Monday, January 28, 2013

Risk, Reward, Recognition

He took a calculated risk with a new solution from a start-up vendor for a critical part of the business. The project started well and then ran into huge issues during a recessionary trend that hit everyone; under pressure the users started taking a cautious approach to every bit of functionality and wanted every remote condition part of the solution. Everyone who had signed off on the risk matrix now conjectured about the decision putting the CIO in a spot which lead to his movement.

Fast forward to another era, the CIO now with another company took on the challenge to rescue the underwater reputation of IT. He took a bold step to choose a smaller and relatively unknown vendor for an even larger business critical project; the selection process was unquestionable with sign-offs from all CXOs. The project went live with flying colours and was recognised by the users, the company – locally and globally, and acknowledged as a paradigm shift in the industry.

News about his risk ability and success was coupled with the many awards he and his team had collected. The business too was bestowed with many industry awards as they leveraged the technology solutions with due credit to the IT team. The Midas touch was such that even though the company had normally been on the leading curve of technology adoption, now it was a playing ground for every IT company wanting to invest and explore use cases that the weak hearted would shy away from.

Through the years many started seeking coaching and mentoring from the CIO; he acknowledged all, was ready with a piece of advice, networked across layers with ease, growing in stature feeding on the recognition. Industry bodies and forums wanted him as an advisor, conferences vied for his participation; everyone was satiated with his response and participation. He became larger than life in his embodiment of success and the persona became bigger than the person.

One fine day he sold the Ferrari like the Monk from the famous book and gave up all the glitz and fame to start all over again. There was shock and rumbles of “something must have gone wrong; after all he was taking too many risks; it was too good to last”. Puzzled people who knew him or thought that they did, queried “Why ??”. A few bold ones asked the question in vain, others wondered, the void he left behind was too large to fill and thus remained a vacuum with his absence being felt by everyone.

I caught up with the CIO who had retreated into a dark hole, asking the obvious hoping to gain some insights into the compulsions and rationale that had many wondering. He quizzed me instead to postulate the reasons of which I denied him the possibility instead pushing for words from his mind and heart. I found it hard to believe his story but it was his story only in a way that he could think of the future. I sought his permission to write about it which was granted. In brief I reproduce the same.

I thought I was invincible; I always took calculated risks though they appeared to be undue from the outside. Every success fed my ego, my success went to my head until I failed; I could not believe it, I tried justifying it to myself, oscillating between being the victim, blaming circumstances and everyone else. Until I realized that it was not about others, it was about me. That made me introspect on what success means to me; I analysed my situation, my behaviour, sought feedback, and decided to use it.

I shared my ideas with my teams and the business who took them on as their own thereby reducing the risk of failure. Success brought rewards and recognition which slowly and steadily began to once again boost my ego and self-esteem where I was becoming uncomfortable with the situation. I had been to the peak and had fallen hard. The heady feeling of invincibility beckoned again and was difficult to resist. So to put to rest the temptation, I quit; to start all over again. I feel at peace and excited to once again conquer new peaks !


  1. Authenticity. Though I see a blindspot here (my opinion with all due respect). Seems like a new peak will fuel his invincibility. I do not see anything wrong with self-esteem however the invincibility/ego feeling can be replaced by pay-it-forward. If I were him & 50+, I would consider using the wisdom & giving back by helping others to become "invincible CIO". This country does need invincible CIOs if innovation-thru-technology has a role to play in changing the lifes of people much faster than it is actually doing. This gradient has to be much steeper.

  2. To me (as Prabhas says, with all due respect), we need to have CIOs first. We are yet not amongst C-level people (barring a few exceptions). Most of this breed seems to be suffering with "Pants on Fire" syndrome. They are happy shooting troubles and not think beyond.

    1. You are right on target, until the operational activities are given away to an able team, there is no gain. The primary thought is to then put to rest own insecurities and fear and forge ahead

  3. Yes Arun sir. It will solve two things: One, it will distinguish CIOs from the rest. Two, it will also help people in inquisitively developing themselves and taking to the level where rewards will only come for "risk takers", "Revenue Rainmakers" and none else. Those who do jobs, will be compensated accordingly, because that was their job.