Bird’s-eye view of my journey in a startup

The previous week was my final week at @sustainlab, and it’s been an incredible learning journey since graduating from Linköping University. It was great because of three significant factors:

  1. I had the most fantastic experience of working and understanding how startup works.

To begin with my journey, I previously had finance and taxation as my education and work experience, but my passion for digital marketing grew stronger while doing my master’s at Linköping University. When I applied for a digital marketing role in Sweden, I did not have any experience to showcase but this did not stop me from applying to various job opportunities in Europe.

Finally, I got an interview from SustainLab’s CEO, Maria Svantemark. After having a short interaction, she was confident that I would be a good fit within the company and was ready to take up the challenges.

I wanted to leverage this opportunity to gain the right experience. Was it worth it?

A big YES!

The startup maintained a good amount of transparency. The CEO and CTO gave the opportunities to explore based on the interest and potential. Everyone was involved in decision-making based on their responsibilities shared. It was focused more on teamwork and encouragement than the competition, which gave space for creativity. I began to see how I can impact the organization and could measure my progress. Other factors that helped me perform better are flexibility and freedom — The company had diversity inclusion that fostered creativity and innovation with interesting interactions with colleagues.

The most significant advantage I took is:

  1. Since the team was small, it allowed me to take up more responsibilities and to wear a lot of hats! While my job title defined a set of responsibilities, I pitched to work beyond my functional boundaries and expectations.

“I had a pleasure to work with Yashaswini cross-teams in the very early stage of our company. Yashaswini is a driven, independent and enthusiastic individual who is able to handle multi-disciplinary tasks from financials, digital marketing, content creation and website design. Yashaswini’s passion for learning and research makes her a valuable addition to any ambitious team”Kamal Hakimzadeh, Co-founder & CTO @SustainLab

(To see: check my linkedIn recommendations)

Being a proactive member and resourceful team player it allowed me to pick up problem-solving techniques and skills that I would not have exposed if my role was constrained.

The most important aspect to remember in a startup is to use all the free resources available to improve the company’s visibility.

The flatter hierarchies within the company helped me work closely with CEO and CTO of the company. It benefitted me in various ways because my work was evident to them, and the feedback was more direct, which had a better impact on my performance. Receiving immediate appreciation and insight into my contributions gave me immense motivation and job satisfaction. I gained an in-depth understanding of what it takes to work in a startup, the entrepreneurs’ challenges, etc.

“Yashaswini worked in my team mainly with marketing and content creation, but was always happy to assist in anything on the commercial side of the company, from financial modelling to sales to business development. Yashaswini is eager to learn and always keen to perform on top. She is creative, brings lots of ideas and is fast in execution. Yashaswini was also a great contributor in building our company culture”Maria Svantemark, Co-founder & CEO @SustainLab.

(To see: check my linkedIn recommendations)

Over the last several months, I have been given opportunities to work on various projects that have helped improve my skills and contribute to SubstainLab’s marketing growth. To highlight some of my projects and the skills I was able to pick up and improve are:

1. Content Writing

What did I do: I wrote commercial blogs and newsletters for the company. The blogs usually revolved around sustainability and how the company would help companies achieve their sustainability goals.

My process:

Step 1: Understand your target audience

I researched the topics that would capture the sustainability manager’s attention since B2B sustainability managers were the target audience and others in general.

Step 2: Lay down your monthly content plan

Would come up with sustainability theme for the month such as “ESG”; “GRI disclosures,” etc. Further, I would create a calendar plan for the month to create blogs consistently with scheduled days and times.

Inspired by HubSpot content calendar: https://offers.hubspot.com/editorial-calendar-templates

Step 3: Draft to know the right direction

Start working on the selected topic a week before the release date. I would send out a draft that was 20% complete for initial feedback on the very same day.

Step 4: Implement feedback

Within the next three days, I would have worked on the complete blog and considering all the feedback given on the initial one.

Step 5: Finalize and sign off

Work on the feedback given on the complete blog and release it. Tada!

Step 6: Measure and track

Capture all the required KPIs such as impressions, and followers gained etc to track what’s working and what needs to be changed.

The KPIs I would track for the company

What I always kept in mind: Do not finish the work and send it for feedback; rather, complete a little time to jot down the skeleton of the blog to see if the direction of thoughts is in the right direction or not.

Area of improvement: I’m still working on taking short breaks while writing blogs and not sit continuously to work on it a single day. Instead, get back to it the next day because it will improve the pace, creativity, and flow of thoughts.

Proof of work: Check a few of my posts below:

  1. http://www.sustainlab.co/blog-ghg-emissions.html

2. Research

Researching is never-ending, but what I learned is the art of doing the right research, capture, and document the essential information. I learned to determine when to stop doing research and when to begin implementing actions. I was involved in various tasks to research and create documents. Couple of research areas I looked into are:

  1. Investors Lists: I built an exhaustive list containing all the investors globally and in Sweden investing in SaaS startup companies. Based on the research and information collected, I ranked on several classifiers such as demographic interest, product line, B2B or B2C etc. This helped the company court the highest-ranked investors.

i. Creating Email Outbound Campaigns — create email workflow campaigns which took into account response times to better qualify client leads.

ii. Writing cold emails to different industries and within it to several target groups. This helped create different email templates and jump start conversations with various potential clients.

3. Available grants & funds

Along with the CEO, I researched and worked on various grants and fund applications to apply on platforms such as Vinnova, Unconventional Ventures, etc. This allowed me to know what essential aspects to capture in a startup application.

PS: If you are an entrepreneur and want to connect to investors around 125 countries, join this community and signup for whatever applies to you. It’s open for students too!

Thank me later: StartupGrind

4. Market and Competitor Analysis

Product Research: I created an exhaustive file of the competitors of SustainLab.

It involved a deeper focus on what the competitors are doing, what features are in their product, potential number of customers, number of investors, amount of investment and many such criteria. The competitors were categorically ranked and determined if they were direct or indirect competitors.

5. The art of documenting rightly

There is no right or wrong way while documenting, but a correct structure would make things easier for everyone. I had a habit of documenting everything I researched, the critical points to focus on, my suggestions for the company, etc. This habit was of great use when explaining it to other team members, significantly because it reduces re-work and makes information sharing more accessible and faster. My last days at SustainLab were not a heavy lift because I could easily capture and showcase my proof of work and hand it over conveniently without fixing the last-minute structure.

It is vital to have three components while documenting — The title with who has created and the date, the index, and action points and suggestions. It is essential to have these three components in the first three slides/ or a page because it gives an overview to the reader instantly. It followed by digging deeper into the topic, its importance, facts, references, etc. If the reader is interested to know further in detail, they can go to the next part to learn more.

PS: I gradually learned to document well based on the feedback I would receive and questions I would be asked by the team.

Overall, it was an excellent opportunity to experience a different kind of work environment in Sweden. I had a uniquely challenging career experience in the startup.

NEXT CHAPTER

While doing a task on website restructuring with the tech team, I realized I was interested in learning design and moving into a direction that overlaps digital marketing and design. I applied and got into the 10k Designers Cohort led by Abhinav Chhikara.

I have started using design ideas to create landing pages and apps on the Figma tool — looking forward to more opportunities to apply all these gained experience and knowledge.

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