Hostels & Startups: 2 Must-Have Experiences

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There was a time when I felt that one absolutely essential experience in life was to live in hostel. After I had to do so for post-graduation, I understood its value. Something new got added to the list – working in a start-up. Having done so for now my 6th year, I can say that it is an experience any working professional should go through to be able to broaden your world view. What is it about these experiences that shapes what you become?

Ability to handle unpredictable situations

Whether in a hostel or in a start-up, there are many things that you can be thrown into, that you could not necessarily anticipate. There is no choice but to adapt, and learn to live with that, and be able to handle it without letting it overpower you. In a hostel environment, you do not have a choice but to be able to co-exist with your classmates. Even if you are caught in conflict situations, you have to find a way to resolve them. You see your classmates everyday, they aren’t going anywhere and neither are you. So the only solution is to take all this in your stride, and find a way to see them the next day & the day after that without letting things rankle. Similarly in a start-up, you can face anything from recruitment issues, to a few unprofessional employees who choose to behave irresponsibly for no reason, to a dissatisfied customer who doesn’t see reason – and you don’t have the luxury of heirarchy, of letting someone else handle this. You have to take a  deep breath and get into each of these situations, switching roles from HR to client servicing to administration seamlessly.

Fearlessness

This gets reinforced constantly. Living in a hostel, you will find people with different levels of aggression, some who aim to intimidate, others who intend to do what they want, even at the expense of others, & you have to be able to stand your ground without getting trampled over. Sure, this is to some extent an innate part of personality. But it needs a mindset that isn’t afraid of who says what & who does what. There are situations in which you have to be fearless. For e.g. job placements – the all important goal in a b-school. You may have an off day and be unable to impress the interviewer, you may be in the last few people to get placed (as I was) despite having a good track record. It isn’t the end of life (though it may seem like it at the time). You do the best with what you have & take the next opportunity that comes your way. When it comes to a start-up this is even more important. You could lose a big slice of business, you could lose your best talent, you could be thrown into a tricky situation in a meeting. It’s all on you. So you need to have the belief that you are not afraid, because fear breeds poor decision making. It’s only fearlessness that gives you the ability to overcome, to build, destroy and re-build.

Speed of response

How quickly you adapt to any situation makes a big difference to how you handle it. This could mean dealing with a mosquito swarm (of the kind that would give a bee swarm a downgrade) or a new expertise you need to acquire overnight because it’s suddenly a consumer favourite and hence your customers expect you to have it. They don’t care about how many resources you have or what it would take to develop. It’s the speed at which you respond that can save you from being bitten (literally & figuratively).

Focus, amidst many distractions

It isn’t easy to stay focused on your target if you have people around you who are pulling you into another direction, or if you are in a situation where you are tempted to take the short-cut, knowing that it will harm you in the long run. It’s important to not lose sight of the goal & more so in a start-up, if you waver from the goal, it has business implications that can spiral beyond your control. It’s easy to go running after every shiny new toy even when you know that it isn’t central to your (business) goal. But you will learn how detrimental it can be, and if you learn fast enough, you will ensure you don’t stray from the goal. The distractions could be ego-battles in the midst of assignments with deadlines or the temptation to start a new business line though it’s not aligned to the central vision. You have to ensure you focus on the target (even if it’s a moving one).

At the centre of it all, is the passion & energy that you are surrounded by. Nothing quite like it anywhere else!

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  1. i cud so connect with what u think..damn its so true.. startups and hostels ..the parallels continue..i m experiencing the very things u wrote right now..though in an engineering collg but ya.. the same..having a startup called 21fools.com n facing the very same things u mentioned..:) wonderfully written..

      • Namrata B
      • September 5th, 2010

      thanks for appreciating, surendra. best of luck for your venture!

    • raulknchn
    • September 13th, 2010

    nice post namrata…

      • Namrata B
      • September 13th, 2010

      thank you!

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