Sunday, April 16, 2023

Time to embrace STEM AND Non-STEM (Humanities) disciplines?

credit: nisaul khoiriyal

A for Apple, B for Bing, C for Chrome, and D for Drive.
credit: masterSergeant

Time to revise the English primer?

The world we live in has been shrinking down over the years, and the process has gained more mileage lately. With voice assistants controlling home appliances as well as AIs that help you write the best college essay in a few seconds, the human race has come a long way. All thanks to the advancements in STEM research and development over the last few decades.

With technology becoming omnipresent, there appears to be a sudden demand from parents to provide STEM exposure to their children right from their preschool years. There has been a significant rise in the number of playschools and activity centers across India that offer STEM-oriented coaching for children as young as 25-30 months. Besides, major EdTech platforms have been peddling tuition packages for Engineering and Medical aspirants alike. So, what exactly is going on? How did STEM become one of the most popular career choices since the 90s?

Wait. The 90s?

Yes. To be precise, 1991 was a major milestone in the history of Indian Politics and Economy. It opened the floodgates of Globalization (with the Liberalization policy) to welcome international brands to compete in the Indian market. At the same time, it also witnessed several tides of changes, as far as career options were concerned. As Michael Cournoyer writes,

“Employment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations has grown 79% since 1990, from 9.7 million to 17.3 million, outpacing overall U.S. job growth...These include computer, math, engineering and architecture occupations, physical scientists, life scientists and health-related occupations such as health care practitioners and technicians, but not health care support workers such as nursing aides and medical assistants.” (Cournoyer, 2018)

The employment situation in India was quite similar to the US. As India stepped up as a promising young market in the spheres of IT, Medicine and Engineering Sciences, the job opportunities in STEM related fields grew exponentially. With affordable education and greater scope to pursue professional science degrees such as MBBS and BTech the STEM jobs promised decent salary packages while also

offering the youth a different option to consider - an arena hitherto unexplored by their previous generations, distinct from government employment, one where they could make a mark of their own.

Since the 90’s, the surge of STEM-related jobs are still going strong, even after three decades. As most of the Gen X shifted their focus towards STEM, it was expected of the next generations (Millennials, Gen Z, Gen Alpha..) to consider the same path.

Among many, the three major factors which positioned the STEM careers as the 1st choice for parents and children are: 

Economy: Career choice are often influenced by the dynamics of supply of jobs and earning potential. For a country that has newly joined the league of liberalized economies, the Indian job market promises more opportunities in the STEM sector, making it the preferred career choice among parents and most students.

Socio-cultural: Social learning may have played it’s role as Gen X partook in the bandwagon to opt for STEM jobs, the succeeding generations were eventually brought up with the same expectation in mind. The transgenerational passage of social learnings  to pursue STEM careers from parent to child became a widespread phenomenon. 

Politics: The advancement of a nation is measured on certain parameters, one of which includes innovations in STEM-based endeavors. Be it medical research, nuclear capability, sending a rocket into space, governments across the world provide more support for STEM, as part of their nation building policies.

So in today’s 21st century, does Humanities (non-STEM disciplines) deserve a chance for resurrection?

credit: Poster for college of humanities at the university of Utah (2015)

Remember the famous sci-fi Hollywood movies - The Terminator (1984), Jurassic Park (1993), Her (2013), Ex Machina (2014) and M3GAN (2022). While their respective plots are vastly different, there exists a single thread of commonality that binds these four films - they all focus on the harrowing nature of Science and Technology in the absence of checks and balances. This Jurassic Park meme makes a fantastic point on the ominous side of scientific development in isolation.

There is a growing recognition that 21st century ecological, social, economic, energy, health, wellbeing and geopolitical problems are of global, complex and nonlinear nature. In his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (Penguin, 2018), Yuval Noah Harari lists out topics of grave importance such as: Technological challenge to human beings concepts of work, liberty, equality, Political challenge to community, nationalism, religion and immigration, Dangers from terrorism/war and Blurring of truth with misinformation aided by Deep Tech. Solving such complex global problems calls for joint multi-disciplinary efforts and non-linear - critical thinking as the preferred problem-solving approach, as non one particular discipline holds the key to unlock the solutions.

Hence STEM and Non-STEM (Humanities) disciplines has to co-exist together to give humanity a fighting chance to successfully navigate it’s many unknown and thrive into the future.  

credit: Gerd Altmann (Pixabay)

A recent news of Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter published on 22nd March 2023 by 'Future of Life Institute', calling on all AI Labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.

"Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks, and we must ask ourselves: Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders. Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable. This confidence must be well justified and increase with the magnitude of a system's potential effects.” (“Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter”)

Elon Musk (founder of SpaceX, Tesla, Neuralink, OpenAI), Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple), Gary Marcus (Cognitive Scientist) and engineers from Amazon, DeepMind, Google, Meta and Microsoft are signatories to this open letter. This speaks volumes of the perils of pursuing only STEM, without acknowledging the fact, human society is a cloth which is woven by the threads of both non-STEM and STEM disciplines.

These cookie crumbs, therefore, can be wiped away with only one option - maintaining a system of checks and balances by co-existence of STEM and Non-STEM (Humanities) disciplines. It is important to involve economists, psychologists, political theorists, philosophical thinkers, history scholars and several other experts from disciplines of Social Sciences and Humanities to add more value in the policy-making process of the scientific and technological innovations that are at work or in progress. 

