Yasmin Desai – Find the thing you love and you’ll be able to make it work

Tech Sisters Podcast art featuring Yasmin Desai

For our first episode of season 2, we are so excited to have Yasmin Desai. AKA The Startup Girl.

Yasmin is a product director who has worked for over eight years in startups, including Catapult, Revolut, and Impala. She’s passionate about startups, tech and entrepreneurship, and she’s on a mission to empower people, to develop entrepreneurship as a skill in their day jobs.

Listen To Yasmin’s Story

Key Lessons from this Episode

  • “Just apply. The worst that can happen is you don’t get it. At least you tried” (6:50)
  • Why Yasmin loves startups (17:20)
  • Advice for people who want to launch a product (29:25)

Transcript

Yasmin Desai

[00:01:49] Grace: As salaamu alikum. Tech sisters today, we are super excited to have Yasmin Desai. AKA the startup girl, Yasmin is a product director who has worked for over eight years in startups, including catapult Revolute and Impala. She’s passionate about startups, tech and entrepreneurship, and she’s on a mission to empower people, to develop entrepreneurship as a skill in their day jobs.

Yasmin is a board member of innovate her and queen Mary business school. And in her spare time, she mentors young females and guest lectures on topics around entrepreneurship and innovation at Birkbeck Kings and queen Mary university. She has been awarded the women’s software award in 2020 and 2021. The women technology winner 2020 and 2021 is a big year for you and the top 25 product influencers to watch in 2021 mashAllah.

So, so, so happy to have you on here.

[00:02:35] Yasmin: Thanks. wa alikum salaam. Yeah. Great to be here. Thank you so much for reaching out. So excited for this chat as well.

[00:02:40] Grace: Awesome. So how about we start at the very beginning and we can talk about how you got into tech in the first place.

[00:02:45] Yasmin: Sure. Yeah.

So for me, I. I guess my journey started when I was at university, I always , knew that I wanted to potentially start my own company. , and the careers department had a, I guess, a competition. So you had to submit a business plan and, , I think there were maybe five to 10 winners, , of that.

And they gave I think it was two to 5k depending on whether you were like first, second, third winner. And. I was very close to not hitting submit on that application. And so I’m very glad that I did because it pretty much did change the trajectory of, of my life. So I won some money. I started a company, it was a very small magazine.

Ran that for about a year and decided to close it down. With a view that I wanted more experience, you know, I was 18 years old trying to run my own company and in my uni halls and it just. As much as it was interesting and thrilling. I wasn’t learning, I wasn’t learning that much as I would’ve liked from potentially someone else.

And so my thinking was, Hey, why don’t I go out there and join a relatively small company where I can literally sit next to the founder next to the boss and learn from them. So I. I went part-time into two tech companies actually which I wouldn’t recommend doing along surgery studies. But then did that in my last year.

And then as I graduated, it was just the natural next step for me to just say, Hey, I really liked tech startups. Let me go and apply for a graduate role, which I did. Did that. So I’ve always actually been in tech. It’s literally all I know always been in early stage startups, other than Revolut, which is a bit you know, more in the growth later stage started off in operations and strategy roles and then pivoted in the last five years purely to just product management.

And so then that’s where I’ve grown and, and now my product director.

[00:04:24] Grace: Amazing. What stood out for me there is that you’re able to have this really interesting focus on yourself across different things, but still of managing to juggle that, which is very interesting. Cause you’re saying before how you were, had so many projects

[00:04:38] Yasmin: Yeah, I think a little bit of a victim of saying yes to everything. And probably, you know, Need to learn to, to say, you know, to things, but, you know, it’s worked well for me so far. And it’s something that I would recommend if, if you, have an opportunity and it excites you, grab it at its hands. The worst thing that will happen is, you know, as you learn, and then at some point you say, okay, maybe next time I don’t have the capacity to do that.

Yeah.

[00:05:03] Grace: Yeah. Especially when you’re young and you have that time because

[00:05:06] Yasmin: Energy

[00:05:07] Grace: yeah, exactly. And it’s also interesting. You mentioned that university competition, we’ve had another person on the

[00:05:14] Yasmin: Okay, great.

[00:05:15] Grace: won a competition that they were just on the verge of not submitting.

[00:05:18] Yasmin: Mm-hmm

[00:05:19] Grace: So that’s very cool. I guess what helps you to push that button to,

[00:05:23] Yasmin: yeah,

[00:05:24] Grace: for it?

[00:05:26] Yasmin: I remember it so vividly, even though it?

was more, Yeah.

it would’ve been more than 10 years ago now. I think there’s a combination of things growing up. I don’t know why it was, maybe it was also, I remember my brother talking about it to me of like, oh, I want to run my own business.

