Rohit Malekar

September 22, 2021

Most Challenging Work Experience

My wife and I had our firstborn in 2014 when we were based out of the Bay Area. After a 6 year stint in Deloitte Consulting, I decided to take a break from a traveling job. I joined a technology startup, Medallia, in Palo Alto soon after. Now publicly listed with a 5 billion dollar market cap and soon to be going private again, it was then a relatively smaller 300 person company.

I had a life-changing one-week employee onboarding on the topic of culture and mindset at Medallia. Until that point in my career, I was conditioned to make choices that I now understand to be traits of a fixed mindset.

The onboarding involved deep introspection of my life story, understanding the company's choices over the last decade, and several related case studies. I and the rest of the new hires learnt the value of embracing our vulnerabilities and being authentic in our presence. I came from a consulting environment that often required me to "appear" successful to win clients. I was now in an environment where for the first time in my life people around me wanted to know who I am and let me be me.

It wasn't easy at first.

In the past, I often self-imposed conformance for my opinions and behaviors to generally accepted norms. It was easier than establishing an original point of view and standing for it. Making a transition to be original in hard skills at work was new but relatively a low-hanging fruit - the environment encouraged it. However, being authentic in interpersonal skills was an uphill climb. Situations like effectively delivering a tough message, hearing upward feedback without bias, leading by permission versus authority had not come naturally to me. I had to earn being effective at these through continuous unlearning and relearning.

This was my most challenging work experience. It helped me learn the life lesson for authentic presence and is now an ongoing pursuit to get better at it. I also realized that lessons that emerge from a deep-rooted shortcoming also have a silver lining. I needed the extended experiential learning that has lasted years to overcome this. However, it has created such a shift in me that the learnings have become an integral part of my identity.

For deeper dive on this topic, I have written at length here: The Conformity Trap

This experience was also pivotal for me to first-hand see the importance of articulating a culture you aspire for at work. Here is a 4-part series I wrote about how we have crafted this at my current workplace at Deloitte Studios:

The Irony in the Pursuit of One’s Purpose — The Story of Namma Studio