For context, my previous blog on David Lopez is here for your ready reference. Even if you shudder at the thought of link clicking, I promise that you can still follow along even if you don’t take the bait. David Lopez is the barber that I lucked into discovering about a year or so ago. For those of you who have had the good fortune of seeing me in person (modesty has never been my middle name), maybe the thought of me needing a barber might sound a little far-fetched. Banish such thoughts please as there are pearls of wisdom embedded here than worrying about my comb-over style on a shiny pate.

Today was my “visit Mr. Lopez day”. When I got there, there were no customers – he was having fruit while two of his comrades were idling away. He saw me and ushered me in immediately and proceeded to ask me detailed questions about what I wanted to be done. Yes – while there is not much room for innovation with my hairdo, he still wanted to know if my preferences had changed before plunging headlong into the hirsute experience. Mid-way through our journey, there was a phone call that came on the landline (yes, they still had a wall phone and that old worldly charm has an aura of its own) and he jumped to get it and judging by his response I surmised that the client was asking for him by name and David offered the other barbers who could attend to him but apparently that would not suffice for that customer so David gave him an appointment a couple of hours later. While I was being attended to, two clients had queued up – both explicitly stating their need for David’s services and no one else’s. While David realized that he had customers waiting, I never once felt that he was cutting corners or hastening our engagement. He gave me his complete and undivided attention even as his patient customers fiddled with their iPhones. At the end of it, I came away elated as always.

As I was driving home, it hit me that I had just witnessed something that had real analogies to our business world. Understanding the customer problem, respecting your colleagues, treat every customer as if they were your only customer in the world.

Understanding the customer problem: Even though I was a regular, David did not take anything for granted. From memory, he rattled off what I had requested in my previous visit, verified whether it would meet my expectations today, made a few suggestions and then once we had our battle plans laid forth, he dug in. How many times have we erroneously (I raise my hand first) assumed we understood our customer and take our limited knowledge as the truth? The customers’ world could have changed since I last met them and unless I ask I will never know and I may end up solving a non-existent problem. #DontAssumeAskFirst

Respecting your colleagues: It felt somewhat awkward watching all his colleagues idling away while David toiled away and customer after customer came and asked for David and chose to wait than have someone else pamper them. David was completely at ease joking and chatting with his customers and his colleagues. He made a sincere effort to steer his client on the phone towards one of his colleagues and only when he realized that they were unrelenting did he accept them. Many a time at work, have we not seen a gifted engineer or a top performing salesperson treat everyone around like jerks. Because they have a higher IQ or a knack for closing the sale doesn’t give them the right to treat their colleagues as lesser human beings. #EmpathyFirstGeniusCanWait

My undivided attention to the only customer in the world – you: If you were part of an incubator or as a solo entrepreneur, you know what it feels like to get your first paying customer. Do you remember treating her like a queen and listening to her every request, complaint and comment with rapt attention? And then as you got your second, third, 100th customer, your attention span and dedication started getting compromised. Multi-tasking and pretending to listen to one while dealing with another’s crisis and recruiting a third – all part of a day’s job. Not for David. One customer at a time. And the others were willing to wait. Why? Because they knew when their time came they would be given the royal treatment as well. And it was worth it. #DoOneThingDoItRight

That’s it – my pearls of wisdom as I promised. I am waging a lonely battle to keep my thinning hair from giving up on me completely so I continue to have an excuse to visit David and see excellence and empathy in action. Your good wishes will go a long way. Adios!



    Empathy, Education, Empowerment

    Mine is a typical Indian immigrant story: an Engineer who became an Engineering Manager, who grew antsy and segued into Product Management then rose to VP and SVP. During those years I fancied I was innovating and experimenting, but in reality I was wearing a corporate straitjacket. Constrained by my industry’s insular mindset, I became a slave to the definition of my job. Inevitably, I ended up dissatisfied. So, I did something unusual for a man in my position: I stopped to reflect. I searched my life and talents for what was fulfilling and had purpose. I discovered I enjoyed storytelling to promote understanding. I loved mentoring and helping people become the best version of themselves. Importantly, I realized I was still passionate about the tech industry, particularly the issues surrounding privacy and ethics. Today, I’m pursuing my passions. I like to think of myself as an accelerator of technology and positivity. I’m the COO of UberKnowledge, bringing cybersecurity awareness and training to demographics that are underrepresented in the industry. I speak at conferences highlighting the need for a sharper focus on the ethics surrounding the technology industry.  I write articles and blog posts using analogy to simplify technology trends and complex topics like AI and IoT. I host podcasts with CISOs and other industry experts. The purpose of these is not to sell snake oil or products but to bridge the chasm between security vendors and customers so that the real problems can be solved to make the world a safer place. Underpinning all of these efforts is my belief that life’s purpose for us all is simply to connect. And the best way to do that is through generous and positive gestures.