And for my parents, it was very much, you know, why would you want to do that? It’s not guaranteed. There’s no success. That’s guaranteed. It either works or it doesn’t work. And why would you not just go out and get a stable job? And I completely understand where they’re coming from now. Um, But at the time, to me, that meant.

what I took that as, as well. They don’t have confidence in me. And there’s an element of when someone maybe suggested I can’t do something, I go out of my way to go and prove them wrong. Not that I was there to prove my parents wrong or anything like that. But it was just in me, you know, it was what I got excited by.

Did I get much of a thrill by attending lectures? No. Did I absolutely. You know, sign up, be the first person to sign up when you know, a startup or a founder was coming in to talk. Yes. And so listening to some of. and I remember the day really well. I had, I had, you know, put a pitch together. It was a very simple business plan that they’d asked for.

Actually it wasn’t like it. Wasn’t a huge task that they asked for, which is good in a way.

[00:06:34] Grace: Mm-hmm

[00:06:35] Yasmin: And I was in, we had like, what’s called the economics lab which is like a shared area for, for, for the economic students. I was so ill. I remember being so ill that I just wanted to go home and sleep. And there was just the last bit that I had to finish and I finished it and I was still in my head.

I was like, no, why am I doing this? Why am I doing this? And I think I just said something to myself that was like, okay, the worst that happens is you just don’t get it. And is that really the worst thing in the world? At least you tried. Right. And so I think that was something that stuck with me all the time.

I, I still do it to today, which is, well, at least I tried. And if not I learned from it. And do you know what, sometimes I think I applied to so many different things, not jobs, but just. Random, you know things that I could potentially be doing outside. And sometimes I’ve honestly got to the stage now where I forget that I applied to half of them.

And so when it does come, it’s a surprise. And when it doesn’t, I’ve forgotten about it anyway. So there’s no loss. So it was a case of, I remember it was like Friday, 2:00 PM. I think the the deadline for submitting, it was like 3:00 PM. And I’m notorious for doing things last minute as well. I did it last minute and, and yeah. I pressed sent, and I can’t remember how they got back in touch with me.

I’m gonna assume that it was an email. And I was like, oh my God. Wow. Like someone had confidence in me. And, and now I have some money to go ahead and do something. So I’ve taken that with me whenever I’m Deliberating of whether I should do something or not, because I really did have nothing to lose.

You know, the, the only last would’ve been a bit of my time that it took for me to put that plan together, which I was already thinking about for a long time anyway. So it forced me to put my thoughts down. So yeah, that was what was going through my head. And I think to, to this day still continues to go through my head.

[00:08:13] Grace: Yeah, I think that’s a really important lesson to learn, especially so early on there. Really, I think when you have enough of a high level view of things, there really isn’t any loss, right? Unless it’s something like really physical, but even then you’re always learning something. There’s always something to be gained from any difficult situation or anything that happens that you don’t expect.

So especially with like our mentees and our junior people in tech sisters we’re always telling. apply. Cuz then you’ll get more experience running applications. You’ll fine. Tune your CV. You’ll just get practice going through the different rounds of interviews. You’ll get better and better at talking about yourself.

I think even that level is really important to get practice, especially early on, cuz it’s very uncomfortable talking about yourself

[00:08:52] Yasmin: Yeah.

And I think for girls in particular you tend to not believe yourself until someone else shows confidence in you. And so some unfortunately that means that sometimes you have to go out externally to find that validation. And that is purely what I did. Right. I went, I, I literally remember thinking in my head, I’m not gonna do this until someone says, I. Yeah. I’ll give you the money or, you know, Yeah.

That’s a good idea. I would never have done it of my own accord. I only did it because I felt, I felt, oh, someone has confidence that it’s, it’s a good idea or that I’m the right person to be doing it. And, and yeah, I’m, I’m very grateful that I did.

Hmm.

[00:09:26] Grace: Amazing. So what were some other moments of giving you confidence to help you move forward in your career or change directions?

[00:09:34] Yasmin: Yeah.

I think. Again, I, I, I can be very grateful for the fact that in, in my career, I’ve, I’ve typically had really good bosses. And so they’ve always been encouraging with feedback and constructive criticism as always, but like quite encouraging. And so it’s one of those things where until you start working, you don’t really realize if you’re good at.

An area until someone says, Hey, you know, that was really good. Can you do this one again? Or do the same thing again, but for this different customer or client or whatever it might be. And so elements of it was, was was that I think I was very lucky that in my first proper, I guess, graduate job, I was exposed to a lot of people.

So I was literally sitting in a, an office with 200 people that weren’t even in my company. It was just that we were all sharing the same space. So you meet people and then, you know, I don’t know. I don’t even, I still don’t really understand, but, you know, I would have people come out to me and be like, oh, I overheard this thing that you were doing.

