My father is a tough man. The day I told him I was quitting my awesome day job to join a startup, he thought I had gone nuts. To those who do not know me well, I am a Chartered Accountant by qualification. I had a job most people in profession would consider a privilege to be a part of and which paid for most of my indulgences.
But then there came a point when I would walk on the sidewalk of my office building at night returning home, completely drained of energy, and with that feeling of peculiar emptiness. I realized that even though I was good at what I was doing, my heart wasn’t in it. That I did not want to spend all my life figuring out tax saving strategies or implementing Fortune 500 mergers. For months, I thought that the nagging feeling would go away but it didn’t.
So if you were to ask me if it was a tough decision to give it all up, it wasn’t. Yes, I could afford the pay cut. Neither was I really attached to the Big4 lifestyle and perks. I could live with the occasional “she has lost the plot” or the more annoyingly sympathetic “ladki hai, experiment karne do” look I got from people. And to all the male chauvinists reading this, yes, I am a woman with little financial responsibilities. But don’t fool yourselves with that. If you thought leaving your corporate job to join a startup is difficult, thriving at one is a challenge at an all together different level.
I completed a year at QuezX this week. Below is how my startup trail has been…..
On giving up my CA identity
If you are or have ever known a CA, you would know how proudly and sometimes almost arrogantly, a CA carries off that tag. The day I first walked into QuezX office, I had zero idea about what I was going to do at this place. There was definitely nothing CA like to do here. I took up Business Development as a challenge. And I sucked at it for a few months. Literally. I consoled myself with “I am just not a BD person” and it took me a while to realize why. Because even after I left my old job, I did not want to move out of that comfort zone identity. It was only when i let go of it, did I realize how good I could be at building up the business. It’s okay to have to make a cold call once in a while. It’s okay to hear a “No” from a client whose intellect you believe does not match yours or to talk convincingly to an investor having an intellect 10 times mine. Sometimes you just need to be courageous enough to let go your old self and be patient enough to keep working on what you could be.
When I joined QuezX, we were working on a product we thought would change how recruitment industry works. Few months into it, we realized we couldn’t really get investors excited about it nor could we get enough consumer traction with the resources we had. I spent sleepless nights trying to figure out what was it that we were doing wrong. But one thing you learn at a startup is that if plan A doesn’t work, there 25 more letters in the English language. We started working on an alternate idea we had in our mind. We put existing resources to work on its implementation. Today, we are doing exceptionally well on this product. Working at a startup has taught me to innovate in the face of uncertainty; to build products from scratch, to create something out of nothing. And only when nothing is sure, everything is possible1.
On wearing and owning multiple hats
I have been a BD manager, an operations manager, legal head, part-time tax consultant, marathon captain for our office team and a lot more. I’ve made investor presentations for my CEO and have been an email drafting expert for my colleagues. Some days are really tough. I’ve taken decisions I did not believe I was competent enough to take. I’ve taken ownership of tasks I did not know the ”ABCD” of. There are days I’ve kept my fingers crossed when clicking “send” icon on my email. Working at a startup has taught me to take risks and be responsible for them. And after all, anything that’s worth doing is worth doing badly until you get it right2.
On being awesome
I’ve been lucky to have met a bunch of awesome people over the past year; my boss who has always been an inspiration, the tech team who have tolerated my ‘technologically handicapped” nature, the entire QuezX family which makes sure we are always up and running, the entrepreneurs / business heads I’ve met – I’ve seen the passionate ones, the innovators, the creators of products which would make you go “wow”. I take back little of their awesomeness with me everyday.
Sometimes I look back and ask myself if I took the right decision. And I always get the same answer. Hell yeah!
- Quote by Margaret Drabble
- Quote by Steve Brown