Big on Small Screen, again!

Half a decade later, I am back on TV.

In 2010, it was #RideonTheTop on #ETV speaking about “Air Action by Mentos Launch Campaign”.

In 2016, I was invited to speak on the “Digital Marketing in Digital Bangladesh” on #YoungNite of #ATNNews

Felt more like a “coming of age” compare & contrast.
A boy had become a man.
An amateur to an expert.

In 2010, I was thinking creative in advertising working for Ogilvy & Mather
In 2016, I am drawing blue maps in digital services working for Robi Axiata

Still a very much thinker but also a part time blogger. Enjoy!

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The PYRAMID Theory: The Golden Rule of Switching Careers

We are all more or less familiar with the term jump ship.
Even if we weren’t, just about each and every one of us has (at some point of his/her career) been involved in it.

A few years ago in a discussion with a few of my colleagues back at Ogilvy, I had presented this theory on “the quickest way to climb the career ladder”. Authentic or not, just about everyone from that day’s discussion have somewhat put it to good use.

The Pymarid TheoryThe idea was quite simple actually. We’ve all read about the great Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs“, we are all aware of how the climb to the top is always saved for a lucky few. What we don’t express is how we all can in some way or the other make it to the top of the game at the end. Considering how the career pyramid has just about the same layers across industries and corporations alike, you’ll notice its only the sub-layering that can be rather broad, leaving the barebone to be mostly same.

So this is how it works,

  • A Midlevel Manager looking after Google Search can switch to a Leadership position at Bing.
  • A Junior Manager looking after Google Search can switch to a Midlevel position at Bing or Lead at a startup like DuckDuckGo.
  • Don’t even contemplate being a Fresher at Google and found a service like Leap2.

From a local perspective it could be,

  • A Midlevel Manager at Unilever can switch to a Leadership position at Marico.
  • A Junior Manager looking after Unilever can switch to a Midlevel position at Marico or Lead at a local house like Akij.
  • Don’t even contemplate being a Fresher at Unilever and found a company of your own like Sumon’s Aroma.

I obviously had envisioned it in terms of advertising agencies in Bangladesh, and my colleague left to join another agency after some time. However I myself didn’t follow my own model and decided on switching industries for my next career move.

Was it right? Was it a mistake? That only time will tell.

Career switching consists of only scope and opportunity cost. Question is…how much?

Follow the Line

It was only last week when someone reminded me how advertising was a career for mainstream rejects.
It also happened to be the week I celebrated six years in this mad world of advertising.

Graduating from one of the top B-Schools in the country with a decent enough GPA, I was supposed to be a potent force in the job market. It’s true that the share of effort in extracurriculars far outweighed that of academics (thanks to AIESEC) or time spent in meaningless banter were much greater than serious study groups. But somehow I had always known, the gift of gab won’t disappoint in a one-to-one encounter (i.e. interview).

More so the family I belong to, just made the choices quite obvious. Both my grandfather were distinguished Civil Servants. My dad was in the Army. Most of my uncles, aunts, cousins or even family friends were in some way of the other part of the fixed-income clan. And prestige jobs (civil service, social service, banking, medicine etc.) took up the majority of them.

Needless to say, the last thing my risk-averse DELL* motivated parents wanted was to see me experiment.

Yes, you read that right.

Experimenting with my dear own career is the only practical  answer I have to justify an unjustifiable decision.

I mean who takes up a career in an industry synonymous with paying less than average, working more than usual.

Today that’s just a line I tell every newcomer stepping into this alluring world of advertising.

I was reading this wonderful piece of research done by some of my brilliant juniors on NSUers Salary Indicators and not-so-shockingly realized, it’s a rarity to be in an industry that is still considered a taboo in the 21st century.

And no matter how successful you are or how valuable a resource you become; to the common eye you are just another passers-by.

*DELL = Doctor, Engineer, Lawyer or a Loser

The Fall and Rise of “Jack”

“Jack of all trades, master of none.”

I dunno about others but I literally grew up on that. I guess that’s customary for all army brats. The military life has the smell of standardization in just about everything. While in uniform, one is put through every imaginable crisis and stress rising up the chain of command. Which in turn makes the men weather ready and somewhat multi-functional.

