Adapt: Your First Step Towards Success That Lasts (Author Interview)

What inspired you to write 'Adapt: Your First Step Towards Success That Lasts' and choose Ram as your central character?

Growing up, I loved writing and to tell stories. During my Executive MBA program, I got to read The Goal by Eli.Goldratt and I was instantly in love with its format where a business concept is intertwined in the backdrop of a story. As I became a manager, I was very particular about presenting a vision with clear objectives and then documenting the progress towards those goals and measuring their overall impacts to the team’s performance. The combination of all the 3 factors, led me towards the idea of Adapt sometime during the 2013-14 timeframe. I came to act on it when Covid stuck when I had more time at home due to travel restrictions.


In 'Adapt', Ram's journey as a senior manager is pivotal. How much of this is drawn from your own experiences in the tech industry?

All of it is actually drawn from my personal experience in the tech industry. The tech industry is very dynamic and I have been lucky to be at the forefront of many important technological upheavals. Right from the Mainframe to Client-Server architecture to the advent of Smartphones, associated Flash, Lithium-ion battery technology to Cloud Computing and now to Accelerated Computing, I have been at the forefront, having a ring side view as these changes unfold and their profound implications in our day to day lives. It is critical to have the right mindset and management philosophy to handle both the volume and velocity of these changes to successfully achieve our objectives.


The book focuses on the concept of adaptability in leadership. Why do you think this is particularly important in the context of technology companies?

Like I mentioned earlier, as far as the technology world goes, change is the only constant. While this is true in life as well, the speed and the force at which this truth emphasizes itself in the tech world is quite amazing and very humbling. What I have found helpful, is to understand the reason for the changes and embrace the attributes that allows one to be part of that change rather than to resist. This when practiced propels the business to grow exponentially while keeping both the customers and the employees in a happy space.


Can you elaborate on the 'Know Thy Self' principle in your book and its significance for emerging leaders?

I believe whole heartedly, both personal or professional progress, is rooted in knowing oneself. If we breakdown to the very basics, knowing oneself is understanding your motivation for an action and having clarity on those actions that drive a deep sense of purpose within you. Then the 2nd level of understanding is while performing those actions, knowing your core strengths and weaknesses and how best to control the environment tailored to your strengths. Finally, the 3rd level of understanding is to having a map of what is within your control and those that are beyond your control but could clearly tip the outcome.


'Adapt' is the first book in a three-part series. How does it set the stage for the subsequent books?

Adapt is the journey of Ram as he steps into the world of management. At the beginning of Adapt, Ram is still raw and new to understanding the nuances required in the several facets of management. In the next book Evolve, Ram continues in his journey to take on his next challenge as a more mature leader in a more complex and semi-abstract environment still leading towards positive outcomes. In the third book Become, Ram is morphed into a seasoned leader and takes on a challenge like no other and will be dealing with an environment that has no structure and he has to construct and define the meaning from total abstractness. While the environments are all different and the challenges increase in complexity through the series, the management philosophy Ram applies remains the same across the series.


You've included various leadership lessons in 'Adapt'. Which one do you think is the most challenging for new managers to grasp?

As new managers maneuver through the challenges in their work environment, the framework that has helped me is to go through the 6 phases of Knowing what I refer to as the 6K path (Know your Self, Know your Team, Know your Environment, Know your Objective, Know your Challenges, Know your Destination). While each one has their challenges, the toughest one is to clearly set what your destination needs to be. Without that clarity, one tends to overstay or overdo and that leads to waste. Likewise, within each of these Know states, there are 4 stages of development – 1. I don’t know, 2. I think I know, 3. I know what I don’t know, 4. I Know. The hardest of these is the first state to commit that you don’t know. It requires courage to accept that you don’t know something but if accepted, then that leads to the next levels of development.


How do the evolving technologies like smartphones and flash storage play a role in shaping the leadership challenges that Ram faces?

Ram is working in the server industry which while different from the Smartphone industry is still related as the technologies in the two spaces overlap. However, the mercurial growth of Smartphones allowed for the standardization of some of the underlying technologies like Flash storage and Lithium-ion battery packs to be adopted in the server industry. Ram was quick to see the interconnected play between the two industries and utilized the new technologies as the fuel to drive innovation and address some of the challenges of his team not wanting to change.


In your book, you talk about 'Knowing Thy Team'. How does Ram navigate different personalities and what can readers learn from this?

Before being a change agent, it is important to understand the strength of the team as a whole and the individuals who are part of the team. This then needs to be the baseline as you push the team towards newer horizons. Ram, being a first-time manager understands this the hard way. He first expects everyone to just follow his vision but then realizes that he needs to understand the individual strengths and he as the leader needs to help each of the members achieve their aspirations finding their voice within and becoming their champion in each of their journey.


'Know Thy Objective' and 'Know Thy Destination' are key themes in your book. How does Ram's understanding of these evolve throughout the story?

Both are very important steps as you embark on a journey of transformation. Having clarity of the objective that is aligned with the organization and the company’s overall vision and objective is key before beginning the transformation. Like I mentioned earlier, setting a clear goal post that signifies the destination is also essential as this lets you and the management know that the mission is accomplished and you are ready for the next challenge. Without that clarity, you might start to meander aimlessly at the final step and overextend that will lead to wastage of resources.


Finally, what do you hope readers, especially those aspiring to be leaders in the tech industry, take away from Ram’s journey in 'Adapt'?

First and foremost, I want readers to not let failures pull them back. Failures are just opportunities to learn and to Adapt and eventually to succeed. I also want them to believe in themselves as each one of us are our own best champions. So investing in our personal growth helps us take control of our destiny and is the best and easiest way to being successful. Another key takeaway for the readers is to step back and look at the big picture. While being detailed is important, it is equally important to understand the whole machine and how it works as a whole and how the different sub-systems are interconnected and where you fit in, with respect to that whole set up. The final takeaway is the most important one which is the purpose for your action and it is always about service. It is either service to yourself or your team or your organization or to a customer that defines your value and importance. This basically is the management philosophy summed up as iGUS – integrated Growth on the path to Unite with the purpose to Serve. This is the underlying philosophy of this series.