And it was really great. Or, you know, your boss said that you were doing amazing. Would you consider working for me instead? And that’s like, to me, that was the

highest validation, you know, it was like, can you come and work for me, even though you’d be working in the same building and seeing them every day.

So there’s elements of that. I think. What else could I say in terms of where I’ve had help? I have had, so at uni, actually they did assign me a mentor as well. And he helped me a lot because he came from a corporate background, but was starting his own company as well. And again, even just walking into Office, it just sparks interest.

Right. So I was walking to the office and I was like, oh, this was before I’d worked in the co-working space. Why, why are you sharing an office with other people? Why don’t you have your own? cool. It’s a co-working space. Okay, cool. Cool. Ryan’s a co-working space. I’ll saw a

[00:11:17] Grace: Wow.

[00:11:17] Yasmin: you know that is trying to Start his own accelerator, which actually at the time was entrepreneur first.

And I applied to, I think be the operations person in the end. I turned it down actually, which is probably one of the biggest mistakes. yeah, I think it’s just being, exposing yourself to things, right. It’s that that idea of you can sit in your room all day and apply for jobs and apply for jobs.

But there’s an element of you having to go out there and. And do things and speak to people and then realize what you’re good at. And then really monopolize on the thing that you’re good at. And, and believe in yourself that you, that you’re good at it as well. And I think, you know, you hear a lot about people of.

Oh, well, validation should come intrinsically. It should come from you. And you need to focus on almost manifesting that in yourself and I, to an extent I do believe that that’s true. However, when you’re young and when you’re starting out and when, you’ve moved from essentially a small town to a city and, , you’ve got people who have moved countries as well is very hard to know and manifest in yourself. Oh, I’m great at this. And I’m good at that, especially because you know, the degrees, at least the one I did, they’re not practical. It is purely theoretical. And so how can you say, Oh,

I’m good at this because Yeah.

you can be good at a mathematical equation, but. It’s really hard to then translate that and say, oh, well, I would be good in this role.

And so I think it’s okay. I think it’s okay to, to, to find external people that you can reach out to and understand what it is that you are you’re good at. And then grasp on that and, and, and use that as your motivation going forward.

[00:12:43] Grace: Yeah, I think that’s a really important thing. It’s really hard to manifest something when you haven’t seen it for

[00:12:49] Yasmin: Mm-hmm

[00:12:49] Grace: think that’s compounded when we’re talking about women who are like the only in

[00:12:53] Yasmin: yeah.

[00:12:54] Grace: who are the first in their, their family go to university or the first to work in tech or person in their company who look a certain way, or dress a certain way that makes it much more difficult to manifest that success.

[00:13:04] Yasmin: Yeah.

Yeah.

[00:13:07] Grace: And it also sounds like you’re the type of person who really thrives in an in person work environment. It sounds like you’re

[00:13:13] Yasmin: yeah,

[00:13:13] Grace: all that magic happening.

[00:13:15] Yasmin: yeah.

I did. I say I did because for the last two years, obviously we’ve been in lockdown. Right. And. It’s funny because in the company that I’m in at the moment, I remember in my interview process, I literally said, please help me some way to get into the office. Again, I hate working from home and now.

The complete opposite. If anyone was to ask me to go into the office, I’d be like, no, what can I do to avoid it? So no, it’s interesting. I think you go through phases. I think your first years of your career are very formative. And so I would recommend anyone who’s in that early stage.

Be in the office, go there every day. Have you have the energy? That’s where you’ll learn the most. And as much as I have confidence that remote companies work to an extent you’re learning is a little bit limited when you’re not all in the same place or that your work is somewhat a little bit slower because you’re not overhearing someone or you don’t overhear the context of, of, of this problem.

And so hence it take, it can take you that little bit longer as well. Yeah.

I did really thrive around being with other people. And actually luckily in my day to day, probably six hours is still on face to face zoom calls. And so I still have a lot of interaction. I think if my role was, you know, mainly research or anything, I would struggle quite a lot.

[00:14:26] Grace: Yeah. That’s fair. No, I think with remote companies, everything has to be very deliberate. So having those conversations and being like really explicit about the context and everything which can happen, but it has to be a very intentional process. And I’m also interested because we’re talking about those mentors who have helped you.

And I know that you’re very involved in mentoring. So how have you been able to then give that back?

[00:14:48] Yasmin: Yeah.

I’ve had a few mentors and to be fair, I, I don’t ever see a world where I don’t have one or two and the ones that I have, what, well, a couple were deliberate. I like, I literally went out and said, Hey, will you be my mentor when I was very young and didn’t really know what that meant. And some have just transpired that, you know, We , again, worked in the same building, even noticed that, you know, they’re way above their game than I am.

And so just reach out for conversations and then it just becomes an informal conversation that we’ll have every so often. So Yeah.

