Posts Categorized: Experience

Why Darth Vader would have made a crappy entrepreneur

Why Darth Vader would have made a crappy entrepreneurI know, I know. Yes he is probably the greatest villain of all time and yes your geek blood is boiling at the mere mention that Vader is not good at something that you wish to kick my behind all the way to tatooine. But trust me it hurts me even more that there are some of the characteristics of the dark lord that would have made sure that he failed as an entrepreneur. Let me try to show you how

  • Vader was not a team player and curbed creativity- Entrepreneurship is not just about doing all the good work yourself. It is also about encouraging your employees and teammates to do good work by using incentives and positive reinforcements. If your employees work under the constant threat of being force choked for not doing exactly as you asked them, how will they be creative and forthcoming?

  • Vader was not willing to pivot - The first death star was a humongous failure. Anyone would have realized that once they got to know how easy it was for Luke to blow it up. At that point instead of coming up with a new and more evil master plan or death device he started work on the “second death star”. We all know how it ended for him.

  • He was overly influenced by investors – In almost the entire series he let Lord Palpatine dictate the rules of the game. He always neglected any suggestions that Vader gave and Vader, even when he was Anakin, was never free to take calls on important matters. It is good to have an investor who brings capital and experience (in this case the dark side of the force) but you should not let your investors dictate the rules of your venture.

  • Vader was rattled easily – It did not take much for Anakin to assume that Obi-wan and Padme had turned against him. Similarly he was very easily influenced by Luke and turned against the dark side. At this point it is not about the right or the wrong (dark) side. It is about sticking to your guns (light sabre whatever). Even if he is wrong, an entrepreneur does not change sides easily.
    Clearly Darth Vader lacked a lot of qualities that an entrepreneur should have.  But all is not bad here. Assuming that he somehow overcame the issues mentioned above there are some qualities that would have made him a kick ass entrepreneur. (My heart did not allow me to leave this the post with only shortcomings of the dark lord)

  • Great at prioritizingBoba FettHe understood the importance of prioritizing and value of time. He did not mind outsourcing some work when he had something important in his hands.  He know that getting the death star up and running was the first priority so he simply outsourced the job of finding Han Solo to Boba Fett.

  • Amazing Branding- Even if you don’t know who he is and what he does, one look at him and you know he means business and that too not the good kind. He is the ultimate poster boy of evil and if ever there becomes an association of evil villains he will give a hard time to Sauron and Agent Smith to become its president.
    Note: If you have not watched the Star Wars yet, stop wasting time and go watch .

Read more »

...

Basic guide for Indian Engineers to becoming Employable

Basic guide for Indian Engineers to becoming EmployableIt’s hiring season in Green Apple Solutions and like every time these are very exciting times. As a policy we prefer to hire freshers only. There is an elaborate theory behind doing this which I shall share some other time but the short reason is that freshers are fast learners and that is extremely important for a company like us where new technologies are adopted as soon as they are available. Every day many candidates appear for interviews for various profiles. Most of them are usually engineers for their “analytical” skills. I feel very bad when I say this but only less than 30% of them are actually employable and this is a very optimistic number. It is very easy to become an engineer in India due to the abundance and omnipresence of engineering colleges and almost everyone who comes out of school with sciences as their majors get a B.Tech. Parents becomes a part of this rat race or peer pressure and get their kids into engineering colleges without considering the future options or even the aptitude of the child. The result is as we see a deluge of unemployed unemployable graduates with an engineering degree and no knowledge of any sorts. Anyways, this post is not meant to discuss the faults in the system or parenting or anything else but more about how engineering students and graduates can become employable. It has been a long time since I wrote as an employer (this is the last post) but trust me these are very simple steps that you can follow and if followed correctly will definitely get you a job. In a sea of aspirants if you are different you will stand out and that will get you hired. Being different will get the job done for you.

