Have you caught yourself staring at the milk carton or the salad mix in your refrigerator searching for that elusive expiration date? Or maybe if you are like me, once you have detected that impossibly minute imprint, you have to engage in the gymnastic hand stretch (hey, just found another use for the selfie stick) to get the aging retina into focus! And then make that critical decision. To consume or discard?

Now imagine you are the milk carton (hang in there, I promise this will make perfect sense soon) and the consumer making that decision “to be or not to be” is your employer? But, unlike the milk carton there isn’t any obvious “best before” date imprinted on you (if there is, well Houston you have a different problem).  Yet the decision for a promotion or a bonus or that ugly layoff is based on these very criteria. Ditto for a hiring manager who is looking at your resume and figuring out your best date to justify a go / no-go.

So, where am I going with this? We all have a “best before” date that the beholder sees. And it may not even be consistent across business decision makers. But it is there nevertheless. She, complete with all her biases, is making this decision unbeknownst to us. And just like the hapless milk carton, we are at her mercy. Or are we? What if can regain control and maybe transform ourselves from milk (or salad) to say wine. Getting better with every passing day.

The better after expedition. Can it even be done? #YouBetcha

But in order to do that, you need to transform your thinking and think outside the carton. Here are my tips (promise they worked for me, embrace them they will work for you too!)

  1. Gather feedback consistently and constantly – No – not those inane 1:1 with your manager where each of you cringe when the calendar reminder hits! No – use the Start, Stop, Continue questioning with your colleagues (heck reach out to ex-colleagues too!). What is working – Continue on, What is a total blind spot – Start now and What you should cease and desist immediately – Stop please. #ActNow
  • Build social proof – Try this out for fun. Do a Google Search on yourself (or putting my tech ethicist hat on do a DuckDuckGo search instead). Do you show up on this first page? The second? The results may be a wake-up call for you! Why is this important? Because if your resume claims you to be a prolific speaker at industry events, this would be the first thing I would do to validate that. The journey to get from who you really are to who you think you are is undoubtedly hard. Hey – I am living proof. An entire folder of rejection emails for my writing, speaking, singing (did I say that I try everything). It is only in the past couple of years the wheels have started spinning.
  • Network with a twist – While there are books and HBR articles and TED talks on the power of professional networking, I personally think that networking to give unselfishly rather than take for a personal agenda sets you apart. And giving with no expectations in return. Sounds idealistic and harebrained even? Trust me on this. I have been on every which side. Taking. Dealing with takers. Inspired by givers. And finally – with all sort of misgivings initially – becoming a giver. I tell you, for instance the feeling is unsurpassed when you connect two people that you believe would benefit from a professional association and you see sparks flying.  

That’s it. Learn about yourself, Align perception with reality, Connect others. And see your Best Before fade into nothingness as the Better After takes command.



    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.