Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book Review: 'The' Professional

After reading the ‘High-performance entrepreneur’ and ‘Go kiss the world’, two outstanding books by Mr. Subroto Bagchi, I started admiring him for the kind of motivation and energy he gives to all entrepreneurs and young minds. His own story of MindTree is very inspiring. Subroto Bagchi is the Co-Founder of the Indian IT major MindTree Consulting. As soon as I heard about his third book – ‘The Professional’, I ordered for a copy. I also wanted to attend the official book release function on Oct 6th in Bengaluru but I somehow missed it.
Ramachandra Guha – the author of ‘India after Gandhi’ stated the book as ‘Moving and deeply empathetic…From richly varied experiences, Bagchi explains how to conduct ones career with both intelligence and integrity. This fine book will command a deservedly wide readership’. Do I have to say anything more? I strongly believe in the above statement. This really deserves a wide readership and everyone irrespective of any profession should read it.
In the past two days, while I was reading this book, I started observing the events happening around me and I started relating the events to few of the interesting insights given in the book.
I was in a very interesting meeting with a senior government officer yesterday and I was surprised to hear a comment from him about a junior officer who works with him. He stated several times that his junior officer is a ‘Professional’ and he works fine with any task that is assigned to him. Now, I wanted to know what he exactly meant when he labeled his junior officer as a ‘Professional’. Did he mean he is good? Or did he mean he is honest? Or did he mean he is educated? I was totally lost.
Well, although it was not new for me to hear the word ‘Professional’ because I am so used to hearing that every day. Don’t you think so? Just try and recollect how many times you would’ve heard that word? There are many people who keep saying ‘why don’t you behave like a professional?’, ‘is this a professional way to do things?’, ‘being a professional, why did you do it?’ and many such statements. My question is what do they mean exactly? Or making such statements will help the individual in any way?
Well, that is exactly what this book talks about. Subroto Bagchi’s first book shared his story of building a company; his second best seller was the story of his life, a motivation to young people that anyone can achieve. But as he says: ‘Go kiss the world did not provide a tool kit’. In The Professional, he gives us his knowledge, based on his lifelong experience, of what it takes to be a professional, what qualities you need to become a great professional, and what are the challenges of the future a professional must be prepared for.
It is like, if Srikanth faces a toughest question: Is what I am going to do now, faced with a difficult decision and multiple options, the professional choice to make? He gives answers for such questions by giving practical examples and his real life stories.
It will not take too many chapters to read before you arrive at saying ‘This is an outstanding book and I got the meaning of a TRUE Professional’. His first chapter, ‘Burial of the dead’ is a deeply moving and inspiring story of the most awful (for most of us) profession of dealing with dead bodies. He introduces the idea of who a professional is through a man Mahadeva whose life is dealing with dead bodies; unclaimed dead bodies. This is not someone who is conventionally associated with the term ‘Professional’. The only stakeholders for him are the Victoria Hospital staff, Policemen and the unclaimed dead bodies. The way that he was brought up was very touchy and the other hand, the way he lived his life was very inspiring. Subroto calls Mahadeva a true professional looking at the way he dealt with his whole life. His dedication, focus, care and concern among the community he lived with was very much challenging. Mahadeva buried more than 42000 corpses in his lifetime and his dedication has earned him phenomenal public recognition. The two qualities that Mahadeva has which differentiate a professional from someone who is simply professionally qualified are: One is the ability to work unsupervised and, two, the ability to certify the completion of one’s work. You have to read the complete story to get a good sense of what he is trying to explain. I promise you it is the most touching story in the book and it gives the full meaning of the book.
Subroto says ‘Integrity precedes professional competence’. So true isn’t it? The chapters in this book are categorized under 7 parts starting from, Integrity, Self-Awareness, Professional Qualities, Managing Volume, Managing complexity, New world imperatives (including sub-prime crisis and Satyam saga) and The professional’s professional. All these headings are self explanatory and you will really enjoy the way Subroto narrated the stories under each category. They are all his real life stories which are stated in a very simple way that can be understood by anyone at any level.
Although, Subroto has tried his best to explain his views on every topic in a very few words (meaning less number of pages), the impact it gives is enormous. His experiences with respect to ‘Integrity’ and the stories under that category are simply brilliant. He says ‘as per the eminent men and women whom he interviewed, the top quality that they admired in a professional is Integrity’. Here is the feedback to rank the top ten attributes of a professional:
1. Integrity
2. Commitment and Ownership
3. Action orientation and goal seeking
4. Continuous learning
5. Professional Knowledge
6. Communication
7. Planning, Organizing and Punctuality
8. Quality of work
9. A positive attitude, approachability, responsiveness
10. Being an inspiring reference to others; thought leadership
In the end, he says ‘Tomorrow’s professional must have a beacon-like presence in a world that will ask for memorability. Because being ordinary will no longer be considered professional’.
After reading this book, I am now trying to use the tool kit that Subroto has given in the form of his rich experiences and practical aspects of dealing with issues in both personal and professional life. The story of Mahadeva, whose profession is the burial of unclaimed dead bodies, will always remain in the hearts of every professional. And I bet there are many such professions and professionals who are doing their best to justify what they are doing.
In the last chapter, interestingly, Subroto has given his views on how not to be unprofessional as well. He has also explained his top ten markers of unprofessional conduct.
The final takeaway for me from the book is this – ‘Do not let yourself get carried away; do not start believing in the myth about yourself and your achievements. Take both success and failure with the same equanimity. Because, ultimately, being a professional is a matter of personal choice and the values we opt to live by’.


Narasim said...

Thank you for the nice review.

People like Mahadeva are the true Mahatmas who do selfless service with no expectation of reward. For them nishkamakarma is not a word but a way of life.

Professional is an overused word. It may mean any number of things and it is difficult to fathom what the utterer has in mind.

It is good to know that Bagchi has attempted a definition of a professional. Maybe, someday I will get around to reading what appears to be a very good book.

Vaishnavi said...

It's always good to read about someone who has come from a very ordinary background, like Bagchi himself. I have heard him speak a couple of times, very nice orator.

When people say you need to act like a 'professional', so on and so forth, I agree, it would be better to explain oneself more clearly.

Raghu said...

This book looks interesting just like his earlier books.

The word 'Professional' is used and construed in a different way by different people but ultimately all of them will mean one or the other qualities mentioned in the book. It is good to see that people like Bagchi are coming forward to share their experiences with others which may inspire the lives of many people.

Selfless service of Mahadev is truly awesome and appreciable, which can guide others to see their work and get satisfaction out of it.

Manikandan said...

Hi Srikanth,

The reviews are well written and has matched all the events mentioned in the book.

The word 'Professional' which we hear every time in every walks of life has been clearly defined by the author leaving no room of doubts for anyone in any of his/her respective work areas.

All the examples provided are 'live' and good to know that the author has mentioned all the things happening around us.

At times when the living beings have to give and take respect people like Mahadeva really mean alot whose selfless service to the 'lifeless' needs heartfelt wishes.

The author has knitted all the values and practices expected to be/from the ones who label themselves as 'The Professional' worker/characters.

Thanks again for the reviews and also guiding on the same to get the best deal on online shopping :-)

The book is recommended with five stars.


Phantom Brain said...

I read the same book, but did not gain much from Mr. Hagchi's perspective. My reasons are blogged at

Anuradha Goyal said...

Do you really think it is that great a book. I beg to disagree:

An Binh said...

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