Sunday, May 27, 2012

SWOT Analysis for Self

I am currently doing a research based internship at a global management consulting firm, and part of my work involves analysing articles, surveys and case studies. This morning, in the midst of my work, I came across this article, rather outdated, but interesting nevertheless. I really do not agree with the writer's recommendations on how to answer the question on one's weaknesses, because they all seem to wriggle away from the core- trying to focus on circumstances, rather than facts. For example, the article states 'having a degree from a college that is not well-known in the Mid-West' could be a weakness. With due respect to the author, I believe that a weakness is something that is either inherent in us, or developed as a habit. It definitely isn't caused by circumstances. As I read through the article, it set me thinking. Whilst it is indeed difficult to talk about ones' weaknesses, it is important to keep in mind that each of us has an Achilles' heel. Whether we realize the weakness or not is a different issue altogether. I think the very fact that one has identified a weakness is, in itself, a strength. 'He who knows not and knows that he knows not is simple- teach him. He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool- shun him'. Ancient words of wisdom.

As I made my way to a nearby hawker centre for lunch later, I thought back to how I would answer that question if I had attended an interview. I realized that as important as it is to identify your weakness, it is also important to identify your strengths. Strengths and weaknesses define the sort of person you are. At the same time, one should also focus on the external trends- opportunities and threats, depending on the way one handles them, could turn into strengths and weaknesses as well. Not so different from analyzing strategy for a business after all- step 1 is always conducting a SWOT analysis. So here goes, a SWOT analysis for myself.
At the risk of sounding like an 'I-specialist', I'll start with strengths.
1) I am focused and committed. I am not afraid of rolling up my sleeves and getting down to work, and even if the task seems difficult, I try my best to accomplish it.
2) I am willing to take initiatives, the first step forward.
3) I am enthusiastic and eager to work on new projects- maybe it is just Beginner's luck- some sort of naïveté (since I am yet to work on a full time basis), but one definitely cannot deny that optimism does influence the way we work.
4) I adapt well- I guess that can be attributed to changing nearly five schools, and moving across different regions.
5) I am able to work well in a team. Having had an opportunity to spend a few years in the Middle East, combined with my childhood in India, and now, in the Far East, I have been able to witness (and integrate) into different cultures, all of which has, I believe, influenced my people skills.
6) I am not afraid to voice my opinions. If I strongly believe in a cause, I will stick by it and fight for it, no matter what.
Now, moving onto the weaknesses.
1) I get upset very easily. This is probably because I tend to take what people say very seriously, so something mildly annoying can cause me a great deal of trouble.
2) I worry way TOO MUCH. About EVERYTHING. >.<
3) I go to extremes, and am like a pendulum. Either I'm way too happy about something or way too worried. Either I like the person or completely do not. It's a bit difficult to follow the Middle Path that the Buddha spoke about. I'm trying to look at things dispassionately, but it's really hard.
4) I sometimes feel I need to be more aggressive. This could be because I'm a bit uncomfortable talking about my own achievements, since I myself have always been weary of people who talk too much about their achievements.
5) I find it difficult to say no at times.
6) I should probably talk to people more on a self initiated basis. Many people think that I am reserved and a bit of an introvert (I am, to a certain extant)- while some attribute it simply to my nature, I am concerned that some people interpret this as arrogance/being egoistic.
7) I can flare up instantly, though I don't show it to anybody else (except Amma :P)

How about opportunities?
1) A much smaller world has made a number of impossible things possible. I feel, given today's scenario, there are many opportunities available in my chosen career field of audit/accounting. Job security and exposure to a wide range of clients in terms of industry, function, size and geography are definitely some of the main advantages of audit.
2) It is much easier to change jobs today, compared to the past. So, should I feel the need to change the scope of my work, it will not be impossible for me to change to other areas such as tax, risk management, financial services, banking, or even consulting. After a number of years in the industry, it might even be possible for me to write a book or consider teaching. These two are my long term goals, and I think I would like to reach there sometime in the distant future.
I would like to believe that every problem that we face presents in itself an opportunity, and it's up to us to make use of that to our advantage.
Moving onto the 'threats', I think of them more as challenges- problems, but they are not insurmountable.
1) The extremely competitive nature of today's society in general, and a trend where achievement is seen as the key to most issues. Sometimes, the rat race bogs me down. This mad rush to achieve something, that extra something, always more, always better than your neighbour. I think the answer to this challenge is to think about the issue from a long term perspective- address things on the basis of how important it is for life, (not for a livelihood), what motivates/inspires you to do this rather than simply thinking about moving on.
2) The LONG working hours at audit. Stories of staying at the clients' offices till as late as 2 or 3 AM (especially for end-of-year peak audit) don't bother me as much these days- they seem to be the rule rather than the exception. Achieving a work life balance seems quite difficult in such a scenario. But then I guess it all boils down to your attitude at the end of the day.
3) I sometimes feel I might be a better position if I had working knowledge of another language. Arabic, Mandarin or French. I think my goal for the December break this year should be trying to learn basic Arabic- I do hope to go back home to the Emirates, and I probably should make use of that opportunity!
4) Certain unpredictable factors- take the economic crisis, corporate scandals, natural disasters, events that remind us that Apocalypse may well be on its way. Well, one particular individual alone is obviously not affected by these factors- it makes things difficult for all of us. We tend to think that the world is unfair only for us. However, in reality, unfairness, just like death, transcends all barriers.
I think that surmises the SWOT analysis for myself. I am glad I have analysed this, so that I can start taking steps to become a better person. Is there anything that I have missed? If you have worked/interacted with me, or simply feel that there are other factors that I should take into consideration, please let me know! It always pays to listen to feedback :)



