How my startup job is getting increasingly difficult to explain to my dad
It’s been nine months since I’ve joined SocialCops, and this period has lived up to the usual startup description filled with clichés and imagery. The learning curve has been steep, and there are a lot of challenges I’m very proud to have overcome over the months. During this time, I’ve learnt to answer all the questions about the company, its vision, products and the sector in the best way possible. However, there is one question that I hope none of my clients will ask me: ‘So, what is your role at SocialCops?”
Months 1-2: The beginning and the clarity
I look back with sweet nostalgia the early days – it was all going so well. I had just joined, fresh off college (after rejecting a corporate job one day before the joining date) in the role of ‘Partnerships – Non-profit’ - which meant that I had to make, well, partnerships. SocialCops partners with nonprofits across the world that use our mobile-based data collection tool to send us data from remote parts of the world. I joined SocialCops when our ’Collect’ tool was still in MVP - we had approximately 10 partners using the first version of our tool.
I learnt the basics of sales - cold calling, cold mailing, sales meetings etc, and, in about a couple of weeks, I was talking to some of the major players in the sector, and in a couple more, I was meeting them.
It was a great learning time and I had amazing exposure, but what I remember most fondly about that period was that when someone asked me the now-dreaded question, “What do you do at SocialCops?”, my reply was: “I sell stuff”.
It was that simple.
Months 3-5: The transition, and the blur…
Gandhi once said, “The customers are the most important members on the premises. They aren’t dependant on us, we are dependent on them”. Although he said it over 70 years ago, this adage still stands true - it is necessary to drive the product in the direction that leads to customer satisfaction.
The tool was ready to be pulled out of MVP; we had achieved product market fit and it was time to build version 1.0 of the product. This made customer feedback the greatest driving factor for the product. And who – as a result of continuous meetings with potential clients – was in the right place to give some customer feedback? Me.
This meant ever growing interactions with the engineering and product teams, and more inputs from my side for the product – resulting in a love-hate relationship that we continue to cherish. I learnt to work closely with the engineerings and saw my inputs shaping into an amazing product experience - something I never expected from my ‘partnerships’ role.
As I spoke to more clients, I gave more feedback to the product team. Our engineering team acted on them, which meant I had more features and use cases to build more partners. This, of course, led to more client calls.
As the number of people we were reaching out to increased, there were additional tasks I had to involve myself in – designing brochures, for instance, doing market research and printing business cards.
Month 5-6: The growth, and the dilemma…
Within the first five months of joining SocialCops, I had travelled across Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. I had met approximately 70 non-profits and taken technology to places that haven’t seen it before. The product had really started to grow now. We now needed to put in a formal communication channel in place with our users: set up a help desk, create manuals etc.
Building content like this needed someone who wasn’t a terrible writer, had comprehensive knowledge of the functioning of the product, and knew what the clients needed.
Turns out, I checked out on all three criteria, and there I was – along with cold calling, cold mailing, meeting organisations, helping build the product, designing brochures, and making Maggi – building a repository of content that could turn Collect into a scalable product.
Needless to say, covering everything I do at SocialCops under my LinkedIn job description was turning out to be a tough task.
Months 7-9: And then things hit the fan…
Seven months in, and we find out that we needed to deploy the product for use by 1,000 volunteers - to collect data from 264 villages, and 2.5 lakh households. Two weeks into the project and I’ve just helped design baseline surveys on village and household levels for a million people. Two weeks later, I was in Vijayawada training 800 volunteers on how to use the product. It was a very exciting time for me, but that was also the point when I gave up on describing my role in the company.
Volunteers would walk up to me and ask me what I did, and I’d just shrug. However, considering the various hats I don a regular basis, I think I could be excused for doing so. A job at an MNC would have probably had a fancy job description that I could have impressed my distant uncle with, but I now have to resort to avoiding discussing my role in social gatherings.
And although it doesn’t do a lot in getting me some ‘family cred’, I’m glad that I don’t have a fixed job role, and instead have one that helps me grow and learn each day. Blame SocialCops for spoiling me.
SocialCops is a data company that is on a mission to make the world a smarter, better & healthier place. And they’re hiring for full time positions across business development, engineering, data science & marketing. Check it out here.
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