My classmate and friend Ravi Aranke and I quit our jobs around the same time in 2006. But between the two of us, Ravi has been far more adventurous in his experiments with his career. So, as we near and cross the age of fifty, it creates a wonderful opportunity to look back and see if there are any lessons we learned. Ravi now works as a Senior Director, Technical Support at Cloudera, a leading cloud platform company and is based out of Silicon Valley in California. When Ravi visited Bangalore a month ago, I grabbed the opportunity to have a chat with him. In this interview, Ravi presents his view of a career journey as surfing a wave rather than climbing a ladder. You can listen to the interview here (14MB).
Here are salient points from the interview:
1:15 Brief sketch of Ravi’s career: Spanning Japan, Singapore in software development and support, Sun Microsystems, RedHat, linear progression till 2006, from individual contributor to senior management. Sun Microsystems, Dotcom bubble, euphoric, Bust, layoffs, a period of introspection, slowly started the feeling, “if you don’t do it now, when will you do it?”, urge to do something different.
3:45 Were you sure as to what you don’t want to do rather than what you want to do? Yes. I was looking at some of the start-up success stories, there was some ego involved, “If I am working hard, I should be working hard for myself.” In hindsight, it was more of self-discovery and spending time doing what I enjoy.
4:45 What happened after you quit your job? I was gravitating towards reading certain books, spending time on investing related things, talking to those people. This was telling that I enjoy these other things more than building the company. Fortunately, I had saved some money. Internet was becoming a thing by that time. Videos on YouTube – 2007-08.
6:25 What was the day for Ravi at that point in time? I started seeing that availability and analyzing data would be a big thing in the future. This hunch came around 2006-07. If I learn these techniques, I will make money in stock markets. Idea of trading system, investing system.
8:13 Were you building skills? Yes, building skills, talent, assets in data science, building models.
9:50 What did the asset involve? Write code, acquire data, regression testing. Had to get back to programming.
12:12 Doing projects together with your kids? One of the best outcomes. Got a lot of time with kids. Google cloud in 2009.
15:25 Motivation to move to a small town. Could I build a small company in a small town? Broadband was a challenge. Now it would be easier. Suddenly I realized I doubled my time.
18:45 After 7 years, what triggered you to consider going back to a job? We made a 5-year plan. Son decided to pursue an undergraduate in the US.
20:30 How difficult was to get back to the corporate world? Wave of big data. New wave brings new companies, demand outstrip supply. Worked in my favor.
22:33 What does it mean to look at a career as surfing a wave? Needs a lot of preparation and some amount of luck. Building up for a wave to come. Not looking to go anywhere. Just enjoy.
25:30 Did you realize getting somewhere was not important? Yes. Buffett’s internal yardstick.
28:09 Is financial security an important aspect? Yes, absolutely, especially if you have a family. You need to get your burn rate down. Moving to small-town helped.
30:15 Anything else? Consider it more like adventure sport. Be prepared that ride would be rough sometimes.