VPGE Dinner with Chris Block

vpge chris block dinner saad bhamla

I’m usually a big fan of attending all the Leadership dinners organized by the VPGE. You get to sit around and have dinner with a usually someone cool – besides the successful and CEO part, VPGE does a good job of inviting interesting people (I guess thanks go to Patti for getting Chris to come)

Reinforced some lessons:

1. People and relationships are important. Not your titles and degrees. To give you an example, twenty minutes through dinner, there seemed to be a feeling of disconnect and the energy in the room seemed down. Chris realized this, and admitted that he goofed up. And the topic he was talking about wasn’t the right one. So, he made us close our eyes, take a couple of deep breaths and do something he called a check-in: What this meant was that we went around the table and everybody just shared what was on their mind. By the time we were all done, the conversation started picking up, there was laughter and jokes and a renewed energy in the room. And then we realized that we were no longer just staring at each other as engineers and professors. Since in the first round of introductions, all we had done was mention our professional lives. In the check-in, we shared our personal lives. Somehow that made us all connected. We were people first. Professionals later.

2. One of the discussions reinforced why I had chosen Gerry as my advisor – I was at Stanford and it was for granted that I was going to work with someone who was a leader in their field. The important distinction for me was that the person should be nice and compatible with me. I didn’t care what experiments I ran or if I published one less paper. My relationship with my advisor was far more important. And so far, my judgement has been right. From conversations at his house, to bike rides, I have learned more from him about living life than just science.

I had a lot of fun and met a bunch of interesting people. During the conversation, I mentioned that I blogged and Chris picked it up and brought it up a couple of times during the conversation. Now, I know, that people like to pick up things that they themselves engage in. So for example, I had mentioned running too. But Chris didn’t pick that up. So I suspected he was a blogger himself. I was right. I found his blog here – If you glance through the first couple of posts, you’ll get a gist of what we spoke over dinner.


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