Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Professional




Another great book, by Subroto Bagchi, simply called The Professional. This book, now on stands and available for purchase online, has been published by Penguin (Portfolio). Priced at Rs 399, it is an invaluable tool, which guides you to reach an answer on: Who is a Professional?

While the review below, will appear in the forthcoming journal of the Bombay Chartered Accountant's Society (BCAS), I thought I should share the book review with other readers, who are not members of the BCAS. Also do hop across to the author's blog and participate in lively discussions.

Book Review:

The Satyam episode led to some uncomfortable situations for us CA-professionals. The general public did tend to paint us all with the same brush. It may have led to some uncomfortable encounters at networking events when people came up to us during the tea-break and questioned us about “our profession”. Hopefully we will never have to face such a scenario again.

This incident brought to the forefront the moot question. Does having a professional qualification (say: the much coveted CA tag), make one a professional?

The answer is no. Anyone can with the right amount of hard work (and luck, as most of us CAs would like to add) can acquire a professional degree. However, it is the ability to stay true to ourselves and our vocation that makes us a true professional.

Subroto Bagchi, Gardener and Vice-Chairperson to the Board, MindTree Limited in his latest book “The Professional” answers this important question: What does it take to be considered a true professional in any field?

“The Professional” comprises of seven distinct parts and the author does tell us to read each part sequentially in the order it is presented in the book, so as to get the maximum benefit from it. Each part comprises of short narratives drawn from real-life – both positive and negative examples – covering various professions and work-life scenarios. These narratives comprise of situations which you and I have encountered/witnessed or are most likely to encounter or witness as we move up in our professional careers.

Part 1, explains the concept of integrity and how and why it is the key stone of professionalism. In fact, during the course of writing this book, Subroto Bagchi reached out to a group of people whom he admired for their professionalism and asked them to share the qualities of a professional. Integrity was a quality that topped. Little wonder then, that Integrity is also the key stone of this book.

In Part 2, we move on to read about self-awareness and learn some valuable lessons, which include the power to say NO, which can be daunting when we have not yet risen in our career and the need to be generous, gracious and courteous to others when we are at the pinnacle of our professional career. Part 3 deals with basic qualities that makes one a well rounded professional. Subroto Bagchi calls the first three parts, the foundational pillars.

As people become more experienced they have to deal with a larger volume of work, responsibilities and complexity. Yes, Part 4 and 5 provides us tools to cope with this. Integrity also makes good business sense and Subroto Bagchi describes this with ample illustrations, those of his own and those which he witnessed. The Abilene Paradox, where people agree to do strange things, when they suppress their own voice and simply go along with what everyone else is saying has been well described in the back drop of the Satyam episode. Yes, the voice of dissent plays a very important role and this is not the same as unconstructive criticism or plain whining.
All of us increasingly have to operate in global market-place. Part 6 guides us on how best to do so. Based on his experiences, Subroto Bagchi touches upon important facets of: Inclusion and Gender, Cross Cultural Sensitivity, Governance, Intellectual Property and Sustainability. Towards the end of the book is a chapter titled ‘The Unprofessional,’ with a list of ten markers of unprofessional conduct, such as: Missing a deadline, Non-escalation of issues on time, Non-disclosure, Not respecting privacy of information, Not respecting ‘need to know’, Plagiarism, Passing on the blame, Overstating qualifications and experience, Mindless job-hopping and Unsuitable appearance.
There is no beginning or end in being a professional it is a life-long learning curve. Yet, this book provides a handy, well illustrated, tool-kit to be a better professional. Ultimately Professionalism boils down to individual choice, and indeed it is for you and me to continue on the path towards becoming a better professional.

A paragraph in the book aptly states this: “A doctor becomes part of an insurance fraud. A policeman colludes with a criminal. A lawyer bribes a judge. In each instance, the professional breach is justified as the price to be paid to be part of a system. The truth is, it is an individual choice”.

Subroto Bagchi in his book adds: “… Society on the while may not always put a premium on the practice of professional values and hence most people do not incorporate it into their lives. But practicing professional values is about who you are and what you want to be known as – a professional or merely professionally qualified. And, in the end, even the most corrupt society hails the ones that choose to be different.”

This itself, gives me hope. Amen.

PS: There is also a message by Subroto Bagchi for the members of the Bombay Chartered Accountant's Society. Do look up the BCAS Journal for this message..

Source of Photographs: Photograph of the book downloaded from the author's website
The sunrise is a photograph I shot, some years ago, at Tata Plantations, Coorg, India.