When we climb mountains, we take brief pauses to recover our breath and rest. We turn our backs to the mountain and look down at the scenery below as our eyes trace the paths we took to reach where we are now.
I have climbed several peaks, literally and metaphorically, in my career roadmap, and donned several hats. In the Indian Army, besides combat leadership roles, I served as an infantry Colonel. The highlights of my time in the army include being Director of media and spokesperson for the army; faculty in military training institutions and a diplomatic assignment with the United Nations as military observer in Iraq-Kuwait after the first Gulf War.
In the academic arena, I earned my Master’s, M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Organizational Communication and was a Fulbright Doctoral Fellow at Texas A&M University. I continue as a professor teaching in business schools and management institutions. In the corporate world, I managed reputation and crisis for large Indian conglomerates and trained corporate communicators. Speaking at international conferences and writing articles went alongside these roles.
Currently, I am an independent strategic communication consultant and focusing on writing my second book about the responsible role that corporations ought to play in an age when environmental, social and governance issues forcefully confront humanity.
These diverse experiences are weaved together by the thread of communication as the force that made me succeed in all my endeavors in the communication field. I think it is vital to align perseverance with human inclination and build on your strengths to construct your own unique roadmap.
Looking back at my life’s journey, I remember as a small kid, I would compete with family members to be first to read the morning newspapers flung at our doorstep. Newspapers became a window to the external world as I learned of life faster than my years. My military career started at the age of 11 when I joined a unique military school in India that was founded in 1922 by the Prince of Wales, who, while laying the foundation of that school, stated, “It is the first few blows on the anvil of life that gives the human weapon the set and temper that carries him through life’s battles.” Over the years, the tough military training systematized my thinking, but I ensured that my soft, creative side would remain rich and fertile. I nurtured my intellect with knowledge beyond the military domain even as I excelled in fulfilling the military requirements.
In the army, when leading men in combat, I learned that clear and concise leadership communication is central and critical for success. Training and combat experience builds resilience, sharpens reflexes in both thought and action, and makes you see the world in better perspective. My stint with the United Nations required superior tact, diplomacy and negotiation skills, as well.
There are many transferable skills one learns in the military besides being focused and determined to get the job done. We are very clear about our goals and objectives. Developing a shared and common understanding in the entire military machine about the intention and mission requires precise communication. To avoid distortion, adequate redundancy is built in channels of communication. Situational awareness is important for all, which means knowing the big picture, because that can help soldiers and employees adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Information networks allow dissemination as well as gathering information about ground realities and obtaining continuous feedback in order to correct or modify on-going plans. Emerging communication needs are addressed instantly. Communication must be fast-moving in a well-connected network so decisions can be made on the basis of a shared context.
The Fulbright Doctoral Fellowship in Organizational Communication became a turning point in my career, as it catalyzed the change from my circular orbital plane in a cloistered military environment to an elliptical plane in the professional communication space, offering several learning curve explorations. Such a reinventing maneuver was risky for career and financial stability, particularly since I was well poised for more growth in my military career, but I chose oscillation to ascension. In following my heart for communication, I was prepared for disruption in my 28th year of military service and boldly chose to write a different story. It had been my childhood aspiration to live two lives in one.
I owe my professional development in the communication domain to IABC. Having switched careers from the military to academic to corporate and then consultancy, IABC has been a strong anchor throughout. I have learned a lot from admirable seniors, competent peers and rich friendships built across the globe through IABC.
A career may never turn out according to a blueprint; it can be a splendid collage of experiences. We learn and evolve through experiences. One ought to make oneself worthy of each role that one is given. Every experience is a pearl that must be finely polished so that in the end, the string forms a beautiful necklace.
Dr. (Col.) Rajeev Kumar, ABC, IABC Fellow
In a career spanning roles as a Colonel in the army, a Ph.D. in organizational communication (Fulbright Fellow) and professor in a business school, a communication consultant, teacher and trainer, Rajeev Kumar is an author and recognized speaker with a unique and significant profile. Kumar has a strong commitment to the profession and IABC, demonstrated through local, regional and international leadership roles. Steadfastly upholding the IABC values, he is a brand ambassador for the association in all aspects of his professional life.