The pre-startup phase –
I had the best offer from a company that was making millions of dollars every month, which was willing to pay me a lot of money to work for them. And why was it the best offer? I had just graduated from college.
I went to work there, where I was put through a training program. They wanted to bridge the gap between our shitty education system and the industry requirements, apparently. We were made to learn new software and how it worked. We were even educated about how the business worked. This was important because the position that they offered involved a lot of business intelligence too. Since I am an engineer, I had no text book knowledge of how this worked. It sounds interesting, right?
It wasn’t. I quit after around two weeks. I didn’t even have a backup plan. I just quit. It was boring and the training was taking so much of my productive time and I ended up doing nothing.
I got in touch with a colleague through my network who is a founder of a startup and asked him if there was a job that he could offer. And then, after ten minutes, there was an interview arranged. This was at 5pm, on a hot summer evening. 5PM! Offices close down at this hour. But they were still there and still working. They cut through the bullshit and made their process efficient. That’s how an interview was set up so quickly.
The first round was purely to test my intent. Why did I want to work here? Why did I give up the other offers? Why would I start a company? Do I have any ideas to work with? How far did you go with that idea? How would you handle the business department if you were put in charge of it? Why would you want to be put in charge of it?
There was no right answer to any of these questions. There were just supposed to be answers. And sensible ones too. I already knew about their efficiency; I wouldn’t screw it up by giving them text book answers and with a strict, “I have a rod up my arse” face. I had to be….me! That’s all. I related some of those answers with my dating life, with the conferences that I had organized, with the projects that I had worked on, with why I was wearing formals but they were wearing casual shorts and T-shirts during the interview (true story). The entire interview lasted for about an hour and a half and then they said they’d get back to me.
This was a startup with 9 people in it. Each one had a humongous role to play and there was no getting around that. If I got into this, then it definitely meant loads of work and a lot of responsibility, which most graduates aren’t even prepared to do. Neither was I.
I thought there would be another round of the interview and then they’d decide whether to hire me or not. There were three other rounds!
Thoroughness is what I noticed. It was pretty obvious. The position that I was being interviewed for was the head of business development. I’m a computer science engineer who just graduated! They had to be thorough. The second interview was mostly to test my business intelligence. There was a whole task for me to do which took me around two days to figure out. It still wasn’t the best solution; which they didn’t really mind. Like I said, it was important that I had a solution that made sense.
I was interviewed again by the founders keeping the task and its solution as a criterion. This was more rigorous than I had expected it to be. My entire understanding of logic was tested, and each level seemed to get more twisted with regard to business intelligence. The point being that thoroughness was a default culture in this company since it was just an extension of the founders themselves.
Ten days later I got a phone call asking if I was free to start working after that week ended to begin my role as the head of business development. I said yes!