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Enterprise Insights Beyond Code: Learn To Distinguish Yourself In Nine Simple Steps
Dec 9, 2005 – A Q&A with Rajesh Setty

Q: Why did you write Beyond Code?

A: Over the last few years, I lived in five different countries and have been associated with probably hundreds of technology professionals. I have also watched the careers of many of these people. A handful of them succeeded beyond imagination but a large majority of people were "stuck" after ten to fifteen years into their careers.

Many of those who were "stuck" attributed their situation to several external factors such as economy, mergers, technological paradigm shifts, outsourcing, offshoring etc. It was a rude shock for many. Those who succeeded though defied gravity and kept moving up. When I closely observed (and talked to) many of these smart people, it was evident that they had a different set of "standard practices" as compared to the commodity crowd.

I started documenting those practices that helped these superstars distinguish themselves. After about ten years of collecting nuggets of insights and inspirational stories, I decided to put them into the book "Beyond Code: Learn to distinguish yourself in 9 simple steps"

Q: Why should IT professionals work towards distinguishing themselves?

A: Short answer: Being part of the commodity crowd erodes your value.

Long answer: Technology professionals worldwide are getting caught in a tsunami of massive commoditization. Technologies are changing very fast. What seemed hot today is not hot anymore. There is a constant pressure to give more, be more effective, be more efficient and be more productive. This forces most technology professionals to go after "short term skills". Of course, going after "short term skills" will provide "short term results" but will hurt them in the "long run". Competency in technical skills is necessary to succeed in this world but they are not sufficient to thrive. The question is what can one do differently so that he or she can distinguish and move above the commodity crowd.

Bonus: You have reached where you are by doing whatever you have done so far. If you need to leapfrog and succeed beyond dreams, continuing to do whatever you have done in the past may not be the answer. You need to think and be different. In other words, you need to distinguish yourself!

Q: What is the basic premise of the book?

A: The key argument of "Beyond Code" is to say that IT professionals have to do something "beyond code" to escape the trap of commoditization. None of the practices outlined are short-term skills or tactics. Our belief is that to make a significant impact, you need to embrace these practices long-term. We have to avoid the temptation to get "instant" results.

It's hard when everyone around us is racing to embrace those skills and practices that seem to provide some immediate returns. But then again, we don't want to be in the commodity crowd anyways.

Q: What is one piece of advice that you can give to IT professionals?

A: Let me say something that is applicable to all the professionals - irrespective of their domain of expertise - Focus on the ROII.

Let me explain. ROII stands for "Return on Investment for an Interaction".

Life is full of interactions. We interact with people when we meet them, when we talk on phone, when we exchange emails or for that matter, I am interacting with you when you are reading this blog entry. Every interaction has a cost for both parties participating in the interaction. If you focus on ensuring that the other party has the highest ROII (return on investment for an interaction with you), you win big time.

Suppose you take this approach for the rest of your life and will ensure a high ROII for anyone that participates in an interaction with you. Wouldn't that make you special?

Q: The book has a lot of interactive exercises. One of the common themes is that you encourage readers to get help from someone else to complete the exercises. What is the reason behind this?

A: Let me give some background to why I came with a partnering strategy for completing the exercises.

Many people ask me if there is one thing that they can learn quickly that can make a significant impact on their lives. We all know that there are no shortcuts to success. However, at the risk of "over simplifying", let me make a statement:

"One simple thing that you can learn easily and that can make a significant impact on your lives is - working hard to keep the promises you make to yourself"

Think about the above statement - many times it's easier to keep promises that we make to others than to keep promises that we make to ourselves. In fact, many of the promises that we make to ourselves is not known to anybody else. Something like "I will finish reading this book by the end of the week" is known only to yourself. Weeks pass by and the book is not complete yet. Nobody knows that you made a promise to yourself and you feel a bit guilty for not keeping the promise but you are smart enough to justify why you were not able to keep your promise. Most often, the justifications for not keeping the promises to yourself are more compelling than the promises themselves.

On a lighter note, you can afford to NOT keep your promises to yourself because you can't fire yourself. If you fire yourself where will you go?

You can fix this - make small promises to yourself and try to keep them. Keep doing this until it becomes a habit. It should become your second nature to keep the promises you make for yourself.

The other simple strategy therefore is to partner with a friend and share the promises that you make for yourself with this friend. Ask for his help to hold you accountable for these promises. I have seen that this always produces better results.

Q: Where can people read more?

A: I maintain a blog called "Life Beyond Code" ( where there is a series called "Ways to Distinguish Yourself"

That's a good place to start.

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