Author Interview with Hema Shah of ‘Vital Upgrade’



While people are busy watching their jobs and minding their business, there is a whole new opportunity coming up in the area of business transformation. The people, particularly those in the IT Profession, who pay attention to these new opportunities and realign their skills and career plans will have the chance to become the disruptors rather than the disrupted. This book illustrates how one might do so with the help of a story. In the second part of the book, we go deeper into the specific practices that will allow a person to “thrive” during this disruption and how to go about developing them.


Today I’m talking to Hema Shah, about the ‘Vital Upgrade’ that is taking place throughout organisations across the world. Hema, can you kick off today’s interview by giving us the low down on the new opportunities of business transformation that is currently unfolding.
I have been working with clients and large teams of people that have completely transformed how businesses leverage technology. I wanted to give back to my teams a book summarizing the lessons I have learned in the past 25 years. So that is how it started. However, half way through writing the book, I realized that it would be far more interesting to project the learnings forward and demonstrate how they would play out in future scenarios. There are several books in the market written about one or the other of the C.O.A.T.S. practices. However, I wanted something that people could relate to, something they could look at and say, “yeah, that’s my life.. how do I deal with that?”. And that is how the story of T-Rexx came about.

The storyline follows the journey of several characters within the company, T-Rexx. Each of these characters feel like they were very deliberately formed to really serve different aspects of the plot. Was this an intentional choice?
They are composites really of real people. So while everyone can see themselves in one or more characters, they are not actually any single person. I really wanted to capture the essence of these characters, the parts that were relevant to the overall message of C.O.A.T.S.

As they are based on people you really know, did you find that you gravitated towards some characters more than others?
Several of them actually. There is the COO Frank who is struggling with the fact that he was passed over for the CEO job. There is young Chen in Shenzhen who truly believes he can do anything. There is the solid dependability and sheer “goodness” of people like Alan and Jack and Chris and Anand. They restore your faith in humanity. I am also impressed by the sheer efficiency of Sandy and Sam, and Minhaz’s straight forward, fun loving attitude. I guess my favorite is young Aman, who works hard, plays hard, dreams big and has so much to learn. Across all of them is the stoic discipline of the IT professional, doing what it takes to get the job done.

And did you have a solid understanding before you started writing about the job being done, or did you investigate into some aspects further?
There were several topics on which I thought the answers I already knew were adequate. I realized though that there were some on which there is some fabulous material out there. I wish I had known about it when suffering through Office Politics and trying to deliver very difficult messages. There were several great books and articles, especially articles that provided several contrasting points of view on the topics included in my book.

So you’ve peppered aspects of your personal experiences like delivering difficult messages to staff into the book chain of events?
Yes, absolutely. I have worked in IT for a very long time, both onshore and offshore. The inspiration for the scenarios, the issues, the conflicts, the challenges, the attitudes all these came from real life observations and experiences. This is why the book resonates so well with my readers. There were also a couple of surprises though. Some founders of startups reported that they too could identify with the characters in my book. And people from non-IT felt that everything I’ve described goes on in their industries as well.

I think that the changes occurring in the IT industry at the moment are only the starting points of the workplace changes that will no doubt happen in the near future due to these increasing pressures of technological advances and reductions in cost. Where did you experience these changes first hand?
I spent 25 years with IBM in Strategic Outsourcing. I opted for an early Golden Handshake last year after which I have been exploring my new found freedom. Earlier this year, I decided it was time to fulfill my long cherished dream of becoming an author. Vital Upgrade is my first real book “with words”. I’ve created two coloring books, and 1 other “trial” book while I was learning how to write for Kindle.

That’s a great idea to practice writing for the Kindle. How long did it take you to assemble this book once you’d become skilled enough with the Kindle way.
The first draft took about 3 weeks. I hated it. The voice was not right. It seemed dull and boring. One of my more candid beta readers confirmed my suspicion – when he said he couldn’t imagine anyone reading it. From there evolved the new and improved version – that took about 6 weeks. And then another 4 to polish it up. So a little over 4 months. The surprise however was that formatting and layout took another 4 weeks.

Would your top tip to authors be to make sure that enough time is allocated for completing and formatting?
No. Write out an outline of what you plan to write at your next session before ending the current session. Makes it so much easier to return to the work.

Did you have any other plans of attack that you used to keep yourself focused and writing well?
During intense periods of writing I do maintain a spreadsheet and track minutes of writing and yield. It really helps me keep my momentum. And yes, depending on what I am writing I will set a target. I do all my writing in my home office. I need to work on a more consistent routine.

Do you also maintain such a steady schedule when you were editing?
I did do all the structural edits myself. However, I also took the services of a professional editor and proof reader to look over my work and ensure that it all hung together. After a while you get a little fatigued from reading the book over and over and miss stuff. Another set of eyes really helps.

When you finally had it all polished, published and into the hands of readers, what did you look back on and find the most pleasing detail of the end-to-end process?
When people said they identified with the scenarios, and thought they recognized themselves in the characters, I knew I had written something authentic, that would actually make a difference in people’s lives.

That must be incredibly rewarding. Has it fired you up enough to start working on another book?
Yes, I’m working on Double or Quits: Career Decisions – Improve the Odds. Most people think that career decisions are made at the point when a job is offered to them. And the decision is whether they should take it or leave it. The fact is that the actions you take long before that job offer arrives on the scene is what determines which job will actually show up. This book is about helping people identify and take those actions.

That sounds like it could really provide good strategies to many within the job market. Good luck with your progress on this. Now, we’ve finally reached my favourite part of the interview. The Quick Fire Round. Just answer the next set of questions with as little hesitation as possible.

Which are cooler? Dinosaurs or Dragons?
Dinosaurs – cos they can use a Vital Upgrade.
What is your favourite quote from another author?
“The sky is not my limit, I am” -T.F. Hodge
What is your favourite line, quote or statement from your book?
“What is the outcome you want?” If you can’t answer that don’t waste more time on the activity.
Very true. And finally, what is your favourite word?
Transformation – it suggests that ANYthing can happen… its like magic.
Hema, thanks for providing us with some neat tid-bits today of your book ‘Vital Upgrade’. I hope that you find new readers who will find value in this book, and your next. Thanks again for joining us today.


Want to connect with Hema?  You can find her here: