Giving Back

Just a year after graduating from business school, I went back to teach a course in Information Technology to the upcoming batch of young managers in my institute – The K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies (SIMSR).  It was at the time, and continues to be, one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life. 

I had promised myself back then, that I would return to it, as and when time permitted.  But Life, as we all know, is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.  Priorities at work would take up most of my time in the years to come. And soon, I found myself at the other end of the decade, wondering what happened to my plans of going back to school and teaching?!

As a young student myself, I remember that a handful of teachers had left an impression on my mind, in a span of a few hours of their delivery, that would last me a lifetime!  I could not help but think, if I could give even a little of that to the next generation of students, it would be well worth the journey…

So, in that spirit, I have once again embarked on an effort to engage with the young leaders of tomorrow.  For the moment, it has taken the form of guest lectures in select business schools, since my schedule still limits the time available at my disposal.

A month ago, I addressed a batch of about 65 students in their final year in NMIMS’ dual-degree MBA (Tech) course on the topic of “Change Management & Business Process Reengineering“.  Last week, I had the opportunity to return to SIMSR as an alumnus and guest faculty, to speak on “Six Sigma & Process Excellence” with a class of more than 120 eager beavers. 

Both topics required a fair bit of work to create a presentation that is appealing and informative.  And, keeping the students engaged has been an interesting challenge too.  But, if the feedback I have received via feedback forms, on email and on LinkedIn is any thing to go back, I seem to be doing something right…

Beginner’s Guide to Twitter

I think most of you will agree that there is an incredible amount of media coverage and currency that Social Media tools like Twitter and Facebook are presently enjoying, all over the world.  As a result, those of us who don’t have an account, are busy signing up in a rush, to see what the fuss is all about!

Now, with Facebook, that’s relatively easy to do.  Sign up for an account, and the system offers you multiple ways to “connect” with friends from all the other services you may be using.  A few clicks later, your Facebook homepage is lush and green – complete with all the status updates of the world showing up in your News Feed, without requiring any effort from your end!  But, Twitter?  That’s a different story altogether…

What is Twitter?

Well, the founders of the service describe it as “a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages.  People write short updates, often called “tweets”  of 140 characters or fewer.  These messages are posted to your profile, sent to your followers, and are searchable on Twitter search.”

The easiest way for me to describe it is in relation to Facebook – It’s a lonely world on Twitter when you first begin to tweet.  There is almost nothing on your homepage unless you immediately start “following” a vibrant community of twitterers.  I repeat: Nothing.  My guess is that that may be the single biggest reason why most people never go beyond the first few tweets.

What can you do with Twitter?

Tom Lambert has posted an easy-to-understand explanation of the typical Twitter Modes that emerge from the use of the platform:

1. Broadcast Mode – Basically, a soapbox that matters
2. Network Mode – Reading and replying via Twitter
3. Journal Mode – “Me” mode i.e. write what you want… for yourself
4. Listen Mode – Actively soliciting opinions

You can read the entire post for details of the various modes, but you’re beginning to get the picture, right?

How do I use Twitter?

If you ask me, I basically use Twitter as a combination of Broadcast+Journal.

It’s a platform for me to connect to a wide audience (without the permission they need to connect via Facebook), on subjects that matter to me.  So, in Broadcast mode, I use it to auto-post blog updates from all my various blogs (5 and counting!) so that any one who wishes to keep track of my writing can do so by “following” me on Twitter.  I also end up tweeting about links I find interesting during the day’s reading, which serves as a my Journal and complements my Broadcasting, since it’s usually about stuff that matters to me.

So yes, my “followers” list is a function of how much I’m connecting with my audience.  But I’m not obliged to follow every one who decides to follow me.  And, there’s no reason you should be obliged to follow anyone reciprocally.

I don’t particularly fancy using a ‘public’ platform like Twitter to have entire conversations with my friends (or followers), so I avoid using @Replies and tend to use Email/Chat/Facebook for that.

How should you use Twitter?

Guy Kawasaki, over at OpenForum, has posted a very readable list of things to avoid when using Twitter.  One of the points he eloquently makes on that post is how you should avoid telling others ‘how to tweet’:

There is no right and wrong with Twitter. There’s only what works for you and what doesn’t, so telling people how to use Twitter is as laughable as telling people what kind of websites were acceptable in 1980. Twitter is a platform – do with it what you want, but don’t tell others what to do.

Sensible advice, there.  So I’ll refrain from prescribing how you should use the platform.  What I’ve attempted to do with this post is to demystify some of the workings of Twitter, and make it a little more comfortable for newbies to work with it.  I only hope it has been of some help to you…

See Also: Facing the Truth (related post on Facebook)

A Sick Joke?

A post on the Acumen blog got me thinking about something that I have witnessed and lived with all my Life!

Here was a man simply enjoying an evening at a 5-star property in South Mumbai, thinking about the extreme contrasts which most of us fail to notice as a part of our daily lives…

My biggest culture shock in India has not been the omnipresent abject poverty, or the constant deafening noise, or the thousands of people crammed together in the rickety commuter trains. Ironically, it has been the incredible wealth that sits right next to absurd poverty. More than half of Mumbai lives in slums, yet it is home to the richest collective of billionaires in the world – ahead of New York and London…

And yet, it seems to make sense to everyone but me. My middle-class Indian friends have reinforced this many times when they say: “Of course it’s normal that the rich and the poor live next to each other… The rich live here and require services, so the poor come in to fulfill that demand.” It doesn’t shock anyone that you could pay 22,000 rupees to get into a new year’s eve party, much more than the national yearly income. And no one seems to mind that the office I work in, which has air-conditioning, wireless internet, and biometric fingerprint security, sits literally across the street from hundreds of temporary workers and their families – we’re talking dozens of children per street block – who cook, eat, bathe and sleep on the dirty sidewalks every night.

In that sense, India is quite different from Africa, where the rich are merely middle-class, the poor and the rich are typically segregated, and the ultra-rich promptly shift their assets (and themselves) out of the country. Yes, as an expat in Africa, I certainly felt wealthy, privileged, or just plain lucky. But here, holding a glass of one of the most expensive champagnes in the world, surrounded by the cream of the crop of Indian society and looking down on more than six million human beings living in slums forty floors below, I can’t help but wonder if this is some kind of a sick joke that everyone, including myself, is somehow part of.

You gotta wonder if he has a point