How my grandfather’s words helped me break into tech
About a year ago, I was a nobody in the tech community. Literally, I knew almost no one at venture funds and startups. I had no knowledge about how to navigate the “tech space”. My original plan had always been to get into finance. I decided against it. I decided I wanted to get into tech. But, the mindset with which you approach finance is drastically different from how you approach tech.
I sat down with two pieces of paper. I wrote down things I knew I am not good at on one paper. I knew I won’t become a full time programmer. I knew I was not good at math. I knew I was geographically detached from the tech hubs like NYC, SF and Boston. I knew going to conferences and events wasn’t possible for me. I also knew that none of my relatives and family members happen to be associated with the tech scene.
Later, I made a list of things I was decently good at on the second piece of paper. I wrote I tend to think long term. I knew the value of having long term relationships. I also wrote I like reading a lot daily. And, I had been told I think about others in most situations. I had realized I was good at connecting people and concepts.
The things I was good at didn't seem to translate well into skill-set I thought I needed to break into tech to me. The things I wasn't good at or weren't possible were clearly helpful in starting a career in tech.
When I was 11 years old, my grandfather told me two things.
First, invest in people more that you do in stocks or cars or real estate. Second, stick to your strengths and manage your weaknesses.
I wrote the first saying on the piece of paper with list of strengths. I write the second saying on the second paper with list of weaknesses.
I made a bunch of decisions that day keeping my grandfather’s words in mind.
I wont be a full time programmer but I will attain coding literacy. I wont be good at math, but I will be good at handling data and analytical thinking. I might not be in NYC or SF, but I could use Twitter. I might not have relatives in tech, but I could build new relationships from scratch.
I doubled down on all my strengths. Since I love reading, I subscribed to a lot of insightful blogs by founders, product people, and venture capitalists. I started gaining knowledge daily. I started building digital relationships with a lot of people via Twitter by just chiming in, sharing their pieces, connecting them to to others, asking questions, and helping them in tiniest way possible. I started connecting a lot of concepts together based off of my reading and communications on twitter. So, I started writing on Medium extensively to think through my ideas and opinions. I knew nothing is going to happen overnight. Taking a long-term perspective on learning new things, connecting with new people, and deepening relationships with people came quite easily to me.
Long story short, doing this for a long period of time helped me break into tech. It led to a lot of relationships with influential people I look up to in real life. It led me to find my interests in venture capital, products, design, and writing. It brought me new opportunities that I wouldn't have otherwise have gotten. It lead to jobs at SoGal Ventures, Betaworks and now Assist. It helped me build a voice. It helped me become someone who gets approached by a lot of interesting people in tech. I went from having no skills to having some skills.
I am certainly not a big shot in tech. But, I think I have found a place. I am not even partially done. I am merely 1% done. I have just gotten started. So much more to learn. So many weaknesses to manage. A couple strengths to leverage. So many new people and opportunities to meet.
I have promised myself not to stop. I still read a lot daily. I work in tech. I am building my skill-set in design, research, product, etc. I have a personal goal of helping two people a day. Merely sharing an interesting article with someone qualifies as helping. It’s the intent that matters. For sharing something, I had to have known her interests in the first place.
I am always trying my best to do well by doing good. At the risk of coming off as cocky, I am going to publicly say that I have been told by a lot of people that I am good at helping others and maintaining relationships at scale. As an introvert, I am proud of that. That is the single most important skill that has helped me learn and progress.
I owe it to my late grandfather for giving me the wisdom that helped me break into tech.