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[CTQ Smartcast] The Role Of Curiosity And Networking In Being Future Relevant, With Amit Paranjape

Amit Paranjape is the Co-founder of ReliScore and Chair MCCIA IT/ITeS Committee. He has close to 70k followers on Twitter because of the rich nature of his interests. And when it comes to networking, there is no one better than Amit to make us understand its What(s), Why(s), and How(s).


In this Smartcast conversation with CTQ Co-founder BV Harish Kumar, we asked him to elaborate on the relationship between curiosity and networking and how it can help one to stay relevant in the future.



Prefer an audio version of the Smartcast? Listen below.






SOME OF THE THINGS WE SPOKE ABOUT

  • Should curiosity be planned or should it be spontaneous?

  • Why is it important to indulge in interests other than your work?

  • Importance of networking.

  • Multitasking: Is it everyone’s cup of tea?

  • The role of online learning in satisfying one’s curiosity diet.

  • Should one’s network be based on their career?

  • Impact of COVID on networking.

  • How to become search literate?

PLUS

  • Handling new social media platforms. AND

  • Amit’s rendezvous with Elon Musk.


LINKS TO BOOKS, PEOPLE, ARTICLES, WEBSITES MENTIONED IN THE SMARTCAST


PEOPLE

LITERATURE AND BOOKS

OTHERS



TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE


00:00:00

Harish Kumar: Amit Paranjape’s official LinkedIn profile reads as Co-founder ReliScore, Chair MCCIA IT/ITeS Committee. But anyone who follows Amit’s social media knows that he is so much more than what the LinkedIn headline conveys. Amit has close to 70 thousand followers on Twitter and that’s because of the prolific nature of Amit’s interests. His insightful tweets help all his followers learn and engage with a variety of topics. So we wanted to pick Amit’s brains about how his curiosity fuels his public persona. Amit is also prolific when it comes to networking, so we asked him for tips on improving networking skills. Spoiler alert: Don’t do networking for the sake of it, do it because you are genuinely interested in the person. We also spoke about the various manifestations of his curiosity, from reading books to taking courses to write articles. If you are thinking about how curiosity and networking can help you and your team in staying future relevant, you will find this useful. If you just play curious about how Amit manages to do what he does, you’ll find this super useful. By the way, remember to subscribe to our show on whatever platform you are getting this on, that way you’ll get notified when we publish a new episode. We do have many interesting guests lined up for you.


00:01:37

Harish: Hi, welcome Amit. Welcome to the CTQ Smartcast.


00:01:40

Amit Paranjape: Hi, good to be here.


00:01:44

Harish: This has been in the works for some time now. We’ve been thinking of getting you onto the CTQ Smartcast for a while. A lot of questions have been prepared waiting for you. So let me get started. The one thing that we wanted to talk to you about is the role of curiosity and networking in future relevance. When we look at you and your public profile, we can see curiosity at work right from the kind of things that you follow, the kind of people you are with. We can see that in action in the kind of content that you create. It’s curiosity all over the place in terms of whatever your public profile is. The first question that comes to mind, even when one thinks or talks about Amit Paranjape is the prolific nature of the number of topics that you follow. You are curious about everything from electric vehicles to Pune rains, from history to startups, from technology to cricket, and also some weird handegg kind of sport that you follow. Do you just follow anything that interests you or is there a deliberate plan about it?


