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Start-up lessons for the soul by Vidula Menge

Ex-Dreamster Vidula Menge relives her start-up journey experience by sharing some valuable lessons on how to make the most of it. Her inspiration: her own innings with Dream11. Read on to know more about her learnings and experiences living the Dream with India’s fastest growing sports-tech company.

Working at a startup is never an easy choice. As a candidate, your decision-making process takes time and involves many aspects. A feeling of uncertainty looms over, and there’s a lot more to consider than the pay check. But once you’re in, a whole new world of self-discovery awaits. And if you’ve never worked in a startup before, get ready for the experience of a lifetime. In my career so far, I was fortunate to have worked with one of India’s fastest growing startups that really challenged who I was and improved my efficiency. I strongly believe that one must explore the startup scene early on in their career, for it prepares you for your journey into the corporate world. Here are some valuable lessons I learned from my time at a startup company in India:

1. You help define the company culture

Most established companies expect you to follow the cultural practices already set in place by the senior management. Working in a startup gives you the power to help build the company’s culture from scratch alongside the top guys. To quote our CEO, “Culture is the only thing that scales”. It is one of the most important pillars of a company’s journey from a startup to a big business. Culture is a lot more than office perks or paid leaves. It is an amalgamation of the work environment, working style, company mission & vision, goals, values and most importantly, ethics. It is the backbone on which a company operates. It goes a long way in helping your company stand out and determines its success. Being part of a dynamic startup culture is interesting because it involves trial and error and you get to see the end result. It also gives you a sense of onus. Preserving workplace culture is as much the employee’s responsibility as the company’s.

2. You are part of the core team

I was only the third person to be hired in my team at the time. When your company size is small and your team even smaller, you become one of the core members. As a core team member, you play a crucial role in setting processes and help define your team’s modus operandi. That freedom to express yourself gives you the much needed boost in your early days at the company. And by the time someone new joins your team, you have earned the trust of your boss to successfully onboard your new teammate.

3. One head, many hats

You go in as a specialist in your role, but come out as an all-rounder. It is a proud feeling to find out what happens when you push your limits, by doing things you’d never imagined. A startup gives you that opportunity. Everyone here is expected to don many roles and take part in cross-team collaboration. It is something that the management encourages and promotes to ensure the individual grows along with the company. On my first day, I went in as a decent content writer responsible for the entire company’s communication. On my last day, I came out having fair knowledge and experience of the product, its design (UI & UX), the tech stack involved, the Customer Success operations, project management and of course, Marketing & Communication.

4. Organised chaos is good

A lot of people would argue that productivity is a result of silent work. I agree. I have been a fan of silent workplaces all my life. But, there is something different about the vibe here. It is the organised chaos that drives every individual to hustle every single day. There’s a method in the madness here. From the time you step in to the time you punch out, there’s not a single dull moment. It is also this buzz that motivates you to put your best foot forward and knock it out of the park! People are constantly moving, and so are their brilliant minds. There’s relentless teamwork and they’ve all got each other’s backs.

5. Easy-to-approach Management

For me, this was the best part of working in a startup. The company strength was around 70 when I joined. Two years later, it skyrocketed to 150+. One thing remains constant even today. The founders are always seated like the rest of the teams in an open, non-cubicle office. The other team heads sit with their respective teams. No fancy cabins, no shenanigans. You can always walk up to these folks and talk about anything — be it work-related or a casual chat.

6. You get to vote

From “What should be the location of our next office?” to “Where should we go for our offsite?”, every important decision involves a democratic process. Even something as casual as “Where should we party this Friday?” is posted as a poll on Slack, an internal team messaging tool. A decision is made only after everyone has finished voting. If you have a kickass idea and get the majority, voila! Similarly, the company also uses anonymous feedback to get even the most publicly shy person to speak up.

4. Don’t be afraid to take charge

Ownership is one of they key factors that shapes your personality at work. If you are a self-starter, ownership comes naturally to you. If not, a startup environment brings it out in you. You are thrown at the deep end, but are also given all the tools you need to bounce back. This is your time and opportunity to shine. Use all that you have at your disposal — data, technology, tools and lead from the front. If you fall, there’s always someone to hold you.

5. Experiments are welcome

Adopt what works, discard what doesn’t. But make sure your experiment has a valid hypothesis and is backed by solid data. Make mistakes, for “to err is human”. But also make sure you learn from them and move forward. If you’re the unconventional kind, go ahead and disrupt the norm. But also make a U-turn if it explodes. It was here that I learned some brilliant concepts like H.E.A.L (Hypothesis, Experiment, Analysis, Learning) and I.C.E (Impact, Confidence, Ease).

6. Open communication

Less emails. More slack messages. Less formal meetings. More informal stand-ups. It came as a surprise to me when I noticed that people were barely using emails to communicate with others. They’d just show up at each other’s desk, huddle for 15 mins in some corner of the office, or simply tag concerned teammates on a public slack channel, which even the CEO is part of. When you’re building a workplace culture, it is important to be transparent with your employees. And that can only be achieved by communicating openly.

Sure, working with big corporates will pay you exceedingly well, give you a sense of stability and put a known brand on your resume. But with startups, you get to watch your company scale new heights, experience many firsts, be part of the story and reap rich dividends (read: a top-market raise) of all your hard work and efforts. These days, startups also provide stock options that invariably make you feel like you’re one of them and not just another employee.

So what are you waiting for? Come live your dream with the team. Click here to apply!

Source: Vidula Menge on Medium