In my short life and even shorter working experience, I have come to identify a distinct pattern in the advancement of corporate careers. In that interest to note and absorb how some talented and ambitious executives have made their mark on the industry, I have also come to observe the underlying patterns that some of these executives have had in their favor at the beginning of their career. The three most influential factors outside a person’s control that determine his success are : Industry, Function and Location.
To begin with, let me describe my observations with regard to the “Industry” that a fresh graduate could choose so as to optimize his career in the long run.
To be as simplistic as possible as I can in order to explain this, I would confidently say that one should choose an industry in which the founders of the industry are alive and running the system.
Consider three people swimming from Point A to Point B.
Assume Person1 to be swimming in a stagnant lake, Person2 in a river and Person3 in a flood with his direction. Which one would you suppose would reach B in the shortest possible time. It is quite obvious.
1) So the analogy here is that An industry where the founders are alive and at the top is like a flood. It will quite naturally take a talented person to the top along with its rate of growth. Think Clean-tech( Ex: Suzlon ) , Social media networking, software as a service ( Cloud computing). These are the industries that are bound to be more entrepreneurial, have exponential growth and as a result throttle one’s career into a startling trajectory along with the adoption of the industry into the mainstream economy.
ii) Whereas the industry analogous with the aforementioned river is where the founders are either dead and the first generation caretakers are at the helm or the founders are about to exit the industry. The rate of growth will be fast here but not as much as in the first case, but the momentum is quite significant to retain its growth for at the least another generation. Think Software as a product( Infosys) , Consumer electronics ( the quintessential example being Apple), Management consulting, Financial services.
iii) And finally the lake; the industries with its founders long dead and where the caretakers are at the helm for quite a while now ( in some cases two or three generations ahead). While industries like these are quite slow in their growth and advancement, it is also these industries which are the most rife with innovation opportunities and creative destruction ( See Shipserv revolutionizing the maritime industry with E-commerce). Think FMCG, Infrastructure, Construction industry, transportation sector, Oil and Energy, Entertainment. These are places where an entrepreneur could shake up the system by disrupting the “tried and tested but inefficient” systems and processes, essentially opening up globules of opportunity. (See Berkshire Insurance, slowly but steadily disrupting the traditional Indian insurance industry).
But apparently being in the right industry at the right time, as monumentally significant as it may be, is not half as important as being in the right functional role, about which I will express my views in another post.