Harvard University Conference

A day well spent at Harvard Business School’s conference on “The Future of Work”

21st September 2018, 945am – I entered the Crystal Room at the Taj Mahal Palace with the maroon and white (Harvard colour code of course) batch which was handed over to me at the registration desk with my name printed on it. Yes, that’s the precision with which HBS works – since it was an invite only event – every delegate has a batch with their names. The other badges given in the same room included Sanjiv Mehta – Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Unilever, Piyush Mehta – Chief HR officer of Genpact, Anu Margavkar – Partner at McKinsey Global Institute and Paul Roehrig – Chief Strategy officer at Cognizant Digital Business.

As I took my seat and heard Joseph B Fuller (Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School) talking about fourth industrial revolution, I remembered so many parents asking me in the last ten years of my career as an education consultant tell prime question i.e. what type of education will get my child a good job. Jospeh answered it in one line – in the fourth industrial revolution – those people will get a job, rest aside a good job – who can deal with uncertainties. Later in the coffee break, I had a chance of a one to one discussion with Joseph on what will get students to follow their passion and find a career or a job in an area where they are passionate about. He reasoned it out beautifully by saying the first thing that they need is the support of the people they love – it could be their significant other, parent or friends. We both agreed to take this conversation on a video call in four weeks from now – so stay tuned to my blog for that conversation to come.

The next interesting dialogue on stage was moderated by Rekha M Menon – Chairman and Senior Managing Director at Accenture in India. I was impressed with the simplicity of presentation given by Paul Roehrig where he described how artificial intelligence is changing the world at a rapid speed. In the same discussion when Dr Ganesh Natrajan spoke about love and inclusion at workplace to increase opportunities for women – I agreed with him so much that I sought an opportunity to ask Paul if AI can be used to ensure inclusion at workplace. Paul s simple answer was may be ‘not at the moment’ and I agreed as I have heard so many times AI might not be high on EQ at least for some time after the world understands and accepts that “ ai is the new electricity” – as quoted in today’s conference.

The next one hour went as if it was a few minutes as Shalaka Joshi (Gender Lead for South Asia at International Financial Corporation – IFC is the investment arm of World Bank) moderated a healthy discussion on women’s advancement through entrepreneurship in India. Shalaka is one of the most enthusiastic person’s I have ever met on conferences and I am so looking forward to meet her again and her 2 IFC colleagues – Roshika (Roshika is an Economist and a loving mom – this I know because of a small yet candid conversation off the stage) and Lopa (Lopa can probably tell you the names of 100 women directors on the board of Indian public companies – as she works in the corporate governance sector). Look forward to my post on my next meeting with this bunch of inspiring women from IFC on 10th October 2018. Thanks Lopa for inviting me to the next IFC conference.

And now coming to my favourite presentation from today. Deborah Quazzo – Managing Partner of GSV AccelerTE presented in a way that was mesmerising – her presentation was truly engaging and I could not put my eyes off the stage even for a minute. To know more about the presentation – stay tuned as Deborah happily shared her presentation with me and I am looking forward to share some more insights with you all after having the privilege of joining Deborah for dinner today where I will have all the time to focus on learning from her incredible journey of graduating out of Princeton University in 1982 ( I was not even born then!) and then an MBA from Harvard University and being on the boards of a long list of eminent companies. Time to join Deborah for dinner – Yes, we are a doing an early dinner as per Indian time – but just to tell you that it’s Deborah’s first visit to India and I don’t want to tell her that Indians have dinner earliest at 8pm and not 6.30pm.

Leave a Reply