I can never forget the weekend of Jan 27, 2018. Flew cross-country from SFO to JFK late Friday evening and landed at 3 am and by the time I hit the sack it was close to 4 am. And hit the ground running at 8 am. And what followed over the course of the next two days was nothing short of a miraculous experience. Enjoyed deep and candid conversations exposing my most vulnerable self with perfect strangers and they did the same and by the time Sunday evening rolled around, we had become a tight-knit group of folks from all walks of lives – co-founders of tech unicorns, marketing geniuses, authors, keynote speakers, CEOs, young millennials running amazing non-profits – but everyone had one thing in common – the innate desire to help others, listen and learn. I will not break the suspense about who or why organized #MOTM (save that for a later date). This blog focuses on one small act after the workshop ended that still has me scratching my head.
On my return flight late Sunday evening back to SFO, as I was ‘flying the friendly skies’, I had this desire to cement my already strong bonds with the folks at the workshop. And while the world around me slept, I took to pen and paper. I wrote a note to every single individual at that workshop and then took a digital snap of every note and emailed the same mid-flight. And then went to sleep (if you can call that body position of unnatural squirm with a head twirl that would make a ballerina blush)
And then the responses started to come in beginning Monday. “Wow – no one has ever done anything like this”, “Was so great receiving your note”, ‘Have seen people sending thank you notes via snail mail OR emails or texts- combining both is a first”.
And that set me thinking. Why did this trigger a response (I had half-expected it would cause an eyebrow raise but not this degree of vocalization of thoughts)? And I think I may have hunch
1. In this world of rapid retweets and mindless shares, maybe the thought of someone actually stopping and doing something slow and deliberate with purpose may have shocked some
2. Maybe a subconscious recognition of the fact that I could not have ‘copied and pasted’ my way through these notes and the fact that I spent time individually addressing them caused an involuntary empathetic reaction
3. With reply bots tempting us to click on prefabricated responses like ‘I love it’, “Sounds good’, ‘Take care’ to any email, IM or chat, a handwritten note (barely decipherable I may add) unsolicited and personal may have gotten through to their inner self.
Enough of that. All I know is that on the flight back I knew I had an inexplicable desire to do this – however much the thought of writing with poor lighting with pretzels in the Economy section was very daunting. And a sore hand at the end of two hours which was spent thinking and putting pen to paper and highlighting a unique attribute of each of my interactions was a gratifying feeling amplified by the responses I got from my fellow attendees. Am I going to do more of this? Absolutely. But this is a very small gesture. We should all be thinking of how best to use technology with the unique human touch that leaves us more connected and less ‘mindlessly liked’.



    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.