Follow Your Heart… Plans Don’t Always Work Out

DR. VISHAL ShAH (VP- leadership & people sciences, Wipro) writes a riveting column in the human factor about the imperatives that should define hr practitioners

I can genuinely say that I have followed my heart as far my career is concerned and not really gone about it in a planned stepby- step manner.

The experience of working in diverse industries like IT and BPO, consulting, retail and manufacturing has provided me with a rounded perspective on the world of work. I also consciously sought out roles in both startups as well as large organizations. I believe that diversity and variety of experiences can only add to one’s learning. Along the way, I completed my PhD so that I could develop deeper expertise. This blending of corporate experience with a researcher’s outlook helps me drill down to the fundamentals of a problem, shorn of its trappings and then respond accordingly.

In the early stages of my career I alternated between sales and HR quite a few times. My seniors wanted me to be in sales and I kept getting pulled towards HR. In the process I got some much needed exposure and grounding in the essentials of business. The experience gained at the frontlines has helped me tremendously in my HR roles, in connecting the dots and understanding the language that multiple stakeholders speak.

My internal drivers have guided my career journey.
I believe continuous learning is a must and HR professionals need to demonstrate this even more so. This can be done by seeking diverse experiences…

My generalist HR roles helped me build a deep appreciation of the art and science of nurturing talent. Within HR I have spent a large portion of my time in the learning and development function. This has been an area of passion and I have had the privilege to work with some of the best bosses and mentors in this area. My varied organizational stints, which I have consciously sought out, have provided me the opportunities to specialize in different aspects of learning. For instance, one particular stint in a startup let me experiment with informal and unstructured learning experiences. I understood how real development does not just happen inside a classroom but happens mostly outside it. It was a great lesson in helping people build their own capabilities, rather than imposing skill building on them. Another consulting stint helped me absorb the craft of experiential learning approaches. I was privileged to work with a group of really passionate, highly skilled experts and my growth and learning accelerated. A third stint helped me dive deep into leadership assessments. It was an intense assignment that needed me to step up fast and hold my own against very senior leaders from different functions. Another assignment required me to develop critical sales talent for large deals in a short span of time. I could fortunately draw upon my earlier sales experience in this case. Each of these experiences have been precious learning moments in my career journey and have added so much to me as a person.


My current role lets me work with very capable leaders who handle large portfolios. This too across a diverse set of businesses which enhances the challenge quotient of the role. It allows me to work with leaders and with intact leadership teams. The global nature of the role needs me to work across geographies and cultures. The right mix of these variables has turned this into one of the most enriching stints in my career A career in the learning function even allows me to weave in other interests like theatre, films, speaking, writing and the outdoors into my work. This helps me infuse creativity in my work and ensures that I enjoy my work thoroughly and never feel bored or burnt out.

Over a period of time my internal drivers have guided my career journey. I believe continuous learning is a must and HR professionals need to demonstrate this even more so. This can be done through consciously seeking diverse experiences, in addition to structured developmental opportunities. I also believe that in our role as HR professionals we should start moving from focusing on the problem situation to focusing on the person. And finally I believe that as the business environment demands more agility the importance of HR is likely to only increase further. This is what inspires me to get out of bed every day to go to work!