CAREER LEARNINGS

COMPRO TECHNOLOGIES (2012-2014)

Background

I was new to the Salesforce platform back in 2012. I joined Compro as a Salesforce developer. 

My time began with a 3-month crash course: 

  • Front end 

    • HTML

    • CSS

    • JS

  • Backend

    • Java

    • JSP

  • Database

    • SQL


This was followed with me participating in various projects as a developer across the following industries: 

  • E-Commerce

  • Real Estate

  • Hospitality

  • Manufacturing

  • Telecom


I used the following technologies: 

  • Sales Cloud

  • Service Cloud

  • Visualforce

  • Apex (50+ Classes)

  • Visualforce (20+ Pages)

  • HTML/CSS/JavaScript (10 Custom UI’s)

  • AngularJS (1000 Lines)

  • Bootstrap (1000 Lines)

  • Jquery Mobile (1000 lines)

  • Dell Boomi (4 Interfaces)



The good part

  • Having done a bit of front-end and back-end coding during my university days, I assumed it would take a similar amount of time to build something on Salesforce, but I was wrong. 

  • The basics of front-end and backend programming made me understand the MVC architecture of the Salesforce platform fairly quickly

  • It was great to be a generalist throughout the software delivery lifecycle to work across requirement gathering, solution design, development, training and go-live


Summary 

  • I spent 2.5 years at Compro and made friends along the way

  • Compro set a good example for how a lean company should operate

  • I moved on when I saw a more interesting challenge at my family business


Reflection 

  • As a developer, I used to overly focus on the ‘How’ (possible link to blog post- ‘Start with Why’)

  • The star consultants were people who would push back to the customers

    • At first, this used to strike me as rude

      • But think about what Steve Jobs said about customers not knowing what they want 

    • Pushing back ensures that the client gets a version of ‘What’ they want based on ‘Why’ they want it

      • The details of this version are left to the consultants and developers

  • I realized sometime during Covid that it didn’t matter how nifty the solution is, if it doesn’t do what it is supposed to

    • My thoughts at Compro during the Build phase: “Do you know how smartly I’ve built this custom page for you?”

    • My thoughts at Compro during the Adoption phase: “Why aren’t you using this??”

  • Fixed budget projects rarely go as planned 

    • Agile is the way to go (or is it?)  (possible link to blog post - ‘Agile, the right way’)

  • It is imperative for all members of the development (or scrum team) to start with what the business wants

    • In today’s day and age, you can’t say, “I’m only a developer, so I don’t care about the ‘Why’”. 

  • It is imperative for developers to validate the necessity of writing code

    • Code should be the last resort - if all declarative options fail 

    • Clicks + Code can also be the way to go

  • A developer should take pride in their code

    • Comments do not make up for unreadable code

    • The code should read like a story

      • This is hard to do

      • We seldom budget sufficient time for this

GALAXY GROUP (2014-2016)

Background

After spending almost 2.5 years at Compro, I was up for a new challenge. My family business was coming up with a new shopping mall, and they needed help looking after the operations. I figured it would be nice to experience life as an employer, since it would give me a chance of polishing my people skills. 


My time began with getting to know the basics: 

  • Finance / Accounting 

    • I picked up a 10th grade book to skim the basics

    • I shadowed our accountants to understand their daily work

  • Operations

    • I shadowed our facility manager to understand how the housekeeping, security and equipment up-keep departments work

    • I kept a journal of things I didn’t understand

  • Managing people

    • There was no manual for this

    • My approach was simple - happier people will make for a happier bottom-line

    • I invited employees for 1-on-1 informal discussions that would begin with, “How are you feeling working for us?”

    • I kept the first-ever full-time hiring manager 



The good part: 

  • The accounts receivable process was being done in an outdated system that left much to be desired. We revamped the system to a modern, transparent one. This exposed missed recurring invoices and helped us bill our 100% potential every month. 

  • Keeping growing occupancy in mind, we implemented a robust customer service process whereby people could lodge complaints and track them. This was a big win for ensuring a happier occupant base


Summary: 

  • I spent 1.5 years in my family business 

  • There were many reasons for moving on 

    • The changed we made were kicking in to help the bottom line

    • I was missing having intellectual conversations around tech

  • I hired a senior facility manager who would fill my shoes 

  • I moved on to PwC as a Salesforce Consultant


Reflection: 

  • A CEO works for the people, not the other way around

  • Managing people begins with managing yourself 

  • Employee and customer satisfaction is more important than we think it is. Which out of the two is relatively more important is debatable. 

  • Age equals wisdom equals authority in the minds of a traditional Indian business owner

    • These people expect other businesses to operate in the same way

  • Often times, I would find myself in sticky situations with occupants over operational issues

    • I would find myself helpless and agitated in these situations

    • One such matter ended up in a lawsuit

  • I bisect my feelings below

    • Why did I feel agitated?

      • These were not the kinds of problems I wanted to solve

      • These were not the kinds of conversations I wanted to have

      • I didn’t personally care about the customers

    • Why did I feel helpless?

      • The customers wouldn’t meet me halfway

      • They needed to hear from the ‘authority’ - i.e - my father 

  • I later realised that worrying without action leads to stress. I heard Jeff Bezos say this in an interview

  • A more detailed post-mortem is pending

PwC (2016-2018)

Background

After spending almost 1.5 years in my family business, I missed having intellectual conversations with people with similar backgrounds. An opportunity came up at PwC to join their fairly new Salesforce practice. PwC was a good brand, it was a consulting role, the office was close to home and I knew the manager from before, so why not? 



