Mr Meaningful Work and Arkesh Mishra

Episode
4
July 9, 2024
42
min

Tim: What's up, everybody? It's your boy Tim, Mr. Meaning for Work. Welcome to another episode of the Humanly Podcast, where we talk about the stories, the experiences, and the nuances that are driving us towards the future of work. And I am super-duper excited to reconnect with my friend Arkesh, who I met at a conference in... is it in Atlanta, right?

Arkesh: Yeah, it was in Atlanta, yeah.

Tim: Some little place outside of Atlanta. We got to talk in the hallway, listened to his keynote, and I was just super impressed with his story. We’ll get into his origin story, but right now, Arkesh, how you doing, dude?

Arkesh: I'm good. It's a very lovely weather out here in Sunnyvale.

Tim: So, comparing it to what? Where are you coming from that this is lovely?

Arkesh: No, no, the weather is really good in general. I'm coming from Bentonville, Arkansas, and we are having spring over there, so it's pretty lovely weather.

Tim: Oh, this is a good time to be. Springtime coming into the summer. Does it get humid during summers?

Arkesh: It does get humid, yeah. In August and September.

Tim: Yeah, that’s one of the reasons I like that. I went to school in the south, I was in Huntsville, Alabama, and going back if it going to from Huntsville, visiting Nigeria is like you're just at home, like you didn't feel the difference. So anyway, we’re going to go ahead and jump into this conversation that we have with Mr. Arkesh. And in lieu of a long, illustrious bio, which my man has, I always like to ask my guests, what are you famous for? And this can be professionally, this can be in your personal life, but if somebody hears the name Arkesh, it’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s the dude that...” blank, blank, blank, blank, blank. So what are you famous for, man?

Arkesh: Okay, so... you know... ha ha ha. Let me answer that question from a professional and a personal respect. And, you know, both of them have an intersection in terms of where they come together. So, from a professional perspective, I would say, if you probably ask people around in Walmart who Arkesh is, they would say that I'm the OG design guy, OG design and the talent architecture person, the guy who built out all the competencies, skills. So now that’s what I would say my claim to fame is. I spent a lot of time within Walmart building out the skills framework and then connecting it back to the various processes around hiring, promotions, learning, and so on. Did a lot of that work for the Walmart global tech entity.

Tim: Yeah.

Arkesh: If I was to go back to my personal life and talk about what I'm famous for, I believe probably a lot of my friends would be like, “Oh, he’s a guy who went into HR.”

Tim: You went to HR? The HR guy. Kind of fell into it or went intentionally?

Arkesh: So, I think it’s a combination of both. I did my undergrad as an engineer.

Tim: Oh, okay.

Arkesh: And I was working for one of India's largest power-producing organizations for a couple of years. And then, you know, typical Indian parents, and they were like, “Your education is not complete. You need to go get your master’s.” So, I started looking around, and I applied for one of these programs at one of the best B-schools in India.

Tim: Nice.

Arkesh: And the program that I landed in was specialization in human resource management. I was like, “You know what? Let’s give it a shot. Let's see how it goes.”

Tim: So you’re kind of like an engineer by trade, but you were able to get the specialization in human resources, which some people, viewers, listeners, correct me if I'm wrong, some folks feel like that's mutually exclusive. Engineers, technical builders, and human resources, the soft side. How would you argue, being that you're both, right? And you're in the tech division of Walmart, so how do those things marry? Human resources, engineering, technology, what does that look like for you?

Arkesh: So, I would say there are three parts to it. I mean, you know, I would believe that being an engineer does add, you know, give me certain skills. I mean, I'm not saying if you're not an engineer, you don’t have them, but I look at it from a perspective of three lenses. One is the way you approach any situation from a lens of problem-solving. I see most of the situations that we come across from a lens of problem-solving, and I use a lot of systemic thinking to talk about systems-based approaches to solving a problem. So, when you start to take that lens, it reduces the discomfort you should have with the situation. But you know, you're trying to solve a problem; that becomes a lot more interesting. The second, I would say, is just given my engineering background, I guess I've been told by quite a few of my business partners that I support that it’s easier to have these conversations. Like I sit along with my tech leaders in some of these product reviews, and I remember some of my concepts from my engineering days and am able to ask questions like, “Okay, help me understand. What’s the latency around this product?”

