The Other Side is back with a brand-new podcast series, From Insti & Beyond, in collaboration with the Alumni Relations Cell of IIT Madras. Here, they aim to talk to distinguished alumni of IITM to enable young graduates and students across IITs to make better and more informed decisions regarding their careers and lives.

In the first episode, The Other Side hosts Mr. Shiv Shivakumar, a leader who needs no introduction. Shiv Sir, a distinguished alumnus of both IIT Madras and IIM Calcutta (an extraordinary feat) has been a CEO for nearly half his career (Pepsi, Nokia, ABG) and in the episode, he distills all that he’s learned and experienced over the course of his illustrious career. He also talks to the Other Side about leadership, about how it starts from a young age, and about how one can become a better leader starting today. Besides the career guidance and leadership lessons, we also talk about some lighter things, such as his passion for sports, his undying support for Manchester United, and about how sports shaped his perspective on life and career. 

Check out the complete podcast here! For future podcasts and more, keep up with; the IAR Student Council here.

Some of the takeaways from the podcast are:

  • Give, Give and Give

One of the things Mr. Shivakumar is the most passionate about is how much you contribute. Not just to your organization, but even to the industry, to academia, to your alma mater as well as the society. Your net worth is not how much money you earn, but how much value you provide to others. In a long-term career, it’s the giver, not the taker, who wins. A lot of people at the end of their career seek to be a part of a company board or have an advisory position, that will only come by when you give back to society.

So, what is it that we have to offer? Knowledge, Skill, and Experience. The time you can give to coach the next generation, to give them a different perspective, to share your experience, and to let them have an opportunity to learn from your mistakes will lead to a better tomorrow.

  • Leave a legacy

He urges us to leave a legacy in every job we do, and he argues that you should not wait to become a senior in an organization before you leave a legacy. He emphasizes the fact that every job is important and we should not underestimate the impact junior-level jobs make.

How can you leave a legacy at anything you do? Each job has a job description. The job description tells you why the job exists, and not how to do that job. You have to bring your personal energy, your passion, and your creativity to the job. In the podcast, he gives a very interesting example of a policeman who used to dance and direct traffic and people would take a longer route just to witness him. This way he entertained everyone and made them happy, and people out of admiration of him followed the traffic rules. He wants us to bring the same energy to our jobs. You should do each job in your career as if it is your last day at work. If you make an impact, you leave a legacy.

  • Your Lack of Patience will Kill You

There is an age-old saying, “Man plans . . . and God laughs”. He emphasizes the fact that it’s futile to plan everything in the future as one never knows what the future holds. All you can do is work towards making yourself the person you want to be. If you are prepared, life will,  sooner or later, throw an opportunity at you. If you are committed to your goal and you are good enough, nothing in this world can stop you. But you have to be patient. Some want to be a VP by the age of 40 or a multi-millionaire by a certain time…… wait, buddy, why are you in such a hurry? The reason these goals are not sustainable is that these goals lure people towards short-term gains and instant gratifications. They feel they are getting closer to achieve their goals but in reality, they are losing the track. Especially early on in your career, you shouldn’t look at your income, but the learning. It is better to work under a great boss in a small company than under a poor boss in an MNC. In a career spanning over 30 years, you have to think long term and stay relevant.

  • Steady Head in Transfer Market

When asked about how he handled transferring from leadership positions in companies in different sectors( Nokia to PepsiCo to Aditya Birla Group), he said that he asked for fundaes from the people who have been working in the same company for a certain amount of time. Every company has some basic business principles which are easy to understand but what is difficult is to understand is why the company works in a certain way it does. It is not something which can be understood by outsiders by observation and every employee working there learns it gradually. Your best bet is to prepare and get to know as much as you can for a smooth transition to the company. This holds equally true when you are joining your first company.

  • Work-Life Integration is the Key

A balance between your professional life and personal life is a must. But after all, when we talk about work-life balance, work and life are not two different entities, but work is a crucial aspect of life. You must cherish your work, at least not less than your personal life. According to him, it comes down to work-life integration. Thanks to cellular connectivity, it is no longer necessary to be present at the corporate office to work, and your personal life can be interleaved with work-life (Thanks to the pandemic for consolidating his point). But as legends say,“ Kuch paane ke liye Kuch khona padta hai”, everything needs a sacrifice, so if you want to achieve something tomorrow, you have to give up something today. So every family needs to sit down and arrive at their own idea of what they want to achieve as work-life integration. It is always a personal choice.

  • Lessons from sports

Being an avid Manchester United fan, his biggest takeaway from sports is something no one fails to notice while observing Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial career, that your team always comes first before anything else. “Do what’s right for the company first, do what’s right for the company second, and do what is right for yourself last.” is the philosophy which he has incorporated into his professional life as well.

We all agree that there is something magical about teamwork, right? (When done right).


Want more fundaes? Want to go straight to the source? Listen to the complete podcast here.