Srishti Sharma on being employee No 1 at On Purpose, as the firm marks 5 years in its startup journey

I took a leap of faith with my mentor and decided to join a firm in 2018 when it was all but an idea. I had the courage to take the idea Girish Balachandran had and get behind it, sleeves rolled up, ready to execute.

I took a risk that paid off! I’ve been lucky enough to get learnings and experiences that most people in the industry have to wait a long time for. 

Here are the top 5:

Year 1

Highlights: Year 1 was the year of firsts', as a founding member of the team, it was a great experience setting up our operations, finding clients and executing for them.

Learnings: I learnt the difference between responsibility and ownership. The first year at ON PURPOSE taught me the importance of taking ownership and getting into the driving seat. As part of a larger set-up, we tend to take responsibility only for our work. A smaller set-up, however, taught me why taking responsibility for my work isn’t enough. It taught me to take ownership and make it happen.

Year 2

Highlights: As we worked to find our footing, year 2 had us looking for individual office space, and expanding the team. This was the first year I had to start hiring and mentoring a team.

Learnings: I learned to take difficult decisions. It took me a while to understand that everyone doesn’t view work the same way, and a good person might not necessarily be a good fit for your team. Taking difficult decisions to choose people that are best suited for the needs of the organisation and the client is the most important. And all the people you invest in might not reciprocate the same level of commitment, and that’s okay. I’m still learning how to be a good mentor, and it’s an ongoing process

Year 3

Highlights: Year 3 saw us expand to other markets and decided to adopt mental health support as a cultural process at ON PURPOSE

Learnings: I learnt to be vocal and ask for what I want, without the fear of judgement. I seized a great opportunity to learn and help set up new regional operations. I wanted to try something new, and volunteered and moved on a two-week notice to Bangalore to help set up our operations there.

This is also the time I decided to take my mental health seriously and had the courage to take time off to get better. I’ve been struggling with chronic anxiety for close to a decade but wasn’t comfortable talking about it or seeking help. I decided to change that.

We decided we will take a stand to make ON PURPOSE a place that will provide the support our team needs. ON PURPOSE’s mental health policy is a live document, one we are constantly evolving to ensure our team is taken care of and encourages open conversation.

Year 4

Highlights: We focused on setting up a robust D&I policy and process, and incorporating it more closely into how we work in our 4th year

Learnings: I learned to unlearn and become more aware of my own shortcomings and preconceived notions. As an organisation focused on social change, we wanted to embody the change we wanted to see. We had an external D&I expert come in and help us draft our diversity and inclusion policy. They also helped us set up our internal D&I team, which I am a part of.

This experience was a reminder to work harder toward becoming a better ally. For instance, we now try to make briefs more inclusive for people who aren’t comfortable in English. A privilege we take for granted but can make non-English speakers feel excluded.

When we decided to look at all our structures and processes from a D&I lens, we began growing and making conscious efforts to be better. It’s a constant journey, where we fall short, acknowledge and focus on course correction.

Year 5

Highlights: Our 5th year was focused on managing our growth, especially in the context of the world opening up post-pandemic

Learnings: I learnt to let go (a little) and not try to control the outcome. The last year saw us expand our team to the largest yet. And with rapid growth, come variables which are harder to control. I don’t do well with the unknown, and with a larger team, it gets even harder!

It is important to remember, that you can’t control and do everything. The reminders can help you deal with the FOMO. And having a great team back you up helps!

Srishti Sharma, ON PURPOSE, shares her leanings as moved from being the first hire to part of a 50-plus team in 5 years.

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