The need to have a non-STEM perspective (multiple, in this case) is of absolute necessity, as it provides with innumerable perspectives that would go unseen or never even considered under circumstances exclusive to STEM.

In conclusion

credit: Gerd Altmann (Pixabay)

The Nature vs Nurture debate serves as a relevant metaphor, in the context of STEM vs Non-STEM.

How much a person’s characteristics are formed by either “nature” (genetics) or “nurture” (environment/upbringing/life experience)?

Over-time this long-standing debate of Nature vs Nurture, is being put to rest with “Epigenetics” an emerging area of scientific research that shows how Nurture (environmental influences) affects the expression of their Nature (genes). The new emerging paradigm is “Nature and Nurture”.

Picking cue from this, isn’t it also time for us to move on from STEM vs Non-STEM to ‘STEM and Non-STEM (Humanities)’, for finding answers to the chaotic and complex questions and solve the problems which humanity faces in the 21st century?

I have dropped ‘vs’ and embraced ‘and’.

What About You?


Blog Collaborator:

Apurba Ganguly (she/her) is an English Literature student, pursuing B.Ed. She has been eager to understand the intricacies of Memory Studies and Visual Narratives.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Career Dialogues - Suresh Ramu @Daksh Christ University 2022

Image from Daksh Christ University webpage

Stumbling upon Daksh (Christ University's flagship annual career fair) I came across Mr. Suresh Ramu's address to the university students. As a Coach, it is my endeavour to mine learning resources for guiding students. However my happiness for this serendipitous discovery, is for a very personal reason. I had the privilege of working under Suresh Ramu's guidance way back for several years during my formative years in my professional life. These were my early days in my career, soon after completing my post-graduation, from MAHE (Manipal Academy of Higher Education). 

There are so many anecdotal stories each one of us would have about Ramu. Let me share one, which has stayed with me over the years which always makes me smile. As a new Team Lead during one my quarterly meet with him, I was seeking his mentorship on a challenge I was facing. I with him, "When my team members make same mistake after repeated guidance, I get angry. In that state of mind, I am unable to guide them effectively. What should I do?" Ramu replied to me unassumingly - "You can show your anger, without getting angry."  

Honestly, speaking, it took years for me to comprehend and inculcate this in my toolkit. Such were his mentorship - Simple yet so Profound. 

I remember, whenever we had deliverables with steep timelines, Ramu inspite of being the Head of a Business Unit would silently volunteer to take print outs, carry loads of documents from archival room to team member's working desk and sit with us to help with even routine tasks as data entry and QC. We learned so much about teamwork, humility, inclusiveness and leading with empathy, just by observing him. 

Indeed like me, many of us who had the opportunity to work with Ramu in their early years just out of university, were very lucky to have a mentor like him, which helped in laying a strong foundation of work ethics and professionalism in us. 

Hence stumbling upon Suresh Ramu's Talk, at Daksh Feast Christ University, I felt it's my obligation to help spread his career advices through my blog, so that many more students can benefit from his wisdom, experience and guidance. 

Image from Daksh Christ University webpage

Listed below is the transcript from Suresh Ramu's talk, highlighting his key general advices to students on building a successful career, across any industry: 
  • Comfort Zone: One enters into an area, a domain with certain kind of mindset, but if one is willing to give some time and willing to learn, it takes them on a journey of betterment.
  • Growth Mindset: We all should be constantly thinking - "What are we willing to change about ourselves?" (willing to let go about yourself and willing to acquire new into yourself). If one can train their brain to keep an Open Mind and Willingness to Change on a daily basis, Success is bound to follow you.
  • Motivation and Goal-orientation: Be self-motivated and one can develop their self-motivation by setting goals for themselves and tracking it's progress.
  • Empathy: Learn to understand before disliking something. Different experiences makes one a better person. 
  • Self-Management: Self-discipline and Time-management are important skills in one's career. In today's work from anywhere work culture, time management is so very important - how do you manage work? how do you manage life? how do you prioritize deliverables? how do you make an impact?
  • Repertoire of Demonstrable Skills: Creativity, Innovation, Independent Thinking, Being open to feedback, Good listener, Using Data for taking decisions and Communication are important career skills. Knowing their importance is one thing, but demonstrating them at work is more important. One's Values have to be demonstratable through one's behaviour and actions.
  • Team-player: WE is more important than I. Team work and what WE have achieved Together as a Team, is more important than individual success. 
  • Know thyself: One can't be an expert in everything. So figure out what you are doing at, what is your uniqueness and what value you bring on the table. 
  • Change the Script: Spend time in understanding your value system, your belief system, your biases (your cultural learning which has been inherited subconsciously). Recognising them and freeing oneself from the negatives is important, as our value systems makes a long lasting impact in one's decision making and conduct in the career journey.
  • Grit (perseverance, determination) is critical and in work-life grit becomes one of the key differentiating factor for success. One needs to be focus and pursue their passion/goals/values inspite of all the challenges and hurdles, which will come along the way.
  • Break the silos in your mind! No career today is verticalized and operating in silos. So appreciate the intersection of careers/domains/fields and based on what you are naturally good at, make the most of the opportunities these intersection will offer you, in your career journey.
  • Tips for campus life: Develop soft skills, Do Internship, Learn about the industry and the company before going for the job interview. Focus on behavioural skills, on competency building and showcase you did actually learned and not just earned a certificate/degree. 
Hi students, to listen to the full talk and especially Life Sciences students who are interested to build their careers in Clinical Research and Healthcare industry, you can access the video on Christ University YouTube channel:

