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Ask The Doctor with Sandeep Goyal

30-October-2017
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Ask The Doctor with Sandeep Goyal

Dear Sir,
Do you give advice to mid-career professionals too? They need more wisdom and hand-holding in this fast disrupting world! My question is with telecom reduced to a three-horse race from earlier nine what do thousands of laid-off career telecom professionals do?
S. S.

Dear S. S.,
I try to help everyone I can, irrespective of whether they are at the beginning of their career, or mid-career, or even verging on retirement. Anyone who needs hand-holding can reach out to me, and I will do my best to help with meaningful advice.
Telecom was the star industry for nearly a decade-and-a-half. It attracted some good minds, offered fulfilling careers and paid well. Unfortunately, the consolidation in the industry has impacted thousands of professionals. Sad. There is no universal answer to the current woes of those who have been hit by the telecom lay-offs. But let us address different sets of professionals separately.
Let us take those with a tech or techno-commercial background. Those with a technical background now have opportunities opening up in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and in IoT (Internet of Things). Thousands of jobs are likely to open up in these new domains. But the problem is that most telecom professionals continue to think of themselves as ‘telecom’ specialists and aren’t doing much to learn the skills required for AI or IoT. There is no doubt about the fact that soon the demand for professionals trained in Artificial Intelligence would outrun supply. Though there is some overlap of AI with analytics, a proficient AI professional would need to have deep knowledge on areas like computer vision, NLP, robotics and machine learning. There are at least 10 world-class courses that could re-skill technical telecom professionals and give them a renewed lease professionally:

Ø KU Leuven – Master of Artificial Intelligence
Ø Polytechnic University of Catalonia – Master in Artificial Intelligence
Ø Radboud University – Master’s programme in Artificial Intelligence
Ø University of Amsterdam – Master’s programme in Artificial Intelligence
Ø University of Edinburgh – MSc in Artificial Intelligence
Ø University of Georgia – MS in Artificial Intelligence
Ø University of Groningen – MSc in Artificial Intelligence
Ø University of Sheffield – MSc Computational Intelligence and Robotics
Ø University of Southampton – MSc Artificial Intelligence
Ø Utrecht University – MSc in Artificial Intelligence

Most of these are full-time two-year programs. It may look difficult to get out, and expensive, but those desiring to re-invent themselves really have no choice. The good news is that a graduate of a good Artificial Intelligence program will have a solid understanding of the logical, philosophical and cognitive foundations of AI research. Such programs provide a good overview of the main AI techniques and an in-depth understanding of how to apply these techniques in at least one of the areas within multi-agent systems, reasoning, or cognitive processing. In addition, any such program will help gain the skills to carry out AI research in academic or R&D environments and to identify how AI techniques can provide intelligent solutions to IT problems in companies and organisations. Future employers will love these skill sets.

SP Jain in Mumbai offers a 9-month weekend professional program solely dedicated to machine learning. In India, that is your best option. For IoT too, there are many courses on offer too and can be easily checked out on the net.
Of course, there are over 2000 Coursera options available online for those not wanting to actually rejoin fulltime classes. These are useful but for re-establishing a new career they may actually not entirely help.

A friend of mine at a pretty senior level at a telco in supply-chain/commercial whose company has been on the verge of a merger and whose job is most likely threatened, enrolled for a course in Analytics at Great Lakes (Delhi campus). The course involves a lot of hard work and lots of studies outside his work hours but he is already inundated with job offers. Based on his experience and learnings, this friend recommended the following courses in analytics:

Ø PGP in Business Analytics & Business Intelligence – Great Lakes Institute of Management
Ø Business Analytics and Intelligence – Indian Institute of Management (IIM B)
Ø Postgraduate Diploma in Business Analytics (PGDBA) – IIM Calcutta, ISI Kolkata, IIT Kharagpur (Tri-institute program)
Ø Certificate program in Predictive Business Analytics – BRIDGE School of Management
Ø Executive Program in Business Analytics – MISB Bocconi and Jigsaw Academy
Ø Post Graduate Program in Business Analytics – Praxis Business School
Ø Post Graduate Program in Data Science, Business Analytics and Big Data (PGP-DS-BA-BigData) – Aegis School of Business, Data Science & Telecommunication
Ø Certificate Program in Business Analytics – Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Bangalore
Ø PG Diploma Program in Data Analytics – IIIT Bangalore & UpGrad
Ø Business Intelligence and Big Data – IMT Ghaziabad

The most important step in re-establishing yourself is to understand and appreciate that the learnings of your past job may not be sufficient to take you very far in the changed environment. Re-skilling and re-tooling is necessary. Shying away from that inevitability is not going to help. Going back to the classroom and an honest attempt to embellish educational qualifications is a necessity.

