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Sanam learned that leaders should always show the big picture

Sanam Rawal

Tell us about yourself

Well, my leadership journey started when I was 24 years old. I was given an opportunity to kick start from scratch the talent unit within Blume Ventures, which is a venture capital firm.

And I think that is when I got a really good chance. I was told to start with just one person, which is great because it was just me and I'm extremely motivated in terms of what we were trying to solve. I mean, I love founders. I love the early stage companies, and I love the struggles that the founders go through, and I related so much to it that it was easy for me to motivate it. But then I also built a team as we scaled and that was when I think leadership learning started.

When did you first lead a team? What #1 advice would you give to your younger self?

I was so young and I was so overwhelmed with having a team that I put a lot of pressure on myself.

And I tried to find a lot of answers through the theoretical aspects e.g. searching online - "How do you motivate your team? How do you keep your team very happy in terms of the job that you're doing?" I mean, I wasn't the funded startup. I didn't have the kind of money that, ideally you would have to, let's say, have a really cool area in office or take them out drinking every weekend or any of those things. Somy advice to the younger Sanam would be to really, honestly just make them understand my vision. Make them understand that we're solving a very, very critical aspect. And we are very unique at what we were doing.

What I instead focused on were things like - "tasks, timings at work etc" which is not necessary at all.

The #1 thing you hate about being a manager (sometimes!)


Tell us about the time when you had let go / fire someone from your team. What did you learn from it?

I have never had to lay someone off thankfully!

Your #1 most painful memory of somebody leaving your team? How did you deal with that?

It's a very emotional one. There was one resignation in my team that had he stuck with me the most. So I started the talent unit, which was two people. It was me and my other colleague who joined. And she was the first one with me. And we had worked in our previous jobs together as well.

And she was super young. Maybe 19? And I think she wanted to study more. I think that was when she came in to me that I want to go to London and I want to study more and that just broke my heart. She told me the reason why she wants to live. I mean, I had to go get her water because she sat crying in front of me.

This was the first time that someone had resigned in my team so I also took it hard. It was like a breakup. It was crazy. I was just like "Oh, my God, how am I going to do it without her?" And I think that was the first time that I realized that for someone like me or any person who is going to be doing a tough job because it is a tough job.

Now she has started a company with her friend, and I am helping her throughout it. We are very, very good friends. I gave her a reference letter for the University she got into LSE.

What is #1 thing you have seen other managers do, but have never found the time or courage to implement it yourself?

I work with so many entrepreneurs! They all have amazing way of thinking of creativity and executing it. And traditionally recruitment goes the way it's going, right? It's a transactional business. People charge you for someone who you end up hiring. I feel like I want to learn and be better at creating a hiring experience that is great for both company and the candidate!

And I also really appreciate the startups that tend to have multi city teams and still manage to run the culture the way they do. I think I'm not doing such a good job. I work with startups who are getting into North America, Europe and still everybody goes for up outings together to Sri Lanka.

What is your own career north star?

I ask myself that as well. I have been here for six years and I have become so paranoid of for being in a situation where I'm going to never end up going to any other great job like this. I will never end up being in a place where I will get to hire and build a next generation startups because there is no other setup with this formula.

The next job is going to be either becoming a talent acquisition head or an HR head of another one company. I'm going to die here happily I think! This is what I keep telling everybody. It's eight minutes from my house. My mom built the entire office from scratch, so I have literally made it like it's made by me. It is my office. Even walls and the colors of the wall is something I have chosen!

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