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Gyan on the go

As technology is facilitating a kind of a 24X7 school of continuing education, for executives this is just what the teacher may have ordered, writes Ajay Jain.

india Updated: Oct 25, 2007 21:14 IST
Ajay Jain

If you do nothing but use your travelling time as learning time, this decision alone could make you one of the best educated people around. Listening to relevant audio programs in your car or in public transport can make you an expert in your field.

The above advice comes from US-based Brian Tracy, well known author of audio and print books on leadership, sales, managerial effectiveness and business strategy. In an age where knowledge and information are often seen as the differentiators in determining one's success, Tracy's words may hold the key for the harried professional trying to play catch-up with the latest around him.

If you are one of those willing to pick up nuggets of wisdom, you may just be spoilt for choices. Content of all kinds is now available from various sources, delivered in user-friendly formats to your everyday devices including car stereos, iPods and mobile devices. Here's checking out some for starters:

Mind your language

So what if you cannot attend Jeremy Brown's classes made famous in the 1970s British comedy series Mind Your Language? You can still pick up a language on the go, including complex ones like Mandarin. "I wanted to learn Chinese and read about chinesepod.com in The Economist. The lessons are through podcasts and are wonderfully simple to download to the iPod. I took a few lessons and picked up some basic phrases with a wonderful Chinese accent," says Kirti Seth, Chief Operating Officer at Evolv Management Services.

Ditto for John Mudie, Country Head for CSR India, a leading provider of personal wireless technologies. He takes his lessons on his MP3 enabled cellphone while commuting in the car or when flight-hopping. Now in India after a posting in Shanghai, Mudie says he would love to get his hands on something similar to learn Hindi and Kannada as well. The world renowned Pimsleur Language Series (PimsleurApproach.com), available on CDs, could be an option for picking up lessons in Hindi and around 40 of the world's most common languages. However, the likes of Mudie may still need to wait before someone offers regional Indian language lessons in such formats.

To lend a further hand, you can also keep language dictionaries handy. "SolvoEd (penreader.com) provides awesome multi-language dictionaries downloadable for mobile phones and handheld devices. I have installed English-English, English-German and English-Spanish on my smartphone," says Sumit Amar, Lead Software Development Engineer at Microsoft, currently posted in Seattle.

Take the library with you

The future of e-books was supposed to have come years ago, but a lack of suitable portable readers have held back their progress. In the meantime, audio books seem to be gaining in popularity. There are a plethora of sites offering downloads of an increasing number of titles, to be played back on a MP3 device or for burning onto a CD. Don't expect these to come for free though. Audible.com has a sizeable collection of audio books covering all genres of fiction and non-fiction. Nightingale-Conant (Nightingale.com) also offers good options, especially for those looking for personal and professional development books.

For the best experience, watch out for titles where no content has been edited from the original written version, and go for those where the narrator is the author himself.

Management master classes

Pramod Jajoo, managing director of Xora, a mobile workforce management solutions company, may not be going for an executive MBA in a hurry, but his iPod gets him closer for sure. "Whenever on the move, I listen to podcasts related to business, management, training and software industry on my iPod extensively. I particularly like those from Knowledge@Wharton, Harvard Business Review, BusinessWeek, SandHill.com and Stanford University. I believe in listening to these on a regular basis and applying the ideas makes me a better manager," he says.

If there is a series of podcasts loved by managers across the world, it is from www.manager-tools.com. Widely regarded by many as a kind of 'people skills and other things they don't teach you at a business school,' the offerings on this site include topics like improving your resume, making a solid presentation, taking good notes, preparing for your own performance review and dealing with a career that seems stuck.

Leader speak

If there is something you may want to listen to, not just once but maybe a few times over, there are golden words from leaders. "I just love Ted.com for what the site claims are inspired talks by the world's greatest thinkers and doers. Easily downloadable, these cover technology, entertainment, design, business, science, culture, arts, global issues and more," says Niyeti Paruthi, a former Ernst & Young consultant who has turned artist. Other top rated resources include the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast series from Stanford University (http://edcorner.stanford.edu/podcasts.html) covering well known guest speakers across a wide range of topics.

Get your feeds

Do you subscribe to RSS feeds from news and blog sources of your choice but rarely find time to read them? Get them on your mobile in this case. "I use an application called Viigo (viigo.com) on my Blackberry. I download all the feeds I like and read when I am mobile," says Net Solutions India founder and CEO Sameer Jain.

(The author is an independent journalist and blogger, and writes at technologygazing.com)