July 25, 2022

Elaha Gurgani | On Exploring Curiosity and Building Your Tribe

Elaha Gurgani | On Exploring Curiosity and Building Your Tribe

Elaha Gurgani is employee #19 at seed-stage tech startup, Relevance AI. She’s previously connected with and hosted events with thought leaders Sahil Lavingia and Sahil Bloom.

Since moving to Sydney earlier this year, she has started a micro-grant fund for side projects and connected with people across the tech industry.

She recently started her own newsletter, aiming to curate lessons from thought leaders and tech.

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Content
00:00 Elaha Gurgani
00:54 Elaha's Move Interstate
10:14 Connecting with People that are more Senior
12:27 Systems or Serendipity
16:53 Networking Advice people should ignore
21:08 Finding Jobs Through Networking
25:51 Advice for people wanting to get into startups
30:26 Setting Long-Term Goals
34:20 Balancing Goal Setting and Fun
42:12 Failure that ended up being a success
45:02 Advice for Graduates
46:54 Connect with Elaha

Transcript
Elaha Gurgani:

the things that you always wanted, the people, the tribe, the passion the things that you always create for it will come to you through those unknown paths. That's where the magic lies.

James Fricker:

hello and welcome to graduate theory. Today's guest is employee number 19 at the seed stage tech startup relevance, AI she's previously connected with and hosted events with the thought leaders such as Sahi. Laia and Sahel bloom, uh, since moving to Sydney earlier this year, she started a microgram fund beside projects and made connections with many people right across the tech industry. She's recently started her own newsletter, aiming to curate lessons from thought leaders and tech news. Please welcome to the street today. A Laha gani.

Elaha Gurgani:

so much for that lovely intro. Hi everyone. Thanks for having me, James.

James Fricker:

Fantastic to have your other show today, a Laha I'd love to dive in, uh, and start talking about some of your experience networking and kind of building a network from a place where, uh, you kind of have a clean slate to start off with. And so what I'm talking about there is you moved from Melbourne to Sydney, uh, if that's right, and yeah, I'd love to talk about what, um, your experience there and kind of what led to your move, uh, there in the

Elaha Gurgani:

