By Pankhudi Kedia

Twitter screenshot of a Draper Startup House review

I was completely unprepared when COVID-19 broke out and India suddenly went into a lock-down (read: a series of lock-downs). I had to rush back home, and in light of recent events, had no clue what to do with my time and life.

If I believed in fate, I would tell you that it was her that brought me across Draper Startup House, but it was in fact a very unlikely friend. At the beginning of May, I said YES to what I didn’t know would turn out into one of my best decisions of the year. They took me in with open arms and helped me evolve exponentially.

I have been working as their Digital Community Manager for over five months now, and I’m counting my blessings in the form of everything I have learned here. I have made amazing friends who I’ve never really met, got appreciated for talents I didn’t know I had and turned my life around in the best way possible.

Reasons why they are a great company

Together, they are an Ocean

Being a global brand, Draper Startup House naturally has a huge team if you combine all locations under one roof. However, each city functions as an independent team and people leading similar departments across teams collaborate to sync their design and communication.

This global brand works towards the shared goal of impacting 1 Million entrepreneurs by 2030, and I’ve never witnessed a team with better synergy and drive. Each person in the team, no matter which corner of the world they belong to, is helpful, kind, and supportive in every way you can ask for.

In the past four months, I’ve never felt like an Intern — the moment I got in, I was one of them.

Culture comes first

Community forms the core value at DSH, and everything they do is for and around it. They are not just another hostel brand that gives you a bed to sleep in or a table to sit and work at — they treat you like family.

Every guest who has ever stepped foot in DSH is greeted by the same question — “How can we help you and your startup” — and just like that, they become family. The care and personal touch, whether it is towards their employees, partners, or customers, is what sets them apart.

Limits only exist in the mind

When I came in, I was told that this was a chain of hostels for entrepreneurs and digital nomads. Very soon, I realised that it is also a Global Ventures Syndicate, an Academy for entrepreneurs, an F&B facility, and most recently, even a Laundry brand.

Each day is better than the last because they dare to be different. They dare to think, work, and grow —and success takes care of itself.

What I picked up from them

Make solutions, not excuses

At DSH, when you get an opportunity, you fully get an opportunity. They don’t overbear or dominate, but let you grow in your own time. Having a lean team enables everyone to take responsibility for each vertical, and do what they do best.

Whenever the need arises, everyone focuses on finding solutions for setbacks rather than using them as excuses. After months of observational and experimental learning at DSH, whenever I find myself making excuses or getting defensive about my failures, in my professional or personal life, I remind myself to do the right thing.

Shashi and Karan’s leadership is about them telling us what needs to be done, leaving the how to us because that’s the way we learn and grow.

Bloom where you are planted

One of my biggest learnings at DSH was making myself more result-oriented, instead of task-oriented or perception-oriented.

When I had initially joined the team, they asked me to take care of their social media channels, designing all outgoing campaigns, posts, and over-all communication. I had never thought of this as a potential niche for myself, but I said yes anyway, and it worked out for the best.

Their trust and blind dependence on me made me hustle relentlessly — never considering any task as “grunt work” if it will drive results. This approach has helped me simplify a plethora of problems in my personal life as well.

People are everything

DSH takes pride in each of its employees because everyone who comes in can’t help but mirror their amazing culture. They hire people with integrity who are not afraid to make mistakes and not ashamed to own them.

Even when they have built a great culture, they never take it for granted. The ground-work never stops and people are valued over everything else.

I’ve observed that one of Karan’s best policies is just listening to his employees. He understands that sometimes they just need a person who is willing to hear them out, and not lash out at them.

Know, Go and Show the Way

In one of my first few weeks, Shashi asked me to fix a call with him. At first, I thought I had already messed up and dreaded the call for days. When we finally spoke, he just asked me, “How can I help you achieve some of your personal goals?” I didn’t know what to even say because this is the kind of radical candor you only read about in books.

During my time here, I have always known both Shashi and Karan as people who’d give their honest and direct feedback by cutting out the bullshit. This doesn’t only keep everyone on their toes, but also makes them depend on them for effective leadership and advice.

Make Ideas Happen

DSH has built a healthy work environment that ensures everyone can voice their opinions and it is not always one person’s call. We have recently inculcated a tradition of brainstorming calls on Friday evening, where we sit and hack through our problems, throwing in ideas and helping others see what we see.

While doing that, we are not just looking for more tasks to complete, but also gauge their impact on our performance needle. The entrepreneurial culture mixed with some structure encourages us to first set our goals and then move on to the problems in the path. We find the root cause of the problem and then design innovative solutions to combat it. Exactly in that order.

I got to learn amid some of the best people, and never felt like a stereotypical fly-on-the-wall intern. If I ever start something of my own, I know that this experience would be monumental in shaping the kind of leader and team-player I am going to be.

In fact, this is something I have picked up from Aashish. He embodies a perfect colleague — staying right in the middle of everyone and helping them do better. He assumes responsibility in darkness and never considers anything ‘not his job.

Lastly, Nivin taught me the value of community by being the epicenter of happiness and warmth at DSH! Observant, perceptive, and extremely jovial, he is an amazing host and an even better colleague.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

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