Global village idiot: The human spirit... surviving, thriving, and always learning
Recently I reconnected with five inspiring individuals, people from ordinary backgrounds, of different ages, with different aspirations, but with one thing in common.
It all started weeks ago when we were passing through Bremen chowk in Aundh and the children asked me why it was called “Bremen”.
I explained the Pune-Bremen connection and talk turned to Germany and that was that.
Last week our 10-year-old asked me, “How is your friend in Germany? The boy who plays guitar and makes darts?”
It took me a while to realise he was asking about Timm from Berlin. We are a hopelessly talkative family and I talk to the kids about my trips, work, what I am reading… The thing about memory is that it captures everything, but predicting what the mind remembers and why or how it connects things is a different matter.
In this case, the younger two had been discussing robots and somehow they got talking about Germany and they remembered Bremen and my Berlin trip and the story I had told them about Timm, his siblings and his work.
Timm Bange was one of several German youngsters I met at an aviation training conference in Berlin in 2017. They were all juggling (quite adeptly) university education, work, and their own creative ideas.
I was particularly fascinated by Timm. All of 23 then, he had a qualification in International Management (Business and IT), was enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts and had co-founded myDartpfeil with his best friend Lukas Haas (it was a startup that designed and sold personalised darts).
It was his second startup. Those days Timm used to work part-time at trade shows to support himself.
We had kept in touch through LinkedIn so I wrote to Timm to check how he was doing and if they had managed to raise any funds and, how the pandemic had affected his plans and, how he had stayed focused.
“We are 14 people now - going to be around five more people by December. We didn’t need funding :) We are investing through our cashflow,” he wrote back with greetings from Berlin.
He had persisted with his education through the pandemic and finished his entrepreneurship studies at DHBW Karlsruhe in October 2020.
As an eCommerce business selling darts (indoor sport and home sport), myDartpfeil’s main problems during the pandemic was trying to satisfy peoples’ demands in terms of dart demands. In Timm’s opinion, the key to progress in the current scenario was motivation, determination and patience.
Thinking of the Berlin trip reminded me of Mayank Mudgil, a young instructional designer who used to work in Pune (colleague from the mid- 2010s) and had then gone to Germany for studies.
He had co-founded a company in Berlin and had been going through the paces of a business starting up, when we met again in 2017. So earlier this week, I reached out to him as well to see how he was doing. He’s apparently back in India and working with an airline.
“During the pandemic my workload increased 5x times. As a learning content creator whose value in the company was on the sidelines; I suddenly came in to the spotlight. More and more learnings and trainings were needed to be driven virtually and so many projects flooded my timelines,” Mayank replied.
And while his professional career seems to have fared reasonably well during the pandemic, he has also kept up his learning. “For me YouTube and domain specific websites are the best source of knowledge,” Mayank wrote in.
Closer to home in Pune, I discovered that Girish Dharap had launched his own learning YouTube channel, Learnamytes. I had met Girish in 2006-7 when he was a presales researcher at an eLearning company and we have stayed connected. A versatile and diligent learner, Girish moved from eLearning to classroom training sales, then became a trainer and finally launched his training services business, Nallanda.
When the pandemic hit classroom training outfits, he explored his theatre and presentation skills and combined all of it to create weekly learning videos through storytelling.
I also wrote in to a writer and creator I admire, Aditya Kuber. When I first met Aditya he was a young freelance photographer in Pune. Having an entrepreneurial streak, Aditya went on to found different content startups through the past decade. His latest venture (he’s CEO and co-founder) Ideabrew Studios was launched just before the pandemic and it happens to be in the podcast space. I was curious to see how they were doing since it’s been a rough 15 months. “We are now a small team of 12. The pandemic slowed down our go-to-market by about six months. Had Lockdown 2 not happened around March (this year), we may have been further along. Other than that, it’s impacted digital consumption positively and since we operate in that space, it’s a positive outcome for us.”
Aditya feels that apart from positive market sentiment, it’s important for new businesses to have confidence in the marketplace that lockdowns won’t affect business further. Like many other young entrepreneurs, Aditya too is a continuous learner and he believes in self-study and the occasional tactical courses from places like Udemy.
The most inspiring news came from Mumbai last weekend: the release of the single, “Every”.
A refreshingly original song, it’s the debut release of 13-year-old musician, Anya Shine. The song is particularly significant because it could herald a new beginning for child-parent-teacher collaboration in India. Written, composed and sung by Anya, the track is produced by her parents Kanchan and Shine, and it features her music teacher, Shreyas Shandiliya, who has worked with Anya since 2017. The song is available on all the major music platforms and shows that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they collaborate.
What do all these stories have in common? An intense desire to continuously learn and focus on improving skills and performance - come hardship, pandemic, rain or shine.
Sanjay Mukherjee, author, learning-tech designer and management consultant, is founder of Mountain Walker and chief strategy advisor, Peak Pacific. He can be reached @ firstname.lastname@example.org