My Dream Startup – From BlackStone to BlackBoard
As an individual entering his 20s whilst writing the final semester paper of Corporate Finance, the future looked very sorted in my head. I knew the time had come to buckle up for the odyssey of the real world. Companies had started bombarding the college with attractive offers and promising growth. I was one of those few people in my college who had both a short term and a long term goal for self. The former included working hard for the first ten years in the finance world and accumulate some wealth to fund the long term goal of having my own startup. Well, life always does not go according to as planned. From almost entering to Blackstone, I ended up entering a classroom with a Blackboard. Oh well, It has been a ride of a lifetime since then.
I have always been fascinated by eminent business personalities and have been an avid follower of their journeys in the B-space. When I entered my classroom of a size similar to that of my bedroom having been claustrophobically filled with 45 toddlers and not knowing a single word in English whilst living in the comfort zone of their respective vernaculars, I realised that I had taken up a challenge any passionate entrepreneur would love to have; To grow the startup (read: classroom) into an industry giant by empowering the Human Resource of the company.
This was it. I took up theoretical and practical experiences of management acquired during college and internships, and put them to use unconventionally for the growth of my classroom. As every successful entrepreneur, I too was a fan of data analytics and started accumulating data of my classroom and external aspects influencing it in different intensities. The data gave me strong insights into the root cause which was limiting the growth of my kids. I formulated both short term and long term goals for my classroom similar to mission and vision for a startup. I started formulating plans, procedures, routines and strategies to push my class to grow in terms of Literacy, Spoken English, Cognitive skills and Critical Thinking skills. The plans were broken down from Long Term plans to Unit plans to Weekly Plans to Daily Plans. After they were formulated, I had to start organising requisite resources as per the plan. I also had to make sure of the limitations of the accessibility of them while formulating plans. These involved making charts, worksheets, photocopies of worksheets, student reflection journals, miscellaneous stationery items, videos if required, and so on. It then, came down to the toughest step; Execution. This was the foreground where I had to impress my kids with my execution skills. If the execution met the objective of the lesson, then it would result as an intrinsic motivator which would boost my confidence for the next day. Many a times, the plans didn’t work out well and I had to re-assess the entire thing by reflecting on what had gone wrong and finding patterns (if any) which led to the failure of the plan. This was done to control the deviations from the goal and plan stronger for the next lesson using the student feedback data in order to hit for more successes than failures at the execution level.
In short, I was more of a Middle level Manager/Budding Entrepreneur at the age of 20 managing a company of 45 kids who were the collaborators as well as the consumers of the experiences created by us together. It involved external management as well. Stakeholders in our company were diverse and had different expectations. From Parents(Secondary Consumers and Primary Investors) to Program Managers( Senior level management in the ecosystem) to HM (Promoter of the company) to Other Teachers (Divisional Heads) to Co-fellows (Industry Peers and Advisors), all of them had a significant role to play in their respective capacity to flourish the startup from taking baby steps at a time to making giant leaps.
Post 19 months, I feel the startup has not only achieved miraculous feats but also has made me grow as a person at an unimaginable pace. It has shaped me as a manager, as a leader, as a teacher and also somewhere as an elder brother to these toddlers. It was a highly ambiguous decision to opt for the fellowship over a well paid job at BlackStone, but then the journey of our class which started on the BlackBoard has come miles ahead and there are still miles to go in this fast paced dynamic environment, and definitely has many more lessons to be learned and taught. I feel running a company is still easier than managing a classroom. It is not the money at stake in the latter, it is the future of the country which is at stake and the margin for error is and should be negligible.