Wednesday 15 September 2010

LRB considering a career move...

Recently, we found a hand-written note written by LRB amongst his papers. In 1971 LRB was 24, and the youngest Marketing Manager at Hindustan Lever Ltd, when he likely wrote the note that we present here, as he ruminated on his future. He puts on paper his reasons for wanting to move into academics - a decision he eventually took by the end of the year by moving to IIMA and then leaving for Columbia University for his PhD. He appears to analyse the reasons for his dissatisfaction with his job and the alternatives available to him. However, in many ways, the note really serves as a justification for a choice that he appears to have already made by then, probably with his heart against much advice from friends and family. Later, he used this decision as a basis for a case he wrote at IIMA - titled 'Deepak Dey's Diary' - where he confessed: 'It is strange how I can still weigh the pros and cons of the two options and consider them nearly equally attractive even at a time when they have ceased to be options.'

Note on Career Choice - by Labdhi Bhandari

Problem: Career choice
Current Situation: Middle management job.
Progress: good.
Future prospects: good.

Reasons for re-thinking:
A combination of factors has led me to re-examine this basic issue of 'What I should be doing". The main factors responsible are:

1) The current situation does not seem to offer very much to learn any more; the learning curve is flattening very fast. This is partly due to the fact that I have learnt most of what it has to offer during the last 3.5 years and partly because of the environment and the people; both of these are not conducive to learning in its real sense. This is resulting in a feeling of dissatisfaction with one self - a feeling of getting into the rut.

2) It is further accentuated by the increasing gap between "developing management science" and "management in practice". Success in a business environment is, perhaps, not consistent with developing  one's knowledge and appreciation of the science. This is partly due to historical reasons, when no formal 'science' or 'discipline' of management existed and most of the learning was 'on the job'. The demands on one's time and energy in a business organization make it very difficult to pursue one's interest in the 'discipline' especially when it does not normally have any direct bearing on the job that one is doing.

The environment within a business organization can give achievement-satisfaction and arouse new ambitions. The risk one runs in such a situation is that of narrowing one's vision, ambitions and values. Normally, this results in a commitment to the objective of 'going up in business hierarchy'.

I believe that such a commitment and deployment of all one's resources to the attainment of this objective from a very early stage must interfere with the development of one's professional competence. This 'inadequacy' is likely to interfere with one's effectiveness at a much later stage when one is nearing the top echelons of the hierarchy. It may then be too late to do anything about it.

This feeling of inadequacy is already beginning to take root in me. There is a growing desire in me to take a break from business and discover the 'science'.

1) During the last few years my own awareness of 'life' around me - beyond my family and friends - has grown. Aso has the awareness and appreciation of my 'larger responsibilities'. While the basic responsibility is really to 'humanity' and to 'oneself', at the moment I feel concerned about the social and economic uplift of people in my country.

Given these feelings, I am naturally interested in the goals and interests of this society and its progress. Unfortunately, the business organisation presents a situation of "incongruence of goals". This is perhaps more so because of the kind of organization that I am in. There is a definite conflict in the interests of the organization and those of the country. With a growing feeling of larger responsibility, I am finding it increasingly difficult to identify with the interests of the organization.

2) Being in a situation where personal satisfaction from one's contribution to social progress is lacking, there is obviously a desire to look around for situations where one can apply one's mind and knowledge and have the satisfaction of fulfilling one's larger responsibilities.

1) For a variety of reasons, executives in professionally-managed business organizations have been coming from well-defined social groups. This has resulted in close homogeneous groups - both working and social. They share common interests and values, although these interests and values have no relationship with the 'jobs' that they do. With the development of management science and management education, the social homogeneity of 'business executive groups' has been eroded by people who don't share their interests and values, but have got in because of factors more directly related to the 'jobs'. This is a recent trend - the majority continues to be of the 'boxwallahs'.

I do not share the values of the 'boxwallahs', and that leaves a working environment and relationships which are not as happy as they may have been.

2) In an environment where the only expression of one's achievement is one's progress in the business hierarchy, climbing up the pyramid assumes supreme importance for most people. The environment being highly competitive, it creates unpleasantness among people one has to work with. One creates enemies every time one climbs a step. I believe it is difficult to enjoy the day to day work (which occupies most of your time anyway) when you have to work with people who you know resent you.

Perhaps a system less hierarchical with opportunities other than climbing up the ladder for achievement satisfaction would be more suitable.


Immediate: In view of my growing dissatisfaction with the current situation there is a need for change. Considering the factors that have contributed to the dissatisfaction, the immediate alternative seems to be going to a good school to work for a Ph.D. This should deal with the dissatisfaction and the feeling of inadequacy described under A.

Long Term: The current question is "What after a Ph.D.?" Alternatives open are:

1) Working for a business house (as I'm doing now).
2) Teaching/research/consultancy in an academic institution.
3) Consultancy on my own.
4) Working for an organisation (non-business) more directly related to social and economic progress.

For the reasons given in sections B and C, at the moment, I am not inclined to come back to a business house. The alternatives open, therefore, really are 2, 3 and 4.

Alternative no. 2 - ie Teaching/research/consultancy seems most attractive to me for a number of reasons.
i) I think I will enjoy teaching. This is only a feeling; the amount of teaching I have done so far is very little and in very different situations.
ii) I feel I will be personally more satisfied by teaching management in an underdeveloped country, where what is badly needed is management. The satisfaction of attempting to fulfil 'larger responsibilities'.
iii) Having said that 'management' is an acute need of a developing economy, it must also be said that private business houses, which are not necessarily in the sections where scarce management resources can be best used, do succeed in attracting most of the trained management graduates by virtue of generous terms they offer.

I believe that a lot can be done through teaching in terms of focussing the priorities and responsibilities of trained managers, which could have some impact on where these human resources are deployed. It could make a difference between using one's talents to convince people that one brand of shampoo is better than another, and using the same talents to sell the idea of 'family planning' or 'nutrition' or 'small enterprise'. This alternative also affords opportunities to use one's basic training in fields directly related with 'social and economic progress', through consultancy.

Alternative no. 3 is a possibility that can be built on some years of work at an academic institution.

The last alternative depends wholly on opportunities.