Meet The Team: In Conversation With Akash Kumar
Reflecting back on the journey from an intern to a leader
Working at SquadStack is an opportunity people cherish, and that’s exactly what Akash Kumar has been doing since he joined three years ago.
From an intern to leading the SquadIQ team, Akash has been through a fun journey, one with a fair share of both highs and lows.
His story is of grit, patience and growth, and transforming oneself through work. And there’s a lot he has to share.
Through this post, we wanted to know about his experience of working at SquadStack over the years, and if he has any advice to give from his journey so far.
Over to him.
How did you join SquadStack?
My official journey started on 8th December 2017, but I had applied at SquadStack 6 months ago while I was running my own startup.
And so one of my mentors, who was also the hiring manager at that time, asked me if I would be ready to close my startup.
I denied and since he thought, I would not be able to give enough time/bandwidth to SquadStack, so I was rejected on those grounds.
Eventually, around six months later due to some personal reasons, I had to shut down the startup, and so I applied at SquadStack again, and fortunately, got through this time.
It was one of the most exciting moments, to finally join and be a part of the ship.
I was really looking ahead at the possibilities.
Little did I knew then, as to what was ahead for me on my journey…
A Challenging Start
I joined SquadStack as QA (Quality Analyst) and was given a part for supply management.
Back then, the supply puzzle had a lot of problems and everyone who was in the department had failed to solve them. There was something both scary and exciting about this problem.
Initially, I had no idea about what I was going to do but yes I started exploring and I thought about how we could increase the supply while maintaining quality.
Solving this problem became a core part of my life for quite a while – I remember staying late in the office and coming early to work. Sometimes, I’d even pack my toothbrush and shampoo along with me 🙂
To upskill, I learned the basics of SQL and thought deeply about what different inputs we could bring to the table, and how we could apply them at scale. Even my weekends were filled with self-improvement and I never missed an opportunity to learn.
It might sound counterintuitive, but one thing was very clear to me since the start – I was not focused on money, promotion, or anything. I just wanted to add more skills.
Soon enough, I learned PRDs, bonus restructuring, whatever was there to learn about the product and the platform.
Getting hands-on experience at an early stage startup fueled my desire to learn more about other business functions like analytics and customer success.
And that was both fun and challenging!
Going for Growth
I still remember the discussion was happening in one of the meeting rooms (Plato) and I did not have any idea about my role.
But at that moment, I just knew my actions were going to speak and I had to prove myself. That was my very first learning at SquadStack – you can’t just do it once and rest – growth is all about continuous improvement.
For one year, I was not promoted, while two appraisal cycles had passed! Even the interns were getting promotions and I thought to myself – “Am I performing this bad?”
Despite the odd moments of self-doubt, I kept doing my thing and focused on the long-term In due time, I was asked if I wanted to lead the operations team.
Whenever I was told to solve a problem, I literally owned it and went out of my way to achieve perfect outcomes through my solution.
Over time, I got the freedom to improvise and my functional lead never stopped me from doing anything. This is another key factor that motivated me to continue pushing myself.
If I have to sum it up a short way – coming out of the comfort zone has contributed to my growth.
People who get the chance to find mentors early on in life are lucky.
Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some of the best mentors in my career.
Saswata Shankar De, who heads the business vertical for SquadIQ, is one of them.
He has been like a fatherly figure to me and he has played a huge role in shaping me into a leader, not just a manager.
I was a very reactive person, I did not have leader-like qualities in me and I did not even know what empathy was. I was underprepared and overwhelmed.
But Saswata had my back and taught me a lot. He had faith in me and he changed those things about me.
I am much more patient now and I can empathize with people better. Further, I could never keep the professional and personal side separately but I learned balance.
I remember in the early days, I was hardly appreciated for my efforts. Now that I look back at it, I realize that it was all a part of the process. I had to prove my worth every single day before I could expect appreciation from my mentors.
And praise me they did.
Arvind Karna has been another amazing mentor that I’ve had the fortune to learn a lot from.
When I joined, Arvind had said to me – “You don’t have anything special in you, we’ll observe you for a week and then decide.”
When one day, out of nowhere, Arvind bro came to me and patted my back and said – “Yesterday we had 150 active callers. Good job” and after saying that, he left.
For me, that was ‘the’ moment of my journey so far…
He did not realize what his words meant to me, but I remember having tears in my eyes and feeling that my hard work had finally paid off.
What Advice Would You Give?
Most important advice – Don’t shy away from asking questions.
Always ask your mentors and don’t let them sit down in a comfort zone.
Have a bond with your mentor and cross-question and make an effort to know them – about their goals, where do they see themselves, and how you fit into that puzzle.
Asking questions is a great way to peek inside the minds of smart people, and one is bound to find answers that help.
Another thing – always have that thirst for knowledge and be humble and respect everyone because you don’t know what battles they’re fighting.
How has SquadStack changed your life?
I’m proud to say that SquadStack has only changed me for the better.
In fact, when I think about it in hindsight, it has transformed me into a more mature, patient, and transparent person.
I’ve become more open to ideas and more empathetic towards people.
Not to forget, working here has immensely improved my communication skills, which is an added bonus!
Would you recommend SquadStack as a place to work?
Absolutely! Everything about this place makes it a great opportunity.
The people and the passion they share, the culture, the learnings, and the opportunities to make an impact – working at SquadStack is like a dream come true.
I’ll always cherish this experience in my career journey. It has shaped me well.
Also, if you’re interested to build world-class products with some really talented folks, we’re currently hiring across roles.