Official Blog of Center10 Consulting

Oxford Women, and some men, discuss Innovation and Entrepreneurship

on Sunday, January 20, 2013
Dhaval Patel, myself, Mariya Sklyar and Lauren Weiniger flank the pennant of Balliol, my Alma Mater

It was an honor to be the launch speaker at the NY chapter of the Oxford Women's Leadership Community, under the able leadership of Mariya Sklyar and Lauren Weiniger.  

It was a diverse group, including senior pharma executives, young entrepreneurs, bankers - women and men. I was reminded that I hadn't been in the Oxford University  North America Offices in a while when I saw the tasteful offices, with the room we were in having a great view of the Empire State Building. 

A kind introduction from Dhaval Patel (VP of the NY chapter of the Oxford Business Alumni organization) set the frame of the discussion as a celebration of innovation and leadership. 

I'd gathered, during drinks, that attendees had a multiplicity of interests, and so kicked us off with a survey of the group on key questions on their minds. I'm don't capture them all here, but in essence, they spanned a spectrum as diverse as the group:

  • How does one drive innovation within a large organization? Are skunkworks still the way to go to drive results?
  • To what extend is a rich career the result of luck?
  • How do you behave in innovation-oriented ways when surrounded by those more focused on the status quo?

A review of the serendipity that has molded my life and career helped me illustrate that to some extent, we all are surrounded by those moments of sheer luck. However, it's the choices we make and chances we choose to take that drive our paths. 

Starting from the absolute serendipity of birth, with parents who opened up the encyclopedia to the Cecil Rhodes page which set off the domino effect that led to my becoming India's 100th Rhodes scholar, to having made a great friend at Oxford who passed my resume on to his friend who would go on to be my first boss... these were all steps that evolved a fun and exciting life and career for me. 

However, there is an element I can and do take ownership of - the moxie I have shown off and on as I take that leap, not ignore the article but sit down to research an imperial adventurer, chose to take a bike ride with a new student to watch an artsy movie, make a trip over to NYC to meet someone I didn't know, but turned out to be a hugely transformative thinker. 

That action-orientation has been an abiding influence in my life - and without it, no amount of serendipity would have helped!

The twists and turns of my career have helped me meet some inspiring people. Each time, understanding their priorities, and their passions and becoming part of their solutions helped open whole new avenues for me, too. 

My experience in strategy, technology and innovation were driven by my being able to meet and work with some great people and evolving plans together. So in the case of the attendee who wondered how one makes it to the next step, my guidance was based on my luck in meeting the folks on the innovation team, being able to be part of their weekly meetings, and beginning to contribute to that team helped make my transition to the team. 

It's extraordinary how some of the best organizations will welcome and evolve new spaces for those who will reach out and engage. I was lucky that way, and I wish that luck on others as well.

And finally, while I've watched skunkworks with interest, despite all the effort put into them, I believe they continue to leak innovation. I believe that innovation is best delivered by teams that are well integrated into the broader organization - and ideally, those organizations are oriented to innovation through inclusive behaviors and processes. Skunkworks struggle, peel off, and whir along as little spark plugs, rather than the great engines they could be. 

What have been your experiences with driving innovation in your organizations? Share your thoughts here.

Have an Intrinsically Rewarding Year

on Wednesday, January 16, 2013
"No  Judgement, No Accolades - Just reflect and be at peace in your practice."

That was how Magi, my yoga teacher, closed out yoga class yesterday. I have to admit it was breath-taking in its clarity. Focus on what you wish to achieve, do what is within and maybe a little beyond your capability, and take heart in the job well done. It's startling when you hear it from a very young, American yogi, but wisdom comes in a variety of packages.

It's a message I've heard a multitude of times. One of the earliest times I remember being from my coach, A.J. Jallaludin.

A rifle-shooting competition tends to have a competitor shooting between 60 to 120 shots in as many or fewer minutes. If you were to stop and exalt or stress about each shot, you'd never make it in time. Worse, you'd never have the equanimity to pay attention to the task on hand - trying to get a center shot the next time around. This requires exquisite awareness of your own body's rhythm, controlling your breath, being aware of the wind and changes in light, and ultimately freeing your subconscious to make the shot when it's the right time. Jalal-uncle, as I called him, would remind me that "the last shot is over, the next shot isn't real yet...the only shot to focus on is this one."

I realize that a rifle-shooting analogy today, on the day the President announces his gun control plan may seem odd. But let me tell you, I'm not a big one for hoarding automatic weapons... But that's another blog-post altogether.

I write about rifle shooting, because it taught me to be centered, to focusing on the essence of the work I was doing, it was Yogic at it's core.

All work can be that way. There is an intrinsic joy that comes from a job well done. The shot in the center is only an external manifestation, an indicator, of the well-done job. I remember long Sundays where I would be in the range for hours, shooting 100 rounds or more...people would come and go. It was just me, wanting to shoot another 100/100 (that's 10 shots in the center which gets you 10 points each time, they are counted up in strings of 10 shots.)

Many times in the past decade away from shooting, I have to admit I've ignored that sense of intrinsic rewards. The extrinsic often takes over - the latest paycheck, the promotion, the "likes", the biggest network, of being acknowledged as being "right." So many, many extrinsic ways to measure my worth! How could I NOT succumb?

2012 and 2013 are about my getting back to the intrinsic enjoyment of the job well done. I wish that on all of us. May we all take the time, and get the guidance to define what our value is in the world, and then let's quietly deliver on that value. It's going to be such fun!

Speaking At Oxford Alumni Association and Oxford Women's Leadership Eent

on Saturday, January 5, 2013


Coming off the heels of the successful launch of the Oxford Women's Leadership Community, we are pleased to announce that our members will form the first local chapter of the OWLC, which will be organized as an affinity group under our char­ter. We are certain that our support of this group will help to deliver quality pro­gramming and benefits to all our members, but we also wish that this support will serve as inspiration and impetus for other local OWLC groups to take root as well. Please visit to join our local OWLC chapter.


Channeling Your Inner Entrepreneur:
Achieving Entrepreneurial Potential within the Corporate World and Beyond
An interactive conversation with Roopa Unnikrishnan

Founder of Center10 Consulting, former Managing Director at BlackRock,
India's 100th Rhodes Scholar, XVI Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist
Hosts: The OWLC at Oxford Business Alumni of NY & Eastern US

Wednesday 16 January
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Wine reception will conclude the program.

Oxford University North American Office
500 5th Avenue (at 42nd Street), Floor 32
(Photo I.D. required to enter the building.)


The first 10 "very early bird" tickets will be provided at no charge and will be allo­cated on a first-come, first-serve basis. The next 15 "early bird" tickets will be sold at a subsidized cost of $5 per person.

Bring your questions and comments; active participation will be encouraged. The evening will include a facilitated networking session and conclude with a wine re­ception.

Again, every OBA member is invited to attend this premier event; we know that it will attract a very diverse crowd.

We'd especially like to thank the tireless efforts of Lauren Weiniger (Lincoln MBA 2011) and Mariya Skylar (Brasenose MBA 2009) for laying the groundwork to make this event possible. Please email me if you would like to get involved with the or­ganization of this affinity group, or if you have feedback, suggestions, or referrals