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Crushed (55 Fiction)


It began as a crush. An itsy-bitsy one. But, it slowly grew. From a small spark to a furious fire. In her heart. Except, she never told him. She kept her distance; she wasn’t gutsy enough. Hoping against hope that he would somehow come to know. And then, she saw…the other woman. She was crushed.

Post Script:
Amma, I know you will read this. Don't read too much into it. I'm NOT lovesick or anything.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Walking along the Eucalyptus Trail

Image courtesy  thewanderers.travel   
I spent a major part of my childhood in Ooty, nestled in the cradle of the Nilgiri Hills of southern India. A little village called Lovedale, on the outskirts of the town, where Appa and Amma taught at a residential school. I have very fond memories of my childhood in Lovedale. The lush greenery all around, the beauty of the blue hills in the background, the ancient chapel on the school grounds, camp trips in the pristine woods, and the lovely eucalyptus trail which became a shortcut from our house on the campus to my primary school. And whenever I think of the eucalyptus trail, the forest floor perpetually covered with a dense carpet of fallen leaves, and carefully filtering in sunlight through the thick foliage, I think of Kannamma Akka. She must have been much older than Amma, and I took to calling her akka, just like how Amma would address her. Kannamma Akka would help to look after me, since my parents were busy with their respective classes.

As a result, Kannamma Akka would accompany me on the eucalyptus trail, from home to school. Every afternoon, she would come to school, carrying my neatly packed lunch, and would ensure that I ate it all, even going to the extend of feeding me, when I threw tantrums. And she would be there, when I went back home. She was my companion, when I arranged all the soft toys on the carpet and pretended to teach them all. As I scolded each and every toy for not doing their homework, imitating Agnes Miss who shouted at others in the class (not me because I used to be a chamathu then :P), she would watch the scene amusedly.

As a child, one of my greatest worries was not having long hair. I almost always had a mushroom haircut, which I detested since it wasn't 'girly' enough. So I would take one of Amma's long black duppattas and ask Akka to drape it around my head and weave it around like a plait. Each time this happened, I would throw back my 'plait' and prance around, believing myself to be some incredibly beautiful heroine. And each time, there was a twinkle in her eye. She became a confidante, and there wasn't anything about me that Kannamma Akka didn't know. 

I remember only one incident when I fought with her. I was upset about something that happened at school (cannot remember what exactly ticked me off). I was quite angry about it, and both Appa and Amma were busy in their classes. So, there was nobody whom I could vent my spleen on, and added to that, I was really hungry. Hunger, together with anger, is a really bad combination. So I asked Akka if there was anything to eat, and when she replied in the negative, I stomped to the kitchen, took a glass of water and spilled some sugar into it. Watching the entire tantrum unfold, Akka said, 'Indha ponnuku headweight romba jaasthi. Iru appa vandhaa, solren'. I had no clue what headweight meant, but her threat of telling Appa about the tantrum was enough to silence me. Later, when I asked Amma what headweight meant, she laughed and explained it to me, but was curious to know how I came across the phrase, and then I was forced to tell her the whole story. It was a bit like digging my own grave, since good old Akka had of course not 'betrayed' me.


My mind wanders back to the eucalyptus trail- me, holding Akka's hand, and chattering away about school,the heady scent of eucalyptus in the air, and the crunchy noise of fallen leaves as we walked by... I have come a long way from then, and Kannamma Akka has played an important role in my childhood. Today, I have no idea where she is or what she is doing. I haven't had an opportunity to meet her after we left Lovedale, which was nearly twelve years ago. However, I do know that I shall remember her with gratitude and shall always have respect and love for her.