Tim: What does the HR guy know about latency?

Arkesh: And then, you know, the third thing is when I interview candidates for leadership positions, particularly officer and above roles like VP, SVP roles, and so on, while I want to understand the leadership aspect of what the candidate brings to the table, I also focus a lot more in terms of what the tech vision is going to be. How does that translate into an operational strategy? And I ask them to explain that to me in a very technical term, in a very technical way. So, I think that surprises some candidates, but I've seen those conversations become a lot richer, and some of them really engage as you start to talk to them in their language.

Tim: Yeah.

Arkesh: So, it's a bit of an advantage for me. And I’ve taken lessons that I’ve learned in engineering from a systems-based thinking and applied them, and that’s helped me build stuff that is a lot more systems-driven and is able to connect across multiple pieces of the organization.

Tim: And another piece of managing stakeholders. Dude, as you’re telling that story, I've been watching this show on Disney Plus, X-Men 97, and it’s like a remake of the X-Men series. If anybody knows X-Men, there's a bunch of mutants and all these things. But the base of the story now is this kind of mix between mutant and machine and human and all that stuff. And as you’re telling your story, it’s like, “Man, you have these multiple powers.” Like you got the powers of engineering, you got the powers of human, and you become this... I call you a mutant. Don’t let it be said.

Arkesh: I mean, I'd love to be a mutant. Why not, you know?

Tim: But you have these powers where you’re able to understand both sides, right? You approach problems from a systems perspective, you’re able to speak the language of the engineers, you’re able to pull out technical language for the vision for senior leadership. That’s something that will knock some folks back but also gives you like, “No, we’re not messing around.” The people side, the vision side, we also got to be smart about the technology. So, yeah, man, let’s go. You’re an X-Man, dude. You are now an X-Man.

Arkesh: I mean, it’s a bit much, but I'll take your compliment.

Tim: Yeah, yeah. So, you guys may have caught it, right? He works, he serves as a leader for HR for US Tech, right? Is that the term? Is it Walmart US Tech?

Arkesh: Yeah.

Tim: So, anybody, when you get as big as Walmart, right, you forget that there are also a lot of other divisions and different things that happen within this conglomerate, right? Walmart, I think, at last was valued at almost half a trillion dollars, right? Huge organization, millions, I think it’s like 2 million employees across the world.

Arkesh: Yep.

Tim: You know, 1.6 or so here in the United States. And so you have this huge organization. So, help folks walk through, what does that mean? Walmart US Tech. Is it when you walk into a Walmart, is it the location? Is it the... like, what does that mean?

Arkesh: So, the way I would explain this is, we’ve got three business segments. So, there is the Walmart US retail business, which is where you’d see our supercenters, the Walmart.com site, the neighborhood markets.

Tim: Clubs and all that?

Arkesh: No, no, that’s separate.

Tim: That’s separate.

Arkesh: So, this is the supercenters, the dot com, the neighborhood markets, the Walmart Go fuel stations, and all of that stuff. So, that’s the Walmart US retail business. Then we've got the Sam’s Club, which is the clubs. That’s where we sell a lot of merchandise from. And then we’ve got international business, which is our presence in China, India

, South Africa, Mexico, Chile, Canada, and Central America. So, when you look at all of these three business segments, there are tech organizations that power each of these three business segments. So, the people team that I lead is essentially the people team that supports the tech organization that powers Walmart US, which is our biggest business segment.

Tim: Yeah, okay.

Arkesh: So, it’s powering the business here in the US.

Tim: Wow. And how long have you been doing that?

Arkesh: Well, I think it's been around 15 to 16 months now.

Tim: 15 to 16 months. And is it everything that you imagined? Has there been some changes? Has there been some... I’m sure, I mean, everybody goes back to BC, before COVID, and AC, after COVID. Has there been anything that you saw significantly change in the business given those timelines?

