Content Lead at Neon
Lost and Found: Playing it too safe may be the greatest risk you’ll ever take
Ram Seshadri did not know what he wanted to do with his life. Holding an IB diploma and witnessing his brother drop out of engineering to enter a different field, he looked for opportunities across the UK, US and Canada that would allow him some stability.
He knew he enjoyed writing, so in 2017, he joined Canada’s top journalism program at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). Yet despite moving countries and being accepted into a top-ranking program, Seshadri still couldn’t find the clarity he was looking for.
While many people in his batch had a clear focus for why they pursued journalism, Seshadri had a long way to go. A journey that ends at a completely different destination than what he’d imagined.
Fast forward to 2021. He’s still pretty lost. At this point, Seshadri has completed multiple internships, including one with the National Post, but he’s left with more disappointment and anxious feelings than before.
‘I feel like I don’t belong here’
After experiencing what it was like working in a newsroom, he realized that in the process of trying to amplify other people’s voices and stories, he was losing his own. The editing process did not leave Seshadri with much to call his own.
“If I can't even tell my writing apart from anybody else's in the journalism industry, then I feel like I don't belong here because I wanted to stand out in a creative sense,” he said. “I think that was the point where I was like, okay, do I really want to go further down the journalism line if I know that I'm just following a certain template that's been brought out to us?
“If you don't feel like you're working hard enough, I think that's a good thing. I feel like you're constantly striving to be more than what you are and that's the only way to climb whatever ladder you are in life.” — Ram
Seshadri’s parents didn’t pressure him, but he still felt a sense of responsibility to give back to the ones who raised him and sacrificed so much for him to have the opportunities that he did, especially his mother.
“I don't know why this person loves me so much, but I'm going to do my hardest in life to make sure that I'm not the reason for her tears, and that's what kept me going,” he said.
This is when his inner calling towards the world of entrepreneurship started to whisper. Dissatisfaction with the status quo. “I had this kind of existential crisis where I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life at that point. I knew that if I went into a certain line of work I'd do well in it, but I didn't feel like I would be satisfied with it,” he said.
“I didn't feel I could be that kind of nine-to-five person who could just devote all my hours to breaking a story.”
So he decided to give it one year, before considering a completely different career.
Intro to Social Services
Seshadri had always loved helping people, so he decided to use his media skills to bring important causes to the public eye. In the year that he gave himself, he volunteered in a food bank called the Daily Bread.
“I recognized that currently I'm not being paid for this but I've never felt more satisfied with the kind of feeling I'm getting from being there,” he said. “That's when I recognized that, okay, maybe journalism isn't it for me, but maybe I could go into social services and I could write for them in some capacity.”
Another realization that gave him an idea about what he wanted to do. Bits and pieces of his life started coming together. “I started going there every single day, made a lot of connections there, everyone started to get to know me as well. In about two, three months, I started working as an admin worker at the Daily Bread,” Seshadri said. “It was an amazing experience honestly. I think that was the most fun I’ve had in Toronto.”
“If you were to look at where I was in my first few weeks at the job, compared to now, it's a night and day difference, honestly speaking, because I knew nothing about business. I've never been really interested in it until recently.” — Ram
Then reality came back knocking at his door. While he was having the time of his life working for the Daily Bread, it wasn’t sustainable. So now he was faced with two choices. Either to stay or to move to India.
“Either I stay in Toronto, and I continue to go through these mixed emotions and go through these feelings of guilt, feelings of isolation, or I figure out a way somewhere else,” he said. Although he tried to block other people’s opinions out of major life decisions, his friends' and family’s concerns still held a place at the back of his mind.
The dollar was more valuable than the Rupees in India, but nothing compared to the value of his life.
Getting off this patch of grass
So early this year, he sat down with his dad and had a heart-to-heart conversation. “I told him that the grass might not be greener on the other side, but I just know that I want to get off this patch of grass on this side,” he said. “I'm okay with giving it a shot somewhere else, I'm okay with taking a risk. I haven't taken a risk in a long time. Let me just take it now. I will look after myself if I have to, just let me leave. I need to leave and figure out what I want to do next.”
Seshadri still didn’t know what he wanted to do, but at least now he realized what he didn’t.
Finally, he packed his bags and flew across the world all the way to India to find his calling. But before taking up anything new, he made sure to take a short break of a month to spend time with family, and to think about what he wanted to do next.
Sports was something he was always interested in. Even during his study and internship period, he tried to find any means to talk and report about sports. So naturally, he applied to sports jobs across the country.
That’s when another realization hit him.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve been using sports as an escape from reality,” he said.
“While it was like one of those things where I'm very passionate about it, I just knew that it wasn't something that would get me completely satisfied in life because it was something I've been using not to find purpose in life, but rather, I've been trying to run away from that purpose in life using sports.”
So he continued his job search in a different direction and applied to multiple social services jobs.
Eventually, he came across an interesting opportunity through one of his dad’s connections. Siddhartha Ahluwaila was his first point of contact, who then encouraged him to go for an interview. Driven, motivated, and eager to find his purpose, Seshadri decided to give it a shot.
The power of an ambitious leader
It was time for an interview with Nansi Mishra, one of the co-founders of Neon, a half venture capital and half podcast company. Ahluwaila and Mishra both run the company as a couple. After the interview, Seshadri just knew this was it.
“I could see throughout the whole call how ambitious she (Mishra) was. I was like wow, I don't know where these guys are gonna go but I want to be on this ride with them,” he said. This is a clear example of the impact of a high-energy, ambitious and driven leader.
“Once the call ended, I came out of my room. I told my dad, look, I don't know where this is gonna go, I don't know where this company is gonna go, but I want to be in this company,” Seshadri said.
The reason why he chose a startup over a much larger company was because he’d much rather be one in three or four people than among hundreds.
“I didn't want my voice to be lost in a sense, because that will just remind me of the times in Toronto,” he said. “I wanted to be in an organization where every single move I did would show, like I could analyze exactly what I provided for this company.”
Of course, nothing great in life comes easy. The job was for the position of content lead, which sounded attractive, but it was a seven-hour train ride from where his parents lived. Seshadri’s decision to join the company, however, remained undeterred.