Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Sydney Experience - Part I

It's been 3 months since I traveled to Sydney and nowhere have I captured my thoughts and feelings about the trip! Better late than never! It was a once-in-a-life-time experience. And I am glad I learned a few things too. But, boy, was it tiring! Just 4 days including the journey. The story of how I got to go there is worth it too!

It was another day at work, or so I thought. Among the many mails that had found their way to my inbox, was one from my boss. It was about a conference called KM Challenge 2004 at Sydney, Australia. My boss wanted to know if any one could meet the challenge of writing a paper on KM and make it there. He added that he saw it as a good opportunity to build the company's brand and esp. its KM programme. I read it and thought to myself that it would be lovely if I could make it. Anyways, writing was my passion, I'd already written and presented a paper before and it wouldn't be difficult to write another given that KM is another passion of mine. But there was a catch - there were just 15 more days to go for the deadline. Never mind, I told myself, there was nothing to lose. I could try my best and the rest would be left to Good old God. :) I decided that I would rack my brains and do my best and would neither be disappointed if it were to not be selected for presntation, nor be thrilled if it were to be. That was the attitude I went with. After all, writing and KM were my passions and I would enjoy the experience of writing on KM irrespective of the results...

The mail had come to me in the middle of the week and I used the remaining few days of the week to simply think of what I would write on. I'd decided the topic by Friday. It would be Collaboration and the creation and exchange of knowledge as associated with it. Come Saturday, I would start writing the paper at home. Saturday indeed came after Friday (very funny!) and I found myself very excited and ready for the task. Sunday evening found me ready with the draft, many headings yet to be filled in, many points and ideas yet to be elaborated. But I had a plan now. The next week was filled with discoveries of what I knew and what I did not know I knew and what I did not realise I did not know....whew! There were a few AHA moments too. Those were amazing! I loved those moments when I thought I had something! Those ideas became my pets and would surely be highlighted and spoken about at length in my paper. But here comes the best! My best AHA moment came when I hit upon the core of my paper - the central theme and what I thought was my best discovery/idea for the paper. The credit for this idea goes entirely to a book that I had read earlier - that was what had clearly inspired me and helped me discover the idea. It was a book called The Paradox Process written by Derm Barrett. Boy, do I thank my stars for leading me to that book! The book will always occupy a special place in my heart. The book was all about paradoxes and it got me interested no end. Reading the book not only left me with an enchanting experience but also got me looking for paradoxes in everything that I saw. So, that was how I came to discover a paradox associated with Collaboration. This was to be the theme of the Collaboration Model that I'd proposed in my paper. Now, I know you'll kill me or curiosity will kill you if I don't mention the paradox that I discovered about collaboration. It was the fact that Collaboration can lead to two 'opposing' things - Innovation and Reuse. (Innovation is looking at things from a completely fresh perspective while Reuse is about using something that has already been used and proven to save time, money, effort etc). So, I finished my paper a little at a time in the next 10 days and sent it across to the conference coordinators. I then let the whole thing rest including my expectations. Honestly, I couldn't even be sure that I would get to go to the conference if my paper were selected. Because my company would have to be ready to sponsor the trip and stay, which I wasn't sure of. Days passed by and I almost forgot the fact that I'd submitted a paper. I then heard from the conference coordinators who wanted me to add some case studies to the paper while being non-commital about whether it was selected or not. I added the case studies, revised the whole paper and sent it again. After another week or so, it came. The paper had been selected but I wasn't very sure if it could be presented to the audience or just published in the proceedings. I did not give up my attitude. I would let God decide whether it should happen or not. Maybe I should add the bit about the fact that it was my dream to write and present least one paper on KM in an international conference. Anyways...

I waited again and well, God had decided! I was asked to pack my bags. Next, it was time for me to wait for the company to decide whether they were in a position to sponsor my trip and stay while the conference coordinators were sponsoring the registration fees. The wait was worth the time in gold. It was approved and I got down to booking the tickets and getting ready for the trip! That's in fact another story altogether. It was a tough test - a test of my patience and resilience. This was the time when my company had initiated a conference of its own. The task was a mammoth one given the size of the company and the expected participation. And guess who was leading the task force? Yours Truly. It was a test that would put a good juggler to shame! Mails were pouring in, the various competitive events that we had launched were 'coming (getting) back' to (at) me. I was left with no time to take a leisurely sip of water. I found that I had no time to prepare for my conference - the KM Challenge conference - I had enough to do handling the company conference activities. I had to yet prepare the presentation (PPT version of my paper), I hadn't rehearsed, I hadn't thought about other things like my luggage, things to buy and what not. And well, let me throw in the fact that this would be my very first international journey! Boy, there were quite a few things I did not know...! (Blllththt)

Even while I struggled with the situation, time passed and I managed to prepare for my trip while juggling the company conference activities amidst a few tight situations, and arguments from people who did not seem to understand.

Let me now come to my actual trip - is it only now that I am getting to talk about the actual trip? oops...this blog is getting to be a really long one :(. The trip was cool. The journey from Bangalore to Singapore was a short one with a good dinner. The view was amazing. When I landed in Singapore, it was 4 AM. I just couldn't help calling my cousin in Singapore once I landed there. It made me feel much better after having set foot on foreign soil (carpet actually :)). The Changi airport, needless to say, was awesome. I was tired and sleepy, but I managed to see a bit of the airport, have coffee and check my mails. It was time for the Australian leg of the journey and I reached the gates where I would have to take my flight to Sydney....(Ummm....oops...I need to rewind a bit here... ;-).... When I knew for sure that I would be going to Sydney, I wasn't unduly worried about going to a foreign country for the first time and that was only because I had a friend there! Look how God takes care of us! This friend of mine was with me in my previous organization and is known to be a very friendly and helpful person. So, I'd called her, sent her mails and told her that she was in for a shock and that I would be nagging her for a few days. She had graciously accepted to put up with me for the inital 2 days of my stay at Sydney...and how she would repent that :) ). Well, okay...I was here ready to take my next flight to Sydney. It was a breeze and the 7.5 hour journey from Singapore went off without any major incidents as such. It was a little disapponting that I did not get a Window seat and couldn't enjoy the view thru' the journey. But I had to anyways prepare for my presentation and I did that. And...Ahemm...I managed to watch 'The School of Rock' on the way - 1.5 hrs gone there.

When I reached Sydney, my friend was dutifully there to greet me and take me to her home. On the way , she and her brother took me to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House spot and what I saw was breath-taking. It was a dream come true. It was nearly 10 PM, there were very few people, the water was sparkling under the lights, the bridge was smiling down at me, the opera house was sitting there watching people and showing off....wowee. Cool! I had had a taste of the best of Sydney within an hour after setting foot on the Sydney Soil. Jet Lag? What's that? But well, I did not have the question for long. Things changed the minute I left the spot and moved toward home. :) I reached home, had a light dinner and then slept like (a log) I hadn't for 10 days. Now, I knew what Jet Lag was...

The next day was an eye-opener of sorts. I got to know the way Sydney lived, worked and enjoyed life. I got to know the difference between Indian cities and Australian cities. Thanks to my friend....

Hey, I am back to this draft after a gap of 10 days...If you still want to read the rest of it, I'll have to come back for the second part. Let me at least publish this one for now! :)


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