Startup Wonder: Could you start off by talking about your background and how you got to where you are?
Poornima: I grew up with technology. I am certainly one of those kids who got introduced to computers early on and learned to programme on my own. Whether it was simple things like TV, VCR, or complicated things like the computer, I definitely wasn’t shy when it came to playing with new gadgets. In college I ended up majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, but that wasn’t my original intention. I was lured into startups after mint.com. Since then, I have primarily been focused on building companies. My current company is called Femgineer which is an education company. We are focused on helping techies build products and help companies level up in the career. It began as a blog in 2007 and in around 2014 I transformed it into a company. Our main product services are online courses and resources like e-books and physical books that we sell.
Startup Wonder: Could you talk a little bit on your blogging journey?
Poornima : In addition to being kind of a geek kid, I also I would write a lot of fiction. I tried really hard to be get published during my teenage years but it never got off the ground. I discovered blogging in 2007 because a lot of people around me where blogging and they encouraged me to give it a shot at that time. Since I was focusing on engineering and entrepreneurship, I named my blog Femgineer. Honestly, I was little bit more market driven since I was getting lot of opportunities to speak and teach, so I realized that if people were interested in this maybe there would be a way to marketize it. I slowly started to experiment with developing courses and books and it’s kind a ongoing discovery and process ever since.
Startup Wonder: As an entrepreneur would you advocate for getting a side hustle before starting the journey of an entrepreneurship?
Poornima: There are many things you have to take into account for before you can decide. If you have a support system, like a spouse or a parent who will help you out while you are an aspiring entrepreneur, then seize that opportunity. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have that, so I would say having a side hustle is great and it is going to get you through. If you intend for it to be a side hustle then make that intention so you don’t fall into a working cycle. You have to be honest with yourself about your own energy, time and commitments.
Poornima at TEDxNavesink
Startup Wonder: Blogging today is fairly simply to start, but what is your advice on a student who aspires to write a blog and make a lifestyle out of that?
Poornima: Just start writing. Aspiring bloggers create too many barriers and start to have too many concerns like: “oh I need to find the exact topic” and “it needs to be grammatically correct”. All these things frankly matter a lot more later on, but if you are starting the most important thing is to just do it.
Startup Wonder: So you are saying that you should find your own voice?
Poornima: Yeah! I am saying that you know who you are. What’s important is that you get into the habit of doing that consistent writing. What I have noticed happen is that too often people that are interested in blogging, the writing itself becomes the thing that they end up disliking. You have to be honest with yourself. You can figure out your niche and create a brand name down the line but that’s not what you need to start with. You might enjoy doing something else like podcasting. You can pick whatever the medium is but it’s important to develop that consistent practise first. If you don’t like being in a hot yoga room then don’t do hot yoga. Just find the thing that’s going to resonate with you.
Startup Wonder: What does your day look like?
Poornima: I am in a kind of a transition period right now, because as I mentioned I am 8 months pregnant. My days are probably more relaxed than they normally would be. My tougher days are the ones where I’m creating; like writing up a blog post or doing a set of videos or something of that nature. An important thing I usually incorporate into my week is time to exercise so I can decompress and stay creative for the week.
Startup Wonder: How do you define success?
Poornima: I was thinking of this yesterday as I was swimming actually! I think success for me is being able to continue to create things that I naturally enjoy doing and that [hopefully!] people benefit from that, and people get value out of it. That is a greatest kind of success. Staying healthy, both mentally and physically is also important so you feel good at the end of the day.
Startup Wonder: How does one get into talking for TEDx-Talks?
Poornima: So, TEDx-Talk is a one time conference a year. You are invited to speak and TEDx are subsidiary and not anybody can do it, but a lot of people can run a TEDx either at a local level or regional level. People can have like a theme and then can host the conference and get all the branding for it. So I did a TEDx talk back in 2014, and I can’t remember whether they approached me or I approached them. I decided to do it on the importance of tinkering with technologies or on how a lot of people are thinking they need to be a PhD or they have to go to a engineering school to do it. It was great because the format is very interesting, and they have a certain way in which they want you to deliver it. They give you a coach to do this , and they elevate you to in terms of taking yourself seriously, but not too seriously and they need a fun element in the speaker.
Startup Wonder: Thank you so much for your time and I will add in the links to your blog and your TEDx-Talk for readers to see!
Faizah Asif is a junior at Lynbrook High School. She enjoys reading and making art in her free time. She hopes to pursue business in the future.