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Wisdom Stories Ep. 47: Jaspreet Bindra

Wisdom Stories cover of Jaspreet Bindra

Cultural expectations surrounding the elderly are being challenged today, and with good reason!

While it was the norm to slow down and retreat into a quieter life post-retirement, more men and women are finding purpose and joy in doing the opposite.

WisdomCircle honours such men and women by shining light on their journey through an inspiring series called “Wisdom Stories”. These people have successfully smashed stereotypes, and their stories remind us that life should be lived to the fullest, no matter what age or stage.

My first turning point came as a young TAS Official (Tata Administrative Officer) when I attended a week-long HR-led training module in Goa. I reached the designated training room to find a dozen people milling around, with no apparent facilitator. As we sat down in a circle in awkward silence, one of us suggested we introduce ourselves. Like everyone else, I mentioned my name and the organisation I worked for in my introduction. However, one of the participants simply said “I am Sachin”. We waited for more; he said nothing. So, one of us asked him “Sachin from”? He said, “Sachin from Bangalore”. Awkward silence again. “What do you do Sachin?” someone piped up. “Oh, I run and play with my daughter”. “Total loser”, we all affirmed in our minds, while smirking at each other.

Well, it turned out that ‘Sachin’ was the facilitator, and what he told us next changed my life: “Your identity is subordinated to your corporate identity. You have no self-worth, no sense of you as yourselves, you are just ‘x working for y’!” That was the day I made a firm decision: My identity would be separate from my job.

Another turning point came when I walked away from my corporate career. I wanted to learn new things and have my fingers in many pies. The running joke is, that I have them in so many pies, that I’m trying to grow extra fingers!

I spent 25 years in best-in-class organisations like Tata Group, Microsoft and Mahindra Group. All was going well till one fine day when I woke up with a sense of mortality. I felt stifled because I did not have the time or space to cultivate my other interests, and time was running out. I had a spate of other interests, like quizzing, reading and learning new things on a vast range of topics etc. Also, when I wanted to invest in start-ups at one stage, I couldn’t because these start-ups were competing with Microsoft.

Image of Jaspreet Bindra

After giving it sufficient thought, I decided to flip my priorities from “earning to support my learning”, to “learning to support my earning”. Life has been absolutely different since.

I was greatly influenced by Ravi Venkatesan, who hired me to work at Microsoft. Ravi left one of the best jobs in the country as Chairperson of Microsoft when he was around 49 years old to go ahead and do multiple things. He wrote a book, and took on Board roles in multiple companies, along with mentorship, speaking and teaching assignments. That was what I had always thought I should do and took a leap of faith. A phrase that he coined is that he has a “portfolio career”, and so now I say the same!

I started building my own identity by writing, speaking, opining on things, discovering what I am good at and passionate about and sharing that with the world. My book, “The Tech Whisperer”, came out as a result. Technology can overwhelm most people, and I found my calling in learning about it and presenting it back in a simper manner.

Today my portfolio life includes running an advisory firm based out of the UK, speaking engagements around Technology as a thought leader, and Teaching assignments with Ashoka University, Singularity University, Harvard, and Duke University. I also write a column in Mint, and lastly, I just concluded my second Masters in AI & Ethics from Cambridge University.

There is a great need to hire diverse people in mainstream roles across age, gender and demography. WisdomCircle is addressing an important aspect of relevance and longevity. Today, a great organisation should have complementary team leaders across age demographics, for example, a seasoned 60-year-old CEO, supported by a much younger COO, to bring the best of both – wisdom and energy, to the decision-making table.

Jaspreet Bindra

Interview and photograph credits: Saonli Sen Choudhury of WisdomCircle

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