Know the speaker:
Suresh Ramu is the Co-founder and CEO of Cytecare Cancer Hospitals

Monday, February 27, 2023

Perils of Outsourcing Academic Research

Image credit: I'm a Lazy Student on Facebook

Screenshot from my Whatsapp Chat

Recently I received a Whatsapp message from a friend of mine, enquiring for a freelancer, who can help a student to write the research synopsis. This message was the trigger for writing this blog, as I hold strong opinionated view,  on such academic learning/practice.

I reached out to a freelance writer in my network who holds a Masters Degree in Psychology (relatable background as the student) to get her perspective. Thanks to this interaction, I was able to assimilate newer perspectives and garner a holistic view. Though I still hold an opinionated view on such learning practice.

Technology (internet, digital, affordable computers) has increased the outreach and access to education, exponentially, ever seen before in the brick and mortar era. The same technology has also ushered opportunities for Freelancers, often referred as Gig workers (Gig economy). 

The critical question in this confluence is: How should one approach education in today's context? 

The emphasis on just earning Certificates and Degrees, is a passe, without any demonstrable skills. 

In today's 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) the new emphasis is on hands-on skills and knowledge which can be put into practice!

In this changed paradigm, if a student's endeavour is just get a certificate, without acquiring skills and knowledge, they will be left holding just a piece of worthless paper in their hands.

Not to discount the fact, that outsourcing the academic assignment is unethical as it amounts to plagiarism.

Well, I don't want to take a morale high ground here and pass my judgement and sermons. I do understand a freelancer is within their rights to look at this, just as a professional task to be executed on payment basis. They are present in the marketplace to offer their knowledge and skills for a service fee. Hence the primary onus to outsource or not to outsource, lies with the students.

A student should ask two questions: 

The practice in which I am indulging, is it Ethical? 
Those who are morally upright, might refrain from outsourcing their academic writing. 

Am I Being Stupid by indulging in this practice? 
Let's assume there are students who give a damn to morality! They should ask this 2nd question, Am I being stupid?
At the face-value, you are is just outsourcing your academic work. However, at a deeper level you are outsourcing your learning opportunity, the rigour of research, opportunity to think critically, opportunity to gain deeper insights and in-depth expertise in your vocation. So in a true sense, the opportunity cost here is - Not To Learn and Grow!
So Am I Being Stupid? 
I am sure, by now almost all students would see the futility of indulging in this outsourcing practice. 

Playing devil's advocate here, a student may say - I don't care of ethics and I don't mind not learning. I am doing outsourcing my academic work, because I need a degree attached to my name. 

To them, I would humbly present my 1st argument. In today's changed context (4IR), the certificate/degree is just a piece of paper, unless one can exhibit skill and knowledge. So to those students, I would say, What's the point in spending your valuable time and money for a course of your disinterest. Your time and money, can be invested in a better avenue, which can make your flourish to your fullest potential.    

Enough of my lecturing and gyaan isn't it! 

So do I have a solution and positive inputs to provide to the students who maybe genuinely struggling to grasp the academic concepts and hence out of desperation are in look out for such freelancers (ghost writers) for their academic projects. These are few of the solutions I can think off:
  1. Time management: Usually a student can get pushed to hire/outsource their work, to meet a pressing timeline (this is a practical challenge especially for part-time students who also have to manage their work along with their studies). My advice would be, devout daily time, even if it's for shorter duration. Time management (daily time commitment, discipline) will go a long way, from preventing a student to get pushed by timeline crunch.
  2. Clarity on the Learning Objectives: Do always have the clarity of 'End in Mind'. Students should remind themselves they have taken the course for Employability (skill and knowledge) and not just to get a paper (certificate).
  3. Utilise Online Learning Resources: YouTube would be a great place to look up for tutorials on writing research proposals, synopsis etc. If one genuinely watches them with desire for learning, students would be able to supplement these learnings along with their existing class notes/lectures etc.
  4. Fun of Peer-learning (Group study): Engage in learning with your peers. Not to forget group study can be a fun way of learning too. 
  5. Find a mentor: You can always find a helpful mentor who is willing to guide you, challenge you to think independently and execute your work being self-reliant under their guidance. 
  6. If you are still unable to make in-roads and need to fall upon a freelancer, I would advice engage with someone who would refrain from ghost writing. Of course they would charge you for their knowledge and skill, but let them charge you for offering you guidance/mentoring and reviewing your drafts, rather than making you dumb by writing your project
With ChatGPT breaking into the scene, it's now so evident that outsourcing academic research/assignments is going into a whole new dimension. So it finally boils down to a matter of choice the student's have to make for themselves. 

Think short-term - indulge in academic outsourcing, enjoy the pleasures of free-time and just get the paper (certificate) in hand but fail to be future ready. 