But then economy prospered and we liberalized. We moved out of the disciplinary ways of life dubbing it medieval and anti-intellectual. Our careers thrived with specializations, the mastering of a specific skill seemed to make all the difference. In fact from the days of Civil Service or Military Service being the foremost prestigious professions, we progressed to Private Service as the chosen one.

Capitalism happened. And like many times before this, we took a ride with the flow.

Born in the 80’s in Bangladesh meant you were exposed to the last of these legendary Jacks. The cream of the society, the so-called intellectuals served the government (which in turn served the people, I guess) and remained the most elusive career option. Back in those days, BCS (Bangladesh Civil Service) exam used to be the greatest test of one’s intellectual and practical abilities. A test of life. The decision maker of your future.

Like every other economy in the world, ours also flourished with private entrepreneurs and industries. However unlike the good economies, the public sector undertakings went on a gradual decline. Soon “groom wanted” ads in the classifieds stopped mentioning Army Officer or BCS Cadre as preferred professions. Police and Customs emerged as the career choice for the dishonest.
And most ironically paisa took over prestige.

Multinational and local conglomerates were now the employer of choice.
A new age of professionals had begun.

Computer Science, Applied Physics, Engineering were the kind of majors every talented high schooler was aiming for. All of a sudden, Bangladesh was a bustling economy full of science grads. It was all merry and everyone was awaiting a happy ending.

Not to be.

The curse of capitalism stuck again. The need of generalization was back with a bang. In came the mother of all degrees (apparently), the one degree that MacGyver wanted for himself, BBA. The game was back in even grounds again. Specialists were only good for R&D but who will fill up the rest of the departments.Thus the need of Jacks was alive again.

I consider myself lucky to be in the bridging generation where both specialization and standardization of senior degrees could exist in parallel. But as the companies grow and quality of education deteriorates, its only the Jacks who are filling up all the blanks in the sentence.

I am a BBA graduate myself. It wasn’t a degree out of passion or interest. I consider it as a visa-free entry in the modern economy. Now that I look back, the more purer forms of education seems more enlightening and intriguing than ever before. The likes of Archeology, Economics, History, Psychology or even Zoology (which I totally sucked at) had more to offer than a degree that’s comparable to a marriage license.

The Unbecoming

A month into buying the modern advertising bible Ogilvy on Advertising, I got myself a casual chit-chat session with the Head of Ogilvy Bangladesh. I don’t recall how long it went on or whether I really wanted a job in Ogilvy back then (not even formally launched). I don’t even think I made much of an impression either.

But just like the way its been for thousands before me, I ended up signing the red-letter and happily went home. I have been criticized time and again for a relentless and somewhat non-linear ambitions in life and more so regarding career. Strangely joining the firm back then made sense even as I took a pay cut and were to start at the bottom of the pyramid.

Later in life I shared this pyramid theory (with great success) with a few colleagues. It was nothing but the simple truth of being a big fish in a small pond vs. the small one in a big pond. Once in an interview I was asked this no-brainer, only to reply a small fish in a big pond gets to be the big fish someday as well. Obviously I didn’t get that job.

In my first “get to know” session I had rather foolishly said I wish to join your great firm to make it large (unlike McDowell’s) one day. Large was only an adjective that had no meaning, clarity or precision in the minds of a 23-year-old fresher. It sounded cool. It sounded ambitious. And I had to say it.

Its only much later I came across the term “what not to speak”!

Back in 2007 sitting in the boardroom in Ogilvy, I had envisioned a career in across countries. Writing my blog in 2012 I am partly in one at least. The obsession with Piyush Pandey, the cult following of Vodafone ZooZoo (and its creator Rajiv Rao) and most importantly the dream of experiencing Ogilvy India (arguably the most famous agency in whole of South Asia)… all came to be TRUE!!!

But the One above had other plans, I guess. Finishing off my stint here in Ogilvy Delhi, I only realize dreams are there only to dream bigger and better next time. Nothing seems perfect, yet we settle for imperfections as a constituent of everyday life.

