Going in 100% – Dan Swift

Who?

Dan Swift is CEO of Empire Selling, a digital sales training and transformation company. Dan has over 20 years of leadership experience spanning sales, marketing, and business development, having successfully launched LinkedIn’s flagship product Sales Navigator and catapulted social media management technology Sprinklr to a $2bn valuation. With an emphasis on ‘bringing the human back’ to business, he believes that business leaders can be successful without sacrificing empathy.

Quick Summary

What inspired you to start Empire Selling? Was the journey to your current position a planned one or were there moments of contingency along the way?

Dan studied Geography in university but got his first job in sales. He enjoyed that experience so much he has remained in sales ever since. Over the years, his responsibility included launching various sales tools for business; e.g Linkedin Sales Navigator. While doing that, Dan noticed a gap in the market for a B2B model that taught other companies how to execute and sell using social media and digital tools. While he had the idea during his tenure at LinkedIn, it was when he was at Sprinklr that Dan got the conviction to start Empire Selling. He started with the support of several friends who came across the launch of Empire Selling. Soon after, they began spreading the word about Empire Selling and the rest is history.

Can you identify some of the biggest challenges you have come across while taking on various leadership roles? How have you managed to overcome these challenges?

Dan’s first leadership role in sales started in his early 20s; he was put in charge of a sales team of 20 people. During this experience, the most important lesson to him was that different people learn and work differently. There is no one size fits all solution to training and motivating your employees, it comes down to understanding and communicating with each person in your team in their own idiosyncratic way. Dan shared a story about someone who would constantly reject and put down his suggestions when he was asked to share them. Rather than get angry, Dan chose to speak to him about it and asked ‘Are you ok?’ Shocked, the man apologised and explained that he was going through a divorce. This was just an anecdotal story highlighting the need for compassion and understanding, especially if you were in a leadership role and in-charge of others.

If you could restart your journey from the moment you left school, what is one thing you would do differently?

In hindsight, the biggest difference that Dan would make it is to strike a better work life balance.  He felt like he could have gone out with his friends more, while still juggling his work commitments. He shared that there were occasions where he would be going into the office on a saturday, at the expense of hanging with his mates and that these were wasted opportunities. That being said, he acknowledges that he wouldn’t know if he would be as successful as he is right now, had he chosen to go out more. But, he still regrets it.

If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Breath. There are a lot of reasons why youths are under pressure at any one point in time. Be it from yourself or the people around it, whether its about university or job-searching. There are many highs and lows in life. What is more important is to breathe and do whatever you’re doing with passion and do it 100%. In times of pressure, find a way to give yourself a mental and physical break.

“Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, so whatever you’re doing, do it with passion” 

Dan Swift

FROM THE GUEST STUDENT

It was a really great and pleasant experience to be able to have a chat with Dan for a bit. I felt it was very eye opening to various aspects of work and life, such as his experience battling anxiety for many years. Another point that Dan talked about which I thought was very interesting was his emphasis on the importance of personal relationships to work performance. Furthermore, this was a great opportunity for me to gain a bit of insight into the management and marketing of a company, especially since it is what I’m currently studying in university. 

  • Zain Azri, Undergrad at Exeter University

Bouncing off the World – Michael Skok

Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh Insights With Experts

Welcome back to Insights with Experts!  We are kicking off season 3 with exciting new updates to the podcast. In today's episode, our CEO, Shyam is joined by a co host, Noah Tracey!   In this episode, Shyam and Noah are joined by Thomas Walsh, and expert in investments, startups and mentoring.    Socials!  Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/insights.with.experts/ Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/insights-with-experts/   TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@insights.with.experts Twitter: https://twitter.com/iwexperts 
  1. Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh
  2. Piece Of Advice For New STARTUP Founders! Ken Mocabee
  3. Do you think it's luck?
  4. Are you crazy enough to fail? Leeor Groen – Blockchain Valley Ventures
  5. Emre Buyukkilic on how Gen Z is influencing the future!

Who?

