Connect your Dots. Craft your Story.
I remember my conversations with the C-suite at Tala, a fast growing fintech startup, earlier this summer. I had been introduced to Shivani, the founder and CEO through a mutual friend and I ended up chatting with her thrice over two weeks. Her belief that the financial system should work for everyone, especially the underbanked population globally really inspired me.
Shivani then connected me to various CXOs and the message I heard repeatedly from all of them about serving the underbanked world continued to resonate with me. The team at Tala and I started working together to create a role for me that I could be excited about. After thoughtful conversations, we crafted a role that aligned very well with not only what I wanted to do next, but also complimented the needs of Tala and its mission.
Let’s just say, it fit perfectly in my story!
But what is my story? Let’s go back a little.
When I wrote my essays for my application to the Stanford Business School in 2007, I spoke about why I wanted to work at the juncture of technology and education.
A couple of years later, after having worked at Facebook (when it was less than 1,000 people strong) and Paytm (early days), I founded EduKart, India’s largest online education marketplace, in 2011. At EduKart, I worked towards providing courses for all and democratizing access to education in India. Later, I re-joined Paytm, while it was growing leaps and bounds as India’s largest fintech company, and saw the power of financial inclusion first-hand. I experienced how access to a digitally enabled payment platform can make the lives of individuals and businesses better.
After my stint at Paytm, I joined Udacity, a lifelong learning platform, that delivers technology trainings globally. I led their India business as the Managing Director for the region. This is what I can call the first phase of my story with Udacity. I was able to deliver the desired revenue growth for the business and ultimately transformed the company's positioning in India from an “edtech startup” to “leader in technology training space”. During this phase, I realized that the days I enjoyed most at Udacity were when I got to interact with the students and alumni directly and hear all the success stories of Udacity grads.
While I loved driving business deals & creating new partnerships for the company, the excitement and passion I derived from speaking to hundreds of students whose lives got changed because of access to quality education gave me a huge thrill as I felt part of their journeys.
And hence, when I moved to the US—the second phase of my story with Udacity—to lead Udacity’s global operations, I knew this is exactly where I wanted to be in my story at that time. I worked towards creating successful outcomes for our learners across consumer & enterprise SaaS business, thus further improving access to upskilling opportunities for a global audience.
So, when I finished my Udacity stint earlier this year, I started asking myself-
Why did I join the companies I joined?
Why did I start the company I started?
What gave me the most happiness at my jobs?
What are the parts of my jobs that I did not like?
And most importantly - what is the story that connects all of this?
The answer in one word came out to be “Access”. While EduKart and Udacity were about getting access to high quality education, Facebook was about getting access to information and networks and Paytm was about getting access to financial inclusion. I realized that I am driven by the idea of providing people “access” to improve their lives in meaningful ways. And I would love to do it all over again!
What’s Next for Me in My Story
As “access” became the central theme of my story, I decided to focus on what really mattered to me, based on my journey so far. I knew that I wanted to:
Continue to provide access that changes people’s lives for the better
Work closely with consumers to stay energized
Create impact at a global level
Join a high performing team
Make friends at work
And I am thrilled to say that I found the role that perfectly fits what I was looking for. So, as I start my next stint as the SVP Operations at Tala, I am going to work towards building financial access for 3 billion+ underserved globally. And, that’s just the beginning of the next phase of my story! (Update - if you want to check out some cool roles with Tala, click here!)
But That’s My Career Story, What Can You Do to Create Yours?
Look Back, Move Ahead, Repeat!
That’s the advice I can give to you if you want to write your own story. Looking back helps you connect the dots from the past and tells you what you can do next. But more importantly, looking back helps you identify what you do not want to do. Believe me, knowing what not to do is sometimes way more important than knowing what you want to do!
So while you are busy completing projects, meeting clients, achieving deadlines, and while many around you may be measuring your success by the next designation you will land, take a moment to pause and think about the story that you have created and what you can write next.
Identify important chapters in your story
Think when were you the happiest at work
Explore how you can connect the chapters together to define a narrative.
Listen to your story and evaluate how it sounds when you tell it to the external world.
Keep enriching your career story with your experiences along the way. Remember, that the experiences that sometimes give the most learning are the ones wherein you “failed”. They would make up for some incredible chapters in your story!
All of this would help you to create a story that defines you. If you are connecting your dots and crafting your story, I would love to hear about it!
"Look Back, Move Ahead, Repeat!"
And advice so simple yet so rarely put into practice. Thanks for sharing your journey and showing how to connect the dots to narrate your story. It's a good reminder to pause and reflect to decide the next dot in the journey instead of blindly following the ladder. :)
There must be thousands of books devoted to helping people figure out their unique story. I’ve read a few myself but the way you sum it up in the bullet points really hits home with its genuine touch. Thanks for sharing, Ishan! :-)