10 Observations from working with Millennials

The dynamics of ‘work’ have been changing for a while now, so much that when I think about writing on the subject, my thinking almost seems outdated! Not surprising, GigaOm’s post from a year ago – How the great generational shift is causing transformation in the very nature of employment – shows as many as six generations active in the workforce these days! Each of them with different world views, attitudes, priorities and approaches to work. But given that I’m trading one demographic number for another in a couple of days, I thought it an appropriate time to share a few observations based on my recent experiences. Since I had written earlier on the challenges faced by my generation in The Future of Work and The Entrepreneur & the Professional, this post focuses on a younger workforce. Millennials, if you are into labels.

The first two points set the context. I mention these two because I think they have a direct link to the worldview, attitudes and behaviours of the emerging workforce towards work, and their life in general. They serve as the backdrop for me to observe the 15+ people I have managed in the last 4-5 years. More

The transience of consumption & marketing

Rajesh wrote a very interesting post recently on ownership, and how it would impact brand/marketing/purchase. My own view of ownership has undergone a massive change in the last couple of years, thanks to a combination of factors like increasing life spans, the changing nature of jobs, and the rise of on-demand services. Add to that extreme income disparity, economic flux, and technological advances that have the potential to create obsolescence faster than ever before, and I’m reasonably sure the concept of ownership is up for a revamp.

Rajesh brings up two factors that caused previous generations to value ownership – financial success (trophies) and asset building. If I have to analyse my own motivations in the past, both of these would find a place. If I dig deeper, I also see a couple of others. One would be lack of access on demand. (eg. music/movie CDs, books, even say, photographs) You can see how streaming and cloud storage have changed this. The other subtext I can vaguely discern is ‘control’. A car, home, all lend an air of certainty and being in control. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in middle class India which had quite a lot of experience with scarcity. But in the line of anti fragile thinking, the key skill going forward would be agility rather than trying to retain control. In essence, a whole lot of cases for ownership that no longer seem relevant.  More

Happy Tradeoffs

It’s in the nature of thought that it never ceases to exist. In Happiness: The End, it would seem as though I’d found the track I wanted to follow. But it isn’t ever so simple, is it? The books I read somehow seem to have words that phrase my thoughts just right


The first roadblock I have found in the ‘happiness plan’ is sensitivity. It works in at least a couple of ways. On one hand, when I act with my own happiness as the key filter, I find it difficult to ignore the effect it has on other people. Do my actions make them unhappy? On the other hand, I am also in situations when others’ behaviour makes me unhappy but one or more constraints prevent me from doing anything about it. In both cases, I have to compromise.


A picture to go with me

Something in Mishi Saran’s ‘The Other Side of Light’ made me think of a visual that would accompany me on the final journey. I’m not really a painting kind of person, so it’d probably be a photograph.

A photograph that captured my life in one still moment, or my soul itself. Something that was much more than a thousand words. Something that only I understood and could connect with, so its existence beyond my own would be meaningless.

For now, I don’t think I have a photograph like that. Or perhaps each photo, when I look back at it, is as much the deserving one as another. Each one, a different me, real and alive at that point in time, reduced to memory soon as it is captured.

until next time, transience

Sight, Insight

One Saturday, when we were getting out of Forum Mall, we noticed a trio fumbling around the entrance barrier ropes. Turned out they were blind and had no idea how to get out. With two loud events happening there, I guess their requests for help might not have been heard. We managed to get them out and in less than a minute, I learned how hard it must be for them to navigate- from steps to people in a rush, everything was a potential obstruction/hazard.

When we left them, I felt guilty, wondering how they’d reach their home/next destinations, and how I’d let my plans for the evening take precedence over the help I could’ve done them. I was also quite frustrated at the seeming injustice of it all. It didn’t help that I like perfect systems, which have a reason for being the way they are. D said that in the volunteering work she does, they are advised not to bond beyond a certain point with the people they work with. Apparently, when they get attached, it becomes difficult for both parties.

The next week, for the third time, this book “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” resisted my advances. It’s not the first one, nor is it going to be the last that just stayed on the shelf and mocked my attempts to establish some contact. But it definitely had been around the longest so far.

The signature says we bought it on a Gandhi Jayanti day in 2004. This time I got to about a third of it before I was completely fatigued. Perhaps it’s do with my inability to read multiple books simultaneously or the lure of the unread ones staring at me from the bookshelf, but I just couldn’t go on. It did give me a few interesting insights on life, death, transience etc, before we parted ways. In case it isn’t obvious, I quite hate not finishing books.

Letting go of things is never easy, though the difficulty varies as per the ‘thing’ under consideration. And yet, we do manage to let go. Sometimes by choice and sometimes slowly moving on without even realising (like the death of someone dear). But it doesn’t come easy as a practice – it either takes an iron will or is an unconscious act. The middle path slips from the grasp easily, such is the wiring of the mind. Perhaps, when I finish the book, I will understand how, and will be able to let go of books, blind people and a fancy dinner with the same ease and understanding.

until next time, in the dark..

This too shall pass…

Not a simple subject, but he’d been reading up, and even writing about it. Though he hadn’t completely internalised it, he felt he was beginning to understand. But the actuality of ‘transience’ hit him when his computer crashed. Photos, notes, accumulated over 7 years. Gone! Data recovery attempts failed. He too was yet to recover.

until next time, 8 years of blogging

P.S. A good time to realise that at some point, this too shall pause :)


Its comforting to walk about, and intuitively know the way around, without ever having to pause and think..the familiar roads and buildings, and places that are significant thanks to the associations they have with yesteryear life.

Its soothing to catch up with people who you haven’t spoken to in years, and still be able to have a conversation which you feel had been left off  only the day before, about friends and friends of friends, where they are and what they do..

And as you walk around, its also a bit unsettling to find out that some old landmarks have been replaced with swanky buildings, the roads don’t look the way it used to, desolate buildings that you stare at and say “I used to know some people here”, new street names and sometimes whole new streets have cropped up.

And when you look around, you miss a few old faces, that used to smile at you from shopfronts…nameplates that you thought would remain forever, have been replaced, bringing new characters and creating new stories.

And sometimes, as you talk, you understand that even the old characters have changed, perhaps without even them knowing it.

And that’s when you realise that there’s something both sweet, and sour about having a town you can call home. A home where your life and memories were shaped, and which is now being reshaped by others’ dreams, and lives.

And as places fade away and landscapes change, you are reminded of sand slipping through your fingers, even as you try to hold on. What remains are those tiny flecks, to give you memories, and to remind you of the fleeting nature of it all…..

until next time, mortality

Bombay Time

Thrity Umrigar

Bombay Time is like an old group photograph, in which each face can be zoomed to tell its own story. In this case, its a wedding where each character starts reminiscing about their lives so far, each life intertwined with others, and creating patterns, each story teaching its own lessons.
While its set in Wadia Baug and among Parsis, the stories are more human than community specific and applies to any large group of people that grows up together and grows old together. Its a warm read that shows the paradox of human lives – its futility and its pricelessness, and lessons that can be learned only by living.