Arkesh: I mean, you know, Tim, I have done multiple roles throughout my career. So, I mean, this will sound so cliché, but you know, I sort of expect to be surprised, and that sort of takes down the surprise element a little bit. If I was to say, this is my third role at Walmart. So, I started off with design and talent architecture, you know, led that team for a number of years, and then I moved into a strategy and programs role, chief of staff of sorts, and ran programs at scale. And then this is my third role. Now, from a surprise element perspective, as I was telling you earlier, just given my background in consulting and then running a CoE, a global CoE, and then running programs, I feel that I was able to understand the breadth of the people programs that we offered to our associates. A 360-degree view of that. I was also able to, because of my program's experience, understand the extent of deployment, and that breadth and depth were covered to a large extent. But I believe the thing that’s interesting as you get into a people partner role or start to play that role across a large section of associates is the human element that gets pulled into almost every decision-making.

Tim: Yeah.

Arkesh: The empathy with our associates when you're making that decision. The balance between the business need and the associate need. Being able to just hear that fine line. So, that has been a learning for me.

Tim: Yeah, as you actually touch on something that I really appreciate, which is that conversation about empathy. Empathy is hard in and of itself. It comes a little easier when it's one-on-one and close in the relationships, but when you're supporting almost 2 million associates across the US or across the world, deploying empathy might be hard, right? It might be tough, especially when you start getting into leadership positions, and you're responsible for driving results through other people. But being as big as you are, a lot of folks look to you as the example, right? You guys set the tone. The things that you do, folks are gonna follow. So, first of all, kind of talk to us a little bit about the state of the industry. Why are we talking about retail and the associates that support that industry, and what are some of those kind of best practices, those things that folks can look to? Empathy being one, and being able to deploy those learning and development systems for that huge workforce.

Arkesh: That’s a really good question, Tim. So, I’ll talk about three things. I’ll talk about some of the things that are like pertaining to Walmart, and then I’ll talk about the industry in general, like the HR industry in general. So, when you look at Walmart, one of the things, in order to your questions, in terms of how do we look at our associates, how do we support them in the best possible way? One of the core values to us is respect for individuals. When we look at our associates, we try to understand what their needs are and create programs that deliver to their needs. For example, we’ve got learning programs where we enable our associates to go and enhance their learnings. Very recently, we took off college degrees from a lot of our jobs to increase the candidate pool, to improve access, and to expand the candidate pool. So, we've been constantly trying to understand how do we help. I mean, while we want our customers to save money and live better, at the same time, we also want our associates to live well and enrich their lives, have meaningful careers. So, while I support the segment that I support, which is the tech segment and these are tech associates, but if I were to talk about Walmart in general, the culture is such where we try and understand the associate needs, try and understand the cross scale, what are the emerging needs, and then you would see those changes happen, which get reported in the news. For example, the example I gave you around the college degrees. What we are trying to do is we are trying to actively move to a skills-based approach where if we understand the skills that are required for a job, irrespective of how you've earned those skills, if you can demonstrate those skills, we would like to consider you for a role and eventually an employee if you clear all the rounds. So, that's just an example of how we are trying to be more associate-centric and move towards helping our associates build meaningful careers.

Tim: That’s beautiful. You mentioned, you dropped in there, the logo or the catchphrase that everybody knows, right? Save money, was it live better?

Arkesh: Save money, live better.

Tim: Save money, live better, right? Which is something that is generally understood from a customer perspective, but you're able to put that on the associates as well. As much as we want to add value to the customer population, we need to be focused and intentional on our associate population as well, and thereby increasing access, thereby enriching their lives. Oftentimes, it's almost the same thing. Sometimes your associates are your customers, right? When you think about it from that perspective, there shouldn't be any lines of difference between, “Hey, what we're doing for them versus what we're doing internally.”