00:03:00

Amit: Yeah. First of all, thanks for that introduction. I’m not sure if it’s curiosity. Well, I guess you can call it curiosity, but there’s definitely no systematic plan around this. By definition, curiosity is something that's a little difficult to be force-fed onto something or someone. You have to inherently be curious about something. You can do a lot of things to further extend it and work on it, but fundamentally you need to be curious about things. I think most people are. If you go all the way back to human civilization, or even before humans, it’s basically curiosity that has led to an evolution in so many ways. Again, if you come back to modern times and look at children, for example, they are fairly curious. There’s a statement, I think by Carl Sagan, and I had tweeted about it. He says, “Kids are amazingly curious in their kindergarten or first grade. They ask all kinds of questions. Something happens between that and the 12th standard. By the time they are in their 12th standard, they have completely lost it.” So that’s something to do with our education system, I guess. Coming back to your question, I think curiosity is very inherent in most people. Obviously, areas of interest and topics can be different. As far as I’m concerned, yes, as you said, I’m curious about too many things. I’ll give you that. It’s not really science vs. history vs. politics vs. current affairs. I think it’s everything around us for me. Anything that I see, a question that comes to mind is - Why? How? What? The 5 Ws and the H. if you have that outlook then you are not limited to any topic. If you see a physical or a chemical or a biological phenomenon, you immediately get into the science void and start asking questions on what it is? How did it happen? Why did it work? etc. But you can extend the same thing to current affairs. You see an event and ask why did it happen? Why is this the position of person X or country X? Then you go back into history and see what were the issues and how did this come about. You can take this sort of view into practically any field or domain. It’s not just a science-centric thing. You can do this in humanities, liberal arts, and pretty much everything. That’s probably the only thing I would say that triggers me, that whenever I see something in any domain, I guess your senses catch it whether you see, hear or read it, you start asking questions. I subconsciously start asking questions to myself. I guess I can’t control it, but I can get bothersome sometimes. These days thankfully you have a smartphone in your hand. Till about 10 years back, I had to wait till I got to my laptop to then start searching, doing queries, and looking for books, blogs to get some quick answers. If I don’t have that answer, it bothers me. That’s one way to test if you have curiosity. When the follow-up questions start bothering you to the point where you then actively seek out ways to answer that question for yourself. As I said, it could be a combination of google search, books at a library, asking an expert in that field, etc. Let me pause here, I think you’ll have a bunch of questions on it.


00:06:34

Harish: Yeah. Amit, you spoke about how things are easier in terms of thirst for knowledge right now with a smartphone in your hand. But 10 years ago you had to rush back to your laptop and check. So if you compare how things were when you were growing up, you still had to go to a library, to the times when you had a laptop to, now everything is at your beck and call. How has it affected that part of your life where you are trying to find these answers?


00:07:09

Amit: That’s a good question. If I were to go back to my school days, that time there was obviously no internet or the computer. When I was in school, libraries also were not that easily accessible. Our school didn’t have a great library and public libraries didn’t have encyclopedias out there. I was fortunate, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were quite curious about different things, and probably saw that I was too. Ever since I remember, practically even before 5th standard, I used to get regular gifts of various encyclopedias. There were those Tell Me Why series, various kinds of encyclopedias across various fields. So essentially I had a small home library if you will, across a variety of different topics, mostly around science at that time. It was my biggest source and in school I had subscribed to a bunch of magazines. You probably may not remember but there was a good magazine called Science Today in the 80s in India. I used to get a couple of science magazines from the US as well. At that time my aunt used to be in the US and she had sent me a couple of subscriptions on Popular Mechanics, Popular Science and Scientific American as well. My grandfather was a big fan of National Geographic, so we used to get that. All this was quite useful to build up that knowledge. Of course, I used to ask questions all the time, I had family that was interested in many of those topics and I got some of those interests from them. I used to ask them questions and get some of those answers. If I fast forward to junior college as we call it, 11th-12th standard, I got access to probably what was one of the best sources of knowledge in Pune. It was the British Library. Again this is pre-internet. If you are crazily curious and the first time you saw a British Library reference section or even a regular library, it was literally like a kid in a candy store. It was just a fabulous experience to see so many books across so many different topics, nicely organized in an air-conditioned environment. You could sit for hours in the reference section. So after 11th standard it became a huge part of seeking out information. It was like the internet with access to all encyclopedias, daily papers coming in from the UK 2-3 days late. That was quite something. Even when I went to IIT, I continued that because I used to come to Pune often. More than the IIT library, the British Library was better in terms of the general knowledge aspects. That continued and that’s really where my main source is, if you will, before the advent of the internet in the late 90s.


00:10:13

Harish: That’s really interesting. In the late 90s for me, the British Library was the place till the pre-Google days at least. Whenever we used to set quizzes I used to spend a day in the reference section at the British Library. Talking of quizzing, we can’t let you go without asking you some quiz questions. Given the nature of your varied interests, I think we can do the entire 1.5 hours chat by just asking you quiz questions. But I’m going to restrict myself to 2-3 questions


00:10:57

Amit: I hope I can get them.


00:10:59

Harish: This one is very simple for you. I’m sure it’s right down your alley, maybe you’ll answer it before I complete the question. The Maharashtrian cultural scene is known for two historic pats on the back. The first one is when Bal Gangadhar Tilak gave a pat to this young singer and named him Bal Gandharva. In the 1930s, a young boy played Bal Gandharva’s song on a harmonium and this boy received a pat from Bal Gandharva. Who was this young boy?


00:11:33

Amit: I can’t remember the name. Sorry.


00:11:38

Harish: So this is probably the most versatile person that we know of…


00:11:43

Amit: Is it Pu La?


