A Mountaineer’s Experiences Inspire Me to Find Purpose In Work and Life

Deepika Nikhilender, SVP APAC
Deepika Nikhilender headshot

Why do we do what we do? In particular, why do we do the work that occupies the majority of our entire adult lives?

I recently had the pleasure of hearing and learning from Dhiren Doshi, Vice-President (Industries & Digital Leadership) of SAP Southeast Asia and an avid mountaineer, who was a guest speaker at our recent Sharpening Your Axe event.

This internal event was created to help Xaxis employees equip themselves with the latest industry knowledge, and identify areas to focus in and skillsets they can look to improve. On the first day of the programme, Dhiren, shared his experiences — some inspiring, some unbelievable and some harrowing. He has scaled seven summits, and most recently became the first Singaporean to plant the nation’s flag on Dhaulagiri, a summit infamous for being technically challenging.

As Dhiren recalled his adventures, I couldn’t help but relate his experiences as a climber to the challenges we face as a programmatic company. I saw strong, practical parallels between what it takes to be on an expedition and managing our business. The determination, perseverance and out-of-the-box thinking it requires to take on mountaineering made me reflect on how we non-mountaineers can find purpose in work (and life).

The digital landscape is a dynamic industry, time is finite and fleeting. At Xaxis, we do not believe in waiting for the industry to revolutionize. Instead, we choose to seize the moment and spearhead change. What better time is there than the present? Those who got to the top of the mountain did not just fall onto the summit – they took bold leaps to stay ahead of the curve. The ascend to the summit is oftentimes fraught with obstacles and dangers such as perilous terrain, sub-zero temperatures, high-altitude sickness, possible storms and avalanches. Yet, there can be no way for mountaineers to navigate these challenges without determination coupled with a clear sense of intent. When Dhiren faced a near-death predicament, anyone would have understood if he had chosen to give up, but he pressed on. He had an unshakable vision and crystal-clear focus. He knew exactly what his goal looked like, sounded like, felt like. He learned from his mistakes and went back ever more prepared to scale the summit. And he did.

It is the same for life and work: with strength and perseverance, we have a chance to win the grail, but purpose is what we need to face the upward trail. As a company, there will be times where decisions and actions are taken unwittingly. But leaders with vision understand this is not a transgression, and it is acceptable to learn from mistakes. We fail fast, learn fast, and get it done. We stay true to our mission because we all live and believe in its purpose – that our clients get true value for their investment in responsible marketing, and that advertising is made more relevant and enjoyable for each client’s audience.

There was something in particular Dhiren mentioned that really stood out for me. He climbs mountains because he wants to see how far he can go and how much he can endure to get to some of the hardest places on earth. When he goes out there, the sheer magnitude and dominance of nature puts him at the mercy of the elements and ultimately reminds him of his size and insignificance in the grand scheme of things – “it truly humbles you”, he affirms. Similarly, the programmatic work that we do at Xaxis creates far-reaching ripples within the industry as a whole. But for an industry to constantly progress, we have to stay humble and continuously conquer new personal and professional summits.

As to why I continue to do the work I do, I want to be a part of the bigger picture, paving the digital road with fresh innovations and sharing Xaxis’ purpose to always prioritize our stakeholders – our clients, our audience and the industry that we co-exist in. And in the end, if there was one piece of wisdom I took away from this, it’s that if the mountains are calling then you simply must go.

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