Training The Accountant Mind

Recently, I held a one day workshop for a group of CA Interns. Now this is a profession that inspires awe in many. At the same time, as a profession it is highly stereotyped.

High on conscientiousness but low on almost every other trait on the OCEAN model, is how we see accountants in general. Given the nature of their work, it makes a lot of sense to assume this.

Yes. That is where I made my one mistake of the day. Assumed. That these people would be very serious learners. No, not by a long mile. They came in loud and noisy, happy to be away from their work desks for a day.

I immediately caught on. After introducing why soft skills, we dove right into a word game, a critical thinking game and a creative thinking game. With each game we identified the specific gaps in their outlooks – and the Why was underlined very soundly. They were the biggest draw of the day.

We delved into the various communication scenarios they found themselves in. We formulated solutions and tactics for each. Cross team brainstorming happened.

In the afternoon we moved on to public speaking practice. A few of them came up and presented my slides. As the detailed discussions had already happened, they were focusing on stuff like building relevance, building coherence and ultimately, building trust with their audience. All critical skills in their chosen profession.

We finished off with some detailed work on their written skills. After a high tea, it was time for a few more games and feedback. On the whole, the day was vibrant and full of learning – for them as well as for me.

For me that day was an eye-opener into their specialized world. For them, the workshop clarified where they stood with their client handling skills, and mapping a path from there to success.

From Data to Communication: A Structured Journey

Are you ready for a tale of challenges, insights, and positive changes ? Let me share with you my experience handling a Corporate Induction training. It was a batch of 120 engineers, freshly recruited as Data Scientists by one of the high growth companies in India today.

The brief from their L & D was straightforward: they knew their newly recruited engineering minds had brilliant ideas. Now they needed training on corporate etiquette, communication confidence and corporate accountability.

I put my heart and soul into every single communication training, but this was special for many reasons.

You see, as an engineer, I know all too well the struggles around giving an opinion until I am fully convinced. In my fresher days, that meant disaster. I often stayed silent, even in meetings where I had some pretty good ideas. I would be perfecting the logic in my head, and the meeting would have moved on to the next topic. Getting these people to put their opinions out in the open, in a graceful manner, ready to be vetted and challenged, was my brief. It took some debate, some cartoons and the showcasing of actual client feedback to start them on this journey.

Once we got past this hurdle, the next two steps were all about formulating a strategy and thorough practice – and these people excelled here. As long as they were convinced of the necessity, they had no qualms staying with the problem till they solved it.

The training was completed with a lot of goodwill on both sides.

Fast forward to 2023, and the company came back with a follow-up brief: some of these engineers were now interacting with clients. They needed a Structured Consultant Communication Training.

I was thrilled to take on this new challenge. I knew where my struggle would lie: convincing them of the need for this change. You see, a person who works with Big Data, when asked to sell the story to a client, needs an entirely different skill set.

I spent the first 2 hours getting them to think like the client. Then I got them back into their own shoes (yes, empathy) and they were ready for the race. Yes, there was a time constraint. But once I sold them on the concept, this batch took over the trainings with their inputs and questions, making sure they gleaned every bit of knowledge available with the trainer. And let me tell you, it was an impressive batch. These people come from some of the best colleges across India. They are not afraid of the work required once they see the necessity.

All in all, it was another interesting and exhaustive series of training, done and delivered with pride. The growth and progress I saw in these engineers fills me with happiness, and I’m thrilled to have been a part of their awesome journey.

Sharing with you the one slide that carried with it the most hours of practice :

The Conway’s Law : Connection is Crucial

Does the way your organization Communicate affect the Design of your products or services? Yes, and that is at the heart of Conway’s Law.

Conway’s Law states that “organizations who design systems are constrained to produce designs that are copies of the communication structures within those organizations.”

Let us bring in some contextual examples. Companies like IKEA, Slack, Amazon, Mayo Clinic, Zaha Hadid Architects, Seimens and closer home, Freshworks and Flipkart – all operate with flat and agile communication systems, breaking down hierarchy and the traditional barriers between different teams. They don’t mind responsive looping based on feedback systems. And it shows in the quality of their outputs.

To create world-class products and services, focus on improving your communication structure. Should you completely overhaul your current system? Not unless you have an immediate mandate to better your designs. But even otherwise – do take a step back to assess and optimize your communication – in your team, in your organization, in your business. It can have a design level impact on your outputs.