Yeah, I'll have to take you back. Back to the pandemic two years ago at 2020 when I was in my last year at uni, um, I had like this big realization that, oh my God, like, I don't really have much close friends. I think the world was hit by this like pandemic and everyone was inside and we had like a lot of time to just reflect and think. Our lives and major decisions. And as I was going through, uh, 2020, it was a very painful time because I kind of realized that I only have like one or two close friends, um, that I see at uni, um, that we see each other every three months to six months. Um, so my soul was craving this like connection. With, like finding my own tribe of like-minded people and all that stuff. So I really took 2020, um, which was a peak of the COVID to really reflect on what I want out of relationships and friendships in my life. Um, Fast forward to the next year, 2021. That's when early work came in, right? That's when early work community slack debuted, which was a community of slack for, um, you know, early workers or people in tech or who are passionate about everything that we want. So I was so of the subscribers for early work and one day they announced they're starting this like slack, um, To meet other like-minded people in tech and I just jumped on it and I was like, whoa, this sounds so exciting. I would love to like, meet my tribe. And that just opened up a whole new world to me. Right. It's like, whoa, all of these people, like there was an intro channel, uh, in the beginning and I was. Looking and reading everyone's like intro and background their experiences. I was like, whoa, there's like whole other world and perspectives and experiences out there that I wasn't sure of. Um, so right away with the slack community as I was back in Melbourne, and this was a very like Sydney focused kind of like slack. So I started to contribute as much as possible. I used to like kind of help with event side of things, kind of help the co-founders with giving feedback with the community. So. Start to like give, give, give, and as you're contributing in this kind of community, people start to get to know you and see you everywhere in all the channels and how helpful you are. And that can help me build some friendships online. So that was like a really good tip. If anyone wants to start, like building their network or kind of connect with people, find friends, like start to just give freely and follow your curiosity. Where is it taking you? Is it taking to a particular group? Um, any particular interest and just like start contributing? Um, so that's. Where I met, met most of my friends, but then the star meet fellowship also started while I was graduating uni. So star meet had this student fellowship, um, for getting students into startup, um, get exposure to startup and tech. And that's where I that's. That opened a whole new world as well. That's where you meet other people who are ambitious, passionate about building something. And I took that as an opportunity to kind of like take initiatives, like throw a workshop, but one of the biggest takeaways, or one of the biggest things that I did, um, during the star made fellowship was to build a book club. So one day, I just wanted to read this book and I was like, it'll be so fun to just like, share my knowledge with others. So I was like, and I just threw in one of the channels. I was like, Hey guys, I am, I wanna start a book club. And I'm reading this book who wants in. And like, everyone, like just got interested and like got attracted to that. So I remember this was 20, 21 and. The pandemic was still like, we all were like home. Um, there was like, I think there were a lot of like restrictions happening and I was back in Melbourne. Um, so I did the online book club online on zoom, and we had like a weekly catch up on books and interest where we shared the, our favorite articles, our favorite books, and had a discussion. And that's where I met. I would say 80% of my. because, you know, with clubs, like you're forced to like see each other time to time. It's not just like a one time thing. It's like, you wanna see each other more than once. So that's where I would say I built most of my friends online and they were mostly based in Sydney. So I already had my network in Sydney just by being in Melbourne. But I was just like contributing with the, um, mingling with the Sydney community tech. Um, And then by that time, I got my role at relevance, AI as an ops, which was based in Sydney. So I made the move to Sydney. I already had my little bubble of network online that I came with. But one day I was just like, I was just like, there has to be more, I wanna, like, I was in a very adventurous mood and I was very. Serious. I was like, I'm in my tech bubble. I'm in my tech little group on slack and all these star, my fellowship. I know these people. Um, and, but I wonder who else is out there that I can be exposed to? Um, so one day I jumped on Twitter. I wanted to go for brunch and none of, none of my friends who I knew were available. So it was like, Hey guys, I'm new to Sydney. I am throwing this branch on Sunday at 11:00 AM. Who wants to. And that tweet just blew up. It like got like 60 plus likes and retweets. And through that, I got to meet, uh, have a brunch with 10 people through Twitter. And most of them were like, Faceless profile that were like, Hey, I, I wanna come to your brunch. And I was in a very adventurous mode. Uh, so I was like, yeah, just yeah. Say yes. I say yes to everything. um, and, and we ended up meeting on for brunch. And to this day, I'm still friends with all of them. Like I even work with one of them. She BA who's head of ops. Like we are collaborating on newsletters and stuff. So. Through that through just like being curious and saying yes and feeling adventures, um, that's how I got to like meet all of these people. And right now what I'm trying to do is hold like a monthly meetups called meet new friends and tech, where I get to connect people that I already know with new people in the scene. So that's how I'm continuing building and connecting with people and relationship building as we go. Um, so that's my story.

James Fricker:

Yeah, amazing. Uh, that's super cool. And it's, it's really, I think a key part of all, this is like, you know, showing the initiative and stuff to kind of do these things cuz uh, it's almost like, you know, people talk about like building this sort of luck, um, surface area, right. And, and some of these kinds of things. Maybe some element of luck there, like the tweet blowing up, for example or whatever, but, you know, you kind of have to put yourself in the ring and like even suggest to do these things for like this kind of serendipity, uh, you know, to a car. And so I think that's super cool cause I, yeah, there's definitely a thread there of like all these different things that you've done have really come from. You you're putting yourself out there and saying like, well, I'd really love if this, this like, existed and then it's just like, okay, I wanted how to do it. And then, you know, like the book up, for

Elaha Gurgani:

Absolutely. And I think what people. Under value and relationship building is that initiative like it does take initiative taking, it does take getting out of your comfort zone and reaching out to other people and being proactive. Um, cuz relationship building is really a long term game. Um, and it takes as so, and that requires a lot of action. So if you want to meet others, follow your curiosity, take initiative and yeah, just go ahead with that. Is that.

James Fricker:

Yeah, definitely. No. And I think like, if you, I think these kinds of things where you're almost creating. heard. I don't know if you've ever read the book called never eat alone by Keith Ferrazzi, but there's like, he he's like quite good at this kind of thing. And he, one, one thing that he talks about is like the idea of like, and this is something that you've done well, like sort of, I guess, without knowing or at least maybe you've just come to the same conclusion as him, but there's this idea of like a container event where you have you, you create, so for example, the brunch would be an example of that where you. I'm going to brunch and then like whoever wants to come, can you kind of come along and there's no like, expectation. Like you don't have to go, but like, if you don't go and you see other people having fun, then it's like, oh, like I should have gone to the brunch. ,you know, and it's just kind of this container where like anyone can come along. Um, and it's, it's super easy to kind of get involved.

Elaha Gurgani:

That's probably what I'm also doing with my meetups. Like guys, come, wanna come. That'd be great.