The becoming of greatness only turned out to be the unbecoming of a Bong in the city of djinns. 

The Backpack Nation

“Pack your bags, you are off to Kurigram” is perhaps the most dreaded few words for any working class men. We hate to live in Dhaka, but we don’t want to leave it behind either. So when the population consensus says 10% (or more) of all Bangladeshis are living in or around Dhaka, it doesn’t raise eyebrows. Its funny how people never tend to miss out on “being ecstatic” about an empty Dhaka knowing the honeymoon would last a week at best. We realize why Dhaka has always been the beehive (increasingly even more), but sadly making other beehives is no one’s business. The title of this article has no mention of beehive or Dhaka, so I better get down to business.

Even the female members of the Police aren't too far behind
Even the female members of the Police aren’t too far behind

Backpack or rucksack (used to be called School Bag while growing up) is one of the simplest forms of carrying around essentials. They come in all shapes and sizes (day pack, laptop bag to hiking bag and used in different manners as well (two shoulder, one shoulder and sling). The invention and its utility are beyond question. Thus I will refrain from getting into a discussion on it.

Every day as I take the metro to office (in Gurgaon, India), I see thousands of people carrying some sort of a backpack on their shoulders. Across age or gender the backpack habit is quite prominent. I guess when you live in a big city (some of my colleagues commute 50 miles a day), its imperative to carry every possible essential with you. Starting from laptop (the most obvious) to an extra pair of clothes to go out partying at night the contents inside these colorful, slim and useful backpacks is quite baffling at times. I don’t get to peek into their bags nor was I blessed with see-through vision to enjoy some fascinations long enjoyed by Superman or 007; but the habit of carrying a bit of life in everywhere these people goes leads to a fascinating discovery.

See, logically its quite linear. I go from point X to point Y for work and thus I need to carry my laptop (one will be amazed by how many carry one) or lunch box or organizer or I don’t know what. However this serves only the logical query. Beyond the obvious if you dig deep, you see a thousand nomads running up and down the stairway to success (i.e. career), knowing there is no giving up on this. India is the largest functioning democracy in the world, they carry the baggage of being the second most populous nation as well but what the numbers don’t say is the number of migrant workers.

For us in Bangladesh, its very obvious to imagine who migrant workers are. The ones you see standing up at immigration without knowledge of where to go or the ones you tell tales of getting overly greedy with alcohol in flight. What we don’t realize (most at least) is how these migrant workers are the reason we as a nation haven’t been pushed into chaos and economic anarchy (last time I checked they sent 11 billion USD.

Today however you will have to forego that description. From the Ilias from Kurigram who came to Dhaka to paddle a rickshaw to Mr. Ilias who went to Canada to research on human powered vehicles, they all fall under the definition of migrant workers. In fact so does the million people whose absence makes Dhaka beautiful to you during Eid holidays. Its been an open secret for years that metro people (Dhaka and may be Chittagong) don’t like to live in the non-metro parts of the country (basically rest of Bangladesh). Which has led to a unhealthy centralization of resources and labor around the capital only. I mean there is no harm in Dhaka flourishing, but it can’t be at the cost of rest of Bangladesh.

With 23 cities having population of more than 10 lakh, India never had the luxury of having 1 do-it-all city. Thanks to the diversity of culture and vastness of area, the country today boasts six metros (Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore) all of which have at least 70 lakh or more inhabitants.

Now imagine the competition their working classes face. From the early days of education (According to Economist survey of global B-schools, 2001, IIM Ahmedabad “The World’s Toughest B-School to get into”) the typical Indian man knows there is only one thing and one thing alone, compete or perish. Because they are so used to the idea of “being the best in business” and excel at it, tomorrow when you go off to work (in a MNC) the person you will be reporting to, is most likely to be an Indian.

There has been numerous cases (that I know of) where genuinely talented people simply let-go of career opportunities beyond Dhaka (mostly Bangladesh) principally for the fear of alienation. Our childhood and life afterwards is so inter-locked with our family and society that when the time comes, we just can’t let go. In a country where going outside Dhaka for work is at times made compulsory and seen as miseries of having a government job, what awaits the nation of 16 crore with only 1 career destination is surely up to the Almighty. Perhaps we should consult Kirk Kerkorian (one of the pioneers of Las Vegas) about how to build a city out of nowhere and you go there to live in alternate reality.

