11 Things I Learned While Working in a Startup

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This is a guest post by Prateek Choudhary, who is a good friend of mine. Prateek has extensive experience in working with startups and he will share some of his learnings in the epic post. So take it away Prateek! 

I joined a startup as an intern. Operating from a 3 bedroom apartment under the guidance of a professor, the atmosphere was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Going to office in shorts and sandals, working from the balcony, flexible timings, brilliant colleagues- these were just a few things I fell in love with. There was no way I wouldn’t join this startup. And so the journey commenced!

From being a clueless college kid trying to figure out what was happening around me to now leading a team of my own, it has been one amazing journey – more like a thrilling roller coaster ride. So, it seems fitting to reflect on what I have learned as others might find it useful. Here are a few things that I have learned by working in a startup in these 4 years:

  1. Learn to build a product from scratch: This is one of the most important skill sets that I have acquired- converting a vague idea to a usable product by incrementally adding value in every step. It involves everything from designing the architecture, defining the user experience to deciding the look and feel of the product. It feels great to give life to the product and watch it succeed in the market.
  2. To keep moving forward: My mentor once told me “Problem solving is like the game of Age Of Empires. The map unveils only when you start taking the steps” I have learnt the hard way that the first step is the most important. You will see lots of roadblocks on your way but you will get there eventually- persistence is the key here.
  3. To deal with massive amount of uncertainty: Uncertainty is inherent in a startup and often its on the extreme end. Sometimes, its the CEO who is going back and forth with the requirements. Sometimes, even the clients do not know what they want. Without clear direction, it tends to get frustrating and it’s really crucial to learn from such situations.

I have dealt with uncertainty by being decisive and prioritising tasks efficiently. This also increases your ability to take risks- which would come in handy if you decide to start your own venture someday.

“The quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with.” – Tony Robbins

  1. An idea in itself is worth nothing: I could not possibly stress how relevant this is. I have worked on 2 ideas which sounded uber cool but had to be dropped because of poor implementation. Lots of people have lots of great ideas. Those ideas seem like million dollar ideas on paper. But, when it comes to market acceptance, its all about the execution.

“An idea without good execution is hallucination”

  1. Learn to let go: Many a times, it has happened that after many brainstorming sessions, design iterations and endless cups of coffee, we come up with some proposals. And, obviously you believe that they are the best possible options there could be in the universe. The next moment, Bam!- everything is discarded because your CEO finds your options stupid. All those hours of hard work gone down the drain! It gets demotivating sometimes, but you have to man up, learn from your mistakes with an open mind and start afresh. It’s a super valuable trait- trust me!
  2. Juggling multiple responsibilities: Designations mean nothing in startups. I joined as a product developer but I am pretty sure that I have also been an analyst, consultant, content writer, designer, recruiter, trainer in the past 4 years. A startup exposes you to a lot of different areas of running a business and if you are open to learning, it can equip you with skill sets that you thought were way beyond your personal limitations.
  3. Learn what not to do: Every company has problems, startups even more so. You can see the effect of every single decision very quickly, so you know what works and what doesn’t. I have learnt from some of the mistakes that my company has made. Knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do.
  4. Learn to innovate: I was lucky to be surrounded by brilliant people all the time. Office environment was always buzzing with enthusiasm and passion. Being in that entrepreneurial atmosphere builds a strong innovative nature- helps you to learn to solve a problem in the most efficient way possible.
  5. Asking for help is the optimal solution: I have never shied away from asking for help, be it from an intern or from my boss. I have seen a lot of people who are afraid to ask for help and that just slows down the learning process. You have a bunch of smart people around you- why not learn from them? It is the best part about working in a startup. Getting different perspectives to tackle a problem helps you to come up with better solutions.
  6. Leadership skills: I have got responsibilities which have made me wonder “Am I qualified enough to do this?” In some time, you get used to it and stop questioning your abilities. It just has to be done! I have lead teams of extremely bright folks through very uncertain situations. This has helped me in improving my interpersonal and leadership skills and has given me a lot of confidence to start my own venture. Working in a startup has exposed me to a lot of different aspects of running a company very early in my career path.
  7. Never give up: There are problems and then there are problems which get on your nerves, trying to rip apart your peace of mind. How do you motivate yourself when you have hit a dead end? The one thing that I have learnt is that there is always a solution. It is just a matter of time until you figure it out. Persistence is the most revered asset that I will take away from working in a startup.

So, my experience of working in a startup has been really amazing. I wouldn’t have wished for my career path to be any other way. But is it for everyone? Nope! Sometimes, it gets really frustrating with the uncertainty and the work hours. Although, one thing’s for sure- working in a startup equips you with an excellent set of skills and you will learn a lot very quickly.

Prateek Choudhary has been working at a supply chain analytics startup for 4 years. He has an active interest in finance and behavioural science. When he is not in the geek mode, he loves to play the guitar and blog. He is also involved in a project called AlumTree which is an alumni engagement platform.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

Comments

  1. Namrata Dutta says:

    This is really inspiring. I’m currently working for a startup myself and could relate to so many things.

  2. Well put . ” I joined as a product developer but I am pretty sure that I have also been an analyst, consultant, content writer, designer, recruiter, trainer in the past 4 years. ” Spot on !

  3. thelistbuilder says:

    There will always be FAQs in the startup realm, and here are some of the most common: #FAQ #StartUps #FrequentlyAskedQuestions #TopChart
    http://www.topchart.io/lists/startup-faqs

  4. Well set . ” I working on a startup but I am pretty sure that I have also been an analyst, consultant, content writer, recruiter, trainer in the past 4 years. ” Spot on !

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