In Learning Infinite Interview Series, we bring to you some wonderful perspectives from Ashish Sethiya.
Ashish handles Strategic Initiatives at Pramerica Asset Managers Pvt. Ltd., a 135 year old U.S. based financial services company.
LI: Pls tell us something about your journey as a professional over these years.
Ashish: I would soon be completing 10 years of working life after completing MBA in 2003. My first job was with ICICI Prudential Life Insurance company in their Bancasurance chann with a gloriously title “ Financial Services Consultant (FSC)”. Needless to say I hated it from day one and wanted to get out of it. The reason I was there in first place was that it being one of the last companies to come for campus interview.
Anyway’s the ordeal didn’t last long and after about 9 months I joined HDFC Mutual Fund in Chandigarh, thanks to the reference by friend and my general inclination towards Mutual Funds. I spent 3.5 years with HDFC – good experience and a great organization. After that I joined the global superbrand in Mutual Funds “Fidelity” and later realized great companies does not means great opportunities. I think the organization is wonderful and I would always trust it if I have to invest but being a sales person in company which is an Investment Management company was perhaps not the best idea.
So after spending 2+ years I joined a new company Pramerica (still working) part of Prudential of US in distributor engagement and other strategic initiatives. This was not the choice people thought I should be making. I was joining a new entrant in the time when existing companies were having troubles in a relatively unconventional role. Well I can’t say I was sure what I was doing, but I trusted my gut and one of the main reasons for joining was my admiration for the CEO, with whom I had interacted earlier in HDFC. I know it’s a cliche but nothing beats working with someone who you look up to.
So here I am since last 3 years with Pramerica and now responsible for some of the strategic initiatives.
LI: How did you learn about what you do? Was it a course that you did or was it on the job?
Ashish: Reading, Observing, Asking & Listening. Talking too much is one way to deprive oneself of learning opportunity. With regards to course the only thing I learned was about girls, relationships, envy and associated stuff – which I can say is very useful in career as well. Otherwise most of my professional learning was on the job.
LI: What are the challenges you faced, interesting or otherwise? How did you deal with them?
Ashish: The biggest challenge is fighting with “preconceived notions” or “perceptions”. For example communication skills are important – may be yes, but only till certain point. In fact people who have good communication skills are actually people who have strong knowledge about their subjects, which comes out naturally while speaking.
Also when, I say “preconceived notions” or “perceptions” I mean the one which one builds around oneself, not necessarily of others.
Dealing with them is not difficult; knowing that one is suffering from it is difficult. Once you are aware of it, you’ll perhaps deal with it. – Awareness is the key.
And yes I am still trying to deal with it.
The other challenge is fear of failure, which results in people not even trying. I have a principle and hope would be able to live by it “Regret of not doing something is more than regret of doing something”, just look back in your lives – If you would have said “I Love you” to someone sometime ago, would your life be much different – think about it!!!
LI: What is the most interesting thing you remember from your career?
Ashish: Yet to happen, but there is one memorable event – which is going to US for 4 months on a International Rotation Program and spending time with different groups of Prudential.
LI: Any mentor or coach in your professional journey?
Ashish: To an extent, my Bosses. I’ve been fortunate to have good to great relationships, my elder cousin who is a very successful investment professional and mostly my instinct.
LI: What, in your view, does it require to be a successful executive?
Ashish: · Lage raho Munna bhai
LI: What does learning mean to you? How can working executives/professionals learn better?
Ashish: If my career is Car then learning is a fuel – The reason I say this is because I hear from so many people we don’t have time to learn, we are too busy but the simple thing is if you don’t learn or upgrade yourself how will you ever get out and achieve greater things. The other way to look at it, is there a direct co-relation between someone who is very busy today and a successful executive tomorrow. I don’t think there exits any direct correlation. If you still think time is a problem just try to with getting rid of cable TV, I have done it since 5 years and I got some time in my hand.
Again if you realize you need to learn, I am sure you’ll figure out how you can learn – although outsourcing learning program is a very useful solution, because it means creating a commercial interest of someone in your learning.
Also learning need not be boring, I play tennis and it is helping me in being calm in times of pressure
LI: What kind of books do you like to read? Any books that you would recommend.
Ashish: Other than Ask the Sexpert from Mumbai Mirror – I am sure everyone reads it. Anyway it’s difficult for me to define the category but I generally don’t like fiction (I’ll watch Harry Porter then read the book), but I like books with socio-economic tilt like The Ascent of Money by Niall Fergusan or Globalization and it’s discontents by Joseph Stiglitz or some autobiographies like “My life with Taliban”. In periodicals I scan lot of newspapers and in love with a Saturday supplement of times called Times “Crest”. I am regular reader of Economist magazine as well.
I enjoy Ruskin Bond for delightful and light reading. Kushwant Singh is one helluva writer. My all time favorite, revered book is ”The story of my experiments with truth” by Mahatma Gandhi.