Friday, September 12, 2008

Priorities

I woke up on September 11, 2008 worried. I had so many things to do that day - finish a spreadsheet for the Leadership Program, prepare for a demonstration, organize my upcoming appointments, answer about 100 emails, finish personal tasks. There was just so much to do!

And then we got a call - my fiancee's sister had gone into labor. I dropped everything and went to New York with my fiancee. I didn't get to do any of those things till the next day - and they didn't matter.

Simple lesson about priorities - often we give too much importance to things that are not important or urgent. If there was this one box where we could hide them for a while.....

Monday, September 8, 2008

The NetIP Conference is over - thanks to everyone



I have been resisting the urge to post anything about the conference – thanks to anyone, a job well done, or a nice meeting you. I don’t feel like it – to do it would be to admit that it is over. And I am not ready to accept that.

The end hits me with a range of emotions – pride that it went so well. A sense of relief as well - after all, now that I have so much time to concentrate on other things. But sadness – that it is over. It is now a memory (and a collection of Chaitan Bandela photographs) permanently tattooed in my brain.

More than a year ago, we started with a fuzzy vision – a logo that said “Beyond 9 to 5 :….fill in the blanks.” Our debate started with this – and will continue well past the conference. We finally settled on “Beyond 9 to 5: Explore. Dream. Discover.” I don’t even remember who came up with it. The NetIP Board of Directors asked us to consider changing it to “Explore. Dream Discover.” To whoever came up with the initial logo, and to the NetIP BOD – a big thank you.

The initial proposals for Content were crafted with ideas from Siddharth, Usha, Arindam, Sheila and Minali. We came up with weird ideas – how about an art exhibition (what does that have to do with party?). Dream – a south asian president. I mean who really has such dreams? And south Asian documentary screenings. Don’t we have enough bollywood already?

To those strange ideas, and the team that helped put these together – thank you. As an attendee came up to me and said – this time, content really mattered. Without you guys it wouldn’t have been possible.

As we started looking for speakers, Tushneem stepped forward to help me with content. To be frank, I have been helping him. He has shown himself as the tireless leader, who has ideas, dreams big and then has the courage to follow up on his ideas. Without him, we wouldn’t have such accomplished keynote speakers, or sold out panels. T, thank you.

Then came the producers – the people who did the actual work. I had no idea that people from all over the country would volunteer their time and energy in putting this conference together. So thanks to all of you (in no particular order)

Usha – you managed the highest number, and the most offbeat the panels. The acting workshop was truly amazing, and thanks for your past years with NetSAP Boston, was a breeze (though you might not agree J. The 9/11 panel was very thoughtful, and we had people up on Sunday morning. Something we thought was impossible! You did it! Finally – my favorite, and everyone else’s favorite – the Kids with Cameras exhibition. You did a great job negotiating those contracts! I am glad I lost my bet to you

Sheila – I am sorry I was not there for the Chai Chat. I just heard three hours of footage about it from Kerri. All I hear that it was amazing. Thanks for coordinating it. Also guess what – you got people up to hear a book reading! Isn’t that amazing! Thanks for your flexibility in handling the last minute changes

Yash – managing eight alliance partners wasn’t an easy task. You did it, and also helped tirelessly with logistics. Thanks for continuing to contribute to NetIP and NetSAP

Ajay Gohil – as I said, you were the most helpful person outside Boston! Thanks for tirelessly trying to help us outside your panel, and moderating your panel. I hope to see you when I am in DC next.

Arindam – thanks for coordinating 2 great events. The Social Entrepreneurship panel was packed, all thanks to your efforts

Deepa – I loved meeting your panelists the most! You had the best variety of speakers, and you acted as a true ambassador for the conference. I saw how happy the speakers were on meeting you, I am very glad that you established these relationships with them before the panels, that help it go so well. Also thanks for navigating the complex A/V requirements. And thanks for postponing your shopping trips; that means a lot to me J.

Raj Verma – Thanks for an excellent panel, and even more for getting Abhi Shah to the conference. His speech was truly inspiring, and it wouldn’t have been possible without you

Priya Kumar – I am thanking you as a producer, as you produced a gem of an event. We had given up on the community service event as being too difficult, but you made it happen in the hotel itself. This event was a lesson for all of us – we need to have more ways of meeting people in the conference, and we should continue this new tradition

Mahak – Whenever I needed help, you were there. You really were an awesome hostess for your speakers. I cannot thank you enough

Sucheta – while the CME panels went without a hitch, the Kajra Re was the real surpriseJ

Kaveri – thanks for coordinating one of the toughest, and most different panels, the Indian sounds in world music. Thanks also for reaching out to several of your personal contacts for the conference

Gita – Thanks so much for help with the CPE Panel. You really put your connections and reputations on the line for us, hope you didn’t burn any bridges

Apurv – while you could not make it to the conference, we appreciate your behind the scenes help

Vaishal – my friend, you coordinated the India in 2020 Panel through the ups and downs of getting and loosing speakers. You were awesome

Poonam and Dhara – thanks so much for help with the CLE panels

I am now going to thank the others. This in no way dimishes how grateful I am for your contribution

The logistics team aka Pallavi and the gang – AMAZING JOB. I heard that this was the best organized conference ever, and its all because of you guys. The registration, the panels setup, the wine and greet, the duck tour etc, etc, All went without a major hitch. We need to do a operations study based on this, and publish it as a model – perhaps a HBS Case Study.

And of course – the grand finale was the best ever. The GALA was the best ever, from the food, to the entertainment (the TAIKO idea was just too good) to the d├ęcor – all in the unbelievable (small) budget.

Swarupa – thanks so much for the money J I was very impressed to see how you kept the sponsors happy throughout the conference. We hope that they keep returning

Aman – awesome job with the budget. Thanks for being persistent in keeping us all fiscally responsible. P.S. Where is my check? :)

Rohit and Tanmay - thanks for keeping us technologically sound :)

Aruna – I am so glad to have you as NetIP president for next year as well. Thank you so much in really partnering with NetSAP Boston in creating this

Bhavik - thanks for managing the A/V so well, you were awesome

Sheetal & Nishith - thanks for your support and advice


Last, but not the least

Sundip & Tushneem – both of you had distinct leadership styles, but we needed leaders like you to make the conference a success. I am inspired by both of you. Your endless passion and effort for the conference paid off, and it was a pleasure working with both of you.

So what now? I think the success of us as a team, and NetIP as an organization lies in making the 2009 conference even better than 2008. So I thought I would publish the lessons I learned from this conference. From this year’s content chair to the next year’s content chair

1. Help people meet other people. Focus on relationships. This year we planned to introduce more opportunities for networking, but didn’t follow through because of other priorities. I think that was a mistake – the community service event offered one such way of meeting people while being involved in an activity that benefits others.

2. Don’t doubt the NetIP Audience – everyone is energetic, and they will get up in the morning and come for a panel, even if they were partying till 4 AM. Just make sure that the panel is worth it

3. The more offbeat the event, the better it is – this is just about the only conference where you can do that. Don’t make too many events professional – there are enough conferences for that. Focus on cultural, social, political events - this is the time for that.

4. Always start with an ice breaker on Friday night. We did not do that this year and I regret it