Arkesh: Yeah, I mean, when you look at it, the approach—I'll give another example, and that sort of segues into the state of the industry. If you look at a lot of AI-led innovation that’s happening in the market today, a lot of innovation is around how do I improve search results, how do I give more meaningful outcomes to my customers or improve outcomes for the customers. So, we said, okay, if that's the lens we're using for our customers, how can we turn it around and say, how can we help our associates? Towards that, a couple of things that we have done, we have introduced an internal bot, which is similar to ChatGPT, of course in a more secure and closed environment, where our associates can go in and start interacting with the bot. Let's say you want to have a conversation with regards to goal setting, pointers. So, this bot can help you with that. You want to have a year-end conversation, you want to talk about how do I lead with empathy in this conversation, all that. This bot should be able to help you with that. This is essentially our own version of ChatGPT that associates can use internally. That’s one example. The other example is we’ve introduced something called My Assistant. This My Assistant is where we are trying to automate a lot of these processes that would have taken time otherwise. I’ll give an example of that, and I personally used it, so I really like it. Before, for me to post a requisition, it would take me some time. I need to figure out the fields, the values for these fields, like how many hours does an associate work, standard values. But I have to go through the motions to open a requisition. However, with the introduction of the My Hiring module in My Assistant, opening a requisition is almost magical. It takes me like five seconds. So, all I need to do is look at my team, figure out which role I would open, and even if it's not in my team right now, pick up the role, click on it, and it's supposed, that's it. Everything in the background is automated. Imagine the amount of time you'll be able to save for the users, the managers, similar process for associates.

Tim: That was gonna be my next thing. That magic that happens, what would have normally taken you 30 minutes, an hour, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, it’s magical. Five seconds. What does that now open you up as a leader to focus on?

Arkesh: I can focus the time on other things. If I want to have a career conversation, I can have more career conversations. I can be more involved in certain activities that I was probably not able to do before.

Tim: Wow, that is awesome. What would you say, because I know a lot of folks, AI is the big buzzword. Everybody's trying to incorporate or create or leverage AI. Some folks are resisting it, saying it’s gonna take our jobs, and making sure that you're integrating it properly. What would you say has been the adoption? What has been the reception of some of these tools? You mentioned a couple and some of their benefits, but in real life, what has that adoption been like?

Arkesh: It’s been pretty widely adopted across, and I don’t have the numbers on the top of my mind, but people have been widely using these tools, particularly the ChatGPT bot that I talked about, My Assistant, and some of these automations that we're bringing in. The reason I know that people have been using them widely is because I hear

managers and associates talk about it. They've been talking about how it helped them save time. Similar stories, the one that I shared with you. Lots of people are welcoming these tools in the organization.

Tim: That’s good. The more acceptance—and something you might have missed is he said he uses it as well. You have that adoption from leadership, who can then give personal experience and personal stories of, “No, this is not just something we're asking you to do. This is something that we also find benefit in.” What would you say, if we're looking at the state of the industry in HR and in talent acquisition and all of these things, as we are moving into— a lot of folks are saying 2024 is kind of that year where most of the COVID stuff is behind us, whether it was support or aid or all those things around that, and we're moving into this new post-COVID era. What would you say are some things that you are looking forward to from an industry perspective that you are trying to bring to whether it’s the tech associates or the tech support group into that future? What does that new future look like for you?

Arkesh: That’s a great question. I would say three things. Let me talk about it and then I’ll get into a little bit more detail. I would say the first thing is, we have been talking about skills. We’ve been talking about what are these competencies, skills, and so on. When you look at the genesis of skills, it comes from the way your strategy is defined, what does that mean, where the work gets done, and then as a result, what the skills are. For us to be able to get to a point where we understand how AI impacts our skills, we need to get deeper into how AI impacts the way work gets done. So, you gotta go to that click-up. Goal cascading to how it’s done, going to skills, then we get this AI is gonna impact this, so we gotta see how it affects the work. We, as people professionals, HR professionals, I think one of the things that we will need to spend a lot more time on in 2024 and even subsequent years going forward is understanding how AI impacts the way work gets done, and then be able to define or redefine the skills. For example, think about it this way: a developer today builds software. A developer spends time understanding the requirements, writing the code, looking at the architecture, testing it, debugging it, and so on. However, if I were to bring in AI, I need to understand where does the developer actually start to use AI tools. Because if you were to look at the way we’d work, I’ll not use AI everywhere. I’ll probably use AI in places where it reduces transactional work or gives me a huge amount of saving in terms of time, what improves the quality of work, and so on. So, if I were to draw a two-by-two and say where I save the most amount of time, where the quality of work goes up significantly, those are the areas where we would see the entire impact of AI coming in and hitting across jobs. The first thing I would say in the state of the industry is being able to understand how AI impacts work and then be able to redefine skills. That’s one. Second, I would say in general, our ability, and this is not related to HR, but in general, where I believe the industry is starting to move—and I've seen this happen at Walmart, particularly in global tech—when we connected skills to hiring, promotions, learning, and rewards, the entire concept of an integrated talent management system where we’re able to drive it through a common currency of skills is gonna be more and more important. Skills are a common currency through which you hire. Skills are a common currency through which you promote. One of the biggest things in our learning is we need to make learning not just relevant for a particular job family but relevant to the level of the job that we're talking about. Let’s say you're a software engineer and you want to become a senior software engineer. How do you know which particular learnings you need to go through? What are those experiences you need to get? Can we connect skills to that? I've seen this play out for our tech associates at the moment, and we’re doing that at scale for our other associates at Walmart as well. But I would say that’s where the second focus area is gonna be, and this is going to catch on a lot more steam going forward. The third thing, to our point which we talked earlier, is a lot of emphasis around well-being and belonging. It started with COVID, and there are multiple things that happened at that point of time. We as humans became a lot more conscious of well-being and belonging. I'm using the term belonging more particularly because belonging is a lot more inclusive.

