Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Presentation at a Youth Conference

Yesterday I was speaking to a group of extremely bright young people about future, career and aspirations. If anything, this was a humbling experience. I seemed to have started from a point, that of undermining their intellectual capabilities, but was soon aware how motivated, aspirational and knowledgeable the audience was. This is a far cry from the usual crowd I get to speak to, but this is the crowd who we intend to appeal to when we open a new college offering courses in Business, Economics and Entrepreneurship in the next few months.

There were a number of presentations from other equally accomplished people, coming from different career streams. Some worked in politics, others in Media, public services and banks. This was indeed quite a Hindu thing, arranged by Asian Voice, a newspaper for British Asians, and the City Hindu Network, which is a forum for young British Asian executives working in the City of London. Indeed, the audience drew from all kinds of age groups and religion, but one could clearly see a distinctive Asian profile and without a trace of immigrant accent.

In the ten minutes I was given to speak, at the start of the proceedings, I did not have much of a brief. At the hindsight, I could have focused on my career journey and why I chose to be in education business. However, without a brief, I stuck to a rather general presentation, talking about a discontinuous future, the challenges it presents and five things that one should look at preparing for the future - after Howard Gardner's five minds - Have a discipline, Build a Synthesizing outlook, Be Creative, Be Respectful and Be Ethical. I would have loved to show some clips from Steve Job's Commencement Speech at Stanford, but had no time to do so.

Overall, I thought I missed the mark by a wide margin and that's an honest admission. This is something which I have to work out as I go forward. The rest of the event was all about setting goals and knowing, with mysterious certainty, where one would end up. Most of the audience already knew: I met a 15 year old who definitely wanted to be a Brain Surgeon, and was only deterred by the thought that in ten years, Robots may do all the operations and surgeons may not have a job. This is the kind of certainty I never knew in life, and my message regarding the uncertainty may not have had the resonance.

I ended my presentation with Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish message but this was still a humbling experience, of being with people so certain of the future. Not that I have converted - more than anything I find such certainty boring - but this was my first real encounter with the British Asian community, where there is not much scope for doubt or dithering.

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