00:11:45

Harish: It is Pu La Deshpande


00:11:47

Amit: I thought it was Pu La but thought 30s was a little too young for him.


00:11:50

Harish: Right. He was a young boy then, yes. This was Pu La Deshpande who got a pat from Bal Gandharva, then the rest is history as we say. On that note, let’s continue. This was to highlight your interest in Pune and its history. Not just Pune’s history, history of India and culture as well. Lot of people associate you with interest in culture as well. One question that comes to mind, Amit, corporate professionals and leaders don’t seem to be indulging in interests that are not directly related to their work area or their professional growth. What do you say to this?


00:12:40

Amit: This is a good question. I think that’s going to be important for your audience. Curiosity is in some sense a way of life and how you think about anything. I believe it’s extremely important for work.  I have some spare time off work and I can indulge in a lot of other things. But even when I was very busy with my work, you need the same curiosity in your work because the thing is, if you are not curious, you’ll just do the task at hand. But if you are curious, you’ll expand your scope in multiple directions. I’m not just talking about doing more work, but learning new things related to your work. Understanding a broader perspective of what you are doing? Why are you doing it? Who is your customer? Who is your supplier? This especially applies for people working in big companies. They work in silos and oftentimes completely lose track of who their customer is. In startups it’s easy because many times you don’t have layers and you directly see the customer first or second hand. But in large companies there are so many layers between you and the end customer that you have no idea of what’s really going on. That’s where curiosity is very important. It can play two important roles here - One is that the real curious ones will peel through the layers and really get access to the final customer, indirectly or directly. It doesn’t have to be direct and today there are videos and blogs out there, through which you can get first-hand feedback from customers. It could be sitting in your own internal company’s library which a normal developer may not have seen. Secondly, if you don’t have access to your end customer, you look at the supply chain inside the company. Maybe a sales person is your customer, so treat that as your internal customer and go forward with that. So the curiosity of figuring out something beyond your immediate scope of work, whether it’s knowledge about the work, customer, strategic direction of your work or domain. It is about where your field of work is going in 10 years, is it changing or disrupting? What skills do I need to pick up going along? Another thing I talk about is understanding the market and the competitors. You could be a techie but you still need to be curious about understanding what the landscape is out there. That level of curiosity in any profession, I gave the example of software but it should be true in any domain. That curiosity is extremely important. What I’ve seen having worked for big and small companies, and start ups, especially people working in big companies be it any field, lose this fairly quickly. They need to cultivate it. Keep that curiosity factor going there and professionally it’s extremely important for people to succeed. If they want to succeed they need to realise this.


00:15:52

Harish: So Amit, can you expand a bit more on why people should do this? The reason why I ask this is people seem to be feeling that I’ve haven’t been doing this for the last 5-10 years and nothing has impacted me. It’s like the Hindu rate of growth, people have been growing in their careers to a certain level. So they assume that without this curiosity I’m still going to get somewhere but you are going to hit that ceiling pretty soon.


00:16:21

Amit:  Absolutely. This is something that Anand Deshpande, founder of Persistent has made this point multiple times on various public forums that the mid-level career progression is the most critical one. If you don’t skill yourself up the right way where you are not doing the core development or the core sales then you are in trouble. This could be used outside of the software industry. Then you are just a middle manager doing paper pushing. From a survivability in the career standpoint, this is extremely important because disruptions happen. We’ve seen disruptions happen in various industries multiple times. The IT industry is looking good right now but we don’t know when the next disruption will come. Whether it’s reskilling or understanding the original market or understanding the end customer issues, I think it continues to be very important. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this but this also gets into a discussion of an MBA versus an engineer. This is a big topic and I’m not going to take sides. If I were to talk about it from an engineer’s standpoint, they sometimes just assume that these are responsibilities of an MBA or managers and techies don’t want to get into it. Consequently, there are some managers who think they don’t want to get into details because they are just high level people. I think both are wrong. This barrier needs to be broken. For someone who’s an engineer and a techie, I would suggest that they look at a MBA from a top college, see how they have pursued their career, and they get a national perspective or breadth. Naturally it’s their education and their case study method in any good MBA college. Whereas good engineering colleges and programmes push you in a different direction, it is quite deep especially if you have done Master’s. Both sides need to understand the other a little bit. A balance is also important.


00:18:36

Harish: Right. That’s a very interesting point. That brings me to the next question. Given the different areas that people will be interested in and in your specific example, do you actively seek lessons or try to connect dots from different worlds? For example, how is Tom Brady staying relevant at his age? How companies are reinventing themselves? Last year there was a lot of talk on getting lessons from say Napoleon's Waterloo defeat and how that can be applied to how companies should respond to COVID-19? Do you do that and are you probably stretching it too much by artificially trying to look for these?


