“Embrace the process of learning, unlearning and relearning”
In learning different things he finds new meaning to life and work. The process of acquiring knowledge helps him grow and exposes him to new concepts and technology. Joaquim Gonsalves, Aviation Professional, with over 25 years of global experience, makes sure to embrace this process of learning, unlearning and relearning. Most importantly, he has this undeniable urge to spread the positive denotation of education amongst all. In an exclusive interview with Corporate Citizen, Joaquim talks about his life and career journey and how to cultivate the ego to be a leader and the humility to deal with people
Born and raised in Mumbai, Joaquim’s work has given him the privilege of travelling the whole world. With an acute interest in learning, he has made sure to acquire the right sort of education that could quench his thirst of acquiring knowledge. Having studied from National College, Bandra, Mumbai, he completed his PG in Hotel Management from Tata Institute, Mumbai. His maiden job was in the hospitality vertical with Oberoi Hotels. Then came the major shift where the field of aviation caught his eye. He is not afraid to term his corporate journey as anything than exciting and riveting. Joaquim grabbed every opportunity that came his way. He always had the intention of giving back to the society mostly in the form of education and empowering others.
After spending a couple of years in Indian aviation, Joaquim moved to Qatar, where he was based for over 18 years working for an international airline. Working with Qatar Airways gave him an overview of luxurious travelling. It was of the means that helped him gain experiences, and to learn about different cultures and ways of living. He continued his studies equipping himself with an MBA, a Post Graduate certificate from Edinburgh University, the UK, Certificate in KRAs and Psychometric Testing and is now a MCIPD with the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development UK. Post that, his time in Cambodia, Macau and China, where he was part of a startup team that set up a new airline in Cambodia, he has simply broadened his horizons and transformed his life. A year back, he moved to India and has been loving his time here. In conversation with Joaquim.
With an overwhelming experience of more than two decades, how do you reflect back on your journey so far?
Rather than reflecting back, what drives me is rationalising about what lies ahead. There has been no such time where I have sat back and pondered about my accomplishments. I’m probably interested in understanding my next challenge. My interest has always been continuous learning. As long as there is a stimulation to grow, as long as I’m contributing to society by making an impact and as long as I am learning, I am sure on the right path. I’ve pushed in that direction, rest all-the work, designations, job profiles have happened by default. It’s not that I was chasing it, all through my journey I have looked to feed my passion and how I can contribute and make an impact.
But to answer your question, it feels like I just started my journey yesterday. Every day is a fresh start. You make mistakes, learn from it and keep learning. Spanning a career of 25 years sounds like a lot but when you compress all of that and think of it, it will pass by in a jiffy. I am interested in learning and reading. I have kept myself updated. I would label myself as aspirational and not ambitious.
You have recently started your podcast – Indian Genes. How did that fall in place for you?
India is a growing country and be it any strata of the society, the youngsters here are curious and eager to learn. A few of them can afford to go abroad to study and learn, however, not everyone can manage that. I have recently launched my own podcast which covers most of the topic from education and science. I’m trying to get ideas into India by interviewing global thinkers. Hopefully, it might provide excellent ideas and opportunities for the youth.
Indian Genes is committed to bringing in ideas and thoughts from global leaders from their field to every listener. With the intention of providing free and easy access of this information to all, I hope to be a part of their quest for continuous learning. The podcast focuses on young talent who can benefit from this exposure. Hopefully, inspiring them to greater heights which brings clarity in their thought, and builds character and career. We look to achieve this by maintaining premium production values that place this platform in line with international standards and credibility that is based on strong values that support sharing of knowledge with everyone that continuously seeks personal and professional excellence. The podcast mostly touches on all the pivotal concepts. Recently, we have uploaded three sessions, where yours truly is in conversation with a cosmologist, an evolutionary psychologist and a data scientist.
"My interest has always been continuous learning. As long as there is a stimulation to grow, as long as I’m contributing to society by making an impact and as long as I am learning, I am sure on the right path. I’ve pushed in that direction, rest all-the work, designations, job profiles have happened by default"
Be it a Manager of a Cabin Crew, Director HR or serving as an Associate Vice President, you have handled an array of roles and responsibilities. How has the experience been to handle these varied roles?
All through my life, the various roles I’ve handled has always been related to or involved people. Be it operations, HR, standards, procedures, design and product, my work has been consistently revolved around the people. For that to happen, over years I’ve developed patience and empathy-virtues which are required to sustain as well as to uplift your colleagues and employees. As every person is unique you get to learn so much from them. In my previous organisation, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of 8000 people from across 130 countries, all from varied background and cultures. It gave me a chance to explore and understand myself better, in turn, helping me grow. When you deal with people, you need to have an open mind. Everybody is doing the right thing. Don’t be judgmental of their intentions when it comes to their work. Our job is to recognise, find solutions and reward people. The circumference is nowhere but the centre is everywhere, find your centre. People progress from where they are and not from where you are.
