Wanna learn: go work for a startup

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I belive startup founders are the smartest people around and we all know that best way to learn is to work with smart people.  That’s the reason you should go and work with a young start-up. You will get an opportunity to directly work with the founders and if you have zing within you they will “air-lift’ you. In terms of learning, growth , responsibility and fun. You will leap frog and surprise yourself in terms of the amount of work you can do, number of things you can learn and no of days you can stay awake with no sleep.

I discovered it by luck or by accident, so you dont make the same mistake. If you want to learn dont even look at a large company jobs – either work at a startup or go do your own startup.

Here is my story:

Back in 2000 I was working for DEC in Bangalore, was part of the team looking after a legacy product, which essentially meant; come to office at 1000 am and leave at 0600 pm. And in between hang out with friends, check mails, listen to music, drink coffee and yeah fix 1 or may be 2 bugs a day. Life was good.

But I soon realized that I was not really learning anything, days-after-days were just going by. I decided to get out and work at a better place, where I can learn and grow. I was also considering working at a startup, had heard that learning is great at startups. In terms of domain, I wanted to work in the wireless technology domain.

So one of the weekends I went for a few walk interviews, where they were hiring for wireless domain. I ended up with two offers – one at a young wireless telecom startup Sonim (company was called Myneton at that point and was renamed later), whose office was still under construction and second at a large established company called Celstream (they offered me more money). I resigned from DEC, now I had to decide where to join.

To make sure I am making the right decision, I met with the senior folks at both companies and tried to figure out the kind of work they will be giving me.  Sonim was a very young company, lots of stuff was not figured out, lots of uncertainity – but at the same time the energy of the people was great. On the other hand Celstream was a bigger company – with good open culture and more money for me. I was inclined towards it, but there was one problem. The Celstream folks told me they can not put me in the wireless team right away, that project was still 6 months away and meanwhile I will be working in a different project. Where as at Sonim it was out and out wireless.

I was still undecided – my adventurous heart was nudging me towards Sonim and my logical mind was telling me to go a bigger / safer / better paying Celstream. That’s when I came up with a solution, I will go and join Sonim and give myself 2 weeks to make sure I was not making a mistake and tell Celstream that I need another 2 weeks before I join. That was my way of following my heart while keeping the logical brain happy.

I joined Sonim in September 2000 and within two days I knew this is where i want to be and I lasted a total of 4 years with them (thats a lot for some one who had worked at 3 companies before, for 8 months each) . It was a young startup with 5 rockstar founders (Sudu, Jai, Ram, Anush and Issac). I was employee number 19 and was part of the server team as a software engineer. The energy was amazing, it was so creative, it was a lot of fun and there was a lot to do. Almost everyone spent 14-16 hrs in the office working, singing, dancing and doing whatever else, at the same time.

Within 3 months of my joining Sudu asked me to lead a new team which was being created to start the “devices” project. That was the start of my airlifting. I had never lead a team before, I had not worked on devices before. But that did not matter, what mattered was that Sudu thought I had the potential and since everything was so much fun, I took it up, ran with it and never looked back. I used to work directly with Sudu, who was very demanding. He had some 10-15 years of experience and expected me with my 2.5 years of experience to perform at par. I had no choice but to pickup speed and to my surprise, I did it and did it while having a lot fun.

Sonim, sonim founders and rest of the team gave me a lot . The founders were guru’s in true sense for me,  I spent a number of very valuable hours with them. My liking for startups started at Sonim a lot of my Startup foundations were built at Sonim. Joining Sonim was the best decision of my career, that’s the single most important reason for me being here today.

While at sonim I coined a philosophy “Once you work at a good startup, you can not go back to a big company. Either you will work for another startup or will go and do your own startup”