Achyut ``AK`` Menon
Managing Director, Options Executive Search

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

Summer holidays every year-during my school days would be best. Both my parents, were part of large families ( with 7-10 siblings each) – who grew up in their hometown- as part of joint families themselves. And every year – all of us cousins – the younger generation, would land up there for a couple of months (without our respective parents -who would be working away in the cities!). Back in 70s – there wasn’t any TV or gadgets and so fun and frolic meant hanging out together, discovering places in the paddy fields and mango orchards, fooling around- playing games with imagination and occasionally making do with whatever we got our hands on. Life was going from one meal to another – and sharing our time with a bunch of others – all about the same age 5-12 yrs! No deadlines. No home work. No worry about future – just being in the moment :)!

4. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

Back in my high school, I was chosen the Captain of the Hockey team – and I decided to play – not the forward ( “right in”) position as the Coach said – but the “centre half”- a person who could be the playmaker-advancing with the forwards when we were in the offence, and falling back to support the defence when required. We did make it to the regional finals – but the person who was chosen for the national level – was the ‘forward’ who featured in the scorecard – because of the number of goals scored.

Funny – when we look back – we grew up with values which were so different.

Respect elders. Don’t question. Do what we were told. Adjust to whatever we had. Be grateful! Somehow belonging and bonding was the most important feeling in my growing up days.

I knew I was good – at whatever I picked up – and applied myself to. But never ever was there any burning desire to hone the killer’s instinct. Playing and let others be happy was more important. I perhaps even underplayed – just to let some others-who wanted it badly – to win. Perhaps even embarrassed that I had more than I deserved. Well, it was only as we became adults, when we left school – were we aware of the opportunities and privileges in the ‘society’ were only there for a restricted few – and the sense of competition was essential for the survival of the fittest. Fortunately in the past 2-3 decades, as the industrial economy gave way to intellect/internet economy, I think the world has become a much more level playing ground. And I am happy – that I have been able to follow my passion – and help other people find their calling..and so life is no longer a zero-sum game..but a WIN-WIN!.

I knew I was good….. but never, ever was there any burning desire to hone the killer’s instinct.

6. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

Going out of my comfort zone -is something that I have recently become more accustomed to. For a long time in life, I was quite happy doing things to the best of my ability -and content with the fact that, if need be -I can always stretch. And while I have been following my passion -and living a life that has enabled a whole lot of others do more with their lives- sometime I regret -that had I been more focussed on investing in myself more – I may have been able to create a bigger impact.

10. Name a well-known person you admire and explain why you hold them high esteem?

Rahul Dravid the Indian cricketer.

Classic test match player who adopted well to the faster game. A team player -would not only play up the order -but also wicket keep. A thorough gentleman -and seems like a fine coach who has inspired a lot of youngsters. No scandals despite the long public life. Fine grey matter. Could hold his own -despite prima donnas in the team.A class act on and off the field. Always.

12. If we were to go and speak to people who don't think very highly of you, what do you think they would say?

No fire in the belly. Content in building a lifestyle recruitment career when building a business was at the asking!

14. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it get you in?

Calling spade a spade. In a world where there is a bias, my lack of diplomacy often isnt an asset most people are comfortable with :)!

16. On what topic would you never make a joke?

Faith and religion

19. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What did you learn from the experience?

I always try to see the context of any problem. And so like to distinguish the message from the messenger. In a world, where social media often can polarise people -by the sheer mob mentality, I am often dismissed as a spineless person who has no stand on any specific issue!

23. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?

My One plus 7. Allows me to be independent. Companion always

25. Cheese or Chocolate? What kind?

Chocolate. Dark

29. Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathising with most? Why?

Scar the villain in The Lion King. He was unfairly banished from his home and made to live in a literal graveyard, just because he’s the second.

30. If you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

Mahatma Gandhi

For evangelising nonviolence, and trigger an entire nation to change -against all odds and might -especially influence in an age well before the internet!

Steve Jobs

Based on his ability to bounce back from being sacked by Apple, follow his heart, and change the way people now listen to music, learn, and interact.

Amitabh Bachchan

A superstar in Indian films for constantly reinventing himself, first as an angry young man, then as superb character artiste, and continuing to stay in the limelight for 40+ years-when the world all-around -has seen several disruptions.

31. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

Find out what you love doing most and get paid for doing it!

34. What decision makes you say, “What was I thinking??” when you look back on your career?

Getting into contingent recruitment business. It still beats me. Recruitment is actually selling- but with a change- the product has a mind of its own ! One is at the mercy of several moving pieces-the cycle time between the mandate and the revenue realisation is mostly 5-6 months-when it happens-and yes it a thankless job. Everybody takes it in the stride when you do it right -and nobody ever forgets to remind you -if you goofed And would you believe it? It is a series of events where one has to wait for long periods . Without being in control of the decision-makers- the hiring manager or the aspirant jobseeker!

39. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?

I personally feel the” need for the job” -is the paramount driver for anyone! Skills and knowledge can always be imparted-perhaps it could take a little longer. But in the long run, someone who has the attitude to be curious and learn- and would do it -because she/he cares -is most likely to be the best performer.

40. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? What was the situation?

Yes several times. Am pretty much challenged technically. So much so that I get psyched by reading manuals. So -love to pester people to show me how they do what they do- repeatedly, and try and become adept at it -perhaps keep fumbling..by simply trying harder and longer. I am still a long way to go, but quite content -being a little bit better each day :)!

41. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

The convenience of using technology -that helps makes most decisions – a binary issue. I feel being human is all about the shades of grey -which need some bias.

43. What common wisdom in our industry needs to be debunked?

The recruiting metrics are still deep in ‘time to fill’ and ‘cost of hire’!

47. Name one person who has had an extraordinary impact on your career. What did they do and what did you learn from that person?

My father. He was always driven to do his best and did the right thing.Quietly -very persistently and consistently. Left no stone unturned. Was very comfortable to be in the background and never desired to be in the spotlight. Never the one to even think who got the credit.

49. What’s the one question that I should’ve asked you, but wasn’t on this list?

Why did you end up being a recruiter !?

Thanks to Achyut “AK” Menon, for contributing to The Recruiters Tribune. Connect with AK on LinkedIn and Twitter

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