Updated Amma sent me this picture of me and Kannamma Akka, taken years ago. Akka looks a bit angry- we never could get her to smile for photos. And there I am, acting goofy as usual :D

Sunday, May 27, 2012

SWOT Analysis for Self

I am currently doing a research based internship at a global management consulting firm, and part of my work involves analysing articles, surveys and case studies. This morning, in the midst of my work, I came across this article, rather outdated, but interesting nevertheless. I really do not agree with the writer's recommendations on how to answer the question on one's weaknesses, because they all seem to wriggle away from the core- trying to focus on circumstances, rather than facts. For example, the article states 'having a degree from a college that is not well-known in the Mid-West' could be a weakness. With due respect to the author, I believe that a weakness is something that is either inherent in us, or developed as a habit. It definitely isn't caused by circumstances. As I read through the article, it set me thinking. Whilst it is indeed difficult to talk about ones' weaknesses, it is important to keep in mind that each of us has an Achilles' heel. Whether we realize the weakness or not is a different issue altogether. I think the very fact that one has identified a weakness is, in itself, a strength. 'He who knows not and knows that he knows not is simple- teach him. He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool- shun him'. Ancient words of wisdom.

As I made my way to a nearby hawker centre for lunch later, I thought back to how I would answer that question if I had attended an interview. I realized that as important as it is to identify your weakness, it is also important to identify your strengths. Strengths and weaknesses define the sort of person you are. At the same time, one should also focus on the external trends- opportunities and threats, depending on the way one handles them, could turn into strengths and weaknesses as well. Not so different from analyzing strategy for a business after all- step 1 is always conducting a SWOT analysis. So here goes, a SWOT analysis for myself.
At the risk of sounding like an 'I-specialist', I'll start with strengths.
1) I am focused and committed. I am not afraid of rolling up my sleeves and getting down to work, and even if the task seems difficult, I try my best to accomplish it.
2) I am willing to take initiatives, the first step forward.
3) I am enthusiastic and eager to work on new projects- maybe it is just Beginner's luck- some sort of naïveté (since I am yet to work on a full time basis), but one definitely cannot deny that optimism does influence the way we work.
4) I adapt well- I guess that can be attributed to changing nearly five schools, and moving across different regions.
5) I am able to work well in a team. Having had an opportunity to spend a few years in the Middle East, combined with my childhood in India, and now, in the Far East, I have been able to witness (and integrate) into different cultures, all of which has, I believe, influenced my people skills.
6) I am not afraid to voice my opinions. If I strongly believe in a cause, I will stick by it and fight for it, no matter what.
Now, moving onto the weaknesses.
1) I get upset very easily. This is probably because I tend to take what people say very seriously, so something mildly annoying can cause me a great deal of trouble.
2) I worry way TOO MUCH. About EVERYTHING. >.<
3) I go to extremes, and am like a pendulum. Either I'm way too happy about something or way too worried. Either I like the person or completely do not. It's a bit difficult to follow the Middle Path that the Buddha spoke about. I'm trying to look at things dispassionately, but it's really hard.
4) I sometimes feel I need to be more aggressive. This could be because I'm a bit uncomfortable talking about my own achievements, since I myself have always been weary of people who talk too much about their achievements.
5) I find it difficult to say no at times.
6) I should probably talk to people more on a self initiated basis. Many people think that I am reserved and a bit of an introvert (I am, to a certain extant)- while some attribute it simply to my nature, I am concerned that some people interpret this as arrogance/being egoistic.
7) I can flare up instantly, though I don't show it to anybody else (except Amma :P)

How about opportunities?
1) A much smaller world has made a number of impossible things possible. I feel, given today's scenario, there are many opportunities available in my chosen career field of audit/accounting. Job security and exposure to a wide range of clients in terms of industry, function, size and geography are definitely some of the main advantages of audit.
2) It is much easier to change jobs today, compared to the past. So, should I feel the need to change the scope of my work, it will not be impossible for me to change to other areas such as tax, risk management, financial services, banking, or even consulting. After a number of years in the industry, it might even be possible for me to write a book or consider teaching. These two are my long term goals, and I think I would like to reach there sometime in the distant future.
I would like to believe that every problem that we face presents in itself an opportunity, and it's up to us to make use of that to our advantage.
Moving onto the 'threats', I think of them more as challenges- problems, but they are not insurmountable.
1) The extremely competitive nature of today's society in general, and a trend where achievement is seen as the key to most issues. Sometimes, the rat race bogs me down. This mad rush to achieve something, that extra something, always more, always better than your neighbour. I think the answer to this challenge is to think about the issue from a long term perspective- address things on the basis of how important it is for life, (not for a livelihood), what motivates/inspires you to do this rather than simply thinking about moving on.
2) The LONG working hours at audit. Stories of staying at the clients' offices till as late as 2 or 3 AM (especially for end-of-year peak audit) don't bother me as much these days- they seem to be the rule rather than the exception. Achieving a work life balance seems quite difficult in such a scenario. But then I guess it all boils down to your attitude at the end of the day.
3) I sometimes feel I might be a better position if I had working knowledge of another language. Arabic, Mandarin or French. I think my goal for the December break this year should be trying to learn basic Arabic- I do hope to go back home to the Emirates, and I probably should make use of that opportunity!
4) Certain unpredictable factors- take the economic crisis, corporate scandals, natural disasters, events that remind us that Apocalypse may well be on its way. Well, one particular individual alone is obviously not affected by these factors- it makes things difficult for all of us. We tend to think that the world is unfair only for us. However, in reality, unfairness, just like death, transcends all barriers.
I think that surmises the SWOT analysis for myself. I am glad I have analysed this, so that I can start taking steps to become a better person. Is there anything that I have missed? If you have worked/interacted with me, or simply feel that there are other factors that I should take into consideration, please let me know! It always pays to listen to feedback :)