And yes, I do have 3 dynamic pointers for you – towards a formidable design for organizational communication :

  • A move away from chain-mails and easily lost instant messages to Task Boards, visible and accessible to all stakeholders
  • A move away from meetings anytime and every time to closed slots for deep work and open slots for meetings
  • A move away from metrics filled with lagging indicators to real-time digital leading metrics tying in accountability to the system end to end

Communicate your way to better Designs.

Yes And

Are you tired of stagnant conversations that lack momentum, trust and impact ? Look no further than the power of “Yes” and “And.”

An improvisation technique taught in most drama classes, these two words need to be built into our conversations. Official, as well as personal.

What are the negative impacts of words like “No” “However” and “But”?

They shift the conversation away from the other person’s perspective. Break their thought threads. Create agitation and defensiveness in their mindset.

By using “Yes” and agreeing to the parts you can, you allow for a more open conversation.

By using “And,” you build upon others’ ideas, show support and create a sense of teamwork.

By asking questions where you cannot agree, you understand the other person’s perspective, trust is built, and results are reached. You also build agility and fluidity into your own thought models.

Use “Yes, And”. Watch your conversations create measurable impact.


has started, but my days still belong to the slow and lazy winters.

The calendar has turned, but not the weather. And so I say….


The Calendar says
The year is hatching

But my days
Are of depth and slowness
Thoughts rooted
in marshy slumber.
Bitter, biting winds
And abstract sunrises.

How then, am I to wish you
A Happy New Year?

Wait… till my winds change
Wait… till my sun rays crinkle
Wait… for the new sap to run
The gait of blood – deep in my veins – will pick up

And together, we will celebrate.

WEN Diwali

When WEN asks me to Compere

their Calicut Diwali Night, I say a Yes.

First off, I love the WEN community and I love the energy of Diwali.

Second, compering is all about communication – and I am a communications trainer.

(Though, come to think of it, all things are about communications.)

Third, these days its all about expanding my comfort zones !

Community-Communication-Comfort – my 3 reasons – is there a hidden root word ?

The evening started out at the carnival, where Salmat, my co-host, and I wandered the stalls and made new friends – with our mikes on. We asked questions, we complimented the beautiful people, we raised the crowd’s energy. We also gave away gifts galore! We coaxed the ladies to sing and dance – we brought them to the games stall, the tattoo stall and we gave genuine shout-outs (shriek-outs ?) to the Malabar Palace chaat counter !

Then the crowd moved on to the more formal venue – where we had a presidential address, a ramp walk, a flash mob. Add to it some amazing crowd work. We asked questions on gemstones, on baking, on trends in all the verticals – having all these entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds under one roof sure helped! It was a like a treasure trove of information.

WEN Cochin ladies came up to address the crowd and distribute some more prizes – and then the floor was thrown open to dance and dinner.

Once we switched off the mikes, we lit into the dance floor. So much energy to ground!

Kudos, Women Entrepreneurs Network, Calicut Chapter, for yet another amazing evening!

Conversations with Life Coaches

Two life changing conversations, with Sayali Kelkar and Josianne Robb!

Life Coaches, researching their business hypotheses.

On both occasions, all they asked for was my time and my stories. Time, I own enough to explore and stories, I own enough to exploit. They would collect some unbiased data for their research, and I would gather some clarity out of my life events – that was the understanding, and that is how it went.

Their questions stopped me in my tracks. I am guessing a coach is as good as the questions they ask. With the caveat “What one sees depends on how one sees”…let me share with you the crux of the two conversations.


One asked me which situations in my life gave me a sense of control. The other asked me which situations gave me a sense of change and re-invention.


Surprisingly, both questions had the same answer – all the situations where I stood up for myself. All the scenarios where I made a hard decision in favor of my own self swam up in front of my eyes. Contrary to the general thought process, putting me first did not make me feel selfish or less worthy.

Other than some immediate positive results, over a long term these life-points shaped me into an individual that I like, love and respect.

  • Scenario 1 – Level DramaBollywood

An hour after I had delivered my baby, I knew something was wrong. From where I lay helpless, I sent my husband running to the nurse-station. The nurse came and examined, and she decided everything was normal. I knew she was wrong, but I was drifting in and out of a dream-like stance. When I next thought straight, I sent G again. With the same urgency, with the same results.

