vow to get back. Not for any one but for me.

Time to catch up and regain some lost ground. This time for real.

Need your help URGENTLY

What started as a mundane Sunday morning could so quickly change into a scene from hell. And change our lives forever.

We all went to bed on Saturday night like any other night. I was sleeping with Ibrahim upstairs while my wife was with my 12-day old newborn baby, Zainab, in the room downstairs. Post c-section, she has restrictions on climbing stairs for a few weeks. My other brothers with their families were in their respective rooms.

At around 6.20 am, I was jolted out of my sleep with a loud explosion. Not like anything I’d heard in real life ever. The sound was deafening like the one you see in a war movie. Like something blew up into bits.

And within seconds, there were screams. I didn’t know if it was one person or many people screaming. I quickly jumped out of bed and looked out the window thinking…..actually thinking nothing! Still dazed I really did not know what to think. Just then people from across the street started shouting and pointing towards our house in the general direction of my kitchen.

That’s when I realized the explosion was in my house and the screams where from someone from my house!

My first thought was my wife and daughter. I ran downstairs towards their room and saw my wife running towards the main door with a blanket in her hand. She was OK and so was Zainab. I ran after her and saw a sight like never before. Standing on the main door was my maid, burning in flames from head to toe. She was on fire. We put a blanket around her and defused the flames. The less I describe about how she looked, the better. My mom and wife were both holding her and made her sit on a chair. Flames were put off by then. But just touching to console her burnt my mom’s fingers.

I called 999.

Next I ran towards the blast scene. My house has two entrances. The main door in the front and there is one more door on the side, through the pantry. The kitchen is located outside the house. To go there, we need to step out through the pantry door and take a few steps. The moment I looked out the pantry door, I was shell-shocked. Smoke everywhere. Glass scattered. Kitchen was on fire. Everything was burning.  My brothers were already there. One of them disconnected the gas cylinder and threw it away from the kitchen. Due to the fire, the electricity to the whole house was tripped. We could not get the water motor going. Meaning there was no water in the tap or pipe. Thankfully, there were a few 20 liters drinking water bottles. We quickly opened them and started spraying water everywhere.

Within minutes the fire brigade arrived and took over the scene.

Ambulance came a few minutes later. They started working on my maid. Gave her emergency first aid and quickly took her away.

We waited till the police completed the formalities. Forensics arrived to the scene an hour later to determine the cause of fire. After scrambling through the debris, they finally managed to find the cause. There was a leak in the gas pipe. Probably started sometime the night before. The door, window and exhaust fan was closed overnight. So the kitchen had become a literal gas chamber. As soon as she went in and ‘probably’ turned on the stove, it blew up. The intensity of the blast was so severe that 2-3 cm glass pieces from the window pierced into the concrete walls of my house. Despite our best attempts, those pieces are not coming out.

My brother went to the hospital while me and my other brother went to the police station to give our statements and finish the police report.

At the hospital, the doctor’s diagnosis was even scarier – “81% 2nd and 3rd degree burns. Patient is very critical. We have sedated her and put her on life support”. They are giving medication to keep her blood pressure up and heart pumping. She is in the ICU Burn Ward and doctors have given a very low probability of survival. Several surgeries need to be done, first one today. This is to release blood flow in her arms and abdomen. Pressure buildup has resulted in blockages in different parts of her body. Her entire body is bandaged except her face which is also completely burnt but they’ve not bandaged it.

Her name is Azeb Abebe. She is a 25 yr old Ethiopian lady with a 4 yr old son back in Ethiopia. Her mother is partially disabled with 1 healthy leg and her father is terminally ill. She has been working with my family for the last 9 months. We recruited her through a local manpower agency. Her paperwork is fine and she was working with us legally. We were so impressed with her work that within 3 months of working with us, we gave her a raise. She had adapted to an Indian household very well and was now cooking food better than us. Her room is fully furnished with all amenities. And we have taken very good care of her. She is a very warm hearted, modest and honest person. In 9 months of employment, we never had to question her about missing things. She was well behaved and very nice with our kids. There is a bible in Ethiopian language at her bedside.

And thus it hurts more to see a good woman so close to the doors of death. As her sponsor and employer, we will do whatever it takes to give her all medication attention. Her family has been informed about the mishap. We have also informed the Ethiopian Consulate about the accident.

