Navigating Change: A career journey in Singapore

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Krishna Sadashiv or Sada Graduated from IIMB in 1981 and is perhaps the oldest IIMB alumni in Singapore. The change was a big part of his career and as a topline message, he recommended having an open mind and the need to relentlessly drive it by creating change. He tempered down this formulation by a repeated reference to "Faith" throughout the talk.

He spent close to a decade in L&T as an engineer in the Switchgear division. Though dissatisfaction is what made him quit to become a banker with the EXIM Bank of India, he still retains a certain fondness for L&T. According to him, L&T even in his days had structures that were superior to many of the contemporary companies. At EXIM Bank he was an unusual banker and prioritized on facilitating his clients and disbursing funds. And I got a distinct sense that this wasn’t done at the cost of prudence. EXIM had a World Bank funded component and in describing the details he expressed a certain responsibility towards the taxpayer’s funds.

He quit EXIM Bank as an Asst General Manager and he joined Price Waterhouse in a fairly junior position of a manager, but rose to become a Director within 2 years. The move happened over a coffee discussion which he didn't realise was a job interview. Later he mentioned how his trait of always adopting a service mentality and being fixated on serving others helped build his connections. These connections have held him in good stead all through his life.

Later at E&Y, while heading the knowledge management function he realized that his was a cost center. So he worked to turn it into a profit center and was concurrently leading the Commercial Due Diligence practice.

After sharing this relentless story of change, he was humorously asked if he had any mortgages?? The fascinating answer was that he did indeed have mortgages and the first 15 years of his career he held very senior positions but didn’t have much of a bank balance.

Later at E&Y, he added another mortgage even as he faced the possibility of redundancy. It was in that period of uncertainty that he started the Climate Change and Sustainability practice within E&Y.

However he, like Ravi Thakran, acknowledged that large education liabilities for fresh MBAs would be a consideration for making career choices.

Answering further questions he claimed that he evaluated and understood the risks well and yet paradoxically remarked that had he foreseen the Asian financial crisis he may not have embarked on the path he took. During his talk, he expressed a remarkable sense of keeping faith in a Greater Power. On being questioned on his faith, he shared how he actively learns about his culture and elaborated the concept of the Pancha Maha Yagnas or Five Great Dedications that he has tried to practice in his life.

  • Worship of Devas or the Divine (Deva Yagna)
  • Respectful acknowledgement of ones forefathers for their contributions (Pitr Yagna)
  • Service of fellow humans (Manushya Yagna)
  • Worship of the environment and all other beings(Bhuta Yagna)
  • Acknowledgement and dedications to the accumulation of knowledge(Bramha Yagna)

In explaining the Deva Yagna, Sada mentioned that there are things beyond one’s control and in that context explained his faith on a Greater Power beyond human control. This was quite a contrast to the relentless drive that he had emphasized earlier.

Later in life, he felt a need to have something outside work to enthuse himself. So he started volunteering at the Changi Prison for counselling prisoners of Indian origin. Previously Sada had a 75 hour work week and Saturdays were often working. Post the volunteering he felt that the world around him adjusted to his new priority. He is a mountaineering enthusiast and scaled Mount Kinabalu in 2012 besides having qualified himself at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering at Uttarkashi much earlier.

He felt that MBA teaches its students, the skills of a CEO, while in real professional life the newly minted MBAs starts at the lowest level in the organization.

His advise to freshly minted MBAs is that even if one starts figuratively as a janitor, one’s objective should be to find creative ways if one was charged with the cleanup of toilets. He also emphasized the need to continuously invest in one’s own learning of new skills giving the example of how he spent money from his own pocket to certify himself in Greenhouse Gas measurements and audit, Safety management and international arbitration and mediation.

Regarding his status as an arbitration expert, he felt that the future held opportunities as he foresees disputes arising from issues around environmental sustainability. He briefly talked about TCFD (Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) and its impact on financial disclosures and stated that these climate change-related issues will have a wide-ranging impact. He advised that the businesses need to look at climate change as a business risk and taking them into consideration while formulating the overall corporate strategy. As a practitioner, he exhorted everyone present to impress upon their respective organizations that embracing sustainability is the safer thing to do.

Shijo George is a Startup consultant based in Singapore. He did his masters from IIM Bangalore. His experience spans Fortune 500 companies like Coca Cola & P&G, Banks & Fintech like Standard Chartered Bank & Paypal and many Startups.

 

 

 

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author.

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