Tim: Exactly.

Arkesh: So, I would say as we move into the AC, after-COVID era, our ability to continue to maintain our sights on well-being and belonging as key pillars of the human experience is going to be important. So, these would be the three things I would see the industry focusing on moving forward.

Tim: I don’t know if you guys noticed it, but Arkesh has a very—you can tell he’s a developer because every answer comes in threes. He's already thought about it, categorizes it, gives the explanation in the context, and then gives those points. That is literally the manifestation, the demonstration of what he was talking about before as far as that superpower, being able to attack it from a systems, kind of a process standpoint. He does it in real life, just naturally. I just noticed that. It's very methodical, but that was good. What I took away from that is the impact of AI on how work is done will then determine the skills that are needed. I’m thinking some of the most ubiquitous uses of AI right now are like writing, marketing, making copy and things like that. You think about how does a writer go through the process and what would you want to train. I know for me, when I'm using ChatGPT, it's usually at that brainstorming phase. I'm thinking of ideas, trying to pull converging forces and articulate it in a way. It's not necessarily about putting the right grammar or having the story flow; that's not the skill. But it’s the brainstorming. How do I think about bringing these things into a system format? So, I like how you said AI is gonna affect it, but we need to see how the work is done and then figure out the skills there.

Arkesh: I'll give you a couple of examples, and I've been thinking about this. The way AI will start to benefit—and I'll use the word benefit because I truly believe AI benefits humanity. The way it will start to benefit associates across levels is going to be different. For example, someone fresh out of college is probably going to leverage AI to learn. Someone who has a little bit more experience, like the example you gave, is probably going to use AI to validate or augment. Then someone who has more experience is probably going to use AI to review. Think about it this way: there was a beautiful video out there about how, I believe it was DeepMind, developed an AI bot that essentially beat the world’s best Go player. In that, what happened is AI did end up learning from various Go players. Go is a very difficult game. I don’t personally play, but what I understood from the video is it’s a very difficult game with millions and millions of alternatives. When the AI bot started playing with the world’s best Go player, I believe out of the five games, the world’s best player maybe won one of them. What he came back and said is some of those moves AI made were inhuman. You would never expect someone to do that. His game went up. So, I believe that the more we interact with AI, we’ll start to know things we didn’t know we didn’t know about.

Tim: The Johari window, the dark triad, right?

Arkesh: Sorry, the dark quadrant, right? Stuff that you don't know that you don’t know. I feel it's gonna help us uncover a lot around that area.

Tim: Wow. We get better because AI is better. I think it's a mutual learning process.

Arkesh: It’s a mutual process.