  • Drop your ego, wake up and smell the coffee: I will be brutally honest here. If you are not studying in the top 50 colleges in India (IITs etc) you will most likely not get placed. There could be many reasons for the same, most prominent one being not getting the opportunity at all. You need to realize this as soon as possible and start working to trying to get past this disadvantage. Most of the students just coast through the 4 years of college simply assuming that something will happen when they graduate. Well, it doesn’t. The first and most important step towards fixing the situation would be accepting it. Then only can you do anything to fix it. You need to accept that just because you have completed a degree, it does not entitle you to a job.
  • Be ready to pivot: Maybe pivot is not the right term here but being an entrepreneur this is the term that comes naturally to me. You need to be clear about what you are going to do once you pass out. Do you wish to stay and try for employment in your core field or are you already planning to try to get into IT or some other field. Even if you are rigid about your choice you should be ready to switch/pivot in future for when things do not work out as you planned. If you are thinking of doing MBA then you may stop reading this post, bookmark it and come back to it when you are about to graduate from your management school. Chances are if you are not employable now, an MBA is not going to change that and the points that I am going to discuss next apply even to unemployable MBAs.
  • Try to score well: Let me start by saying that it is very less likely that you will ever be able to actually use the knowledge that you gained in college. Having said that I still recommend you to score well in your degree exams just so you don’t get filtered out at the first stage of screening. Almost all companies will look at your resumes before you are called for an interview and with low scores you are very less likely to be called.
  • Build skills, learn something: Most of the resumes that come in my hands are usually inflated with bogus or useless projects what are of zero inherent value for the applicant or the employer. Most of these are parts of compulsory training modules which are to be honest, utterly useless. Some of them are certifications from various random institutes which have no value in terms of usefulness. Instead of doing all this try to cultivate some skills which could be leveraged later. If you want to stay in your core field, pick a subject/topic of your field and become an expert in that. Everyone around you is a jack of all trades and to be different you need to be the master of at least one. If you wish to move to IT after graduating then start working towards it. Learn any programming language, understand the OOP concepts and try to build something. If you come to me with a programming project even if it is small, I will be impressed. It pains me dearly to see a graduate sitting in front of me who knows nothing even though the résumé is full of educational accolades. Stop running after certificates. learn something real.
  • Get a real hobby: “Surfing internet” is not a hobby. At least with the advent of Facebook it no longer is. You need to think beyond “listening music, reading books, surfing net”. Not that there is any harm in listening to music or reading books but you need to specialize in something. No employer is every going to count spending time on Facebook as a self-improving activity. All of us are able to like, learn and cultivate one skill or the other so why not do it. Today I met a girl whose hobby is Madhubani Paintings. Not only is it unique, it gave her an advantage when she first intrigued and then educated me about the same. Unless you are applying for something genuinely mundane, everyone wants to hire passionate people only.
  • Fix your resume: Your résumé is broken. I have not yet looked at it and I know it is broken. The reason this is so is because I know that your résumé is not original. Most likely you took the résumé of a friend or a senior and just changed the personal information. I talked about this in detail in one of my previous posts. Maybe you do not realize it but if in a stack (pile) all the resumes look alike, what are the chances that yours will even be considered. You need to fix your résumé. From the filename to fonts to the content. Everything.
  • Please come prepared: If you come unprepared for an interview in any way, be it your attire, your outlook or your punctuality the only message I get from this is that you are not genuinely interested in getting this job. So some research about the company where you are going, be aware of the profile you are applying for and prepare yourself accordingly. Almost all interviews contain some trivial questions and if you can’t even answer those then it really shows you are not serious. I always start with “Tell me something about yourself” and usually the answer to this question alone tells me if the candidate needs to be considered or not. Also please come dresses nicely.
  • Stay confident and persistent: It is very easy to be tempted to quit after a few failures. It is understandable that failure get to you in a way most situations don’t. It breaks your confidence and fills you up with a lot of doubt. It adds a lot of pressure which in turn harm you. Let me tell you a little secret. There is no shortage of jobs in the industry. You just have to become the right (or even just OK) candidate. Try to stay confident. And persevere.
    I am sure that most of you might already be aware of, if not all, a lot of these things but the most of you don’t realize the importance of these points. And difference between knowing and realizing is what the entire employability is all about. Although I am writing this post to help you, the aspiring engineering student or graduate, you can really help me and employers like me by actually paying heed to these points.
Read more »

...

