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Siddharth Banerjee of Pearson on unconventional choices

Siddharth Banerjee, the MD, India and Asia at Pearson talks about how mentorship entails playing many roles, taking up yoga and time blocking

Siddharth Banerjee considers Unilever as the mothership of his mentors, who helped his professional growth.   (Pearson)

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Siddharth Banerjee is what one might call a life-long student. Having interest in wide variety of subjects, the managing director, India and Asia at Pearson, is currently looking to improve his skills in making the perfect cup of coffee. “I am soon signing up for a barista course,” says the 45-year-old. He is also eager to learn more about yoga and Ayurveda. 

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Banerjee joined Pearson in June last year. His focus is on expanding the digital presence of the company in the region. Prior to Pearson, Banerjee, a Chevening Fellow, has worked with Games 24x7, Facebook, Vodafone, Unilever, General Mills and Reckitt Benckiser. 

Delhi-based Banerjee speaks with Lounge about how he became good at making unconventional choices at work, and how wearing comfortable footwear has helped his productivity.

Who do you consider your mentor? 

My foundation DNA for my business and leadership learnings come from many years at Hindustan Lever / Unilever. I consider this institution as the “mothership” of my mentors — both current leaders and alumni from here — Sanjiv Mehta, Leena Nair, Nitin Paranjpe and Sandeep Kataria. Each of my mentors has stretched and supported my thinking, shared their life learnings generously, and provided advice at critical points of my career.

One major insight you worked on with your mentor's guidance?

In the words of poet Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.” My mentors have supported me in making bold, unconventional choices at work and that has enabled my personal and professional growth. This has enabled me to confidently unlearn and learn in diverse industries including now at my current business transformation role at Pearson.

What does being a mentor mean to you? How do you mentor your colleagues at work? 

I would suggest that a mentor is a friend, philosopher and guide, who can deeply listen and help by sharing insights, learnings and ideas. I have been fortunate to have some great mentors and in turn, I have a set of mentees across the organisations I have worked in. The roles I play as a mentor at Pearson are multiple — a mirror, a sounding board, and sometimes, a connector. My greatest joy comes from seeing my colleagues doing fulfilling work, (while also) navigating life challenges happily.

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What's your morning routine like?

I am a late riser so typically, my day will start by 7 am. My morning ritual consists of the first hour being relatively peaceful, drinking a cup of warm water, checking on my planning lists for the day or week, and some reflection time.

What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?

I finally got around to practising yoga, which my wife introduced me to in the lockdown months of the pandemic. That is a positive habit, which continues to stick even now.

What are some of the productivity principles you follow?

I am a fairly organised person with my annual, monthly and weekly lists. However, a recent productivity hack for me has been to block time to think deeply for problem-solving.

Another productivity hack that has worked for me is to wear comfortable shoes at work. I never wear formal/ fancy shoes but just a good Nike sneaker, which allows me to be constantly on my feet. You will be surprised with the kind of inter-personal relationships that you can build by walking around and thus, the collaboration that you can (start).

Any book/podcast you would recommend that expands on the idea of mentorship and workplace growth? 

The Tim Ferriss Show podcast is on my regular playlist. I am a fan of business biographies from Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, to Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz for insights on how some of the world’s most interesting brands were built. 

How do you unwind? 

I am an avid reader with books overflowing in every room of my house. I write on weekends and have had the privilege of being a published author, including a book— 52 Red Pills: A New-Age Playbook to Become Healthy, Wealthy and Wise (2019)co-authored with my wife, Eika about a year-long learning journey that we undertook together to hack and hyper-learn lessons to become more healthy and wise.

Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.

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