00:19:26

Amit: I don’t and I don’t think people need to. There are some people who do it because they want to put some good lines in presentations or talks. I’m not saying it’s bad, sometimes it’s good to come up with some good analogies, xyz in this historical perspective did this wrong that’s why they lost, or they won because they did these things right. But I think there's no point in overdoing it. If there’s an analogy it’ll come up. Don’t go overboard in terms of finding parallels especially in outside fields. There are management consultants and trainers who routinely do talks like what you can learn from other fields. They give you some interesting anecdotes and ideas but ultimately you also have to look at those after you have exhausted your own field. First understand your field, domain, analogies within them rather than understanding something from a completely different domain. Whether it’s warfare or sports. I would say understand how your competitor dealt with this problem. Maybe you are a mid-sized company, look at how a large company or a leader in your marketplace dealt with this company. Easier answer maybe there. So go there instead of completely thinking about the blue sky. It might not be that much value addition. Stick to your domain there, I would say.


00:20:48

Harish: Yeah, in fact we had an interesting conversation with Monish, Nitin and Prashant last year and one of the parallels we were trying to draw was from the world of open source software development. You don’t have to go very far to bring these lessons into how to deal with this whole remote working mode. I thought it was right there, people know it very well, and have been part of that open source movement so it is much easier to get all those lessons more readily. One more quiz question, Amit, before we move to the next section.


00:21:29

Amit: I think I’m going to miss this one as well.


00:21:32

Harish: Oh no, you got the first one. You are going to get this one as well. This one again is related to many of your interests. First modern treatise on the Indian monsoon was written by an English astronomer in the 17th century. This person is very well known in the field of astronomy and almost everyone knows this person and has used some term related to him in other fields as well. He also funded the printing of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica. So who was this person?


00:22:16

Amit: Again, I forgot. I know the person quite well but don’t recollect the name. I’ve been reading about him for sure.


00:22:21

Harish: So this is Edmond Halley of Halley's Comet. He was the first person to write this. We all know about the Comet and for us, you are the weatherman of Pune. Like somebody tweeted just today that weather actually listens to Amit rather than the other way round. So how do you find time to just track all these things?


00:22:52

Amit: Again weather is an area of interest for me so I’ve been tracking it all along for many years. It may sound very boring but one of the interesting channels in the US which I used to watch when I worked there in the early 90s and again this is pre internet days. You couldn’t surf around and TV was a much bigger part of what you could spend time on. Weather channel was a very interesting channel at that time. The only weather you could see in India was once a day INSAT photo. Here at that time they were talking about doppler radar, satellite maps, local fluctuations, changes and more parameters. I’ve been fascinated with that ever since. Now, of course a lot of the things are available here both through IMD and private players. Again this is one of those things I don’t have to spend extra time on, it is something that I track on the side. You’ve asked this question a couple of times, how do you keep track of so many things. I think it’s a personality based issue. Some people who like to go very deep in a particular area and you’ve talked to quite a few people who fit that. We know many of those. If you are interested in multiple things, obviously I’m not interested in getting a PhD or even writing a paper in any of these. I’m doing it primarily for my curiosity. I’m not doing it to meet any specific deadlines or something. You can get into multiple things and multitask. Multitasking is discussed in many places in the corporate world as well. Some think it’s a very good idea, some think it’s a very bad idea. I think it’s just an idea and a tool, and not everyone can do it very well. Some people can do it very well for some tasks and it’s very effective for them. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer there. But I like to do it and I like to keep multiple tracks and as you say, multiple threads going in my head. You can do it physically in terms of multiple tabs open, multiple Twitter windows or blogs open. There are others who would rather get one article and spend the next 5 hours on that. I do that with books, many times I read 2-3 books at the same time, because I’m not stuck with one. That’s okay again, it’s not right or wrong. Some people do it that way. That helps me keep track of so many different interests. It’s a chicken and egg thing because it’s like I do it that way as I have so many interests and because I have so many interests I do it this way. Could be either way.


00:25:56

Harish: So we are going to come back to this specific hack system like you said it is each for your own. It’s good if it is working for you. But we’ve also seen that these conversations also become a trigger for people to try out different ideas if they are not aware of them. We are going to go deeper into that. But before that I just wanted to ask you one question about the manifestation of that curiosity. Lot of people follow a lot of topics. You seem to be taking your manifestation to the next level where you are attending some of these courses, even reading books for that matter is one level higher than following the news items. So you were doing the course first from Bhandarkar Institute, your involvement with MCCIA as well, that’s taking it to the next level. Can you talk about that? Is that a natural progression of your interests in those topics?


