22 Aug 2016 19:44 IST

‘Millennials relate better to personalities as brands’

Establishing one’s uniqueness is crucial to creating a personal brand, which nurtures self-confidence

“Srinivasa Ramanujan is one of my heroes,” said Shiva Subramaniam, Founder of The Paper Clip, which aims to inspire people to think creatively in their lives and work. “In 1912, Ramanujan landed a job as a clerk at the Madras Port Trust, which not only lifted him out of poverty but gave him free time to pursue his mathematical work. At a time when India was under colonial rule and people were hesitant to speak their minds, Ramanujan, fuelled by the power of conviction in his mathematical abilities, wrote to Prof GH Hardy, a Cambridge Tripos, enclosing bundles of papers in which he had solved the most complex of maths problems, declaring: “I know I am right.”

Reading through the solutions and recognising “a mathematician of the highest quality, a man of altogether exceptional originality and power,” Hardy sent a colleague all the way to India to have Ramanujan brought to Cambridge so they could work together.  

“Such a projection of his personality was phenomenal at a time when connectivity as we know it today didn’t exist, and communication was difficult,” said Subramaniam. “What could represent a more powerful personal brand than Ramanujan?” he asked the educators who took part in a day-long conclave on “Inspire: Change the Learning Path” held jointly by Madras Management  Association, Madras University’s Department of Management Studies and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in India.

The conclave aimed to help teachers hone their skill-sets to create better learning experiences for today’s students, by being tuned into social media and other digital technologies. The Millenials, especially, have a very different understanding of communication and they handle change, especially in the digital world, very well. “They also relate better to personalities as brands, and when teachers make an effort to create their own brand personas, they can connect better with this generation of students,” said Subramaniam.

Recognising and establishing one’s own uniqueness and identity are crucial to creating your own personal brand, even if what characterises that brand changes over time, said Subramaniam, adding that such awareness nurtures self-belief and confidence, so that one need not depend on the endorsement or approval of others to be successful.


Social media as debate platform

The Conclave, held at Madras University on August 19, also saw Vikas Chawla, co-founder of digital agency Social Beat speaking on “Adopting Social Media in the Teaching-Learning Process”. Addressing an audience made up of lecturers and students alike, Chawla said it is time social media was used more widely in learning and teaching alike.

In the context of sharing one’s work, a participant asked how secure it would be to share findings and research on social media, given the various intellectual property rights involved. Answering the question, Chawla cited the example of Microsoft and Google, which share a lot of their coding on their blogs and take the help of other people to solve some problems as well. He said, “A lot of coding and information from Microsoft and Google is open source — that is, it is on their website and people can modify and adapt it as they like.”

Chawla also was of the opinion that Twitter was a better platform than Facebook when it came to not just discourse, but also to mining information “as you have access to more information. In Facebook, privacy settings hinder access to a lot of the content shared,” he said. It is also pertinent that one doesn’t go by the information on Wikipedia, Chawla added saying “It is important to look for the right information online.”

Another question posed during the Q&A was on the Internet policies of institutions in the country. “Most of the time, usage of social media, such as Facebook, is discouraged on university campuses. So even if I (as a lecturer) were to try to interact with my students on Facebook, they would be discouraged by policies,” one lecturer said. Answering the question, Chawla said that “while policies can’t be changed, it would help immensely if mindsets did change.”

Chawla signed off saying one should use social media far more widely as a platform for debate.

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