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Evolving as a Young Tech Founder

Leadership
Meetings
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Cultural Differences
Prioritization

25 October, 2021

Maulik Bengali
Maulik Bengali

CTO at Ajackus

Maulik Bengali, founder and CTO of Ajackus, speaks on how he evolved as a founder & CTO by improving his collaboration, preparation, and core engineering skills.

Problem

During my transition from a founder to CTO, I struggled with multiple challenges: collaboration and an overload of tasks. For starters, as a founder, I connected with people across the globe from different cultures. I struggled to navigate collaboration when, at times, communication itself was difficult. The second challenge I faced was how to grow and not limit myself. Again, as a founder who also worked as an engineer before, I was held to the highest standard and felt I needed to expand my core engineering skills. Lastly, when I was wearing the founder hat, there was no limit to what I would do. It was troublesome to prioritize other tasks continuously as I found it hard to find the bandwidth.

Actions taken

To improve my collaboration, I began preparing and practicing before meetings and scheduled events. Practice and preparation did not just include my large and important meetings, but I practiced before everything, even negligible, less critical calls. Often, I would review previous conversations I had with clients or have a flowchart drawn up in my head. Even the most basic form of preparation helped me articulate my thoughts more concisely. Next, I created agendas for larger meetings, such as brainstorming new tech designs. Lastly, I thought about my communication from another point of view. Was I providing enough context, and what was the other person looking to get out of this conversation? When I worked to improve my communication skills, I noticed that my skills as a collaborator improved as well.

To gain a higher skill set overall, I started consuming more tech media, starting from books, articles, blogs, and popular developers and their recent work. I observed, analyzed, and applied their work to my projects to see if I could pick up their knowledge or skills. Moving forward, I practiced attempting to solve problems rather than writing code to do so. By doing so, it allowed me to remain technology agnostic. I tried to think of a solution or algorithm without being attached to the syntax effect. This enabled me to be more creative with my solutions while remaining technologically agnostic. As a founder & CTO, I remembered that I was always the last line of defense for my team. I ensured myself that I could solve any problem coming to me, and if I couldn't, I was sure I had attempted every approach to solve it, and I had to maintain complete confidence in my work.

To overcome my extensive workflow, I started my own way to prioritize tasks and events. I use my email as a to-do list, including every task, ensuring I don't miss anything. I combine this with my schedule, prioritizing the most critical tasks and snoozing less substantial ones for later, such as the weekend or the end of the day. I needed to have no distractions that would lead me away from my core work. I created a rule where if I had a task that would take two minutes or under, I would do it right away rather than adding it to the to-do list.

Lessons learned

  • I wish I had learned collaboration and effective communication skills earlier in college. I didn't meet the challenges then, which made me struggle, from a high context culture to learning to communicate where I didn't make any assumptions.
  • Well-dosed paranoia is essential when being a founder. I ask myself the question, "What am I missing?" multiple times every day. Once I come up with a list of one or two things, I'll add them to my to-do list. I find that paranoia speeds things up, and I am less likely to forget tasks.
  • Preparation should look different depending on what you are preparing for. Sometimes I only prepare for two minutes, before short meetings, compared to when I have a crucial meeting and prepare for much longer. Even a simple two-minute preparation can improve your speech and clarity of ideas.

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