Month: December 2016

To Lead And To Follow

A good experience is guaranteed when you’re told to arrive wearing robust clothing suitable for outdoor activities and wet weather. A memorable one is certain when you’re told that suits and cocktail dresses will also be required.

After several months of classes and city life, heading out to Sandhurst for the Professional Development Programme was certainly a welcome change. The primary goals were to develop an understanding of leadership and followership and to advance our insight into team behaviour and individual contribution. Applying oneself and interacting with the cohort in a different setting, with a unique set of challenges and experiences, provided another forum for valuable experiences and insight.

img_3939I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors over the years, primarily sailing and camping, and was wondering how well prepared the team would be. Keep in mind that I’d only seen the rest of the cohort dressed for city life and networking events. However, when I showed up at Waterloo Station they were well prepared with outdoor gear and hiking boots. Most people had backpacks and small luggage, my bag was actually one of the largest, so I felt that we were off to a good start. We caught the train, dropped off our luggage at the hotel and headed directly to the campus to get started.

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is rich in history. You can feel it even before you arrive and all the more so once you pass through the gates, gaze at the buildings and explore the mix of forests and manicured grounds. The staff from The Inspirational Development Group introduced themselves and put us directly to work. Our first task was complex construction and problem solving, with specific parameters and time frames. My team managed to complete the task with only seconds to spare.

We would do many tasks over the next few days taking turns to both lead and follow. There is much to be said for taking on the responsibility of being in charge, but there is certainly a lot to be learned from taking a step back, being an effective team player and working for the benefit of the group. This is certainly a valuable lesson for a driven and accomplished group of young professionals to absorb, and it is guaranteed to last when learnt carrying a stretcher through a maze whilst blindfolded, building devices to transport water canisters or trusting others to pass you through netting. I don’t think I’ll ever forget watching one member of the class run up a hill with a heavy dummy on his back whilst surrounded by blue smoke.

img_3749Similarly, taking on purely verbal team based challenges can provide a great deal of insight into how one can be more convincing and informative. Meeting in a room lined with leather furniture, a marble fireplace and a myriad of donations from graduates, my team and I were tasked with rating the gear necessary to survive in the wilds of Canada. Growing up I spent most of my summers going on canoe trips in the parks of Ontario, Quebec and the boundary waters with the US. It gets cold at night even in August. In this challenge it was late fall. Who knew what a hard time I would have convincing others of the importance of fire and an axe? Many of them had been camping but not in such a remote or chilly setting. Then again, a great deal depends on how I say it. This was probably my key takeaway from the week, and one that I would reflect on with my team when discussing afterwards.


The benefit of the programme was highly apparent on the train ride back to Waterloo. We had been fortunate enough to see an iconic site where few will go. Whilst worn out from the past few days, you could hear the cohort discussing plans for the next module. Stepping out of the typical academic zone and being forced to challenge one’s conceptions had already provided highly beneficial insight on how to lead a team. Over the course of the year, there is undoubtedly more to follow.


City Starters Weekend – From an entrepreneur to a management consultant

From an Entrepreneur to a Management Consultant – A weekend journey.

City Starters Weekend – Oct 21st 2016

City Starters Weekend is exactly what it sounds like. Over a weekend, you bring an idea and if it gets selected you get to form your teams , work on the idea and pitch it on Sunday in front of judges. If you get selected, you get a prize and the pride to carry on with an idea.

It’s the best environment for people who want to become an entrepreneur, and for people whom this start-up thing seems cool. But as a part of larger cohort in City University, you get a far better environment than other open Starter Weekends. You are in your City Family and it’s a safer environment to experiment and work on your business model, approach and presentation skills.

So that part was for promoting the event, now you have to give it to the staff who work really hard for the event (special mention for our Professor Aurore Hochard). So now, since I have ensured my good marks, lets get into the story.

I came up with an idea of digital integration in auto-mobiles to make them safer, don’t read on if you think I will share my ‘actual’ idea with you guys, as Thor would say “you’re not worth it” YET.



I pitched and did not get selected, although people said that my pitch was good, but who cares about cars any more. The room was full of millennials and they have a very different set of priorities. Hence, to ease of a bit of disappointment, I went to the nearest pub with a friend of mine. Whilst still under healing my pride, this guy with unusual hair came up to me and said, ‘Would you work for me over the weekend and try to develop my business model’ (his idea was selected).

I didn’t need to hear the idea and just said ‘YES’. I generally do say yes to people and not products. Well I reached day 2, and there was only this guy working there. I felt a bit sad for him as others  who had said yes  to helping him, never showed up. I thought the guy seems okay, let’s have a go at it. His idea was called WOOLAND,  I am not sharing this idea either.



What I will tell you, however, is the back-story. WOOLAND is a brainchild of Eduardo, he is an MSc Student at Cass and is an exceptional musician. He started showing me his idea and he had already pretty much worked it through. But as a businessman I kept on asking more questions,  such as where does the money come from (although only to myself). And then started the journey of a management consultant – Mr. Umang Shankar, at your service Sir.

We went over the business model, over and over again, trying to make a bit of sense from the whole thing, no offence but Eduardo is a musician and artists are the beacons of civilizations, these guys show the way and we count the stones. Both are needed and both need to be respected. By lunch time another very decent bloke with awesome PPT skills; David, my classmate Dan, and Eduardo’s classmate, Alice joined in. And suddenly we have an Idea, an eccentric CEO , a team and the model that can make money.


Come the final pitch day, that is generally Sunday, because if you guys don’t know it yet, it’s the day when the weekend generally ends, we had to decide who pitches what. As you always do in group presentations, you divide the part to show the group cohesion and to let everyone take part. We practised and it just didn’t work. I was not having any of it, and said, rather bluntly ‘It’s your idea we’ve worked for and I believe it’s you who should go ahead and pitch it’. In all these pitch contests we need to keep in mind the benchmarks, all big product launches such as Apple do not happen with 5 people talking about their departments, there is only one guy with specs, talking about the product. Well we did it and result was, a prize was invented for us, the best pitch presentation….

Learning :- Do whatever you are good at and don’t shy away from making tough decisions.

Please have a look at the entire event’s video :-

Umang Shankar

Full-time MBA (2017)

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