Back when he was with Sony in Japan, Sanjeev Barnwal was among those who helped develop the company’s popular Cyber-shot cameras. This was long before he co-foundeed Meesho, a mobile e-commerce platform for small businesses, in 2015.
The company was recently in the news for announcing a 11-day rest-and-recharge break, companywide, in order to prioritise mental health. “Keeping the upcoming festive season & the significance of work life balance in mind, Meeshoites will take some much-needed time off to Reset & Recharge from October 22 to November 1," had said Barnwal, a graduate of IIT Delhi, in a tweet.
In this interview, Barnwal talks to Lounge about structured and unstructured mentorship, and why a mentor will never tell you exactly what can be done. Edited excerpts.
Who do you consider your mentor and why?
For me, learning is a combination of following relevant people, speaking to multiple leaders across the industry, startup ecosystem, established companies and also a fair bit of reading. So there’s no one specific individual who I can name here. Multiple people have given me invaluable advice at different stages of my life which I’ll always be thankful for.
One major insight from such guidance?
There are a lot of such insights but if I had to focus on one, I’d say that the way I handle tech at Meesho is derived from the learning of all the sources mentioned above. Right from the way we’ve organised teams to how we hire talent, develop the talent at our disposal, build the organisation/team culture here at Meesho has been based on the insights received from these people.
What does being a mentor mean to you?
A mentor for me personally is someone who can offer the right guidance through their experiences. Their experience in a certain discipline, field of work or situations can help others understand the finer nuances and determine what can or cannot be done. A mentor will never tell you exactly what can be done in a certain situation because it's very contextual. The only value one can derive from their mentor is advice on the possible options, because all tough decisions always have multiple answers, each with its own pros and cons. The end-decision is always yours.
How do you mentor your colleagues at work?
I love mentoring my colleagues at work. How I go about it depends on who I’m giving advice to, whether it’s someone who needs some guidance on managing teams, becoming a better engineer, stakeholder management, or problem solving frameworks. It’s about helping them gain a different perspective about things. Structured mentoring happens through one-on-one conversations. However, at Meesho its a very open culture — everyone is free to approach me whenever they need.
What time do you wake up and what's the first thing you do after waking up? Basically, what's your morning schedule after waking up?
I usually wake up some time between 6-7 am. First thing I do is check my phone, to find out in case there’s any urgent problem that needs to be handled. To be honest, it is not the best thing that one can do after waking up but I also understand its importance. In addition to this, thrice a week, I dedicate some time to exercising. This includes weights, endurance training and flexibility. On other days, I spend time reading books, news and blogs. After all of this, I have breakfast and usually reach the office by 10 am.
What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?
One thing I’ve consciously done since the onset of the pandemic is to schedule meetings, especially the super critical ones, in the first half of the day starting from 10 am. This helps me get up to speed and it sets the tone for the day ahead. It also helps that the mind is fresh, while brainstorming.
Any book/podcast/app/videos you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth? Why?
For engineering managers, I’d recommend this book called ‘Managing Humans’ by Michael Lopp. It has multiple interesting anecdotes on managing good talent, setting the right organisation culture and solving complex problems. I’d also recommend podcasts by a16z which can be highly insightful for tech companies.
Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.