The backpack carries more significance than just of carrying load indeed. Living a life where you are constantly shifting bases, where living out of home is the norm, where coming home to change for that evening dinner is not an option, where dates with your loved ones take place in a station, life is in a pace of its own. What our policymakers couldn’t give us, what we never got accustomed to is perhaps the answer to our growth. In this globalized economy there is nothing called home and no place for quotes like “home is where the heart is”.

Its time to pick up the bag and head out to face the world!

PS. For those who would rage against brain drain after reading this, you are welcome to stay home 🙂

This article is also available at http://www.newagebd.com/supliment.php?sid=63&id=422

The Blur

I always enjoyed writing something or the other. It never really had to be about something. At times they made sense, mostly didn’t. But it really wasn’t an issue, cause I thoroughly enjoyed the WRITING part!

Opposed to popular belief, productivity in terms of coming up with original content went up once I had started my career. Although a career in “servicing” in an advertising agency is not deemed creative, the company and its core services surely is. Even the well acclaimed and universally accepted creative ego is “creative” in nature, though it differs greatly from person to person with a greater scope!!!

Through the peaks and troughs of my career, I’ve kept my blog as something very cynical, delicate and mostly personal. If anything, over the years I’ve become so obsessed with “quality writing” that a thousand inspirations come and go, yet nothing ever gets posted. This pursuit of excellence has cost me no less than a dozen pieces in the past few years. And when you consider, I’ve barely managed to write forty odd pieces in last five years… that’s just about two years hard work down the drain.

As the stressmeter intensifies… at work and at home, the crazier side of you starts taking a hit as well. As many peers and pundits of advertising keep pointing out (without a fail, every time), the fun of an industry where passion fuels productivity runs out as you mature to realize the value of money.

M O N E Y all of a sudden smells sweeter than honey. You regret how it ever was the root of all evil. And as for the so unique yet so sensitive, broad-minded creative side of you; all that matters is the Bangla saying “pete khele pithe shoy” (if your needs are fulfilled, the work never matters)!!!

Forget your family or the nagging wife, on a lazy weekend when you cannot afford the La-Z-Boy chair to enjoy The Godfather in high-definition, the blur between passion and reality is ever widening.

And I wonder, who will have the last laugh?

Talent Haat

is this the condition of our talents?
is this the condition of our talents?

Thanks to my dad’s overly hopping career (unlike the majority who’s reading this) I’ve had the privilege to experience what the gram bangla’r haat is, first hand. From the Sunday haats in my village home to other weekly haats in various towns across Bangladesh, they have always been appealing in their own ways. Its a must visit for all who cherishes the famed picturesque Bangladesh. Since that day is not far when we might actually have to re-live the haat experience through word of mouth alone.

But I am not a policymaker nor am I the golden son of the soil who stands up to a “haat bachao” movement. If anything, I am the geek who resorts to a blogging platform and power of words to use haats to get reader’s attention to my demeaning diary.

To us, the masses… the aspiration to go digital by 2021 was an ambitious dream by the Government. But a good dream, indeed. I mean at least through that our policymakers and citizens could at least go to sleep knowing in the dream world lies the next Matrix or Tron :p A place where anything and everything is possible and nobody takes NO for an answer. You can learn and unlearn everything… and you are truly the master of your own destiny (there goes my effort to not sound blasphemous). The fact that a skilled technician or a honed business manager is just a skill that needs to be downloaded into your system (aka. the brain) makes anyone and everyone a talent of choice. There would be no LinkedIn, no books like Winning Job Interviews or Boost Your Interview IQ, no suits with matching shoes and ties… in short, no showmanship at all! But as reality stands today… Digital Bangladesh is a mirage that’s as dreamy as The Grid in Tron. And the case with talent pool in Bangladesh is not much different either.

