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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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.

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.

My Engineering Days

Meeting up on the terrace of a friend’s bungalow on a lovely November evening, having pipping hot daal-chaaval (rice) for dinner, cracking jokes, pulling legs, laughing till we cried, talking for hours without a care in the world, and then everyone dancing like maniacs on the terrace at 2 am on that song at high volume.

6 bikes, 10-11 guys, driving to a hill station an hour away, stopping at a dhaba nearby and having chicken like there is no tomorrow, singing songs and driving around like idiots…

Taking the keys from the owner of the shop, putting the shutter down and playing pool all night while listening to music, then going over to the bus stand to have bread-butter or egg bhurji with tea and heading back home at the break of dawn, supposedly to attend classes a couple of hours later.

Sitting for hours at a chai shop on the roadside, ordering endless ‘cuts’ and talking about God-knows-what till there is nothing more to discuss, but only till the next cut came and the war-stories resumed.

When a bunch of guys from a nearby hostel barged in to attack us unexpectedly at night, the same gang was standing in front of me the next morning with their heads bowed and pleading for mercy. Courtesy my brother and his friends.

Convincing the owner of  a restaurant to open shop after he had shut down at midnight, ordering 3 chicken handis and tandoori rotis, till the dough finished (at a restaurant so imagine the amount of rotis we had) and then standing on the road side for hours sipping cups of tea, till the cops came and threw us out of there.

Watching back to back movies in the day and then another late night movie, any movie, any actors, any cinema hall, just to kill time and vowing to get back into shape to charm girls when the next Yash Chopra/Karan Johar movie releases.

Dressed to kill, dark shades and sitting on a battered old scooter, two dudes driving around town line marofying, till the scooter runs out of fuel and then dragging the vehicle for 3 kms to the nearest petrol station.

Stepping out at 2 am to get some chai, only to get chased by stray dogs, as a result crashing into another nearby vehicle, getting into a fight, and looking up to realize we were at the footsteps of a police station (city chowk). No prizes to guess what happened next.

Going into an internet cafe at 12.35 am (same time, every night, no clue why) and spending the night at the cafe chatting with strangers online in search of new friends.

When not doing anything, meeting up at a designated phone booth and spending hours just sitting there and chatting with each other and calling that place ‘Headquarters’.

Spending night after night during the PLs (Preparatory Leaves before exams), supposedly studying, but actually listening to songs and making study plans, timelines, schedules and then going off to sleep for 2 weeks. Till the morning of the exam and still struggling to understand, ‘What is machine tools?’

And so on and on and on…..

But what really made these days special was the fact that I was not even a member of this group of friends. My elder bro was. And I was just hanging around with them. Yet, I had the time of my life. Till the very end, I was just a younger brother to everyone. And still am. But life would not have been the same without these guys. Engineering would not have been the same without them.

Why this post? Last night while driving back home from work, that song was playing on the radio and I just burst out laughing to myself and recalled the fateful night on the terrace on that lovely November evening.

Here is that song. Imagine a bunch of 20-something guys, only guys, dancing like maniacs on this. Trust me, its a sight you will never forget. Cheers.

Down memory lane

There was a tag a few months back about the most memorable moments of your life. I never got around to do it. Finally, I decided it was time to do a I-me-myself post. So here it is.

p.s. This could be a long post, atleast by my standards. So consider yourself warned.

01-Jul-1989, Umm al Quwain (UAE): Dad got transferred on a new project to a different city for a few months. Our summer vacations had just started. So we all moved. Only to find, to our delight, that we were gonna be staying at a beach resort. For 2 months. All expenses paid. With all possible amenities. We had our own 5 bedroom villa, with a swimming pool and 24 hours room service. Life just couldn’t get any better. Fun.

09-Jun-1997, Abu Dhabi (UAE): 10th standard CBSE board exam results. Though I was always an avg to above avg student, this was the first (and only) time I actually managed to get distinction (>75%). My first taste of success at the big stage. Achievement.

03-Dec-1998, Dubai (UAE): In athletics, the triple jump is one of the most complex events. In one smooth motion, the jumper has to hop, step and jump. It is an artistic and skillful event. And I held all possible records in school. Only one last hurdle awaited between me and the Indian Nationals. On this day, it was that jump. That one fateful jump. I broke the only record that eluded me: the under-17 category national triple jump record. Glory.

10-Nov-1999, Aurangabad (India): A very close and dear friend from school, succumbed to Leukemia. He was 17. Felt like life had come to a standstill. Sadness.

20 to 23-Dec-2002, Aurangabad/Pune (India): This has to be my crowning moment. I appeared for 4 exams on 4 consecutive days in 2 different cities. I had my final year engineering exam on 20th and 22nd Dec in Aurangabad. And  on 21st and 23rd, I had my b-school entrance exams in Pune. Aurangabad and Pune are 5 hours away. I commuted only by ST bus, that too the red ones! And I aced all 4 papers. Got above 60% in the engineering exams. And got follow-up calls from both b-schools. I still can’t believe how it happened. Unthinkable for me today. Awe.

18-Dec-2004, Delhi (India): A day that I shall never forget. After nearly 12 hours of interviews, GDs, extra-curric activities, I got my first job offer. Through campus recruitment from my B-school. We celebrated all night. I met my best buddies in B-school. Some of them are with me today while some friendships have withered with time. Including the one with my best friend. I don’t know what went wrong. Guess we just let each other down. We don’t speak anymore. But not a week goes by when I don’t think of him. 2 days after me, he got an offer as well. Those celebrations, those fun-filled and crazy days, will always be with me. Nostalgia.

02-May-2005, Bangalore (India): My first day at work. Walking through the plush corridors of a Fortune 500 company, all swanky in a dark suit, MBA from a top B-School, new dreams, goals, aspirations, set out to conquer the world – Step aside, I’ve arrived. Pride.

25-Jan-2008, Aurangabad (India): My wedding. The day couldn’t have been any better. Everything was perfect. And we looked at our best. It was a dream wedding. And thus a new phase of my life began. With my soul mate, my wife, my better half. The love of my life. Happiness.

20-Jan-2009, Aurangabad (India): The biggest moment of my life. I became a father. The first time I held my little miracle in my hands, all tiny, delicate and fragile, he kept looking at me, kept gazing at me with those small dark eyes, I can never forget that moment. Miracle.

This is it I guess. All of the above together, along with blessings of the Almightly, a few lucky breaks, flawless parenting by my folks and amazing family & friends, this is me, the man I am today.

Cheers!

Edited to add: Some other memories come to mind that were important but not big enough to make the cut such as attending a function at Rashtrapati Bhawan in Delhi and meeting then president of India APJ, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, captain of the only team in history of my college to win the inter-branch cricket tournament in the first year in Aurangabad, winning a fashion pageant, “superstar of the year” award at work in Bangalore after a tough start, getting arrested at 2 am because of an accident due to a street dog right in front of the police station…..list is almost endless.