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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.

Crossing the line and making me proud

15th November 2018: For the first time in 2.5 months, my 20 month old crossed the line. She crossed this thick maroon line, which qualifies as the rock border of the sandpit made for the toddlers to play in her play school. I call it a play school – for no better word to describe the place for which it’s known – but in my words every play school is a school to teach parents – how to live and live happily.

Today, when my daughter crossed the line and stepped into the sandpit for the first time in 2.5 months, I remembered the first day in the school, when she went near the sandpit, used the frames in the pit to pour sand on the maroon surface outside the sandpit, but refused to go inside on my two attempts. Although, the mother in me really wanted to see her enjoying the sandpit from the inside, I reminded myself that I had decided I will not force her for anything and thus, we continued to play standing at the edge of the sandpit when other kids played inside the sandpit.

Each day for the last 2.5 months, after playing at the edge, she hinted towards the small brooms kept around the corner and cleant the surface that got dirty around the sandpit. I still enjoy the sight of seeing her clean the area with that small brown broom. Today, when she played inside the sandpit, there was no chance of sand spilling outside the sandpit, but as we say, ‘humans are creatures of habit’, she wanted to still clean the outside surface. So, after coming out of the sandpit, she took some sand from the sandpit and poured it intentionally on the surface, asked me (in her own words and hints) for the broom and then cleant it. I kept smiling as I watched her cleaning it so sincerely.

Half an hour back, my little angel was trying to pose like a camel in her baby gym session but after multiple attempts, she decided to walk like a dog on the mat. That moment, I was not tempted to reinstate to her to walk like a camel as I remembered how last evening, she showed us all at home, with perfection – ‘how crocodile snaps’. On many days, she does not follow the crowd or the teacher in the class, but at home, she does exactly as she was told to do in the class.

Everyday when she dances on the nursery rhymes at home, thanks to my Google Home – it takes 5 seconds to help her start dancing, when I command – “Ok, Google. Play Popular Nursery Rhymes”, I feel that those 45 minutes of music session at the school three times a week does wonders to her confidence level. When a friend asked me how does music help a child’s growth. I remembered the saying, ‘Music Is Mathematical’ and then I remembered how I could talk so much about the ‘Bachelors in Mathematics and Music’ course at University of Leeds in the United Kingdom to the students who come to me for overseas education counselling.

As a mother, I am waiting for my daughter to do the perfect camel walk much like the perfection of how she snapped like a crocodile. But, I have learnt that the way to get her there is not to have my expectations high of her, but by ensuring that her expectations from me are high. I need to hone my skills as a parent every day and give her an environment which helps her learn by being the role model to her – by showing her the perfect camel walk every day when she dances with me on the tunes of nursery rhymes, rather than standing on the side and telling her how to do the perfect camel walk. Now, I understand the parenting theory that I read somewhere in one of the 200 books that occupy good amount of space in my cozy home overlooking the beautiful Arabian Sea – “Showing Works, Telling Does not Work’.

I am an overseas education consultant

24th June 2009 – I had received my first contract from a university to represent them in India and recruit students from the country with is set to become the world’s youngest country.  I am glad that I have done justice to the confidence that the university showed in me by giving me the first contract and help me bail out of the ‘chicken and the egg situation’ where most universities ask for references of other universities to give the contract. It’s about a decade since then and we are going strong with my first represented university and with many more which followed afterwards.

Today, I have a long list of the universities that I represent and together with that every year I have a long list of students who went to the universities which I did not represent. This is because I thought it was fair to ask the students and the parents to pay a fee for consulting for the universities which I do not represent or for any value addition that we could provide at a cost.

In the decade, I have been to many universities that I represented and I have been to the universities which I do not represent. My interactions with students and professors at represented universities in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Dubai or Singapore has been as insightful as with non represented universities like Harvard, Stanford or Yale.

When I consult for a represented university, I have an insider view of the institution from the admissions team; but when I consult for a non represented university, I work towards getting an insider view from the students and professors. My presence at ‘The Future of Work Conference by Harvard Business School’ brought a better understanding of what Harvard University expects from its students, applicants and alumni. Similarly, my presence in the international seminar conducted my Mr. Rob Brown (I can certainly call him the Yoda of international education industry) brought me closer to the expectations of the students from the international universities.

It has been a decade of me serving the world on the mission of helping students realise their study abroad goals and I feel I have something new to learn every single day from the universities and from my students. Being a life long learner could not have been easier in any other role for sure.