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Giving Back

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What started as a day of learning and challenges ends on a happy social note.  It is Saturday and after a long day online I had to write this story so hang with me.

Many of us are under pressure to find and/or keep our jobs these days so it can become all about us.  This is a story about helping others, about giving back, about mentoring the next generation of leaders.

In my professional life I have met many amazing people.  Some you think you will only work with and never see or speak to again.  This does not have to be true if you care and want to give back.

My story starts with my first trip to India in 2003.  I was traveling there on behalf of my company at the time (  We (Rick Komyanek and I) were going there to evaluate several vendors and would be meeting up with several co-workers the next evening.  We arrived on Saturday night to get settled in after coming from the states.  We actually arrived about 1:00am on Saturday night (Sunday morning) and were scheduled to be picked up at 7:00am for a day trip to the Taj Mahal.  After getting a few hours of sleep we went down to the front desk to meet our “escorts” for the day.  It was there I ran into Rajat Pandit ( from HCL (  Honestly, I did not think twice about Rajat at the time.  He did a wonderful job getting us to the Taj and back so we had a great day.  He helped us get from New Delhi to Agra and back which is quite a long day.  Rick and I told him our observations as we navigated the roads between the two cities.  We all laughed about the cultural “differences” between what we were used to and what is normal in India.  I honestly thought that was the last time I would see or hear from Rajat.

As we progressed with our negotiations with HCL and eventually started to build up their team and transfer work to them, Rajat was assigned to our account in London.  I was pleased to see a familiar face and glad that he quickly became part of the overall team in London.  Through my periodic site visits I always tried to see Rajat because of the energy and enthusiasm he brought to work each day.  This relationship lasted for several years until both he and I decided to part with our respective companies and seek greener pastures.  Although we parted on good terms, the distance between us seemed like a huge obstacle (he being in London while I was based in the States).

Enter the advent of Social Media sites such as Facebook ( and Twitter (  As I jumped into these new sites, I started to build out my circle of friends and followers working my way through contacts I made over the years.  I was lucky to find Rajat out on Facebook and started to chat with him here and there.  This went on for a few years and was a nice way to “chat” but nothing really became of it (from my perspective).  Rajat moved onto Yahoo and a couple of other leading technology companies and continued to hone his technical skills.  Here is where the story gets interesting (or at least to the point of he post).   As I stated above, Rajat is a very sharp programmer / architect.  As such, he was helping this former engineer (moi) overcome some learning hurdles with some of the newer internet technologies.  Always willing and helpful, he would walk me through this and that with a smile on his face (and in his voice).  I was happy for the help and he seemed more than eager to offer it.  All was good.

Today, Rajat asked me for some career advice.  I was honored for him to ask me because you never know where someone is that appreciates your experience and consul.  We share a similar background albeit separated by a few years (his just a few years my junior).  We both come from the technical ranks and eventually face decisions as to where to go in your future career progressions.  Rajat asked how I made the transition from a Systems Engineer to being a leader in IT an organization.  As I stated above, I was honored to offer him my advice on what it takes to be a leader, both in general and in an IT organization. In addition I was happy to relay the specifics on how I moved from being seen as a programmer to being thought of as a leader.

Leadership is about a vision, it’s about a story of where you’ve been, where you are and where you should be going.  It’s about selling the vision of the future, a better place for all the right reasons.  Leadership is about confidence, an understanding of the business/technical issues and how your vision will bridge them to the other side.  It’s about leading from the front, rolling up your sleeves and showing/doing what it takes to implement tactical and strategic change.  It’s about taking calculated risks and delivering the rewards from them.  It’s about inspiring others to stretch to the next level, to grow, to be challenged, to be scared and to overcome.

I’m glad I had the time today to start on this journey.  I did not expect to end up here however am very glad I did.  I took the time and hope it pays off in spades for Rajat (  Have a great journey my friend.


Written by matthewkeane

November 22, 2009 at 12:51 am