Think long-term - DIY (Do It Yourself), enjoy the process of learning, gain skills/knowledge and grow into future ready citizen.

Bon Jovi famously sang "It's My Life". 

So who am I as a blogger to advice and pass judgements. "It's Your Life", so make your own choices and live the consequences. 

Signing off from this opinionated blog for now.......

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Phil Stutz's TOOLS for Turning Problems [in]to Possibilities

There is so much of overload of media contents that if one sits down to consume it non-stop 24X7, they might end up spending their entire life, yet not finish watching all of it. Hence the onus is now so much  on the viewer to use their judgement to short-list good content and for spending their time in a worthwhile manner (Infotainment). 

I love to watch movies, series, documentaries and I consciously search for good content from my areas of interest. One such interest area of mine is Mental Health and Wellbeing. 

Image from IMDb

This blog is running notes of STUTZ a documentary film on Netflix, of a candid conversation between leading Psychiatrist-Author Phil Stutz and Hollywood Actor Jonah Hill

The actor benefited by taking therapy sessions from Phil Stutz, that's why he made this film for sharing the therapy (tool) so that many more can benefit by watching it. 

'I am making this movie because I want to give therapy and the tools I've learned in therapy to as many people as possible, through a film.' - Jonah Hill

This documentary is available in Netflix with a running time of just over One and Half Hour. In today's busy life, availability of time has become a scare resource. So many might not be able to take out one and half hour time to watch it. Moreover, one cannot learn by watching this documentary as a passive audience. They have to pause for making notes for effective learning, which will further increase their watch time. 

This is the reason I wrote this blog, so that it can help many who are hard-pressed with time. They can use this blog as a reference note to the documentary and apply Phil Stutz's TOOLs for solving their life's problems and for making their life better.

The blog is written in first person narrative style (Phil Stutz talking directly to the interviewer (Johan Hill) and audience, as he does in the Netflix documentary).

Image from goodreads

What are TOOLs?

Tools is a bridge between between the problem and gaining at least some control over the problem. It has to do with possibility. Possibility means you feel yourself reacting differently. 

The Tool kit comprises of: 

  1. Life Force
  2. String of Pearls
  3. The Shadow
  4. The Snapshot
  5. The Maze
  6. Active Love
  7. Radical Acceptance
  8. The Grateful Flow  
  9. Loss Processing
Tools helps us to fight with Part-X. (Part X is explained below)


To get a direction, purpose and passion in life, one should activate their Life Force.

Level 1 - Your relationship with your body: Do exercise, cultivate good dietary habits and sleep well.

Level 2 - Your relationship with other people: Take self-initiative to reach out to people, develop and maintain relationships.

Level 3 - Your relationship with yourself: Our subconscious is untapped and unknown. Journal writing is a good way to gain insight about your subconscious mind.


Part X is that inner voice of your's which creates fear, resists change, blocks your evolution and blocks your potential

Part X will always be there in every human being. Hence, it's important to be aware that life consists of 3 Aspects of Reality.

3 Aspects of Reality are: Pain, Uncertainty and Constant Work.

Tools helps us to face and overcome these life's realities, make progress, create opportunities and enjoy the process.


Image from

Each pearl in the string represents an action.
This string of pearls, helps you to look at yourself in terms of the actions and habits. 
"I am the person who puts the next pearl on the string."
So it's about getting up in the morning and putting the next pearl in the string.
The key is to take action!


Image from Stutz Netflix

It's the part of yourself that you are still ashamed of and haven't made peace with. Find your shadow, face it, focus on it and work on it.
Image from Stutz Netflix

Talk to your shadow, listen to your shadow. The shadow needs your attention and wants it to be included and embraced (part of your life). 
Life is not about perfection, it's about the process, it's it's about wholeness, it's about being your true-self.

(A.K.A The Realm of Illusion)

Image from Stutz Netflix

The image of perfection in life (perfect snapshot) is an illusion created by Part X.
This still illusory image cripples one's progress and happiness. 
A perfect snapshot is not possible because the 3 realities of life: pain, uncertainty and constant work will always exist. 


Image from Stutz Netflix

The MAZE always involves other people.
The maze keeps you trapped inside it, it takes away your time and energy and stops you from moving forward in life.
It's the product of Part X, because Part X wants fairness. 
You feel you have been mistreated by the other person and the quest for fairness, puts your life on hold.
In reality time is fleeting but you are still in the maze, waiting to move past it, after resolving the issue with the concerned person.


You have to visualise this universe is made up of Love. It's a world that's almost dense with loving energy. Visualise yourself taking all the loving energy and placing it in your heart. Sent out the love you have concentrated in your heart to this other person (whom you have being hating). 

It's not so much about forgiving. It's about making you feel 'Whole'. If you can send love to the person who has hurt you, you can then make anyone part of yourself (wholeness). 

It's about releasing yourself from remaining trapped in the maze and not wasting (your energy and time) hours and weeks in the maze. 

The choice boils down to only two questions: You want to be right? or you want to create something new? 

Life is about moving forward and not being stuck in the maze and wasting the time and energy, because you can't get those hours and week back.


It's training yourself to create a Reflex.
It's trying to find the state of not getting into a lot of negativity and training yourself to say, What am I gonna do about it now?

