A Professional for the Future


"Finally, great professionals of tomorrow will need to understand and master what Howard Gardner calls the ethical mind. This ethical mind is about the capacity to certify the completion of one's own work. That rules out most people who need someone else to supervise them."

It is five o’clock in the morning on a September day by the seaside, away from Pondicherry. I am perched atop a 40-foot-high rappelling wall in the middle of nowhere, overlooking the Bay of Bengal. I am waiting to catch a glimpse of the sunrise. The sun will not come out for good fifty-five minutes more, but like a villager who must not miss his train, I like to be nice and early. Next to me in the breezy darkness, my Canon digital SLR camera is sitting quietly. Beyond the camera is a box full of lenses. This morning, the one that is particularly happy to be here is my newly acquired Sigma 500 mm lens. We are here to capture the first rays bursting through scattered clouds, announcing the arrival of another brand new day. I like my camera, the aluminum box, the tripod. I love the 500mm lens the most, though. There is something solidly attractive about it. I like his power looks. Yes, it is a he. He clicks into the groove of my SLR every time I slide him in, as if to say, “OK, let’s go”. Each time I set the vision, his whirr gives me a high. I call him Lens. Lens makes me feel professional.

I can hear the sea waves but can not see them. The silhouette of a fishing boat is now beginning to appear and I can see the clouds in waiting-just as curtains and backdrops wait for a rock star to make an appearance. We have time yet. So here I am, thinking about what it will take to be a great professional in the days to come.

These days, even a small town guy who owns a so-called “photo studio” has a digital SLR. I, waiting for the sun, wonder: what is the difference between him and professional such as Dewitt Jones or Raghu Rai? Since everyone can take great pictures these days, photo-shop them, and freely upload them on the Internet, what separates them from these two?

The sunrise is still another good ten minutes away. Lens yawns listlessly.

His mind does not wander like mine.

Ignoring him, I ask myself, is this question any less relevant for doctors, architects, software engineers, lawyers and dress designers? What is required to be called a professional in the future?

Lens looks at me, rolls his eyes and makes a face, very similar to an affectionately irreverent teenager.

Just then, on cue from the clouds, my body tenses-the Moment has arrived. I lift the camera, pick Lens up, and fix him in. He is sharp and engaged, ready for war. The sliver of red appearing from below has made me one with Lens and my camera. Silently, so as not to disturb the arrival, we begin clicking. A whirr, the sound of a click and the shutter closes. Soft like my breath. Then a small wait. Shoot. Wait. Shoot.

Soon it is a ballet. The initial stiffness of a preying leopard is gone. We are talking again. But this time, Lens is doing most of the talking. I think he is showing off a bit, but he clearly knows what the professional of the future is all about.

“Have you heard of Howard Gardener?” he asks, casually.

I reply, “Oh yes: the Harvard prof who has written twenty books and received twenty one honorary doctorates; the same man who questioned the role of IQ in determining intelligence. In fact, it was he who had propagated the idea of multiple intelligences.”

“Same man,” says Lens. He begins to refer to what Gardner had said about professionals of the future: that to be a great professional you have to master the five minds of the future.

“What about that?” I ask a little impatiently, more keen that we focus on the job at hand, concerned that it seems to be suddenly slipping away.

“Why, it was you who asked for the reason your country cousin of a studio photographer could not become Tom Hewitt!”

I can sense that Lens is miffed.

Sunset - Photograph by Subroto Baghi

Whirr, click, shoot. Silence. Whirr, click, blink, shoot, silence. More silence. More shots.

Now the sun is fully up, the whole world awash – as if it wasn’t ever dark here! Our job is over. Both of us are calm but still contemplating what has just happened. Then Lens begins explaining the five minds for the future as we start walking back. “Whatever may be your profession, to succeed in the world ahead, you need to master the five minds of the future…”

The first is the mind of the discipline. You may be a trained photographer or a qualified surgeon. It does not matter. Your professional qualification is not what will make you a professional. You need to devote yourself to your profession of choice for at least 10 years before you can understand its nuances. Empirical studies indicate that, across disciplines, that amount of time is a minimum requirement. You have to give yourself to the profession as against looking at it just as a means to a livelihood, a career or a job. You need to build affection for your profession and a long view of time.

