Name: Bidisha Chakraborty
City/Town: Puerto Varas, Chile
Childhood Dream Job: Writer
What is your current occupation?
Co-founder and Editor of We Found Collective, Latin America’s first Spanish and English language digital magazine bringing together multiple contributors across the world writing about diverse topics from Travel and Entertainment to Health and Business.
What was the path to your current job?
I started my working life as a Parliamentary Researcher at the United Kingdom House of Commons. After a year of working in politics, I made the decision that I needed to learn a lot more about the main thing that seemed to drive politics – economics. So I moved into finance, joining a graduate recruitment programme at Barclays Bank in London, where I worked in their investment and then corporate banking divisions for six years in a variety of Strategy and Finance roles. I always knew that banking wasn’t the career for me, but the longer I stayed, the harder it became to give up all the “perks” of the banker lifestyle, whether it was the thrill of working in a fast paced environment with really smart people or the thrill of having disposable income instead of student loans to worry about. After six years, I knew that it was a “now or never” moment and took the leap to go and study an MBA, not sure what to do next. After my MBA, I joined Vodafone for the simple reason that it was an easy escape from banking and that they were sending me to Spain, giving me an opportunity to learn a new language and work in another culture. However, during the MBA, I caught the “entrepreneurial bug” and knew that I wanted to start my own company. A year and a half into Vodafone, I decided to take another leap of faith and quit my job, left Europe and moved to Chile to start my own business.
What is your educational background/history?
I studied Philosophy and Political Theory at an undergraduate level at York University and at a Masters level at the London School of Economics. Six years after my Masters degree, I decided to go back into education by doing an MBA at London Business School.
What are the essential skills required for your job?
Patience, tenacity and a thick skin. The road to entrepreneurship is filled with people telling you that you are making a mistake, so a good dose of faith in yourself and your abilities is also critical to be able to withstand all the negativity surrounding your choice.
What do you like about your job?
When I look at the website, the magazine content, the incredible people we have contributing to our magazine, I know that every single element of what we have so far is down to myself and my co-founder. There is no boss, no corporate structure. Whatever we have built, whether good or bad, is our own work. Being able to see such tangible results is something I could never dream of in a large corporate environment.
Describe a typical day in the office (if there is such thing as a typical day, or if you work in an office!)
My “office” is my laptop and wherever I happen to take it. And a typical day literally does not exist. Being used to corporate environments, I still try to structure my day as much as possible, setting a task list daily and weekly goals. However, the topics I am dealing with will change day to day, even hour to hour. So in one day, I could be dealing with developing content for the site to trying to find ways of raising finance. Most of it is computer based for now, with a lot of Skype meetings and Google hangouts with collaborators.
Was there one moment in your career that somehow felt decisive?
The MBA was undoubtedly the decisive factor in my career. Without it, I was surrounded by bankers and friends with traditional careers. Although I always wanted to start my own business, I had never really met anyone who had done so. The MBA opened me up to a whole world of work that looked nothing like the corporate career I had resigned myself to. I met many successful and failed entrepreneurs, and many others who were all taking a similar leap with me into the unknown, despite MBA loans and the massive opportunity cost of leaving behind lucrative post MBA careers.
Who influenced your career path?
Every person I have worked with and had the privilege to study with has in some way shaped my career path, but two people stand out for me. The first was an MD I worked closely with just before my MBA, who was pregnant with her first child and took 6 weeks of maternity leave before returning to work, as it was too risky to take longer in the middle of the European banking crisis at the end of 2008. She went on to get a promotion but had to hide her second pregnancy during the time the promotion was being decided. This sort of work/life trade-up is not only the expected norm, but something that is lauded. For me, this was completely unacceptable on a personal level, and influenced my decision to set my own rules at my workplace.
The second person is my co-founder. It is safe to say that without his support in every sense, I would never have taken the leap into entrepreneurship. There are so many risks to this path that you really need the belief and support of at least one person to be able to take the decision.
What is there left for you to learn (again, with regards to your career/job)?
Almost everything! I am not a journalist, yet I am running a magazine. I am not an online marketing specialist, so I have lots to learn about SEO and online marketing campaigns and tools. Although I have worked in finance and evaluated businesses for viability, I have never been on the other side of the deal, trying to raise finance.
Do you have any further ambitions? What are they?
Our next step is to take the magazine seamlessly into ecommerce, so our readers can access the same products and services that they are reading about on our site. The idea is to provide our readers an online shop as well curated as the content that we are creating for them.
Is there a piece of advice you could give someone who wants to follow you career path?
Unlike all the people who say don’t pay attention to negativity, I would say the opposite. Listen to all the nay-sayers, take on all their criticism and their negativity, because all the things they raise are valid challenges and doubts you will have to face and overcome if you are to succeed.
How does the ideal job world look like?
One that does not require men and women to make fundamental sacrifices to their personal lives in the name of success. But then that sounds like a far off utopia!
Thank you, Bidisha!