I’m in a better place now, thanks to Stoa School

Raj Kunkolienkar
Aug 11 · 5 min read

Before Shobhit Tyagi signed up to be a part of Stoa’s first cohort, he could already be considered successful by most Indian standards.

While he was still in college, he had co-founded an agency called Phenocs, which executed projects in the fields of website development, UI and graphic design, and social media management for businesses. After graduating, he went straight to working for IT giant Infosys, where he was selected for the first Accelerated Early Career Program as a part of the company’s initiative to recognise top performers in its entry- and mid-level workforce.

Despite this, Shobhit couldn’t shake off the feeling that he was going in the wrong direction, career-wise. Seeing a post on LinkedIn led to a little contemplation and the decision to apply to Stoa School in October 2020. Less than a year later, Shobhit landed his dream job as Product Marketing Lead at Tekie, a Bengaluru-based EdTech startup (raised $1.5M).

Meet Shobhit as he talks about how he left the stability of a corporate job behind to explore the tumultuous yet exciting world of startups.

College was a learning experience for me, but not in the way you would imagine. I was studying computer engineering in Mumbai and, while it was educational, I wanted to do something productive while also earning some pocket money. So, when I was in the second year of my Bachelor’s degree, a few friends and I got together and launched our first venture. Our great idea? Buy art from our friends and peers, and then sell it to interested customers at a markup. Sounds good, right? Except, it wasn’t well thought out at all, and we ended up losing more money than we made.

Then, the following year, we dusted off our knees and decided to try again. But this time around, we wanted to try something different. Being computer engineering students, one thing we knew how to do well was build websites. And with our other skills combined, we were sitting on a great idea — a digital marketing agency. We named it Phenocs and got down to looking for projects. Our first few clients turned out to be other colleges in the city. We collaborated with the organising teams to create websites for their annual cultural festivals, and we also took care of their branding and promotions. We continued doing this until we graduated in 2016. Then, we parted ways to follow our own paths.

A friend and I chose to keep Phenocs going on the side. Meanwhile, I joined Infosys in 2017 in a technical role, helping build tools for clients. My work day would end, and I would head back home to work on Phenocs projects through the night. But I wasn’t entirely happy with my day job. A part of me wanted to switch over from IT services to consulting, because I knew I had the people skills needed to be good at it. Luckily for me, Infosys decided to launch its Accelerated Early Career Program in September 2020, and I was among those selected to be a part of it. This was supposed to be my stepping stone to consulting.

Around the same time, while scrolling through LinkedIn one day, I came across a post about Stoa School, which was also just about to launch its first ever MBA Bootcamp. Having worked with a few startups while at Infosys, I knew there was a lot of exciting stuff going on inside these environments. I wanted a taste of that excitement, and it seemed like Stoa could be the doorway to that for me. I applied, got selected, and just like that I found myself undertaking two training programs simultaneously!

The Infosys training ended first and, as enthusiastic as I had been about it, I soon realised that it didn’t end up adding any value to my career. I found myself doing exactly the same kind of work I was doing before. It was disheartening. However, it also helped me realise that a startup is where I really wanted to be.

Stoa, on the other hand, got better and better. I could go on and on about the things that I loved about the program, like the curriculum, or how the team was always available if any of us needed help with something. But the things that stood out for me, personally, were the career guidance sessions, and the guest lectures.

A lot of us had never undergone any kind of career counselling in our entire academic lives, so it was nice to see Stoa dedicate so much time to it. While I knew vaguely what I wanted to do at the end of the program, the tasks set for us during counselling sessions helped me figure out my strengths and weaknesses, work on them, and narrow down my options.

To be honest, I didn’t expect to be blown away by the guest lectures. But every single session was fascinating and had something of incredible value, and I am sure everyone in the cohort will agree with me.

Another aspect I wasn’t expecting to find in my Stoa journey was the importance of community. Our bootcamp lasted three months, which may seem like a short time. But in those three months, despite belonging to different regions and backgrounds, we ended up forming a very close bond. A lot of us are still very close — in fact, I work with one of my Stoa cohort mates, not only at Tekie but also on independent projects.

When we decided to start looking for jobs, the Stoa team was a huge help. Right from looking up companies and shortlisting interesting ones, to helping us prepare for interviews, the team did their best to find exactly the right space for each of us to grow.

During my interview with Tekie, I was assigned a task revolving around branding and converting a customer. The thing is, while I had the basic knowledge of how to do these things thanks to my work with Phenocs, I didn’t know that with the right framework in place the process is far more efficient. Stoa had equipped us with that framework, and I applied it during the task. And guess what? I landed the job.

In our three-month journey, we studied the trajectories of over 10 startups. Now, I get to witness some of those stories playing out firsthand at my company. Currently, at Tekie, I handle product marketing and I am also involved in operations. For both roles, I continue to use everything I learned at Stoa. Another less tangible yet crucial lesson I took away from the Stoa team itself was the value of feedback, and how best it can be implemented. Being the first batch, there were some hiccups along the way, but the team heard us out and ironed out the kinks immediately.

My one piece of advice to anyone signing up for the program? Once you’re in, interact with as many people within the Stoa community as possible, whether it’s the team, your own cohort, or even the ones that went through the program before you. There is so much more to gain from this than you could imagine.

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