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Crushed (55 Fiction)


It began as a crush. An itsy-bitsy one. But, it slowly grew. From a small spark to a furious fire. In her heart. Except, she never told him. She kept her distance; she wasn’t gutsy enough. Hoping against hope that he would somehow come to know. And then, she saw…the other woman. She was crushed.

Post Script:
Amma, I know you will read this. Don't read too much into it. I'm NOT lovesick or anything.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Walking along the Eucalyptus Trail

Image courtesy  thewanderers.travel   
I spent a major part of my childhood in Ooty, nestled in the cradle of the Nilgiri Hills of southern India. A little village called Lovedale, on the outskirts of the town, where Appa and Amma taught at a residential school. I have very fond memories of my childhood in Lovedale. The lush greenery all around, the beauty of the blue hills in the background, the ancient chapel on the school grounds, camp trips in the pristine woods, and the lovely eucalyptus trail which became a shortcut from our house on the campus to my primary school. And whenever I think of the eucalyptus trail, the forest floor perpetually covered with a dense carpet of fallen leaves, and carefully filtering in sunlight through the thick foliage, I think of Kannamma Akka. She must have been much older than Amma, and I took to calling her akka, just like how Amma would address her. Kannamma Akka would help to look after me, since my parents were busy with their respective classes.

As a result, Kannamma Akka would accompany me on the eucalyptus trail, from home to school. Every afternoon, she would come to school, carrying my neatly packed lunch, and would ensure that I ate it all, even going to the extend of feeding me, when I threw tantrums. And she would be there, when I went back home. She was my companion, when I arranged all the soft toys on the carpet and pretended to teach them all. As I scolded each and every toy for not doing their homework, imitating Agnes Miss who shouted at others in the class (not me because I used to be a chamathu then :P), she would watch the scene amusedly.

As a child, one of my greatest worries was not having long hair. I almost always had a mushroom haircut, which I detested since it wasn't 'girly' enough. So I would take one of Amma's long black duppattas and ask Akka to drape it around my head and weave it around like a plait. Each time this happened, I would throw back my 'plait' and prance around, believing myself to be some incredibly beautiful heroine. And each time, there was a twinkle in her eye. She became a confidante, and there wasn't anything about me that Kannamma Akka didn't know. 

I remember only one incident when I fought with her. I was upset about something that happened at school (cannot remember what exactly ticked me off). I was quite angry about it, and both Appa and Amma were busy in their classes. So, there was nobody whom I could vent my spleen on, and added to that, I was really hungry. Hunger, together with anger, is a really bad combination. So I asked Akka if there was anything to eat, and when she replied in the negative, I stomped to the kitchen, took a glass of water and spilled some sugar into it. Watching the entire tantrum unfold, Akka said, 'Indha ponnuku headweight romba jaasthi. Iru appa vandhaa, solren'. I had no clue what headweight meant, but her threat of telling Appa about the tantrum was enough to silence me. Later, when I asked Amma what headweight meant, she laughed and explained it to me, but was curious to know how I came across the phrase, and then I was forced to tell her the whole story. It was a bit like digging my own grave, since good old Akka had of course not 'betrayed' me.


My mind wanders back to the eucalyptus trail- me, holding Akka's hand, and chattering away about school,the heady scent of eucalyptus in the air, and the crunchy noise of fallen leaves as we walked by... I have come a long way from then, and Kannamma Akka has played an important role in my childhood. Today, I have no idea where she is or what she is doing. I haven't had an opportunity to meet her after we left Lovedale, which was nearly twelve years ago. However, I do know that I shall remember her with gratitude and shall always have respect and love for her.


Updated Amma sent me this picture of me and Kannamma Akka, taken years ago. Akka looks a bit angry- we never could get her to smile for photos. And there I am, acting goofy as usual :D