When we meet someone for the first time a common ice-breaker is ‘What do you do’ and the answer is a description of what they do for a living ‘An engineer who works at Facebook’ or ‘A teacher at an elementary school’ and so on. I stuck to this script for the first four decades of my life as it seemed solid and reliable and I did not know better. The script changed temporally through the first four decades but it was the answering the same question “What do I do outside of home” – A student at REC Warangal, an engineer at Wipro, a Manager at Nokia, a Product Manager at Juniper ….- nothing you can really poke holes in but nothing that would raise an eyebrow either. And then as I crossed the 40 mark, it started to ring hollow to me. I needed something more jaw-dropping, something that would further balloon my ego, something that made me stand out and keep up with the Joneses. I learned about ‘branding’ and ‘establishing instant credibility’. It was all with a singular aim of defining the ‘Who’. A simple ‘Product Manager’ transformed into a ‘visionary business leader who can drive through ambiguity and inspire teammates’. #Sounds cool. So much so, I almost started believing that rhetoric.

And then over the course of the last two years, as the half-century mark starts to loom ahead, the feeling of inadequacy and incompleteness started gnawing at me. And without quite understanding what the problem was, I started seeking answers. (BTW, the topic of how you need to do more, discard a majority of it, and draw conclusions from the few that resonate is a topic for another day). I started stretching boundaries in search of solutions – even unconsciously. One such activity that started giving me satisfaction was mentoring. It wasn’t a premeditated focus area, rather an organically developed pastime. It could be advising budding entrepreneurs during lunch, connecting with random people at lunch at conferences and MeetUps with a view to learn and help, actively canvassing for friends in the job market. And over time it became my first pillar of the ‘Why’. #Pillar1. Being in the technology industry, there is the curse of jargon and disruption and innovation that can be (and is) very confusing. I started to revel in driving simplicity through examples and analogies to take complex topics and make them consumable. I knew I had something of a knack for this when my fellow VP of Engineering came to me one day and said that his wife finally ‘got’ what he did for a living after reading my blog post. #Wow. Since then it has become a mission to write with a vengeance to simplify and demystify via a variety of online publications. #Pillar2 Another funny transformation happened as my penchant for turning complex topics into memorable write-ups started to take root outside of work as well. That of taking mundane (and sometimes not so mundane) activities – walking the dog, United pilot’s pre-flight message, 25th college reunion … – and drawing meaning and life lessons from that to educate and evolve us into better human beings – enrichment. #Pillar3.

That’s it. That’s my ‘Why’. – Connecting people, Demystifying complexity and Enriching (the) mundane. All with the purpose of making us better human beings. That’s my mission statement. And it took me almost 5 decades to get there.

I am done – JK – not even close. Why? Because I am always seeking to expand beyond the current definition of ‘Connecting’, ‘Demystifying’ and ‘Enriching’. As an example, as I started venturing beyond the landscaped roads of Sand Hill Road and the cafe lattes of University Avenue in search of connecting with ‘more people’ for my #Pillar 1 – the homeless of Silicon Valley exploded in my face this summer, and what an awakening that was. Ditto last year, a 2nd grader at an elementary school needing after-school tutoring expanded my definition of ‘connection’. More on both of those later. For now – these pillars keep me grounded and I am can answer with precision if “I had a good day”? How? Simple. If I touched all these pillars – it’s a great day, if not – it sucked. What’s your definition of a good day?



    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.