As the nurse was re-assuring me with practiced empathy, I broke through my sense of complacency. I broke the alarm box next to my hospital bed. Rather, I started breaking it, and when my husband realized what I was up to, he took over and completed the task. The hospital was now forced to follow protocol.

They did find that I was very near to bleeding out…that decision to sound the alarm saved my life by minutes.

  • Scenario 2 – Business As Usual – Mothers wanting More

When I decided to pursue my life long dream of higher studies. I had found the perfect course, the perfect pedagogy and the perfect institute. And it could all be knit into my life, without over-extending any resource other than my endurance. After some initial hesitation, I went after it, “ruthlessly” (my Dad’s words).

In the city of Mumbai, for two years, I traveled most evenings from Ghatkopar to Ville Parle. For those 6 hours, I left my two little ones under the care of a helper lady. I left my life behind – and entered an arena of learning. A small, modern classroom – some great professors and industry experts – information plus wisdom.

My spouse was shuttling between Mumbai and Shanghai most of these 2 years – on a very challenging project. Mumbai being a stop-over for many of our friends and relatives, there was not a single week when we did not have someone or the other staying over with us. There were two major health crises in the family – one hit my mother and the other, me.

Some minor incidents, like my son gone missing for a few hours and me coordinating the search on Watsapp groups. Because that would be faster and more efficient than me rushing back. I remember the air leaving my lungs like a deflated balloon when he was finally found. Another night when the calling bell of our flat short circuited – firefighters saved my kids and my helper.

It would have been very easy to give up on any of those days – but I completed my masters with a 3.26 CGPA – and learnt so much that I was happy with my growth as an individual after a long time.


As a note to my future self, here are some outcomes from these two monumental conversations.

  • Realizations

I realize I gave myself full marks for standing up and showing up for myself. These were the life-points which forged me in a way I appreciated. Pushed me to make more intentional decisions and not drift. My procedures and perceptions changed.

  • Concrete Changes

The first one – on control – made me open up to take up challenging training assignments, some out of my city. I was declining all those offers believing my kids needed me more. But Sayali pointed out I was not doing justice to anyone. Their little universe had everything in hand – I was no longer the be-all in their lives. It was me too scared to let go – once I did that, we were all happier.

  • Work-in-Progress

The second one – on changes and re-inventions – happened last week. Somewhere, Josianne’s questions made me stop and analyze my direction. To be precise, am I aligning towards entrepreneur-ship or self-employment ? How much of a risk am I willing to take with my training career ? What are the ways I am willing to invest beyond giving my best in each session ? When and how will I stop being the product and become, truly, the entrepreneur ?

Cycling Back to the Coaches

These two extra ordinary Life Coaches made me examine my life and learn from it.

An experience I recommend to all, as

  • We are not all trained to dissect clean and learn neat these kind of incidents in our lives
  • We rarely hold ourselves accountable to our own (add adjective/invective) selves
  • We do not even think of ourselves as our own friend

So, once again, Thank You for raising the right questions and making me work on the answers!

The right Life Coaches are Torch-bearers – Here’s to Sayali Kelkar and Josianne Robb!

May your tribe grow.

A Campus Training amidst the Navratri

Trained around 300 final year students from 6 graduation streams. We were a team of 3, preparing these job aspirants for employ-ability in a 10 day training program with assessments throughout.

It was the IHRD College of Applied Sciences in my city, so I was all the more curious to know the local student body. And the youth never cease to amaze.

The first day of the switch from polished corporate ways to raw campus learning was challenging. I quickly realized the energy level required is way higher. The placement officer was very dedicated, always ensuring the best interests of her students. On my side, I made sure all my sessions were peppered with practical examples and MTI nuggets.

We trained them on critical thinking, creativity, language and grooming. They were the batch that had received no real college experience due to COVID. We went about it in different ways, but made sure every person who attended had 2-3 rounds of speak-up experience in addition to everything else.

They smash all our assumptions. I had to constantly prepare and revamp my sessions, as they quickly ate up the material I had prepared and asked for more. They surprised me with their knowledge on current affairs and their willingness to speak up. Their hunger to achieve made for a refreshing change from the sophisticated corporate ways.

In corporate trainings, I believe in up-skill and not motivation. I rarely cross that line. Here that line cannot be drawn. Many of the feedback forms for me had words like “kind” “helpful” “Ma’am kept giving me chances till I gave up on withdrawing and got it right”. I was so invested I lost my voice every evening but made sure to get it back every next day morning.

