InVideo CTO Siddharth Sharma On Building A Revolutionary Culture By Keeping Consistency At The Core
“Giving the talk is the easy part. Walking the talk is where it gets tough,” says Inside The Bored Room’s most recent guest, Siddharth Sharma. A legend in Indian tech circles, he is the ex-CEO of People Interactive, where he played a crucial role in shaping shaadi.com, among India’s most prominent matrimony services and is also the co-founder of rBus.in ,a smart bus network.
In his current avatar, he is the CTO of InVideo, an online video editing tool, driving their mission to reinvent video creation and make it accessible to the world.
On the third episode of Inside The Bored Room podcast, Siddharth shares how he has been walking the talk so far to build a solid, supportive, and thriving culture for teams and organizations.
Culture lessons straight out of New York subways
Have you heard of the Broken Windows Theory? This criminology theory explains how one crime in the neighborhood leads to another and eventually becomes a chain of events. Ironically, Siddharth shares how they fixed crimes in New York using the same theory and how you can also fix your culture in the same way.
“They would paint the New York subway trains overnight because the trains had graffiti all over them. Every night when the train came in, they would clean [it off],” explains Siddharth. “Eventually, people stopped putting graffiti on it. It's the little thing they did every day to show they cared. For me, that is the basis of culture,” the CTO shares.
Recalling his first three months as the CTO of InVideo, Siddharth shares a similar phase where he used this ultimate hack of consistency to bring engineering velocity back into the teams' game.
There were discussions going on within the development team about creating a feature that allows people to import a scene from another template while editing a video. Although the developers knew how to bring this idea to life, they were concerned about colors not matching the template. So when Siddharth came in, he suggested that instead of worrying about how people can change colors in the template, the focus should be on providing this feature in the first place.
The feature was then released within five days of this decision. Curious how many people raised the color concern? Zero. Now that they had finally taken the first step, the next challenge was to be consistent. To achieve that, they shipped one feature every day for a month. That's exactly what Siddharth's goal was for the first three months: To be consistent.
Being a wartime CTO
“There are wartime CTOs, and there are peacetime CTOs,” Siddharth says, adding that he is currently the former. Asking what kind of culture he is building at InVideo is like asking the commander of an emergency response team or the captain of special forces how things are going within the group, he quips.
The four-year-old startup is at the stage where you can neither call it too small nor too big to have everything fixed. Siddharth describes it for being at the point where they have just figured the market fit, and as a result, they have footfall flowing in like a dream.
While they are happily busy catering to their customers to their best capability, they are also upgrading their game by attempting to build something larger — a video editor in the browser.
So when your team of developers is burning the midnight oil to pull off a project of this magnitude, a CTO becomes their biggest pillar of support whom they can fall back on.
Here's how Siddharth does it:
Fight for your team
It's nothing but shattering when a project the team has put their heart and soul into gets dropped without any valid explanation from the management. In such situations, the CTO's job is to convey how unfair it is for the team to the respective leaders. There is no denying that the project might not be holding much potential or is carrying the risk of failing. But simply discarding someone's efforts without offering them clear communication is not the way. You can speak with the engineers, provide them with the right data and correct context, and arrive at a mutual decision. Don't let your people feel they have no agency over their work.
Never leave their side
While his developers lead the mission from the front, Siddharth makes sure that everything they need to get the job done is available at their disposal. Be it aligning the organization to be in sync with the projects, winning the trust of stakeholders, or getting the required budgets approved, he makes sure he is fully participative at those levels.
Get the monotonous tasks done, just as religiously
Building complex startups involves a lot of unsexy work that the outside world knows nothing about. So when your team is fighting the tough battles, as a CTO, you need to make sure that everything else is falling in place too even if it's a boring task like going through a bug list to categorize them and checking whether they are closed.
Don't be a hypocrite
Siddharth thinks that leadership is a lot like parenting. If your words don't match your actions, your child will not trust anything you say. The same dynamics exist within your team. When someone from your team requests more time to create a better version of the product, and you don't give them that space, it's where you become a hypocrite, which is very damaging, he remarks.
While Siddharth shows us what it's like being a wartime CTO, he also looks forward to peacetime when the army gets to rest and recharge for their further battles. In the end, it's about maintaining the balance between the two — to know when two push them to go that extra mile and when to be compassionate enough to ask them to take a break to unplug from the chaos.
Want to know what insights have helped Siddharth find and retain the best talent around him? Check out the podcast for nuggets from his decades of experience. Along with these intriguing insights, the podcast also includes discussions around decoding his wittiest tweets, why he thinks velocity is the best city, his book recommendations, and so much more!
Don't miss it. Watch it here:
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