The second is the mind of synthesis. The future requires the capacity to build abstractions. In other words, you need the mind of synthesis. It is about developing an understanding of ideas, concepts and problems in an inter-disciplinary manner while building depth in one’s own discipline. A photographer shooting wildlife will not be a professional unless he is able to understand why plant pathogens impact the eating habits of carnivores. If he is shooting in New York City, he needs to appreciate urban spaces, and a great shot on the outskirts of New Delhi requires an understanding of where Delhi comes from historically.

Now I am beginning to understand why Tom Hewitt shoots for National Geographic. Lens knows he has me hooked.

“The third mind,” Lens explains, “is the creative mind. Look, you are no photo pro. You are just a software guy building business solutions for your international clients. Ever thought about why, these days, your clients do not want the ‘tried and tested’ solutions to their problems anymore?”

I do not like Lens asking me such questions, because only he knows the answer. I just keep quiet whenever he pulls this Super Guru stunt. I know he will spill soon.

“Clients do not like the tried and the tested solutions any more because those solutions are simply not innovative enough. Precisely because they are tried and tested, they have become the past. Competitive advantage is about from creativity, and creativity is about taking risks. The creative mind is about building the capacity to answer what is new and what is different about the solution you are suggesting every time.”

I feign casual interest but I am listening intently.

“The fourth mind is the respectful mind,” Lens says.

Made in Japan, Lens becomes the Buddha at will.

“In the future, all problems will require interdisciplinary solutions. Whether it is about negotiating a nuclear treaty or removing a cancerous cell from the pancreas, if anything qualifies to be called a problem, then chances are high, the solution would have to be inter-disciplinary. That means experts from different fields will have to listen to each other, learn from each other, collaborate while they compete, disagree without being disagreeable and then put multiple minds together, build consensus and emerge with the strength of the respectful mind. Why do you think one CEO fails and another succeeds in taking a militant trade union along? Who do you think one educationist prevails over others while settling the contents of a high school textbook on national history? Why one physicist is is able to get agreement on making a certain standard universally acceptable in a transnational negotiation involving competing interests? Those who succeed have the respectful mind.”

The rappelling wall is well behind us now. We are walking back. Actually, I am the one walking back and Lens is hanging around my neck. He thinks it is his rightful place.

“Finally, great professionals of tomorrow will need to understand and master what Howard Gardner calls the ethical mind. This ethical mind is about the capacity to certify the completion of one’s own work. That rules out most people who need someone else to supervise them. Whatever may be your profession, to be called a professional, you must master all the five minds of the future and only then can you be globally accepted.”

“But why should we worry about being globally relevant?” I hear myself mutter.

Lens retorts, “Because the benchmark is no longer local. The benchmark is Tom Hewitt.”

Ahead of me, I see the road wind itself into a softly undulating sand dune. Behind the dune is the shimmering blue water of the Bay and beyond all that: Singapore, Tokyo, San Francisco, New York, London, Paris and Mumbai.

Comments
Lubna Says
Wednesday October 1st 2008

Dear Subroto,
Not diving deep into your post on – Professional for the future, well not very deep.
I am just narranting what my lens thought of me, as we sat on the rocks in Pondicherry to photograph the “sunset”. We waited and waited and darkness suddenly enveloped us. The lens gave out a loud chuckle. “Frog in the well existence, does not pay”, I was told. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Only a Bombayite would think that the sun sets in the sea (just because the Arabia sea that surrounds Bombay is in the west doesnt mean you can capture the sun setting in the sea from anywhere and everywhere, the lens explained). I was quite stumped – especially since I have always considered myself to be a smart alec!
Well, the lens taught me a lesson – about adaptability! Perhaps quitting is not professionalism either, but more on that later.
This was a very interesting read!
PS: By the way that was a great photograph. The lens must be proud of you.
Best regards
Lubna

Subroto Bagchi Says
Wednesday October 1st 2008

Lens is not proud of me. Lens is proud of himself. He believes I am just the donkey.

