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'I want to leave the corporate world and take up scuba diving'

By Insiyah Vahanvaty
Last updated on: June 29, 2009 14:52 IST
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Coming from a middle-class family, born to a father who worked in a paper mill and a mother who was a teacher by profession, Shashank Pathak has come a long way, and is now the Marketing and Leasing Director of Plaza Centres, India.

Despite his successes, Shashank is a modest man who enjoys the little pleasures of life. He believes in maintaining a healthy balance between work and family, and makes an active effort to give his family the time they need.

In an interview with, he talks about his life, success mantras and advice to young professionals.

My educational background: After finishing school from the small town of Sirpur Kaghaznagar in Andhra Pradesh, I decided to get my post graduate degree in Management from Pune (Department of Management Sciences).

About my career: My first job was with Chowgule Industries Ltd. Bangalore, after which I moved to Saudi Arabia and worked for three years with a furniture retail chain called Abdulakader Furniture. When I returned to India, I suddenly found myself jobless for three months, during which time my wife worked and ran our home. After a series of jobs, both, in India and Bahrain, I was headhunted by a Bangalore-based agency, and today I am the Marketing and Leasing Director of Plaza Centres, India. Plaza Centres is a leading emerging markets developer of shopping and entertainment centers in Central East Europe. Having completed 24 projects in Europe, we are now expanding into India.

The challenges I've faced along the way: Every job had a learning curve but the most important management lesson I learned is "how to create a successful team" which has now become synonymous with me. There have been umpteen challenges and barriers I've had to overcome -- ranging from language, culture and recession to inadequate systems.

What a regular day at work looks like now: I get up very early -- by 5.45 am -- go for a walk, swim, yoga and a little bit of gardening. I reach the office by 9.15 am. I start my day with five 'blank' minutes, making notes of 'Things To Do' (TTD). Once the task list is ready, it's then distributed to the team. I never start my day looking at emails, because the laptop is like a cobweb; once you get caught in it, it only gets worse as the day progresses. Regrouping of objectives is a major task, which one needs to do day on day basis.

My scope of work includes strategic and business planning besides marketing/leasing accountability for Plaza Centers. Analysis of real estate market which results in implementation of strategic business plans is my forte. My core responsibility is Marketing and Leasing of Retail Space across Plaza centre malls.

My take on success: For every problem that I come across, I think of OPTIONS. Then I analyse each possible option keeping financial, business and humane implications in mind, rather than just profitability. I owe my success to my ability to work with my team, with quick analysis, quick decisions and faster implementations. I am a very fast planner and approver of thoroughly prepared plans. I hate delays, lethargy and a laid back attitude in life and career.

Balancing work and your personal life: I am very clear about my lifestyle. I love to live simply, with my loved ones -- my family, friends and neighbours. I still enjoy the small joys of playing with the kids, taking my dog for long walks, spending Sundays with the family, coaching my daughter on her studies and activities, and a little bit of gardening. All this helps me de-stress and truly value life. I believe in working early mornings. Time and discipline is of extreme importance in my way of life, so I ensure I finish on time in the evenings and reach home by 7 pm. Everyday, the family has dinner together, which gives all of us an opportunity to talk about our day. My wife works for an IT firm, which allows us to travel to work together in the morning and evening. If you want to make time, there's plenty of it, you just need to organise yourself.

In my free time, I read anything I can lay my hands on. Reading is like an aphrodisiac; my reading ranges from fiction, contemporary history to biographies. I am a keen scuba diver and have gone diving in many countries.

My advice to youngsters: For young people, I would say, learn to acquire a skill and practice the skill so that you are the best at it. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Always have an open mind which will help you to rise to challenges. Be ready for relocations as the job may demand, be ready to explore and work hard in new terrain, grab new opportunities and be the best. And lastly, respect humans, animals, machines, rules and regulations. Be a good human being -- you live only once.

If you've been laid off: Relax; it's not the end of the world. It's good that this happened to you early in your life. Get up, shape up, go for that yoga class, or that social service which you always wanted to do, get up again and get ready for the run. I have been out of a job a couple of times, but never even came close to depression -- there's so much to do in this world. So, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the challenges. In this period, abstain from attractions of the materialistic world and adopt healthy living practices.

My future plans: I plan to dedicate myself to the corporate world for the next six or seven years and then would like to explore diving as a profession. I have been training for professional diving for the past two years. I want to explore and venture into social fulfillment causes like working for an NGO in rural areas as a teacher, medical assistant and animal conservationist. Teaching is also one of my passions which may someday see me as a scuba diving instructor. My 13-year-old daughter is also a keen diver -- she's the youngest scuba diver in the country, certified at the age of 10.

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Insiyah Vahanvaty