Aug 12, 2015

3 Learnings in 3 Years Post Harvard




Looking back at my previous 3 years post HBS, I am pretty satisfied with the developments both in my personal and professional lives. Below is a brief draft of three of my thoughts/actions post HBS - 2 that worked and 1 that did not.


(What worked)

1. [I "forgot" that I ever went to Harvard]

Very soon after leaving HBS and Boston, somebody complimented me – “If you (a Harvard MBA) don’t know about something, it’s perhaps not worth knowing”. While I felt flattered, I found that statement very provocative. I realized that I could not learn anything if I moved around with that mental model. Immediately, I made a deliberate choice NOT to ever leverage my educational pedigree (Ex: “While I was at Harvard, ...) to win an argument. That enabled me to always have my head over my shoulders and to avoid unreasonably biased exchange of ideas with colleagues at work and friends outside work. I am glad that I have been learning so much everyday from folks around me.

1. ["Family First" even if the on-the-job demands are at their "worst"]

According to a recent OECD statistics, Koreans are one of the most hard working employees (length of working hours is approximately 1.6 times that of Dutch workers; no offense intended). Despite experiencing that first hand during my first innings in Korea (prior to HBS from 2004 to 2010), I chose to come back to Samsung, Korea with the sole motivation to continue to make my humble contributions in the advancement of cutting edge technologies. That required me to work for long hours and I did that without any hesitation. However, I made it a point to always have dinner with my family and to have some playtime with my 2 awesome kids post dinner. If needed, I went back to office after the kids were asleep. That has worked out really well. Like most of us, I confidently juggle multiple balls every day and feel great to have done a decent job thus far. My wife, Pooja, has been a big support.

(What did not work)

3. [Focus only on "Value Creation"]

After an awesome experience at HBS, I was fully charged to make an impact at Samsung. There was lot of value creation in the first 2 years post HBS - I pioneered new innovation processes, designed idea-generating systems worthy of a mention in a HBS case study, and came up with multiple ideas for which we later filed patents. However, all my efforts and contributions did not translate into an equivalent professional growth (read promotions and appraisals).

How to make this one work?

The urge to decipher the reason for this dichotomy led me to pause and reflect. I read a lot and also talked to my mentors to decode the situation. At the end of this discovery process, I came up with a list of success factors to bridge the gap between my contributions and career growth. One of the prime factors was/is – Proximity to the top management (the decision makers). I acted on my findings and in May, 2014 transitioned to serve as an advisor to the CTO of Samsung’s over $200 Billion business with globally leading market share in several consumer electronics categories, including TVs, smart phones and digital home appliances. Professional life in this new role has been very fulfilling and equally rewarding.

Going forward, I hope to continue to learn and to avoid costly mistakes while reframing any upcoming uncertainties, risks and exposures to judgment as allies for leading a worthwhile life.

Thank you!

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