My Professional Journey

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Sharing Insights from my Professional life , where I have been a Sales Engineer, A Health Professional and now , a Project Management Professional. These blogs encompass my observations or experiences. They may be regarding the Projects that I have led or been a part of or something close to our daily lives like Mindfulness and health which may affect our productivity as Project Managers.

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Selling Ice to an Eskimo

The Local Coffee Shop - My Conversation Catalyst

How I learnt about Project Quality Management from Exercise regime

Strength Training for your mental muscles

Talk in terms of the other person's interests

Selling Ice to an Eskimo

 

As a Graduate Electronics Engineer, fresh out of university in 1999, the very first job I landed was a Sales Engineer to sell Non-Destructive Testing(NDT) Equipment.  The basics of NDT is sending Ultrasonic Waves through Materials to detect internal cracks and imminent failure. For example at an Oil Refinery,  If pieces of metals used to build pipelines had cracks beyond limits set by the Quality control departments, those pieces of metals will need to be either discarded or repaired.

Having equipped me with the training and the technical knowledge of NDT through various training courses and product demonstrations , My Team Leader decided that I was ready to start my foray into selling my very first Ultrasonic Flaw Detector.

For my very first field trip, He came along with me to meet the Quality Assurance Manager at a refinery with the agreement that he will be a silent spectator while I will be required to do the sales pitch. 

Walking into the refinery towards the QA Manager's office,  I noticed the following:-

  1. Pieces of metals and tubing in the plant
  2. People with protective clothing inspecting materials with equipment
  3. Some other Flaw Detectors similar to ours but of a different make and model, lying around
  4. Some other Electronic Machines lying around.

I then met the QA Manager , introduced ourselves  and this is what I did:-

  1. Showed all our Pamphlets of all our machines.
  2. Started comparing the technical features of our Flaw Detectors with his machines and said how our machine was superior to his.
  3. Described our after sales -service facilities , range of costs , How much warranty we gave, How big was our Service staff strength,  How long will the equipment take to arrive at his premises.
  4. Asked him how many flaw detectors he needed . He said that their department had no current budget and that they had enough for that financial year.
  5. Promised to send him a quotation for different models that we had so he could let us know if he wanted any at a future date.
  6. Agreed to show him a demonstration of our equipment and promised that he will like what I  show him.

We shook hands and took leave of our prospective client and I was replete with excitement. My team leader noticed my beaming face and said "good job" and decided to be quiet about it.

Back at the office , he called a private meeting with me and told me that I was trying to "Sell Ice to an Eskimo". When I looked puzzled , he asked me the following questions:-

  1. I had seen pieces of metals and tubing in the plant, did I ask the QA Manager what they were meant for?
  2. Did I try to understand the overall Quality Assurance function of the refinery and how and what portion of  NDT fit into it?
  3. I saw a competitor's flaw detector in the plant? Did I look curious and ask the QA Manager what he was using the existing equipment for? Did I ask him about what the other electronic equipment were meant for?
  4. Did I ask the QA Manager about his real requirements? that is, If he were to buy a flaw detector, what technical features was he looking for and what was he going to use it for? What were the pain-points not being addressed by his current equipment?  Whether he knew of other departments that may need the equipment? 
  5. Did I ascertain how their Department procures equipment? Open Tender? Private Sale? When is the next purchasing cycle? Is their budget for their department to buy something? Could he give an indication of what price range he was looking at? Was he the person that could influence buying or was there another person I really needed to talk to ?
  6. When I did not even establish If he was interested in buying, why would I wan't to give him a quotation? What if he just shows that to the competitor during a private sale negotiation and the competitor undercuts me?
  7. Why would I agree to show him a demonstration if I don't even know If he will buy it or how he is going to use it?
  8. Did I try to establish rapport with him? Did I listen more and talk less? Did I ascertain If he was happy with the current after sales support or was he expecting something more that we could provide?
  9. If I had asked him more questions, I may have found out about another bigger equipment that we could sell? May be he wanted an Industrial X-ray machine, a Magnetic Crack Detector

Long story short, My brilliant sales pitch was unlikely to get us the sale .

And when he saw me totally frozen from head to toe and feeling like an amoeba he said with a smile "Welcome to the world of sales my friend, Now that you know that you almost always deal with Eskimos in the sales world,  let me teach you how to sell Ice to them."

(image courtesy :- rgva.co.uk)

Posted on: May 18, 2017 07:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

The Local Coffee Shop - My Conversation Catalyst

(image courtesy :- www.linkedin.com )

 

The importance of a morning pick-me-up cannot be understated. Even after I shower and get ready for work , I am not really awake until that shot of Java hits my veins.

Lately I have been reading a lot of books on Emotional Intelligence and Conversational Intelligence on the tram on the way to work. Before I reach work, four days out of five, I do not have my caffeine fix.

