This post is a long time coming. 5 years, to be exact. Techfest is an annual science and technology festival organized by students at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay. I had the good fortune to be one of the organizers for the 2011-12 edition. This was my (and probably most organizers’) first experience taking on an endeavor of this magnitude, so there was plenty to learn, whether by getting it right or wrong. I got a more of it wrong than I did right, so a lot of this is “wish I’d realized it earlier”.
Some of this could sound obvious, so feel free to skip ahead if it does. These views are my own (and I obviously don’t speak for Techfest the organization).
- Good luck played an important role in your “achievements”. Other, more hardworking or deserving people could have “achieved” what you did with different luck.
- What looks like an “achievement” on the outside is really an opportunity, and you alone responsible to learn from the opportunities you get
- The first few days in a new org/team set the tone for the rest of your tenure. So work extra hard, contribute extra-much, and the first impression you create will be better. It is way way harder to reverse a bad impression.
- In a generalist role, playing to your strengths only buys you time to address your weaknesses. Consistently underperforming even in a few areas will get you relegated to the B team.
- Ideas are only ok, and great execution beats ideas every day. An average idea executed well is 100x better than a fantastic idea executed like shit
- Knowing your weaknesses is useful only if you actively work to get better. Otherwise it helps you about as much as being ignorant.
- There is no shame in taking help, even from your peers. Help in return where you can.
- Good leaders listen to their team more than they talk. A good leader asks questions and pushes the team’s thinking. A good leader does not impose their opinions on the team.
- You can be a “quiet” and effective leader at the same time. Leaders do not need to be Type A personalities.
- Don’t solve for likeability. Solve for execution and help where you can. Indirectly solve for likeability
- Have strong, justified opinions, but there is no shame in changing them when presented with evidence. Don’t worry about saving face.
- Not everyone on the team is playing for the same things. If this is proving to be problematic, address it upfront. If not, don’t bother.
- “Tag teaming” in group discussions helps, but only until the pattern is recognized. You want to avoid “X always supports Y for some reason”.
- Learn to make friends with your colleagues. Time spent not working is when most bonding happens
- It is better to be on time with 80% quality than consistently late with 100% quality. Put differently by Oliver Emberton on Quora, the most successful people deliver i) great quality output ii) reliably on time iii) while being goo d to work with. And you only need to get 2 out of the 3 right.
- There is in fact such a thing as a “rockstar” performer, and you should try to pick up their good habits.
- Don’t panic, it’s not the end of the world if something goes wrong