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Sachin Tendulkar played over 700 international cricket matches in a career spanning nearly 25 years. In this period, he scored 100 international centuries, making him arguably India’s best batsman of all time. Sachin’s longevity and success in the game cannot be attributed to his talent alone. It is his passion for the game that kept him at the top.
Closer to home, one of my earliest memories as a child is watching scores of people standing outside my family’s business stall, at the exhibition grounds in Pragati Maidan. They were queueing up to buy motorized Toy-Airplanes that my grandfather had developed. I learnt later that this airplane was amongst the first motorized toys developed within the country. My grandfather made his passion for engineering his profession. My father followed his footsteps and built an engineering business. Both benefited immensely by following their passion.
With the elders in the family concurring, it was decided early on that I would study engineering. However, after completing my bachelor’s in engineering, it did not take much time for me to realize that engineering didn’t excite me as much. I decided to pursue post graduate studies in management. It is during this period that I came across a professor who was an equity investor himself and who taught concepts of Equity Research in his class. It became eminently clear to me during those classes, that Equity Research and Identification of Stocks is what excites me. Twenty years later, here I am, writing to you as Chief Investment Officer of one of the foremost Equity Fund Houses in India.
My principal suggestion to anyone seeking career advice is to follow one’s PASSION. This is a competitive world and there will be umpteen peers who will be as smart, hardworking and knowledgeable as you. However, what they will find hard to replicate is your passion, and that will be your edge.
With this primer, let me share five specific characteristics that helped me in my career:
# 1 Over delivery rule – I recall an instance where an ex-boss mentioned fleetingly that he did not understand the fertilizer sector well. Over the next week I scoured every single information source on the sector and built a deep understanding of it. I presented to him deep insights on the sector, and I could see my boss’ face light up. We ended up investing in the fertilizer sector and benefiting from our investments. He did not expect this work from me, but I delivered it, nevertheless. My boss noticed this penchant to do more than the immediate call of duty and backed me for bigger responsibilities. Be the over-deliverer, not the ‘regular’ worker if you want to stand apart from your peers.
# 2 Be a learning machine – Warren Buffett’s famous partner Charlie Munger says, “Go to bed smarter than when you woke up”. The world offers innumerable learning opportunities, and it is left to us to grab them. We can choose to gossip about people in office or to learn from their successful/avoidable habits. We can choose to scour Instagram aimlessly or learn marketing techniques that famous Instagrammers use. We can wallow in our shortcomings or read books that help us overcome them. Intellectual humility and the urge to compound your knowledge lead to long-term benefits in work and life.
#3 Believe in yourself and have the resolve to succeed – Michael Jordan, arguably the finest basketball player of all time, has this to say about success, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Failure is a reality in the real world; everyone is accosted by it. Having belief in oneself and the persistence to succeed are paramount to move ahead in life. Running away after every small setback is a recipe for failure.
#4 Surround yourself with positive people – The people one associates with decide the character one builds. If we associate with cynical people, we will have less belief in what the future holds for us. Conversely, if we associate with people who play the long game, are positive and trustworthy, we will build a mindset of optimism. The world machinates to reward the optimist and reprimand the pessimist.
#5 Be Honest – Be honest to others and to yourself. Being honest to others will allow you to gain their trust. On the other hand, being honest to self will allow you to improve. Don’t find excuses if you have committed a folly. Accept it wholeheartedly and attempt to learn from it for self-improvement.
A typical career lasts 35-40 years and encompasses the most productive years of one’s life. Alongside career goals, it is equally important to enjoy the process of career building and to make lasting associations. After all, 30 years into your career, it would be sad if you have no friends, and the process has been burdensome. Hence be likeable through your work, develop a healthy work environment and create good work memories, so you can look back and gain satisfaction from your most productive years.
For a career chart that looks somewhat like Tendulkar’s centuries count, consider following the above advice!
- The article was originally published in Career Ahead October 2021 issue.
Anshul Saigal heads the Portfolio Management Services (PMS) business at Kotak Mahindra Asset Management Company. He has over 20 years of experience in the Indian Capital Markets, of which he has spent over 14 years at Kotak PMS. In the past, he has worked with organizations like JP Morgan, ICICI Bank and Standard Chartered Bank, analyzing equities and corporate credit. Anshul completed his MBA (Finance) from Management Development Institute, Gurgaon and has a degree in Industrial Engineering from Siddaganga Institute of Technology, Tumkur. He is a voracious reader and constantly tries to upgrade his skill sets and instil multi-disciplinary thinking to the investment process. He has particular interest in the field of behavioural finance.