Six years of professional career – A quick recap

18 July 2011. Yes, that’s today. It marks six years of my professional career. In a nutshell, ever since joining InfoEdge at their Noida office six years back, I have been programming to create websites. But it has been a lot more than that. I have made some amazing friends during these six years with whom I have shared some unforgettable moments, learned a lot about coding, business and life from the people I have interacted with and situations I faced. A lot have changed since that hot and sweaty day of 18 Jul 2005 (which I still remember very vividly).

If I look back and try to recap the last six years, I can break them down into six very specific sections / phases / periods which can be associated with some really significant events in my career. Read below to know about these six phases –

First Steps – July 2005 to July 2006

The first year of my professional life was as good as it gets. I did a lot of hard work in office, and made some really good friends. Everyday during these times was so much fun and unforgettable. The leg-pulling, late night parties, the fights, and the do-not-care attitude of some 7-8 of us colleagues made it one of my best years ever. Coding till late in the night, learning new technologies and putting them to innovative use was an added advantage to the fun we were having everyday in office.

Ok, I hope you can sense the 'fun' being part of this team

Ok, I hope you can sense the 'fun' being part of this team

Cloudy Days – Aug 2006 to Aug 2007

The fist disappointment came after a year of work, and it made things bad with a very good friend of mine. The group was divided into two, and both sides tried to irritate the other group as much as possible with their sarcastic comments and mannerisms in office. Although it was all friendly rivalry with no serious hard feelings, it did get tense at times. But as all clouds have a silver lining, Sukip and SaleRaja were born during this period out of the happenings in office. It was not a pleasant year for me in office, but a very important one. And by the end of the year, I patched up with this friend of mine and we were back to normal, fun filled days.

The 99acres team of 2008, at Mashobra

The 99acres team of 2008, at Mashobra

Finding the real me? – Sep 2007 to Oct 2008

If I have to choose one year as the most defining in the last six, it will be this one. It made me discover traits of my personality which I didn’t knew even existed. Managing SaleRaja and leading a team of 14 people, ensuring the co-existence of both work and fun, made me face challenges and respond to them in a way that was to shape my personality. Made another group of great friends during this time, learnt a lot about leadership, and also cleared a lot of pre-conceptions about people and life in general during this time. This phase ended with me making one of the toughest decisions of my life, to leave InfoEdge and the team (and fun) I had for SaleRaja.

My farewell from InfoEdge in Oct 2008, a very emotional moment

My farewell from InfoEdge in Oct 2008, a very emotional moment

SaleRaja – Nov 2008 to Dec 2009

Over to Bangalore. Fully focussed on SaleRaja, I started doing everything, from sales calls to marketing to coding with an aim of making it big with SaleRaja. We worked hard, then harder, and then even harder to squeeze the most out of our time. My days have been 14-16 hour long for some time, but it started to become taxing and tiring by the end of this phase. In Dec 2009 decided it was time to move on, again one of the tough decisions I had to take. But these 14 months in Bangalore taught me a lot about business and life as I was exposed to many startups and the eco-system surrounding startups. Again, I made a lot of good friends and met a lot of good hearted and inspiring people.

The Jivox team in Bangalore

The Jivox team in Bangalore

LOST – Jan 2010 to Jul 2010

There are times when everything was going so well and you take some tough decisions which didn’t work out as well as expected. You left the good for the better but are left with nothing instead. These are the times when you start asking questions like, “Why did this happen?”, “Why did I take that decision?” or “What is happening?”… Let me tell you what is happening.. LIFE IS HAPPENING… Yes… Everything was going well.. and then Life Happened… This phase of my career was a time of doubt, but also of introspection. It made me look for answers to some really tough questions within myself, and it was during this phase that I started reading and writing regularly, which helped me a lot and is a regular practice now.