Tim: The thing I want us to talk about now, you talked about well-being, which I appreciate, because I also want to speak to the right performance, right? Performance management. How do you make sure that your folks are doing well? In my experience, well people do well. Folks that feel like they belong, folks that feel like their opinion matters, folks that feel that their organization supports them as a human, not just a worker or an associate. Stuff that you do on the eight or twelve or whatever hours that you're doing here, but what are the different ways, the different factors that are influencing your life, and how can we be supportive or celebrate or what have you? From a tech standpoint, you mentioned well-being as a focus for the future, both how AI is gonna affect how work is done, skills being the currency for everything, for development, and being more intentional about that, and then well-being, right? How to be more intentional about that. What are some things that organizations can be thinking about, if it’s one or two simple interventions that will help their people feel like they belong, like they can be well so they can do well? What has worked for you in your experience? What advice would you give to folks in that space?

Arkesh: So, I’d segment this into two parts.

Tim: Your side, your side.

Arkesh: One, I would say, is the book of benefits that most organizations provide. You can go out there

and benchmark and you’ll be able to get that. I would say, in that particular segment, a lot more emphasis has been on mental well-being. Our ability to recognize the fact that people can get tired, fatigued, and need support. I feel the welcome change around seeking out a counselor, seeking out a coach. That has been a welcome change, and I see a lot of organizations supporting that. Even Walmart supports that. You wanna use one of our benefits where people can reach out, get a coach, a counselor, talk to them, and so on. I would say that continued focus on well-being through the mental well-being piece of it, along with everything else—the physical well-being, the emotional well-being, and so on—is important. The second piece is a slightly longer connection, so bear with me for a minute. I feel a lot of experience that we have in our jobs is driven by the managers we work for. One of the things that I've been trying to emphasize across the organization I support is, how do we—and this is what we have been also trying to drive for all of global tech and corporate functions—how do we enable the managers to have more enriching performance conversations, career conversations, lead people better, and become better leaders? Well-being also gets impacted a lot by that, and our ability to help build managers' abilities, their leadership skills, their ability to understand where the other person is coming from, and then enable them for success. That’s the other piece I would say is important from a well-being perspective.

Tim: Wow. I love that it’s a very holistic approach. You have support for the associates, making sure that in addition to all the perks and benefits that can enrich their lives and help them do what they need to do, you're also looking at the emotional, psychological support and coaching and all that stuff. But the leaders, right? Leaders have a huge impact on how employees experience the work that they do. If we focus on giving the leaders what they need, because it's draining, right? As a leader, if you don't know how to have a critical conversation, if you don't know how to coach for performance, if you don't know how to do all of these things, that's energy-draining, and that drains your well-being as a leader as well. When you feel like you have the tools, when you feel like you're empowered, there is a feeling of reciprocation where, when the employee feels elevated, you also feel elevated. That energy is transitioned there. That’s good. You guys are doing a lot of good things in the work supporting US tech. So, last thing, we’ll just kind of close out here. One of the original iterations of the Humanly Podcast was exploring what's humanly possible. There’s a lot of technology influence that is taking away some of the more utilitarian skills and activities. It’s like, okay, what do we explore? What humans can do, what they can evolve into, what they can produce and contribute to the world. I’ll leave it with you to just kind of share with us, what is an experience that you have had, whether it was a leader that you had or an employee or an associate, somebody that really unlocked for you what was humanly possible? Maybe you hadn't seen it or experienced it before, but because of that connection or interaction, something was unlocked for you. Do you have a story like that?

Arkesh: I have so many stories, so many. So, let me talk about two stories. Both of them are coming from different perspectives. One is for a leader that I’ve worked with, and the other is for someone who’s on my team. I’ve learned from both of them. So, for the leader that I've worked with, she was one of my previous managers. While I pride myself on being a systems-based thinker, being able to parse out things and problem-solve, I think one of the things that I learned from her was the ability to create a solution and adapt quickly. What happens a lot of times is there's a lot of new information that keeps coming to us, and we are then in a position where we need to make a decision. Do we stick to what we built, or do we go ahead and adapt because there is new information coming? When you’re looking at that from a strategy perspective at 40,000 feet, that means a lot of execution goes down below. So, that strategic agility is a very difficult strength to build.

Tim: Strategic agility. That's a new one. I’m gonna write that down somewhere.

Arkesh: At 40,000 feet.

Tim: At 40,000 feet.

Arkesh: Yeah.

Tim: Air's thin up there.