I, I always like to, to, to give back partly because I see the need and it has helped me a lot. I take mentoring as more of an informal process where I know that there’s a lot of organizations are very much, you know, one hour, one call per month.

[00:15:31] Grace: Mm-hmm

[00:15:31] Yasmin: The way I prefer or the style that I prefer is much more. As in when you need a basis. So almost like on demand, which I appreciate that a lot of people can’t do because you know, they’ve got commitments, family commitments, but for me, mentoring has always worked when it’s, Hey, I have this problem. And you know, I literally have a deadline for it, whether it’s an upcoming job promotion conversation or whether it is.

Literally a, I don’t know, I’m trying to figure out how to do a model and for, for whatever reason, I can’t figure out within the company. And so it’s usually always time specific. And so then I’ll reach out to a person. Ideally they’d be in touch in, in, in the timeframe that I would expect, but some people don’t.

So I want, what I like to offer is that way back, right? So that someone can message me and I have had this, you know, they, they text me and they say, Hey, you know, I’ve got this problem for some people it’s, you know, I’m due to have a conversation at work about prayer space and I’m absolutely bricking it.

I dunno what it is that I should say. Great. Happy to get on a 20 minute call or just send a voice note saying here’s some tips and that’s the kind of mentoring that I like and like to give back on, because to me, that’s way more effective than a one hour conversation where arguably there might actually be things that you need to talk about.

And that’s great. And you’ll, you can afford to save it until that one hour. But sometimes. You need a mix of the two, really? So in an ideal world, I’d be doing even with my mentors, maybe one hour every month or every other month with kind of on top mini micro interactions as well.

[00:16:56] Grace: Yeah, that’s sort of what we do. The mentoring at tech Sisters. There is somewhere in that in between you have a three month cohort, but within that time, you’re with your mentor, you decide on the cadence together. And then after it, you’ve established that relationship and you can do the ad hoc things. So it’s, it’s really about, you know, helping the mentee figure out what they wanna do.

But also so that they just feel more comfortable asking questions and then knowing who to ask.

[00:17:19] Yasmin: Mm-hmm . Yep.

[00:17:20] Grace: Yeah. So you were talking about the startup world startup culture, and you said before, like this is something that’s always very interested you in universities you go to those talks. So what is, what is it about that life

[00:17:33] Yasmin: Yeah, no, it’s interesting. I think came from a degree

[00:17:37] Grace: Sure.

[00:17:38] Yasmin: it was. Literally forced down you that your options are finance Canary whaf accounting banking. And it wasn’t that the roles didn’t interest me. It was more also genuinely just the lifestyle. Like I’ve never owned a suit and I

don’t plan.

[00:17:55] Grace: the

[00:17:56] Yasmin: Yeah Um, and I don’t, it was actually more things like that, that annoyed me more than it was about the role itself. So I don’t mind doing long hours. I don’t mind traveling to work or at least I didn’t back then, but what I don’t like is just strict things that are like, oh, you have to wear a. Or, and, you know, that’s even more difficult when you’re Muslim as well or muslim female.

And so it was more of the fact that it was just inflexible that I felt like, okay, well, I’d be taking a job where it’s inflexible and I’d be working insane hours. And I wouldn’t even get the time to enjoy my money in the first place. So what’s the point in making up all that money in my bank account. And also just that other half of me that was like, I like business.

I like startups. I like things that are, you know, I, I want to know how to get something off the ground. . And so that was what interested me and, and, you know, I get way more energy from walking into a co-working space where I see all these really cool startups or people that might be academics or people that, you know, just have crazy energy levels than walking into.

JP Morgan potentially. And, and, you know, everyone is heads down and it’s a very good work ethic that they have. But I just don’t felt like I, I didn’t feel like I suited that work ethic. I suit the work ethic, which is, yes, I can get my head down and, and do a hell of a lot of work, but I need that buzz.

I need that energy. I need that passion. And I’m not gonna find that passion from you know, a number of spreadsheets that I have to look at all day. I’m gonna find that passion from putting things out there that customers can use straight away.

[00:19:21] Grace: Mm-hmm

[00:19:22] Yasmin: And so that’s where I guess, you know, that interest spark from.

And also, I think my thinking was just very much, if I want to start my own thing again, one day, I need to know how you do it. I need to know how you do it from scratch. I need to know how you do it in the growth stage. I need to know how you do it in the hyper growth stage.

[00:19:38] Grace: Mm-hmm

[00:19:39] Yasmin: And that’s not really something that I’m gonna get in a financial banking role.

And so for me, it just meant, you know, I want to do something that’s. Aligned to what my goals are. And, and that’s why I decided to take that route of startups. And it was a little bit difficult because. Again, like I said, startups are, they’re not the ones that are gonna attend your careers first because they don’t have the money.