While I am reading , the words seem like worms wriggling on the page and I tend to see myself reading the same paragraphs over and over again. Some of the examples and stories presented in the books are easy to understand, yet for the larger part of what I read, My pre-frontal cortex or the "sensible" part of my brain tells me that none of these messages about improving Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management are making sense. Still I persist with the book as I persisted with some of my course notes at University.

I get to my favorite coffee shop and I am greeted warmly by the same friendly barista. "Warm" ? where did I see that word last? Oh Yes, I was just reading "Conversational Intelligence" by Judith Glasser on the tram. What was the reference to warm? Ah ! yes, something about you feeling warm towards the other person when you have a warm drink in your hand ? Bang !!! there it is ! All makes sense.

And all of a sudden, I am talking to the barista about the weather, whether I will be having a busy day, did I do something exciting over the weekend . I have established trust with this person. What was that acronym again? Ah ! FORCES are at play ! Fairness Ownership Reciprocity Cooperation Expression Status . I see Fairness in the conversation, I can take ownership of this communication, I can reciprocate the other person's feelings, I can Cooperate with them, Express myself and feel high self esteem.I have ended up implementing some thoughts presented in this book.

At the same time , subconsciously I have found myself becoming more self aware of my inner thoughts . I have started deciding what I should or shouldn't feel .I am self managing myself by coming out of my shell and thinking about what I should and shouldn't say. I have started observing the body language of the barista and tailoring my relationship management skills to converse with them. Bang ! I have now also used tips from the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. If I can do this with the barista, who is pretty genial and jovial nine times out of ten, why can't I use the same with any person I interact with? " Is this a coffee or an elixir of life ? " I ask myself.

I then reach work and give a big broad smile to the first workmate I find either in the lift, in the corridor or in the office. I even greet everyone "warmly" in the office. In the few minutes between getting out of the tram and having a few sips of coffee, I have applied the principles of Conversational Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence and the local coffee shop has just become my conversation catalyst.

Posted on: May 15, 2017 08:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

How I learnt about Project Quality Management from Exercise regime

My colleagues in Quality Management or Project Management would know very well what a Fishbone Diagram is . Also known as the cause and effect diagram, It's one of the Quality Management tools to help map the various causes that lead to an effect or a problem.

Put simply, the effect or the problem is the head of a fish and the branches or the bones are the possible causes. Once you have put down all the causes, much like a mind map, you can more likely, find the critical causes, which you can eliminate to ultimately fix the problem.

At the gym, My personal trainer and I started noticing that my exercise form was deteriorating , especially at dead lifts and any exercise like squat which uses a bend-to-extend pattern. I used to frequently complain of back pain. It certainly did not mean that I was getting any weaker.

According to my trainer , my back was arching more and I was over-compensating and using my back to lift the weights more instead of the muscles that are supposed to aid in deadlifts , which are my glutes and my hamstrings.

He showed me the mirror , and pointed to an arch in my lumbar spine. It was an anterior pelvic tilt. It meant that I had tight Hip Flexors due to overuse. When I bend in a squat or a deadlift, the hip flexors resist because they are tight and do not allow me to maintain the good form. This consequently puts pressure on my back which tries to over-compensate , resulting in the back pain.

My exercise "Project" now had a few defects. I needed to zero down on the various causes through a Quality Management tool on my "Exercise" Project . What better tool to use than the Fishbone ? Going through the exercise of categorizing the causes and elaborating, I indeed came upon some causes.

 

One of them was sitting at an office desk for 8 hours. I have since shifted to a standing desk at work. My trainer and I have begun work on the tight hip flexors and have started releasing them using foam rollers and other techniques.

The biggest achievement - I have learnt to use a Quality Management tool on any Project !!

Posted on: May 10, 2017 01:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Strength Training for your mental muscles

Categories: Personal growth

Learning Fitness at the fitness academy has taught me that repeating the same exercises over and over again with the same weights and the same number of repetitions, every session for months together is not going to yield  noticeable improvements in hypertrophy or endurance . If anything, over-time your performance is going to plateau.

Yes , any exercise is good for the health after about 2 - 3 months you will notice that the monotony becomes boring and exhausting . Good Personal trainers, including the one I train with , understand this very well and incorporate techniques to avoid this monotony, into their training schedules.

Thus, I look forward to every single training session with great enthusiasm because,  I am faced with the challenge and excitement to provide the muscles of my body with an unknown stimulus . I can almost always expect that one of the following will happen:-

  • The  trainer will change the exercises
  •  He will increase or decrease the sets and reps 
  • The weights will be increased
  • Compound exercises involving different muscle groups will be incorporated
  • Innovative super-sets will be created 

 I know that the possibilities for stimulating the muscles for the rest of my body are endless. But I also recognize the fact, that the all important muscle that drives my career and my life , the Brain, also needs strength training .

