Lessons Learned Role Changes and Career Progression
Published on : Monday 08-02-2021
One should work towards excellence in their work and expect that success and achievements will follow, says Ninad Deshpande.
Failure is a stepping-stone to success – this is a commonly used phrase since childhood. Most of us grow up hearing how failures shape and mould a person. Failure gives a person experience and instils confidence in achieving his or her goals. However, we should not forget a complementing line, which makes these teachings even more important and complete – Failure only leads to success as long as one learns from mistakes and keeps trying in the right direction. This is true in professional as well as personal lives. Today, with digital media, it is possible to learn anything from anywhere. Moreover, the recent pandemic too taught us that it is possible to efficiently work or learn from home. This fuels the possibility to master skills or to learn from others’ failure and mistakes too. I have worked in the field of industrial automation for over a decade and over the course might have made mistakes and learnt the hard way. In this short article, I will be focusing on the topic of role changes and how it affects our growth path in our career.
This is a chance for new engineers or next generation industry experts to learn from some mistakes, which I might have committed in the course of my professional life. Starting your career or undergoing a role change in any industry could sometimes be difficult because of numerous factors such as the need for a different attitude and mind-set, a phase shift from college to the office environment, not being in the comfort zone, difficult bosses, added responsibility among many others. With ‘change being the only constant’, such actions in life are inevitable and one is bound to make mistakes in these early stages. With this article, my focus is not just providing knowledge but also mixing it with my experience. As the age old adage, ‘learn from your mistakes’; here, I wish to help readers learn from mine, helping them avoid the same mistakes.
Role changes a part of corporate life
Role change is a part of any corporate life and industrial automation is no different. However, how one perceives a role change and how one moves forward shapes his or her future. I myself have undergone many role changes in less than a decade gathering vast experiences on the way. Before moving to the challenges, the difficult decisions and benefits, I would like to brief on the kind of role changes I had in my career, which will form a basis of the learnings. The basic role changes shapes one to become better, enables one to move out of their comfort zone and explore areas he/she might have never imagined. There are two paths to grow in one’s professional career either move vertically in the area where one was recruited or have multiple role changes and climb the corporate ladder. If one is recruited as a software developer, he/she can work in the domain for any company and eventually move to becoming manager or even a Chief Technical Officer (CTO). The latter needs consistent zest to work hard, learn new skills, unlearn older ones and establish himself/herself in the new role. Make a note, no path is simple and easy, with both needing extreme hard work and focus.
The start to my professional career was somewhat different. I was placed in a software company through campus in 2007, which had selected me after conducting a written exam, a technical interview, followed by a group discussion and finally an interview with the HR. However, thanks to the recession which came exactly at the time I passed out in 2008, it left me jobless. I was of course dejected at being jobless even after getting placed but that didn’t stop me from trying and searching for a job.
My cousin was kind enough to allow me to join his company named Durocrete as a trainee so that I could learn something instead of just sitting at home looking for a job. I worked with the system admin looking after IT infrastructure. Within two months into this job, my college professor who had understood about the recession-hit campus placed students offered me a job as a lecturer in his college for teaching control systems to second year students. I had 40 days to complete their syllabus and to my surprise, the entire class passed their exams with flying colours. I was then offered a permanent position as a lecturer, which I turned down as I was selected by Mr Bhalwankar, Managing Director of Twin Engineers, a renowned machine builder in Pune, manufacturing special purpose machines, as an Electronics Engineer for programming controllers. Post this, my destiny was sealed to grow in the process, factory and machine automation vertical. Following my then bosses’ footsteps and path of hard work, dedication and perseverance, I was awarded the best new engineer for the year 2009 by Mr Bhalwankar – the first of the many recognitions to follow.