Go Kiss the World, Lubna.

Subroto

Thirumani Says
Wednesday October 1st 2008

Appreciate your narration style. You are able to hold the attention, set the stage and time the most important point you want to convey such that it registers in people’s mind in the form of images and not words – this is how I felt after reading this article.

I guess you should write screen plays.

Good points – well packaged and delivered.

-Thiru

S.K.MOHANTY Says
Thursday October 2nd 2008

Sir,
Really an self-awakening journey. Serious concept expressed in such a lucid manner. Liked the narration style very much.

First read this article published in INDIA TODAY,Oct 6, 2008 (Currently available at news stand) at page 82. But I could not get your books at Cross Word , Pacific Mall,Ghaziabad which is near to my place.

Pl. mail me your contact details.
Warm Regards,
S.K.MOHANTY
Advocate, Supreme Court of India & Delhi High Court

Joydip Says
Thursday October 2nd 2008

HI Subroto Da,

You have been my role model and I have been circulating two most exciting facts to my friends for quite some time.
Just wanted to show my gratitude and deep proud feeling for all you have done to the society and Indian Business field. I know this is just the beginning for you.

God Bless you.

Joydip.

Malathi Ramchandran Says
Friday October 3rd 2008

Dear Subroto,
Loved all your articles.

I am glad I discovered your blog and happy to be connected again.

Regards,

ANIRUP SEN Says
Friday October 3rd 2008

Dear Subrotoda,

I am very much excited after reading the book, hope I get an opportunity to meet you soon and get a chance to work under your guidance.

Please suggest

Anirup.

Jeevan Says
Friday October 3rd 2008

I am afraid that I do not agree with you on some of the points here – one in particular!

Need to work for 10 years to understand the nuances:

The fact is – almost all of the educational institutions in India are actually useless. We need enterpreneurs and what they learn in 5 years is much more than a professional working with a company – say for 15/18 years. One may fail, but we need to honor that. We have seen liberalization for 18 years now and it is time that we know there is no holy grail called job security. So it better to create jobs than search one!

Other than some quality Institute like IIT/NIT/IIM et al, the education in India is very very outdated. And hence, what actually can be learnt very fast are wasted in many times and unfortunately they are the best years of one’s life. And with your holisitic view on corporate ecosystem (being a veteran), I guess, we can not have a better advocate than you in asking for young people to be enterpreneurs.

Here is one I’ll recommend people to read – http://paulgraham.com/boss.html (perhaps the best known advocate in the world why young people should invest their energy in doing something for them!!!)

Sapna Says
Friday October 3rd 2008

Sir,

Read your book. It is one of those books which a person can relate to. Your experiences, lessons learnt and the viewpoint on relationships has helped reinforce the person in me. Thanks for the wonderful book.

Joydip Says
Monday October 6th 2008

Hi Jeevan,

You have raised a brilliant topic, thanks for that.
Enterpreneurship is indeed a brilliant stuff for an individual and also for the society. I too hail from the ‘NIT/IIT/IIM’ league but do not know how the college really helped me to achieve the same.

Personally I believe that being Enterpreneur is necessary but I do not accept completely when you said that is something different from “working professionaly in a Company”. Leadership and Enterpreneurship is a mindset and agility which could be shown in individual growth like starting a company by own or in organizational level by bringing the organization to the peak.

The later ploy mostlyfails because most of us do not see the work as kicking as we want it to be. Again as I have said Mindset.

But ofcourse if Techie starts seeing him as a Sales person he can contribute more than what he would have simply working on code snippet as he is the person… who else can best sell his product??? But the question is how many of us do it???