The story goes like this… about a decade back every time my dad brought in “koi” fish, my mom cooked a delicacy. It wasn’t a regular occurrence since “koi” was comparatively expensive a fish and if anything took considerable effort to cook and eat. Now-a-days “koi” is widely available, significantly cheaper (time value) and also better looking (whitish as opposed to darkish). Yet the whole family looks at “koi” as just another fish and looks for delicacies elsewhere. The bottom line is quite simple – the delicacy is now in abundance, but its no more a delicacy at all. The cost of making “koi” an affordable fish through farming bombed! Sure people can and will buy more and more “koi” fish every passing day, but not with half the admiration they had a few years back.

The talent haat in Bangladesh sings the same lullaby as well. Back in 20th century we admired and aspired to be a graduate, then if lucky a postgraduate. Today our aspiration (if any) is in the league of MPhil and PhD. While there was a dearth of talent back then, the talent were actually talented. If a job circular got 200 applicants, you could safely have a desired pool of 20 candidates amongst them. Whereas with better education system and higher literacy rates if there are 200 applicants today, chances are only 2 will fit the bill. The point remains quite straight forward, one that I have stood up for ages. With an increase in quantity, there has been a decrease in quality!!!

My father took me to haats because they had all the traditional delicacies that one couldn’t find in city markets. From a 20 kg “bowal” fish to 20 kinds of “shaaks”, they just had a different offering all together. We can make a million sites like monster.com or bdjobs.com, but the quality of people plying those are nothing better than the widely available “koi” fish of today. And that my friend, is where we stand!

Inflation of MBAs

I am just a BBA graduate. With an unmentionable CGPA.

Just had to state the facts before I get into fiction mode…

Flipping through the weekend newspapers (The Daily Star, Banik Barta and Shomokal for the record), my lazy sleepy eyes roamed across the pages looking for something different, a not so news material. I tend to forget at times, the dramatization that exists in our news presentation in general and how we usually have to downplay the actual publication to get a closer estimate of whats actual.

Thanks to loyalty, stupidity or being a 3rd generation service holder… I’ve been sticking around the same job for a little over last four years. Which in turn makes me not too keen on the job circulars or employment notices in the dailies, let alone bdjobs.com. However, today was different… I was plain bored and couldn’t find anything better than to check out whats in offer in the markets!!!! Who knew, I was in for a ride…

Unlike most of my fellow mates out of college, I decided to hang up my boots after BBA thinking if I was to get back to the academic track once again, it surely had to be a more worthwhile experience. Almost five years went by ever since, and I remained as uneducated as I was back in convocation. But my smart alec classmates didn’t waste a dime beating around the bush. They jumped right in…. some into the same-old MBA at NSU and a great number to the other greener pastures in UK and Australia (mostly).

Growing up, my dad always used to say A tree is known by its fruit… something that I has helped me boost my confidence in the real world. People with god-gifted talent and natural potentials are in plenty. At least I have been blessed with the opportunity to know a lot of them. But it hurts to see how we continually thrive to make efforts to be in-line with the crowd, be a part of the masses… buy degrees after degrees!!!

There is no alternate to good education. For all I know, I read half stuff for about 50% of my natural productive hours everyday. But when it comes to academics, I have over the years grown a strong distaste towards the memorize and reproduce form of education (the only means available in Bangladesh). Good education made better human beings by making them more enlightened, knowledgeable and perhaps (most importantly) more depth! But that’s just too hard to find…

In today’s world where anything from a Sales Executive at a Pharmaceuticals to a Business Development Manager in a Telco come with the same requirement… an MBA, I am left dumbfounded.

MBA as I’ve come to know through years of schooling and work, is a jack of all degree aimed at people who make decisions, give strategic directions and most importantly are business leads of some sort. What a Insurance Sales Agent or a Pharmaceutical Sales guy gets out of it is clearly beyond my understanding.

Moreover in a country where we face tough time in getting 40% of the population to even sign their names properly (in mother tongue), every starting job comes with a postgraduate degree requirement! How this phenomena results in poor education system and poorer students coming out of it has been argued over and over again by educated (properly) intellects many a times!!!

Irony is… we complain but we never fail to comply either 😦