Don’t fear the review

Don’t fear the reviewTo be told what whatever you did was a failure or had shortcomings is one of the worst nightmares of many people. This feeling is sometimes so strong that some people don’t even do anything that is worthy of a feedback let alone criticism. These are the sheep I talked about in my last post. (Never be a sheep). Some people still do step out of their comfort zones and try to do something that is innovative and challenges the status quo. Yet a majority of these people are afraid of reviews. Fear is one of the most powerful emotions of us humans. It at times prevails when even love and passion fail. Being criticized is one of the biggest fears many people have. Although this fear of criticism is harmful for everyone in general, it is extremely dangerous for an entrepreneur to have such fears. Young entrepreneurs and even brands need to realize that reviews and especially the bad ones are their best friends. A bad review is as good as, or even better than, any metric you might be using to determine how you are performing. Sure you can neglect the bad reviewers labeling them as naysayers and move along the path that you deem fit but that is only going to hurt in the longer run. Let me clarify here, I am not talking about negative or unfavorable response. I am talking about a proper bad review. Someone used your service/product and then took out time from their lives to write a subjective description of his (dis)satisfaction._ In the age where people assume that by not pressing the (Facebook) like button they have expressed their dissatisfaction a review is like a pot of gold._ You should be thankful if someone comes to your Facebook page and tells you how unsatisfactory your service was. So what if it is on a public forum. No one can help you improve better than a disgruntled/unhappy customer. At this point all you have to do is pay attention and work on rectifying the problem. A review by a customer can help you find out the issues which would have taken much analysis and god knows how much time for you to figure out on your own. At this point the worse thing you could do is choose to not do anything. Not only does your inactivity lose you a customer, you will also lose trust in the eyes of other customers and prospects.

Enable the process of review. Cherish the positive review. Embrace the negative review. Thank the reviewer for taking out time for you and make sure that you work on those. In this competitive world when customer loyalty is extremely expensive you just cannot afford to not act on bad reviews.

Read more »

...

What are you - Lion or Sheep?

20130323-003702.jpgYou have to be different to be noticed. That is the rule. There is nothing remarkable or noteworthy in doing what everyone does. Everyone knows this and yet we don’t try to stand out. We try to comply with the rules and the norms of the society even if we don’t fully agree. We crave acceptance more than recognition and company more than the idea of being alone at the top. We have been told that the society functions when all agree with the same things and anyone opposing this idea would be a traitor. This makes us afraid. This makes us weak. We don’t feel comfortable thinking outside the box and we do not want to innovate if the masses don’t agree with us. The fear of standing in front of a disagreeing crowd makes us kill any idea that comes into our mind. Conformity and hunger for acceptance makes us weak. They turn us into sheep. And we are happy that ways. We have other sheep for company.

But we forget its the sheep that get sheared and slaughtered. The sheep are the prey and will be hunted soon. Only the lions rule. Those who don’t worry about fitting in. Those who can live alone with just themselves. Those who can live with the decisions that they make and accept the oath they choose. No one remembers a sheep. No one forgets a lion. It’s your choice. What do you want to be?

Read more »

...

The Daily Introspection – My System

Self AssessmentI once read a great quote on the whiteboard at a client’s conference room – “_What cannot be measured, cannot be managed_”. Anything that needs to be managed should have at least one quantifiable aspect. If you are running a business you have your bottom line to manage and for that you need all sorts of growth numbers. The same is true for our personal lives. And yet most of us don’t think of our personal lives in the way we see our jobs and businesses. Though there are some aspects of our personal life that we do quantify and manage, like finances we do not try to quantify soft qualities like knowledge, satisfaction, expectations and a combined personal growth. Maybe it is because we think these factors cannot be measured or maybe we are ignorant of the fact that these aspects of our lives can be managed as well. In both the cases we continue to live our lives and by the time we realize that something went wrong it is too late. I feel that quantifying our lives is key step in better managing it as it helps in identifying and fixing the inefficient areas and concentrating on our strength. I follow a system of daily introspection in which at the end of the day I ask myself a set of questions and based on the response I rate how the day went. This system not only helps me in quantifying the success/failure of a day but it also motivates me to work hard as at the end of the day I have to answer to myself. Also a positive outcome mostly leads to a good night’s sleep.

