BOOTS TO BROGUES

This narrative is about my transition from military to a civilian work milieu. I’m not using the word ‘Corporate’, as firstly it’s way too clichéd and secondly I’m actually not working in a corporate house. To start my story, I’ll set out from my boots days. I’m a first generation army officer, so there was no pressure, no family tradition, no expectations, and no military environment, for me to become one. It was purely my personal decision, borne out of my love for the uniform and whatever I had read about it. At the age of 17, before joining NDA, I had no idea about the pay scales, perks and working conditions in the army to influence my decision. It was more a case of decision taken from the heart than the head. After passing out from the Indian Military Academy, I was commissioned in to the Maratha Light Infantry Regiment and was assigned to 9 Maratha LI.

One day, after I had spent more than 12 years wearing Maratha LI shoulder titles, a mine blast on a mountain slope during Operation Vijay (Kargil War), shattered a few bones and fleshes of my left leg and left me with a leg short. However, the injury could not dent my self-confidence and I was always eager to get back to active military duty. It was only after four successive peace postings, mostly in nonoperational roles, I realised that probably my days of active operational duties were over. It was around this time that I started thinking of changing tracks.

After some deliberation, I realised that money and stability -two main reasons for seeking PMR (premature retirement), were not my reasons. I was, if not fully contented, was quite assuaged with my government salary, probably a result of low financial aspirations due to a very middle class upbringing. And being a war disabled person, I knew that I would mostly be posted to peace stations, where I would be living with family. So, for me, primarily, it was not being in the main stream of things and eagerness to do something more meaningful, that led to my decision to switch tracks. However, arriving at the final decision was easier said than done. Unlike at the time of joining defence services, this time there were too many pressures from family, friends and acquaintances. Some of the friends were of the opinion that I had done enough for the organisation and it was my turn now to enjoy the perks, whereas the extended family did not want me to tilt the apple cart at a stage when I had a nice government job and had two school going children and other associated responsibilities. After a few discussions, my wife and children understood that it would be too much for them to tolerate a dissatisfied and peevish man in the house for quite a few years ahead.

I applied for pre-mature retirement from the army after completing 21 years and off I went to IIM Calcutta to study for six months to earn my Certificate in Business Management. I learnt a few new things there, but mostly things I had already known with my experience were presented to me in a different perspective. Those six months spent at the IIM were fruitful in terms of shaping my stance to face the new work environment and also giving me a set of new friends, who were my co-travellers in this journey to a new world. It was around this time that I seriously started thinking of what I wanted to do after retiring from the army. Mostly officers with my kind of background – a social science graduate from NDA with 21 years of service in the infantry, were trying to get into an HR & Admin profile. It took me some time to analyse my strengths and what I wanted to do. I realised that as an Infantry officer I had spent maximum time analysing a situation, making operational plans and executing those plans with my team. Since I always wanted to be in the mainstream of the organisation, I decided that security industry, after all, was not a pariah as many people were considering it to be and decided to take a plunge there. However, I was very sure of one thing and that was that I would leverage more of my analytical skills than operational. I also wanted something intellectually stimulating. With this in mind I had a few long chats with a friend and course-mate of mine, who was starting his own company in Risk Management Consultancy. Since these were the times of global recession and business was just about trickling in, it took some time for his business to stabilise. I got an opportunity when world’s largest philanthropic organisation – BMGF, working on polio eradication mission in India was looking for a consultant to monitor their program in Bihar. I joined my course-mate as a consultant to raise a team to do the monitoring work.

I have since been working as a senior Risk Management professional, doing a lot of risk analysis and executive protection assignments. A large part of my work hour is spent in the field, travelling to deep interiors of India and some neighbouring countries, something that I always preferred over a desk job. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the Fortune 500 companies and a few of the richest people in the world. As a part of my work I analyse all kinds of non-financial risks my clients can face in their operations and travel of their top executives and give them advisories on ways to mitigate those to an acceptable level. My transition from Boots to Brogues has taught me one important lesson, and that is that every step taken to achieve a goal needs to be analysed well. Col Satish Mallik (Retd) is a former officer of 9 Maratha LI, and is now a Risk Analyst

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