Letter No 17 - Reverse engineer your career

Dear friend,

Are you aware of the concept of reverse engineering? The idea is simple, to begin with the end - to take an existing part or design, and then work backwards to figure out how it should be made or manufactured.

I would like to introduce you to the idea of reverse engineering your career. You start by listing out all the things that you think are important to you in your life and career, e.g. travel, maybe art, maybe interacting with people, maybe doing a lot of research, maybe working with your hands, maybe flexible working hours, maybe visibility and recognition. List down everything that you know you want to be doing. List down how you think you want to be spending your time.

And then, you start thinking about what kind of career can offer you these things and what steps you need to take to get there.

This is not as easy as it sounds, but neither is it as difficult as it sounds. Do this exercise. Make a written list. Ask people you meet about what they do, how they spend their time. Think about the things you enjoy doing, or not. Keep adding and deleting from this list. This is an ongoing process and if you do it diligently, you will find slowly but surely clarity starts emerging. Don't get impatient.

But, what is most important is that you start grabbing opportunities that may help you get there. The keyword is 'may'. Don't get too fussy early in your career, especially while you are studying. If you have the time, grab various types of opportunities that will help you learn new things and grow your personality and confidence.

To prepare for what will be tomorrow, you need to be ready today.

Here is a list of some things that I believe you must be doing to make sure you are getting yourself future-ready:

  • Mentoring and coaching: meeting and working with people much older than you
  • Experience and exposure: volunteering or interning on projects where you get real responsibilities
  • Problem-solving: taking on and solving problems for people around you
  • Skills: learning and excelling at subjects that you have decided to focus on
  • Social smartness: talking to people who are very different from you
  • Prototyping and modelling: attempting to bringing your ideas (for blogs, music, art, technology) into reality

Grab opportunities to do as many of these as you can while you are still in college.


Opportunities are going to be plenty. Even today they are. Most of my friends who are CEO's and founders are rarely concerned about how much they have to pay to their employees. What they ask me is "where are the right kind of people?". For the right kind of people, they are willing to invest whatever it takes.

But what makes you a good employee? Do your thinking, but let me give you a few suggestions. You are the right kind of person to hire if:
  • You can communicate your ideas clearly - written and oral
  • You are committed to completing your work
  • You reach out for help well in time when you get stuck and don't wait until the last moment
  • You show up regularly and on time
  • You make efforts to learn new skills that are needed
  • You show up well prepared and thoroughly researched
  • You respect others and also yourself
  • You work well in a team and communicate clearly and regularly

Surprised that I didn't add any technical skills to this list? Technical skills are usually easy to develop, and most of you are already working on them. However these are the attitudes and abilities that are usually lacking in most people, and that makes employers keep looking out for the 'right kind of people.


Now the question is - how to add these traits to your portfolio?

When I did my mechanical engineering, I thought I'll get to work with machines, wreck them, fix them, explore them - what I got, in turn, were just lectures and never-ending assignments.

What I learnt in college wasn't all waste but the real learning came for me 'beyond college'. It came but working on college fests, volunteering to clean the river in Pune, raising funds for the community, trying to get companies and speakers to our student clubs, etc.

I did my masters from IIM - again great reputation, great culture but I craved to learn more practical stuff and less theory.

I worked in the corporate world, also ran my own business with branches worldwide, and during this process of learning and un-learning, I realised how long of a journey I had to take to learn practical skills - 4 years + 2years to learn sales, marketing and basics of business.

Moral of the story? You won't know till you roll up your sleeves and do things.

I have been coaching students for the last 10 years, and if there's one thing I am sure of it is - the youth are not lazy, they are confused and anxious about career choices. You might be too, stop being hard on yourself.

Please get out there and start grabbing opportunities. Most of you have the time. You will find time can be created once you have clarity. So please stop waiting for tomorrow, start creating yourself today.

Like Steve Jobs once said:
"You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."


We created a program Enterprise India Fellowship to create a platform for students to learn practically, explore many different things, deeply understand themselves, and create opportunities for themselves.

If you want to learn, un-learn, explore and experiment all while getting groomed and mentored with me, our Applications are open.


Thanks for reading this letter of mine. I would love to hear your thoughts. If you did the exercise of reverse engineering, please feel free to send me your discoveries. I will surely respond.

With warm regards and a big friendly hug,