AI, IoT and Analytics are just some of the new avenues that can easily absorb all those who have suffered job losses in the telecom turmoil. Those opting to learn more and specialize in Analytics can look forward to lucrative opportunities in e-commerce, big data and a whole lot of openings across fin-tech, banking, ITES and more.
Self-pity is the biggest enemy of self-help. I know that getting back to a classroom when you are in your late 30s or worse mid-40s with a family and perhaps college-going kids is not easy. But then nothing in life is easy. A job layoff cannot be the end of life. Working at a sub-optimal job too is not an easy option for the rest of your life. Going back to class may eventually be the better option, and easily provide a springboard for newer beginnings.

Dear Sir,
I am not making much headway in the agency that I work for. I have been here for five years without any new learning or exposure. Based out of Pune, ours is a small creative set-up with a total of 18 people, small clients and numerous low-value ad-hoc projects. I find everything constraining. Minds are small and ambitions are also small. I feel claustrophobic. My job description entails being jack-of-all-trades. I don’t do creative but I handle clients and media coordination, print-jobs, events, PR and sometimes admin too. I also don’t have any formal qualifications beyond my graduate degree in Arts.


Help me get out of this.

-Jaideep Bhandarkar


A. Dear Jaideep,

I think your first problem is location. Pune is not really the hub of advertising. Except for a few large clients like Bajaj, Mercedes, Suzlon, Force Motors and some others, there is a dearth of brands in Pune. Most of the work local agencies do is either for real estate or retail. Therefore, the market and the talent pool is small. Even the big clients prefer to get their work done from Mumbai.

If you are mobile, my first advice to you is to move out of Pune. It may not be easy to do so, both personally and professionally. But for the sake of your career and your future, this is necessary. Mumbai will offer you more opportunities at larger agencies which have better clients and offer a larger canvas of work, learning and exposure.

Finding a job in Mumbai can be both easy and tough. There are many head-hunters in Mumbai. You need to reach out to them rather than blindly apply through job sites, as ad agencies normally do not list on the likes of Naukri.com or Monster. The other way to connect with the right agency in Mumbai is through networking. Do you have friends/contacts who could get you to access a good agency in Mumbai?

Being a jack-of-all-trades is both good and bad. So, it depends on how you handle it in your CV. I would suggest, make a virtue of all-around exposure and experience. Write a good CV. Pick assignments from your work that involved some thinking of sorts, and also highlight jobs that involved intense operational involvement. Stress your ability to put in hard work. Stress that you are a good team player. Stress on your strengths (an eye for detail, for example?)

Moving to Mumbai will be not easy. But if you want to change gears professionally, it may be your best option.

Dear Sir,

I want to go abroad to do an MBA but can’t really make up my mind about where to start. I have been working for eight years now. I am reasonably senior in my company. I am married and we had our first child earlier this year. I really don’t want to give up my job and my salary. Will doing an MBA in India itself be as good? Are executive MBAs of any value? Will my company give me study leave and take me back after the MBA? I am afraid to ask as they may think I am quitting and start looking for a replacement. I am really very confused.

-Bhaskar Dev

A. Dear Bhaskar,

I have read your question more than once to understand the issue that you want to be addressed. My understanding is that you have been working for eight years and now feel stagnant. For that, you think you need a better qualification to propel your career to a higher level. But you are not sure whether that better qualification (an MBA) should be done in India (full time? executive/part-time?) and how your employers will react to a request for study leave. Broadly, this is my understanding of your situation and question.

First and foremost, there is nothing wrong in seeking better academic qualifications and no good organization will frown on any employee wanting to do that.

But before you embark on a journey to do an MBA, ask yourself how and where the new degree will help. Lots of youngsters like you end up doing an MBA for all the wrong reasons. Why I say that is because very few management schools offer placement opportunities that are right for students with experience, especially 8-10 years. Most job placements are an entry to junior levels.

Also, just doing an MBA is not enough. For an MBA, your school and its prestige matter. Hence, I will answer two parts of your question together by saying that if you want a career boost of the serious kind, prepare for the GMAT or the CAT and do a good quality MBA either from a good B-school overseas or a top school in India. Just doing an MBA for the sake of it may not help. If you wish to pursue an executive MBA, don’t aim for anything less than ISB. Gone are the days when just any MBA would open up opportunities for success. Today the worst time and money wasted is on a poor-quality MBA from an unknown business school. Completely avoid that option.

