Inquisitive Interviews is back this week with an interesting profession of sorts. This week I introduce you Altaf Jasnaik, who interestingly has two titles on his business card, one being Learning and Development manager and another Corporate Brand Manager. People all the time tend to write good at multi-tasking on their resume to make it look impressive, I guess there will be no guesses about the multi tasking capabilities of Altaf. Altaf in his interview decided to give weightage to the one profile of his work that really his mind is at, the brand management perspective. Although we have had a brand manager before, this interview gives an insight into what working with a multi national organization in the capacity he is in, would be like.
For the uninitiated, Inquisitive Interviews, the feature was born out of the requests by some of the students who read this blog, requesting information regarding careers. And with a view to help them make a better choice, I have started to feature various careers from different people, starting with people I know and hoping to slowly reach many different people. The Inquisitive Interviews feature would not only help the students reading the interview but also the interviewees providing them with some Online PR of sorts, the benefits of which I mentioned in another post earlier.
[Q] Tell us something about yourself- where you live, work, your interests…?
Hello, I’m Altaf Jasnaik. An Indian by origin, born and brought up in the UAE, I have lived most of my life outside India, with episodes of my life spent in the UK and parts of Europe due to work and education related travel.
An engineering student with an aptitude for design, it didn’t take me long to realize I was not cut for running machines or operations. Just not something I was good at. So I moved into the design and management side of technology and engineering organizations. After a masters in business and working for a couple of years in the UK, I returned to Dubai where I worked with a chain of Multi-National companies managing marketing, branding and innovation roles. After working with technology companies like JVC, Panasonic, Grundfos and now Sharp, over the past decade I have learnt that it is almost always not who you worked for, but what you did with the opportunities that came your way.
Good things don’t happen to good people. If you’re good, you will get stamped on. If you’re smart, you will be able to turn things around and make the most of any situation. Just remember to think on your feet and at least one step ahead. You see I hold two titles 1st “Corporate Brand Manager” and then “Learning and Development Manager”. Perhaps you have room only for one title so we can call it as “Corporate Brand and Learning Manager” for Sharp’s MEA operations.
[Q] Is the job what you expected it to be ? And is the compensation good enough ?
Yes. I have been a brand ambassador for the brands I have worked for and have been managing Brand portfolios for MNCs in the region. It gives me an opportunity to leverage my engineering background along with the exposure to marketing for helping organizations run their marketing operations regionally and globally. To top it, my carefully crafted career path has always made room for me to follow my passion for innovation. Either directly involved with Innovation Platforms or towards discovery of new products and technologies.
If you’re doing what you love and the money is good, it can make you complacent. So if you’re in it for the money, look for a sales job.
[Q] What is your average day like at work? If possible a recent project or work that excited you enough as part of your job?
As the custodian of a brand, work isn’t limited to the office floor. You try to share the story of the brand you represent at every step. But an average day would mean you’re in and out of meetings, mostly high-energy status-checks on the numerous projects going around the huge territory we look after. Since work isn’t life, I try to make room for myself with a fitness routine after sunrise, followed by a flexibly drafted day full of time to be with family before and after work. There isn’t a set formula, but the trick is in the balance you can conduct your days with.
I think there are several but maybe a good example would be one that reflects what working in a global MNC environment could be like. Sharp decided to participate at the region’s foremost Info. Tech show, GITEX. At the show Sharp wanted to create a big bang using its technologies and the product that was zeroed in on was a 60 inch 5.5 mm slim bezel (meaning the rectangular frame around the screen) LCD display monitor with LED backlight. A typical innovation which changes the game of professional display technology, but yet an ‘unsexy’, ‘how-will-it-change-my-average-middle-class-life’ product with little appeal to any normal exhibition visitor. So the challenge was to promote the product using impressive content and using the sheer size of the product.
So we decided to make the world’s largest 360 inch LCD video-wall at GITEX which would make it the largest ever single screen LCD display. While that first looked like a challenge in terms of the technical integration, it turned out to be an even bigger challenge in terms of content. “What do you show on such a large LCD?”. Faced with this challenge, a colleague and I were handed the responsibility of putting this show together. Using the vast network of professionals Sharp has globally, we collected relevant experiences and ideas from everyone in Sharp’s global network. We travelled to exhibitions in the Far East, Europe and America to understand how best to make this show a success.
