Why Lloyd Blankfein is not an Engineer!?

I know what you are wondering and this title confuse you like how I got confused when I first heard! Well, this is what I have faced at home many a times, from my son, who has started his entrepreneurial journey at 14 years! His query was related to, why his father, who is an engineer could never scale up beyond a Vice President level in Goldman Sachs, though engineering is touted as the (only) big career for Indian Society and on the other hand, Lloyd could make it to a CEO of Goldman Sachs without having an engineering degree!!! Tough for me to explain this but I had to admit many a times, engineering degree (as compared to business / legal courses) is not mandatory to run smart businesses. He understands now and making his own plans for his future career.

Grooming an entrepreneur @home

As I took entrepreneurial path to move in my career, I have found a very close follower at home…none other than my son, Koushal Rao! Trying to walk into my foot steps and create his own impression as an entrepreneur. His entrepreneurial debut has started with www.carsicare.com, a social enterprise site for car owners and he had launched his beta version recently. He calls this as, Facebook of Cars! The big dilemma for me was, either to make him focus on his education like any other typical parent or give him the support he is looking for, at 14 years!

The Ideation Process

Seeing my profile changing year after year (thanks to Ford Motor Company &  Jones Lang LaSalle), he had an impression that my profile will also move in the same speed at Goldman Sachs, when I joined GS in 2007. He was disappointed to see me with the same title even after serving for 7 long years at GS! More than explaining to my bosses, I found it difficult to explain to him that Goldman Sachs does have 100s of VPs in every office and it is in fact a flat organisation! To demonstrate what Goldman practice, I used to take him to our offices in Bangalore, make him connect with our bosses. His tiny mind (not sure if it is really tiny at that time) wanted to find out, who manage these thousands of crowds in India and outside India… Perhaps it was my biggest challenge to explain to him, why Lloyd Blankfein (Global CEO of Goldman Sachs) and Bunty Bohra (India’s CEO) are no engineers, but still occupying the prime positions of the organisation!

I think this was his first myth buster that, CEOs need not be engineers and for him to achieve that profile, he do not need to study engineering, rather hire engineers to work for him (this was the statement he has made in front of 1000+ technology entrepreneurial audience at Silicon India’s Start-up Tech City competition in Bangalore, where he had won the Jury award for his carsicare concept and an open invitation from Tata Elxsi to incubate his company, while preparing for his Grade-9 exams). Just to add, he was invited by PES Engineering College professor, who visited the event, to meet their business graduates his thoughts on entrepreneurship!

Early seeds

My quick realisation was, either I have to cut his dreams and force him to focus on education like any other Parent, or take the risk of allowing him to fly and support his venture, which may even cost his education. I wanted to test him on his interest and how far he can sustain his interests. I helped him to connect and speak about his project concept in two high profile events. One at SAP Techniversity event for final year engineering graduates attracting more than 6000 final year engineering students from 14 states of India! Thanks to my friend Kumara, who had organised an interview of Koushal Rao by SAP team about his project and he surprised me while talking to the big-heads of the industry…. Sunil Rao of Google India, Ferose of SAP India, Chess Legend Viswanathan Anand…. I have started building my courage to allow him travel through the unconventional path at his age, while trying what ever I could do for making him to get a graduation.

I have asked my team to develop a proto-type application of his concept on a dot net platform and it was made ready for his next big occasion. It was the opportunity  with Silicon India’s Start-up Tech City competition event. He had decided to compete in that event and set up a stall. During the event, he took pains to address the stall visitors personally. I remember 150+ visitors registered at his stall, so curious to see what this young boy is talking about. When the moment of his presentation came, he was given about 3 min (stretched to 6 min) to run 8 slides on his product. Standing in front of the big crowd with a blackberry tab in his hands, he had presented his product to the crowd and the judges. He had won the Jury award with one year incubation support from Tata Elxsi at that event. Sensing his passion for doing things on his own, I have reinforced my decision to create the seed fund for his project and support him in his journey. He was giving his ICSE Class-X exams that year, which was the school final and I wanted him to balance it too (like any other Indian parent!

Making the teenager’s dream a reality

He made it through his school final exams and passed out to enter pre-university college…. it was a great relief to me. When he was fully ready to make his debut last year, we have supported him in engaging an expert team to develop the final product for his carsicare.com. He took the call on what should be his end product, who should form his core team and looked into the details personally. I have volunteered ‘Out’ from his meetings, taking the comfort ‘Off‘ his feet and allowing him to take the decisions on his own. He is dedicated, focused and want to pursue his dream of entrepreneurship with the same interest of playing his league level football matches. His non-compromising attitude on the UI of carsicare, had pushed his team to work extra hard in making one of the best UIs. Be it the logo, the UI, the features…he had his mark on it. I think he is coming of his age.

To conclude (or not to…!?)

Thought I couldn’t give an answer why Lloyd is not engineer, but Koushal has found his own answer for that question. I see the kids idolise the cinema & sports stars at his age but he is now idolising Warren Buffett and Richard Branson as his mentors in the business world. I am sure, he knows more than me about Warren Buffett and speculate who would be the successor for Berkshire (he grins and look at me as if I don’t know and finish his sentence, it is the Indian born Ajit Jain over Greg Abel)… He loves following the quotes from Buffett about the ABCs of Business decay (Arrogance, Bureaucracy & Complacency) and tells me, he do not give room to these ABCs in his organisation.

                                          *******************************

Rao is CEO & Co-founder of Kowni Technologies, with offices in Canada & India. Kowni is offering cloud based technology solutions for Real Estate & Facility Management industries. 

Koushal’carsicare.com is a web based social enterprise, which will help the car owners enhance their user experience. Currently his portal stack a million cars data, across Bangalore and Hyderabad cities. He is also talking to Bangalore Police to see how his product will help police manage their traffic violations and collect the pending penalties faster and also track the commercial vehicle / driver info at any given point of time.    

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