When Shrawan (“SK”) Saraogi was made Vice President of DBS’ Debt Capital Market team, life was good.
“I had a great experience in investment banking, it's a very high-flying team,” Shrawan mused. “But I think what started happening for me is that I felt like whatever I was already doing is what was expected for many, many more years to come.”
According to him, this wasn’t the kind of industry that would change much. It would be the same for a very long time - doing the same type of deals, sometimes the same clients and same bankers. While this kind of stability is what some crave, it was not for SK.
This realisation urged him to pause his career and instead pursue his MBA.
That decision helped open his horizons and give him clarity about what he wanted from his career, his life and how he would go about doing that. It led him to Fintech and Funding Societies, where he has worn many hats over the years, leading to his current role as their Head of Strategy for New Business.
In this edition of Middle Matters, Shrawan shares how mindfulness helped him find career fulfilment and what companies can do to sustainably scale their teams.
Taking One Step at a Time
After moving up the ranks and quickly growing with DBS, the decision to pause his trajectory to pursue his MBA became very overwhelming. “It was a little bit scary to kind of take a step back and say that I'm not going to work for a couple of years. What would it be like? What if it doesn't work out? What if I regret it?”
Just as every great man has a great woman beside him, Shrawan’s wife advised: “Take one step at a time.”
A simple, yet effective point.
“[She said] to just go figure out GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). Do that first and we’ll figure out if you should even apply, where you should apply and should you go,” he shared. “In the next three months, I kind of figured it out. I applied and got into a few schools and made up my mind.”
He enrolled at Duke University and graduated with an MBA and the confidence of knowing that he wanted to be in Fintech.
He was inspired to move toward forward-thinking and future-focused industries that allowed him to continue growing and build skills - qualities he knew he wouldn’t have in the corporate world, especially in investment banking.
Believing in a Cause
While it is important to join a company that aligns with your personal goals, Shrawan speaks about how believing in its cause plays an important factor too. This rang true when the opportunity came to help uplift societies in Southeast Asia by creating financial opportunities for SMEs at Funding Societies.
He reflects upon his earlier days of keeping the very big machine running and how his current path has been more satisfying:
“There is a gap and we're helping the underserved. So at least I feel whatever I'm doing if we can succeed at it, it's not just helping me. It's not just helping the company. It's truly changing the world.”
“This keeps me going even when things are difficult, even when there's a lot going on.”
The process of scaling up in a hypergrowth company can be especially challenging for first-time managers. They are suddenly tasked with more responsibilities and a team to help them carry them out. He notices that when the pressure is on, properly delegating tasks often takes a back seat.
“There can be a tendency that somebody has come in, pass on the work and now I'm going to have more time and bandwidth to maybe do other things. There's this need to fight that instinct, and that's something I consciously tell people.”
He urges managers to not take the responsibility of bringing someone new in lightly: “In the initial period, recognise that you need to spend even more time. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
“Once you bring on someone, you need to truly train them. You need to make sure they fully understand the context of the company,” he advises. This means checking in on new hires daily in the first few weeks before progressively giving them more autonomy.
“As much as it's great to be able to hire people, I do not treat that lightly and I always think, ‘I better have the mindset and the bandwidth to be able to bring them up to speed.’ Otherwise, it's not fair to them and it's not fair to yourself as well.”
Having a Growth Mindset
SK feels fortunate to be doing what he does and is satisfied with how he has navigated his career. He believes there are two things that have made the biggest difference for him.
First, be mindful of what you want from your professional and personal life and what career paths might give you that. Even if it cannot be achieved right away, what steps can help bring you closer to it? Second, having a growth mindset that doesn’t close off options too early and gives yourself a chance to learn and adapt. In the right conditions, we are capable of growing and changing in ways we can’t always imagine at first.
These two things can make a big difference in achieving professional success and satisfaction and he hopes more people would give themselves a chance to find it.
Shrawan’s journey reminds us of the importance of reassessing what’s important to us in our career and how our mindset impacts others along the way.
- How wide is the gap between your personal and professional goals? What steps could you take to bring them closer?
- When was the last time you had the chance to reassess your priorities?
- When was the last time you checked in on your direct report’s personal goals and motivations? Are they on the right track?
Post-Credits with Shrawan Saraogi
While the reopening of the borders has allowed many to go on a much-deserved vacation, Shrawan is relieved to finally be able to see more of his parents and loved ones again in India.
“One of the things that definitely was my takeaway is to take every opportunity I can to spend time with them,” he shared. “The pandemic reminded me to not assume our loved ones will be around forever.”
On a broader level, this period has shown him the importance of seizing the moment and not taking things for granted.
“I want to work hard but I want to continue doing other things alongside it without having a false expectation that there will be a perfect time for it. I feel that if you want to do something, there's no better time than now.”