Teach Them to Yearn For It

Rishit Shah

Senior Director of Engineering at Podium



There was a new aspect in our market - electric scooters - that we felt like we needed to play into. We brought a lot of focus into this area and brainstormed how we could get started. We knew we wanted to launch in one of the key markets but the city required us to go through a permit process first. We decided to apply for the permit and received it, but we still didn't have a fully functioning product and had just over a month to launch.

Actions taken

We initially thought about building our own scooters, but scrapped that idea. We, instead, wanted to order the hardware product from China but realized it would take roughly 10 months. In the end, we decided to take off the shelf scooters, attach an IOT communication module which would talk to our back-end, and then build the user experience around the scooter product. When we won the permit, thankfully, we were already talking to partners in China who could provide the actual scooter hardware as well as a company in Europe that had the network communications module. Additionally, though I needed to assemble a team to create the software, and fast. Consequently, I was left with the challenge of connecting all of the dots: getting the hardware shipped here, assembled, all while the team built the software experience in the application, and then launching the product in less than six weeks. We actually managed to get a working version in 4 weeks. One of the final steps was receiving the CEO's approval, which we did. Afterwards, we still had a couple of weeks to spare. We used that time to lease the warehouse, assemble the scooters, and perform rigorous testing the product and polishing of the user experience.

Lessons learned

  • When I went to my assembled team and told them that we needed to deliver the product in six weeks, I assumed that everybody would laugh me out of the room. But it turns out that people like challenges. When there is a mission of what needs to be done, people come together. And when people come together, you can make the impossible happen. (Because shipping an end-to-end hardware product in the span of a month and a half is almost impossible.)
  • Have a clear vision that you can share with your team. Make sure they know how important it is to the company and help them achieve it.
  • Empower people on the team to take ownership. I told my team what we needed to do and let them figure it out, thus making them feel like they were the owners of the product. I did not have to provide much supervision and instead was just blocking and tackling for them so that they could move as fast as possible.
  • There's a great quote from Netflix's culture page that is relevant to this situation. For me, it shows how important it is for us, as a leaders, to drive forth the mission and the vision of a project so that others will be intrinsically invested. "Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, shows us the way: If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

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Rishit Shah

Senior Director of Engineering at Podium

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyTeam & Project Management

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