One of the greatest rewards in life is to observe and learn from others. I have been blessed by the fact that my choice of professions — both past and present – have allowed me an entry into the super nova of brilliant people. I have learned about optics, routing, chip design, security, web and mobility from some of the smartest people in the world. But the lessons that changed me often came from people who were not just brilliant, smart or famous, but from people who understood the human condition.
They were willing to listen and had an empathy gene. Empathy can’t be taught and isn’t part of a business manual. And I believe just as technical aptitude and appreciation for product are crucial leadership qualities, so is empathy. Empathy is becoming more important in our world — especially in the business world — as technology starts to upend old orders and impact the core of our society.
Perhaps that is why I find that Satya Nadella is the right person to lead Microsoft through these transitionary times. Sundar Pichai, too has that empathy gene which is what makes him the right steward of Google’s cloud-centric computing— Android and Chrome — efforts. It is not a surprise, then, that these two individuals (along with other amazing people like Cisco Chief Technology Officer Padmasree Warrior) are included on The Guardian’s list of The most powerful Indian-technologists in Silicon Valley.
I have gotten to know many on the list, but I hold Vinod Khosla in special regard. When researching a cover story for Red Herring at the height of optical networking, I learned a lot about the man who was one of the founders of Sun Microsystems and had invested in networking giants such as Juniper Networks. What I learned from him that it is okay to dare to be different.
As I embark on this new chapter of my life, I often think back to Vinod talking about taking chances on things that others have not. I suppose as immigrants we all do that — make a leap of faith into the unknown. The act of leaving your past behind, reinventing yourself for a new life with little more than blind faith in yourself is arguably what it takes to be both an immigrant and also an entrepreneur.
I am surprised to be included on lists such as the one published by The Guardian, because until recently I have always seen myself as nothing more than a story teller, a chronicler of other people’s dreams, who was there to tell the story at the right time. I am neither a technologist, nor an engineer. I am just a little Indian boy who got seriously lucky and found this crazy place called America, where anybody can be somebody. The rest of the folks on this list deserve to be there — I am still earning my stripes, still trying to evolve, and find my place in the world.