Every event has something in it that you can learn from. 
You have to squeeze the juice out of the lemon (event), meaning you not only have to have the will-power but the faith too that every event in life has something valuable (value) in it. With this mindset, everything starts becoming meaningful. 

If you can train to create this reflex (mindset) of looking at all events as having value, you will reach the Zone of Tremendous Opportunities.


Illustrations from The Tools by Phil Stutz & Barry Michels

Phil Stutz narrates his first plane journey as a child. It was a gloomy, cloudy day but when the plane reached above the clouds, there was sun and sunshine. This episode in Stutz's life, gave a new paradigm - The Sun is always there, no matter how many many black and dark clouds are over you. We have to find out a way of let the sunshine come through the clouds. 

Part X will resist you, it will tell you shouldn't be grateful, you are a victim, you didn't get enough, why should you be grateful for what you have? (given the dark circumstances of your life). 

The process of creative act of being grateful will change your mood. 
The classic time to use 'The Grateful Flow' is when your thoughts are out of control.

Gratefulness is the state you want to be in as often as you possibly can be in it, because it's the state that breaks through the cloud. Once you are up there, you are in a different world. 


Image from Stutz Netflix

Most people are very bad at coming to terms with loss. They get depressed or bereft when there's a loss. But even before there is a loss, they're just worrying about a loss. 

The goal of Loss Processing, is to get what's called the potency of nonattachment. That means I can pursue something but I'm also willing to lose it. 

Visualization exercise: Pick up something you have got really attached to and fear of losing it. Imagine you are holding to it (branch of a tree), but eventually you let go of it. To your surprise, your fall is gentle and you fall into Sun, your physical body burns up and you become one sunbeam amongst all the other sunbeams. You are radiating a very loving, giving, outflowing sensation in this sun world. In this Sun World, all you can do is Give, You can't grasp and hold on to anything. It's just impossible.  

As human beings it not good to be completely non-attached. The goal here is not complete non-attachment, but moving towards the state of wholeness, where the loss of a material possession or a person, can't take away your wholeness.

Summary: 'No one is absolved from problems of life (not even the people whom you look upto). As humans everyone has to strive, adapt, struggle, go through pain, uncertainty, constant work for moving forward in life'. - Phil Stutz

References: The documentary Stutz on Netflix

#Stutz #Philstutz #Stutz #BarryMichels #Netflix #Netflixdocumentaries #TheTools #Courage #Creativity #Willpower #Possibilities

Monday, October 31, 2022

Let's provide Effective Career Guidance to our School Students by tapping into Media Contents


Image by Debi Brady from Pixabay

The OECD Website (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) mentions, Effective Career Guidance enables young people to develop informed, critical perspectives about the relationship between education and employment, helping them to visualise and plan their transitions through schooling and into attractive work. Effective guidance is rich in first-hand encounters with the labour market, begins early and responds to the personal circumstances and interests of students. 

As you would be aware OECD is an international organisation which comprises of 38 member developed countries and it works to build policies across various spheres of human society. 

If you are a parent or a teacher or a career counsellor from India, then OECD's Career Readiness Project featured on their website is bound to catch your attention. OECD member countries like Australia, Canada, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Korea, Malta, New Zealand, Spain, UK and US, has put Effective Career Guidance into practice in their formal schooling system - Primary, Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary School.

The formal education system in countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and US have Practice of Career Guidance right from their Primary school all the way to their Upper Secondary school. In countries like Finland, France, Germany and Korea the Practice of Career Guidance is introduced from Lower Secondary school onwards and Malta introduces it in their Upper Secondary school. (data sourced from OECD website on 1st of Nov 2022).

Career Guidance for students through their schooling years produces positive outcomes such as connecting the subjects with the world of work, removing blind spots and raising awareness of the world of possibilities, raising self-motivation, goal setting, increases focus and improves grades. 

From my personal experience as a parent and as a career counsellor, I regretfully have to say a systematic, formal career guidance and career awareness program is lacking in our formal Indian schooling system. Of course lot of positive changes are happening with the introduction of National Education Policy (NEP), but as on date our students are not receiving universal access to career guidance during their formal schooling for making connections of the subjects they study in school with the future world of work (professions). 

A multi-stakeholder engagement is needed for developing a holistic solution to meet the needs of our students. With the eventual implementation of NEP (National Education Policy) there is hope it will address this gap in our existing schooling system. This blog won't be able to do justice to the seriousness and enormity of this topic. For that, we need to indulge in serious academic reading of policy papers and follow the experts and policy makers. Hence, I am taking the approach of 'Plucking The Low Hanging Fruits', which can be easily practiced by parents, teachers and career counsellors. 

Let's provide Effective Career Guidance to our School Students by taking into Media Contents which offers insights into different careers and professions. We can exploit the opportunity created by penetration of internet, smart phones, YouTube, video-on-demand (VOD) and Over-the-Top (OTT), to provide access of these contents to all school students cutting across the urban-rural divide and the socio-economic strata, by spreading the word across through social media.

As well meaning adults, let's introduce our children/students to these contents and let's stimulate their curiosity and help them to connect the dots, by engaging with them in a two-way discussion. Such practice of effective career guidance by using media which has the flavour of entertainment, will also be not be perceived by the students as another over-bearing class, in their already cramped schedule of studies and tuitions!