Since it was the first time any Sharp company was doing this, we found that colleagues all over the world were excited to see what we would come up with. What began as a local challenge became a global case study for Sharp with all eyes on what we would create. After several hundred hours spent toying with concepts, we decided to go for the record braking LCD screen size and also make specially designed video content that we could use and that could be shared globally. Once this was set in stone, we saw a sudden influx of more ideas and funds from all over the organization to support our mission.
What followed was some of the roughest creative surfing I have ever been involved in the uncharted-waters of ‘creating-globalized-content’. As we discovered it was not a piece of cake, and to think of suiting the needs of a global audience is not easy business. Anyhow, after several weeks of working with some of the best and most creative people from across the world, we came up with the final exhibition format, that included the 360 Inches LCD display and the video content that we fondly remember as DMAT – “Don’t Miss A thing”. Why DMAT, if you ask, well with a bezel so slim, unlike other video-walls, Sharp’s cutting edge LCD technology can create an almost seamless viewing experience for any type of application in any diversified environment.
Not all the work one does in a regional office is meant to take this course. Often you are left with the responsibilities of customizing global content locally, but this was the perfect example of taking local content global. A year into the project, and after replica shows in the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and all over Asia, DMAT has become a phenomenon of taking ideas from creative members of an international team seriously. Sharp HQ has more faith in our abilities and all of Sharp’s subsidiaries look forward to the next most creative exhibition solution that Sharp Middle East and Africa will come up with.
[Q] Is this job what you had pictured to be? If yes, then how long did you take to get here?
Frankly no. It is but a step or two short of where I want to be in life, at the forefront of an innovation team that is able to churn out one innovation after another. My aim is to use my marketing and branding background to be able to understand customer needs better. Then translate these needs into innovation platforms, which use company resources to develop real and meaningful innovations that change the way people live their lives. Call it a long shot, but this is where I aim to be. It took me 10 years to get here and I am giving myself another 5 to be in the role I wish to be at.
If my formula of taking every chance life throws at me works, I will continue to move spirally in my career to reach this place I want to be. If it isn’t meant to be, I will retire at 40 and take up teaching and consultation so that I can pursue a business model I have in mind for promoting innovation globally.
[Q] What’s the most interesting part of your job? Do you get bored at your workplace?
The customer interaction, understanding their needs and translating them into products. Yes I do get bored. Sometimes things are too routine. But then right around the corner is a new challenge.
[Q] What’s the most challenging part of your job? And whats the part you don’t like ?
If the word challenging were to be stripped of any negative connotations related that spell “problem”, the most challenging part of my job as the facilitator of learning and development is creating and sustaining an environment of mutual sharing that is based on long-term thinking. It is a challenge, and one that is related to people and their personalities. But this is exactly what I love doing, so I continue playing this duel.
The part that I don’t like is that, It involves a lot of travel. The worst has been over 150 days a year.
[Q] Do you report to someone? How much of an impact the person you report to has on your job?
Yes. Very little. I have the freedom to chart my days and plan my activities.
[Q] Whats your Alumni ? Where have you studied ?
School : Sharjah Indian School, Sharjah, UAE
Pre University : Wilson College, Mumbai, UAE
Bachelors Degree: D.Y.Patil College, India
Masters Degree : University of Bedforshire, Luton, UK
[Q] Do you use skills that you learnt in school /college? Did you take up any specific training or courses?
Yes, the basic math, logic and language skills learnt from school are what you use for 90 % of the time. So kids in school, pay attention. The remaining 10 % of the time, you are the expert that you are. Someone who knows how to use the skills at the right time, to the right degree to make the crucial operational bits work. These skills are gathered and sharpened over time.
[Q] Would you advice younger people to join in your industry? Meaning what are the limitations/ drawbacks of the industry?
Yes, if you love people-and-technology interactions and travelling to far-distant places. No, if you want to make tons of money.
[Q] What advice would you give to someone trying to get into the industry? And what do they need to watch out for ?
Spend some time and effort understanding what you are good at first. Don’t join the band wagon, but don’t jump the boat. Know your strengths and then take some chances.
[Q] Anything else you want to tell the readers?
Stay humbled, not grounded. Skip dinners, not breakfast. First learn to compete with yourself, if you can overcome your shortcomings you won’t need to compete with anyone else.
[Q] Any online resources you recommend for people taking up this profession? In terms of General reading as well as Job Searches?
The entire WWW (worldwideweb)
You can get in touch with Altaf at these links below :
A hearty thanks to Altaf for a wonder insight into what goes on with a corporate Brand and Learning Manager. I hope you guys enjoyed this interview as much as I enjoyed presenting it to you, until next time Be Inquisitive.