When I say “a system”, I don’t mean an elaborate questionnaire with many subjective questions. That would be counter-productive. The idea is to have a set of questions that can be answered with a simple yes/no. You can keep a journal if you want (I don’t). Just to give you an idea, I will share with you the questions I ask myself. You can use the same if you want, skip a few or add your own.

Read more »

...

Brevity is Awesome

I have fallen in love with brevity. With the reduced and ever decreasing attention span of an average individual not only is it required but I think it is one of the key attractive features of any form of communication. I feel that if there is something worth communicating then it must be communicated in the best possible way. It should neither be long and boring, nor should it be terse and incomplete. Some people think brevity means just using fewer words but it is not that. It means to be able to communicate the complete message in meaningful yet short way. Like a doctor’s prescription. It will always tell you everything you need to know in the shortest way possible.

When you try to shorten the communication, your focus shifts to the message. By trying to keep it short you work harder on sending the right message which gives the communication clarity and better direction. It also usually ends up in the message becoming simpler.

Read more »

...

Hey Startup Guy! Don’t try to do everything

Multitasking FailYou have just started. Your idea is new and your startup is young. You want to run it in the “lean” mode and try to cut all costs that you possibly can. You become the HR guy to manage the existing employees and hire new ones. You are smart and good with numbers so you take up accounting too. It’s your venture after all; it makes sense for you to be doing the accounting. You take care of maintenance of the office because hiring a manager would be too expensive. You try to do everything when you are in the startup mode.

Well you shouldn’t.

Read more »

...

6 reasons why I write (and why you should too)

i love twitingI like to write. I like writing so much that I do not let any chance go. I write here on my blog, I write on my company blog as well as on blogs of our product sites. Many people will tell you many different reasons why you should blog and how it will help you in your life goals but I think it is much more than that. Writing provides me with so many avenues of improvement in my personal life that slowly it has turned into a necessity for me. Like always I have tried, using points, to summarize how writing helps me and can help you too. At this point let me make it clear this is not a “benefits of writing post” because the benefits of writing are too many to be listed in one post. This is a post where I share how writing helps me specifically and if you can relate to me, how it can help you too.

  1. Channel to let out emotions – I am not a very expressive person by nature and I do not like to share my feeling with anyone. Writing provides me with a great channel which I can use to let out those emotions and reset my mind. It is very important for an entrepreneur like me to have a fresh start every day and pent-up emotions can be a major roadblock in doing that. This works for me and helps me take any kind of load off my chest.
  2. This is the closest I get to feel like an artist – I greatly admire all kinds of artists. The ability to channel any kind of emotion or life experiences into inspiration and then turning it into a piece of art simple fills me with awe. Whenever I write something I feel the accomplishment of creating something out of nothing but an idea. It is a wonderful feeling and gives me a lot of positive reinforcement. It would have been awesome if I could be Chopin or Poe but I am content with the fact that I can and get to write.
  3. Makes me a better story-teller – I never publish the first draft of a post. As a practice I (try to) make sure that I always go back and read what I have just written and try to find areas that need to be changed. Keeping the typos and grammatical errors apart many times there is a need to change a word or a sentence because I feel that it is either not sending the message in the right way or I can come up with a better way. This activity helps me a lot in my everyday life. I find it important to be as engaging in real life as I try to be in my writing. If a message has to be conveyed, I would want to convey it in the best possible way and this habit of constant correction helps me in this.
  4. I get to share my experience – I am the kind of person who is more than happy to learn from the mistakes made by other people. I really appreciate it when someone shares their experience with me which can help me in my future endeavors. I know no two problems of two people are the same but there are similarities and it would be a good thing to be prepared or at least be aware of the problem in hand. Life teaches you something every day and if you think the lesson that you learnt today could be helpful to someone, please share. That’s what I do.
  5. Stimulates my brain – I love my job. I love to be in a startup and I love every second of it. That being said, there are times when I wish to switch that of my brain and do something else. Not because I want a break but because I do not want my brain to follow the same train of thoughts. Writing provides me with an avenue to refresh my mind. Whatever time I spend in writing, at that time I am thinking about many things different from what I have to work on every day. It helps to write about various themes and topics as it makes you think in different ways each time.
  6. I get to interact with others – Writing, just like any other form of communication, invokes interaction from the readers. And this interaction is very different from the kind of interaction you would get if you communicated the same message by any other medium, say verbally. I consider the feedback that I get for my writing to be extremely valuable and I try to learn from it as much as possible. At times I do get trolled or face extreme criticism as well, but one needs to know how to deal with that as well.
    Apart from these 6 reasons there are many more benefits of writing like improved communication skills, marketing benefits and personal branding but these 6 are the key reasons to why I love writing and why I will continue to do so. I know I not a great writer but one thing I know for sure is that I am getting there one post at a time. You should start writing too if you already don’t. Its awesome!
Read more »