This blog will be a running log entry of career related media contents. As I come across such contents I shall add them into the list. I also call upon your support to provide contents you come across, through the comment section and please do share this blog among your network so that it reaches to more students, parents, teachers and counsellors.

Together we can make a positive difference for our children and students, by exposing them to at least some form of Effective Career Guidance, instead of just waiting when a formal introduction of guidance will happen into our formal education system. 

List of Media Contents: 

INDIA'S BEST JOBS on Discovery+ Channel

It features 26 professions as on date, spread over 2 seasons (13 episodes per season). The show is hosted by Meiyang Chang a dentist turned performer (achieved fame by debuting in Indian Idol). The theme of the show is 'Discovery how one makes their passion a successful career'.

Professions showcased on this show are: 

Season 1: Canine Behaviorist, Paragliding Instructor, Travel Blogger, RJ, Wedding Filmmaker, Fitness Trainer, Custom Bike Modifier, Organic Food Entrepreneurs, Drone Operator, Stand-up Comedian, Celebrity Chef, Lifestyle and Fitness Coach and Film Director.

Season 2: DJ, Project Management, Interior Designer, Theater Director, Ecostay Entrepreneur, Production Designer, Food Truck Entrepreneurs, Hairstylist, Private Detective, Automotive Journalist, Wildlife Photographer, Casting Director and Hospitality Entrepreneur. 

Host Chang goes through a checklist at the end of each episode. This Chang Checklist comprises of:
1. Are you your own Boss? 2. Job Satisfaction? 3. Does it pay your Bill? 4. Client satisfaction? 
5. Perks?
This checklist can introduce the students to the concept of passion, hard work, business acumen and finance management. It can make them realise, these concepts are the underlying principles across any professions they choose in future.


This is a four episode series which follows four cadets - Mudit Tewari, Priya Sharma, Amogh Bhandralia and Kartik Thaku as they undergo various stages of training at the famed institution in Dundigul, Hyderabad. 

This series aim to inspire the youth of India to look at the Air Force as a career opportunity. The series also provides insights into the life of Air Force Officers, their journey from a cadet to a Flying officer. 
The series makes the students aware of entrance exams like NDA and CDS and offers insights on the hard work, dedication and skills required by them to qualify, complete the training and meet the demands of the call for duty.       

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

It's OKAY not to have a PLAN!

Photo by Rachel McDermott on Unsplash

The society expects us to plan our life as per a standard template and follow a prescribed path of milestones at various stages of life. 

The moment a girl or a boy enters high school, most of them are confronted with the following questions: 

  • Which stream are you planning to take in 11th?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • Aur beta, bade hogar kya banoge?

In other words, the society expects you to have a Career PLAN.

As a career counsellor, I come across so many teenagers and young adults who haven't made up their mind yet, on what they would like to pursue in their lives. Very few of them are comfortable being in this lack of clarity. On contrary, the majority of them express being in a state of confusion, feeling inadequate and they are desperately seeking for guidance. 

From my experience, the teenagers who are comfortable with not having a plan yet, usually have a safety net of supportive and understanding parents and guardians. However, the significant proportion of young adults who express confusion, dilemma and inadequacy are dealing with family pressure, peer pressure, pressure from teachers and society's expectations from them to have plan sooner than later.

If I draw upon my 20+ years of working experience I have come across so many bright professionals women and men, who did not have a concretized plan but they are doing extremely well and leading a successful career. They took up things as it came along, went with the flow and capitalized upon the opportunities life presented to them. 

A self-confession, I too never had not have a concrete plan. By temperament, I have believed in the importance of life's journey, to stay on course with the life's ups and down, than being overtly focused on a plan and the destination.

At this juncture, it would be appropriate to shift gears from my view point to real world evidences (case studies) to that I can bring in objectivity and not request you to just subscribe to my world view just out of good faith.

I was reading The Week Magazine (edition, May 29, 2022). The cover story 'Lessons Life Has Taught Me'. featured several prominent, successful men and women. The narration is in an interview style format, where they walk us (readers) through their professional life's journey. Behind their illustrious careers and achievements, if you pay attention, you will discover they too didn't have a plan in their life. They went through the journey of life, meandering, going with the flow, stumbling upon changes and opportunities and making their own luck. 

Let me mention two illustrious examples from this cover story:

  • Bibek Debroy (Economist and chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister):

As a graduate student Mr Debroy wanted to study Physics in Presidency College, Kolkata. This was during the mid 1960s, when Kolkata was in the midst of considerable left-wing turbulence. Presidency College and especially the Science dept was perceived to be the hotbed of turbulence. Hence, his parents denied him the permission to study Physics at Presidency. They arrived at a compromise, by allowing Mr Debroy to study Economics and not Physics at Presidency college. 

Just thing about it! Someone like Mr Bibek Debroy who has had such an illustrious career as an Economist, didn't even have the plan to study Economics as a graduate student. Life's circumstances, thrusted upon Economics on him.  

Mr Debroy mentions in the interview, his venturing into 'Application based Economics' from Theory, was purely by chance. When he wasn't able to secure a permanent teaching position at Presidency College, he applied to Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics in Pune. Gokhale Institute provided Mr Bibek the exposure to application based Economics, which shaped his career as an Economist in the years to follow. 