I’ve seen some unis and credit to my one as well that they’ve started inviting startups for a much cheaper rate or lower rate so that they have that representation. And so that, you know, the careers fair is not just the massive, the big four that can turn up and spend money on the huge stalls. And it, it, it can be charities as well.

It can be smaller sized companies. But I think that there’s still a hell of a lot more that needs to be done. You know, when you go to your uni, you want to be able to say, this is I don’t fit the career route that I think is common for my degree. What else is out there? And they should be able to provide those.

And I think unis are doing a much better job of that today. You know, you see unis with funds, even budgets. For what they call entrepreneurship. And some budget it’s a 40 K some budgets are a million and that’s great. And I think that there, there needs to be. And I think that most unis in the UK have at least caught on to the fact that entrepreneurship as a career is, you know, completely valid and that they should be helping their students do that as well.

It’s, it shouldn’t be seen as risky. It shouldn’t be seen as something that they shouldn’t do. And if anything, they should be encouraging that without bounds as well. So in particular, I’m. I don’t really align to the idea that, you know, it’s a very American thing to say, okay, we’re a uni, but if you’re a student that uses any of our research tools, then we automatically get a percentage of your company. I don’t ascribe to that whatsoever. I don’t think that’s fair. That’s not an entrepreneurial spirit. If anything, it’s dampening it. And so what I’d like to see with, with universities and not just universities, colleges, any kind of institution that you know is higher education be able to provide.

Just different roots. It doesn’t have to be startups. I think they need to be able to provide advice for any type of career, any type of job, any type of route. And That’s why I’d like to, to see as an aspiration for, for, for, I guess, the future of today.

[00:21:41] Grace: That’s amazing. Yeah. I think as the American, that’s just going into American universities being big cash grabs and just

[00:21:48] Yasmin: Yep.

[00:21:49] Grace: as much money as they possibly can from

[00:21:50] Yasmin: It’s interesting because the American ones are the entrepreneurial ones. Actually. They are the ones where every, every other has something on the side and, you know, we do see them take off as well. That’s not because unis are taking a stake in their companies.

That’s because of just the, the, the culture that you have over there. I don’t see why that spirit can’t come to, to Europe and the UK as.

[00:22:12] Grace: what do you think needs to change for more entrepreneurial spirit to come over here? So we’re talking about

[00:22:16] Yasmin: Yeah,

[00:22:17] Grace: you need to be more supportive, but else?

[00:22:20] Yasmin: I actually think it’s gonna take a long time. And I think it’s more about a cultural shift than anything. I think, I mean, if you look at 10, 10 years ago, if you said I work in a startup, you, the, the frown that would be on faces,

you know? Yeah. Yeah.

[00:22:36] Grace: job that you have.

[00:22:38] Yasmin: Is it a job? yeah.

Um, And now it’s, it’s funny because those same people are the people that, oh, I get into a startup.

How do I

[00:22:45] Grace: yeah.

[00:22:46] Yasmin: and great. Okay, cool. You know all, all for people wanting to move into them. And so I think there’s still a massive shift that needs to be done though. I think people need to stop kind. Dampening people’s aspirations when someone says, Hey, I want to start my own company. Typically in the UK, you’ll have your response.

The responses that you’ll receive is all the reasons why it won’t work. If you go to America, Hey, I’m looking to start my own thing. Oh, cool. Dude. Like I know this person that’s doing this and you should link up with them. You know, even though they’re doing something similar, you’re gonna learn something from them.

[00:23:21] Grace: mm-hmm

[00:23:21] Yasmin: is that? Why don’t we have that here? Why are we so British in the sense that, know, we’re just. Miserable in the sense that we don’t have any hope . so I think a lot of it is cultural shift. And so I think, you know, I would encourage anyone if you, if you have a friend or someone that you know is looking to start a own company, congratulate them.

That’s a huge step to take. That’s a lot to, to, to risk, to put yourself at risk as well. So I think there’s that, I think there’s an element of having more funding that’s available as well. You know, if you look at entrepreneur first, . They recently started paying their cohorts.

So, you know, they, they get a bunch of like 30, 40 people together and give them a year. And prior to that salary, how on earth would anyone in London be able to afford to take a year off? And it’s in central London, right? It’s not like it’s on the outskirts or anything. And so I did credit to entrepreneur first for doing that.

I think that’s a really good thing. And I would like to see more. More funding available, whether that’s from the government, whether that’s from unis, whether that’s from accelerators and incubators. And whether it’s even only like a nominal amount, because it does help, if you are constantly having to worry about how the money comes in.

And arguably you do have to do that when you have a business then you know, it is gonna be difficult to, to kind start something from scratch and, and really make something out of it. So I think a lot of it is. I think 70% of it is the spirit and the culture. And I think everything else is what the institution can give.

