Talks At Andela: Getting Unstuck With Expedia's VP

The inaugural edition of Talks At Andela happened this October, and we had none other than the excellent Subbu Allamaraju as our first guest speaker. Subbu is the Vice President of Technology at Expedia Group, and he shared insights on how to get unstuck when one hits a rut either in their career or personal life.

Most Important Hard Problems Are Ambiguous

Subbu’s presentation deeply resonates with most people at various stages of their careers and projects who grapple with finding a clear cut path from where they are to next steps out ahead of them. He says there are far too many people stuck facing hard problems without a playbook, and that is a reason why frustration sets in. But the problem with hard problems is that they are mostly ambiguous problems, and humans aren’t really well-equipped to deal with ambiguity.

Symptoms of Stuckness

Getting stuck is not a human-only problem, apparently. Companies get stuck too, and Subbu’s presentation was replete with sufficient examples of companies that performed quite poorly at one point or the other because they got into a rut and couldn’t get unstuck. Stuckness occurs as a result of certain mindsets and mental models that a person or company operates with. Subbu describes mindsets as an established set of attitudes held by someone, and he goes on to explain a couple of mindsets held by people which are responsible for them being stuck. For example, mindsets along the lines of:

  • Entitlement patterns - “I’m not getting the raise/promotion I deserve”
  • Resignation patterns - “If only we were …, or had …, we could …”
  • Superiority patterns - “the world has to think the way I’m thinking, it has to align with me.”

He would go on to explain the various mental models and processes that are critical to getting unstuck and staying productive.

How To Get Unstuck

Subbu recommends 4 tips for getting unstuck:

  • Recognize when you’re stuck
  • Avoid certain pattern and mental models that lead you to be stuck
  • Practice new patterns and behaviours: The main goal here is to actively and constantly challenge constraints that keep you from learning new patterns.
  • Keep learning: This starts by being open to acknowledging that you don’t know it all.

The session trended on Twitter as well as participants moved the conversation to Twitter using the hashtags #SubbuOnGettingUnstuck and #TalksAtAndela. It garnered over a million impressions. Talks At Andela sessions are recorded and you can watch all the sessions on our YouTube page.

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