From Corporate to Entrepreneur: A Personal Journey
Founder at ReferralsLink
Two decades ago, I was a VP of Engineering at a very reputable company, a highly coveted position in Silicon Valley. Why would one want to do anything else, people would wonder. However, I was getting further and further from technology and I have always been a computer science person passionate about technology and innovation. I felt like having golden handcuffs, but still curious to explore how I could go back to what I was genuinely enjoying. Also, the working hours in Silicon Valley are stretched out beyond reasonable. Your meetings would start at breakfast and last till 10 pm which makes it very hard to maintain work-life balance, especially if you work for a large corporation. I always believed our own life pace and work-life balance are crucial for our well-being and productivity. I thought of life as a marathon -- you can do marathons, but you can’t do marathons all the time. Yet, many people make themselves into machines -- managing one crisis after another -- and I felt that I could do that too, but I intrinsically knew that was not my purpose. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do it.
I deliberated a lot. I was in the midst of the ecosystem that would make you go above and beyond or you would be out of it. There was nothing in between. Also, the illusion of control was prevalent among managers who would want to execute ideas faster and faster ad infinitum. After much thinking, I realized that the only way for me would be to start my own company.
I talked to many friends and acquaintances who went through the same thought process and were troubled by the prospects of what I am going to do. Many of them quitted their jobs and were spending hours in coffee shops reflecting on what I am going to do. I decided not to go that route and not to quit my job.
Nevertheless, I never -- for a second -- stopped being 100 percent committed at my job. I would deliver with the same enthusiasm rather than being half-committed because I was considering something else. Also, I never thought about transitioning until I was actually getting out. The ability to move multiple paths forward with unquestioned commitment was an approach I decided to take.
The path I chose -- that works for people with partners -- was to find empowerment in my partner. I was taking care of the family while my partner decided to quit her job and started something new, from scratch. I would encourage and support her to go forward and I would join when things would get more stable. That was my way to manage risk -- for myself and my family.
We decided to do something completely different moving from technology to healthcare. I supported my partner to further dig into that domain. She worked at other organizations gaining knowledge and insights that would help us start our own thing independently and outside of any existing organization. We would look at the margins in the business, assess if the market was ready for it, and discuss in the greatest detail every aspect of starting a business. We knew that we had to be ready to pull enough resources to stay in it for a year. To minimize the costs we decided to learn the process ourselves and be able to provide the service as much as possible.
Our endeavor started to pay off -- even the first month we were making money, but six months after we could wrap things up. That was the time when my partner could use more focused help and as our skills were complementary I was able to do that.
The great thing when you are working with your partner is that 12 hours go away unnoticed. You would be putting in extra hours but you would no longer be sitting 20 miles away. Now that we tried it and were able to anticipate the trend, we wanted to scale it and involve our entire family. After five or six years we expanded, first to 12 and then to 20 locations.
A mindset shift from being an executive in a large corporation and having people taking orders from you to being a person wearing many hats and being responsible for every single detail brought me joy and I was immensely enjoying it. I feel rewarded by creating an entity that hires 50 people and continues to grow.
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Founder at ReferralsLink
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