So whether the institution is the government, whether the institution is unis, whether it’s having more access to, to these things as well. I think is what it will need to take. And I think it will take a long time and I think we need to be accepting to it. I don’t, I don’t know that there’s a push for us to, to do that.

Other than, you know, if venture capitalists wants big payouts from the companies that they invest in, in Europe then, then that’s something that they should be advocating for as well. You know, typically you’ll find that VCs tend to prefer sometimes not all the time American companies, because they tend.

Do bigger is, you know, bigger go bigger or go home and you don’t really get that same effect in Europe. And I think that’s because one, we’re a little bit more at risk averse and two, I, I genuinely think that the, the environment just doesn’t necessarily always allow for it as well.

[00:25:32] Grace: So this might be a bit of a hot take. Do you think there’s a class issue that it’s kind of intermingled with this? So that risk averse thing might be because these entrepreneurs are already from a relatively cushy position.

[00:25:42] Yasmin: Yeah.

absolutely. And I, and I think that this goes deeper, right? It’s not just an entrepreneurial thing. How many internships schemes do you see where you don’t get paid? How on earth can we expect people to be able to get that first it’s it’s, it’s like a vicious cycle, Right.

If you can’t get the internship, you can’t get a proper job.

If you can’t get a job, you can’t even buy a house or, you know, forget buying a house, rent a house, rent a flat. And, and yeah, absolutely is because the people that do the internships are those that, that can afford or, you know, find the way to scrape it together. But, you know, not many people can do that.

And so you do end up just increasing the gap between uh, I don’t really like using the word class, but you know, you do increase the gap between the people that can and the people that can’t. And I think that’s a huge issue. Why on earth? You know, I, I do appreciate, there are a lot of companies that generally they might not have the money, but there are a lot of companies that do have the money.

And never having intention of even offering a job at the end of it, of that internship scheme. And you’ve just asked someone to work for free, essentially. And if you look at the purest kind of UK laws, that’s not allowed you’re allowed to volunteer, you’re allowed to you know, do certain hours of work unpaid.

But you know, you, you’ve got a law that says if you’re interviewing somewhere. And you know how sometimes you might be asked to a case study if that case study, I think the law is something around you. Can’t quote me on this more than two hours and is actually a task that the company. Would do themselves.

I, someone in that company would do it. Then you need to be paid for it because you’re providing work for that company. So why do we not take the same approach for something that’s like a three to six month thing? Which is an internship and say actually, no, if, even if it’s a small amount, right? Like my first internship, I think I was paid like a grand over, I don’t know how many weeks.

Definitely not less than four weeks, but you know, and, and, and your rent in London can be more than. Really depending where you live you know, more than 50. Yeah, exactly. So I do think it’s an issue. I do think it’s a deep root edition. I don’t think it’s just applicable to entrepreneurship. I think it’s actually applicable to most roles as well.

[00:27:44] Grace: Yeah, I agree. And then when, when they’re talking about

[00:27:47] Yasmin: Yeah.

[00:27:47] Grace: a limited number of people from underrepresented backgrounds that they can promote in hires, because it’s really difficult to get in.

[00:27:53] Yasmin: Yeah.

[00:27:54] Grace: you’re not getting paid for these internships, if you’re not getting the same opportunities as

[00:27:57] Yasmin: you know,

[00:27:58] Grace: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:27:59] Yasmin: I see you on LinkedIn. Some, some students, and I really feel for them, they’re like, I’ve got an interview, but I can’t even afford to get. How insane is that, that, you know, there’s a train ride that might be 10 20 quid, and they can’t do that. And, you know, in a perfect world, people like me and others would be sponsoring them to, to be able to do that.

But the company should be covering it. I think I remember going to an, I’m gonna say it was an IBM interview and they covered it. They covered the train cost. They even covered a night stay. If you were traveling from afar, and that was, again, that was just for a graduate scheme. It wasn’t even for like a high level role.

And I, again, I just don’t see why other companies aren’t adopting this, or there’s so many benefits that you can give in kind as well, whether it’s like a paid lunch or just your travel card, you know there are benefits to companies for, for, for doing that. And so, Yeah.

I always encourage people if you can’t get that monetary.

Value them then what can you get? That’s maybe not direct money in your bank, if it is that free lunch, if it is that you know, that travel card that helps you to, to, to get in every day, that’s something that I negotiated in my first job. It was , it was an intern. Scheme I was getting paid.

Okay. It was, you know, the lowest end of what you would expect. And I just said, Hey, you know, could I just get my hundred 20 quid travel card paid for? Cause that wouldn’t be a huge help and, and they considered it. And I I’d like to see that becoming the norm.

