Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Book Review ‘The Elephant Whisperer’ – if only all nonfiction books were this readable

A friend of mine gifted this book to our son, and I decided to pick it up after he read and reviewed it. I can see why the book remains a must-read for wildlife enthusiasts.

My Book Review

The story begins with Lawrence Anthony getting a call from Marion of “Elephant Managers and Owners Association” offering Thula Thula, his fledgling game reserve, a herd of 8-9 wild elephants. He had recently taken over Thula Thula and was getting his feet wet in the operations of a game reserve and naturally, Anthony is skeptical. He wonders about the ‘catch’ and Marion explains how this was a herd of ‘Rogue elephants’ that had broken out of the previous reserve and damaged crops nearby and the owners were looking for a way out. She muses that the herd would have to be “put down” if a new reserve didn’t accept them immediately.

While Anthony is thrilled at the prospect of bringing wild elephants back to his part of Zululand, he has mixed feelings about taking on this elephantine task. He must rush to electrify the fencing around 20-square miles of Thula Thula before the arrival of the herd.

The drama begins, and we are hooked.

The chapters flow seamlessly one after the other taking us into the heart of Zululand in South Africa, with the trails and tribulations of life in the bushes. The journey includes glimpses into the Zulu culture and healthy respect for the local environment which is a way of life. We share Anthony’s despair over the death of a newborn and are left cheering when he finally learns to whisper to the rogue elephants musing how “Elephants can smile beautifully.”

The Elephants are the central characters, but the story is not just about them. It is about Zululand and the life in the bushes. The risks are inherent in the operations of a game reserve, and it is not the odd rogue elephant or wild beast. Poachers, the Cattle Cabal, and the odd inept game wardens seem to do immense harm to the functioning of the carefully curated reserve.

The chapters include brief glimpses into the ‘business’ of running a large game reserve – providing jobs to the locals, opening up high-end lodging and fine-dinging for visitors, hiring and firing rangers, and entertaining VIPs and dealing with government officials and local bureaucracy. And the business is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Waking up at 2 AM awaiting a truck with arrivals, or dealing with ‘mini emergencies’ like the bite of a Black Mamba or flooding of the dam and rivers during rainstorms are par for the course.

Anthony and his co-authors are master story tellers. His first-person narrative style tries hard to make it about his beloved reserve, where he is merely the sherpa.

Footnote: Lawrence Anthony died several years ago but his French wife stayed back at Thula Thula

Monday, January 29, 2024

Rohan Bopanna Scripts History - Becomes Oldest-Ever Man To Win Grand Slam: What are the lessons for mid-career professionals?

This weekend, India's Rohan Bopanna became the oldest man to win a Grand Slam after clinching the Australian Open men's doubles trophy, pairing with Matthew Ebden. Bopanna, who is set to turn 44 in March this year, also celebrated becoming the oldest number one in men's doubles history by winning the title in Melbourne on Saturday. 

Indian leaders across the spectrum were quick to congratulate Bopanna. The Indian Prime Minster Tweeted on X 

Most tennis players peak in their twenties;  Bopanna on the other hand goes on to win a grand slam at 43! Likewise we are told that most IT professionals peak in their twenties; but that shouldn’t stop you from achieving your peak at whatever age! 

Five-Career Lessons for mid-career professionals from Rohan Bopanna’s grand slam win  

So, here are five-Career Lessons for mid-career professionals from Rohan Bopanna’s grand slam win at Australian Open

1. Grit and staying power

  • Whether it is sports or professional career, one needs Grit and staying power 
  • One needs to take a long term view of life while working on short term goals

2. We all face setbacks… but overcome those

  • Bopanna has faced a fair share of setbacks in the quest for excellence 
  • We may also face personal and professional hurdles, but need to persevere to move forward

3. Life and career don’t always have a linear progression

  • We are always told at 25 this has to happen, by 30 this has to happen, at 40 this will happen 
  • But life doesn’t always move in a linear manner. Accept this fact

4. Work life balance

  • Bopanna is as proud about his family – wife and daughter – as he is about his on-field achievements 
  • Stay focused on your career, while paying equal attention to your personal life

5. Age is just a number

  • Most tennis players peak in their twenties … Bopanna on the other hand goes on to win a grand slam at 43! 
  • Likewise we are told that most IT professionals peak in their twenties… But that shouldn’t stop you from achieving your peak at whatever age!

