Finding Your True-Calling Is A Rewarding Experience That Needs Perseverance & Patience

Jugular Xpertise co-creates focussed Industry relevant courses with leading product companies, domain specialists and polymaths. Co-founder and chief of digital business growth, Ashwin Sivakumar is deeply passionate about talent spotting, mentoring and organizational skilling. Ashwin's unique background and non-traditional career journey in converging areas like informatics, clustering science, creativity, design gives a strong competitive depth to his Digital Marketing and Business Practice

“When you follow your passion and chase your dreams, your true calling will come sooner or later. If you consciously keep reflecting on your journey to take corrective actions, you can become the best possible version of you."

In an increasingly multidisciplinary landscape, it is now increasingly important to be a master of at least a few and jack of many. This will help gain depth in your areas of interest and will help solve bigger picture challenges. In today's landscape, it is not the number of years that counts as experience, but what you have done as a part of your experience. This is also a quintessential early stage entrepreneurial trait in knowledge intensive industries, where the majority of the company's value and sustainability depends on your depth in those areas of expertise.

As a kid with average school grades, I was started out on this mis-led direction and high pressure mission to do something “medicinal” for proving one's own self-worth.

The excruciating struggles of understanding anything practical during the late 90's degree biochemistry college curriculum was occasionally compensated by the seemingly unrelated stand out moments in inter-college debates, oratory and creative team events. I then decided to learn web designing and a programming language to open up a “dry” career in health or biosciences (pun intended) if I did by chance get through the degree program. After I miraculously graduated with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry, on one hand, I was wanting to give myself a chance to discover my true calling. On the other hand, I was under some self-put pressure as a perceived under-performer to prove that I have some kind of game plan to become a proud topic of conversation amongst the fiercely judgemental society, whose idea of success then was affiliation with specific brands, grades or lucrative career areas.

Some important life transforming experiences happened between 2000-2001.
I got a full time opportunity with Ability Foundation, a NGO working towards empowerment of the specially abled. This was to initially teach web designing to a batch of hearing impaired students and to assist the seniors involved with other initiatives. "This was my first playground for truly discovering myself. Those 6 months also nurtured that important social value in me that purpose always comes before money."

I got an opportunity to get involved in a gamut of activities ranging from fund-raising activities through movies premiers, making editorial contributions to their magazine, getting advertisers for the magazine to liasoning with celebrities. Those 6 months were my earliest and clearest signs of what I was perhaps really good at.

This period also helped me lay a blueprint of sorts for the need for a society and networking platform for Bioinformatics in India. That blueprint helped me win a volunteer based grant to make a poster presentation at the annual conference of the international society for computational biology in Copenhagen, Denmark. I co-founded the Bioinformatics Society of India that year and it went on to become the first volunteer led online platform connecting Academia and Industry in this region.

Suddenly, from being an average Joe, I was also becoming an evangelist of an evolving young bioinformatics ecosystem in India. I now had an understanding about accessibility and web interfaces besides being able to show the ability of getting people involved for larger initiatives.

All this coming together, won me an offer for the inaugural Masters by research degree program in Bioinformatics at the prestigious Leeds University in UK. At Leeds, I published my first peer reviewed paper and pursued an important research project on creating a searchable online gene database of a certain fungal strain. This got me an opportunity to work with Liisa Holm in Finland, one of the pioneers in computational biology in the area of data clustering and big data analysis of genes.

Somewhere around the end of 2006, I was at a crossroads. Three cited published papers and a decent body of work to construct a PhD thesis. 3 Postdoctoral offers in hand and one highly lucrative role in a Dutch biotech company.

But fundamentally, I was mentally in conflict. Something was telling me that I was going deeper into core areas that may not bring the best out of me.

Jugular is now one of the market leaders in digital business transformation of healthcare enterprises in India

I had good domain knowledge of converging areas like search engines, big data, social networks and social graphs for analyzing genomic and patient signals. But I was convinced that what was making me hold my own in a landscape of supremely talented researchers was the way I designed online experiences, communicated data driven results and creatively captured imaginative possibilities ;)

Thankfully, during this time digital marketing, social media and online commerce evolved into priority areas with laptops, computers and the internet coming into most middle class households. For me it was quite remarkable how my interdisciplinary areas of interests were possibly converging into application areas where I would have an advantage over many others.

This was the moment when I realized that I should not go deeper into a situation where my core career areas cannot be moulded the way I now wanted to.

"There was a huge risk and uncertainty ahead. I decided to take a break from the academic work and return to India at the start of 2007. This was the most important true `call' I have ever made! It just happened that I never returned to defend my research and there are definitely some fleeting minutes of regret every now and then for not having done the last mile for a doctorate degree that was there to be taken. But this gave me the most liberating time of my life to build and do things that I am deeply passionate about."

After having served a memorable marketing leadership stint at one of India's first movers in genomics (Ocimum & Genelogic -truly digital first enterprise in genomics, well ahead of times), I decided to make the next big true calling.

I turned an entrepreneur at the start of last decade to be able to groom and institutionalise my world view of digital business transformation. The one that should be led by marketing and creativity but backed by a deep understanding of data and technology. I have spent the last decade and half going deeper into the areas of digital business as this field continues to become increasingly interdisciplinary.

Reflecting back at this journey till now, it's truly remarkable how all the taught skills, areas of natural passion and earned experiences have converged to give me the domain knowledge and depth to become who I am today. This unique and non-traditional career journey in converging areas like informatics, clustering science, creativity, and design gives the vision and strong competitive depth to Jugular's Digital Business Practice. Not surprisingly (at least after such a personal love-hate relationship with healthcare and biosciences), Jugular is now one of the market leaders in digital business transformation of healthcare enterprises in India.

It is only fair to say that your true calling will get truer over years when you discover your real passion to chase a dream and live a passion. Finding your true-calling is a rewarding experience that needs perseverance and patience.