“I work with this startup …”

Every time you hear someone say those words, you either subconsciously frown, or perk up and bombard the poor guy with questions.

And sometimes if you’re the enthusiastic young man that you are, you also decide the poor guy needs a reality check and go on to disregard the entire existence of his ‘apparent organisation.’

Design Courtesy: Shreya & Alisha

It’s quite phenomenal the number of times I’ve said “I work with this startup called Haptik. Yeah, Haptik. H-A-P-T-I-K” in the first two minutes of starting a conversation- over the last two years.

It’s also quite phenomenal how quickly that statement can really brand you.

You work at E&Y? “Must be a sharp guy”
You work at a startup?
“Poor guy, not even as bright as Syska LEDs”

I’m probably being a cynical twat, but let’s be honest and not deny that every time a stranger or acquaintance utters the phenomenal “I work with this startup …” you are ready to unleash every judgmental atom in you, and take a full bloodied swing at the poor guy.

But you aren’t reading to see me rant like a cynical twat, and I am not writing because I am tired of being the poor guy. Today is actually momentous, momentous enough for me to share some gyaan on Medium.

Today, I complete two years with Haptik and while that’s no big deal in the real world; it’s momentous at a company that’s just about two and half years old.

[insert every celebratory emoji that exists]

Now, you’re probably tired of hearing how cool it can be to work at a startup. How Flexibility is the new Private Ltd. And how we the “Startup Syska’s” are never going to enjoy the “real jobs.”

Or you’re also probably tired of arguments like it’s a bubble, no security, no long term vision, no market yada, yada, more yada. But nah, none of that. Two years at an ex-early stage and current-hyper growth startup has me thinking about something else.

“I work with this startup…” turned my as it is ambitious life on it’s head. Quite subtly.

I am not talking about your yardstick measurement of growth, the pay package, the pizza & beer culture or the infamous get shit done attitude. I am talking the intangible, the unintentional and the things we often forget to acknowledge or even notice.

Here are my two cents on why everybody young or old should probably end up saying “I work with this startup…” at some point in their life.

1. “Is it a real job?” No It’s Not.

Settling that age-old argument, once and for all. An early stage startup is actually nothing like a workplace or a job. And you’ll be down & out before you know it, if you treat it like one. Sounds like pseudo-gyaan even when I say it to myself but it’s actually a lot like school. Which means discipline, yes! But it also means fostering early relationships, making your first footprints, learning like you know absolutely nothing. That’s what it is, and that’s why this isn’t a college reference.

2. You’ll learn how to be “A Keeper”

I wasn’t necessarily going for a bad relationship metaphor; but 6 - 9 months at an early stage startup accounts for nothing at most times. There is a reason when I didn’t write the same post when I completed 1 year at Haptik. You have to stick around when the house is on fire; you need to have difficult conversations to make your place. You are entitled to an opinion as an early employee but you have to stay, to figure it out. Every early stage startup is going to have a bad time around the corner, if not a complete shit show. But in a generation like ours; it’ll teach you to try and believe. It’ll teach you a little about loyalty. It’ll teach you to struggle and fight it out; do that when the battle isn’t entirely yours (as an employee) and that’s when you’ll be ready to be a founder or a better version of yourself. A keeper.

3. You won’t really need a dose of Rhonda Byrne or Robin Sharma!

No offence, they are great authors in their own right but you really want to develop? Self discover? Learn how to be a leader? Try working with a startup! You have absolutely no idea of how far you can go, the things you can do and the things you can be good at, until you have. You’ll discover things about yourself both professionally & otherwise that you had no appetite for. Experiment, learn and unlearn for yourself. That’s the only self help you’ll begin to believe in.

4. Making a decision is a lot harder than you think

Have you ever wondered why it takes so long to get promoted and climb up a typical corporate ladder? Here is a very under-rated reason: You can’t be trusted with your decisions! And why’s that? Because you’re never forced to make them. Making decisions is a lot harder than you think; whether it’s by instinct or data, you’ll make the right decisions only after you’ve made a few wrong ones. An early stage startup empowers you to make those decisions!

5. You’ll Observe Like An Artist

There is a big difference between observing & thinking. You might think a lot, but do you observe enough? It’s not a very tangible realisation, but an early stage startup forces you to observe. Why? Because you’re always looking to find an easier, faster, cheaper way of doing something. You’re always working with other people who are sharp. You’re looking to get your way on a street that’s a chaotic traffic jam. You’ll learn to observe like an artist, because sometimes that’s all it takes to find a solution.

6. You work ‘with’, not work ‘at’

Notice how I’ve said “work with” everywhere? That’s because only an early stage startup let’s you realise you don’t work at, or work for companies, entities or people. You always work with them. Say it to yourself a few times, and see how you start enjoying it :)

In the last two years, I have taken that journey from being ‘Mr. Poor Guy’ to ‘Mr. Bragging Rights.’ It’s been quite sensational. The thrills are unparalleled: for instance it warms my evil soul to know that there won’t be another “Marketing Gandu” at Haptik [at least I’d like to think.]

So in hindsight, the little joys & massive pride that come your way with saying “I work with this startup…” is definitely worth some of your time.

Time to make my way to that hard earned beer now, until next time.

P.S: Catcall Alert (just kidding!)— We are hiring on the Marketing Team at Haptik. So if you know somebody who can find the grammatical errors on this post, ask them to reach out to me! ;)