Tell us about your experience working in Cambodia…
Before moving to Cambodia, I was with an organisation for quite some time. Hence, this shift came as a welcoming change. Working with one of the best airlines in the world gave me a great exposure. Starting something from scratch is always exciting. Bassaka Air, being a startup company, gave me plenty of options to explore. We had to set up this airline in Cambodia. Right from hiring the staff to setting up HR functions and to see it bloom into a great airline, was indeed joyful.
I was quite happy with my previous job. While most of the people would love to sit back and enjoy the perks of working in the biggest airlines, I chose the other route. Working with a startup will bring in unique opportunities. Working with a limited amount of resources gives you the chance to handle diverse responsibilities and much more. It doesn’t matter where or which position you are working at, what counts is your satisfaction. We were able to successfully set up offices in Beijing and Macau and that was a great journey.
"Anything that involves or revolves around education and nurturing the young generation gets the best out of me. Honestly, rather than giving back, I feel this whole experience has transformed me by giving me various opportunities to learn"
It’s nice knowing that you are doing your bit by empowering the youth. Tell us more about the time while you were consulting the students at the Youth Resource Development Program, Cambodia…
While in Cambodia, I wanted to contribute in my own way. I was guiding the students there, who couldn’t afford the kind of education they had hoped for. So, on the weekends, I would groom these youngsters in any way I could and made them ready to face the corporate world. It also involved supervising them, helping them prepare their CVs, mock-up interviews and a few other things.
It’s good to take risks, but you should be prepared for that. When you exit the university and enter the corporate world, it is difficult to understand what to expect. The programme made this transition easy for the student. And being a part of this Youth Resource Development Program was my way of giving back to society.
Sounds interesting! Working with the Cambodian students must be quite exciting, right? So, how has this giving back to the society changed you as a person?
Anything that involves or revolves around education and nurturing the young generation gets the best out of me. Honestly, rather than giving back, I feel this whole experience has transformed me by giving me various opportunities to learn. These things cannot be measured. All I know is, I am utilising my time in the right way. What matters is your effort to groom these students. Educating others is empowering than gaining knowledge. So, any chance that encompasses empowering others, I would grab it with open arms.
"The origin of HR is a welfare unit which was brought into the organisation to look after the well-being of the employees. I would say, the whole social fabric around it has changed. Over the years, with corporate norms changing, organisations becoming multi-dimensional and globalisation, HR has gotten more involved in strategy as well"
You’ve also been a part of the HR. How has this field changed over the years?
It has changed drastically. More than HR changing, I feel people’s outlook has transformed. HR is still the same, it’s the people with who its deals have evolved. In the 60s, there was no such thing called as HR, it was called Welfare. The origin of HR is a welfare unit which was brought into the organisation to look after the well-being of the employees. I would say, the whole social fabric around it has changed. Over the years, with corporate norms changing, organisations becoming multi-dimensional and globalisation, HR has gotten more involved in strategy as well. That has been the biggest shift!
Currently, the change in HR analytics has been predominant, as we trying to analyse the behavior pattern. We are measuring this to predict the future. In fact, in the future, people will change even more. And to counter that, we need to become agile and smart.
Is HR losing its human side of the resources?
Franky, that can never happen as that side of the HR will always be intact, its not a binary choice. Technology will keep booming and we need to embrace it. However, it cannot replace emotions. Let’s talk about AI – AI is mimicking how human beings think, however, it cannot mimic how human beings behave. Thinking and behaving are two different verticals. Even if there’s a boom of technology, there will still be the service orientation of it. There are many instances where technology has tried to cut down the human touch, but it hasn’t worked in its favour. For instance, the bots. When the bots come up during any service application, the human on the other side just doesn’t want to interact with it. We sometimes need to step aside from the noise and toys of technology to find and understand what the right solution would look like.
"Work harder each time. The harder you work, the luckier you get. In fact, during my lectures or speeches, I tell students that I would be giving an easy mantra or tip for success at the end of it. With that, the students would be very attentive throughout the lecture"
It goes without saying that reading books imparts knowledge and broadens one’s imagination. What are you are currently reading and which book had the biggest impact on your life and helped you to get where you are?
A wise man once said, ‘Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.’ I do believe that something magical happens when you let yourself free whilst reading a book. Reading on varied subjects aids me in my zest of spreading its essence. Currently, I am hooked to this interesting book called The Social Leap by Bill Von Hippel. The book talks about the evolution theory. And Bill, very beautifully, connects it to our current and future behavior. If we wish to understand or decode our future, we must first come to terms with our past and origins – which is explained impeccably in this book. Incidentally, I’ve had the privilege to interview Bill for my podcast. He spoke about human evolution, primitives, genes, genetics and much more.
More than going back to the books, it’s the authors that have made an impact on me. I look up to authors like Fritjof Capra, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene and few others. Classics by Aristotle, Greek mythological and Aryabhata have surely cast a spell on me. Nonetheless, leave me with any book and I would read it with the same curiosity and contentment. Every book read leaves me gratified, inspired and pushes me to read even more.
Your mantra for being successful in life?
