Flock with those who build things, #Asays

Do you know why birds flock in a ‘V’ formation? | PC: USAtoday.com

Milindaaa, R the Panda, Shefali, and A — Hashback.

Last week: Someone asked me if I remember my past colleagues? And, I replied “Of course. Each one of them.” My answer was spontaneous but while driving back home later I had a random flash-back of some of the amazing colleagues I’ve worked with. In my first organization, my co-boss Sankha (never formally, but he had good faith in me, and always gave me challenging work) told me the importance of collaboration. He added that while we all possess unique skills, the ones who collaborate end up being a stronger team and do better than others. That piece of advice is forever locked in my head. But, as I spent more time in the workforce, I realized that not everyone collaborates in the same manner. While some are absolutely resistant, some fall in between and then there are those who are programmed to take everyone along. And that’s precisely why some teams perform better than others, why some are more positive than others, why some always manage to solve a problem first, and why some do work beyond tick-boxes and end up building things. For me, these folks are the units of collaboration. It’s very important to look for them, and work with them if you want to do things a cut above others.

I’m glad I came across such folks at all four organizations (three before my current office) with whom I’ve had some brilliant discussions, and the opportunity to do great work together. Now, I’m not any institution that I can award them but yea— I can prolly share something I’ve admired in these folks and what made them valuable. But first, a few filters — I should have worked for at least a good 6 months with these folks, and second — I won’t talk about anyone with whom I’m working currently for professional reasons.

Here are 4 stellar collaborators from 4 organizations I’ve worked till now:

1 | Milindaaa:

I met him in 2008 in the Operations wing in Mumbai when I was in Product Development and Marketing at IMS Health India. Sincere, humble, knowledgeable but not so good with fluent English (not a big deal if you’re good in your craft). I’d often sit next to him for hours to observe and understand how he played with data and extracted trend-sheets, refined unstructured data sets into meaningful tabulations in order to bring rich insights to the table. He’d always be quick to spot micro-trends and highlight to us. And his MS Excel skills? I’ll just *bow*. Mind-blowing. From Vlookups, to Hlookups, to Alt+ESV to IF, AND, OR, Sort, Pivots and what not — I’ve learnt immensely from Milindaaa (coined his name Milindaaa because of the energy he brought just like those Mirindaaa ads). While he was in Ops, his collaboration skills were amazing. Right from the data coders till the QC, to the Stats Head and my Boss in Product Dev & Marketing — he was one guy who could string all of us together with his subject understanding, ops knowledge and soft skills. He’d often call me and seek opinions on things he’d be building around for process improvisations. Although he wasn’t in Marketing, I’ve cherished and learnt a lot by simply being around him. And, I’m glad I did. Definitely, a key unit of collaboration. And he’s one of the few guys who still texts me on festivities and I in turn make it a point to call him up at least once even after all these years. Thank you Milind!

2 | R, also the Panda:

If I’m not wrong R joined my second organization — TCS Mumbai’s Corporate Digital Marketing team in 2013 and was immediately put on some website content project. I was asked to give an induction on dot com (website), social media, analytics, etc and I found her to be an extremely good listener who’d constantly take notes. As we worked on several projects and later she was put on managing content for social media and drive certain BU campaigns — I’ve never ever seen a “this won’t work / no we can’t do this” attitude from her. On the contrary R was very curious and determined to solve tasks, and she’d pool everyone (our Boss, content team, design team, tech) to reap their expertise and find a solution for our internal clients. In fact, she’d often put questions to me and other team members around our work so that she could cross-learn from us. Once again, a strong unit of collaboration and I think all the team mates enjoyed working with her to build meaningful things. And, I don’t even know when did she along with a few others start calling me as Master Shifu until I noticed it one day after completing an internal training session.

Well if I’m by any imagination Master Shifu then R is definitely the Panda. Thank you Rukmini!

3 | Shefali:

I joined my third organization OgilvyOne Delhi in 2014 with great excitement as I knew this was were I could be my real self — and unleash all my creativity. Of course, nothing like that happened immediately and I found myself drained with planning, social, and strategy slides, slides, and more slides. It’s only when I joined an agency from client side that I learnt that not everyone is supposed to be creative (duh! like really?) and if someone from strategy would get creative then it’d be looked up as showing off (Well). Creative teams will first not hear you, then somehow they will give you 10 mins just before lunch, and keep your idea aside as soon as you get back to your desk. Later, I learnt this was a common occurrence and not something I was experiencing alone. Anyways, I was too new to shake-up things and that wasn’t my aim while being in my ‘sponge mode’. It was only for some pitch (and later an airline and automobile client) that I was put in a team with Shefali from Creative (Digital). I was impressed by her approach — where she’d hear us out, and then brainstorm together to accommodate everyone’s views. Now, that was a big deal because she’d always try to build things not alone, but by taking everyone along. I’ve never sensed that she from Creative would ever say “it’s my work”, instead I’ve always heard “we should, let’s do this what say?, “we all should be chasing…” reinforcing the importance of working together which in turn would ensure a conducive environment for fresh thinking which’ll connect irrespective of where the idea came from. There was just so much to learn from those long sittings with her, and learn the finer aspects of creative articulation, expression and even design.

And, she was particularly open to taking inputs from young team mates who’d prolly carry a different perspective being millennials themselves. All this reflected in some great work we did for our clients and was appreciated across different levels. Once again, I found in her a unit of collaboration with whom I got a chance to learn, and build great campaigns. Thank you Shefali!

4 | A — Hashback:

And here’s the last one. A. (Just in case any of my current colleagues are reading this then I hope you remember the filters I mentioned above in the second para, there’s absolutely no doubt you’re awesome and you know it!). Inside A, outside Hashback. It was like two personalities in one and both competing with each other for their craft. A was the Social Planner and took charge of social, and content at Cheil India. Many found his way of working strange but if one ever went beneath that layer then one could clearly see a factory of ideas emerge which would make constant attempts to inject an element of innovation in everything that goes out on our client’s social feeds with clinical precision. I myself am someone who pays a lot of attention to small things (trust me, it pisses off a few but that’s alright) and found an equal working match in A. It was like A + A = 2A’s coming together, and *boom* showtime! And it wasn’t just confined to us, I could see clear collaboration happening seamlessly across Servicing, Planning and Creative combined. In fact, one trait that I’ve admired in A is that he would sit with Social Creative teams and constantly guide, make them stretch till the time he was convinced it’ll work and get us engagement. I can’t even count on how many ideas — big or small we’ve jammed together but all of them including us creating a brand collab on twitter, double-tapping on instagram to show love to our Moms and many more led to amazing bursts of interactions where we had just one goal — to produce quality content for driving social engagements and brand love. We were in the truest sense — building things.

Unfortunately for us, Ashish moved on but I’m happy we worked for a brief but meaningful period together. I certainly learnt a lot from him, and his style of collaborating. Last week, someone from the Creative team walked up to me for sourcing new ideas and in between expressed how he sometimes misses Ashish’s insights and expertise. I feel that’s a strong reflection of how well you collaborated because in the end — we only remember the folks who did great work. And, that’s all that matters. Thank you Ashish!

So, here were my li’l episodes with Milindaaa, R the Panda, Shefali, and A — four different colleagues who demonstrated collaboration and added different perspectives and learning to my professional experience. While we don’t always get to work with the folks we like but we all do have the option to give time to our colleagues, cultivate understanding, jam together, learn new things and collaborate for productivity. I’m curious to hear from you about your experiences and learning by collaborating with talented individuals. Find your flock if you haven’t already. And, flock with those who build things.


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