Michael Skok currently acts as a Founding Partner at Underscore VC. A serial entrepreneur turned investor, he also engages in mentoring, coaching and learning through numerous channels, specifically  as an ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ at Harvard Business School and through his Startup Secrets work. Throughout Michael’s life, he has engaged in numerous experiences and worked with a variety of startups. Michael’s main field of focus lies on breakthrough technologies and disruptive business models such as Saas, Cloud, Open Source and Blockchain. Throughout this interview, we will explore these amazing experiences and see what the youth can take away from them. 

Quick Summary

What inspired you to pursue entrepreneurship? Was it planned or did you ‘fall’ into the industry?

Michael refers to himself as an ‘accidental entrepreneur’, in the sense that he was raised in a household by a father who was himself an entrepreneur. This meant that Michael was being immersed into the life of an entrepreneur from a very young age and took a liking to it. His father was very passionate about his work, and was constantly working. What this meant is that Michael did not experience any kind of epiphany, or faced a moment where he knew he wanted to become an entrepreneur or VC. He was accustomed to creating his own opportunity, and entrepreneurship was something he naturally fell into.

Through your years of working with people from various backgrounds/ funding their startups, what have you found is the most vital quality a team/ team member should possess? 

In Michael’s point of view, the most vital quality a team member should possess is the ability to be self aware. If we are aware of what our strengths and weaknesses are, it’s the beginning of the ability for us to fit in a team as well as delegate work and recruit the people around us for support. Another quality that pairs quite nicely with this self awareness is humility. If we are humble enough to acknowledge where we need help and engage others and give them the support they deserve to support us, the result will be a healthy and efficient environment.

Can you think back to the most important moment in your journey? What were you able to take away from this?

Michael referred to his failures as being the most important experiences in his life. Fortunately for him, his first and most important moment of failure was seen at a relatively young age. This was seen as Michael and his brother started a business in the computer aided manufacturing scene. While the first few years saw tremendous success, Michael admits that he had been incredibly naive — though he was a great technologist, he knew next to nothing about business. What Michael learnt from this experience is that humility actually becomes reality when we go through our first failure, however we move forward and improve ourselves when we take a step back and ask ourselves what we learnt from it.

If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?

As Michael approaches the age of 60, he still finds that he has a lot of learning to do, this evokes the question of how that learning will actually be done? Michael would argue the answer to this question lies in ‘bouncing off the world’ and trying as many different things as we can to try and figure out who we are and what experiences we like. This lies not in just ‘finding ourselves’ through specific acts, but however in immersing ourselves in a variety of experiences and cultures which are foreign to our own. This is something which is best done at an early age, perhaps the age most of us viewing this content currently are, as it gets harder to try new things as you get older and more set in your ways.

“Humility actually becomes reality when you go through your first failure, and if you are smart, you will step back and ask yourself what you learnt from it”

Michael Skok

From the Guest Student

The interview with Michael Skok was extremely insightful for a student like me who wants to go into the field of digital communications and technology. He also delved into failure and the importance of “bouncing around the globe” whilst we are young. This movement will enable us to learn so much more about the world around us and ourselves so that we are able to be much more successful and self aware. Michael touched on the topic of the impact of social networking which was a topic I was interested in after watching the Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma”. He mentioned that in the near future, he predicts that there will be a social media platform for almost any niche and any group of people. I found that alarming and incredible at the same time.

Daria Nekrasova, currently studying media and communications at Cardiff University as well as the newest member of the Discere team.

Lessons from a Pioneer in Sustainability – Sanjay Krishnan

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders interview professionals across various industries. Read more here.

Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh Insights With Experts

Welcome back to Insights with Experts!  We are kicking off season 3 with exciting new updates to the podcast. In today's episode, our CEO, Shyam is joined by a co host, Noah Tracey!   In this episode, Shyam and Noah are joined by Thomas Walsh, and expert in investments, startups and mentoring.    Socials!  Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/insights.with.experts/ Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/insights-with-experts/   TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@insights.with.experts Twitter: https://twitter.com/iwexperts 
  1. Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh
  2. Piece Of Advice For New STARTUP Founders! Ken Mocabee
  3. Do you think it's luck?
  4. Are you crazy enough to fail? Leeor Groen – Blockchain Valley Ventures
  5. Emre Buyukkilic on how Gen Z is influencing the future!