Rediscovery – Aug 2010 to present

The last year has been an uncertain, uncomfortable and a bumpy journey. But this journey has taken me through peaks and sights that are unforgettable. I have faced fear right in the eye and done things regularly which I was afraid of earlier, and regularly at that. And needless to say, I have grown as an individual the most in this last year, and done some crazy stuff which I could not have dreamt of a few years earlier. I am having the best time of my life now, where every day seems better than the previous one, where I enjoy every day of the week be it a Monday or Friday and I am doing so much that my days feel like having 36 hours 😉

In reflection, whatever has happened in the last six years has made me what I am today. All the good stuff was certainly memorable, but all the not so good times were also blessings in disguise. The sooner we realize that the cloudy days are as much a part of life as the sunny ones, we can stop getting hurt from life’s beatings and instead use them to grow stronger and wiser. In the future too, I hope to be strong enough to get hammered, because I know I will get hammered into new and interesting shapes.

What I learned when Neha kept quiet for 3 days?

This post is about an incident which happened when I was leading the 99acres team while working with InfoEdge in Noida. This experience shook me and I still remember it very vividly. It made me realize the extra responsibilities and sensitivity which a leader must accept. I am a very fun loving and jovial person and some fun / jokes / mockery is a part of my daily life. But sometimes, you need to balance those keeping in mind the position you are in.

Among the 14 members in my team, Neha was one of the best resources I had. Always the go-to person in case I want something done urgently and efficiently. Having worked with her for quite some time and sitting right next to her, she was also a very good friend and we shared a very good working relationship. Maybe thats why I still remember this incident. One day when I came to office I realized that Neha was surprisingly quite. She was talking only formally, and her mischievous look was also missing from her face. I thought it might be some personal issue and let the day pass. But when she was the same quite person the next day. I pondered that could it be because of something I did or said, but I dismissed that thought as soon as it came in my head. I even asked her what happened but she said she was fine.

When she was uncharacteristically quite even on the third day, I started thinking of something I might have done to upset her. On the evening of the third day, I finally asked her whether her behavior for the last few days was because of something I did or said. And to my utter surprise, she said “YES“!! I could not believe that she was upset at something I said and did not mention it to me for the last three days. On further probing, she told me she has talked to her sister, and she advised her to talk to me directly about the issue. And the “issue” was that there was some incident which required urgent attention and I went to Neha with another person (from another team) to debug it. After Neha and myself figured out the issue and what would be required to sort it out, I made a comment “Tumhara response time bada slow hai. It was just a casual remark to tease her and nothing related to that incident or her performance. It was a part of the “mocking” nature that is very much a part of me.

As I said earlier, I often make sarcastic and mocking about people and situations for humor and this was one such incident. But coming from her Team Leader just after she had finished an urgent task, it was very unfair of me to having made that comment at “exactly the inappropriate moment“. No doubt she misinterpreted it as a comment on her performance and took it to heart. I know how anyone will feel if a work well done is criticized instead of the appreciation which one expects out of such a task. And the fact that she was upset for three days and never told me despite sitting next to me totally hit me like anything. And how unfair of me to even think about something that I might have done to upset her and then dismissing that thought in a blink? When she opened up to me, I cleared up with her soon after and we were back to normal terms and she was her mischievous self.

I learned two things from this incident. Firstly, as a leader, it should be my responsibility to make sure what comes out of my mouth does not hurt others (or is misinterpreted). And given the very casual and informal culture we had in the team, I should have realised that situation (with Neha) was not the right moment for a sarcastic remark, and that too in front of a third person. I learned to be more careful in future and keeping the right balance between fun and serious talk. It is very important that when I joke around, people should not take it a serious remark by their Team Leader, and similarly, when saying something serious, that should also never be regarded as a joke.

The second thing I learned from this incident was following up and making sure your point is clearly understood by the other party or not. I had the thought a few times that Neha might be upset of something I said or did but I never gave it a serious thought. Had I cleared up with her earlier, she might have opened up to me and would not have stayed upset for so long. It is very natural for us as human beings to misinterpret something said to us as something else. Since then, I always try to make sure to get my point across so that there are no wrong interpretations. The same holds true if I am the hearing party. Instead of assuming that “this means that“, I often restate the statement to clarify to the other side what I understood from his / her communication. This way, when I leave the table, I am sure we both are on the same page and no doubts and misinterpretations remain.

I would not say that I am not doing similar mistakes now, but I am more careful and cautious now when faced with similar situations. Keeping this balance between fun and serious stuff is very important. And I am getting better at it with time. Certainly from those times at InfoEdge.