Candid Interview with the alumnus of the batch 2014-16 Pratik Deshpande

Pratik Deshpande
  1. Can you briefly describe your career journey?

It has been a topsy-turvy ride so far. That’s how consulting is by nature, dynamic and that’s what excites me as well about my job. The constant battle with challenges that each project brings with it and many times you are driving into unknown and you just have to put your blinkers on and find a path to the destination. That is the most intriguing part of my job.

On the professional front, I am currently associated with EY UK based out of Edinburgh as a Senior Consultant. I have more than four years of experience in providing IT assurance services to clients across various sectors with expertise in audit support, SSAE 18/ISAE 3402, and SOX reviews. Previously, I was part of the IT Advisory-Risk Consulting Practice of KPMG India from April 2016-2020. I think it is always important not to forget your roots and I am very grateful to KPMG India for providing me the stepping stones in my career. During my tenure at KPMG, I have managed to clear CISA, CISSP and CISM as well. So, I am quite content with where I am, in terms of my career thanks to the blessings of Lord Shiva, Lord Hanuman, and Lord Ganesha. I am a devout bhakta of Lord Shiva, Lord Hanuman and Lord Ganesha. Yes, I harbor certain ambitions, but I am mindful of the fact that 2020 is the year of survival. So it is important to stay in the present and take one step at a time.

On the personal front as well, If someone had told me that by the age of 28 you would have published 2 books and you will be awarded a place in the Limca Book of records, I would have grabbed it with both hands, without a smirk. So no complaints at all. I am quite content with what I have achieved and where I am.

2. How has the curriculum at SCIT helped you in the corporate world?

Our curriculum is a nice blend of business-oriented and technical subjects. Essentially, some of the subjects like Database security, IT Audit, Network Security certainly give SCITians an edge over others as we are already accustomed to the control areas of General IT controls like Access Management, Change Management, Computer Operations, Program Development which forms the base of any audit. I think it is a good cocktail which gives you a head-start in your corporate career.

3. Being in the information security field, what would you advise students to succeed in the industry?

It is important to keep yourself abreast with the latest trends in the information security world, with a significant focus on disruptive technologies like security in the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and Cloud Security. I think cloud is going to gather momentum in the post-pandemic world as it provides economies of scale. We live in a world where things are quite dynamic, so what you might have learnt during your college days may not be relevant when you step into the corporate world. I would only say behave like a student of this field and keep your ear and eyes open. I would also encourage the students to pursue certifications once they gain a reasonable amount of experience as one it helps to build credibility, two it boosts your confidence and re-assures you that you belong to this industry, and three if certainly increases your value in the market. There is one caveat attached to this, it is important not to practice rote learning and rather, on the contrary, understand the concepts of the theme well. Mugging things might help you clear a certification, but at the end of the day, it won’t serve any purpose.

4. How has the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the information security scenario across the world? What is the new normal that various organizations are adapting to for coping with the current pandemic conditions?

Facemasks, sanitizers, videoconferencing tool is going to be the darling of this Covid-19 phase and I don’t see things turning normal soon unless and until a vaccine is out. Covid-19 has certainly been a big thorn in the flesh of many enterprises. Many organizations may have shut the barn door after the horse is gone. Many have gone in the survival mode as cyber-attacks have been on the rise adding to the chaos already created by the business disruptions. The major challenges faced by many organizations is the scalability of the VPN and use of videoconferencing tools has provided the attackers with an additional surface of attack. Adversity also presents itself as an opportunity to reinvent the wheel and tackle this with a six-pack mind by implementing appropriate measures to plug the holes. The ones with financial muscle will certainly have an added advantage.

5. Apart from academics, what were your areas of interest?

Like any other Indian, I wanted to become a cricketer badly, but I ended up playing badly (Laughs). However, I was smart enough to realize that early in my childhood and as per my parents’ advice, decided to dedicate my entire attention towards academics after that episode and followed the routine path (Engineering followed by MBA). I am an avid and voracious reader. I keep a target of reading 3-4 books a month, which sometimes can be quite ambitious and far-fetched, given the fact that I have to juggle this with my corporate life. Reading gives me an escape from reality, gives me great pleasure. Pleasure is an important word over here. It opens your mind to the complexities, to knowledge in-depth, and discover so much more about the world. It is like a key that opens to the treasures of the mind.

