“Entrepreneurship means a bird’s eye view and a ‘hands on deck’ approach!”

Yitzi Weiner
Apr 13, 2018 · 7 min read
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Words of Wisdom from Pooja Krishna, Co-founder, Maroon Oak and Founder, Win Thinks

I had the pleasure of interviewing Pooja Krishna, an MBA, an Entrepreneur & Business Mentor, with 24+ years of experience working in the corporate world and running her 3 ventures. As the co-founder of Maroon Oak and founder at Win Thinks, Pooja works with entrepreneurs and professionals to empower them with fresh perspectives and resources. She also loves teaching students about jobs and life skills, as well as entrepreneurship. Pooja is an amateur acrylics artist and yoga & hula hoop enthusiast. Off late, she is discovering the pleasure of drawing Zentangle patterns for ‘creative mindfulness.’ Her mantra: Success is a balancing act!

What is your “backstory”?

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Can you share the factors that drove the course of your career?

Working across cultures and time zones is another dimension of experience — much recommended. Then there is the host of possibilities that the online world offers — I love that one can ‘e-meet’ so many talented and awesome people everyday!

As a mom, I’m constantly striving to embrace my version of work and life balance, and to try and set the right example of what construes success.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

How are you giving back ? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

One question I often ask of others is — “Where are you in terms of opportunity, skills, collaboration and visibility?” Volunteering to teach the different aspects of business to entrepreneurs who struggle in this area, has helped me become a better leader and doer too.

As a student mentor for K-12, I’m also passionate about teaching work and life skills to children early on. This includes problem solving, creative thinking and hands-on learning. So I encourage students as early as elementary school to share business ideas and solve ‘real life’ problems. Many older kids have great business ideas that can use practical insights on marketing, funding etc. and I work with them there. Apart from the classroom setting, I work with them one-on-one to ideate, troubleshoot or pitch themselves at events. The energy and enthusiasm they bring is enormous and infectious.

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Wow! Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

I believe that mentorship is not about giving the answers — it’s helping people navigate their path!

A lot of students I guide don’t come from advantaged backgrounds. Even if they want it, college isn’t an option — they need to work to help support families. So encouraging them to improve their communication and interview skills can take them a step further in finding employment with better companies.

While the stories and dreams that most kids share are very touching, a young high school senior moved me deeply with her desire to save up, so she could to train as a pediatric nurse. She wanted to do this after seeing so many premie kids suffer in her inner city neighborhood of Atlanta. I coached her, and she now works as a helper at a daycare centre, committed more than ever, to claiming her dream.

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What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

If we see ourselves as the underdog, then that’s how the world will view us. No, I don’t mean fake it. But do, deep dive within to find what amazing ideas and values you bring to the table. Figure out why you believe your voice counts. All those amazing success stories we hear — the audacity is the big lever. So go right out and embrace your winner’s mindset.

People before product — always!

MBAs learn a lot about marketing theory, product design, ops and tech, but it all comes down to the common denominator — people! How well can you work with others, lead a team, motivate those around you and finally, catalyse an organization. I’ve seen savvy CEOs who’ve made big blunders, because they were clueless at reading a room and managing their teams. On the other hand, there are home grown execs without fancy degrees who managed to deliver great results, simply because they were tuned in and genuinely invested in their people.

Build your brand, then brandish it.

Be clear about what you stand for. Then be vocal about it. If you believe in something, get people on board with you. Use clear communication to showcase your strengths. It isn’t always necessary to shout about your wins, but keeping them under wraps doesn’t help either. There is a whole new breed of influencers today, who drive the success of products and ideas and every one of them is very ‘visible’.

Learners inherit the earth

The work landscape is constantly evolving and technology — often new and unfamiliar — will continue to drive everything. While that’s a big challenge in itself, it’s amazing how many of us find it hard to learn a new concept, a novel gadget or even an unfamiliar route now. But here’s the thing — your ability to ride the wave will determine the winners from the stragglers. It doesn’t have to be anything big — try brain games, take up a new skill like public speaking or Italian cooking, maybe unravel 5 new features on your phone.

For the best of us, our minds are losing agility — I recently interviewed 11 C-suite (or senior VP level) execs — all Engineers and MBAs — who after a lifetime of working on computers, now prefer to print out important documents rather than read on their machines, for fear of missing out errors on the screen.

Predict and preempt to get ahead

I learnt this early on — I just didn’t apply it all that well. To be truly successful, you need to estimate the unknown and make it work for you. Market forces will change, technology will always evolve and success metrics will never be constant, but as astute entrepreneur learns to stay a step ahead of the trend. Know where the ball is going, and where all it can possibly go, then you can never be out-shot.

Despite the naysayers, I have always held strong that the most enduring social media channel will be Facebook, given its sheer depth of engagement. And I’ll go out on a limb to say that it will rival Google within the next 1–2 years as the extremely curated recommendation engine.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

To me that’s deeply admirable — knowing that your achievements are but a milestone. Because tomorrow is another day…

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