The good part: 

  • It was interesting to understand how a Big 4 operated with its set of network firms 

  • I liked that one could ‘bother’ - i.e - ping anyone from any PwC office in the world! 

  • It was interesting to see how the technology consulting practices would often work with the management consulting practices

    • A brother or sister-in-arms work environment

  • I got to collaborate in pre-sales pitches with network firms in: 

    • Australia 

    • US 

    • Switzerland

    • Sri Lanka 

    • Malaysia 

    • Japan 

    • New Zealand 

  • I gleaned and learned as to how projects are sold. ‘What’ we are building is not as important as the complete picture, i.e: 

    • Business-value mapping

    • Communication 

    • Change management

    • Continuity planning

    • etc.


Summary: 

  • I spent close to 2 years at PwC 

  • There were many reasons for moving on 

    • My wife and I wanted to experience life abroad

    • I didn’t see scope for mobility from within the company

  • I moved on to Obvious People in Amsterdam as a Salesforce Consultant


Reflection: 

  • It is important to consider the morale of the team, irrespective of company size

  • A can-do attitude can take you a long way

  • Every domain has an expert at hand. Rely on them and collaborate

  • Find out your areas of high leverage

    • Where you have a high output/input ratio 

Obvious People (June 2018- Nov 2018)

Background

After spending almost 2 years at PwC, I decided to move to The Netherlands for global exposure. I’d heard from an ex-colleague that Amsterdam was a nice place and that the work culture was equitable. This sounded like a refreshing break from the hierarchical work culture in India.


The good part: 

  • It was nice to experience life outside India 

  • It was nice to be able to travel within Europe - multiple countries, unfettered access 

  • It was a personal win - first successful project abroad

    • I stepped in as a replacement for 2 roles

    • We turned around the project from a red state to a green state

Summary: 

  • I spent 4 months at Obvious people

  • The main reasons for moving on were 

    • Unbalanced work life

    • Lack of growth path 

  • I moved on to Nextview in Amsterdam as a Solution Architect


Reflection: 

  • I tried to extract meaning from things I could control and not worry about things I were out of my control

  • I updated my internal Operating system with how a project or company should NOT function. 

Nextview (Nov 2018- present)

Background

After spending 5 months at Obvious People, I decided to move to Nextview. Nextview projected a desirable mix of Design and Tech. Having been a fan of Steve Jobs, the design aspect called out to me. I was curious to see how the two elements would come together.  I was pleasantly surprised throughout all the interactions I had in the interview process. The management was open, transparent and friendly. I jumped in. 


The good part: 

  • I love the non-hierarchical setup

    • This is something that I dearly missed in bigger companies

  • It’s great to work for a company whose value is “We work like friends”

SABBATICAL (Feb 2022 - May 2022)

Not long after the Covid lockdown in March 2020, I was feeling: 

  • Directionless

  • Out of passion for my work

  • Unable to enjoy the little things


I tried to counteract this by:

  • Stirring up conversations at work to understand if other people were feeling similarly

  • Injecting creativity into otherwise mundane work tasks


I was almost dragging myself when:

  • I discovered HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) around August 2020

    • This made me feel great!

    • Each workout was more challenging than the previous one

      • Leading to a recurring feeling of accomplishment

  • I stumbled on to reading non-fiction around April 2020


The next 2 years saw me go through a journey of:

  • Self-discovery

    • Questioning who I was, what I liked, what I disliked

  • Learning

    • Non-fiction books became my refuge from the often monotonous reality

    • When I would sit with a book, I would feel

      • Important

      • As if my mind was being stretched in different directions

  • Becoming more curious

    • Why is the work I do important? 

    • Why do certain things operate the way they do? 


Around the beginning of 2022, there was almost a growing need to shake things up at work. As the fish doesn’t know that it’s in water, I decided to take myself out of water - i.e - take a sabbatical. During this sabbatical, I would spend ample time with my son (to be born in March) and spend ample time wondering and wandering (metaphorically). 


During, the 4-month sabbatical, I: 

  • Spent quality time with family

    • I was more intentional about this

    • I looked past minor annoyances of the sometimes intrusive social setup

  • Took an online course on trading

    • I used to find myself lost when reading financial news, especially around stocks, ETF’s, etc

    • I wanted to gain a basic knowledge of the trade

    • I wanted to see if trading using technical analysis can be remunerative

  • Enrolled myself in the altMBA

    • Seth Godin’s video on the altMBA website called out to me

    • The most memorable points were around: 

      • Providing a playground to practice leadership skills that matter

      • Discovering value in collaborative learning 

      • Discovering in giving and receiving feedback

      • Building a habit of shipping - i.e. getting something done - regularly

    • I was long disenchanted with the idea of joining a regular 2-year MBA, spending almost all my life savings and not knowing exactly what it will get me

    • The altMBA seemed like a good ‘alt’ernative (:wink)

  • Practised patience in being a father


Reflections: 

  • Taking a break to take stock of where one is going is priceless

    • Think of a long career as a continuously scrolling Facebook news feed

    • At times, it can make you numb 

    • Taking a sabbatical is like deactivating your account

  • Removing work from the equation makes you lean on other things to bring you value

    • This is essential

    • Putting too much value on work can make one lose the spark

    • There is a goldilocks zone in the amount of value you give your work

    • Too little value; why are you even working? 

    • Too much value; who are you outside of work?

  • On Parenting

    • This role comes without a manual 

    • It has its challenges

    • The highs are higher than the lows are lower

    • Seeing your child smile unabashedly is very rewarding