Salone Sehgal’s journey from being a poster child for burnt out bankers to founding a gaming companySindhu Kashyap
Gaming isn’t just another job. You need to be passionate about gaming to survive in the gaming industry, says a gaming enthusiast and coder. And yet, though Salone Sehgal liked games and gaming, the idea of co-founding a gaming company was never in her larger scheme of things.
An economics and finance graduate, Salone’s exposure to technology was only through different tech deals that came her way during her investment banking days. Today, as the Founder and CEO of TrulySocial, Salone interacts, meets, and possibly talks code and games everyday.
From being a VP at Barclays, Salone had decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, and as they say, there has been no looking back since.
A natural transgression
Born into a family of bankers and investors in Delhi, stepping into the world of investment banking was a natural progression. Starting her work stint in India, Salone went on to work at a private equity firm in Switzerland, and did her business studies in Spain before joining Morgan Stanley in London.
While banking and finance held her attention, Salone began to seek something exciting and new.
“I was a complete poster child for what a burnt out banker looks like. That’s when I realised that I needed to step back and reassess what I really wanted to do,” says Salone.
Taking a break, Salone was looking at different things, when Sebastin, her friend from business school reached out to her with the idea of TrulySocial, a gaming startup. Though Salone was an occasional gamer, she didn’t think she could build a career out of gaming.
It was after few discussions that Salone decided to give gaming and technology a shot. Initially, the plan was to just help Sebastin with the idea, but not work on it full-time. But two years later, Salone is now the CEO of TrulySocial.
“Sometimes, the best things happen when you least expect it, you just have to be open to taking risks and seeking out new opportunities,” says Salone.
The transition from banking to a pure technology industry wasn’t easy for Salone, but then, when she started looking at the world around her, she found that the world, in fact, had been transformed by technology.
Understanding an alien
Looking at the impact of technology, Salone says:
“Everything you do, every convenience you have is because of technology. It is surprising how much technology has taken over life. There are even certain professions that are being chipped away because of technology. If I look at banking itself, there were things that were manually done that is now being done by technology.”
This made her realise that technology was where she wanted to be. Gaming, in technology, Salone says is extremely interesting. She adds that it is fast-moving, it delves deep into consumer psychology, it is fun and if you do it right, there is no looking back.
But technology was alien to Salone. She says that in the beginning, she did not even know the difference between a front-end and backend; how are codes written; what is the impact of each code and a change made in them.
“My biggest and best teachers have been my team members. The developers, art team and designers, would explain everything. I went out of my comfort zone to learn everything. If you apply your mind to it, there is nothing you can’t achieve,” believes Salone.
With the talk of women in technology, and questions on why there aren’t many women in the field, Salone says that most biases are subtle and most of these are because of societal expectations.
She adds that there are beliefs of what roles and behaviours are acceptable for women.
“There are times when I have had to be aggressive, or tough. But in a woman, aggression isn’t as acceptable as it is in a man. It is seen as a quality of leadership for a man, as a woman you need to be leader with heart and have a nurturing attitude,” says Salone.
She adds that over the last three years, the lists of women in tech have repeatedly featured the same people. Salone wonders where the real inspiration is for women to join technology and become founders. The problem she says is much deeper and people need to change attitudes. People need to see more empowered and financially independent women in their own households, who are strong, and can take decisions on their own.
Breaking the tough business of gaming
Gaming nevertheless is a tough business; you really need to understand what makes a good game work. That itself was very exciting for Salone. She believes that games are recession proof. The way they play games might evolve, but it is still a large part of their existence.
There were times as founders, they felt that they have hit a road block, but it is about moving on and pushing yourself. Salone adds that she sought out an executive coach to learn management. She doesn’t understand why that is considered a taboo, because many first-time entrepreneurs and CEOs need training.
Salone adds that you must realise that the roadblocks are in your head. Every day, there is something you have to deal with, and it is important to not give up.
Advising women, Salone says,
“Women have to be more confident and need to start taking more risks. Statistics also show that women won’t apply for a role until they fulfil 95 percent of the job criteria, while men apply for the same role when they fulfil 60 percent of the criteria. Women need to start believing in their own abilities a lot more. Start small, leave your comfort zone, challenge the status quo, and try new things.”