Nursery to KG1 and 7 years on the job

Yesterday I completed 7 years with Oracle. Often I wonder if I am limiting my career sticking to one organization for all of my early working years. Most of my mates from B-school have made atleast 2-3 moves, if not more. Some have changed 5 companies in the last 7 years. And here I am, still with the one I started with.

Well, I am getting what I want from here (career growth, learning, money etc) so haven’t seen any reason to move. So for now, I start yet another year with Oracle and just like I’ve been loyal to you, Mr. Oracle, I know you will be good to me as well.

Moving on, Ibrahim has now completed 1 whole month in KG1. We’ve moved him out of the nursery into a bigger school. Apparently, in UAE, a child can start school from 3 years onwards. So being eligible, we decided to get him enrolled into a school and get on with it. He has settled in quite well. Cried for a couple of days and been fine since. His highlight of the day is the school bus ride. That is what gets him going. And too add, my elder bro’s son also goes to the same school. All these factors have helped him settle down quite well. He wakes up at 6am on weekends and starts throwing a tantrum to go to school. Every night, he goes to bed happily when we tell him he has school tomorrow so needs to sleep early. It’s been a blessing in disguise. For all the trauma we went through for a month in his nursery, his stint at the school so far has been extraordinary. Feedback from his class teacher is excellent. Apparently, he’s already become a teacher’s pet. Hugs the attendants, gives them flying kisses, gives them goodbye kisses when leaving for home, shares his lunch etc. He hasn’t jelled too much with his classmates. But he’s getting there. Every other day, he comes home with a new name, a new friend. We’ve seen remarkable development in him. More confident. Bolder. Smarter. Speaking english words and small sentences. All in all, it has been satisfactory month.

Last week, I posted latest pics of Ibrahim on FB. We had gone to take passport size pics of him and he ended up giving some amazing poses. So much so that we made portraits of them and for a couple of pics, I blew them up into 12×14 portraits. All still on FB if you guys wanna take a look.

Eventful couple of months coming up. I hope I will be disciplined enough to update my blog regularly. Otherwise, it will all be on Facebook! Cheers.

May 31st

Knowingly or unknowingly, this day has become such a major crossroad for me. Year on year, every 31st May, I wake up with butterflies in my stomach. Always before my alarm rings. On several occasions, I have dreams leading up for this day. I dress up in my best to exude self-confidence. I try not to eat too much or too less. Strong coffee early in the morning and another shot later in the evening. I do a few stretches to keep the body and mind alert all day. Anything to get through this day.

For the last 6 years.

You guys must be wondering what is today?

For the initiated, today is last day of Oracle’s fiscal year.

And anyone who knows anything about sales, including only the spelling, will know that for any sales guy, last day of the financial year is more important than his death day.

All said and done, financial year ending is probably the most stressful time for any professional. Not just in sales. I definitely have pity of the finance dudes. You guys are more miserable on that day than anyone else.

Year on year, quarter on quarter, month on month, week on week, sales guys keep pegging for that target. I, for one, have only one tangible target each year. You guessed it. My sales target. My quota. My numbers. Nothing else has more importance than ‘the numbers’. Like my ex-boss once said, “You only don’t come to work if you are dead. Period”. Relevance? If you haven’t hit your numbers, you don’t come to work the following day, doesn’t matter if you’re dead or not.

I’ve had some exceptional years and some really forgetful ones. Infact only 1 forgetful one. This was last year. For 4 consecutive years, I hit my numbers irrespective of the team, products, timelines or target given to me. But last year was the worst. Regardless of whatever I did, I just could not get there. Infact I could not make it half way even. Strange but true. Yes, the recession, change in company policies etc did not help. But no excuse. I missed my numbers.

So I was doubly careful this time around. And add to that, new team, new products, new territory, new (read: higher) targets.

And thankfully, I did not have to come to work today thinking where my next deal is coming from. Or how I am gonna hit my numbers. That’s coz I already did that. Three weeks back.

But even then, 31st May still has a weird, eery, freaky feel to it. Not till the fat lady sings they say. Come midnight I will be singing. Will a fat man do?

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.

New Job, Newer challenges, Newest birthday!

For the last 2 days, I have been trying to log onto WP but kept getting logged out. No clue why. Maybe WP was not too happy with the proxy settings at my new work place. But I guess like all other things in life, it came around.

So yes, back to the subject, I have changed my job. Technically, I am still working for the same company (Oracle Corporation) but in reality, it’s a different company (Sun Microsystems). Let me explain. Oracle has acquired 66 companies in the last 5 years, one of them being Sun Microsystems, which was one of its most strategic and largest acquisitions.

Oracle was primarily a software company. Our flagship product was the database. We also sold enterprise applications like ERP, CRM etc, middleware like application server, business intelligence, content management and identity management. Oracle is the clear market leader in all of the above software domains. With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle now even sells hardware (servers, storage, operating system, virtualization etc). This has been the talk of the IT world for the last 18 months. And everyone is waiting with baited breaths to see what Oracle does with Sun’s hardware business.

Well, the wait is over. Oracle is going head-on in competition with IBM, HP and Dell in this market. This is a very important time in Oracle’s history. We are venturing into a new line of business.

