How I luckily got the best job ever!

November 2014, just 2 days after my thesis jury, I saw a mail for campus recruitment from Marathon developers. Usually, an architect doesn’t prefer working with developers as there isn’t enough design work, but, for me, this internship made a lot of sense as the location was very close to my home and I could go there on my new bike! I know, I know – it’s a pretty stupid reasonto choose an internship but I was so tired of 7 years of Mumbai-local-train-travel! So, I quickly responded to them and after 2 sets of assignments and an interview, I got the internship! All this happened in the first week after my thesis! Everyone else in my batch was still going through their post-thesis-hangover phase and no one had even started applying for jobs.

14th December 2014, I started my internship at Marathon developers. When I took this job I had no idea that this decision was going to change my life! 

I was a part of a very small design team started by Parmeet who was one of the sons of the owners. And by small, I mean really small. We were a team of just 3 people(including him). Parmeet (P) and Ritwik (R – my colleague and also his school mate) were two of the most amazing people I had ever come across in my entire life! They were so well read that it took me 3 months to realise that they were both not architects by education! Meeting them made me realise for the first time that in today’s world where we have so many resources available formal education is not everything. The most important thing is the willingness and passion to learn.  We have all read about Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs etc. who are all examples of people who succeeded in life without a formal education but this was my first time meeting people who would just decide to explore a new avenue and within 2-3 months would be skilled enough and execute big real life projects as well. (You will come across more stories about the mind blowing things these people do everyday in my posts to come!)

Ever since I was in college, I wanted to be an urban planner and do my masters from CEPT, Ahmedabad. Every year I would give the entrance exams for M-Arch courses and not apply to colleges. I was enjoying my work so much that I didn’t  want to leave it half-way and go. A couple of years after I joined Marathon, I went to interview students at CEPT to hire them and expand our team. When I came back from CEPT is when I realised that I definitely did not want to study any more. I really needed to convey that to my parents so that they would stop making me apply for these exams. Being with these people made me realise that there was no need to go to a college again for 2 years, spending lakhs of rupees to read books ( which I can do at home as well) and write theoretical reports when I could work on real life projects, actually impacting the society in a good way and earning money at the same time. Luckily, it wasn’t very difficult to make my parents understand my point of view and the post graduation chapter in my life ended before it started. 

Looking back now,  even today I am so proud of the young me for having taken such a radical decision and not getting overwhelmed by what everyone around me was doing. 

Coming back to how much I loved my job! 

Whenever I would meet my college friends I would hear horror stories from them about their workplaces. How no one was appreciated, everyone was underpaid, interns were treated like shit and above all that – the work they got to do was not engaging or interesting. 

That’s when I realised that I was the odd one out! Our team functioned in a completely different manner because we were led by two completely different and mind blowing people. 

  • I was paid well. My stipend was twice as much as the second highest paid person in my class and the highest CTC to start with once I became a permanent employee. 
  • I got really good design work and actual responsibilities irrespective of the fact that I was just out of college. Everyone would draft their own designs. I was designing a 26 acre township and a school in my first year itself. I was never ever treated as an intern. I knew they trusted me and that made me work harder as I didn’t want to let them down.
  • There was no hierarchy in our team. All decisions were made after a group discussion where everyone’s ideas and views were taken into account. No one sits in cabins. Everyone sits together in an open plan layout.   
  • Our team has flexible work times. We could come in whenever we wanted and leave whenever. We could work from home if we wanted.
  • We have unlimited paid leaves. I never had to take permission to take a leave, I had to just inform when I won’t be coming in. And this wasn’t just for me. Even P and R would inform us well in advance if they are not going to come in at work. Every member of the team was treated as an equal and with respect. 
  • I was always appreciated for good work and constructively criticised as well when needed but never in an insulting way. 

As a result of all this freedom, the overall productivity of our team is very high. 

Working with them not only made me a much better designer but a much better person. 

But this is not the case with most workplaces today. And this is a clear reflection of our society. Our society is awfully hierarchical – in communities, families and in workplaces. There often exists this hierarchical gap between the employee and the employer which hinders the flow of ideas between them. At most workplaces, subordinates cannot comment on or oppose the decisions of their bosses and bosses cannot accept the contrarian opinions of their subordinates in a constructive manner as it hurts their egos. As a result of this, many constructive ideas don’t actually get implemented affecting the improvement of the final product. One must never forget that good leadership requires one to surround oneself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.

Many of you might think that this method of working was possible because we were such a small team. But today in 2020 ,we are a team of around 30 people comprising architects, visualisers, accountants, engineers, marketing team and support staff.  We run all our projects independently of the entire Marathon Group system and still work in the same method we did when we were only 3 people. And we are not the only ones. More and more companies in the world are adopting workplace practices which promote non hierarchical attitudes of the members of the companies.

If not today, at some point in life all of you might be in a place where you will be able to define or influence the culture at your workplace or team. Make sure you do the right thing. Pay your employees well and listen to everyone. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. In a good, balanced and diverse team, everyone gets to play to their strengths safe in the knowledge that a teammate has got their back. Keep in mind that culture is always a work in progress. It can and will change. Make your organizations culture as important as your business strategy. It’s too significant to ignore, and shaping it is one of your most important responsibilities as a team mate.