Over the years that I have been affiliated with BYLC, I met graduates who accomplished concrete goals at an age I deemed too young to achieve anything. I find their stories fascinating and look forward to learning about their perspectives towards life.
This year, BYLC awarded 10 of its alumni recognizing their contribution to the society and their professions. Each of the award winners has a unique story to tell. So I went to meet one of the award winners, Anik Sinha, a BBLT 9 graduate, to know about his leadership journey and career aspirations. This interview was particularly special for me because three years back we were both on opposite ends. Anik Sinha interviewed me for the BBLT 11 screening process, and I am grateful to him for considering me a capable candidate and opening the doors to BBLT for me.
Anik Sinha is currently working as a Specialist at Grameenphone. After graduating from Bangladesh University of Professionals, as a valedictorian, in 2014, Anik joined the corporate field. In a short span of time, he has made great strides in his professional life. His professional excellence won him the BYLC Alumni Award in 2017. As a student, Anik was a highly enthusiastic and active individual. He participated in club activities, business competitions and community service projects to gain competencies in different arenas. In this interview, Anik Sinha shares his life experiences which resonate with young people who are too nervous to make a career shift or are looking to acquire new skills to stand out in the job market.
Previously from a science background, what drove you to shift to business administration?
Anik: When I was young, I had dreams like many other kids— to be a scientist, to work for NASA, to be a nuclear engineer, and so on. As I grew up, I felt more connected to creating impact in people’s lives. I am not saying that science students cannot create an impact but I, coming from a family with entrepreneurial background, believed that it was easier to create an impact in the consumer’s lives through business and commerce. For that purpose, I required business skills.
At the same time, I had very basic needs. I was very fascinated by the communication and presentation skills of business people. I wanted to follow the way they talk, present themselves, and start businesses thereby, creating values from nothing, and impacting the lives of millions of people. This inspired me to join the business field.
How did you excel in a field [business] that was new to you?
Anik: I don’t think excelling in business is difficult. Since I had a strong background in science, including mathematics, chemistry, and physics, I already had the analytical skills that are often required in business. However, I was severely lacking in confidence when it came to public speaking, or presenting myself in a structured manner. Those were my weaknesses. Before joining university, I was aware of my weaknesses and planned accordingly. I thought to myself that four years was ample amount of time to take me out of my comfort zone, and enable me to do a fair job in overcoming those weaknesses. And that’s what I did!
So, I don’t think it’s very difficult to switch from science to business. If it were the other way around, I would be a bit skeptical.
As a BBLT graduate, how are you applying the leadership lessons in your everyday life?
Anik: Before I joined BBLT, I was a brute force of logic—proving people wrong and myself right. I had a binary mindset. As I tipped the courses with BYLC, I learnt about leadership, I learnt about collaboration. I unlocked the power of teamwork— the work efficiency or the ideas generated by working in a diverse team.
The next difficulty was accepting other’s opinion and acknowledging that it can be right even though it’s opposing mine. The BBLT classes gave me the idea that merging both our opinions can create something better. These skills were unprecedented, a new world for me.
So, my view towards opposition changed. I became more tolerant. Once that incorporates into your daily activities, you change as a person. You become more humanized, rather than a logic robot. These are the skills that I replicate in my everyday life. I work with different stakeholders with different opinions and opposing views. My job is to make sure I consider them. Sometimes I need to give up my views when I realize they are wrong. These self-analyzing skills are also what I learnt from BYLC. Even after five years of my education from BYLC, these skills are helping me every day.
What are some of the challenges you had to overcome in your professional life? How did you overcome them?
Anik: One of the biggest challenges was making people believe in my ideas and points of view as I am not very experienced in the business. Not only do I have to convince my boss, my line manager, but also critical stakeholders from other functions: say from, marketing and finance team. It tests your persuasion skills, communication skills, articulation, and reasoning skills to the limit. However, skills that I have acquired through the years, from my leadership practices in university clubs and BYLC, have helped me significantly. I got to figure out my stakeholders better, to find their needs and understand the critical points. Ultimately, I used those skills to overcome those obstacles.
The other big challenge was making people work out of their comfort zone. When you are working in a cross functional team, you might not find people who are as excited as you are about changes and new ways of work. They might not be ready to challenge themselves. At these situations, I try to listen and understand their perspectives and help them see the long term positive impacts.
What are the three biggest takeaways from your professional life?
Anik: The first one would be listening. We always feel the need to let our opinion be heard but we don’t want to listen to the deeper values where others’ opinions are coming from. Listening is one of the most important skills that even I am learning to improve. It is a phenomenal skill which, once learned, makes life easier; a plethora of options open up for good listeners.
The second one is collaboration. We often build ideas and try to keep it to ourselves. But in the professional world, you cannot have that perspective. Once you have an idea, you wouldn’t know if it’s good or bad unless you share it with your team. Your idea gets better when you share it with others and include their views. That collaborative nature of work should be there.
Lastly, never be satisfied with the status quo. Always challenge the status quo and ask the question ‘WHY?’ and ‘WHY NOT?’. This simple question can help you be more analytical and, at the same time, see the bigger picture and bring better changes.
What quirky thing are you known for in your workplace?
Anik: I eat way too much. [laughs]
My colleagues say that God has given me only one organ, which is the stomach!
What are the skills that young people need to have for the job market? What will you advise them to do to acquire those skills?
Anik: One very important skill is communication. We communicate in different ways: written, verbal or through gestures and I think all three are equally important and the blended combination helps you stand out. You cannot just be a good writer or a good speaker. You need to have a balanced communication skill set. To develop this skill, I suggest university students to join debate clubs, take part in business and case-study competitions, and lead presentations.
This reminds me—Join clubs! There are many options to choose from communication club, debate club, cultural club, etc. It is important to engage yourself in activities other than your books. In clubs, you engage with people, share a vision, and lead a team. Clubs are where you genuinely exercise your leadership skills. Once you start doing that, these skills get developed over the years before you join the corporate world.
Don’t study for the sake of your CGPA. Study to understand and learn concepts in depth. Even though I was a valedictorian, I studied methodically. I used to go to my friends to help me understand my course materials. I understood the reasons behind all the principles and theories I learnt in business school. The same applied for science as well. So, I request students to understand the theories and principles, and the nuances in reasoning.
Another important skill is analytical skill which helps to identify and solve different types of problems in real world. When you ask me how to develop analytical skills, there is no one way to do so. It can develop through debating, organizing events, or community services. I believe that participation in these ECAs helps a lot.
Lastly, learn Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel very well.