In the 33 years I spent in the corporate sector, it was my stint at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) that really stood out. Although, the bulk of my career was spent with global banks and corporations (BNP Pariba, ANZ, IBM) that were super tall, hierarchical structures, PwC in contrast embraced an organization structure that was relatively flat and an empowering culture that got employees to think out of the box. It was here that I discovered a breeding ground for lateral thinking, a total contrast to the flawed top-down thinking that dominates hierarchies.
While my stay at PwC lasted just five years, what I learnt there has outlived everything else that I picked up in the world of business. My stay enabled me to ‘observe’ the Peter Principle first hand and I was witness to PwC partners who made way for knowledge champions.
I am humbled that the office of PwC alumni relations sought me out for an interview almost 20 years after its management consulting division got acquired by IBM.
This piece first appeared on PwC’s website in September 2021.
In a candid conversation with Prakshi Saraswat of PwC Alumni Relations.
The magic lies in loving what you do
The only secret mantra you would ever need to excel is to love what you do, and equally to do what you love. The pursuit of exploring new skills allows you to become a dot connector. But, the choice of exploring new skill sets is an individual one. I am averse to specialisation but then I respect all viewpoints.
Purpose drives growth
It’s crucial to find one’s Ikigai – the Japanese art of bringing meaning and happiness into one’s life, which is the common space between four quadrants – ‘what you love’, ‘what the world needs’, ‘what you are good at’ and ‘what can you be paid for’. To find your true purpose and be able to integrate your personal and professional aspirations, is the pinnacle.
PwC helped me think out of the box
I had joined PwC after moving away from a very structured banking industry. The new environment at the firm really pushed me to think out of the box. It was indeed the biggest break I ever had in my life…one that shaped the way for my future career. It was here that I perfected the art of lateral thinking.
Building trust is a game changer
In a world where there is no dearth of know-how, we must ask ourselves what is it that holds us back in achieving our full potential. Solutions are pointed but trust is a universal fabric. Clearly, organisations that have ‘trust’ embedded in their DNA are the ones that use the power of authority to empower others. Trust-oriented leaders unleash an environment that manifests adaptability, creativity and diversity. These are the necessary conditions for delivering sustained outcomes. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of many such encouraging environments that have inspired me constantly.
Thankful to my family and mentors
My wife works in the travel industry and my daughter is a dedicated public healthcare professional who works with a Swiss non-profit. Needless to say, my family has been my anchor in my life journey. I’ve also been inspired by the writings of late Father Anthony DeMello S.J. and the teachings of Vipassana guru, late S.N. Goenka who have been my constant companions over the last two to three decades.
Fuel your curiosity
My curiosity to learn has taken me places. At 61, I am still educating myself and have recently completed a course on ‘The Systems View of Life’ that has been a complete eye opener. Apart from work, I pen down my thoughts on my personal blog and practice yoga and meditation daily.
If anything can go right, it will go right
I would leave you to ponder over my own law – Shakti’s Law which states ‘If anything can go right, it will go right.’ The essence of Shakti’s Law lies in being able to shed one’s ego and in the realisation that even Murphy’s laws can go wrong. I for one did and that has made all the difference.
Shakti Saran is an Inclusive World Citizen, Writer and Senior Fellow at PYXERA Global. All views expressed are his own.