Right now, our biggest challenge is the rising medical bills. In 4 days, the current outstanding bill at Rashid Hospital is Dh 42,150 (USD 11,472). She is in ward 23, bed 6A. The estimated daily expense is around Dh 10,000 (USD 2,721) per day and expected to increase when the surgeries start. Hoping that she survives, and we pray that she does, she needs to spend up to 3 months at the hospital. We are looking at close to Dh 900,000 (USD 245,000) in medical expenses only.

Honestly, these expenses are beyond my modest monthly paycheck and I would urge and sincerely request you to please come forward with any donation possible to cater for her medical treatment.

Please contact me on donate4azeb@gmail.com for more information (bank account, hospital reports, photographs etc). You can also visit http://www.facebook.com/Donate4Azeb.

Any assistance will be sincerely appreciated.

With hope and prayers,

Masood Salem

21/July/2012 – Edited to add:

We have already started digging into our assets to cover the initial hospital bills.  This will cover just a fraction of the cost but it all adds up. So far, we have

1. Liquidated term deposits in Noor Bank.

2. Liquidated our investment in personal gold.

3. Put up my car for sale. Had bought it 6 months back.

4. Put up property in Hyderabad (India) for sale.

I urge you to please come forward for any assistance. Thanks in advance.

24/July/2012 – Edited to add:

Donations can be made using any of the following options:

1. Directly transfer to a bank account in UAE

HSBC Account # : 001412261001
IBAN # : AE870200000001412261001
Account Name : Masood Salem
Branch: HSBC, Airport Road, Abu Dhabi (UAE)

2. Directly transfer to a bank account in India:

HDFC Account # : 00091140042150
Account Name: Masood Salem
Branch: HDFC, Kasturba Rd, Bangalore (India)

3. Pay through PayPal using the following link (managed by my brother)

https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/4LBl9?psid=21f809365560482e84359824a13ee0f5&ref=nf

4. Transfer through Western Union to “Masood Salem” and send the MTCN code to me through email.

Looking forward to active contributions towards this cause.

Ibrahim’s first week at the nursery

Last week was one of our most grueling and challenging weeks as a parent. We enrolled Ibrahim into his first nursery.

It was long overdue. He turned 3 in Jan. We wanted him to attend a few months before he officially joins kindergarten. Just so that gets used to the idea of staying away from home and his parents for a few hours. Maybe gel around with kids. Just to get him into the grove.

Not easy. The first day, we just took him in, showed him around, played with him, sat with him in the classroom, introduced him to the kids, teachers, attendants. He took it quite well. And we were optimistic. So on day 2, we got to the nursery, went with him inside to his classroom. And while he got busy with the activities, we then left. All was well for about 15 seconds. The moment he looked up and did not find us, that was it. He started yelling, crying, running around the classroom, totally panicked and scared. It was madness. Every room in the nursery is fitted with CCTV  cameras. So we were in the waiting room watching him on TV. And could hear his screams. How do you react in such situations as a parent? Just because it was for his good that we managed to stay put and not rush in there and take him in our arms.

This went on for an hour. The supervisor had suggested we leave him alone for an hour on the first day. When we went into his classroom, he saw us and started crying more. It was his cry of relief. Came running into our arms and kept crying. We left from there, took him to a mall (he loves the parking areas, specially the multistory ones where the car goes up and down the ramp). After which we gave him some of his favorite stuff to eat. All in all, he was fine by the time we reached home. The only real tangible proof was his voice, which was totally hoarse due to all the shouting. To the extent that he was not able utter anything.

The following day, he was due to stay for 2 hours. We kept talking to him about how it was such a good place for him to play, make friends, color, paint, play music etc. When we finally reached the nursery, he refused to go in. After a little persuasion, he finally let go. Went into the arms of his favorite attendant, Ms. Nes, and she took him into the classroom.

Then something so unexpected happened that I will never forget it ever. He forced Nes madam to come out again where we were still standing. He looked at us and started crying, forcing her to bring him to us. When he came a little close, I told him, ‘Ibrahim, mama and baba are going to office. You have to go inside now. You should not cry and come out. We cannot stay here na. We will come as soon as Nes madam will call us’. And I started to move back. He then said, ‘Ibamin baba ko kiss karna hai please’ (Ibrahim wants to kiss baba please!). I couldn’t muster a word. I walked quickly to him. He was still in Nes madam’s arms. He kissed me on the cheek. I asked him, ‘Let’s hug?”. He said yes. Gave him a tight hug. And he said bye. And asked Nes madam to take him inside!