Arkesh: I know. So, I would say that strategic agility piece, being able to foresee a lot of these things, then being able to rebalance and reprioritize. That’s something I learned. I worked very closely with her for almost two years, and that’s a skill that’s been very handy for me because it does two things for you. One, it keeps you nimble. When surprises come at you, you're not truly that surprised because you're prepared for solving those problems. Second, it also makes the solution a lot more acceptable to the stakeholders because the guiding principles, the first principles, need to be consistent. They can't be changing. But at the same time, the plan we built out, that needs to be—the strategy might shift and the record might shift. Being prepared for it, being able to socialize it, being able to operationalize that is important. So, that’s something that I’ve learned.

Tim: That is a key skill.

Arkesh: The second thing I'll talk to you about is someone who’s worked with me for a number of years. What happens is—I mean, we should do another podcast about feedback. I think I've gone through an entire experience in terms of taking feedback, giving feedback, and so on. I think what happens is we seek feedback, but at the same time, we’re all also humans. We want the feedback to be given in a way where we can receive it. We're very receptive towards it. Working with this person on my team, she helped me understand how I was more receptive to feedback when it was coming from someone on the team. It’s easy to—you don’t have an option when you get feedback from someone you’re reporting to, like it or not, or it’s a senior stakeholder. It’s top-down. But when you're getting bottom-up feedback, just being able to understand how you’re receptive to it. You could listen to it, but whether you're receptive to it or not, only you know about it. By understanding how I was receptive to feedback, I was able to share that with others. So now, when I get feedback about me from someone in my team, someone who does not have a power distance from a vertical upward perspective, I’m more receptive to it. I'm able to act on it. I'm able to create that psychologically safe environment across. That was a big learning for me.

Tim: That’s good. It's like you unblocked yourself or opened yourself to open those channels to receive that feedback. You have to be open to get the feedback to open up. It’s the whole thing. That takes a lot of self-awareness, a lot of vulnerability, a lot of transparency. I've had similar stuff in my team where I’d ask—they weren't giving it to me because “Tim is this and that,” all positive things, but it was hard for them to give critical, constructive feedback. I had my one-up talk to my people to ask, “Hey, what can Tim do?” One of the feedbacks they gave that really helped unlocked is, “Tim is always at 100%, and sometimes we’re okay. We need him at 80%. We don’t have to be all the way up here all the time.” My default is like rah-rah, like hey, hey, hey, but somebody might just be chilling at a 50. It's like, okay, I don't know if I'm gonna come all the way down to a 50, but I need to be aware of where they are and kind of meet them where they are and not overpower with that. That allowed me to connect with some folks that I probably wouldn’t have been able to connect with unless I had received that. That’s powerful. That’s unlocking what’s humanly possible. Now you have that strategic agility at 40,000 feet, and you've opened yourself to more feedback from both the top and those that are in your scope of work.

Tim: Well, man, like you said, we might have to do a whole separate side episode on just feedback and the benefits and things from that. But for our time now, is there anything that you would like to let folks know? HR professionals, talent acquisition folks, folks in this industry, if they walk away with something from listening to Arkesh and they have a soundbite, what would that be for them?

Arkesh: A little bit of a picture. I would say, going back to the first point I made around the state of the industry, which is understanding how our skills of the future are going to get defined, particularly in the light of AI, is going to be hugely impactful around the entire associate lifecycle. So, that’s going to be important.

Tim: Look at the future.

Arkesh: Look at the future and see how that future of work is gonna be impacted, and then reverse engineer that to figure out what you have to do today to be ready for that. So, we're gonna wrap it up. Arkesh, I really, really appreciate you coming out. I'm glad we were able to connect in person here in sunny California. If you guys have any questions, we’ll drop the information on where to find him on LinkedIn. He speaks a lot

on a lot of the topics that we talked about, and so you can hear some of his wisdom through his channels there. But we appreciate everybody. Thank you so much for stopping by on this Humanly Podcast. We’ll catch you on the next one.

Arkesh: I just want to thank you for having me. Great questions. Loved the segment.

Tim: Thanks so much, dude. I appreciate it.

Arkesh: My pleasure.

Tim: Alright, everybody. We’ll talk to you on the next one. Peace.

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