...

Don't get too attached (and be ready to pivot)

turn arroundIt is in the primal human nature to develop attachments. We get attached with people we live with and with things that we own. The closer the relationship is, the stronger is the attachment.  But the things we are most strongly attached to are the ones that we create. Parents are most attached to their children, artists are strongly attached to their creations and coders are attached with their code. But sometimes we are so overly attached that it starts doing us harm. We close our eyes towards the negatives in our creations and blindly defend them no matter what the truth is. We are not open to criticism and that could be dangerous. Although this is true for almost all aspects of life since “Entrepreneur” is the language that I speak best so I will take its example only.

An idea is born in your mind. You play around with it for some time in your mind and things start making sense to you. You get in the flow of things and this idea starts to seem like a good idea. By this point you have started falling in love with your idea. You are confident that it would work (sell) and anyone who says otherwise is a naysayer. This is where things could start to take the negative turn. You become so attached with your idea that you are not willing to take any kind of criticism. Positive or Negative. You forget that it is important to validate your idea before going any further.  An idea which has not been validated is like a ticking time bomb with no display. It can blow up in your face while you were hoping that it would never go off.

Read more »

...

Dear Startups - Never under quote your initial projects

The first few days of a startup are really testing. You have just launched your startup and are eagerly waiting for the first few clients and are willing to bend over backwards to acquire and service them. It is especially common in the service industry for young startups to either yield to excessive bargaining or underquote their price extremely low just to acquire the client. It is understandable too as you are desperate to make a mark and you don’t want to let any chance go. So you quote the price you think the client will pay and not the actual cost. Well, DON’T. It is a big mistake for young startups and here is why

  • *Diminishes your value/the value of your service *- if you finally close a deal at 50% the cost that you had initially quoted, you/your service lose value in the eyes of the client. No client would simply assume that you are working on zero margins or doing this just to get the budget. But they will be happy to assume that you had over quoted by a margin of 100%, were trying to rip them off and that they were able to get an awesome discount. This would mean that you would never be able to work with this client at the right price ever again.
  • You lose money/confidence - trust me on this that an undervalued project is always going to be a loss making one for you. The moment you realize that your project is not going to yield anything your motivation to give your 100% will go. Simply saying, we are driven by incentives, take away the incentive and with it goes the motivation. Being confident about ourself is the biggest asset of us entrepreneurs and of we lose that we put a lot at stake.
  • Any reference/repeat business would come at undervalued price - any increase in subsequent costing would be perceived as markup and no client would be happy to oblige.
  • Adds more steps to getting profitable - once you have delivered a project at a low cost than it actually incurred you would take some time to slowly increase your billing to the right price and then only you can go any further. This is the time where you lose profit. Lost time, lost money.
  • Support will drain you - support is proportional to the size of the project and not the cost. And you will have to provide support if you don’t want to lose face in the industry. When a client asks for support whose project was already loss making for you, you will have to do it even if you don’t want to. Maybe in the beginning you will oblige but remember with time you are going to get busier and the work of your paying clients will suffer because you are providing support to a loss making project. In this point I am simply assuming that you have also under quoted for support or worse providing support without support contract. Trust me, startups do that.
    I am the co-founder of a services firm and trust me all of these lessons come from experience. An undervalued project always ends in relationships ending with a sour note. I know we get desperate and just want to grab whatever we get. But let’s try to stay confident about ourselves and our abilities and make sure that we always get the right value of our efforts.
Read more »

...