What’s in it for me? Well this is going to be a high-priority, high-stakes, high-visibility job. Every single eye is on Oracle to see if we fail or succeed in taking off with this $8 billion acquisition. I have joined a new team which was conceived a couple of months back. I am essentially responsible for all hardware sales in this region. But my focus area this time is going to be east and sub-Saharan Africa this time. Lots of challenges. Lots of traveling. Lots of excitement. I am thrilled.

My first assignment is to fly down to Johannesburg this week for a few round table strategy meetings. Flying out tomorrow afternoon and will be back on Saturday morning. Which means I will be spending most of my birthday tomorrow on an Emirates aircraft!

And that really sucks. I do have plans to celebrate with family tonight. May not get a chance to wish myself or do a customary birthday post tomorrow so all of you can rope in your wishes here or to my FB profile!

Cheers :) And thanks for the wishes, in advance! :)

Off to India

My, my! Has it ever happened to you that you were not able to post because there were far too many posts by fellow bloggers (because they’ve got this blog marathon syndrome and everyone’s going nuts posting!) and all your time was going in reading and commenting on those posts?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s just an observation. Infact I am not even talking about myself.

With that out of the way, let me get back to stuff.

I am traveling to India on Wednesday night for a long weekend. Back on Monday morning with my wife and kiddo. Finally they’re gonna be back. Finally this phase of forced bachelorhood will come to an end. I had planned a longer trip, atleast for a week, but work cut it short. Some major changes and reshuffling happening at work and I don’t wanna take chances.

A diaper-friend (someone I know from the time we wore diapers together) is getting married next week. I will be attending his reception. So planned this whirlwind trip around it. Really happy for him. About time he settled down.

I guess that’s it. Can’t think of anything else to add. More when I am back from India. Maybe some pics as well.


5 years on the job

This is just the beginning. And it feels I’ve been working forever.

Today I’ve completed 5 years with Oracle, 5 years since my first day at work, 5 years since Oracle has been my pay master. How much faster can time fly?

Over the last 5 years, I have crossed all possible milestones possible in anyone’s first 5 years in the corporate world. Seen all the ups and downs. Like all aspiring and budding professionals, I had set myself timelines,milestones, short-term and long-term career goals. Too early to get to those long-term goals but all short-term goals are ticked off. So its time to set new ones. What I need to be doing for the next 5 years, where I see myself going and what I want to be doing. Time for some career introspection.

It’s weird how we spend our entire lives working & slogging yet not knowing the reason why. I want to know that. I want to know why.

Working with Oracle has been my highpoint. It is the largest enterprise software company in the world. And despite the economic downturn, the company been able to maintain a more than healthy balance sheet all along. So much so that, of the 45 companies it has acquired over the last 5 years, 10 have been in the last 18 months. That is something.

With 5 years completed, I already feel like a dinosaur. Maybe I need to retire by 40. How’s that for a long-term goal?!

Corporate Lesson 3 : Do your homework

Continuing on my series of posts on lessons learnt in the corporate world, here is the latest one:

Yesterday was arguably the most critical day of my professional life. We had our mid-year sales review meeting with the Executive VP , Senior VP, Sales Director, a few other managers and my team. The reason this meeting was critical because 2009 was not a particularly good year for our team in terms of numbers. Long story short, lets just say that some important internal policy changes have severely affected our revenue lines. And this meeting was scheduled to discuss the same.

And as expected, the meeting room was very heated up. Each project dissected and discussed at length. Every activity in the account questioned. Every action scrutinized. Tempers flaring all around. I was fourth in line to present. And it was three and a half hours before my turn came! My boss started the presentation before handing it over to us. My first colleague, who is doing reasonably well this year, was not really in the firing line. Her presentation lasted 8-10 mins. The second one lasted around 20 mins. Mind you, all we had to do was talk about our top 5 projects on 1 slide. Normally that would take less than 5 minutes. So you can imagine the barrage of questions from the panel. The 3rd presenter broke all records. His slide lasted 55 minutes!!! He was crucified to say the least. And with that behind me, I stood up.

I was asked to pick my best project and speak about it. That’s actually not a good thing, rather very dangerous. Coz then there is no scope for error. If I don’t get the facts right, I don’t have any other chances or deals to fall back upon. My whole year’s work was down to this one project. And so I started speaking. And barely three minutes into the presentation, they told me to sit down! And I thought, “uh oh!”

I was shocked. Didn’t move an inch. My mouth was open. I didn’t know what to do. After what looked like an eternity, my boss snapped me out of it. “C’mon, sit down” she said. Hesitantly, I walked back to my chair. My face was white! Someone noticed and finally said, “Masood, you did good. Now relax and sit down!”

And that’s when I started breathing again!

Finally the Exec VP spoke up. “Why did I ask him to sit down?”. And he answered his own question. “Because he did not leave me with any questions. He had everything. All the information, all the facts in place. He knew everything about this project and much more. That’s how its gotta be done”.

And that’s when I started smiling again!

Before the meeting started, I sat down in front of my laptop and did some research. Not about the project. That’s my baby so I know everything about it. But about the country, the economy, the industry, industry numbers, the company, went through latest annual report of the company, profit margins, expected annual and quarterly growth rates, planned investments etc etc etc. And I spoke about all this before getting into the project details.

Moral of the story: Do your homework. In front of a c-level panel, talking non-stop about the project may not help. Know the whole picture – not just from a micro but from a macro point of view as well. Do the research. And remember it. Be confident. And go for it.