Don’t wish for it, work it for it. Rather work harder each time. The harder you work, the luckier you get. In fact, during my lectures or speeches, I tell students that I would be giving an easy mantra or tip for success at the end of it. With that, the students would be very attentive throughout the lecture. And at the end, I would give away the mantra-the harder you work, the luckier you get. Because there’s no substitute or a shortcut for it. A caterpillar working on a cocoon does not envision the butterfly, have dreams but stay and work in the moment. Cultivate the ego to be a leader and the humility to deal with people.
Any tips or word of advice for the freshers?
As every person is unique, it is difficult to give them tips for being successful. If I were to give someone tips without knowing them, it would be my definition of success. For me to give someone an advice, I need to know more about their passion. However, a common tip would be to understand what’s drives you and work hard to achieve it. Keep identity and activity different when dealing with people, you can disagree with their ideas but still admire the person. A good idea needs logic, rhetoric and the art of persuasion, stay true to all three. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
Your idea deserves patience and nurturing
Freshers, at times, are bogged down by the industry expectations. And when things are not going their way, they simply lose patience. To make their transition from college to corporate life easy, Joaquim Gonsalves had an impromptu conversation with the students during a recent business meet. This nonchalant session touched upon various aspects of business life. Read on…
An idea or even the seed of an idea has the potential to change one’s life. It can create measurable benefits provided that idea is dealt with care. As the senior students of SBS were about to step outside their comfort zone and enter the realm of corporate, Joaquim couldn’t stress enough the importance of keeping that idea alive which could transform their lives. “Everyone has an idea in their mind. The idea could be on varied topics ranging their personal growth or even starting an NGO. All you need to do is to keep that idea alive and feed it with your patience and determination. Nothing starts without plantation of seed in your mind. Use this zeal and willpower to overcome every hurdle in your life,” he explained. Further adding, “Your idea should be powered by three elements – logic, rhetoric and timing. Processing your rational idea at the right time will create a supple illusion of choice for the buyers. The idea should fall in line with the economic, social and cultural situation of the country. Which makes the timing of the idea quite crucial.”
The maiden step into any organisation could be a stepping stone for the freshers provided they understand the system and the ecosystem of the company. System of the organisation is the structure of how that company was built, it’s rules and regulations, divisions and hierarchy of their business, and their policies and facilities. All this information is readily available and inspecting them will give the freshers a rundown of how the company functions. However, with that, they need to understand a few things that won’t be spoon-fed to them which comprises of the ecosystem of that organisation. Explaining this concept in detail, Joaquim said, “Information of an organisation’s system is accessible on hand. However, to understand the ecosystem, they need to take a step back and observe every individual, analyse their behavior, observe the way information is getting disseminated amongst people, understand their reactions and most importantly decode every situation with a minute assessment. The combination of comprehending the system and ecosystem of that organisation could lead them onto the pathway of success.”
The Flynn effect
Being successful means continuously pushing yourself to overcome new boundaries. The biggest mistake one can do is to ape the greats. There is a thin line between getting inspired and following their exact footsteps. Instead of being the next Sachin Tendulkar, Shahrukh Khan, Bill Gates or any other stalwart, be the next best you! And Joaquim couldn’t agree more. “The definition of success is different for everyone. Ask yourself a question, what drives you? That answer could be a plot of your success story. When one wishes to be ambitious or aspirational, they benchmark themselves on the success of others – which leads to a faulty start. You don’t need to be like anybody, be your own self, be the first one and a better version of yourself. Don’t start with one foot behind, rather play on your front foot and set your own rules,” informed Joaquim.
That leads us to the Flynn Effect which states, each generation has the tendency of having a greater IQ level than the earlier ones. There are several factors that can lead to an apparent increase in the generation’s intelligence. The kind of education, exposure, test bias, better facilities, services, health and nutrition are few of the parameters that makes a generation what they are! These factors are enough to draw in a tough competition. But what matters here is who do you want to compete with. To which Joaquim insisted, “There is not a single person who could be a better competition to you than yourself. You are the only who knows your strengths and weakness. Work on your drawback and encash on your fortes.” Further explaining, “Don’t worry about what’s happening around you, simply because you don’t have a control over it. There will be ups and downs. There will be times when people around you will be progressing rapidly. Don’t try to catch up with them, chances are you might stumble. At such times, what you can do is, stay in your space as you are the only person who you have control on. Focus on your work, analyse each step you take and things will fall in place.”
Don’t be hard on yourself
Transitioning from one sphere to another does not happen overnight, especially the shift from college life into the corporate world. A student gathers enough technical know-how from their college, but the real test begins when they have to apply that knowledge in the real world. Joaquim has a piece of advice for freshers which can ease their changeover, “Adapting to a new environment takes times. When you step a foot into any organisation take time to comprehend everything and settle down. Don’t be too hard on yourself when things don’t fall in place in the first few months. Nobody is born with the skill set to take the world by storm on the first day. Keep the faith and you will conquer your dreams,” he signs off!