The ability to dream the impossible dream and assiduously work towards the goal despite all odds is one of the characteristics of motivated members of the Gen Y today. Take the case of Cauvery Patel, born in a business family in the Western India city of Vadodara and clearly determined to be a citizen of the world rather than join the family business. For this first step to independence she credits her parents who encouraged her to pursue her Master’s Degree at Georgia Tech and then join a global multinational where she is one of the youngest woman product managers.
The clarity of her vision for herself and her willingness to pursue her aspirations relentlessly has kept her steadfast on the path to success for three years. Cauvery in her piece for our book “What we really want – the aspirations of Gen Y” says “I will not undermine the challenges that went along with trying to make a place for myself in the heavy engineering industry but the only aspects I can remember are the highlights and the defining moments. I have my sights set on reaching a certain level in my company where I would be indispensable to its business. I am trying to reach my goals by constantly proving to naysayers that it isn’t about the age or the experience or the gender. It is simply about abilities.”
There are different types of aspirations that young Gen Yers have today and there is no need to judge which one is superior. In the last column we covered Akaash Shinde a young MBA at Zensar who just took time off to pitch in for relief work at Uttarakhand and most recently I was delighted to see the enthusiasm of young Shreshtha Patnaik, a Retail technical associate who participates in beauty contests and is a regular winner, improving her diction and personality with each outing. Cauvery is highly motivated in her pursuit of success in a fiercely competitive work place but draws some lines in the sand too. She is inspired by companies abroad who “walk the talk when it comes to work-life balance.
I cannot imagine staying late in office just because my boss is around but this is all too common in Indian firms. I will do justice to the work I have been assigned with all sincerity but not at the cost of jeopardizing the time I want to spend with people who matter to me.” Maybe I should count myself lucky that Cauvery spends so much of her free time helping me with the planning of events for the Harvard Business School Club of India while she plans her own business school education.
A young woman, also a contributor to the book who has trod a similar path to Cauvery is Kriti Agarwal, who has had stints with two of India’s significant software multinationals before and after her MBA where she developed a passion for technology and a zest to innovate.
She says “Natural curiosity made me wonder how customers in the Western world consume all the IT services we deliver from India. I crossed continents and worked in the US for a few years and connected the dots between IT and change. Today, as I travel to different parts of the world to see new architectures being redrawn and new solutions being built, I want to use my insights around technology to see our nation improve the work we do. I also aspire for technology to create a new economy where startups and giant IT firms collaborate to deliver work that has a human impact.”
Every aspiration that we encountered during the process of research for the book underscored the real concern that young people have for their country and their fellow humans and the deep desire to do something beyond attaining money and career success.
The strength of our country has always been the vibrancy of the young and it will be amazing if we can truly harness the demographic dividend and enable young people to realise their full potential through the career paths and combination of work and extra-curricular pursuits that we can offer them as caring employers.
What every organisation needs to keep in mind is that we are no longer doing bright young Gen Yers a favour by offering them a job in the organisation. In the contrary, we will be doing well by all our stakeholders – customers and shareholders included – if we are able to retain their interest and harness their enthusiasm and intellect for the benefit of the organisation. Gen Y also needs to realise that they have to do their bit and compete for the success they may deserve but which can be attained only through perseverance and hard work.
As Kriti Agarwal says “I am no more that young girl who walked unsure into her engineering class. I am now a woman who has traveled the distance, enabled by IT and knows that the future belongs to those who can create it and can redefine the contours of global IT.” To conclude with the famous words of Mark Twain which have inspired Cauvery Patel on her journey, “The world doesn’t owe you anything. It was here first.”
Dr Ganesh Natarajan is Vice Chairman & CEO of Zensar and a member of the Chairmen’s Council of NASSCOM. This column emanates from research done for the book.