00:27:00

Amit: Yes, absolutely. Natural progression of interest, if it has to get to the next level, it has to go into something more detail. As I said, I don’t want to do a PhD in that topic but I at least want to learn a little bit more. So the next step after reading books is if there are good courses available in your area, and as you know, in the last 1.5 years because of all the lockdowns, in a sense some good things have happened in this area because Bhandarkar institute would have probably never come up with online courses. They used to do a few offline courses but now suddenly, they pivoted extremely well and they have done 8-10 courses in the last 18 months. I’ve probably done about 5-6 of those. Online learning is here to stay, it’s important and amazingly flexible. That’s a very good next step if you want to get into the next level of involvement in your area of interest. MCCIA is also something similar. I know you are going to talk about that, it’s related to networking and also doing just more than consuming information. Whether it’s creating, helping communities in your field of interest. Whether it’s advocating specific issues, lobbying with policymakers, again just education and all those things take it to the next level when you associate with all these kinds of organisations and there are many in every field. Again, especially Pune is full of these, so I think it’s the next step in many senses.


00:28:44

Harish: Right. Even the content that you create, like you said, consumption is one thing but when you create, I think how Feynman said that when you actually teach something to someone that’s when you learn it better.


00:28:58

Amit: I think one of the things that I personally like, again it’s not right or wrong, but if I find something interesting, I have this inherent desire to share it with friends and everyone. If I find a piece of information in any field of my interest, my first reaction is to share it. Then social media is a great platform for that. I know that if I found it interesting, there’ll be at least 10 or 100 other people depending on the topic, who’d find it interesting and learn something from it. I’m trying to do the same thing with other people who are sharing. In a sense, you can call it being altruistic but I won’t call it that, I think it’s just a natural tendency for people to share interesting stuff that they find interesting. The reverse also happens. So that becomes a natural progression as well for many and that’s where social media, blogging have been very powerful tools.


00:30:05

Harish: Yeah, I remember some of the blog posts that you had written pre 2009-10 when you used to distribute them through mail.


00:30:21

Amit: Yeah. See, that time email was probably the only distribution platform out there to distribute your blogs and this was before social media got popular. Obviously one of the biggest use cases of social media is sharing your content, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


00:30:44

Harish: So we are going to ask you more about networking, but before that I’m going to ask you one more quiz question, Amit.


00:30:50

Amit: Okay, let me fail 3 out of 3 then.


00:30:52

Harish: Let’s see. So where would you have seen a part of a cross section of an induction motor, this is the moment when electricity is transferred into forward motion, that specific part of a cross section of an induction motor?


00:31:10

Amit: Okay, now you are really testing. I’m not even an electrical engineer.


00:31:13

Harish: But you know this very well.


00:31:16

Amit: Where as in, are you talking about which machine or?


00:31:20

Harish: This is part of a cross section, just taken one part of a cross section and they have used it in the logo of something.


00:31:30

Amit: Oh logo. Is it Tesla?


00:31:32

Harish: It is Tesla.


00:31:35

Amit: I didn’t understand the question. I thought you asked where do you find it? I thought you meant there’s some other device.


00:31:41

Harish: This was the Tesla coil, part of the cross section. I wanted to talk to you about the whole role of social media and your friendship with Elon Musk on Twitter. Tell us more about that.


00:31:57

Amit: No friendship. I wish, but he responded to one of my many tags that I may have done to his posts. But he’s been a very fascinating character for many people especially in the technology field. Leave some of his antics aside but what he’s been able to achieve in multiple areas is just amazing and the focus that he has and there are visionaries out there but there are few people who deliver things. The amount of what he’s been able to deliver on not one but two, maybe soon three different areas is just mind boggling. That’s why I find what he does and following him to be very interesting. He can be entertaining as well, but he’s solving some real interesting and tough problems than building just another website or a web-based business channel. I’m not saying that’s not good but far too long people are just focusing on that just that over the last two decades right from the advent of the computer and the internet revolution. Not many were focusing on real tough problems, real and physical in transportation, space travel, energy. He’s one of the few guys to talk about those and now many others are also talking about it. That’s good. By the way, I'll recommend the biography that Ashlee Vance wrote in 2015. I think it’s a very interesting book and gives a very good insight. But it’s been 6 years, he should really write a follow up, a second edition to that because a lot more things have happened.