WHO?

Sanjay Krishnan is the Co-Founder and CEO at Lithium Urban Technologies, a global superpower in sustainable urban mobility that currently holds the world’s largest commercial EV fleet (outside of China) and operates India’s largest charging infrastructure. Lithium Urban Technologies has helped to abate over 20,000 MT of CO2 and provided valuable solutions to urban mobility for over 5,000 families. Sanjay has won numerous prestigious awards such as the Financial Times Awards (London) Best Global Transformational Business, Aegis-Graham Bell Awards and many more. Sanjay has over 25 years in various leadership and corporate roles, Lithium is currently Sanjay’s third startup after India.com and Comfort India.  

A QUICK SUMMARY

When Sanjay started his journey with Lithium Urban Technologies, he had three key thoughts in mind. He wanted to start something that was viable, pioneering and paved a way for others to pick up from where he left off. This brought together an intersection of how one could use renewable energy to power urban mobility in a region such as India, one that was populous with hydrocarbons. With the inevitable resource depletion on Sanjay’s mind, he acknowledged the fact that a solution would have to come into play, hence he brought together a hypothesis which took the shape of Lithium Urban Technologies. 

While Sanjay has much to celebrate about, he also acknowledges the stages of failure he has experienced in this journey. A thought that we should all be conscious of sooner or later. However, while our failures should be acknowledged, we should not let it get the better of us, in doing so we often come under the conformity of societal expectations. According to Sanjay, we should always keep a sense of belief in our abilities. He referred to life’s journey as that of a sine curve, in the sense that it has its ups and downs. If we maintain trust in our values and uphold a sense of conviction, we will rise back from our failures stronger than before. 

Sanjay’s perception of working with others revolves around ethics and integrity, qualities which should be at the core of an individual. When things don’t go as planned and times are tough, the people which stay ‘longside’ are the types of people Sanjay surrounds himself with. He refers to these individuals as those we can rely on, those which make up valuable components of a team. In addition to integrity, Sanjay talked about the ability to navigate through ambiguity. Especially through entrepreneurship when the road is uncertain, these qualities come in extremely valuable. 

While we learn a lot about people as we get to know them, we can often find out a great deal from initial impressions. Sanjay talked about the key qualities he looks for when carrying out job interviews. 

  1. Problem solving capability and inquisitiveness – When one is asked a question, the ability to give a correct answer is often irrelevant, what provides an insight to the employer is the approach the candidate takes and their thought process. 
  1. A visible eagerness to learn and improve – Reading is an invaluable tool and is something that emulates the fact that the candidate is open to morph their minds and invest in themselves. 

As touched on above, the benefits of reading cannot be understated. Sanjay immerses himself in a variety of books at a time. Some of his personal favourites come from Bill Gates’s published list of books. 

As we finished our interview, we asked Sanjay our classic question and he responded with a very valuable piece of advice. Stating that the youth should always bet on themselves and possess a sense of courage and conviction in whatever we do. We should not be afraid to shine out and resist conforming to expectations.

“Before the world bets on you, you got to bet on yourself”


Sanjay Krishnan

A Passion and a Mission – Priya Krishnan

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders Joao and Shyam interview professionals across various industries. Read more here. Who? Priya Krishnan is the founder of KLAY, the largest owned pre-school chain in India with over 200 centres. KLAY has enabled over 20,000 women to get back into the … Continue reading “A Passion and a Mission – Priya Krishnan”

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders Joao and Shyam interview professionals across various industries. Read more here.

Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh Insights With Experts

Welcome back to Insights with Experts!  We are kicking off season 3 with exciting new updates to the podcast. In today's episode, our CEO, Shyam is joined by a co host, Noah Tracey!   In this episode, Shyam and Noah are joined by Thomas Walsh, and expert in investments, startups and mentoring.    Socials!  Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/insights.with.experts/ Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/insights-with-experts/   TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@insights.with.experts Twitter: https://twitter.com/iwexperts 
  1. Expert in startups, investments and mentorship; Thomas Walsh
  2. Piece Of Advice For New STARTUP Founders! Ken Mocabee
  3. Do you think it's luck?
  4. Are you crazy enough to fail? Leeor Groen – Blockchain Valley Ventures
  5. Emre Buyukkilic on how Gen Z is influencing the future!

Who?

Priya Krishnan is the founder of KLAY, the largest owned pre-school chain in India with over 200 centres. KLAY has enabled over 20,000 women to get back into the workforce. In addition, KLAY also employed 3,500 women in its GPW Top 100 team. Priya has won numerous awards, some of them include ET Startup Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 and ET NOW Business Leader of the Year 2020. Beyond entrepreneurship, Priya has over 20 years of experience in numerous strategic, corporate and leadership roles which spans across multiple continents.

A Quick Summary

It was the combination of a passion and mission that motivated Priya Krishnan to start KLAY. Being someone who has years of experience in not just entrepreneurship but working in a corporate environment, Priya could genuinely empathise with women who faced the choice of caring for their children or remaining in the workforce. While Priya was fortunate enough to have good quality childcare and remain at her job, she noticed many other people in her teams quitting due to a lack of good quality childcare. Priya strongly believed that all women should have the choice to remain in the workforce as they wish while having access to quality childcare. This prompted Priya to start KLAY, the result was a company that allowed 20,000 women (and counting) to get back into the workforce. 

When asked about the challenges Priya faced as an entrepreneur, she spoke about the overwhelming accountability that can often be placed on your shoulders, specifically stating that “Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey”. Priya talked about 3 lessons she learnt as an Entrepreneur:

  1. Surround yourself with people who have the ability to support you on your journey. Whether it’s friends, family or co-workers. 
  1. Be conscious of how your teammates and workers evolve as your business moves forward. The mindset of your first set of employees may not be identical to the 5th or 6th wave of employees, as an entrepreneur one needs to be able to sympathise with this constant change. 
  1. Ensuring your business vision is carried over as you attempt to expand. Whether its private equity or venture capital, the other end should be able to acknowledge your vision and intentions for the company. 

When asked about the qualities and characteristics Priya looks for as she brings new people into her business, she spoke about four features:

  1. Attitude. Whether it’s possessing a growth mindset or being positively predisposed, this is a key indicator of their approach to the business. 
  1. Experiences. For example, indicators like whether this person has lived in the same city for all their lives or stuck with the same set of friends can provide insights into their social approach. 
  1. Skills. Considering the uncertainty of which skills will be in demand in the future, Priya expects this quality to rank lower as time goes on. What Priya looks for is specifically the potential of a person to learn new skills and be open to change. 
  1. Work ethic. From schooling life to previous jobs, knowing how the person has functioned in their past experience is a good indicator of how they will function at your firm. 
  1. Personal Discipline. This revolves around not necessarily how the person will balance their work lives with personal lives, but otherwise integrate it with them through discipline. 

Priya’s overall judgment takes into account a confluence of factors, however as a concluding statement, Priya would often empathise and question whether she would want to work for the person she is hiring, if the answer is yes, she is presented with a pretty good indication of the person. 

When asked about the importance of possessing a role model, Priya states that everyone should have one, however should not be limited by only a singular figure. From Priya’s point of view, she talked about having utmost respect for her mother and tried to emulate her qualities throughout her life. In addition, she talked about other figures she looked up to such as Indra Nooyi, an inspirational leader who currently stands as CEO of Pepsico. The effect of having a role model can be amplified by the extent to which we are clear about the qualities of them we wish to emulate. 

To conclude the interview, Priya left us with a valuable piece of advice. That we should maintain trust in ourselves and not be dependent on external validation. Using an example of social media, Priya talked about the need to not peg the value of ourselves to the amount of likes/comments/views we receive. Instead, we should trust our instincts and believe in ourselves. 

“Trust in your instincts and believe in yourself”

Priya Krishnan