Dear Sir,

I received a job offer from a television company. Both the title and the money are better but my current employer is well-reputed and is a larger company. I have been in this job for three years now. I was not really looking for a new assignment but a former colleague got his boss to get in touch with me. I am tempted by the change and the money but do not want to lose the prestige of working for my current company. My fiancée says I should stay where I am but all my colleagues (with whom I have discussed this offer) suggest otherwise. I have to decide as soon as possible.

-Mukul

A. Dear Mukul,

I like your fiancée. She is wise.

In work life, you will receive many offers from potential employers if you are good at your work. Such offers should naturally make you happy but not distract you from your work. To me, you seem to be in a good job, in a good company with no real reason to leave because you’re not facing either dissatisfaction with your current job or any other active irritant.

Along comes this offer, courtesy an ex-colleague and you are consumed by dissonance.

My advice is to stay put. External attractions will come and go. A good, steady, satisfying job in a prestigious organization is something many others would die for. Good years spent at an organization of repute add great value to a CV besides being a good learning experience. If you are really good at what you do, such offers will keep coming at regular intervals. When I was younger, I would use such job offers to evaluate how well I was doing professionally. It was almost like what an employer would pay for me at an auction. The higher the offer, the better I would feel. Once in a while, because I had a good equation with my boss, I would show the offer to him too. I am sure it helped in my next appraisal!

I am principally against ‘trading-down’ to work at lesser-known organisations especially at the beginning of your career. It never helps. As for your colleagues advising you to leave, think about it, they will be the biggest beneficiaries from your exit. If you are a good performer, your exit means one lesser guy internally to compete with.

Dear Sir,
Thank you for giving advice to young professionals.
I am a designer. I trained at NID and joined a big ad agency two years ago in Mumbai. But I did not like the work and quit after 6 months. Then I joined a small design house started by NID alumni. Again, I did not like the work and quit after 6 months. This pattern has got repeated 4 times-now_1213.html">times now. I am feeling very frustrated and cannot focus on either work or personal life because of all the uncertainty. My friends provide different advice, most of which is not practical. I don’t want to become a freelancer. It is very difficult to find good work and clients don’t pay. I also think it will be very lonely.
Please help me on how to find a stable job and how to handle the boredom that I feel after a few months in the assignment. I want to focus and settle down but the work is very monotonous and has no challenge which puts me off.
Pooja Sehgal

Dear Pooja,
Being an NID trained designer, puts you in the topmost bracket of professionals in the business. Best-in-class. Your NID badge and your narrative, however, also tells me that you are a typical example of your tribe: incredibly bright, but also equally restless. I think brilliance and boredom reside together as bedfellows.
Your first requirement is to sit down just by yourself, take a piece of paper, get yourself a pen, and spend a couple of hours just writing down 1. What makes me happy? 2. What makes me unhappy? It looks like an easy exercise but believe you me, it is a tough exercise. If you do not make enough headway in the first attempt, do it again and again till you yourself are satisfied that you have answered the two questions above honestly and rigorously. This is the first step to self discovery and self motivation.
Once you know what makes you happy, it will be easier to seek happiness, and satisfaction, and fulfillment. Similarly once you know what makes you unhappy, it is easier to avoid everything that is dull, boring and uninspiring. This is really a mind game. And you have to play it alone. It is also the best way to visit all assumptions and all suppositions. And tick or cross the boxes. For most of us this simple process of self questioning is a difficult one to start, but once you get into the rhythm, you find the relevant answers.
I have a lot of friends from your alma mater. I have always admired their talent and independence of thought. But NID in many ways creates a culture where every designer learns from the very beginning that no two creative persons are alike. Hence, there is individualism, and there is intellect. Both of them are potent ingredients for a sense of ‘been-there-done-that’. So, there is this constant desire, in fact pursuit, of newer challenges. This is both good and bad. Because in real life, repetition and mundane realities are more the norm than the exception.
Make up your mind on whether you want a pay cheque every month. Or you want a cerebral high every day. Both of them may not co-exist. A salaried job in a normal ad-agency will mean doing some ordinary stuff every day. Day after day. That is the nature of the beast. Freelancing can allow you to pick assignments. Interesting assignments. But the moneys are likely to be irregular. The choice is yours. My recommendation is to try the independent freelance route for a couple of years. You could well end up starting a design house of your own. It does not have to be in advertising alone. One of my NID friends makes to-die-for 60s furniture. Another specialises in paper bags. One I met recently just makes the most exotic Chanderi sarees. Go where your heart takes you.
A stable job, as you put it above, can surely be got but then you will have to tame your restlessness and be satisfied by the normal flow of an agency job: every ad you do cannot win you a Cannes award. Once you make peace with yourself on that, the tedium of daily routine stops bothering you.
Pooja: do what you do without fear. It will allow you to do what you do best. That is the only formula to success. And happiness.