6. What inspired you to have a liking for writing?

Maybe in the genes (Laughs), My father himself has written close to about 7 books (six of them in Marathi). I  always used to follow sports religiously, and primarily cricket, football, and tennis. My mom used to always take me to the cleaners for following sports passionately, sometimes even at the expense of studies. After my engineering, I had a gap of around three months before the start of my job, so I realized that I could channelize this passion into something productive and worthwhile. Dhoni was always an inspiration for me, his unflappable attitude towards the game and treating success and failure with equanimity and around the same time India won the champions trophy as well, completing the trinity of World championship, so I thought why not bring the Dhoni story to light from the lens of a passionate fan. In the same year, Tendulkar decided to hang his boots and bid adieu to international cricket, so I and my friend who is also a cricket fanatic decided to coin two hundred slogans as a tribute to him and by God’s grace, the book also got awarded a place in the Limca Book of Records. That moment sort of acted like a springboard and I have never looked back since then. But I repeat, I am still learning the ropes of writing and slowly trying to consolidate my literary credentials

7. After publishing 2 books, how do you plan on penning 3rd one?

Ya, I am working on a third book, after a gap of almost five years. It is great to put your writing shoes on. Lockdown has been sort of a blessing in disguise and it has helped me revive my creative juices as well. I am the sort of person who always looks at the glass half-full rather than half-empty. The theme of my third book is recreating the journey of the trend-setters of this world in the form of short stories. I won’t reveal much but stay tuned to this space, and it is going to be quite exciting and I am certainly looking forward to it. There will be a teaser soon. I am hoping to release once the dust settles down around Covid-19. Fingers crossed.

8. Having achieved so much in such less time, what is your mantra for time management?

Passion and desire are important in shaping your mindset. If you have a purpose in life, then I don’t think you will require an alarm clock to wake you up. You will automatically value time. At the same time goals have to be smart and it is important to break your goals into sub-tasks and then track those on a daily basis. It is like chasing 350+ chase in an ODI game. If you think of the target, then your shoulders will get burdened by the score. If you break it down the chase into small targets, then all of a sudden it becomes achievable.

9. Any advice for the budding MBA graduates?

Everybody is bound to go through phases in life, where your mind will not function, your motivation will dip, and you won’t be inspired to even get up from your bed. In those moments, it is important to be resilient and gritty. Only the plucky ones sail through the turbulent times. One important thing to remember is that victory and defeat remain unshakeable companions. They are part and parcel of life and it is important to ride both. It is important to take lessons from your defeats and also at the same time it is equally not to get overawed by success because that sets in a sense of complacency. Always respect life but at the same time have the fire in the belly and the desire to get better every day. It may sound like a bit of oxymoron, it is important to be a fierce competitor as well as you need to be grounded at the same time. If success goes into your head, then life has this uncanny knack of biting you back.

Rapid-fire round

1) Favorite author- I can’t pinpoint one, it varies from genre to genre. If you talk about mythology and history, it is Amish Tripathi. The guy has re-defined history for good. If you want to relish the essence of true literature, then Dr. Shashi Tharoor. I love to read biographies and autobiographies of business leaders as well. The Shoe Dog– Phil Knight, Ride of a Lifetime– Robert Iger are certainly compelling reads.

2) Favorite places to wander- The Great Ocean Road in Melbourne- It is a magnificent 90-minute drive from Melbourne’s city center and covers an incredible range of scenery. The Great Ocean Road showcases nature at its most diverse. The craggy limestone stack rising majestically from the Southern Ocean is undoubtedly the highlight. Edinburgh- I feel quite lucky to be honest that I am currently based out of unarguably the most beautiful city in the United Kingdom. The scenery is magical and awe-inspiring. It is quite a retreat if you are an urbanite.

3) Favorite cricketer- Steve Smith, I know it is a debatable choice, considering the fact that India has produced so many legendary cricketers. But simply on the basis of what the guy has gone through and to come back in the fashion that he has done, I think that is commendable. His comeback is an inspirational tale and quite relevant in the current circumstances as well, where things are gloomy and adverse. Many people can take lessons from him that failure is not the end of the road, and with steely resolve and determination, you can overcome adversity and achieve success.

4) Favorite cuisine– Maybe an Idli vada or a Rava Dosa at an Udipi Café(Laughs). I am a simple guy with not too many fancy demands. More often than not I like to stick to traditional Indian Food.  Last year, as I had spend majority of my time in the Middle East, I have developed a liking for Lebanese cuisine, reluctantly at first, and Mughlai food to an extent.