Sandeep brings with him over 20 years of international finance/operations leadership experience spanning MNC Manufacturing, Technology Startups, and global IT/ITES organizations. In his last job, he was CFO at DELL-EMC’s Global R&D Center in Bangalore. Alongside that role, he also served as Regional Chairperson for the prestigious NASSCOM GIC Forum. In the past, he has worked at senior leadership positions at Hewlett-Packard, EXL Service and Goodyear India.
Here is the first job experience of Sandeep Kejriwal, VirtualForest, Co-Founder, COO & CFO.
What is the biggest lesson that you learnt in your first job?
Within three years of starting my career as a CA, I had become Finance Head of a medium-size manufacturing company. What worked for me was that from day one, I looked at the business from the eyes of a CEO; had a keen desire to be on the shop floor and learn from others; and found areas to contribute to the bottom line. While I did that naturally, I realised later that organisations are always hungry for such resources. It doesn’t matter even if that resource is a fresher. In fact, all through my career, I remember having prepared my annual goals that always exceeded what my bosses had in mind for me. So the lesson here is that people should not allow themselves to get caged inside their titles or job descriptions.
What would have happened had the pandemic struck while you were starting your career? How would you have tackled things in your stride?
There are four Hindi words that, if deeply imbibed, can help anyone move forward in life, no matter how strong the headwinds may be. These are Prayatna, Prarthana, Prateeksha and Prarabdh (i.e., effort, prayer, patience and destiny). What it means is that we should give our best to whatever we choose to do, while having faith and patience, as well as the humility to accept the outcome. For me personally, these have been my guiding principles since childhood as I grew up in a spiritually inclined family. Therefore, as a fresher in a pandemic-like situation, I would have given my best to whatever opportunity I could get, and passed each day counting my blessings.
One interview tip that you find extremely useful and relevant over the years.
Be yourself – don’t fake it. At the same time, do not hesitate to ask questions even if those may sound tough. If it’s not meant to work between you and the hiring manager, it’s better you discover it now than later.
What are the 3 main soft skills that a fresher must possess to ace jobs?
A lot of freshers do a good job of what they are told to do. However, those who have bigger potential and can also attract the right attention at the same time, always move up in their career faster than others. Assuming someone has such potential, I would like to see the following skills in that person:
Curiosity: This is what has always helped people find their calling as well as discover their true potential. Freshers with a curious mind are quick learners, and they easily identify opportunities to add bigger value than what is usually expected of them.
Communication: Good command over English (spoken and written), clear articulation, presentation, and active listening. This is a critical skill that is often found missing even at senior levels.
Networking: This is a great way to create visibility for oneself. Not only it broadens one’s learning about the organisation, it also creates opportunities to participate in cross-functional projects.
How has the pandemic shaped/changed the work culture?
Several surveys have indicated that a majority of employees want to return to the workplace. So even if it is technically possible to continue to work from home, people are now missing the bonding, the power of in-person meetings and brainstorming, cultural connect, and the option of a workplace that’s away from home. In general, the pandemic has anyway been an extremely humbling experience for the entire humanity. So as people gradually start returning to their offices, we should expect to see more positive energy and camaraderie than before.
Your perspective on the changing work culture over the past decade.
The massive technology disruption over the past decade has completely changed the way we live today. At the same time, it has also disrupted the work culture by placing innovation, problem solving and agility among the top success metrics for any business. This is why we are now seeing a big push towards re-skilling or up-skilling the workforce everywhere. However, there is a downside too as the disruption has also resulted in higher employee turnover, as well as undue stress and anxiety among people.
One book that you would recommend to the freshers that can help.
It’s the “leadership quality” that eventually puts someone into a “leadership position”. Unfortunately, many people think otherwise that they would need to demonstrate leadership only when someday they get a fancy title of a leader. I would therefore, strongly recommend the book “The Elephant at the Dinner Table” by Amit Nagpal, who is an accomplished leadership trainer with over three decades of experience. By compiling interviews of several successful leaders as well as amazing anecdotes from the corporate world, he has beautifully addressed several common issues faced by working professionals, e.g., fear of not being good enough , anxiety around future, how to create meaningful work, having a purpose-driven career, work-life balance, etc.