Sunday, May 26, 2013

Managing Your Career Path - Commencement Speech by Ramkumar Narayanan at Graduation Ceremony of Institute of Product Leadership

Last night I attended the graduation ceremony of a friend from Institute of Product Leadership, Bangalore. The event was attended by interesting set of people and got to meet many people active in Bangalore Entrepreneurial and Startup space. The highlight of the event was commencement speech given by Mr. Ramkumar Narayanan, GM eBay Product Development Center, Gurgaon.

The speech was on the learnings from his career spanning 25 yrs in auto and tech industry - starting off as an Engineer, taking first steps as Entrepreneur, his eventful career at Microsoft dabbling with technology, product management, then to Yahoo! and currently as GM of Product Development Center, eBay India.

Wonderfully the speech was not philosophical and deep as these kinds of speech tend to get, rather it was presented beautifully in 8 simple digestible points. The speech immediately struck a chord with me as I could relate to each of the points he presented. I have time and again come back to each of the points he mentioned, just that nobody presented it to me it in its entirety. I feel lucky to be present there and thankful to him for taking an effort, doing a deep retrospection of his wonderful career and sharing the learnings with everyone.

The slides of his commencement speech can be found on Slideshare.

He shared many of his experience pertaining to each of his points. Some of the things that I remember from his speech are -

Rich Experiences

Always look out for opportunities to gain rich experience. It can be either through meeting people, participating in social and community events or having conversation with strangers. Always be eager to learn from these encounters and be proactive in breaking the ice and striking the conversations.


Always be curious. We are very curious as a child, but tend to loose this skill as we grow up. He shared his experience that as a child he used to take apart household items or toy games given to him wondering how it worked. That curiosity might have led him to choose engineering and later a career in auto-industry wondering how it worked and how to make it work even better.

Build Depth

Keep Learning Constantly. This was one of the points that struck a chord immediately. While choosing a domain name for my blog, I brainstormed on one thing I want to be identified as, and it was being a constant learner. After completing college, I have made a point to learn a new programming language, skill or domain every year.

The passion with which Mr. Ramkumar was talking about it was inspiring, it made me feel like making an immediate connection. Unlike other people from his generation, I was looking at someone who is constantly in touch with field of education. He was well aware of changing scenarios in education, of how colleges are not restricted to the closed walls, and how Stanford is leading a revolution by putting all its course content available online for anyone interested.

Execution with Precision

Don't just restrict yourself to theory, or keep analyzing the problem go out in the field and try it out, learn from experience, iterate and try again. Be persistent.

Embrace Diversity

Every person is different, and there is an opportunity to learn from this difference. The diversity can be seniority, gender, intellectual, thinking ideology, cultural etc. Embrace diversity and don't see everything from the same frame of reference.

Communicate Effectively

In the first 10 years of his career, he admitted he was a shy and geeky engineer and avoided having to go and present in front of large group of people. Later on as a founder and entrepreneur, acquiring this skill became a necessity and question of survival.

Ramkumar super emphasized on gaining this skill early on in the career and marked it as super important. Learning to present and communicate effectively using the new age media is very critical for people in any role and not just for entrepreneurs and founders. Some of the tips he shared was to deliberately put yourself in uncomfortable position by signing up for talks and then using that as motivation prepare rigorously on the subject as well as presentation skill.

On a side note, I loved his slide deck. Each of the background in the slide relates subtly to the point he presented, and all his images were clicked by him during family vacations. That tells a lot about following what he preaches, in form of being expert at photography, doing research, retrospection and preparing hard for presentation and in the end communicating it clearly.

Leave a Legacy

Always think of the question - How will people remember you ? What will you be proud of when you look back ? 
Rather than think about these questions very late, think about it now and work towards making a fitting answer.

Take time for Yourself

Don't neglect your children, spouse, parents and family in the hustle bustle of busy life. Always make a point to give appropriate priority to family. Once children grow up, they are never going to be of same age again and the time lost is not going to come back. Apart from making time for loved ones, don't forget to make some time for yourself.

It was wonderful of Ramkumar to share his experience with us all, I hope doing my part by spreading what I learned.


  1. Good Summary Amir! Thanks for attending the Graduation Ceremony and be part of the accelerating product ecosystem in India

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