I was speechless. Here I was thinking he is throwing a tantrum, refusing to go to his classroom and wants to come to us. And was moving away while he was insisting on coming close. His whole intention was just to give his baba a goodbye kiss. And I was telling him to go inside and don’t cry and what not!!! This one incident reminded me how innocent a child is and how simple his needs can be. Why it really shook me was because Ibrahim is not one to kiss and hug n all. His way of showing affection is different. More aggressive. He rarely chooses to kiss someone. Even his parents. Infact, as far as I can remember, this is the first time he has given me a kiss without asking for it in over a year. I still wonder what was going on in his mind that time. Was he insecure? Was he afraid that we were leaving him there for good? Or did he just feel like giving us kiss because he was going away from us? I may never know. But that one kiss has changed me as a parent. Never again I am going to take him for granted. Nor ignore him. Yes, I will do what needs to be done for the sake of his parenting. But with renowned vigor and strength. He is my son and I am a proud father.

He has stopped yelling now. But hasn’t stopped crying. But not crying with tears. He just making sounds. Today was more challenging coz it was the first day after the weekend. He is settling in. And I hope by end of this week, he will be fully acclimatised. When I asked him today if he wants to come back again tomorrow, he said yes. And was pretty cool about it. Last week when was asked the same question, he would cry and run around as if the house was on fire. So yeah, some improvement there.

I wish this phase of his life, his first foray into the real world, is full of excitement and learning. I wish the Almighty always watches over him and give him all the success, health and love he deserves, for now and the hereafter. Ameen.

 

Memorable Birthdays – Part 1

My woes about turning 30 are well documented. Not really freaked out as I thought I would be. But not floating on cloud 9 either. Mixed feelings per se. I want to begin my 30s with earnest, promise and hope. Still 2 days of 20s to go. So all is ‘still’ well.

But just because I have been thinking of it quite a bit, I also tried to recall some memorable celebrations I’ve had in the last 29 years. Honestly, the first one that comes to mind is my 10th birthday. Back in the days, we didn’t celebrate birthdays with too much pomp. Just went to school with a box of chocolates. Stood in front of the class while everyone sang ‘happy birthday to you’, distributed sweets and that’s it. Ofcourse, I kept aside some extra chocolates for my best friends. Anyways, on my 10th bday, dad mom decided to have a big bday bash. So about 20 of my classmates, neighbor friends etc were invited home, lots of decoration, lots of food and we had a super time. I still remember a lot about that day. And many gifts. One of my closest friends back then gave me a video cassette of ‘Twenty thousand leagues under the sea’. I still have it. But don’t have a VCR to play it! But the standout bday gift was the one given by my family. In a box as big as me, they filled it paper and god-knows-what and inside there some where was the gift. They bought me a wireless remote control car. 20 years back, that was a novelty. I also remember the price. I cost a fortune. I was so overwhelmed that I rarely played with it. Only opened the box, cleaned the car, replaced the batteries, drove it around for a minute and neatly put it back. Into the top closet where no one could reach it. We didn’t have rechargeable batteries also. So if I spent more than 15-20 min, the batteries would dry out. And buying new ones, obviously, cost a lot. But those were the days. I was on top of the world. Nothing could be any better.

The next memorable bday was my 17th one. The last with my school mates. Before we traveled all over the world for higher education. We had no clue what life had in store for us. And if we would ever meet again. So that year, everyone celebrated their 17th bday grandly. I hosted my party at a high-end restaurant, booked a banquet hall, buffet, music, dance floor…the works! It was awesome. Ofcourse no booze. And because we were older teens, we behaved. That was the most fun I’ve had ever. Even till date. We partied till late in the night. It was perfect.

Part 2 tomorrow. Cheers.

Turning 30

Not just yet but in exactly 6 months from today, I will turn 30. And honestly speaking, I am pretty much freaked out about it. Infact on 1st Jan 2011, the only thing that came to my mind was, this year I am gonna turn 30.

I was always very proud of my twenties. So many milestones were achieved in these last 10 years. And hence, it was quite expected that I was gonna have a tough time forgoing that part of my life. And in exactly 6 months, I will have to do just that.

When I think of turning 30, suddenly, I feel old. And mature. And responsible. 20s is a time of rashness and brashness. And all the immaturity in the world. You can get away with anything. Health is on your side. Maybe some wealth. Life is shining with everything lined up in front of you. Somehow I don’t have the same amount of enthusiasm about the 30s. Its like, all the things that were supposed to happen, have happened in the 20s. 30s is just gonna be an extension of what has already happened. Gosh, what’s gonna happen to me when I turn 40!

So that, in many ways, sums up how depressive I am gonna be on 29th Sep 2011. And on all the days leading up to it.

