Published in Jan-Feb 2019
A start-up routine is as chaotic as a start-up itself. As a small team, you are CEO, HR Manager, Team Leader, Scrum Master (a typical technology jargon) and Business Development Manager. You effectively wear as many hats as you can. In a start-up, there is no life and work balance because a start-up means you are doing what you love and every minute of it is joyous and liberating. At night, when you leave work, you are completely satisfied and happy despite the long hours under intense pressure.
Before delving into the ups and downs of my day, let me add that Advertelligent is Pakistan’s most advanced AI-based customer analytics company, providing solutions to retail brands, grocery stores, malls and airports.
A typical day starts at 8.00 a.m. when the alarm wakes me up from my Silicon Valley dreams. Bad habits compel me to snooze it for 15 minutes, but when it sounds again, I get out of bed and get ready for the day, starting with a nut-filled barley porridge breakfast.
Immediately after, I leave for office, where a lot of work is waiting for me and I am already organising my mind while driving the car. The first thing I do in the office is to charge myself with caffeine for a super busy day. Then comes the daily morning meeting with my team (called a scrum meeting in technology start-ups), where we write down tasks to do with R&D, operations and product development.
Hiring is the most difficult aspect a start-up has to deal with; you want to hire the best talent, but in Pakistan, where the start-up culture is still weak, the best talent is usually attracted to a corporate job rather than a small start-up.
Back in my room, I track their progress on Jira (an agile project management tool), check my emails and list the day’s tasks at a Kanban Board on Jira. Most of the time they are already sorted out but sometimes you have to deal with new externalities such as an unexpected issue with a client or HR. Following this, there is a short meeting with the Account Manager and the Accounts-cum-HR Manager. Then comes some pressure because sometimes the HR manager will inform me that the new person we hired for the BI dashboard no longer wants to join. Hiring is the most difficult aspect a start-up has to deal with; you want to hire the best talent, but in Pakistan, where the start-up culture is still weak, the best talent is usually attracted to a corporate job rather than a small start-up. So, there is a lot of convincing, negotiating and incentivising involved in hiring the best people.
After dealing with the HR and the Account Manager, I call prospective and existing clients to discuss potential partnerships or schedule meetings. A start-up is messy work. If you have the right contacts, you can email them but sometimes you have to make cold calls as no one understands the business and pitching is best done by the CEO himself.
After this, I leave for scheduled meetings. In between these meetings, I juggle between the stores where my current deployment is taking place. While driving between meetings, I constantly make calls to update my Account Manager about the documentation that is required by the client immediately.
Back in the office, I meet my technology team to discuss any operational issues they are facing. Then, I review the store heat maps or any other data generated for our different clients. We have to see if there are any patterns between the heat maps of different stores and determine whether they are product dependent or product independent after which, we identify the hourly and weekly trends. After this, I take a quick coffee break. Then my partner (Dr Umair Mateen) and I have a quick meeting to decide day-to-day issues regarding client feedback, content, product improvement, hiring, expansion and other management stuff.
As the day comes to an end, we have our review meeting with our technology team. In R&D-based technology start-ups, the biggest problems are the unknown bottlenecks that arise in the product or feature development process. You do not actually know if this feature can be developed with the same accuracy as you want. In these meetings, we brainstorm for solutions to such bottlenecks. Sometimes the meeting goes on for a long time, but our team is happy because they are building something exciting and innovative.
After this meeting, I meet my other partner (Aqeelah Bukhari) to discuss the launch of our organic products e-commerce store. We plan to launch Pakistan’s finest quality online organic store containing at least six kinds of organic honey sourced directly from bee-keepers in the northern areas as well as many other organic products.
Exhausted after a hectic day, I leave office by about 8.30 to 9.00 p.m. At home, I spend a little time with my family and then watch a Netflix series; usually one or half an episode. Currently, I am watching Narcos. Old (bad) habits die hard and I prefer to eat dinner while watching the series, which is usually followed by fruit and green tea. Afterwards I go for a walk with my wife, which is relaxing after a hectic day. By about midnight, I am in bed in order to get a good night’s sleep and gear up for another crazy day at my tech start-up.
Tayyab Tariq is CEO, Advertelligent. email@example.com
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