I have found it very easy to get anxious, bored and frustrated if I try to do the same things, the same way, every single day at work and at life. Although I should not be making drastic changes to my life style, incremental changes, as I have found have done me a world of good. These changes might have been including a new hobby or  changing my ways of doing certain things.

The brain needs exercise as much as any muscle of your body .  Time for cliche No. 1 :- "You use it , or you lose it ". It needs stimulus, strength and conditioning . It needs the influx of innovative ideas, new challenges , new knowledge , new training and new skills.

Perhaps we all  can do some  of the following to keep this fine workhorse in top shape:-

  • Learn a new skill . for example playing the piano, it may unravel your hitherto hidden musical genius.
  • Find an alternative route to your work . Or beat the traffic by going to the dance -class or the gym class on the way.
  • Learn Latin dancing. Yes we all have left feet but we all can learn if we put our mind to it.  How about, I increase the level of embarrassment for some of my friends  even further and suggest dragging your partner with you. 
  • Join a local sports club. If nothing else, kick a soccer ball with your kids.
  • Get on the social media bandwagon. no better way to keep abreast with the latest news. Twitter, Facebook, linkedin, Pinterest...take your pick. Blog, comment, post something, encourage a conversation or a debate or join a debate online. Try to get your creative juices flowing.
  • Do the Sudoku or the crossword. Great way to stimulate the brain cells.
  • Do meditation or yoga . Flush out those bad thoughts, anxieties and ill-will and stabilize and calm your mind and your heart through mental catharsis.
  • Read ! Read ! Read. anything and everything. Even if you don't like a topic read the first paragraph just to get it's essence.
  • If you are a programmer, learn a new Programming language or up-skill yourself in what you know already. 
  • If you are a techie , learn the soft skills .
  • If you are a people leader, learn the technology. 
  • Ask your manager to train you in a new skill , or if you are the boss, enroll yourself into a training course that will benefit both you and the company you work at.
  • Travel to a new destination if you can. If you can't afford international travel, try going interstate. If not interstate, go intercity . If nothing else, Just go to a new street you have never been to and say hello to a stranger.
  • Try to gain horizontal skills through performing different roles in the company that you work at. 
  • Do some charity work or work out at a soup kitchen. nothing more fulfilling than helping the needy.

I wish I could do all of the above , but doing a lot of it has helped me immensely at work and in life.

In closing  Time for cliche N0. 2 . "I will pass this way but once, let me make the most of it ...."

Posted on: April 24, 2017 01:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Talk in terms of the other person's interests

Categories: Influencing

I was on the plane back from Brisbane to Melbourne and a very Business-like gentleman was seated next to me. He took out his massive Dell Laptop computer and his book " Leading Change" by John .P . Kotter.

I myself haven't read this book just yet but when this gentleman was sitting next to me I was reading Dale Carnegie's "How to win Friends and Influence People" on my Kindle and the topic I was on at that time was "Talk in terms of the other person's interest".

Instantly I was inspired to start a conversation with this stranger. I started off with a question " So what change are you leading today?"  With a broad smile, he started to explain that he acquired a company related with the State Fire Authority and he was about to bring in  changes in the way the firemen have been working with the same business model for 25-30 years. He is going to bring about improvements in efficiency and streamline the business process therein. I listened intently to him for 15-20 minutes as he spoke. He also spoke about different kinds of books that he read that taught him about business.

So Taking a leaf out of Dale Carnegie's principle on " Talk in terms of the other people's interest",  I had listened with great attention as the other person spoke about his interests, his accomplishments and his aspirations . I had made him feel important. I had respected the fact that he was a Leader and was undertaking a highly respectable task of introducing Change in a large organization. I had also respected his knowledge and erudition when he was speaking about the books that he had read.

After sometime, he started talking to me, asking me what I was doing and what my career aspirations were. I then talked about my job and expressed my interest in reading motivational books by authors like Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale and Anthony Robbins and how these are helping me in my current career. 

Without a lot of effort in my part , I had a decent and interesting conversation with this person . And either he saw something in me that told him that I was an aspiring leader or he was intending to share his success as a leader with me. Whatever the case may be, In parting , he highly recommended three books which I am going to read next , "Good to Great - By Jim Collins", "The First 90 Days - by  Michael Watkins"  and "The Goal -  by Eli Goldratt" apart from "Leading Change".

In short, The Principle "Talk in terms of the other person's interest" really worked for me and may impart me some valuable insights about leadership when I finish with the four books mentioned above. And who knows what other life gifts will be unraveled when I keep following this and the other principles suggested by Dale Carnegie?

Posted on: April 24, 2017 01:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)
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