00:33:41

Harish: But that is also quite revealing about Musk and also the fact that it is semi-authorised. Elon Musk has had some issues with what Ashlee Vance wrote. That’s also interesting. So Amit, how do you use social media for networking? A basic question that a lot of people will have, almost like a reservation, is that I have something to say that may be of interest to somebody like Elon Musk but I’ll probably not tag him.


00:34:18

Amit: Leave aside Elon Musk, that’s an extreme corner case. But to answer your more fundamental question, how do you use social media for networking? I’ll come one step further down, which is how do you network? Or why do you network? Let’s leave social media out initially and let’s talk about a more fundamental question. Obviously there are a lot of advantages to networking so let’s not get there. Let’s leave that as something people would remember or know. But then how do you network? I think it goes back to our discussion from half an hour back, a lot of it has to do with curiosity. I think there are a lot of people who are inherently not curious but want to do networking for the sake of it because someone has told them it’ll help them in their career or their job. They try to network but that will never work because networking is when you are trying to find and talk to interesting people in your field or your fields of interest. If fundamentally you don’t have interest or curiosity in that field then you are not going to have interest in those people. Then you are setting yourself up for failure even before you’ve started networking. Networking has to start with your curiosity in a specific area. Then you automatically find people in that area. At times there may be interesting people who generate your interest in a particular area, that’s okay. But initially you need to have an interest and then you seek out people who are experts, role models and have done some interesting things. You ultimately want to network with people who have done interesting things, you don’t want to network with people just like you. The goal of networking is to aim a little higher. First you need to find that interest area and then whether it’s in a physical world of conferences, talks in large corporations, sales cycles or anywhere you seek out those people and connect with them. In social media, it’s become a lot easier, you can essentially connect with people anywhere in the world and that’s the second part of the question about how do you network on social media. Let me come back to that a little later. I’ll answer the first part that your networking starts with your curiosity in a specific field and then it’s just an extension. You don’t do it for the sake of networking. That doesn’t work. It works to the extent that yes, there’s some serendipity involved in networking, at conferences or social media you talk to a 100 people and you find 10 interesting people who may be out of your field. That is needed to be done in any sales cycle, that is fine but ultimately you need to also be very clear about your areas of interest to take that networking further or else you’ll meet interesting people and you won’t have anything to talk to them about. After a hi, hello, it’ll be the end of that meeting. Let’s come back to the social media question a little later.


00:37:44

Harish: Yeah. Another thing that we’ve heard from people who are a little diffident about networking is, “Okay, I go but what do I give to them?” I know it’s again coming back from curiosity but if you can make it a bit more tangible for people who are just trying to start out on this thing


00:38:12

Amit: You don’t have to give anything to people. Many times people who are curious about that field are not always looking for answers. They are often looking for interesting questions. If you have interesting questions for them about the field, domain, what they have done, why they did something or what they would advise. That’s a good enough start. Many times these people are not expecting you to contribute something to them at least not immediately. Start with interesting questions for them rather than telling them about yourselves or what solutions you have for them. Then they’ll laugh at you and be like I’m an expert in this field, who are you to tell? There are exceptions, but in general people like to teach or explain in most cases. If you start there it’s a good starting point I would say.


00:39:13

Harish: And do you see a difference in the kind of networking people should do based on where they are in their career, tech engineers vs. business leaders?


00:39:30

Amit: I wouldn’t make it hard and fast. As I said, you don’t do networking for the sake of networking. You do it in what is of interest to you. Obviously you need to tune it to be right so there’s some flexibility there which goes back to our earlier discussion of you need to be curious about your industry, your competitors, your customer, technology trends. All that is there and once you have that, you’ll automatically find the right people who work in your industry. Once you have those things clear. I would say don’t segment it or put it into different buckets. Like I’m only going to network with young people, or old people, or only experts. Keep it open. Any place you go to, you would never know who you will connect with.


00:40:19

Harish: So, how do you stay in touch with them? When you are engaging with them, what’s like a regular interaction?


