Author Interview "Uma Vanka"
Uma Vanka, “Can Make You A Rockstar”
If you’re on the brink of starting your career, transitioning within your career, or if you’re pivoting from the pandemic, Uma Vanka’s new book, “I Am A Rockstar”; an expert guide to success, gives you the tools you need to make the leap -- and produce results. A digital transformation leader, IT entrepreneur and partner at TCS America, Uma has helped transform IT organizations into competitive market drivers. An avid traveler, his motivation to write the book came from his passion for entrepreneurship which took him to remote places in Peru and India where he learned how to keep a positive attitude despite anxiety-provoking and challenging circumstances; he also mastered how to keep his teams motivated while taking products forward despite consistent rejection – these experiences taught him what real leadership is.
“I Am A Rockstar” outlines Uma’s method in a 3-step plan: Locate success, Fuel your ride, Drive to success. Readers will also learn the two principles that drive success which are to believe in yourself and understand that life is colorful when seen in black and white. There is definitely much to learn from Uma and his writing is both candid and refreshing. His gift is teaching people to make the right decisions, develop the right attitude, and acquire the tools they need as they master the art and science of success.
What prompted you to write ‘I Am A Rockstar’?
While I wanted to share my perspective on life and all the lessons I learned in my life for a while now, the real motivation came three years ago when I took a year break from my high salaried and a comfortable full-time job to pursue my passion for entrepreneurship. I learned so many things I never knew in life, and I experienced so many new and unique situations during that one year. I have been to remote places in Peru and India with limited water and electricity in contrast to major cities in the world I was traveling to during my full-time job. I slept in huts without even a fan, let alone air-conditioning compared to 5-star hotels I was used to staying in during my full-time job.
All the constant rejections I was receiving from potential clients taught me what persistence means. The amount of work I had to do just to sign a $300 deal while I was used to signing over $30M USD contracts by presenting in air-conditioned conference rooms and eating fancy dinners with customers taught me what hard work is. The constant anxiety of not knowing what tomorrow is going to look like taught me how to keep a positive attitude. Keeping the team motivated to take the product forward despite several initial rejections taught me what real leadership is. Selling a new concept through an unknown company name taught me real branding, negotiation, and presentation skills. I came out completely transformed on the other side of this, and that was the final push to write a book and tell the world what I learned.
How does your background in IT and business tie into the book?
I help organizations use Information Technology to transform their businesses and maximize value. I help my customers come up with their transformation vision, and I deploy teams to turn their vision into reality. This requires effective communication, extensive negotiation, and strong leadership, all of which I covered in my book. In addition, defining vision for my customers (their success) and getting them buckled up ready to travel the distance to their success needs a broader perspective and the right mindset, all of which I cover in my book as well.
Can you elaborate on your message, ‘Life is colorful when seen in black and white’?
It merely means, look at your life in a straightforward way. Don’t try and overcomplicate decisions with all shades of greys. Instead, find the black side, find the white side, and decide on one. Once you’ve decided, follow through with it and stick it out. Do not play hopscotch between the two areas, as it will just lead to confusion and annoyance.
What did you learn while writing the book?
Although they are all my experiences, the compilation and organization of all my lessons in one place provided a holistic view that further transformed me into a better leader and a more positive individual.
Determination & persistence. Books take a long time to complete, and it’s easy to give up. I learned to keep the eyes on the prize and complete this passion project no matter what.
Tell us about what kind of skills people can learn from reading the book for their careers and their lives in general?
“I am a Rockstar” is a guide to success. Success is a 3-step process.
Locate Success: The first and most crucial step to success is to ‘locate’ success. We often define success inaccurately and chase the wrong things in life. For example, releasing a lot of paintings may not make an artist successful. Working hard for a small pay hike or a promotion may not make an employee successful if his goal is to buy a house. Spending all the efforts to maximize traffic to one blog may not make a blogger successful. Focusing on increasing patient count may not make a doctor successful if her goal is to become a thought leader. The correct definition requires a mature view, the right mindset, and the analysis of relevant data. It’s a combination of art and science.
Fuel the ride: We need a vehicle that you can drive us to our destination. Our core skills, such as artistic skill, photography, construction, engineering, or medical, is that vehicle. However, our vehicle needs fuel. It needs the right type and right amount of fuel. That fuel is our attitude and personality to face challenges and to convert our weaknesses into strengths. It is an art, for the most part.
Drive to success: There may be multiple paths to reach our destination, i.e., success. We not only need to find the best path that leads us to success faster, but we also need guidance through our drive to overcome hurdles such as traffic and road closures. The GPS comes in the form of essential ‘life skills’ such as leadership, communication, negotiation, presentation, branding, etc. This is science.
Several success-related works of literature focus on ‘fueling the ride,’ i.e., development of a positive attitude, but they lack further guidance. “I am a Rockstar” helps readers make the right decisions, develop the right attitude to reach their decisions, and, most importantly, gives them the tools they need in their toolbox to safely reach success.
What’s the main message you want readers to take away from the book?
We are all Rockstars. If we believe we can do it, we can do it. The word ‘failure’ doesn’t belong to the dictionary. We should collectively work to replace the word failure with FALLure, meaning we fall, we learn from the fall, get up, and keep moving towards success.
How do you feel this book can help people during the pandemic crisis?
Other than the unfortunate families that got impacted due to the health crisis this pandemic has caused, a lot of people see this pandemic as a catastrophe. It’s possible to see this as an opportunity. I provide some great techniques to deal with ‘perceived’ setbacks in life, such as this pandemic, and turn them into opportunities. For example, what is the worst case? Are we stuck at home? If you think about it, why is it a bad thing? We get time to do a lot of things we never had time to do, such as writing this book for me. Did I lose my job? Every closed door opens another door. I will look for that door. At a minimum, I will utilize the time to beef up my resume to come out stronger on the other side of it, as long as my basic necessities are taken care of (for which the government is providing some support). This ties back to accurately defining my success. All the uncertainty around what’s going to happen tomorrow – let’s focus on doing everything right today, and let’s cross that bridge when we get there. It all goes back to attitude.
You have travelled extensively throughout the world, I imagine that has had a major effect on your vision and on this book, can you elaborate?
Yes. My travels to over 50 countries gave me exposure to various cultures and behavior, which broadened the scope of all the techniques I provide in this book to make sure they go beyond all the cultural, geographic, and behavioral barriers. I also witnessed how leadership impacts the prosperity and well-being of citizens, which contributed to the new ‘Nuclear Leadership Style’ I unveiled in this book.
What other projects are you working on?
Currently, I am working on “I am a little Rockstar” for kids first grade and up because the earlier we instill the principles this book teaches, the more effective they are. My 7-year-old twins are co-authoring with me. I have plans to release “I am a tiny Rockstar” for kids five and below and “I am a teeny Rockstar” for teenagers in the future.
For more information and to purchase the book, go to: http://www.umavanka.com/ .