Originally Published: Tuesday, 21 August 2001 Author: Maninder Bali
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_skills/Linux Job Skills Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Capitalize on your Uniqueness

Maninder Bali, a successful business man in the booming Linux market in India has some words of wisdom for those seeking work or even The Next Big Thing.

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Just in case you have overlooked the news, there are new realities in the technology sector (and for that matter, throughout the business world) these days, and the chances are that some of these realities will greatly affect you and your career. For one, more and more companies seem to value ability and character over experience and knowledge. That does not mean they don't want it all, only that if they have to make a decision, chances are that they will hire you for what you can do more than for what you know.

Technology evolves at such a rapid pace that what you know now is not going to keep you in demand for very long. What helps you better is your ability to learn, apply that knowledge and grow in your field and at the same time, help your employer maintain her competitive edge in the market.

When contacted, this is what the H.R. Executive of Centurion Linux, an upcoming Linux company in India, had to say: "I would rather have an engineer fresh out of college than one with 10 years of experience if I had to make a choice. An understanding of the latest development techniques, and an eager and moldable mind could turn out to be more desirable than experience that results in inflexibility. The young guys have the flexibility when it comes to their thought patterns. Instead of just following what has been done for ages, they tend to come up with solutions which make you wonder why a thing was done in the [old] way all this while."

What is the mistake most people make when looking for work or the next big thing? The fact that you have done it before doesn't mean you can do it again.

This is one of the biggest and most common mistakes successful people make, thinking that they can recreate their success each and every time. There are various factors that change with time. Technology and customer preferences for one technology over another change so fast that the ability to adjust and respond is crucial sustenance for any business. This is where young brains come into the picture. New ideas are critical to success in the high tech industry. Here it is innovation that sets the winners apart from the losers. If you can market your product in a new and aggressive manner, come up with dynamic ideas for raising capital or a new feature that sets your product apart, voila, you have that much needed competitive advantage. This, however, does not ensure your winning. Results show that it is often the second or third company in line with a new technology or trend that wins big.

According to a senior official at Centurion Linux, the need of the hour is to manage your career pro-actively. You must constantly look for new opportunities to gain experience and knowledge in the right area, and more importantly, you must focus on improving your abilities. An example of this comes from the late 1980s when the mini-computer companies were fast fading away. Prime and Wang would offer employees significant increases in salary to work on proprietary products because they had to have someone keep them going while they transitioned to the new products. The employees were happy because they were making a lot more money than they ever had before based on their experience with the older machines. But after a while they found themselves out of a job with a high salary and no relevant experience or skills to offer a new employer. As it turns out, some of them were only qualified to run liquor stores or cigar shops with the experience they gained.

Demonstrated ability and character over experience and knowledge? Sabeer Bhatia, Co-founder Hotmail: "Of course this approach is not entirely new. The idea is to find someone who is motivated and has raw ability, and that person will get the job done. What this means is that if you understand the process and you have the ability, you can be successful in many things that you do."

Hang on buddy, what if you don't have it in you, that natural ability? Your bad luck? No, there are ways to overcome even that problem: However, be prepared to work a little harder. The whole point is to put that effort into the right area. Focus on increasing your ability, not just your knowledge. Work on understanding concepts, techniques and philosophies, not just memorizing information. Work on the how, not just the what. Personally, I learnt all this thanks to Kristina Pfaff Harris, whose articles we all have read.

The sad but true fact is that you just can't turn creativity, innovation and ability on and off like your favorite notebook. You must learn to see things differently. You must start to pay more attention, look closely, listen carefully and think about what you have learned. Don't just memorize it, process it. Stop looking for the new way of doing things and invent it. This is what it means to process not just memorize.

Well, the new ideas are out there. The new technology, inventions, processes, tweaks - whatever it is that is going to be the next big thing. It might exist right now. All you have to do is discover what it is. You don't even have to come up with it yourself. Who knows when someone might give it to you and all that is left for you to do is to understand what you have been given.

According to Mr Bali, President of a company dealing in embedded Linux devices in Pune, India, you need not be the best or the first to win. According to him, it's not important to be the first but to do the right thing when given your first chance. And for that, you don't have to know the most or have the most experience. Just think. He encourages young people to break out of the box. He explained that it is important to exercise who you are. You have got to capitalize on your uniqueness. Learn to use the way you look at things to your advantage. Use your lack of experience to your advantage. Mr Bali emphasized the point that it is not just what you have done and what you know that companies are looking for. A lot depends on who you are, how you think and what you are able to do.

Believe in yourself, go out there and get them!

Maninder Bali is presently working as an embedded Linux systems developer for a software firm in Portland. He is also helping his brother with one of the most promising Linux startups in India, Centurion Linux.

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