Ronnie Screwvala makes the case for the right mindset and soft skills to excel at the workplace of the future

Delivering the keynote address on Day 2 of TechSparks 2021, upGrad Founder Ronnie Screwvala outlines how lifelong learning, the right mindset, and non-linear thinking can prepare us for the 'careers of tomorrow'.
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Ronnie Screwvala, one of the most well-known faces in the Indian startup ecosystem, strongly believes that technology has accelerated learning and development of the careers of tomorrow.

Delivering the keynote on Day 2 of TechSparks 2021, India’s largest and most influential startup-tech conference, he spoke about the “dynamics of fast-forward careers with online learning” and provided key learnings on the workplaces of the future and the skills that people who needed to excel in them would need.

Ronnie said, “If you are not going take relevant risk in every decision you take, you are going to be really left behind.”

Serial entrepreneur Ronnie founded the UTV Group in 1990 and grew it into a media conglomerate. Later, he turned into a private equity investor and started Unilazer Ventures, which predominantly invests in Indian startups with early-stage investment.

Now Co-founder and Chairperson of edtech startup upGrad, and Founder Trustee of NGO Swades Foundation, Ronnie is a big proponent of non-linear thinking where the key premise is that past precedents do not necessarily act as a guide for the future.

Future-relevant skills

Ronnie dwelt on various aspects of "tomorrow", focusing on career, learning, workplace, and mindsets.

On the career of tomorrow, he highlighted how upGrad pre-empts skills that are relevant for the future based on the data it gets.

“We need to be five steps ahead. If you are not pre-empting trends, there is a possibility of opportunity slipping,” Ronnie said.

He cautioned that one cannot only rely on empirical evidence to come to a conclusion as one has to seize the moment. He also emphasised the importance of the element of storytelling.

On the learning of tomorrow, Ronnie said many changes are happening on this front and learning is now going to be a lifelong activity.

“The learning of tomorrow is not about content; it is peer-to-peer learning that is going to make a big difference,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated certain changes at the workplace and the tomorrow that is coming "will be lot more demanding". “There will be the expectation to be both - a generalist and specialist,” the serial entrepreneur said.

Why the mindset matters

Speaking about all the likely and lasting changes, he focused on the mindset of individuals and the role it will play in their development. He said he always looked at people who are "good at finding problems" and "how they go about solving them".

“The element of mindset is going to make all the difference,” Ronnie said.

Along with this, another thing matters: soft skills.

Ronnie highlighted that India's formal education system does not necessarily impart these valuable skills, adding that the key differentiator for many individuals to flourish "tomorrow" will be the number of soft skills they possess.

“Today, unless you have three to four soft skills, you are not going to progress in the workplace,” he said.

He cited his own example, revealing that despite coming from a lower middle-class background he made a success of his career largely by acquiring certain soft skills.

“The future will not be about crystal ball-gazing; it involves the will to make things happen through clarity of thought and execution,” Ronnie said.


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Edited by Teja Lele Desai