Journey from a Megacorp to a Startup
A candid chat with our Principal Engineering Manager - Somya Bhargava
What entices you to work at a startup?; How did you adapt to a first-time manager role? - We were able to get some answers for ourselves from Somya and what he had to say will definitely encourage first-time managers. Also, if you’re someone who has had apprehensions about working for an early-stage startup, these responses can prove to be gold for you.
From a large multinational to an early-stage startup, what changed for you?
Asking "what changed for me" will be an understatement. This shift transformed the way I worked! Right out of college, I started my career in a large organization. The initial few years went smoothly, but I soon became aware of everything lost amidst multiple levels of hierarchy and approvals.
Although processes and structure help keep a balance while working with a large team, it can be limiting if you pursue speed and innovation. At my previous organization, I remember building quite a few exciting solutions which never reached real users. At Rocketium, I could see many of my 'pet-project' features go live and get used by end users. I started to build solutions and could also experience users' journeys. These were the kind of experiences that I had missed being at a workplace that did not give me enough proximity to my users.
I was elated when I came closer to seeing the impact I was leaving on the product and its users!
Hiring the first few members is a crucial decision for any startup. How was your first interaction with Satej (our co-founder & CEO), and how did the interview process go?
The selection process turned out to be very different from what I had experienced earlier. Most companies follow a standard process of asking algorithm questions followed by probing into the design and structure of codes. When I met Satej for an in-person interview, he mostly asked me questions about areas I would be expected to work in. While hiring managers at many other companies only focus on evaluating you for what you have done, here was someone trying to understand what I could do. This approach stood out!
Besides the formal interactions during the process, I was also influenced by Satej's calm and composed demeanor. As they say, beyond where you work, it is important to have the right kind of people to work with. Of course, I did not take the decision of joining Rocketium in a jiffy. Given that I was going to take a big leap from leaving behind an MNC to work for an early-stage startup, I had my own set of insecurities, but the decision was a calculative risk that paid off big!
I was too young to miss such a chance! I felt the people that I was collaborating with were trustworthy, and I believe no other opportunity at that point in time could have brought me closer to achieving my aspirations as Rocketium did! Six years later, I am glad Satej took the decision of hiring me, and I am equally glad that I joined this dream team.
Your first stint as a Manager started at Rocketium, how did you go about adapting to this new role?
I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. As cliche as it may sound, we all know - "With great power, comes great responsibility". I have been lucky to be around inspiring people throughout my career! People whom I could look up to. So when I was myself entrusted with the opportunity to be in a role that demands a high level of accountability, I wanted to do all it takes to be the best version of myself.
In the past 3 years, being in a managerial role has not only given me an opportunity to build my team members' careers but also evolve as a person. I have imbibed the best practices I learned from my managers, and have tried my best to put them into practice. Every new team member has only added to improving my understanding of people, and thereby, my effectiveness as a manager. Also, being a first-time manager of the people I was already working closely with, only made it simpler for me.
What is your approach towards building and maintaining trust within your team?
I have no second thoughts as I say this, but the team makes it effortless for me. The culture we have built over time helped us attract like-minded people. Most of the new members we've had over years were introduced to us by then teammates. Successful referrals and a contagiously peaceful work environment acted as a driver for me to win the team's trust and the other way around.
Trust, kindness, and honesty matter to us more than any team member's pedigree. You ought to be thoughtful but kind to board our rocketship.