00:40:30

Amit: Again there’s no cookie cutter solution there. If you have connected in the physical world, it’s just a basic question of follow up emails or LinkedIn messages saying that “I met you at such and such, we had a good discussion, I learnt this but by the way I have one or two follow up questions on that.” Leave it at that or if you have really learnt something than a simple thank you note. Such basic things and you can repeat the same thing on social media, replying with a tweet or something like that. There’s no standard thing, it’s just staying in touch. I think most people forget the basic things of staying in touch, which is you go to a conference and meet interesting people and some of them could just be peers, and don't have to be experts. Just sending a one-line email after the conference. Or you attended an interesting talk by a speaker, just sending a one-line thank you. This has nothing to do with social media, this option has been available for 25-30 years. Typically most of these people advertise their email at the end of the talk or is an easy Google search. Anyone who says I can’t find your email itself is a problem. In today’s day and age it is easy to find someone’s email or social media handle. Just stay in touch and people completely forget or get to their day-to-day chores. After you get done with your interaction at a physical conference, invest your time in trying to find out who the interesting people are, keeping track of them, and connecting with them on social media. Do those kinds of things. Most people as soon as they are done with a conference, they forget about it. That’s the problem and you need to invest some effort on it.


00:42:27

Harish: How have you been seeing people do networking in the last 1.5 years? In the absence of these physical conferences?


00:42:37

Amit: I think that change has already happened right? If you look at over the last 10 years or even earlier ever since LinkedIn came online, virtual networking has become more and more prominent. Of course over the last 1.5 years, it’s become even more prominent. Now with social media, whether it’s Twitter or LinkedIn, it has received good professional acceptance in India. So pretty much the same things that you do in conferences, you can now do online. You can watch a YouTube talk or interaction without attending a physical session at a conference. Follow it up with the same set of responses that you would do in a conference. On Twitter or LinkedIn, have the same professional interaction with someone you don’t know initially but sort of approach them with a cold call or “Hi, good to meet you. Looks like you are interested in this.” Again there has to be some interest match or some common background. Another thing I didn't mention is that for networking, alumni networks play a big role. That is one of your easiest networking opportunities that people forget. All the things that I spoke for the last 10 mins is about networking where you have no common connection, just common interest. But actually it can be a lot easier if you tap onto your alumni connections, whether it’s undergraduate, graduation or previous companies. You don’t realise but you already have a big network out there, especially I’m talking about mid-career professionals. Even fresh grads, they already have their college network. Tap into that and stay in touch with your classmates, ex-colleagues from your previous company. That is one of the easiest networks to maintain and people just completely forget it.


00:44:27

Harish: Yeah. One of the final questions, Amit, this is where we are going to get down to some recipes. Both for curiosity and networking, how do you make it easy for yourself? What kind of tools and hack systems do you use to make it more deliberate? Basically, what are the things that listeners can do to be more like you?


00:44:55

Amit: If I were to talk about tools whether it’s email, Twitter, LinkedIn, each of these platforms have a bunch of tools. Don’t have to get into the details of that but it’s again going back to basics whether it’s filtering, marking as important, storing drafts or searches to see if there’s been any update by someone. All these provide plenty of tools. Use those tools, understand the capabilities of those platforms. Twitter for example has so many powerful tools that very few people use, whether it’s Lists, searches, filtering and you can pretty much find anyone who’s out there. It’s difficult for me to explain in 2-3 minutes but you can learn, read about it. You need to be very good at searching. When I say search, it needs to start with Google search and then any platform. People don’t understand the value of search, then they don’t take search seriously, and then the third thing is people don’t know how to use it. I think sometimes there needs to be classes on them. It makes so many things easy. Then there are people that always complain that “my pet peeve is oh the algorithmic timeline didn’t show me this important tweet or post.” There are so many ways to beat an algorithmic timeline by having search, list or filter, it’ll show you exactly what you want on all platforms. Every platform now is essentially using an algorithmic timeline. I would say become search literate, I’ll add another term to being social media literate, you’ve to become search literate. Because the information is there,  but if you don’t know how to find it then you are as good as illiterate in that particular area. Learn that and it’ll be very helpful.


00:47:15

Harish: A subtext to that Amit, to improve the quality of your search do you also do a lot of note taking? Is there any meta data that you store for people, articles, links?


00:47:27

Amit: Not really. Again I use tools, one of the best metadata for a person that I have found in the last 16 years is LinkedIn. 90-95% of the people in any connection to the corporate world and now even increasingly not connected to the corporate world, in NGOs, in politics have a basic profile on LinkedIn. That is better metadata than any place. If you are trying to find someone’s Twitter handle or finding more information on Twitter about someone, you need to realise that finding someone's Twitter handle on Twitter is not very effective. Now, if I had to find Harish Kumar on Twitter, searching there would not be easy. But the easiest way to search for Twitter handles is Google. If I put a name and Twitter ID, Google easily does a very good job of giving me that person’s Twitter handle, even better than LinkedIn at times. You’ll get better results. When you have such good search available everywhere. Same with email. I think this whole business of metadata, categorisations, folders and subfolders, I’m not saying it’s bad, but that was a traditional approach when you didn’t have powerful search. Then you had to have a segmented approach to track information, the old library catalogue system. Today everything can be completely flat, you just need to remember the keywords. Again, it goes back to you needing to know what to search for, for that you need to know the right keywords. I don’t store any of this information anywhere, take notes or write it down, I just remember the keywords. That is all that you really need.


