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Ramakrishna Rao

When one of his students cleared interview at Infosys, Mr. Ramakrishna felt his efforts had paid off.

But there was another reason for his joy.

Just a year ago he couldn’t clear the interview himself.

Yet now, he taught soft skills and coding to aspirants at his institute. And his guidance had helped many secure jobs at firms.

“It felt like I was doing something right,” recalls Ramakrishna Rao, Chief Learning Officer, PAGE(Jockey & Speedo).

There was a coach in him, he realized.

Incidentally, later he even became a consultant trainer for Infosys to coach new employees on behavioral skills.

A trainer for 20 years, Mr. Ramakrishna has been aiding professionals in making informed decisions and face uncertainties with resilience.

The thrust of his efforts? To help people find joy at work.

Diversity of Behaviours

“My hobby is to do interviews,” says Mr. Ramakrishna, who is documenting journeys of HR leaders in a
book entitled ‘Career Trek’.

His fascination for L&D stems from the opportunities for interaction it offers. This helps him understand how people think and behave uniquely.

“It’s the diversity of humans that interests me. Of course, there is fulfillment in adding value to someone’s life,” adds Mr. Ramakrishna, also a trained graphologist.

In fact, just when Mr. Ramakrishna was starting his career, he became a career coach.

“I realized people like opening to me because I create comfortable space for them,” says Mr. Ramakrishna, called ‘Coach Ram’ by his students.

Nurturing Open Spaces

How does Mr. Ramakrishna create this comfortable space?

Silence, he quips. You must also be patient and non-judgmental too.

“You don’t have to articulate the judgement. People can sense when you judge them openly,” he cautions.

Readiness to listen is also essential. “Not to judge or advise. But for the sake of it. For curiosity,” he adds.

The Art and Science of Decision-making

Mr. Ramakrishna believes his strength lies in decision-making.

Early in career, he gained confidence in this while leading a learning and development project at an automobile dealership.

Further, life experiences helped him hone this ability. “My father wasn’t the best educated. I had to make a lot of decisions independently to pick the right education and career,” recalls Mr. Ramakrishna, who says he’s not scared to make tough decisions.

The courage to decide is more important than the possibility of that decision being right, he states.

“Even when the stakes are high,” he says.

We shouldn’t rate our decisions based on outcomes alone, he explains. “If a decision works in your favor doesn’t mean it is right.”

Evaluating the process of decision-making is more important.

“You must consider all possible consequences and variables. You must ask if the decision is impulsive or thought through,” he says.

And as for the outcomes, multiple factors beyond your control are at play, he adds.

Among the toughest decisions he had to make, Mr. Ramakrishna recalls the time the organization he was part of was being dissolved.

While many of the 40 team members got other roles, others had to be let go.

“In the end, I found there was no role for me.”

Look at The Big Picture

The turning point in Mr. Ramakrishna’s career was his stint at Aditya Birla Group.

His profound learnings came from attending reviews, that included three CEOs and business directors.

“I used to be the fly on the wall and observe everything. Those were MBA classes for me.”

During those interactions, Mr. Ramakrishna realized: “Sometimes, we get caught in details so much that we lose sight of the big picture.”

“At times, it’s important to go back to the drawing board and start from the basics.”

To keep his practices relevant, Mr. Ramakrishna asks himself every six months: What would my successor undo if they were to take over now?

By taking this vantage viewpoint, he can identify areas in his practices needing improvement.

“It’s about disrupting and constructing again,” he says.

Music of Truth

As regards his core values, Mr. Ramakrishna believes in speaking his mind.

Many would advise you against it. “But I realized people love it when you speak the truth. They don’t like the truth in a distorted form.”

And no, it’s not some activism. Speaking your mind is important for engaging the leadership.

“Top management hardly gets real feedback. So, when people speak the truth it’s like music to them,” believes Mr. Ramakrishna.

Tell Yourself a Great Story 

Further, Mr. Ramakrishna believes work must be a celebration. “Work should be joyful,” he states.

Afterall, there is nothing called great or mundane work, he adds.

Even the greatest of the works, venerated as meaningful, may be viewed as trivial under some other lens.

“In relative terms, everything is trivial.”

“In individual terms, everything is of supreme importance,” explains Mr. Ramakrishna. It’s the story you tell yourself about the work you do that matters more, he adds.

Individuals assign meaning to their roles apart from the attribution by society.

There are times when the societal attribution holds a role in high esteem while individuals may not find appeal in it, says Mr. Ramakrishna.

Career Highlights

2019 – Present
Head of Learning and Development and later Chief Learning Officer at Page Industries

2013 – 2019

  • Head – Learning Design;
  • Head of Learning Effectiveness and Business Engagement;
  • Head of Retail Learning and Development, LifeStyle brands’
  • Head of Learning and Development (Retail), Food and Grocery Business at Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail.

2010 – 2013

Head of South (City Center head, L&D Operations) – Future Learning at
Future Group India

2008 – 2010
Learning and Development associate at i-POINT Consulting Services Pvt Ltd

2006 – 2008
Associate consultant at Accord Consultants Private Limited

2004 – 2006
Director and Career Counsellor at Sri Gurusarvabhouma Vocational Guidance center

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