But I refuse to let the last 6 months of my 20s go in cribbing, complaining and crying. No sir. I am going to make the most of what’s lined up. I had a set of resolutions when I turned 25. Most of them have been accomplished, except ofcourse about becoming a millionaire. But lets revisit that point again in 6 months! 😉

For now, I am vowing to change things. Change myself. There is a lot I want to do. Like buy a new car. We are moving into a new house so that’s done. Spend more time with my family. With 2 hours of drive time down the trash, I may have that one too. Big question mark on my health. That’s the REAL bummer. I have to, absolutely have to, lose atleast 10 kg. Have to visit Italy. Meet Roger Federer. Try different cuisines. Spend as much time as possible with Ibrahim. On his parenting and upbringing. He starts with school next April. I want to get closer to God. And my faith.

I want a revamp. And I want to do it in the next 6 months. Nothing overnight. Nothing temporary. Slow and steady. One thing at a time. And I will start with health. That’s my number 1 priority.

Oh, I forgot to add 1 more point that I wanna do before I turn 30. See India lift the cricket WC. Playing Pakistan tomorrow in the semis. I don’t mind losing the WC but I.JUST.CANNOT.SEE.INDIA.LOOSE.TO.PAKISTAN. In a WC on Indian soil. No way. Bleed blue. Bleed red. Bleed whatever you want to bleed but trash the Pakis.

Go India.

This and that and that too

This is the longest, voluntarily or involuntarily, that I’ve ever been away from my blog. More than 2 months since I last posted. Credit totally has to go to work. Life, quite literally, had turned upside down. It all began on a seemingly boring Monday morning on 10th Jan. That’s the day Oracle decided to migrate its back-end supply chain, order management and quoting tools from the legacy systems to the new system. We were informed before hand. But no one saw this coming. And that’s when the havoc started.

And the sales guys were the worst hit. Every process in the book had changed and as we all know, change is not always easy to accept. A quote which used to take 2 hours to configure was now taking up to 2 weeks! Orders getting cancelled. Escalations all around. Nervous breakdowns. Suicidal tendencies. Threats. Sleepless nights. It was madness personified.

But all this till we ended the quarter. At midnight on 28th Feb, I finished with 115% of my quarter’s target. Despite all the challenges. Life was suddenly beautiful again. This was my first full quarter in my new role and it was absolutely essential that I get to my numbers. A lot was dependent on that.

So when work was taken care off, next on the plate was health. For many years, I have been neglecting a condition that they refer to as DNS (Deviated Nasal Septum). Basically what this means is that my nasal bone, which should have been like a straight “I” was actually a crooked “S”. That is the example the doc used to explain. Solution was a surgery to make it straight. They operate and cut out chucks of bone to open up the space. Apparently, I had a 90% blockage on one side and 50% on the other. Decided its time to take the leap and got my surgery scheduled in India on 15th March. It was a good 90 min procedure in an OT and had to spend 8-10 hours in the hospital. Was discharged by night. Bandages were off the following evening. Its been almost 2 weeks now and I am able to breathe like never before.

Got back from India on 21st Mar and was off to Johannesburg on 23rd. Did they ever tell you that long haul flights are not the best place to be, specially for someone with a busted nose? Well, lets not get into that.

So flew back on Friday night and was back in Dubai early Saturday morning. And here comes the other news. We’ve finally finalized a 5 BR villa in Dubai. With a big freaking lawn at the back, installation for a small pool in the corner, parking for 5 cars in the front and still have enough place to host a 20-20 game! Almost. And we’ll relocate this weekend. It was all done while I was away, either in India or South Africa. So the first thing I did after I land, was to go and check out the villa, at 7 am in the morning, after spending 8.5 hrs on an overnight flight! Yes, that’s how excited I was.

And you know whats the best part? My drive to work takes 7 min and from work takes 4.5 min. JACKPOT! I drove up and down that route 3 times to actually believe it. Well, I knew that when the house was finalized but still. Some things are too good to be true, no?

These are the good things. Do you want to know a really bad thing? My wife and Ibrahim are still in India. They are not with me. Were supposed to come back with me on the 21st. But since I was immediately gonna head for ZA, I asked them to stay back for a week. And a week has passed. Their stay got extended by another week. That really sucks. But then, it was unavoidable. So gotta suck it up.

All in all, its been a mixed last couple of months. But things have gotten better at work. So I have better expectations in the coming months. Some exciting things lined up but lets leave that for another post. For now, its good to be back.