Joy

Lubna Says
Monday October 6th 2008

Your blog is gone? I mean, when I logged on to http://www.mindtree.com/subrotobagchi it is an entrely redesigned site without the blog. managed to come back here through a google search.
Guess, it is still being designed and I need to be patient – sigh….

Jeevan Says
Tuesday October 7th 2008

Joy,

I guess Paul informed it clearly in his article. I have been into one of the best in class products and services company myself and the reason why we do not find the kick in the work is as many fold.

Also, I do not agree that techies do not act as sales person. When you are at onsite proposing a solution to a set of designers, when you are sitting in a presales negotiation, when you are presenting a new technology and its adoption to a group …or even when you are in an interview – you are saling it. Actually, I will inform a funny incident. When I was in a sales demo at a APAC customer site at Hong Kong, the sales guys quickly left and informed that I’ll be the person for further communication!

The other reason why we do not get the kick – regionalism (language based division is actute in India), politics (no offence intended for IT services guys, but what they do can not be done by a 10th class student, so a lot of time spent in politics), no real recognition (when the person whom you are reporting to have never fixed more than 10 bugs in his entire career, how can he respect if you talk of implementation of a new tech), no job security (as I have metioned), degradation of value system (a lot of companies talk of values – but are they really following it. I was with one of the most admired IT services companies and when you have to pick up a bus, people will jump over another, push, shove et al), no respect for IP rights (managers at the same company are used to tell – “you do or I do, anyway credit will be mine!”). So where is the kick for work.

So, if you can really do it, go for enterpreneurship then slogging out in a company. Above all, companies like Facebook or Youtube or Feedburner or even Comcast are not based on epoch making technologies which deserve a Nobel prize. Only one part still hurts in India – it is still very difficult to get funding and we still like high paying jobs in high rise corporates as a symbol of status. I am really optimistic that they will change in the coming years – in a negative way unfortunately- with more depressions, more job losses, the real of face of values based companies coming to forth etc.

Jeevan

Joydip Says
Monday October 13th 2008

Jeevan,

You have portrayed some burning facets of Corporate world … still very true.
I completely agree with you with this light … But I have a doubt …

The culture of the company could be seen from the individual’s point of view: if some one do not like a trend he may blame the system. So if a system is almost correct and still people does not recognise the same and quit what happens to the system. What happens when those people starts a new organization which also faces the same fate like the one before?

I some how feel it is not always risky to try to change the system being inside rather than moving out and giving a new start.

I feel I have already taken a big diversion from tha main point of discussion :) SORRY

Joydip

Debachou Says
Monday October 13th 2008

Just back to job after puja holidays. Spent the time over your book GKTW. Though some of the parts I read earlier in your blog , on the whole it was fascinating to read it thrice till this time and present a copy to my son, who is indeed a big fan of yours. But I find it little difficult to comprehend some of the aspect, when we compare as to what we did in such case in our life! In page 104(hard bound/penguin portfolio) you said “if we make a small committment towards keeping our talent alive…” – do u genuinely feel that it is really a lack committment on our part or the early life pressure by parents /peers that we keep aside our such talent and jump in to the bandwagons with others to face success in life by securing some job at an early life so that burden on parents get less! To me it is the pressure from parents, society, peers and from self also that we finally succumb to that pressure and neglect our such talent, at least there are hundreds of instances with me . I need light on it, please. There are some more questions also. It is a test paper to check the reply !!!!
Regards Debu

Jeevan Says
Tuesday October 14th 2008

@Joy, You are right on your observation. And that is why we see so many scandals, bankruptcy even in billior dollar empires. But then, the main argument was to go for enterpreneurship rather than slogging it out. You will really learn in that route.

Wednesday October 15th 2008

Sir,
This is Subhadip Majumdar, a software engineer by profession..it is a fascinating experience to read the blog and broadly the book ‘Go Kiss the world’! It really lifts me up and also guides me to a new outlook to the corporate world and also inspire me to take up challenges with a new zeal.

