Interview: Sumangal Vinjamuri(ICE-2016)

Please state your current profile and explain your profile. If applicable, help us understand any previous profiles you’ve worked for.
I am currently a growth manager at a startup. What I do essentially is a mix of marketing, sales and customer support. I head all the revenue growth related functions.
Since I have graduated, I have worked in and around startups. My first job right out of college was heading operations and business development in an e-learning startup. That was a very early startup so it was pretty small. I was there for about 10 months. After that I worked in a venture capital fund for around 7 months where I was looking after ecosystem relations, essentially building up the brand of the fund and looking at the deals that were coming in and getting more startups to apply to the fund. I did that for around 6 months and I have been working at my current job for the last 3 months.
I was a part of E-cell in college and that has been a major motivator for me to go ahead and do these roles.

What skills should one develop to follow the career path you’ve chosen? Do include courses, software, coding, internships etc.
There isn’t really a way to learn most of the stuff I’m doing. In the startup world, you learn by doing essentially. You don’t learn and then do. There are a few things that are definitely crucial, not in terms of skill but in terms of approach. To succeed in a startup role, one really needs to have a commitment. Secondly, one must also have an attention to detail. And lastly, passion for the idea that you’re working on. I’ve never been a founder at any of these startups but even as an employee, it’s very challenging to work in this environment. And whoever is working is this kind of an environment, needs to be really passionate about the idea.
I’m not really a tech profile so I can’t mention any software’s or courses.

What are the soft skills to be acquired in work culture?
A lot of teamwork because you cannot get anything done without relying on other people. There is very little that any one person can do in any startup role. It’s all about teamwork. And really good communication skills is essential. Especially, if it’s a sales or marketing role, communication is paramount.

When deciding to make a switch to Management, how do we prepare ourselves for it?
One can do a lot of internships instead of whiling away time during vacations. Try to do as many internships as you can. Ideally in a startup environment but otherwise working in any high performing team or a fast paced environment is really helpful.
Apart from that, immersing yourself in a lot of these extracurricular activities that we have in college really helps. To be honest, I have an engineering degree from NITT but I have never used anything course related ever. I would actually say the same for most of my friends including those who are in pure technology roles like Qualcomm or Amazon. So getting yourself involved in these activities is more helpful rather than academics. GPA is surely a deciding factor for things like masters or placements but in terms of academics, the knowledge gained doesn’t really help much.

What is the extent one should go to find a balance between work satisfaction and monetary satisfaction?
For some people monetary statisfaction is job satisfaction and for some job satisfaction is everything. Having said that, I’d like to say that at the position that we are in our career that is less than 4 years of experience, learning should be a priority. So in my opinion one should try getting into a company or profile that they find interesting and would be motivated to learn and grow there. If you get good at it, you will be rewarded for it in a monetary sense later.

Why do people get bored (occasionally, even if not always) with the jobs they wanted in the first place?
I think a major reason would be expectation mismatch. I have not really met anyone who got bored with a startup job. You work on a variety of profiles and it’s interesting to figure our new things. But in general people get bored due to an expectation mismatch. Being in college you have certain expectations of what your job is going to be like. But in reality, it turns out be quite different.
if you work for Pragyan or festember or any club there’s a certain freedom that you enjoy while making decisions but you won’t really have that when you’re working and that’s another factor.

What are some things about your career path you wish you knew in college, in retrospect?
Not about my career path, but I wish I knew about portfolios like product management and financial engineering. They are intellectually challenging.

Is there something the T and P cell can do which does not even come under its umbrella currently, but is important?
I haven’t really had any experience with TnP because I didn’t write CPC’s or sit for placements.

What to do after getting placed/ getting admitted into college, i.e how to not waste time in the final year?
I would actually suggest you to have as much fun as you can in college because you won’t get the opportunity to once you start working. I know a lot of friends of mine who can’t wait for the weekend because they can’t stand the rest of the week! In the startup field you’ve got to give a lot more of yourself to your work.

Is minor in management useful from a recruiters’ perspective? Would minors in economics be useful in any way if one is planning to switch to management?
I can’t really talk about the corporate world. But in start ups, the college you’re from hardly matters. So I don’t think this would make much of a difference.

How do campus placements fare with respect to off-campus ones? What route to take for placements out of campus?
From a startup point of view, one can check out angel.co. It is an online platform that’s pretty popular in the startup world. It’s a place where startups find people and people find startups to work for or with. Every startup worth its salt will put up roles and profiles on angel list. Anyone who wants to work can sort of filter down sectors, roles and locations. Angel list is a great place to start. Apart from that a lot depends on how you met the founders, in case you’re not applying through angel list. Whether you met them personally or professionally or through a reference. You’re level of compatibility with the founder is really important.
If you are really sold on the idea, then it’s a really way to go on. Working in a startup is in a way harder than working in other roles. Fortunately now a days, it doesn’t pay any less. Startups are paying equally as well as large corporates. The work you put in is a different issue. While in a corporate you’ll have to work for 7-8 hours unless you’re in a high pressure role which means you’ll work 10 hours a day. But here we work 10 hours in a usual day. We work on Christmas, New Year it doesn’t really make a difference. So you should really be sold on the idea to put in the kind of hours that it demands.

Is one year ample time for experience, after which a major can be pursued?
For masters, yes. A couple of my friends applied for masters programs after 1 year of work experience and have been accepted into much better colleges than if they had applied in college. However for an MBA, notwithstanding IIM’s and the like, in my opinion, 3 years of work experience is essential. I plan on pursuing an MBA as well after completing 3 years of work experience.

How permanent is any choice of career? Do you think one should stick to a particular field or keep changing and experimenting as they grow in the industry?
I think in this day and age, no career is completely solid. Fluidity is something we should all embrace. There are a lot of roles that were there a couple of years back which are obsolete now and it’ll happen in the future too.

How can one be sure that a certain career path is right for them? What is a good way to make that decision?
I think the best way of doing that is through internships. If they don’t help you in choosing a particular career, it’ll at least help you in ruling out options.

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