EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Top 5 Things on the Minds of GovCon Execs: Rahul Pandhi

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WashingtonExec has been reaching out to successful leaders in government and government contracting to learn more about their habits, experiences and perspectives.

Rahul Pandhi is CEO of CollabraLink Technologies, Inc., where he provides leadership on strategic focus and direction and day-to-day operations. Under his leadership, CollabraLink has consistently achieved double-digit, year-over-year growth, leading to recognition in various industry publications and associations. Prior to joining CollabraLink, Pandhi was a growth strategy consultant at L.E.K. Consulting and an IT consultant at Accenture.

Rahul Pandhi, CollabraLink

What’s on your current reading list?

I love reading and I try to read as much as possible these days. I get a lot of my recommendations from Bill Gates’ personal website, gatesnotes.com, as well as by listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Rich Roll. He’s always got some amazing guests that he interviews, and seemingly all of them have written books (including Rich himself)!

I just finished “Wherever You Go, There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This was given to me by a close friend recently as a birthday gift. It was very timely and I found each page to hold so much truth and relevance in my own life. In short, the book is about mindfulness and meditation and maintaining a practice that assists with staying present and aware. I feel like so many of us overindex on physical health with exercise, etc. that we neglect our own mental and spiritual health — which is arguably more important.

Speaking of physical health, I’m currently reading “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins. David is probably the toughest guy on the planet. He’s a former Navy Seal turned endurance athlete. He’s completed more endurance challenges than just about anyone in the world — ultra marathon/triathlon competitions — 100-mile races, 24-hour runs, etc. He’s got an amazing story of overcoming so much adversity in his life and having achieved incredible feats. But beyond that, his story is one that illuminates the fact that we as humans are capable of so much and the limiter is really self-mastery of our minds. His style of communication is a bit rough around the edges, but his points are really spot on.

I’m still debating on what my next book should be. I have so many in the queue, but I’m not sure which one to pick — from time to time, I’ll go revisit one that I’ve read in the past, like “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse or “Malcolm X” by Alex Haley, and I’m kind of feeling nostalgic for one of those at the moment.

Tell me about a time in your life when you had to really stretch yourself in order to learn and grow.

I get really geeked out about this stuff… I love to find a challenge every year to try to stretch myself and get out of my comfort zone. A couple of years ago, I decided to do a triathlon, without really being a good swimmer. I never did organized swim as a kid and never took swimming lessons — I was basically self-taught and not very confident with my ability to crank any sort of distance in the water.

I signed up for an event that was in May and got in the pool in January and started training. I worked super hard at it to ensure that I would be able to get through the swim confidently and not look like a total fool on race day. So, I did about two to three swims a week coupled with runs on the off days. As race day approached, I was a little nervous but feeling much more confident in my ability to cover the swim portion — and sure enough, I breezed through it. Problem was, I barely trained for the bike, and that is where my time totally flopped.

Regardless, I was proud of how I had to stretch to get better at swimming for distance and more important than that, I found a real love for cranking laps in the pool. With how breath-focused it is, I find it super relaxing. I’ve kept up with swimming and tris and plan to do my third tri this year.

The major learning I’ve had in all of these sorts of “stretch” situations is it is these type endeavors that make me feel most alive and happy. They also have the byproduct of adding layers to my personality that become experiences I can draw upon to find strength when subsequently challenged. I really want to do a Kilimanjaro climb as a challenge, but finding the time to get to Africa for two weeks with three kids at home and a business to run has been a bit of a limiter!

If you could go back and give your younger self career and/or life advice, what would you say?

Tough question. I feel like there is a lot I could have done differently or a lot I perhaps did wrong when I was younger, but those choices led me to where I am today — a place where I’m quite happy in my career.

Having said that, one thing I tell younger employees and my kids for that matter is, “Worry about yourself; don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.” As a young recent college grad, I remember finding myself anxious to continue to climb the corporate ladder as fast as possible while benchmarking myself against my cohort of friends and colleagues.

This sort of thing was self-defeating, and over time, I realized that my journey is entirely different and mine to own, and that I need to be focused there, not elsewhere. I try to apply the same in business with CollabraLink — don’t worry about the competition, worry about how we make CollabraLink better.

What’s your favorite city to visit? What do you enjoy doing there?

Chicago. To be specific, Chicago in the summertime. No need to visit November through April! Chicago is my hometown and where I first cut my teeth as a young professional and entrepreneur. It is such an amazing hub of food, culture, sports and nightlife — and people there are super friendly. I’m a Midwest guy and I love that aspect of the Midwest, people are approachable and easy to talk to.

When I’m there, I’m going for runs on the Lakefront, hitting the restaurant scene and taking in all the street festivals and cool summertime stuff Chicago has to offer. Oh, and going to Cubs games!

Tell me about an app, device or type of technology you personally love and why.

I’m hooked right now on a few apps, but primarily SoundCloud and Headspace. Headspace is a great app for guided meditation, and it’s helped me get more disciplined with practicing mindfulness. SoundCloud because there are often times where I need to put on my headphones and tune out the world in order to get stuff done and I’ll find some new edgy stuff on it.

I’m also an avid New York Times app user, as well as Instagram. Lastly, I’m super addicted to my Apple Watch; I’m using to track my workouts, keep myself on schedule with my day (the calendar function is great), and walkie talkie with my wife when we’re both in the house but running around with our three kids and don’t want to yell between floors! The Apple Watch has been super useful for me.