Fast forward into several decades later, Mr Debroy turned into an author and when NITI Aayog was formed in 2015, he was one of it's first members. Since 2017, he has been the chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the prime minister. 

His brush with writing emerged out of a near death experience and not out of a well laid out plan. In 2004, he was in ICU dealing with a life and death situation. In the interview Mr Bibek says, "When you are there in the ICU, and you realise that you are at that point when you are not sure whether you are going to live or not, it's almost as if your entire life flashes before you. And you begin to ask: Who am I? What am I doing here? I decided that, if I survived, in that calender year 2004 I was going to bring out 12 books. That year, I actuallly published 15 books. Since then, I only write what I feel like writing, not because it is going to add to my resume."

Mr Bibek Debroy summarises the life's lessons in his own words: 

"I think that life's lesson really is that each one of us has a destiny. The fortunate few may realise this destiny.  

  • Ramachandra Guha (Historian, Writer):

In the interview, Mr Guha says, "In my day, at the age of 16, you chose your college subject. And I wanted to play cricket. So, I had to choose a humanities subject which would give me time in the afternoons to go for practice."

Just think about it! one of the most renowned historian and scholar Mr Guha didn't plan to take up Humanities for becoming a historian. He took up humanities, so that he could continue to play cricket along with his studies. 

Infact, his first choice of subject was English Literature. In the interview he goes on to say, "I would have liked to have studied English literature; back in the 1970s it was regarded as a girl's subject, so I studied economics. I was intellectually directionless in college, but I was doing many other things. I was playing bridge, was in the college quiz team and was editing the college magazine. I got focus in life only after I read about [the British-Indian anthropologist] Verrier Elwin at the age of 21, then got interested in sociology and anthropology."

Today we all know Mr Guha for his magnum opus 'India After Gandhi'. But once again, this project was not an outcome of his own plan. This project was suggested to Mr Guha by a publisher. "In the year 1998, India had just celebrated it's 50th year of independence. Publisher, Peter Straus suggested me to write a book on what happened after 1947. When I was commissioned to write it, I was 40. It came out when I was nearly 50, after almost a decade of researching and writing."

Mr Ramachandra Guha summarises the life lessons in his own words: 

"You must always go by your own instinct. Success is incidental. It is really the quality of work that must give you satisfaction. You must feel that you have done something that you are happy with and that has utilised your energies and talents fully."

It's OKAY not to have a PLAN!, has this approach been part of any serious scientific study? 

Apparently yes. 

Stanford Professor John D. Krumboltz along with his colleagues Levin and Kathleen Mitchell developed the 'Planned Happenstance Theory'. 

John Krumboltz, right, with a simulation game for choosing careers. (Image credit: Jose Mercado)
Copyright: Image provided by the Standford University News Services

"Arbitrary events have important influence on people's lives. All these events that happen in life are unpredictable and let's be grateful that they're unpredictable." - John D. Krumboltz

The main tenet of Planned Happenstance theory is "things in life will happen", whether we like them or not, and you can or need to prepare to see and take up these opportunities in your life.

Krumboltz et al recognizes that career planning didn't depend on one off career decisions taken as a teenager or as a working professional. Rather career planning is ongoing, often unplanned or influenced by unplanned and unpredictable events. 

So next time, when you find yourself in dilemma and in self-doubt and feeling miserable for lack of clarity about your next career steps, tell yourself "It's OKAY not to have a Plan!"

After this comforting self-talk, take the key points of Krumboltz et al 'Planned Happenstance Theory' and apply them in your career journey:

  1. Be aware of your surroundings - it's important to see opportunities and to keep your options open
  2. Take a risk, even with rejection as possible outcome - trying is better than not trying at all. Not trying leads to lost opportunities
  3. Be adaptable and open-minded - accept changes and engage with them. Say 'yes' when you can, not when there's no other option 
  4. Qualities that helps to make the most of the chanced opportunities are:
  • Curiosity
  • Persistence
  • Flexibility
  • Optimism
  • Risk taking
     5. Attributes to help turn chance opportunities into career opportunities are:

  • Commitment to ongoing learning
  • Ongoing self-assessment
  • Feedback from others
  • Effective networking
  • Work life balance
  • Financial planning for unemployment 

 In our culture, we are expected to be decisive about our careers goals and to have a plan. This cultural value attribution puts those who are uncertain under pressure and makes them feel inadequate. 

I hope it's now evident to you, that an undecided person who is actively exploring and learning about career opportunities may very well carve out an unexpected, but fulfilling career. 

Even those who have clearly defined career goals now, it may not remain fixed forever. They may find their goals changing over a period of time, as life progresses and situation changes. 

So remember, it's also OKAY not to have a plan. Just keep yourself open to chance events, be curious, be optimistic, take risk, be flexible, stay persistent, keep learning and explore new opportunities. Who knows what you'll end up doing!

