10 Lessons I Learned After Working with 10 Companies in 3 Years
10 different companies in less than 3 years on my CV is enough to scare most HRs away. The brave ones take a leap of faith and care for an interaction, and yes, those are the best discussions I ever have. The first question anyone has for me is how and why did I switch so much?
Let’s go back to 2014. Digital Marketing in India was fairly new. IT Companies were still coming to terms with the fact that they just couldn’t have any more copied text for their blogs as Google had made some alarming changes to the relevant algorithm. So, there was a clear deficit of content writers in the Indian market, and the money was great too. In my first job alone, I was being offered more money than an average engineering student earned in the any of the biggest tech companies of India.
The circus then began. To back my expertise in writing, I had years of practice in school and college, a blog of my own, but what worked for me was my additional 2 years experience as the social media expert and writer for the official social media channels of my university (2012–2014). Unlike others, I started my professional from 2 instead of 0, in terms of years of work experience. I had started working on Facebook marketing before ads had even arrived, and thus, always focused on how important it was for the brands to have some organic reach and not depend on paid promotions alone.
Cut to March, 2017. I am working in my 10th company. It’s been a long journey as a writer for IT and Educational Organizations (However, I am just getting started on Medium), and by the end of the next financial year, I intend to move to administrative services or banking, with the former being first love. Writing shall continue for life, but only for the soul, not for the pocket.
Obviously, I won’t be naming any company or the person I have worked with, but would like to mention that each one of them had something to teach me, good or bad.
So, here are my 10 takeaways from a roller-coaster like professional career:
- Not All Garages House a Startup: Your hoodie, rented laptop, or even your father’s free garage isn’t’ enough to get your startup going. While the above mentioned aspects do make an impression, they are not enough to take your idea forward. You need to get out of your comfort zone, ahead of your conventional audience, and most importantly, outside your father’s garage. I saw a great idea embrace death because the someone was too stubborn to reach out to the people who could have actually benefited from his product.
- Boys/Girls Rule, Men/Women Lead: Often, I have come across excited managers who seem to be unable to contain the dictator in them once they attain the designation. One, you can’t get a team to work for you if you want to act like Hitler. Two, position doesn’t come with common sense, and three, to get the work done, you can’t expect your employee to double up as someone else. A fish can’t climb a tree for you just because the zoo doesn’t have a monkey. Managers need to respect the people they work with, else, it’s a recipe for disaster.
- The Boss Doesn’t Know it All: For a leader who is willing to take the brand forward, they must be open to accepting their shortcomings. For once, I worked with someone who accepted their language barrier, embraced their weakness on the knowledge front, and chose to be guided rather than dictating. This not only helped his brand achieve success, but has today made him a force to reckon within their domain of business. Clearly, not all leaders are perfect, but then, rarely do leaders accept their own shortcomings.
- PAY US ON TIME: Uncertainty on the paying front can turn many employees into hysterical maniacs looking for a solution. How established you might be as a brand, you need to respect your employees’ financial obligations, and have a paying cycle in place that doesn’t depend on your mood. If an employee has to request their salary through an email, it warrants an urgent need of an efficient accounting system in place. Bad paymasters are the quickest to perish. The one I refer to here is hanging on to their life for relevance.
- Quantity is not Quality: A thriving IT Company with over 500 employees couldn’t break the stagnation in its growth after completing a decade in the industry. While the leaders chased profits instead of client relationships, the workers were forced to be on the lookout for better learning opportunities. Money, for your employees, a while later becomes obsolete as once the regularity is ensured, they feel the need to learn. The quantity of your projects doesn’t amount to the quality of work being done inside the company.
- Screwing Up is Essential: No one is perfect, not even your CEO who says that he has raised a billion dollars in investments. When I first accepted a position as a manager, I made some mistakes, one of them being to bring the team at a pace I was happy working at. Turns out, screwing up is an essential part of growing. You make a mistake, you learn from it, and if you do, you are bound to use that experience sometime later. For the ones who are afraid of screwing up, don’t be, for that’s one of the stepping stones to growth.
- Controversy is Temporary, Class is Permanent: In these 3 years, I have come across so many people who preferred content that was logically or academically flawed, and instead chose to settle for something that was merely mediocre. One needs to realise that investing in content is investing in the brand value of the company at an organic value. Controversy can be fueled by ad campaigns, catchy headlines, but if you wish to retain a user or a client, invest in class, for class never gets old. Ranging from content to the structure of website, everything should appeal to the user on an intellectual level.
- Startups Need a Vision Too: Your investors can get you an office space, branding, and probably the salaries for the first few employees, but beyond that, it all comes down to your vision. One of the recent startups I worked with chose to be a one-man show without any vision for their content. In their defense, they are not alone for Indians don’t invest in content as much as their counterparts in the West do, and this is true at both micro and macro economic level. Why else do you think we love Netflix so much? Some even rejected my writing as they couldn’t understand it. That’s Indian IT Sector for you!
- You Don’t Compete with the Team: If you are the manager, you don’t ever compete the team you are heading. In one of my recent experiences, I worked with a manager who satisfied her insecurities by competing with the team. From a single day project to the ones that were supposed to go on for long, she felt the urgent need to compete everywhere. Clearly, this practice reeked of the inefficiency she carried within her, but that’s alright, for not all managers are supposed to be management geniuses. You can only learn, and you must.
- Company is Temporary, Learning is Permanent: It is better to invest in oneself than invest it all in a company. Especially in India’s 2nd tier IT companies where an average employment period doesn’t exceed 12 months, it makes sense to invest in oneself in terms of skills, knowledge, and learning. The volatility in the Indian IT Sector is unprecedented, and in my experience with these 10 companies, I realized that I was better off investing in myself than toiling excessively for people who saw me as nothing but a keyboard slave.
As I finish writing my first story on Medium, I get a push notification saying ‘Bangalore (India’s IT Hub) has lowest paid techies across world’s top 20 cities’, and I quote it here to give you an idea of how the IT Industry functions in India.
There are hundreds of other lessons I could and might share, but for a start, this all I can recall.
Remember, only the best companies bring out the best in an employee. Everything else is a drag.
I’ll be writing a lot more. Keep watching this space.