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Exploring the infinite - dumping a PhD to head sales and marketing
Employee Centricity

Exploring the infinite - dumping a PhD to head sales and marketing

Aishwarya Jain
July 25, 2023

Chapter 1: Walking on Ice

High hopes, crushed into nothingness. I was desperate to go away from the status quo, from my boring 10-6 job. Waiting for my visa to arrive, my dreams to be fulfilled. I used to spend time asking virtual astrologers and playing silly predict-the-future games to pacify myself that I will go to Switzerland. 

I was supposed to go for a Ph.D. after completing my Masters in Biotechnology (what was I thinking?) Killing my time interning at a small firm where I used to finish my desk work in 2 hours and spend the rest of the day applying to different universities around the world and researching about the chronology of rock music. 

It wasn’t meant to be. My visa never came, Switzerland remained a dream. I was still okay but you really feel it when you see your parents disappointed with you as if it was my fault. I felt like shoving my face somewhere and never showing it to anybody.

But I wasn’t a coward and I decided to start applying for some other jobs till I envisage Plan A. Because corporate life was Plan B. I had no hopes from any jobs in the area of my educational history which was biotechnology. I had quickly realized that biotech jobs are monotonous and not for me. 

So I decided to apply to whichever internship appealed to me, where the culture seemed nice and hopefully I would be good at whatever I do despite not knowing anything but I would learn. Little did I know that the internship I applied for would change my life forever…

Chapter 2: The internship that wasn’t an internship

peopleHum - saw the website and didn’t have a clue what that AI stuff meant but looked pretty cool. Very evidently also saw their candidate funnel selection percentages being less than 4%. I thought my chances were slim but also thought this might not really be true.

Magically cleared all 4 rounds despite no aptitude and soon realized they typically select on attitude. First day in the Mumbai office, my boss gave me a MacBook (I’m still using it)! I was so absolutely thrilled! I pinched myself and couldn’t wait to show off to my family.

I didn’t realize how time flies here. I was asked to do things my own way and with a lot of freedom and I was completely amazed and blown away. I used to wait for the clock to strike 6 in my previous office, ready with my backpack to jump out of there (reminded me of school days). But here it was different. I didn’t care about the time, I loved what I did. 

Unlike other internships, I was treated and given as much work as any Full Time Employee and I loved that fact. I wasn’t discriminated against or treated poorly. I was given a chance to prove myself here and every day I learned so much in marketing and even got a chance to write content, it was a high. As if MacBooks weren’t enough, they provided for lunch too! And really good lunch! 

From marketing to sales, I had an idea of a lot of things and got a hang of stuff pretty quickly. I learned collaboration and how to talk to clients and try to close some deals with the help of my boss. They were personal wins because I had worked so hard on them, it felt so good. Quickly days turned into months and I got more passionate about what I was doing here day by day.   

There did come a time when I had decided to apply for a Canadian PR (because my ultimate dream was to move out to another place). But there was something pulling me back and I wasn’t so convinced about applying. Soon my suspicion turned into conviction…

Chapter 3: Serendipity

Somehow, in the 5 months I was at peopleHum I did really well. Performed well, tried to do things sincerely, was always available, worked through weekends, did a lot of hard work and never complained about anything. And this was all because I loved what I did. 

After 5 months, I got feedback from my boss that they like me (somehow) and want to make me permanent. I was elated! It had come as a complete surprise and I was really thrilled. I felt like peopleHum loved me and I started to feel really connected to this place and what I was doing. 

I had given it my all for sure but never thought about the consequences - just kept doing it sincerely. My super boss used to tell us quite often - money is a consequence, success too. Just keep doing what you’re doing with your heart and passion and don’t run behind money and money will come to you. 

I truly believed in that. My life’s purpose cannot be about earning money - that’s secondary. My life’s purpose has to be something beyond - it should be about living every experience to the fullest and giving it my all. Have no regrets later. That’s when I got an opportunity that I could not have dreamt of in my wildest dreams. My boss called me to a room (I was scared, I hadn’t done anything!). My super boss was on camera from another location. He told me they’ve been very happy with my performance and would like to offer me the position of a leader spearheading peopleHum’s sales and eventually marketing.

Jaw-dropping moment, ladies and gentlemen…

Pausing for just a bit…

I WAS SHOCKED! Hundreds of different emotions passed through me but the most evident one was that of sheer joy - it feels different when there is someone who believes in you so much. You feel really confident. Of course, it also meant leaving my current product Engati and leaving my boss’s shadow into unknown territory. 

At that moment, I started daydreaming of whether I could really pull this off, it’s a lot of responsibility. That’s when my super boss pulled me back to planet earth and asked me what I would like to do. I told him to give me some time to think and my boss was like, you really shouldn’t think about this - go forth and conquer.

I was thinking about Canada, my current team, my boss, my luck, my family, my friends, myself - all at the same time. And I blurted out a yes. There’s no turning back now - I was about experiences and experiencing to be a leader in my life so early would be something. 

Chapter 4: Goodbye, me

So 2 months later I was declared leader of peopleHum. Things were turning around rapidly. My personal life was now my professional life because I had decided to surrender to my work and worship and honor it. Canada didn’t mean anything anymore (I saved money on PR too). 

