Mr. Pooshkar Rajiv, ISB & Mr. Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India

 When I was asked to write this testimonial, I started wondering about the kind of value that can be derived from a program like “Shadow a CEO” if the entire thing happens online now. I mean, the key USP of the program was the fact that you get to physically shadow a CEO for a day & see how they operate. Won’t that learning be vastly diminished if you could not really shadow them?

Looking back at my experience & seeing the conversations under this light, I have to come to the conclusion that the eye opening transcendental impact that this program had on me is not at all constrained by the bounds of physical proximity. The impact of the things you see, the conversations that happen & the geniuses that you see at work is truly transcendental.

I shadowed the President of Microsoft India, Anant Maheshwari for a day in January 2020. I was invited to Microsoft partners conclave where I was privileged enough to sit in the boardroom while a multitude of MSFT partners ranging from CEO’s of start-ups to advisories steeped inside and talked about their problems and aspirations. The following were the key takeaways I had: -

·         Real leaders are empathetic, gentle but firm: - This is probably a mantra is often repeated in the leadership coaching circles yet people do not really know how it is done. Every conversation in the room happened with this epithet in mind, there was a candid willingness to accept previous slipups, gentle boundaries drawn around commitments and even ultimatums given when past promises were left unfulfilled. Yet, parties on both sides of the table operated trying to understand other’s point of view, there was an unwavering focus on the end customer with the overarching aim being the desire to find the best way forward.

·         You must really listen: - The breakneck speed at which things operated at this level really takes a moment to get used to. Every five minutes, there is a context switch to a completely new problem statement, your knowledge about it, peripheral & hazy at best. When you are about to have a conversation with an imminent stakeholder with literally millions at stake, you cannot afford to not give your undivided attention to briefings & then in the subsequent conversation. I was taken aback by the sharp questions that Anant put forward, the nature of the questions was such that the answers made the scenario crystal clear, not only to him, but also to me, a newbie.   

·         Be frank with your leaders & become a specialist: - Towards the end of the day, Anant asked me for feedback about the day I had witnessed. After listening to the same, he emphasized on two things to ensure that life went upwards and onwards. The first was to always be frank to your leaders (as frank as I was to him), the key principle being that good leaders will always appreciate you telling them things as is rather than sugarcoating and pandering for some imaginary clout or favoritism. The second is something which I feel everyone knows to be true in their hearts but find it difficult to accept. There is no shortcut to success, you have to work hard, become a specialist and look out for the right opportunities. In his words, “you have to humble enough to work harder than everyone else, to be arrogant enough to start believing that you deserve success that most people don’t”

Penning down this testimonial, has indeed served as reminder of the absolute zenith that one should aspire to achieve. If for nothing else, I would recommend going through this experience just to check it out.