After donning pivotal roles in various companies in different sectors, including advertising software, telecom and technology, AL Jagannath, set out to do something which he wanted to since his early teens. He started guitar lessons.
He is now part of a classic rock band Soul Smoke. The golfer, investor, speaker at TED, quizzer, and a visiting faculty at different institutes in the country, had ticked off a long-pending item on his bucket list.
Speaking with Medianews4u.com, Jagannath said, “I started my career in advertising in 1994 at Mudra. Advertising gives you an exposure in the initial days, exposure to different categories, the rigour, knowing different brands, customers segments, foundational lessons on brand building etc.”
Currently Head of Marketing – India at Thoughtworks, he has worked along with the team instrumental in the entry of Samsung and McDonald’s into India.
“Post that I moved to Reliance Infocom which gave me a 360-degree experience in marketing and a lot of exposure. Thereafter I worked in the tech field. I didn’t know anything about servers, but I learnt. I worked in VMware, LinkedIn, and now currently at Thoughtworks. During my professional journey, I haven’t repeated a category because I wanted to explore new things and had the craving to learn new things. We shouldn’t be limited to our comfort zone. Once you settle in, then you wouldn’t want to take risks or learn anything new,” he explained.
The passion to learn new things is what led Jagannath to pick up guitar lessons, something he had wanted to do as a young teen in the early 80s.
“I grew up in Bhubaneshwar. I wanted to do new things but there were no means to do it. My parents were government employees and I grew up in a home where education was given more importance. If you attain good scores there then obviously you will land up in a successful career and that will fetch you all the comforts in life – education is the only thing a middle-class family could invest in. It was during that phase I was introduced to foreign magazines on music. The entry of TV sets in our homes led to the exposure to some foreign music as well. I loved western music and guitar, but didn’t have any means to learn it. Then life happened and I moved on with it,” he said.
He moved to Bengaluru in the mid-2000s as part of Reliance and his passion to learn guitar was rekindled when a close friend gifted him one.
“It was during that period that I met a pastor who was also a musician, who agreed to teach me guitar and that too at my home. I knew that I would tend to find excuses to attend classes outside and home lessons were the best. The pastor taught me the basics of strumming a guitar. I kept it near my bed, so the first thing I did after waking up was to practise the lessons taught the previous day. I wanted to learn playing the major rock bands like Pink Floyd and Guns N’ Roses. The pastor said that’s not his genre of music and I should take advanced classes from elsewhere,” Jagannath said.
It was then he stumbled upon a newspaper ad on guitar classes. Without a second thought, he joined.
“The batchmates at my guitar classes were 8 to 10-year-old kids and I was taught by a young boy who was half my age. Normally, anyone would find it a tad out of the place. I didn’t because I believed I was there to learn and it went on for a few years. During a family lunch I met Clinton, who is now the lead vocalist and keyboard player. He was playing some classic western songs on his guitar and I asked him whether he wanted to teach me and he readily agreed. That’s when my guitar classes hit another trajectory. Then I invested in an electric guitar,” he recalled.
During his stint with VMware, he was part of the employee band where they used to perform for internal corporate events. Jagannath would later follow guitar classes on YouTube.
His favourite bands are Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits and Metallica. In his arsenal now are a Fender Squire Strat and Ibanez S-21 guitar, among other equipment.
Soul Smoke happened with Clinton and a few other common friends. It is a six-member classic rock band that went on to deliver performances in several places.
“Soul Smoke was born out of sheer passion by a group of working professionals. There is so much to do more in terms of promoting the band like an active social media page etc. Our intention is not to make money. But play the music which we love,” he added.
After the band’s performance in Hard Rock Café Bengaluru, he wrote on LinkedIn, “Playing at Hard Rock was on my bucket list for a very long time. I had set a target for myself, to be able to play by Q4 this year… but it seems like I achieved my target much earlier.”
Teeing Off; Life Lessons
Apart from Guitar, he has another passion beyond work – golf.
“While they are just passions, I have always pursued them with right earnestness, pouring in a lot of hard work and practice into these passions. Today. I truly enjoy my passions,” his LinkedIn post read.
Jagannath has played at more than 50 golf courses across the world and makes it a point to play a new course whenever time permits.
“I have played a lot of corporate golf tournaments and have won a few. Through golf, I have met and made friends with a diverse set of people from different walks of life. They are all friends for life,” he added.
He is also a TED speaker. He teaches at different institutes in the country and was also a teacher at UpGrad.
Asked on what advice he would want to give working professionals, he said, “Focus on work-life balance. You have to find time for passions in life. Work can consume all the time one may have. Don’t regret not having pursued a passion. It’s never too late to start anything in life. Your passions will be your best companions after your work life.”