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Life is like Pitching for VC Funding

Sunset in Arizona, on our way back from Chiricahua National Monument Copyright: Asif Rehan

Since early on, I was a hardworking student. So my parents continued investing in my education. When I was in grade 8, I convinced my parents to let me go to Dhaka Residential Model College for grade 9-10 because I thought my father will get transferred for his job away from the capital city and the family will have to move as well. I anticipated that changing schools at this time will hamper my Secondary School Certificate exam, which was the first crucial academic exam for a student’s career in Bangladesh. It was a very expensive school to be in also the admission test was tough. Anyway, I got the admission form and took the admission test studying all alone. I was scared I will not be able to compete against the more well prepared and tutored competitors to get one of those limited seats. I did not even have a tutor outside of school when I was in grade 8. But I made it in the test. I learned a very important lesson in my life: Limited resources does not always mean limited capabilities. After the admission, my parents paid the hefty admission fees. I still remember it was around BDT10390. For comparison BDT 10390 is around USD125. But my public school in grade 8 only cost us around BDT 25 in 2002. Another lesson learned: if you can show credibility and competence, you get investments from people from whom you have earned the trust.

Fast forward, I got through undergrad with very minimal expense at the apparently most prestigious university in Bangladesh. Since I proved my potential through the super selective admission test, I had it for almost free. Same lesson applies: show the potential, people will invest in the future.

Up next, my professor at UConn invested in my MS degree studies because he believed I would be able to produce some research outcomes for his project. So I had the amazing opportunity to work as a Graduate Research Assistant and my tuition was covered and also I received the monthly stipend. It would be quite expensive to study in the USA. Same lesson: if you can convince that future is amazing, you can marshal resources.

Right now my current employer Ford Motor Company is providing the tuition for my second MS. My former boss believed I can combine domain knowledge in Mobility, Data Science and Computer Science to build amazing analytic software in the future. Again, I do not have to pay the tuition fees. Convincing matters.

So, now what about work and career? This is the phase I am working on right now. I am building my technical skills and developing people skills. This part is about building the competence and credibility. Up next, I will need to develop some proposals for some projects which has the potential to create an outsize impact in the future. It will take insight, foresight, and research. At this point, it will require convincing the company to gain resources including a team and a budget, and you know the formula by now: pitch for the future with competence and credibility, then resources will never be a problem.

So this is my formula for becoming a change maker, leader, entrepreneuer/intrapreneur, whatever you name it. But this is the only formula I learned from my life. Even for personal life, my beautiful and extremely supportive wife somehow had to be convinced that our future together will be significantly better than our futures otherwise. So that is also kind of a soft-pitch.

I don’t know yet if my idea is future-proof, but it worked out pretty well so far! If we think like this, we have all been running our own startups: ourselves, and all of us have been pitching for VC funding throughout our lives!

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