No Ranks, Just Appetite – A New Way To Climb The Corporate Ladder. Like Google’s Pichai.

Together with my team, we hold a weekly department meeting, which we fondly call “The Vent Session”. No notes, nothing formal, nothing held back. We discuss just about everything that is happening in our various areas of responsibility, our lives at work, and away from it – the socials, the fun, the vent. It was occasioned by the fact that we all joined the organization the same time, or within months of each other. I was the first employee of the new department. This was occasioned by how we all found it incredibly different, and sometimes difficult working in a space where no one really bothered about who you are, and what you are doing as long as you delivered in your area of responsibility.

Over time, we also established that the environment we work in hardly has a management structure. It is pretty much a two tier situation: the guys at the very top, and then everyone else. One joins the group to handle a specific project (at least for my unit) from infancy to maturity. You conduct research, build a network, build the concept, commence the project, get it to the market and grow it. In between there you will be everything – for instance in my first project, I moved from being an agronomist, to an engineer, to a production manager, to a marketing and sales guy…and eventually a general manager – to just oversee as I picked up on more and more projects. It can be a stressful process but I could not think of anything more exciting to call work…and the diversity of it all and the exposure and lessons you learn every single day are better than receiving the pay check every end month. Really.

In between there I started realizing just how great this set up is. No one can stand in your way to demonstrate the very best that you have and hold in you. You are left to your own devices, and have the freedom to build things from scratch, to marvelous entities. This doesn’t come easy though – you have to be very diplomatic, very calculating, and sometimes cunning to survive the different opinions, setbacks and bottlenecks. it’s pretty much a sprint, while holding an egg on a spoon, with your teeth. This earned me a name recently – Frank Underwood (of House of Cards) – not for the cut throat meanness but the everyday reinvention and bouncing back. Kind like the when you keep picking an air filled clown at a party, and it keeps springing back, smiling.

A little further though. There are some observable trends in multinationals, similar to the situation I work in. Today’s appointment of Sundar Pichai as CEO of Google Inc lends a platform for my thoughts, I believe. Pichai basically joined Google as a small time project manager, and the delivery and innovation together with his diplomatic approach to relationships earned him a cap, and another, and another. Not by rising ranks based on position, but by appetite demonstrated by his ability to grow project by project and build a portfolio over time that couldn’t simply be ignored. becoming the center-stage of operations by his abilities and portfolio. The same can be witnessed elsewhere –Satya Nadella of Microsoft had a similar journey to the top, as Rajeev Suri of Nokia did.

Perhaps, this is the best news, and motivation for doers and those with high appetite to build and build on. Like me, and my unit. is this trend happening elsewhere? I am no longer in a technology space but this is a design working with the organization I work with.

Thought I should clean up the cobwebs here. let’s hope I’ll write often. 🙂

Till then, ZB,M.