[00:29:20] Grace: Definitely. Definitely let’s pivot a little bit.

[00:29:24] Yasmin: Mm-hmm

[00:29:25] Grace: So we are talking about, you know how entrepreneurs need to be a certain level of risk aversion. So what advice do you have for someone who has a product idea in mind

[00:29:32] Yasmin: Yeah.

[00:29:33] Grace: and they wanna build a business around it?

[00:29:35] Yasmin: Yeah. So I think for me, I tend to look at like product thinking there, which is that, try to get something off the ground that is as minimum. Viable product as possible. So it doesn’t need to be, you know, it doesn’t need to look great. It doesn’t need to be the full working version, but it needs to be usable.

And if it’s usable and you can get feedback, then, then that’s what you should do. I, you know, I’m not in a position to say, oh yeah, if you’ve got an idea, quit your job, go ahead and do it. But I think the thing is what you want to do. And I think some people forget this, convince yourself. That it’s worth doing.

If you can convince yourself, then, then it’s worth doing right. So a way to convince yourself might be okay, I’m gonna set up a waiting list. And if I get a hundred signups to me that is valid.

[00:30:19] Grace: Mm-hmm

[00:30:20] Yasmin: Or whether it is, you know I don’t know, for example, something I’m happy to be open about this. Looking through a product course a paid one.

And so for me, that, that is actually the validation that I’ll look to do is, you know, I’ll set up just a quick notion page. about the course. Here’s about me. Here’s where it will be or when it could be rather who’s interested if I get like 50 signups, I’d probably go ahead and do it. If I get five, you know, I’m not gonna go ahead and invest all that time to do it.

Or I’ll relook and say, okay, maybe I didn’t market it in the right places. Where could I remarket it? And so do like really small iterations of what you can. Another idea I had ages ago was. Kind of not groceries to switch them, but almost like hello, fresh, but for any dietary requirement and the multitude of dietary requirements.

Right. So why, why can I not get something that’s like halal and gluten free or, you know, whatever it might be. And so instead of like, you know, imagine if I decided to go out and do that and, and, and go fully-fledged, it would take me a year more than that, probably. Whereas I literally could just put up a landing page pay, maybe 50 quid in Google ads for.

Diet food boxes or something of the words is my keyword and see what level of interest I get. And so that’s what I mean by starting really small getting validation as soon as you can, for the smallest version of your product.

[00:31:35] Grace: I think no code and low code

[00:31:36] Yasmin: Yeah,

[00:31:37] Grace: really great for this because we have a couple of people who’ve used a bubble to just

[00:31:41] Yasmin: yeah,

[00:31:41] Grace: MVP of their app.

[00:31:42] Yasmin: yeah.

[00:31:43] Grace: and then later on, they can find a developer once they’ve, they’ve gotten it figured out, but just to see your idea on something that you can click through the different screens makes a big difference.

[00:31:52] Yasmin: Yep. Yeah, totally.

[00:31:55] Grace: Amazing. you’re talking about a couple different ideas. So what’s next for you,

[00:32:00] Yasmin: mm-hmm

yeah. I’ve, I’ve always been one to dabble in a few things. So, you know, alongside my full-time job, I, I do small. Projects within product. So I have a product course that I’m running at the moment. And that’s in conjunction with Muslamic makers. I’m looking to potentially do a course of my own on a course content platform.

So that will be in the works if you’re interested, do reach out. And then other than that, I think. Really just want to hone in my skills and continue being a really good product director. And so that means, you know, being able to coach my reports and being able to help them grow in their professional development.

So those are the key focuses for me, at least until the end of this year. I think just another goal that I have is to Speak at two conferences this year as well. One of which I’m signed up for the other of which I guess still pending. But yeah, those are, I guess what I’ll be working on until the end of the year.

[00:32:51] Grace: Oh, that’s very exciting.

[00:32:53] Yasmin: Yeah.

[00:32:53] Grace: I have the last three questions, which is, I ask everybody the same ones. It’s just sort of a reflection thing. So what’s something that you’re most proud of and it can be in your career in your life. However you want to answer it. Something that’s really special to you. And why is it so meaningful?

[00:33:07] Yasmin: I’m proud of the awards that I’ve had. I think it’s nice to get the, the, the recognition and I think. You know, there’s a lot of people doing out there doing amazing things and there’s needs to be more recognition for them as well. So yeah, I would say I’m proud of that, but also acknowledge that there was a lot of hard work put into it.

And also that, you know, I had a great network and support system of people around me that allows me to, to be able to do these things. Yeah. So that’s where I would I guess have my gratitude for today.