#career #learning #success #opportunity #luck #life #careerguidance #careerplanning #careercoach #counselling #careergoals #destiny #wisdom #hope #believe #trust #journey #lifejourney #inspiration #plannedhappenstance #krumboltz


  1. The Week magazine cover story 'Lessons Life Has Taught Me' also features Harsha Bhogle, Ritu Kumar, Sushmita Sen, Narayan Murthy and Tarun Tahiliani.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Book Insights 3/3: The Information Diet: A Case For Conscious Consumption by Clay Johnson



This blog is a only a summary note of the book and does not capture the full content and all the details.  
This blog is written for academic purpose, please do provide citation to the book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, Author - Clay Johnson, Publisher - O'Reilly, for referencing. 
I encourage the readers to buy the book for a detailed reading. 
It's available on Amazon Kindle:

 Clay Johnson in his book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, takes a very interesting position by drawing an analogy between the industrialization of food (the fast food culture) with industrialization of information (the hyper digital media culture)

Mindless eating of fast food (low nutrient, high calories) leads to weight gain/obesity. 

Similarly, mindless consumption of information (high quantity but low in quality) leads to information obesity. 

The author alerts the readers by pointing out human beings are hard wired to salt, sugar and fat. 

Similarly, human beings are hard wired for affirmation of their beliefs, fear, hate and gossips.

The appeal he makes to us is not to be passive consumer of media, rather to recognise we all have a 'choice' and to use this agency to decide what to consume? what to avoid? 

The book brings up the concept of Fiduciary responsibility i.e. media companies serve their shareholders by focusing on revenue and profit margins. This business model translates into:
  1. Tweaking news headlines to make it more palatable to it's audience.
  2. Create Link baits, as more clicks = more ads = more revenue for the media house
  3. Many media houses deploy multivariate testing. In the initial 5 minutes, 2 variant headlines of the same news are put out online. The headline which draws more clicks stays online.
  4. Experienced journalist are being replaced with network of less qualified, cheaper independent contractors.
  5. Content farming: The editors makes decision on 4 parameters: i. Traffic potential, ii. Revenue potential, iii. Turn-around-time and iv. Editorial quality.
  6. Deployment of SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  7. Media content is catered towards the algorithms, SEO
  8. Churnalism: Simply copy pasting what's in a press release (permissible plagiarism) than value added news articles
  9. Advertisements, Sales have taken over as the primary driver. For free or low priced content, unknowingly the consumers are the products.
The author also makes us aware of Bad Science, i.e. vested interests coming together to fund research studies, favourable to them. He gives examples of:
  • US Big Tobacco companies creating organizations such as Center for Indoor Air Research and ARISE (Associates for Research in The Science of Enjoyment). [create doubts in the minds of smokers and non-smokers]
  • American Enterprise Institute (think tank) funded by Exxon Mobil, Philips Morris [anti-climate change lobby]
  • Climate Gate controversy of 2009, University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit.
This battle of Science and battle of Doubt Production, makes the information landscape murky.  

If you would have noticed, all the above points towards the external environment. 

The author, now makes us look inwards i.e. into 3 short comings of our nature which keeps us ignorant and ill-informed:
  1. Agnotology: The more informed someone is, the more hardened their beliefs become, irrespective of the information being factually correct or incorrect.
  2. Epistemic closure: Dismissing all other sources of information as unreliable.
  3. Filter failure: The bubble we create for ourselves, to avoid cognitive and ego burden.
Infact, social media feed algorithms are creating filter bubbles for us.

The author lists out the symptoms of information obesity: 
  • Distorted sense of reality, 
  • Loss of social breath (unable to nurture meaningful interaction due to the sheer overload of online network), 
  • Attention fatigue, 
  • Poor sense of time (screen addition, staying in virtual reality), 
  • Poor decision making. vi. Loss of productivity and efficiency. 
The author offers a solution to us by coining a new term 'INFOVEGANISM'

At the heart of this Infoveganism, lies:
  • Change the mindless/passive/auto-pilot consumption habits of media
  • Become conscious consumer
  • Follow ethics
  • Master data literacy
Mastering data literacy comprises of the following skills:
  1. How to search? (verify the source)
  2. How to filter? (think critically, make good judgement)
  3. How to process? (draw insights)
  4. How to produce? (as a content creator, focus on quality and value)
  5. How to synthesize? (connecting the dots and making inferences)
The author provides simple hacks for staying in control and to be mindful of our information diet:
  1. Prevent attention fatigue. In other words, we can maintain our attention fitness by i. Strategic allocation of our attention (choose what is important for you and filter out the rest), ii. Will-power, iii. Measurement (self-assessment of your media consumption) and iv. Elimination (based on self-assessment, minimize the unwanted/excess).
  2. Set daily time limit for online/screen time and stick to it.
  3. Sign up for advertisement free content
  4. Pay for consuming good content
  5. Set priority for yourself, use rules and filters to cut off unwanted emails, notifications etc.
  6. Operate out of consciousness, be mindful. Remind this to yourself and practice this habit.
The quote from the author Clay Johnson, sums up the message of the book:

"Obesity is a complicated problem. Obviously, obesity has to do with access, and obesity has to do with the economic conditions, but it sometimes also has to do with overeating, and the same thing happens with information. I think a lot of people don't have great access to information and good information, that's for sure, but also in the world of the internet, we have almost universal access to everything that we need. And that means that we have to make empowered decisions and informed decisions about what it is that we're consuming. It's the only way to sort of 'live right' online." - Clay Johnson

#information #informationoverload #InformationOverloadDay #conscious #Consciousliving #ConsciousChoices #Consciousminds