On the final day, we changed avatars from trainers to HR. We grilled them. We were relentless about bringing the realities out there in today’s world to their table.

Added to my days of hectic preparation, delivery and assessments, my nights were filled with dancing. The Navratri in Calicut Gujarati Samaj is huge. Aarti at 8 pm, garba at 8.30 pm, dandiya at 11:15 pm. Amidst the huge bollywood styling of this festival elsewhere, we at Calicut still have the innocence and beauty of our elders standing right in the center of our hall, singing for us the ancient folk songs. We dance around them and around the garba sthapana right in the center. My husband being a Gujarati, and me being a happy soul when I dance, every night so far we were there from 8 pm-12 am. Three more days to go. We dance in the auditorium upstairs, we eat at the food stalls below and we socialize. We dress up to the skies.

Some days, when I was the only invigilator in a room full of 60 students cracking the aptitude assessments, my legs refused to go in straight lines. They were going criss-cross in the garba way. I would consciously look around and then stand still till my legs re-oriented.

To end this precious week, let me conclude with lessons I learn from Garba :

It is all about finding your place in the circle. Times when you lose it, keep planning, keep striving to be back.

The center circle is the fastest. To be there confidence matters more than dancing skills.

Pace yourself. Reserve energy for the songs that talk to your heart.

Its about taking up your space fully, without conceit, while not invading others space.

Sometimes, you step out into the unknown just because your friend needs a partner. Personal liberty matters, but not at the cost of your partner’s liberties.

Let your changing priorities, your changing energy and your changing surroundings guide you.

While it is all about enjoying yourselves, there is addendum to everything we do : preparing the next generation. Even when they annoy you by smashing into your neat circles with their clumsy moves.

Training with our Future Tax Inspectors

I was assigned the very challenging task of training our future Tax Inspectors and Tax Assistants on the communication aspects of their job. As a visiting faculty to the NACIN at Bangalore, I had a master key to some strong and brilliant minds. It was one of my first on-site training after the COVID debacle.

I arrived early morning at the Yashwantpur Railway station. I was picked up and dropped off at the campus, where the Director roundly told me off for arriving a day late to the camp. Then he realized that I was the faculty, not a trainee. That broke the ice like nothing I could have come up with!

At sharp 10 am I walked into the room full of candidates who were silently assessing me. I realized I needed some intellectual standing before they would accept me as a mentor, and so I started off my introduction by telling them about my telecommunication patent. I could feel the respect temperature go up immediately. Throughout the session, I needed to keep in mind that these were people trained to work with facts and numbers, not abstract stuff. That kept me on my toes.

Even the story I like to start off with, I related directly into practical realities of our communication. Throughout the day, whenever any of their (or mine) responses could be tied into the way any of the characters of this story reacted, I stopped the class and asked them to find the correct match. They immensely enjoyed each time they bettered their responses.

I prefer to talk rather than present. I also like to explain concepts at their basic level and then involve the class in making up their own abstract models. Sometimes I cover the concept and then get one of them to come up and deliver my slides to the rest of the class. I got them all to come up one by one and showcase their skills in communication in various ways. The truth is, every individual has unique strengths and weaknesses that the rest of the class can learn from. If we, as facilitators, are able to create a trust environment where they do not mind being redirected or re-enforced, the class takes up a momentum of its own. All of this worked well that day.

What did not go down so well ? The practical non-verbals. I realized this part needs more build-up than the timelines allowed. A candidate did try and cross a few lines, where I had to cut them down ruthlessly. After all, the complexities of respecting authority is something our future authorities should know inside out.

Some picture perfect moments ?

When they loitered after a tea break and I had to call out, that I had no preference between stopping at 5 pm, 5.30 pm or 6 pm. The speed with which they all walked back into the classroom in a single file made me laugh out loud with them.

When one of them asked a question: What is the limit to our ambitions ? The concept being covered was confidence at various levels. As a question it had immeasurable merit. As an answer, I told them to examine the Whys. While initially they had trouble relating the two, the coin dropped after some explanation. Then there were those beatific infectious smiles going all around.

One goal I set for myself that day ? I decided to sharpen my skills at paraphrasing. Every time anyone in the room made a complex statement, I would paraphrase them till they agreed that yes, I had understood them well. I believe it was a sharp upward movement for my communication skills that day.

The organic campus, the extremely gracious officers there, and these budding candidates made the training a memorable one. And the feedback collected makes me trust it was a win-win situation on both sides!