I think my parents were happy too. They wouldn’t express that much but I think they were since I had something good going with peopleHum. Life had turned upside down after I joined peopleHum and it was all good change. 

peopleHum taught me many lessons - how hard work pays off more than anything else, peopleHum will give you its all if you give your all, attitude is what matters even though there is some weight to aptitude too. peopleHum gave me a purpose in life when I had nothing to hold on to. I really can’t be thankful enough.

I had also changed a lot intrinsically. I used to consider this as a job but pretty soon realized it’s much more to me, it’s my family, it’s my career, it’s my purpose. And I was sure about these things. I am still sure about it today. 

I also realized that the change was only the beginning. Over the course of the next few months, I found a mentor in my super boss and he discovered my hidden potential, moulded me into what I am today and changed me completely for the better. My core of course remained the same, my value set too but you can always make additions to that set and enhance your thinking over time.

Through my mentor’s constant guidance, I was able to get a different perspective on things. I was able to think much beyond what I usually did. I was in a bubble before, but now I had to work with real ways of the world, fight for what was right, fight the norms and do something extraordinary. 

My mentor told me that one must be like water - adaptability in every situation is key. I am a strong believer of that, although, in reality, it has been extremely difficult for me to follow that. I had to also drastically increase my energy levels as I was innately not as energetic. To be an effective leader, it is important to expel energy you would like your teammates to mimic. 

So that’s how my transformational journey began. In the end, there is one thing you realize - there is nothing more important than keeping faith that good things will happen. If you can stand by through hurdles, through storms, through the good and bad days alike - you will be a much more refined person. Your ability to be able to calmly move through these phases will really be a test of time. And when you will look back to those bad days, you will only smile. 

Chapter 5: The beginning of a beginning

My mentor always asks me one question, “What’s stopping you today?” While I never have an answer to that, I always think of how I can excel everyday even if it is by 1%. I have many shortcomings and I’m certainly not made of steel, but I have complete faith in my purpose, my mentor, my company. 

My team always inspires me in ways I sometimes don’t even realize. They bring in positivity and hope in my life and they are what keeps me going everyday. I want to do better for them, I want to help them get somewhere in life. When you’re young, it’s easy to stray away from decisions that would be conducive to you and hence you need someone to guide you to the right path. 

If I can be a guiding light to someone, that will fulfill my purpose. As my mentor calls it, ‘paying it  forward’ really brings you immense satisfaction and happiness. I never want to keep the knowledge I have to myself, I want to spread it across everybody and see them blossom in the way I did. I discovered something magical about myself and believe that most people in my team can rediscover themselves too.

For me, my journey at peopleHum has been beyond just professional. It has been a spiritual journey. It changed me in ways I could have never known. It’s been a journey of self discovery and continues to be through my mentor’s guidance. I would definitely give him all the credit for my transformation and for being so patient. Today, I’m a much more confident person because peopleHum has taught me how to handle myriad situations including dealing with tough customers. I have extremely helpful peers who don’t judge me with the silly questions I sometimes have. I am given complete support from everyone around me and it’s the safest place for me to be myself. 

I now get to talk to prospects around the world and have conversations that are truly enlightening with strangers. It’s a complete high. I’m still to learn many tips and tricks to actually sell my product but no one bashes me for it. I do understand my responsibility and take full accountability of it, now that I know what those terms really mean. 

I am also comfortable with conflicts, something that I used to run away from. I can talk bluntly with my peers and my team without sugarcoating anything and not being a BIG people pleaser as I used to be. I can stand for what’s right and think about my target objectively instead of getting too emotional about it. 

These are just a few of the things that I’m learning in my journey to become someone who is emotional but can use it as a sword and not a shield (as explained by my mentor). I hope by the end of this chapter, I have spread a little bit of positivity, inspiration, motivation, happiness in your life. And I truly do hope that you can find your purpose here in peopleHum as I did.

I have changed as a person, the world around me has changed, I have a purpose and a reason, it seems I have discovered the ‘Why’ of my life that has helped me to step out of the shadows into bright sunshine. I now believe and am a lot more confident in my capabilities, understand people, get stuff done and that has enabled me to grow in confidence daily. It seems like I caught a flight that takes me higher and farther every day, I feel I can fly and put these words down in a blog, something I could have never imagined just a year ago.

Life is not as you always plan out to be, but opportunities come by, recognize the opportunity and with peopleHum, I feel like it's a fit. A fit where I am comfortable at the same time on my toes and excited since I am learning something new every minute. Where learning by doing, and the freedom to explore, the support and guidance to succeed is just a call away and the world awaits me as I talk to people and customers across the world every day. 

My world has become smaller and hugely infinite at the same time, smaller since I have discovered what I like, am happier and confident and comfortable, and infinite since the horizons to explore things about myself as I try out new skills at work and within me have grown and the possibilities look limitless. Being in the executive group of leaders in a company is something I could never dream of. So what I have found in peopleHum is not something that I could have dreamed up, it's more meaningful beyond what I could have dreamed of. It defines me, it completes me and I feel like I have come home. The rest as they say is all a consequence. I thank my lucky stars when I do look around and see hopelessness and despair among my generation and I wish and hope everyone finds their peopleHum, so that they can rediscover themselves for not just who they are but what they are meant to be.

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