Leadership Blog #5: Curiosity, Career, and Communication

Our final 2019 feature is unique because Cherian Varghese, Regional Managing Director & VP – ASEAN & South Asian Growing Economies at Oracle, was nominated by one of his employees:

For as long as I have interacted with Cherian, I have witnessed him exercise absolute seriousness in his responsibility as a leader to make sure everyone is heard, even when it isn’t efficient to do so. He epitomizes inclusivity. I believe this will sustain and propel him when workplace evolution forces the value of ruthless pragmatism in achievement of goals to shed. I feel he is one of the greats in global leadership and I feel he is not even half way where he is deservingly destined to be.” – Geno Sher

Readers are leaders

Born and raised in Mumbai, Cherian was never a Straight A student. Yet, he has always been obsessed with absorbing knowledge and information; he woke up reading the newspapers while eating his breakfast and went to sleep listening to BBC. Through his avid knowledge consumption, he learned a lot about people, leadership, and politics which has helped him spot early trends. He mentions that staying informed helps you stay connected to the rest of the world, and it is also great for starting conversations because you are exposed to so many different perspectives. It’s also important to keep in mind that people respect you for your knowledge and ability to share it when it’s appropriate. Examples of notable leaders who read a lot are Elon Musk, who engages in rapid reading, and Bill Gates, who reads 50-60 books a year… Maybe it’s time we add some books and Harvard Business Review or Business Insider subscriptions to our Christmas wishlists!

You can’t design your career

It really comes down to the right place, right time, and a little bit of luck… Despite pursuing an engineering and computer science degree, Cherian’s first job was in IT sales because he found that he enjoyed listening to customers and proposing appealing solutions. When he first joined IBM, he became the fastest person to relocate because he enjoyed learning and strived to pursue leadership positions through global exposure and experience in Dubai, Singapore, USA, India, and Africa.

Some important questions to ask yourself as you progress in your career would be What does my presence in the organization mean? and How am I perceived by my team members and leaders? When it comes to progression, make it clear that you want to grow. You’ll never be asked “can we promote you?” to your face; if your destiny is made behind your back, how can you influence those decisions? Cherian recommends making good impressions and having a great presence in whatever you’re doing. Get involved in activities instead of only showing up for work and going home afterwards.

Always communicate for impact

It is critical to learn the art of storytelling, especially when engaging with your stakeholders and customers. Some people talk just to be heard, but you should ask yourself if what you’re saying is relevant and meaningful to the situation. Furthermore, it’s important to be aware that everyone has unconscious biases that affect how we perceive others. Before making judgements, try to ask questions to understand the other person’s perspectives. One way to build this skill would be to gain global exposure and experience. For example, Cherian’s experience from working with many different nationalities around the world has helped him learn how to adapt his leadership style.

Key Takeaways

I’d like to thank Cherian for a great conversation about his career and thoughts for success.

  1. Don’t take your opportunities for granted
  2. Show tremendous respect and empathy for others as you progress in your career
  3. Always crave knowledge and experience (you can be well educated but still lack exposure)

Thank you to Geno Sher for nominating Cherian for this blog. To nominate an exceptional leader, please email me at kkyn.ngo@gmail.com if you believe that he/she can share great advice and experience for future Leadership Blogs!