[00:33:36] Grace: Oh, that’s perfect. And what’s something that you regret you wish

[00:33:41] Yasmin: Mm-hmm Tend not to like look at things and say, oh, I regret doing that. But I think if I could start my career path again, one thing, and I’m very open about this that I would say is like,

Missing, um,

from my CV, from my brand, is that big named company that has done really, really well. And I know that I have Revolut you know, I wasn’t there for an extremely long period of time, but what I would’ve liked, loved to have done is been in a company.

Quite early stage and seen it through to its hyper growth stage to be, you know, in that first 50 people. And then see it grow to like 500, 600 and that’s not something that I’ve done and I would still like to do it, or I’d like to join at the cusp of, you know, where, when they’re 200 and, and getting to that 600 and, you know, Just to be clear that the number of employees is not the signifier for how well they’re doing.

But as long as that, you know, they are growing in terms of their revenue figures, at least is something that I wish maybe I had done sooner.

[00:34:38] Grace: that, that’s a really hard thing to predict though, because you can join somebody really early. It’s like reading tea leaves.

[00:34:43] Yasmin: Yeah. it’s a combination of luck it’s a combination of like, I mean, you can critically assess and, and say, oh, I think this company’s gonna do really well, but ultimately, you know, there’s, there’s no, no power out there that can confirm for you.

So it is, there is an element of, you know, you can’t actually control a lot of that,. But there’s never been a time where I’ve turned down a company that was like, oh, I really should have stayed with him or, or taken it. But I think that maybe what I could have done has been a bit more tactical about my next move.

[00:35:12] Grace: And we’ve touched on this throughout the interview, but someone that you’re really grateful for.

[00:35:16] Yasmin: there’s a number of people. I’m very glad that I have a close network, a close group of friends as well, that I can bounce off like, you know, work issues or personal issues as well. My mom, I think she’s very strong and I think. I’ve always been grateful that she’s always been there for me, both my mom and dad are probably, you know, the number one people to be proud of me.

And I think that that helps. But also, you know, I have like my mentors as well and just people informally. I think when you look at things, everyone really is, I’ve never reached out to someone. For example on LinkedIn, even if I don’t know them and they’ve said, no, I’m not gonna help you.

And I think that’s something to really remember is that people are willing to offer their time. It might be in a different capacity to, to how you expect it to be. But generally, you know, people are willing to help. And so keep that positivity in mind that, , if you do need help, , then people will respond , and help you.

[00:36:11] Grace: Yeah, I think that’s a really good I’ve learned that so much in tech sisters, just reaching out to strangers on LinkedIn with just going, Hey, do you wanna be in this interview? most of the time it works out. Totally fine.

[00:36:25] Yasmin: Yeah.

[00:36:25] Grace: But is there anything else that you’d like to add any last words of advice or something that we didn’t cover?

[00:36:30] Yasmin: I guess words of advice, I think. I guess trying to put myself in the shoes of, if I was listening, what would I want to hear? It’s always difficult. It’s always difficult when, you know, I think I have to, to appreciate that I’m probably one of few people that really enjoys their work, their career and, and, you know, has joy when they wake up in the morning.

And so the one piece of advice I’ve always given to people is find the thing that you enjoy. Even if you think that for whatever reason, you’re like, oh there’s no market in that. There’s no career in that. There’s no career root in that. I think when you enjoy something so much, you’ll be able to carve a niche that, works for you because you’ll want to work on it.

You’ll want to, actively be pursuing lots of hours into it. You’ll be motivated. So even if that literally means, I don’t know what the craziest thing could be like, oh, you could be so into frogs. I am sure that there is a frog specialist role out there that works. It might be very niche.

I know that it’s very, you know, out there, but I really, truly, truly believe if you really, really like something, you can make it into something as well. No matter how niche it is, it might be that, you know, it might be that your market is very small, but if you can make it into something that works because you’re motivated and enjoy it, then you know, that will work for you and let’s face it.

There’s some crazy job title out there. If you can have chief happiness offices, you can have anything.

[00:37:53] Grace: Yeah, definitely. I was gonna say jobs are changing so much all the time. in 10 years from now don’t exist.

[00:37:59] Yasmin: Yep.

[00:37:59] Grace: be some sort of robot frog AI that you

[00:38:02] Yasmin: Okay.

[00:38:02] Grace: expert.

[00:38:05] Yasmin: Absolutely.

[00:38:06] Grace: Yeah, but thank you so much

[00:38:09] Yasmin: Thank you for having

[00:38:09] Grace: and for sharing all your knowledge. appreciate it. And thank you so much, yasmine.

[00:38:14] Yasmin: great to be here. Thank you.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Yasmin. Jazakallahu Khair! You can follow Yasmin on her, website, LinkedIn, and Twitter. And be sure to check out her course on Switching Careers to Product Management.

If you liked this story, be sure to check our other Tech Sisters Stories and get to know the amazing talent we have in our community.

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