Hey everyone, Perry here. I’m originally from the Greater Seattle area, born and raised in a pocket of suburbia between the Puget Sound and the North Cascades. For college, I headed to the University of Southern California, where I studied Economics and International Relations in the smoggy sunshine of Los Angeles.
During my years at USC, I developed a craving for meaningful international travel that led me to volunteer, work and study around the world. I participated in service projects in Uganda and Honduras, interned for a summer in Taiwan, and spent a semester studying abroad in Brazil. Each of these new experiences helped me to reorient myself in a slightly bigger picture of the world, and I knew that I didn’t want to stop exploring once I graduated.
Then came BrainGrain, which opened the door for my current opportunity abroad.
Here in Bangalore, I am a Marketing Associate at MobStac, a start-up that offers a mobile marketing and analytics platform using the up-and-coming beacon technology. Buzz words aside, it’s a pretty sweet gig. I’m primarily in charge of website management, SEO and digital marketing strategy, but I’ve also gotten the chance to dabble in sales, product marketing, and more.
Today, I actually pass my six-month mark in India, which means I’m exactly halfway done with my year long contract. So, as I grapple with the inevitable “mid-visa crisis”, I thought I’d take the time to share my story and reflect on the ride so far.
A haphazard job search:
Like many millennial liberal arts majors, I had a very haphazard job search. Over the course of my senior year, I considered everything from non-profits to management consulting firms, tech start-ups to international organizations. I had especially enjoyed learning about international development and social entrepreneurship during undergrad, but I struggled to find opportunities to translate these academic interests into meaningful, challenging and financially viable next steps.
Come spring of my Senior year, my decision came down to two main options: move to the Bay Area with an entry-level business position at a big-name tech company or head off to Bangalore to work for a growing Indian start-up. The former was more prestigious and offered many times the salary, but also came with outrageous rent prices, a role that I wasn’t psyched about and a corporate environment that I knew would make me stir-crazy.
The latter presented an adventure where I could arguably learn a whole lot more right out of school—about international business, about life in the developing world and about my personal and professional priorities moving forward.
As you may have already guessed, I ultimately went with the red pill and accepted the offer in Bangalore. Friends and family got a good laugh out of the layers of irony in my decision: I took a job in India to essentially avoid working at a call center and turned down an offer in Silicon Valley to get my hands dirty learning about entrepreneurship. Nonetheless, they were incredibly supportive, which made it that much easier to take the leap.
New continent, new company, no problem:
So roughly a month after graduating college, I hopped on a one-way flight to a country I’d never been to before. Troy greeted me at the airport with impressive enthusiasm for 5am in the morning, and we piled into a rickshaw headed towards the city. After a delicious South Indian breakfast, he showed me the ropes of my new life in Bangalore: how to activate my cell phone, find an apartment, select the best street-side coconuts and much more.
After getting settled in, I quickly started work at MobStac and hit the ground running in my first job. It’s been a steep learning curve ever since, but I have enjoyed the trust from the company’s co-founders and the friendliness of my new colleagues. Day-to-day learning has often come in the form of Google searches and questions to coworkers in lieu of formal training, which can be inefficient in some cases and overwhelming in others. However, this ambiguity is the name of the game when working internationally or in a start-up environment (not to mention both at the same time).
Over time, I’ve grown to enjoy sorting through the daily noise, struggling with new tasks and ultimately learning a lot along the way. When I took some time to think about it the other day, I realized that I’ve gotten the chance to interact with every team in the company in some way or another. That type of end-to-end exposure has been an excellent way to begin identifying what types of work I do and don’t enjoy. It’s also allowed me to see how all of the pieces of a company must work together to grow a successful business—especially in the unique context of a foreign country.
Bangalore the beautiful:
As the first few months rolled by, it was remarkably easy to make Bangalore my new home. It has the yearlong pleasant climate of Southern California, the microbrew-loving tech crowd of Seattle and the urban chaos of São Paulo that I grew to love during my study abroad semester. As “The Silicon Valley of India”, it’s the Wild Wild West for entrepreneurial talent and ideas in a country with crazy growth potential. Think Cupertino twenty years ago, but with a few more cows roaming the streets.
With so much happening across tech entrepreneurship, social impact and everything in between, the city is also full of young, outgoing people that are doing a lot of really interesting things. It’s been great to make new friends from all over India and all over the world—whether at networking events, on the football pitch or over a few Kingfishers at a breezy rooftop bar (a Bangalore trademark!).
It’s also been energizing to explore such a vast, complex yet inviting country like India. From cycling Bangalore’s backstreets in search for the best masala dosa to weekend excursions from Kerala to Kolkata, my life here has been defined by constant exploration. I’m always coming across new cuisines to experience, new people to learn from and new corners of the country to discover. Though my Hindi is mostly limited to food and expletives, I at least know that I’m well equipped to describe both the causes and effects of the infamous “Delhi Belly” (which has surprisingly not been a problem so far).
Granted, it hasn’t all been 75 degrees and sunny. These first six months in Bangalore have been quite the wild rickshaw ride, complete with several ups and downs. Most of the “downs” are to be expected, but can still be incredibly frustrating. Spending hours waiting for delivery boys to arrive or traffic to subside; having to accept when auto drivers blatantly overcharge you because you don’t know enough Kannada to argue; living thousands of miles of way from friends, family and Sour Patch Kids.
Yet all of these frustrations seem pretty trivial in the grand scheme of my life here. In econ-speak, the benefits significantly outweigh the costs. Work is challenging yet not overbearing. I’m meeting people and going places that I never thought I would in my entire life, not to mention the first year after graduating college. I’m a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to process on a daily basis, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Looking back, I didn’t come to India on some spiritual journey or mission to save the world. It wasn’t the first step on a laser-focused career plan because I was—and still am—figuring out what I want to do with my life. Six months ago, I didn’t even really like butter chicken that much. I just knew that I wanted to work in a dynamic international environment that would force me to think critically about my future and have some fun in the process. And while my professional ambitions are still coming into focus, I can say without a doubt that living and working in Bangalore through BrainGain has done exactly that.
To those considering hopping aboard the BrainGain train, I personally think it’s a no-brainer. When else will it be this easy to pick up your life and gain invaluable experience in one of the world’s fastest growing emerging economies? Why settle for the usual $10 Chipotle burrito when you can dig into an unconventional but enriching home-cooked Andhra meal for a fraction of the cost?
Honestly, if you’ve made it this far in the blog post, you’ve proven that you have the perseverance and patience to thrive in India. All of the obstacles in your head, real or imagined, can be sorted out with some resourcefulness, levelheaded discussion and faith in the process. Give it considerable thought, but if it feels right, I say go for it. I mean, it’s India; as you’ll learn, sometimes it’s best to just go with your gut.