Have you ever had something that gets you so fired up and inspired that it keeps you awake at night? (Let’s be honest, it’s probably Pokemon-Go right now.)
Maybe it’s charcoal painting, or sonnet writing, or dubstep composition, or cooking spicy food. But, for me, it’s Indian classical singing. I immigrated to the US from Pune, India in 2004, and I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not obsessed with the genius of Indian classical music.
Before I started my career in tech, I would have assumed that my education in economics and history, along with my exposure to computer science, would have been the most valuable assets to helping me succeed as a team lead on HubSpot's support team. However, it turns out that I developed the skills most valuable to my job in tech through my love for an ancient genre of high art music.
What Indian Classical Performance Taught Me About Solving Customers' Problems
As an Indian classical vocalist, I have been trained to interpret complex melodic ideas spontaneously, for long periods of time, often without any explicit preparation. Going a step beyond musical improvisation, this may be described as spontaneous composition. My music teachers, or gurus, have taught me how to think within a given framework of notes, meters, and poetic motifs, but have rarely told me what to think.
While this lack of explicit instruction might sound like it leads to a cacophonous free-for-all jam session, this bent towards improvisation is actually a lot like writing good code. Every melodic structure in Indian classical music, or Raga, has a complex set of rules that maintain its integral identity and convey distinct emotions. Truly brilliant performers excel at building compelling never-before-heard musical edifices without violating these integral boundaries. Similarly, coding has rules, specific inputs and outputs, and developers have the power to arrange and integrate them in never-before-seen ways to create a truly unique product.
Additionally, my gurus insist that being aware of the audience’s mood – the “elephant in the concert hall” if you will—and being able to adapt to it can make or break a performance. In the same way, as a team lead in support, when I’m faced with a complex technical challenge, I must always be aware of the “elephant on the call”: the human frustration of the customer.
Immediately, my musical instincts kick in.
I gauge the customer’s mood, even as I’m computing the most efficient solution to their issue. Next, I aim to delight, not just by resolving the issue fully, but also by empathizing with the customer’s feelings—as an artist would with their audience. If all goes well, the customer will be humming the HubSpot Raga by the end of the call.
And, this analogy is not unique to services roles; marketers, salesmen and women, and product researchers are all performing for customers, both internal and external, to compose a melody that is sure to impress.
Find a Company Culture That Honors Your Passion
At HubSpot, in particular, we have an award-winning culture that’s truly cultured. In other words, we love artists and poets as much as programmers and mathematicians. And, indeed, there’s often considerable overlap between the traditional right-brained and left-brained categories.
“When looking for a job in tech, it's important to find a company culture that values personal investment in passion.”
Rather than being cast aside as a “hobby,” my serious interest in Indian classical musicianship is respected by my colleagues and managers as an expression of my ability to think on my feet under challenging circumstances.
All Roads Can Lead to Tech
I might be a little biased, but perhaps the modern take on “all roads lead to Rome” is “all roads lead to tech”. And maybe your passion, as niche as it may seem, is manna from heaven for the tech industry. This is as important for recruiters to remember when hiring for tech as it is for college seniors trying to decide on a career path.
There is no one formula, interest, or passion that defines today’s techie. The sooner we can learn to embrace this diversity of interests and understand the tangible skills they empower us with, the more successful we will be as professionals and companies. In the words of a viral Facebook mantra, “Do more of what makes you awesome”.