I step back so much that, now I just keep saying hi!!!
Here is what we joke about conferences, everybody (audience, speakers, and event managers) starts with ‘a need to agree‘ on something early morning. This could range from “innovation is critical to success of business/India”, “gamification is revolutionizing business process”, “stories are the next strategy” or something like that. By end of day after speakers speaking, audience listening and event managers buzzing, the host notes that ‘all have agreed‘ on what we began with as a need, marking the successful close of the conference.
What happens in between is forcing a choice between competing sets of vocabulary, and each trying to push the other out. Even within one vocabulary, speakers/participants lean towards a specific sub set.
Here is where the conflict lies, and below examples as I noticed in a recent conference.
1. Visibility versus viability, while who ever is on stage successfully runs a viable business or used to, everyone else is simply looking to be more visible, like a 70 word intro before a 15 word question to speakers, or other plugs.
2. Cost versus price, this one is common even while the discussion is about pricing, most participants confuse it with their costs, and unable to rephrase / appreciate a concept for price. I think this is a genuine psychological inertia that is exhibited.
3. Revenue versus capitalization, most speakers agree that while the real deal for any valuation should actually be the revenues, most tech ventures are traded for capitalization. And who decides this price, the banker / investor / startup / someone else. In any case the switch to the higher number (usually capitalization) is towards resolving the first conflict of visibility versus viability.
4. Sales versus marketing, even if a session is about writing an advertorial or sponsored tweet, most confuse it with sales, this chunking of ‘sales and marketing’ is a way to avoid any responsibility in it, “…see I am techie…, the other guy in my team does all that”
5. Problem versus opportunity, not much of a conflict in this one, but still this comes to play when you are inside an already running business, best resources are staffed in the largest / most profitable current account fixing issues to keep the customer and not the most promising opportunity of acquiring a new (possibly less painful) customer. (the ‘strategic account’ conversation for another day)
Point I am trying to make is simple, to choose a field means adopting its vocabulary and its conflicts, and with changing fashions/fads if your vocabulary does not evolve as well, you are outdated even before you started.
You may have heard about graduates not being ready for industry, industry not having investments into finishing schools, about the rapid growth of disconnected/under-equipped/unregulated finishing schools throwing still unusable talent, industry accrediting academia with no standard method among other problems of disconnect between education system and industry.
In my opinion this is an issue at personal level that collective systems or their coordination cannot solve. In other words we are turning a universal problem into a global problem and throwing costly resources at it including student time, tax money to solve. Approach to such universal problem solving begins at student level.
Here is a back story of an unused workshop at IITM. It used to be a workshop heavily funded with staff supplies since inception, that was post second world war with developed countries funding or setting up labs in IITs (IITM has a lot of lab equipment from Germany, while Kgp most was from Russia, Kanpur was US equipment). I was probably one of the last set of students to touch an old German particle classifier that was almost defunct till we decided to do something with it. Actually number of students using the workshop steadily declined as industry needs, student interests, technology shifted over years, leading to under used infrastructure with no useful outcomes. Now one fine day (actually over a year) this workshop was converted to a student run lab, with much lesser resources than before but with complete freedom to do what interests students. Fast forward 2 years this lab establishes itself as national champion in robotics, new materials, among other accolades.
Now as a student it makes a perfect place to find your own version of ‘cool’, follow on what’s interesting to the student, instead of working on lab experiments that industry does not need anyway.
If I were a recruiter and I get a student who can clearly explain his 2 failures while really doing something in such workshops, and not a shiny bright power point slide with all adjectives pre-loaded, he is on board…