(NRIdiots) How not to give a lecture when visiting India (NRIs please read)

We had a most entertaining lecture at work a few months ago, although I didn't have time to blog about it till now.

Of course, the speaker did not intend it to be entertaining :-)

In order to protect his privacy (although he himself did not seem to care about it too much, as you will see), I will not reveal the topic of his speech, or anything else that might be used to infer who this person was. I will also say that the presentation itself was quite informative, from the point of view of a layman learning about this technology. No complaints there.

Now let's get to the fun parts. It's a bit long, but if you don't have the time, just read the first paragraphs in each bullet and ignore my preaching :-) And point #9 is the best!

We learned these facts about him during the course of this lecture:

(1) He has a Ph.D, a _ _, a _ _ _ _, a _ - _ _ _ _, and another _ - _ _ _ _. All this is on the cover slide of the presentation.

Those are all degrees, and really there's no need for me to actually list them to make my point, which is: the only place to list all your degrees is your resume, not a presentation you make. Your job title is relevant here, your degrees are not!

(2) The readout of his achievements, honours, awards, and other recognition went well into the 10-minute range. Or seemed to.

Again, do not give the poor MC a copy of your resume. Are you giving us a lecture or looking for a job? By all means highlight the top 2-3 awards and the highest of your academic achievements and the best 2-3 organisational affiliations, but anything beyond a total of 2 minutes sounds tacky.

(3) He travels extensively and has travelled to _ _ countries.

It's irrelevant how many countries you travelled to unless your area of expertise is cross-cultural sensitivity or travel photography or some such thing. Techies can travel all over the world without leaving their cubicle, and if you're talking about a technical topic then boasts like this are merely useless window dressing.

(4) He is a professor in _ universities.

Believe it or not: this, like the previous fact, was stated in a matter of fact way with no perceptible need or reason to think it was relevant.

Again, if you're applying for your N+1th professorship, then the fact that you are a professor in N universities already is relevant. For a speaking engagement, there's no call for this sort of vanity once you're past the readout of your achievements. Let your knowledge speak for itself from there on.

(5) He does yoga _ times a week, walking for _ hours _ times a week, and plays _______ for _ hours 2 days a week, and _ hours on Saturday. As a result he is incredibly fit even at this age.

This was said in the context of his having recently purchased an accessory to his favourite sport (_______) for an enormous sum of money because the accessory in question was an example of the technology being discussed. So I agree that mentioning the accessory and how it has helped him is relevant.

But the details of your weekly exercise regimen, and whether you're fit or not, and how often you do yoga, are irrelevant. No need to boast. You just look silly.

(6) There are _ bedrooms in his house.

This was also stated as an example of how the technology in questions helps, but really, you could use any medium-to-large building as an example to illustrate this. Why bring in your bedrooms for God's sake?

Especially when you combine it with the previous point, you wonder what it all means!

(7) He has "top level" friends at "_ _" (a very large and very famous ________ company).

This one was relevant actually. He was telling us what that company said in the context of the technology being discussed, and it is relevant to know that "top people" said it.

And if this was the only comment in my list, there wouldn't even be a list. But by now you know what this guy is all about, so you don't feel like giving him even this little bit of credit :-) Sorry I'm human!

(8) "The culture in the USA is that if someone says they will do something, they will do it".

Never mind what context it was said in. Never mind the fact that if this were true, there wouldn't be so many lawsuits or so many consumer disputes in the US.

Being a scientist/technologist and making generalisations like this do NOT go together. You're not in a political debate here, you're a technologist talking about your technology. Please stick to technical facts and don't screw up your credibility with thinly veiled insults to your hosts or to their country.

(9) And finally: "I make _ _ _, 000 dollars a year, what's _ _ _ dollars for a ______ (sports) ________ (accessory) to me?"

What can I say to this? I give up...

By this point the main lecture was over and he was taking questions, so I got up and left before he gave us his cell phone, credit card, and social security numbers!

Seriously, what an insufferable, patronising, jerk!


Haraprasad said...

Hi Sitaram, I had heard many people before, but this guy appears a megalomaniac. Surely, he has come to impress, not inform.

Raghu said...

Yeah.. I can empathize with you. I have met guys who talk about India being dirty.. people not having driving sense.. the corruption.. and also they act like they have been born in the USA. Very conveniently forgetting that they were a part and also contributed significantly to all this. I can only have pity for such guys..

Anonymous said...

Hi Sitaram,

have you met C Mohan of IBM?