What does it take to become a Chief Operating Officer (COO) in a startup? Is there a formula? A rule book? Guidelines? Is it important to have any deep connection to the core purpose of the business? Is it a specialist role?
In the summer of 1992, a young 11-year-old boy born and brought up in Shimla, hop, skipped and climbed his way to Shaali Peak in record time, without breaking a sweat, always smiling and curious, and thrilled to be a part of a hike with his elders, including his father, the late Dr Shaikh Abdul Jabbar (an academic researcher and accomplished photographer). The boy, Ameen Shaikh, was a meticulous climber, and fascinated with the flora and topography to the point of distraction. He grew up to become an Automotive Engineer, specialising in Research & Analysis, eventually mastering his meticulousness to become a recognised professional in Performance Dynamics for vehicles.
But the call of the Himalayas was ever present, and in March 2016, Ameen co-founded The Mountain Walker, and took on the thankless responsibilities of Chief Operating Officer (COO), coordinating a hundred different aspects, building quality processes, defining several interventions with his childhood friend, classmate and co-Founder, CEO Abhishek Kaushal.
When I look back at the many hikes and treks that Ameen undertook over the years, and the education and experience he gathered, I look at it as the real education that he was undergoing to assume responsibilities he felt were important to find his place under the sun, and contribute to society in his own way.
To be an employee or to be self-employed or to be a business owner – this is a difficult decision. But it’s one that can be taken and changed and changed again, if need be. The key I guess is to ask yourself if you are happy, engaged, satisfied with what you are doing, and if you feel excited about getting up each morning and getting on with what you need to do. I ask this question to Ameen and Abhishek twice every year, since running a startup and trying to keep it, reasonably, on track is a very tough occupation any given day, especially if you are boot-strapped.
Still a long way from the planned growth, and there are more hard days every week, but Ameen is trekking along as he did back in 1992, some times running, some times crawling on hand-and-foot, mostly walking, always getting distracted enough to go deeper into a subject, always adding value.
The beauty of memory is that it can help us make sense of who we are and how we got here. Look forward to our next trip down memory lane on Flashback Mondays, next week.