Dear Sir,
I'm a consultant with a varied set of skills - taking on book research assignments, social media management, PR and marketing consulting work. I'd like to know how I should choose my clients and area of expertise so I build skills in an area that's going to be in demand 10 years from now.
Nikita Rana


Dear Nikita,
You have an interesting range of skills. If I were you, I would spend more time learning social media. Actually, most people do not realize that social media is actually two words … social and media. The social component is about understanding trends and nuances of a lot of active streams like sociology, anthropology, economics, political science and even politics. A deep understanding of what is being said, why it is being said, where are the stimuli coming from, what is being impacted and who is saying what to who is just not being sufficiently understood or calibrated today. The media component of social media is pure maths. Pure analytics of a mountain of big data that opens up to infinite analysis and mapping. In India very few people actually have the skill set to do justice to both components of social media. Master both the components, hone your skills and learn to apply them to real life situations, and you have a winner of a career for the next 10 years at least.
I am not getting into the tools and tricks of the job. Just pointing your nose in the right direction. But, as I said before, learn both social and media. A holistic understanding of the subject, and mastering it, will make you a respectable consultant client.

Dear Mr Goyal,
I want to become a big name in world of advertising. Famous like Alyque and Prasoon. My problem is that I am from a not so famous management institute. I have also only worked in not so famous small advertising agencies. I am from a small town in UP. I am now 32. I have done various jobs in client servicing, media operations and even film making. Should I join an advertising course like MICA? Where should I start to re-engineer my career?
Vivek Malhotra


Dear Vivek,
If memory serves me right, Prasoon Joshi is a BSc in Physics, and an MBA from IMT Ghaziabad. But neither his science degree, nor the fact that he is not from an IIM has kept Prasoon from soaring to dizzy heights either in professional life, or outside it. Today he is Chairman of McCann Erickson, the global ad agency, and the Chairman of the Censor Board. And he is a famed lyricist and screen-writer.
The learning and inspiration from Prasoon has to be that whatever you do, be the best in class. Prasoon despite his MBA degree, very early in his career moved to becoming a copy writer. He had at the early age of 17 written and published a book Main Aur Woh, a 'conversation with himself', inspired by Frederich Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra. Prasoon therefore leveraged his talent and skill in writing professionally to focus on copy-writing rather than pursue a career in client-servicing just because he was an MBA. So, essential thing is to know, and choose, what you are best at.
As far as becoming famous is concerned, winning accolades at work and outside it, is essential. Both Prasoon and Alyque are highly decorated creative directors with loads and loads of awards both nationally and internationally. But equally importantly, Prasoon and Alyque are famous for what they have achieved outside advertising. Alyque in theater; Prasoon in films and music.
For you my advice is not to go do a course at MICA. Just passing out from a good institute is not enough. You need to choose now what you want to do: servicing or media or films? Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra was a junior client servicing executive in a small ad agency in Delhi. He decided that his true calling was films. He started with ad films. Went onto create Bollywood blockbusters. Dinesh Khanna was a reasonably senior servicing executive 25 years ago. Good but perhaps not the best. He switched to photography. Today he is one of the best in the profession. So, you need to 1. Choose well 2. Work hard 3. Excel and achieve.
All the best!