00:49:28

Harish: Right. One more question is how do you handle new media? Now you have Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces. Audio has become a big thing. We moved from text to video first and now video is becoming less important and audio is becoming more important. Do you get onto every new platform that is out there, test it out? How do you handle that?


00:49:57

Amit: No, I don’t. I haven’t been very active on Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces as well. I  prefer the asynchronous method of communication more than the synchronous one. In that sense, texts and tweets are better for me than a live conversation on Spaces or Clubhouse. But obviously it’s an individual choice. Some people find it more interesting and others don’t. But to answer your question, yes, I don’t chase every new platform that’s out there. For me I would say, email, LinkedIn and Twitter are probably my three most used platforms. Those are quite effective and probably will remain that way for at least a few years. Of course, you can’t say. A new platform may come next year to make all these obsolete and that’s fine. We need to get on it, but for now these three are quite good across all the use cases that you could think of.


00:50:57

Harish: Correct. I’m sure this must be true for 90-95% of our audience as well.


00:51:05

Amit: But of course, if you want to do an interview and broadcast it. I’ve done a lot of these interviews like what we are doing at MCCIA and other blogs, then obviously you use Zoom or Webex and then record it and then post it on YouTube. That publishing is a different problem altogether, for which you use a text blog or a video blog which is oftentimes YouTube. That is still necessary for these kinds of interviews.


00:51:33

Harish: Yeah, alright Amit. We’ll come to the last section where we are going to ask you about the future relevance of 2-3 things. It’s like your hot take on what you think is the future relevance of this? First, we just spoke about it. So what do you think is the future relevance of email?


00:51:49

Amit: I think it will be very much around. People have been talking about the death of email every few years, without realising that email has now been around for 40+ years or more. I continue to be a big fan of emails. All formal inter-company communication, it is still the best standard. Of course technologically, there are experts who’ll talk about not being secure, it needs to improve in that or this area. Yes, I think a lot of those things can happen or should happen but fundamentally, I think email will continue to be a good basic platform to interact between different organisations. Inside an organisation, chat programs like WhatsApp etc will be more popular and will reduce the role of email but when you are trying to interact with people you don’t know, it will still be good. It’s like your visiting card, that people have been saying your business card will go extinct and it still hasn’t. A business card which has your phone number and email on it will continue to be in the foreseeable future.


00:53:01

Harish: Alright. The next one I think we can have a separate one-hour long conversation but I’ll still ask you for a hot take. So what do you think is the future relevance of Pune as a startup destination?


00:53:15

Amit: I think it is very much relevant. It’s done well and could obviously do a lot better. We all know the constraints that are preventing it from doing even better. I continue to be very optimistic and positive about it. We have enough positive things going our favour and we are in the top 5. Can always say we could do this better or that better, we are falling behind Bangalore or NCR on this. That’s fair but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that we are still in the top 5. If we are able to fix some of the things that we know hurt us, infrastructure and so on, we can do even better.


00:53:59

Harish: Yeah, okay. Finally, Amit, what are the future relevance of T20s?


00:54:05

Amit: I think it's very relevant. I’m a very big fan of all formats of cricket. I even like ODIs. But I think T20s will get more popular and ODIs will go down because I think Test cricket will continue to do well, so then ODIs will be neither here nor there. We’ll see that.


00:54:25

Harish: Did you watch the 100? Started having 5 ball overs etc.


00:54:29

Amit: Oh, I thought you were talking about a documentary. That I’ll see a few on one of those sports channels. But ODIs can be interesting. It just highlights the fact that ODIs can also be very interesting. 


00:54:44

Harish: Right. You need the brewing time for that tension. Between a T20 and a Test match as well. On that note, Amit, thanks a lot. We touched upon a whole range of topics, trying to do justice to your varied interests as well. I think we got a lot of useful, actionable lessons on the role of curiosity and networking and how our listeners can use these for work, for professional growth or otherwise. I’m stressing on that fact because it’s not to be done for a very specific objective but to do it for the right reasons. Thanks a lot Amit. 


00:55:26

Amit: Thanks Harish. I think this was interesting, I had fun doing this interaction. I hope, I mean I rambled across a variety of different topics, hope some of them will be of interest to your audience.


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