Friday, January 26, 2024

Navigating the Challenges of Middle Management: A Necessary Trade-Off for Compensation

I came across the recent podcast on Marketplace with a catchy title "Why are middle managers so unhappy?" The podcast also builds on from new Gallup analysis that highlights, only 1 in 3 Corporate workers say they are engaged with their job. Less than half say they know what is expected of them at work.

Being a middle manager has long been regarded as a challenging and often underappreciated role within organizations. The demands of balancing responsibilities, managing teams, and navigating corporate hierarchies can make the job tough. However, many middle managers take comfort in the compensation that accompanies the position.  

In this brief Youtube clip, I reflect on middle-management and why some people thrive in the role while a few like me decide it is not our cup of tea.

  • The Balancing Act: Middle managers operate in a delicate balance, caught between the directives of upper management and the day-to-day realities of their teams. They must translate high-level organizational goals into actionable plans for their subordinates, all while managing the expectations of both superiors and subordinates. This balancing act requires a unique set of skills and a high level of adaptability. 
  • Limited Decision-Making Authority: One of the primary challenges faced by middle managers is the limited decision-making authority compared to top executives. While they are responsible for implementing strategic decisions, they often lack the autonomy to make significant changes independently. This constraint can be frustrating, as middle managers may find their hands tied when trying to address specific issues within their teams. 
  • Communication Challenges: Effective communication is paramount for successful middle management, but it is not without its challenges. Middle managers must convey the vision and goals of upper management to their teams while also providing valuable feedback and insights to those at the top. Miscommunication or incomplete information can lead to misunderstandings and hinder the successful execution of strategies. 
  • The Pressure from Above and Below: Middle managers operate under a dual pressure—accountable to both upper management for the successful implementation of strategies and to their team members for providing effective leadership and support. This pressure cooker situation requires middle managers to excel in their roles and deliver results despite the challenges they face.
The compensation and perks that comes with the role outweighs the challenges for some. While the challenges are abundant, the financial rewards are designed to recognize the unique stresses and responsibilities inherent in the position. The salary, bonuses, and other perks are intended to compensate for the demanding nature of the job and to attract talented individuals who are willing to navigate the complexities of middle management.


Being a middle manager is undoubtedly a challenging endeavor. The intricate dance between upper management and front-line teams, the limited decision-making authority, communication challenges, and the constant pressure can make it a demanding role. However, the compensation that accompanies this position serves as a tangible acknowledgment of the difficulties faced by middle managers. In this context, the financial rewards can be seen not only as a trade-off but also as a recognition of the vital role middle managers play in the success of organizations. While the challenges may persist, the allure of financial compensation remains a driving force that keeps many individuals dedicated to the demanding but essential role of middle management.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Rejection letter from Disney to a woman who applied for an apprentice position in 1938 - How the workforce has changed for women in 80 years?

So, how the workforce has changed for women in 80 years?

Disney's rejection letter highlights

  • Girls are not considered for the training school 
  • The only work open to women consists of tracing characteristics on clear celluloid sheets
Thankfully, this policy didn't last long at Disney
  • Mary Blair started working for Disney in 1940. her design work was crucial to the company's aesthetic through the 40s and 50s 
  • Retta Scott - the first female animator at the studio, worked on Bambi

How has the world has changed in 80 years?

  • We see women in almost ever segment of jobs and career 
  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)– specifically those focused on Women in Workforce have become more vocal at multinationals 
Yet we see ongoing debates about the ‘glass ceiling’ and on salary disparity between men and women