Dear Mr Goyal,
I read your bio-data on the net. You are from Chandigarh. I am also running a small advertisement company there handling local clients including bank branches and government organisations. I started this business 12 years ago. Today, with a staff of 12 people we have turnover of Rs 1 crore. I want my agency to partner with a national or an international agency to handle regional requirements of bigger clients in north India. But I don’t have contacts in big agencies. I have written earlier to agencies like JWT and Lintas but without success. I even came to Mumbai looking for same but didn't make any headway. Please help.
Akhil Gupta


Dear Akhil,
You are doing well by Chandigarh standards. A Rs 1 crore turnover in Chandigarh is commendable.
The experience of large agencies in Chandigarh has not been very good. Both JWT and Mudra had offices there back in the 1990s. In fact, the current JWT CEO Tarun Rai was the Branch Manager there, if I remember correctly. There are really no large local clients. In the 90s, Ludhiana with Hero, Vardhaman and Oswal and Amrit Banaspati and Bakeman’s from Rajpura/Patiala attracted the agencies there. But Delhi is so close that all these clients preferred to be serviced ex-Delhi because of better talent and resources. So trying to partner an agency of national standing for Chandigarh looks difficult as there is not enough business justification.
To grow, your best bet is local retail and government clients. Retailers like Kapsons, Talwar Jewellers and Frontier Bazar seem to spend reasonable amounts. Try to win those kinds of businesses. Verka, the local milk brand, spends good money too. Get them.
Chandigarh and the region around don’t have any large national brand headquartered there. Even Punjab-based companies like Nestle, GSK, Hero and Bharti run their advertising from Delhi.
I can’t unfortunately offer much help.

Dear Mr Goyal,
Is it better to work with a reputed company and then start out on your own after becoming an established expert? Or is it better to branch out on your own early and struggle to build a business?
Friend


Dear Friend,
The first option is the safer route. Working for a reputed company gives you not just good quality experience and exposure but also boosts your self-confidence. A large company helps you build outreach and contacts which come in handy when you turn entrepreneur. The larger platform invariably offers rotation to different domains and geographies too. All this helps when you build your own business. Last but not the least, the name of a leading first employer on your CV remains a life-long stamp of goodness. For instance, if you have the good fortune to work at HUL it provides a greater advantage later. HUL alumni are in high positions all over corporate India and they do help fellow alumni wherever possible.

Dear Mr Goyal,
I am 55 years old. Can you really help me in finding a suitable opening in a good ad agency or TV channel? I have been in advertising for more than 32 years. For the last 10 years, I have either been out of job or paid low because of intense competition. I have worked earlier in agencies of repute like Mudra, Contract and Adfactors but now I cannot find anything suitable despite making all kinds of compromises. I know age is a problem but I feel the attitude of the industry is a bigger issue. I want to get a job which I can do with respect for five years at least till I retire.
Your help will be of big advantage.
Phillip A.


Dear Phillip,
I can empathise with your situation. Finding a job in advertising or media when you are on the wrong side of fifty is not easy. There are so many young people. It is tough out there, but not impossible.
You have not mentioned in your mail whether you are from creative, client servicing or media.
If you are from the creative domain, you may want to look beyond an ad agency. Today, there are a number of opportunities with content creators outside of the advertising business. In fact, there is a serious dearth of writers for creation of sponsored content. You could approach companies like Outbrain and Taboola who are keen to hire writers for their native ads business which is growing at a rapid pace. Your experience in advertising should come in handy and useful. There is also need for good writers in video content creation. That business is booming and hungry for talent. Expand your search to these kinds of businesses.

If you are from client servicing, you should target some of the younger start-ups. Contrary to the belief that such organisations only hire youngsters, start-ups actually seek grey hair and experience. But before you approach any of these new-age businesses, please lighten up your CV. Make it crisp, competitive and relevant. Get rid of unnecessary details and listings that make you look and feel old. You don’t have to hide your years. But it is important to portray your experience in the right light. List out categories and domains you may have worked on which may be similar to the start-ups you are applying to. Include short case studies of relevant brands. And before you meet the promoters, spend time researching them and knowing more about their business, including examples of similar stuff overseas.

If you are from the media stream, I would suggest some re-skilling. There are excellent Coursera self-learning social media courses available on the net from Universities of Yale, Stanford and Harvard, among others. I would strongly recommend the digital marketingcourses from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or the media marketing ones from Northwestern University. Almost all of these are free. But they require dedication and concentration. If done well, they can yield very good results. I have a friend with a profile similar to yours who has re-learnt the media business on Coursera and today works for one of the biggest digital firms. In fact, a good understanding of digital media can open up opportunities in companies like Google and Facebook on one end, and the likes of Flipkart and Amazon on the other.

Let your current circumstances not weigh you down. Acquiring new skills and looking for opportunities beyond the confines of just the advertising business will surely help you. Get onto LinkedIn and create an account. Fraternize with others on LinkedIn. Opportunities will open up.
Be healthy. Keep your chin up.
All the best.

Address your questions at ASK THE DOCTOR to interact@exchange4media.com or to sandeep@goyalmail.com

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