From Child Author to IT Consultant
Recently I wrote, if you want me to care, tell me who you are. It was a statement about knowing who wrote what we are reading. That statement becomes more when the writer in question is Rajesh Setty.
When we learn about who Raj is, it’s no wonder Beyond Code: Learn to Distinguish Yourself in 9 Simple Steps! is packed with testimonials to its quality and wisdom. Not every IT Consultant can write about personal and interpersonal skills in business. Not every business book can boast a foreward by Tom Peters.
Raj has worked in five countries. He wrote his first book when he was nine years old. He’s what people might call one in a million. He’s a nice man, who has friends almost everywhere.
I knew this interview would be outstanding, if I could find questions that went beyond the book in the same way that Raj had gone Beyond Code to the basics of every business. I was thrilled with the wealth of advice and experience Raj sent back in his answers.
Rajesh, tell us your story. How is that you came to be a child author? How did that child author become an IT consultant? What lead that consultant to write this book?
First of all, thank you Liz for this opportunity. I am honored.
Now, here’s my answer to your question:
I started reading early. By the time I was four I was reading books and I read lots of them. By the time I was nine I had read about 700 books. Mostly novels. When you read that many, you start getting an idea about what the story is all about 🙂 and I would sort of speculate what would happen in the climax of a book. I would get it right sometimes and sometimes I would get it totally wrong. That was intriguing for me. But it was a fun exercise and I started getting better at this.
When I was nine, I had this really crazy idea that I should write my own book. Until then I had not written a single story/poem/article. The good part about being young is that you don’t know what is not possible. That helps. I started writing my maiden novel and it took me about six months to complete writing the same. I read through it and was happy with what I had. Of course, my parents thought that I was crazy and my friends thought that I had copied it from somewhere else. I was puzzled at the reaction but I didn’t bother much. After this, I had another crazy idea. I thought that now that I have written this book, I have to get it published. Quickly. In the bird brain I had, my logic was that publishers would be waiting to receive a book like the one that I wrote. I thought that writing was where all the hard work was – publishing would be a piece of cake. Boy, was I wrong!
My hunt for the publisher began by the time I was ten. Long story short – after numerous rejections (some of them humiliating) I finally got the book published by a well-known publisher when I was thirteen. It was all worth it and there was no looking back after that. I was awarded as the youngest writer of the state and also landed a part-time job as a journalist in a local newspaper. Between thirteen to sixteen, I got six books published – four novels, a collection of poems and a book on mathematics.
Meanwhile, I was continuing my education and doing well there. My parents fully supported what I was doing but with only one condition – “if the grades drop, this madness will stop.” So, in other words, if I had to do what I was passionate about, I had to ensure that I was somewhere at the top of the class in my studies. At some point, I was so carried away by writing that I thought this will be my life. But it doesn’t take a lot of time to come to terms with reality. There was not enough money in writing (at least not for me) to make a living. I had to pick something that be as creative as writing but would help me pay my bills. I chose software.
I began my journey as a software engineer and moved up the ranks. We (was married to Kavitha by that time) lived in several countries (Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and France) while I consulted on variety of technologies. We finally moved and settled in the Bay Area (California) in 1997. During these years (about 15 now) I wrote a number of articles, spoke at technology conferences but never wrote a book although I knew all along that I had a few in me. “Extremely busy” is the only “standard” excuse I can give. However, all along, I did one thing right. I always took notes. While I am a teacher at heart, I also think I am an eternal student. I had close to twenty books filled with insights and observations on what worked and what did not – when it comes to the careers of technology professionals.
When I decided to write “Beyond Code” all I had to do was to go back to all my notes and compile what was relevant into a book.
Now, your question was more on the lines of “Why did you write Beyond Code?”
Here is some background on that book. I am of the firm belief that most technology professionals are in a trap. They go after learning “hot” skills that have a short shelf-life just because everyone else around them are going after those “hot” skills. When these skills become obsolete or “out of fashion”, they go after a new set of “hot” skills. They repeat this cycle and think that they can continue to repeat this cycle (3 – 5 years) forever. This is where they go wrong. They forget that while they are on their quest to gain technical supremacy of what is “fashionable” in the marketplace, life continues to happen. They get married, they have kids, priorities change and they are not as flexible as before (unless they sacrifice something else) and that puts them in a fix. So what’s the solution? My take on this is that being competent in technical skills today is taken for a granted. That is almost like an entry ticket into the park. If you don’t have it, you are not even invited to the party. However, in order to succeed in the long run, you need to develop skills “beyond code.” I have highlighted nine such practices in the book .
To get to know Raj better visit his blog, Life Beyond Code, and come back on Wednesday to read about The Need to Participate and Differentiate. You can find Raj’s book, Beyond Code: Learn to Distinguish Yourself in 9 Simple Steps! in the sidebar.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Interview 11.2: Rajesh Setty — The Need to Participate and Differentiate
Interview 11.3: Raj Setty — The Inner Game
Interview 11.4: Raj Setty –The Outer Game
Interview 11.5: Raj Setty — About the Book: How It Happened
Raj struck a chord with his comments about chasing “hot skills”. I was caught in this loop for 15 years until I finally broke away and started my own business. I wish I had seen his book ten years ago.
ME Strauss says
I hear you. It’s easy to get romanced into that kind of thinking. We learn in school to provide what’s asked for rather than think through our own solutions.
Raj’s book is one that I recommend to everyone who wants to understand how to find their place in business.