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When you can’t go out, go Within – introspect, learn, reskill

Womenlines takes pleasure to welcome Sakhee Dheer as a guest contributor at Womenlines. Sakhee leads Digital Marketing for APAC Global Business Marketing at Facebook Singapore, currently. In this article, Sakhee is sharing how she has used the lockdown period constructively to upgrade herself personally, professionally and spiritually too-

2020 will be remembered forever in our memories as the year that wasn’t supposed to be. Never did I imagine when I left for my maternity leave in Dec 2019 that in a few months the world will be reeling under the effects of a pandemic and before I would get back to work, the workplaces as I knew would be changed forever. But one thing is for sure this pandemic is teaching us a lot. We are being taught to be more mindful – of our habits, of our ambitions, of our dis-respect for nature, of our concern for fellow beings, of our needs and of our desires.

For me personally, apart from nurturing a newborn and managing the restless energy of a toddler during the lockdown, I have decided to use the little time I have to deepen my learning and widening my thinking by reading books that I have wanted to read for the longest time. This is helping me to expose myself to different ways of thinking and breadth of experiences. I have also embarked on going deeper within via spiritual techniques taught by Art of Living but that is a topic for some other day! It has been pure bliss, madness, exhaustion and happiness spending time with my kids during these unprecedented times and at the same time making to read, learn and introspect has helped me find some balance in the past few months, along with some occasional baking! Sharing some key takeaways of my top reads from the past 6 months –

Leap by Howard Yu:

This was such a great read and I ended up taking so many notes. The book talks about how organizations innovate across trends and timelines. The core of the book is in helping leaders see what is unique to their organization, what new knowledge and expertise they can acquire, how to leverage new trends in the business environment, how to be aware of ‘unknown unknowns’ via experimentation and emphasis on how important execution is for a good strategy. This book with its emphasis on the evolution of organizations and change management seemed very apt in current times as all organizations will need to think of operations in the new normal, new knowledge areas that need to be cultivated and how to ensure evolution at scale. I love in the book when the author asks, ” would you choose 1000 ft moved by 1 person or 1 ft moved by 1000 people”?

Hit Refresh By Satya Nadella: 

Post Leap I picked up Hit Refresh and by the end of it I agreed it had been named appropriately. Being a Microsoft Alumni, this book was on my must-reads for a long time and have seen some of the transformation first hand before I left Microsoft in 2016, I was intrigued to learn what had transpired behind the scenes. Overall this book is a great combination of learning about organizational change and also trends of the future like Cloud Computing, Machine Learning and Mixed Reality. What also comes across is Satya the person – his approach to leadership which is steeped in empathy, growth mindset, openness and learning. One of the things I will take away from this book is this “A leader will not always get it right but the average for how well a leader does get right is going to define his/her longevity in business”.

Applied Empathy by Michael Ventura: 

After Hit Refresh, this book was a great read to delve deeper into ‘Empathy’, a quality that has made Satya Nadella the leader he is today and that which has set strong foundations for Microsoft’s enormous transformation. My big take away was that empathy is not “being nice” or sympathy but it is the art of understanding. It means seeing things from another’s perspective. Adding more understanding and insight from other points of view leads us to better thinking, being and doing. From a business lens, it helps us make better products, services and campaigns for our customers and helps us keep all our stakeholder’s need in view while making decisions.

Principles by Ray Dalio: A heavy book (quite literally – 567 pages short) that I read in parallel to some of the books.  The book has some amazing learnings from the life and experiences of Ray Dalio from the way he built his company, his life and his work lessons. The book has summary sections that encapsulate some complex topics very nicely and keep the book crisp. My topmost take away was that it is important to be radically open-minded, to know what your blind spots are, having the right questions and being brutally open to feedback. It is important to take in other perspectives to make fuller decisions and broaden our perspective. He also talks about radical transparency and artfully sharing of things that are hardest to share to build meaningful relationships at work and personal life. The book felt a little spiritual with lots of wisdom on understanding our brain better to unblock our thinking, decision making and relationships. So much goodness.

Creative Superpowers by Unbound: This book furthered my awe about the brain and how I can learn to program it better after being introduced to the concept in the book Principles.  Though miles away from even beginning to scratch the surface on understanding the brain, this book was a good quick read with short essays from Creative Directors who have contributed to this book in a crowdsourced model. It was great to learn about how creative thinking can be enhanced by taking different roles like that of a creator, hacker, teacher and thief! My top takes away was that we need to give our brain some quiet time to reflect to bring forth the power of the unconscious and power of random associations made by the brain.

The subtle art of not giving a F*ck by Mark Manson: One of the best books I have ever read! A book that calls out some harsh realities of our times like being obsessed with materialistic pursuits, constant comparison with others, social media peer pressure and others. In the order, I picked this one, furthered my curiosity on the topic of training your mind better. Similar to the book Principles, this book also furthers the idea of being an observer of your experiences and learning from your negative experiences or failures rather than trying to push them away or getting depressed when things don’t go the way you expected. My top takeaway from this book is that the desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience. The book highlights 5 important values that are important for a blissful existence like taking responsibility for your actions, being uncertain, accepting failures, learning to say no and remembrance of death. If you only have time to read one book – read this one.

Other books that I have read during this time are Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, How Brand Grow by Byron Sharp, 18 steps to an all-star LinkedIn profile by Andrea T Edwards, Social Media Marketing for the future by J. E Ford. The books on my future reading list are The Future is Faster Than You Think by Diamandis & Kotler and Infonomics by Douglas B. Laney among others!!

Sakhee Dheer currently leads Digital Marketing for APAC Global Business Marketing at Facebook. In this role, her focus is to educate, inform and excite Facebook’s page owners and advertisers about using Facebook’s family of apps meaningfully and effectively to reach their audience. Sakhee specialises in running integrated marketing, analytics, and building agile teams.

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