Due to circumstances beyond your control, you are master of your fate and captain of your soul.
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Book Review: The Professional

Author: Subroto Bagchi
Publish Date: September 2010
URL: @ Amazon and @ the book's Mindtree microsite
Atul's Rating: *****

This book defines a professional and then gives the recipe to become one. The ability to work unsupervised and the ability to certify the completion of one's work diferenciate a professional from someone who is simply professionally qualified. Becoming a professional is a journey undertaken by a person who observes his own behaviour and actively guides it as he is exposed to different opportunities during the course of his career. Its the difference between obtaining a degree and living the education.

The book is divided into parts that discuss among others, integrity, self awareness, professional qualities, managing volume and managing complexity. Extremely well articulated, its difficult to comment on the contents and also add value. So I will refrain from doing so and simply quote some.

  • Entry into any profession requires professional integrity over anything else.
  • Integrity is personal
  • Most of us in India have a very poor understanding of what constitutes integrity.
  • Most workplaces ... do not conciously articulate a shared understanding of ethical behaviour, what it actually means in that particular work environment and how it should be practised by everyone at work.
  • Being rooted is a key requirement for carrying success on your shoulders without being burdened by it.
  • The professional world really craves authenticity, do not dismiss it as old fashioned.
  • Only a great person can express a negative emotion for the right reason to the right degree at the right time.
  • In extremely high pressure situations, often the best emotion to express is control.
  • A professional does not let go of the basic ability to work because its like losing your fingers.
  • No one gives you power ... it is generated within. Both feeling powerful and powerless in a given situation is an inner feeling.
  • In every profession, the ones on the top should be aware that the top of the totem pole is a temporary accomodation.
  • Keeping good health is critical to productivity.
  • Saying no ... As a professional, you must set the limits and when you do, people will respect you for it.
  • When you whine about your workplace troubles, chances are, two kinds of people listen to it. Those who dont care anyway and those who are happy that you are in trouble.
  • ... when high achievers tire out or simply outgrow their jobs ... no one quite knows ... other than you yourself; only you know you have outgrown your shoe because it pinches.
  • While dealing with suppliers, customers, industry associates and other stakeholders, one must build a long view of time and treat every small engagement with all seriousness, as if life depends on it.
  • Do not be fazed by the size of your adversary. The size of your adversary determines the size of your success.
  • A value centric view can only be built by people who are capable of emotions.
  • A true professional will always question and find the root cause.
  • The professional competence of a nation is determined in the way its plumbers, carpenters, auto-mechanics and others engage with a problem and a customer. Without this, we simply cannot become world class despite churning out neurosurgeons and software engineers.
  • Listen with your whole body.
  • It is not enough to have the best-skilled people on the job, they must respect life and living things.
  • Trust cannot be replaced by competence.
  • ... concensus is not always beneficial and can sometimes lead to disasters. These can be avoided if each professional in the group excercises his responsibility of dissent and the purpose of the groups decision making process is shifted from the urge to agree, to doing the right thing.
  • If you think I have quoted too many, then on reading the book, you will realise that these are but a few gems. The book will give you many 'Aha' moments and at times even a feeling of Deja Vu. You wont need coffee to warm up to the book.

    Very little in the book is debatable. Some thoughts do not appear practical (like possibly firing your star salesman for a willfully erroneous travel reimbursement) but if one thinks about it deeply, thats because one is used to taking calls with a short term view. This is a difficult subject to handle with simplicity and brevity and yet Mr. Bagchi does it with elan. This book is for multiple readings till a time one has internalised its concents.

    One comes across all the shades of professionalism in one's carreer and it will take courage to become a professional as defined by the book with the known risk of growing lonely, even if you agree with the definition whole heartedly. Meditation alone will allow one to focus on the intangible benefits of sticking to that route and give the strength to keep going. After all, its your own private world that reflects in your environment. This book will help all of us on the journey, and more the merrier!

    Thanks to my friend Shyam Velupula for bringing this book to my notice.

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