Moving from a machine builder to an automation vendor in 2010, B&R Industrial Automation was the best opportunity I could have wished for in my life. I was trained at our headquarters in Austria for a five-month period, post which I started working in India as an application engineer. I also got an opportunity to work as a technology marketer during this time. The then Managing Director of B&R India, Mr PV Sivaram presented me with multiple opportunities. A notable one was speaking at the ARC Forum and ISA event in front of a packed audience consisting of industry experts and thought leaders just as I was turning 24 years. I had a stint in ABB GISL as a domain engineer where I was in R&D in LV drives; however, my life and learnings I had at B&R pulled me back and within 12 months of quitting I joined back as a Specialist – Open Technologies. During this time, I became a seasoned presenter with B&R, participating in well over 70 public stage talks, presentations and panel discussions. I was subsequently also nominated as a speaker in the Speaker Bureau of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC). Since February 2017, I have been working as the Head of Marketing and Corporate Communication at B&R India. Based on my work I was also nominated by the World Marketing Congress as a ‘Most Influential Global Marketing Leader’ in 2019.
Challenging, difficult yet a catalyst for growth
Roles changes I experienced from an assistant, a guest lecturer, application and commissioning engineer at a machine builder (OEM), application engineer in an MNC, a software developer in R&D, technology marketer to handling entire Marketing at a young age was no doubt a difficult decision at every stage and at every change. Each role change needed me to learn many new topics and unlearn some skills in the process. Moreover, each role change needed me to work with different managers and bosses. Fortunately, I was lucky to have exceptional and supportive bosses until today and I hope I do not run out of luck. But, managing to deal with new managers every 2-3 years can be difficult at times and taxing. There is no one solution that fits all and one needs to have patience and dialogue for avoiding any friction.
I definitely made wrong choices too – one notable bad decision was when I rejected a role change and quit an organisation to join another company. Gladly I didn’t need to repent my decision as I received the same opportunity a year down the line. However, not all are lucky to have an opportunity to knock twice. I would say, trust your boss, manager and your management, they can identify talent and throw opportunities at you. It is up to you how to leverage that opportunity and make the best use of it. Standing in front of 300 seasoned automation and industry experts at the age of 24 was unthinkable when I first started working. But my then boss had confidence in me, and I was able to deliver to his expectations. Today, I am able to stand in front of any crowd and talk on various topics of automation, life, marketing, sales, and application, and have built a reputation as a storyteller among my colleagues.
My initial decisions about job change and role change were not well thought out, and I had no clue what I really wanted to do in my career. I was more or less going with the flow when an opportunity came up. I think at that stage of professional life it is very common with very few really knowing what they are working for. However, over the years I have realised what I need and what I want to achieve. For those in their early years of work life, sit down and think as to what you would like to be doing over the 30 odd years of work life and how you would want to progress. Once you decide that, start working in that direction and plan your growth path either in your existing organisation or change companies based on the opportunities at hand in line with your goal. Working on yourself is the best investment you would make at any time in your life.
Summing up the advice
My advice to young engineers – Focus on your work, put in your best and you will be recognised. At 30, I was heading the marketing department with 3 subordinates. The fruits of hard work are truly evident in the long run. Moreover, it is important for everyone to focus on work and job satisfaction, whereas money, if thought of as a peripheral will surely follow suit. Those only focusing on money will most probably never be satisfied with work as well as their remuneration. Today, many engineers passing out of college are looking at money as a primary reason for work. Definitely, everyone works for money, but it should not be the primary focus. Learning, understanding new technology, willingness to take extra steps at all times should be the main intention. Growth is only for those who are willing to go the extra mile and calculated risks. Make a note, there are only a few exceptional children who manage to make a handsome 8-digit package even before graduating. Most of us need to work hard as well as work smart at most occasions. Moreover, one should work towards excellence in their work and expect that success and achievements will follow. Success is eventually the outcome of our actions leading from perseverance and determination.
Ninad Deshpande, Head – Marketing and Corporate Communication, B&R Industrial Automation, has made it a mission to get to know the needs of internal as well as external customers and understanding their unfulfilled desires thus, being able to provide extraordinary experience. Whether it is executing an exhibition, seminar, conference, implementing a campaign for print or social media, delivering a technology oriented presentation, implementing a branding campaign, or internal and external branding, Ninad takes pride in providing best in class service and experience in record time while always leading by example.