Apart from work I am also a writer by passion.
If you can please go through my blogs and share your view..it would be really welcome to me! You can find my blog in :
http://subhadip-writerscolumn.blogspot.com/

Vijai pandey Says
Thursday October 16th 2008

Hi Subroto,

I heard you today talking in NSCOM Quality Summit and could not stop my self coming back to hotel and login to read more of yours.
This post is as thought provoking as the one I heard today in person.

Lubna Says
Saturday October 18th 2008

Hi Joydip and Jeevan,

I have been enjoying your posts and the communication between the two of you- lots of food for thought.

However, if disgruntlement with the current set up is the main reason for thinking of being an entrepreneur then perhaps that is the wrong reason. In this context I am referring to Jeevan’s post on how managers take credit for work done by the team.
In an ideal set up, the project manager gets credit for team work. But, I guess, what you are referring to is the manager usurping rightful credit and not giving team members their due. But even entrepreneurs face adversities and in fact many more of different hues. So running away from a corporate set up to start one of your own is not the solution. Being your own boss, has its own pitfalls.

Not everyone can be an entrepreneur. The best techie/consultant etc, may thrive in a corporate environment, but a start up is a different ball game altogther. It requires resilience, the ability to not get down when things go bad, the ability to smile in the face of trouble.

I know that I cannot be an entrepreneur. I can merely start a new line of business in a current well established set up.

But I agree with Jeevan’s subsequent post, that you can learn a lot by being an entrepreneur because you are not risk protected, which you are as an employee.

Good luck to you both and I enjoyed your interactions.
Best wishes
Lubna

    Jeevan Says
    Saturday October 25th 2008

    Dear Lubna,

    Enterpreneurship, new companies, new technologies come mostly out of frustration and disenchantment. It has been always the norm and it always will be.

    Coming to your other point of managers taking all the credit – I have seen them first hand, 2nd hand, and at a distance. In India, even in private sector IT companies – may I dare say it – it is mostly language based divison. Our forefathers have done it, different states based on different language and it acute in some parts of India. Now as I said, what is done in a services company, can be done by a 10th grad student with minimal training. So politics kick in and there comes the promotion based on comfort level. I do accept that in hard core product companies it is much less – been there myself. That is why you see a Microsoft or a Google to be so successful. It does not matter which language you speak or whom you know – rather what you know and what you can do. It is not running away from the problem, but rather finding the best for oneself.

    I agree that not everyone can not be an enterpreneur. And beating it all, our Indian society is particularly very harsh on that respect. As I wrote, we liked to be “naukar” (working for somebody) than working for yourself. But that is not the point. I intended to say, keep thinking, keep trying and if you can do it, just go for it. And it will be a great path. Well, there are risks, but then I do not know whether I will be alive tomorrow!

    Thanks,
    Jeevan

Nisarg Says
Monday October 20th 2008

As far as creative pursuits in photography are concerned, I told my friend other day that we just need to make it “be a click” moment for lens. They love to capture finest moments when we use them in their way. If we deliberately capture with “say cheese!” kind of expressions, it can become photo which we can use for passport and other documentation purpose. Can not really become master piece with deliberate efforts..the way should be effortless…. I loved reading you blog.

Lubna Says
Saturday October 25th 2008

Hello Jeevan,
Happy Diwali. I do wish you all the best, in whatever that you seek to do.
Best regards
Lubna

Richa Arora Says
Saturday May 30th 2009

Hello Subroto Sir,

Wish you a very Happy Birthday. I was reading the Book “go kiss the world ” and to my surprise it is 31st May 12.30 PM i came across page no 216 where i got to know that its your birth date….It’s been a nice and intellectual reading. Thank you sir.

  • Pingback: Cicada, Lens and I | Subroto Bagchi Blogs

  • Jacinda Daer Says
    Wednesday May 22nd 2013

    IT service management or IT service support management (ITSM or ITSSM) refers to the implementation and management of quality IT services that meet the needs of the business. IT service management is performed by IT service providers through an appropriate mix of people, process and information technology.,..-*

    http://www.healthmedicinebook.com

    Adieu

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Latest Posts
    Books