Barclays' Ashok Vaswani


Letter to My Younger Self: Ashok Vaswani

18 November 2021

In the latest of a series of letters from the bank’s leaders to their younger selves, Barclays’ Chief Digital Strategy Officer, Ashok Vaswani reflects on growing up in India, the key to unlocking his future, embracing change - and the most important things in life - family, friends, children and colleagues.

Dear Ashok,

You could never imagine, as a young boy growing up in India, that your career will take you to nearly every continent of the world! Not as a spin bowler in the Indian cricket team or as a doctor like Mom wants, but as… a banker! You will witness and be part of so much change across the industry over the years and you will come to be incredibly proud of the important role banks play in the economy and in helping people achieve their hopes and aspirations.

I know it was hard for you to lose your father at a very young age, but Mom will be a pillar of strength – always listen to your Mom! Even though she seems really tough, that discipline will hold you in great stead in your future life. For her, nothing is more important than education and even though you will become a double post-graduate, chartered accountant and chartered secretary, she will never think it is enough! Education will be the key to unlocking your future and you’ll continue to learn in one way or another for the next 50-plus years! Remember the adage: when you feed a man, you feed him once; if you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. 

Education will be the key to unlocking your future and you’ll continue to learn in one way or another for the next 50-plus years!

Very quickly you’ll need to learn the language of digital – it’s as important as learning English! And you’ll be amazed at what technology will allow you to do – you’ll be able to chat to people across the world at the click of a button, have a phone that fits in your pocket and use it to order almost any item to your home.

Above all, you’ll learn that people are the most important thing in life: family, friends, children and colleagues. Friends and colleagues in a new city giving up an evening with their family to have dinner with you will be one of the most humbling things you’ll experience. Oh, and hang out with people much smarter than you – you should always be learning from others!

There is so much more I could tell you but for now, I’ll say, forget the master plan, take every opportunity that comes your way and keep going! You’re in for one hell of a ride – so take these tips with you to help along your journey.

  1. Find your passion – Take the time to work out what you are truly passionate about – you cannot excel at something if you’re not completely passionate about it.
  2. Remember that change is the only constant in your life. Embrace it! What makes you successful today will not necessarily make you successful tomorrow. Change, grow and adapt. 
  3. Build resilience – You’re going to need it. Resilience will help you get up and keep on going in the difficult times.
  4. Embrace our differences – Spend time with people from all walks of life; this is how you will find out what is really going on and challenge your own thinking.
  5. Find ways to give back – Giving back to education will be hugely important to you and you will work with many amazing charities over the years.
  6. Stay humble –  If you’re not humble, you will not learn. If you think you know it, you’re dead so never fall in love with your thoughts.