My Indian mother regarded lawyers, engineers and doctors as legit professions. She couldn’t place my career choice of international development within this schema. I don’t begrudge her this viewpoint; the menu of career options was just broader for me.
“What I do is similar to diplomats, we work at U.S. Embassies abroad,” I explained.
I wasn’t on an Ambassadorial track and wasn’t a Political Officer, though, so I clarified. “Well, it’s kind of like being a social worker and a diplomat.”
That helped. I ended that conversation by saying she could tell her friends I work in international relations. It was a generic term with some significance. My mother repeated it to her friends. It was cute with her soft voice and light Indian accent. She declared it with pride.
“My daughter Geeta works in international relationships!”
“Mom!” I giggled and felt obliged to correct her. International relationships made no sense – it wasn’t even a term!
“You got it wrong. It’s international relations, not international relationships!”
I took inventory about what I actually did all day long. So much of my job was about working with international colleagues, foreign government officials, people from culturally different backgrounds and people from my hometown that were completely different from me. Mom was right. I did work in international relationships – success was measured by those relationships I built and nurtured.
I’ve found the same to be true when starting a venture. Success, resilience and an outstanding team are synonymous. Strong individuals who have ownership in the start-up, can visualize bringing a concept to reality and with who you have mutual trust – that’s the key. Achieving this certainly takes an advanced degree in International Relationships! Building a team of the right people requires perception, friendship, attention and time.
As I started this process for The Global Sleepover, I worked out what I knew and what I didn’t. Then I set off to find those who knew what I didn’t know. I targeted the top MBA and Education programs. Out of those I interviewed, some got it and some didn’t. I was floored by the accomplished people applying for unpaid internships with The Global Sleepover. I admired all of them. For those that came on board, they quickly added value and pushed the venture further. The Global Sleepover benefited from their experience and knowledge gained at HBS and Wharton. I never had to go to class or study! In this manner, over the course of a persistent few years, I built up a database of advocates and supporters. There are about 30-40 people on this list now, some actively involved, with many more on the horizon.
My list of what I don’t know verses what I know is still disproportionate; I’m loving the journey of finding those that know what I don’t. Those that are forward-thinkers, risk-takers and visionaries continue to be my favorite. Of course, those that love sleepovers are my favorite too. That was definitely listed as a “must” under qualifications in the job description!
Geeta’s been working in international development and now launching a start-up for children about fictional sleepovers all over the world. She’s lived and worked in the Balkans, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Colombia, has a beautiful garden, and will stop everything for a good story.
Category: Startup Advice