Tips on making a radical career shift

Today’s issue of Economic Times has a cover story on people who made drastic career shifts in their “High Flier” supplement. I’m one of the people featured in the story (how I wish I could actually find the darn article on their web site) because I moved from technology and started a far-eastern restaurant. The writer of the story had sent me a long list of questions a few weeks back, and I had written a mini-essay in response. Much of what I wrote didn’t make it to the piece (ah, the size constraints of print media) but when I read it back, I thought that it would be good to post the whole thing here to help others who might be considering a career change like mine. So here goes…

1) What are the main reasons that provoked you to make a career transition
from being a software engineer to a hotelier?

I have been passionate about cooking since I was 13. I chose to go with IT as a
career, but by my mid-twenties, I had decided that in another 10 years, I would
have my own restaurant. So it was more about moving the plans forward by a few
years. I chose to do this because I was 27, single, and thought I could take
more risks now than if I were, say 35. Also, the IT industry was going through
its bust phase a few years ago, and companies were doing crazy things, including
laying off lots of people. I decided that it was the right time to move.

2) What emotions did you go through while making a major career leap?
Weren?t you a little skeptical of abandoning the career you did for so many
years for something very new?

It definitely wasn’t an easy decision to make, and I’m not the impulsive type at
all. But several of my friends said I should give it a shot. Once I started
considering it seriously, I thought about it for a whole month to make sure it
wasn’t just a passing fad. After I made a firm decision, I experienced anxiety
and apprehension about a whole new future, but there was also some exhilaration
about doing something I was so passionate about.

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Employee awards do no good

Our company gives out quarterly awards for, er, various things. It’s voted upon by the employees and not the management. This quarter, I got an award for “Personifying the Trisoft value – Knowledge Improvement“. In plain English, some people actually thought that my relentless bombarding of everyone’s email boxes with articles on information architecture, usability, navigation, design, HTML, business strategy, marketing, etc. improved the knowledge levels of employees. Wooooohoooo! Of course, people who have worked with me in other companies know that my habit of forwarding useful articles is nothing new. Heck, Prem (current Webmaster of has a 144K text file of just links that I’ve sent him while I worked there.  

Do I believe in awards? No, not one bit. Note that I didn’t say I didn’t believe in recognition. Recognition is very important. But things like “Employee of the month”, etc. are just a bad idea. They make one person happy for a bit and make all the rest of the employees unhappy for longer (as they wonder why they are not the employees of the month). Even awards voted by colleagues don’t work. They just turn the exercise into a political game and the biggest department in the company usually decides who will get an award. For all you know, “Mr. Hardworking” is probably the quiet accountant in the small Finance team, but of course nobody else is capable of understanding what he does. So he doesn’t get the award. What happens instead? If the marketing department in the company is the biggest, that department’s voting block influences the outcome. Just like Parliament. Real sad. Of course, if you’d read Peopleware, you wouldn’t be making such mistakes.

Top 10 R?sum? dos and don’ts

I tell ya’, I get tired of scanning résumés sometimes. Having seen thousands of them while hiring people, I can confidently tell you that the average employer spends only 30 seconds per résumé. What does this mean? It means you only have 30 seconds to make the first cut. Since I see so many badly written résumés and since someone on the Evolt list posted a question about résumés, here’s my first article. Follow these résumé tips and you’ll improve your chances in the job hunt.

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