Manish Barnwal

...just another human

The most inspiring talk I ever attended live

Last week WalmartLabs India was one of the sponsors of IIT Bombay’s alumni meet and I along with few of my colleagues got a chance to attend the meet-up. I didn’t have much idea about the speakers who were going to present. All I knew was, we wanted to get some good talent for our company and we had set up a booth where we were presenting the work we do at WalmartLabs.

Of all the speakers that presented their talk, one was mesmerizing. I was impressed by this speaker. The way he confidently took the stage. Stood casually by the dais. He didn’t carry any presentation with him unlike the other speakers. There was a charm and calmness in his presence. It was as if he knew that we were eagerly waiting to hear him out.

He introduced himself as Ravi Venkatesan. He gave a brief background about his college, the works he had done, and the great experiences he had in his career of 30 years. Nothing unusual or impressive so far. But when he mentioned the different fields in which he had done his work, I was awestruck. I was not able to digest the fact that he had worked as someone who established Microsoft in India during its early years after having manufactured engines in his previous job. See the difference in the two kinds of work.

Many had asked him not to take this job at Microsoft. That it was not safe to make such a change from working on engines to IT sector. Even his most trusted mentors were not in favor of this change. But this guy wanted to wear this new hat and take this risk. Not to prove anyone wrong but to ensure that later in his life he never had the guilt of not trying.

People generally don’t try new things because they fear the idea of failing. The moment one conquers this feeling and see beyond…all one can see is opportunity, learning, and experience.

He was in no hurry to finish up his talk. Slowly, he went on describing his journey of ups-and-downs. His talk was mostly on advices on career. I remember him mentioning this.

The age of 40 is a magical year. Once you reach this, you start getting serious. You have in front of you, the 40 years you have already lived, you have the list of things you wanted to accomplish, and the things you have actually conquered.

The next thought that comes to your mind is you don’t have much time left. A few more years and your career will come to a halt. In the next few years, you would like to get the most out of your life. Do not wait to reach this magical year.

Do things you want to do NOW. Get out of your comfort zone. Take risks. His words were powerful and convincing. Another anecdote from his life. He had applied for Harvard just after graduating from IIT Bombay. Sadly, he was rejected. Dejected and shattered, he called upon the office asking why was he rejected?

The person on the other side replied — you don’t have anything different. Your grades are good and all but how are you different? He had no answer. Few years passed by. Ravi liked reading about various things. He started writing about these things. His interest towards writing increased exponentially and fortunately at the age of 26, he became the youngest man to have his article published in the Harvard Business Review. Obviously, he got admitted to Harvard the next time.

My eyes glistened with awe. Here was a guy who had not given up. He continued doing things he liked and gave an answer to how he was different from others.

The auditorium echoed with claps from the audience. The speaker opened up for questions from the audience which he patiently answered. There were many in the audience who had more questions to be answered. Time was running short and he had to leave the stage for the next speaker to come.

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