James Fricker:

yeah, no, exactly. And I think that's super cool cuz it's like, it's just so open and, and really, because it's even, it's good for you cuz you're kind of bringing all these people together, but it's good for other people to come and meet the other people that are there, you know, perhaps meet people that they already know and connect with people that they haven't met

Elaha Gurgani:

it's also like very smart, right? If you are the organizer, like that's how people will be drawn to you and like actually come to you to get to know you instead of like you getting like kind of reaching out DMing everyone. It's like, it's a good hack. Like just be the organizer. And that's how

James Fricker:

yeah.

Elaha Gurgani:

know people and people get to know you, but yeah. Good

James Fricker:

yeah. A hundred percent. nah, I agree with that. One thing I wanna ask you as well is like, so this is kind of a cool thing for like meeting friends and kind of people let's say in, in a similar field or perhaps in a similar age kind of experience level to yourself, how do you think about connecting and to networking with, with people that are like a few steps ahead. So like people that are kind of. You know, more senior or, or things like that. How have you kind of gone about

Elaha Gurgani:

Yeah, that's a great question and something that I'm actually very timely going towards as well. Cuz um, I am, I always am open to learning and especially for peoples who are, who are few years ahead of me and already done the things that I wanna do and the best advice that I've. Gotten for navigating those kind of dynamic senior and junior dynamic is view them as human. Um, they're just human, like you and treat them just like a friend, um, cuz a lot. A lot of them, they, they are, they are keen to help you out. They are keen to just like be friends with you and connect with you as well. The question is like, okay, how do I view them? It's not like putting them on a pedestal. Like, oh my God, they're this person, how do I reach out? It's like, how would I reach out to a friend that I really respected and honored? Um, and one of the ways that I kind of navigate that is kind of being initiative and kind of like reaching out to them and also. After our catch up coffee catch up, or we had a coffee catch or anything is sending, sending them through an article that I thought of, um, that they would be interested in. Um, and also with these kind of Dyna dynamics, people like that who are way ahead if you are busy. Um, so it's okay to have that. Space of six months to two months where you have another catch up. Um, so unlike the peers that we get to see day to day, um, the people who are way ahead of you, um, it's okay to have that space in between, but also like have touch points of like sending them articles that they've interested in. Uh, when you think of something that reminded you of them, um, sending that, sending them a reminder, or even commenting on their post and supporting them. Right. Um, those things like that does like add up to that relationship building with seniors.

James Fricker:

Yeah. That's cool. And do you think about this? I've seen like instances online where people will have like an actual system where it's like, you know, you put the person's name in it's, like you haven't reached out and. Two weeks, like, and this person's like a high priority, like person in the network. So it's like, you know, and you get like reminders, like, oh yeah. Reach out to this person or whatever. I mean, do you like, think about it, like at all in that kind of a systematic way? Or is it very much just like what you were saying there where it's like, oh, this reminded me of this person. like I'll just like send them like the link or,

Elaha Gurgani:

Yeah. And people, people usually have like, sort of like a CRM, right. CRM system of like keeping in touch with people. Um, which I really like, I've tried. But I'm just, it's just hard to keep up. I'm like, I'm like,

James Fricker:

Yeah.

Elaha Gurgani:

I'm someone who's like a very lean startupy kind of person. I'm just like, how, what is the leanest way for me to keep in touch with people? And one of the best people that I know who are the best connectors in the scene or best relationship builders, it comes from a very place of like, um, how do you say it? Like authentic from a place of like, oh, if I connected with this person truly then. It's not, it's not, it's just, it just vibes. It's just like, there is no forcing. There is no like reminders, like when, if it happens, like it does happen as you go. Um, so it's all about. Authenticity and like the vibes that you feel, and if you truly feel connected, you will naturally like be drawn to like reaching out to the person again and again and again. Um, but there's nothing wrong with CRMs. I, I, I would love to learn how to keep up with a CRM and like investment in relationships.

James Fricker:

Yeah. yeah. No, definitely. Yeah. I think that's cool. I think it's almost perhaps can take away the authenticity to some degree if you're like, oh, it's the 90 day mark. like, I better send this person a message. I don't know. I feel like you know, I, I feel like it's quite cool

Elaha Gurgani:

It could also.

James Fricker:

can be quite AU.

Elaha Gurgani:

positive from a positive point of view, it could be also like a form of investment, like, oh, I'm a busy person. And I don't wanna forget about this person. So let me just set a reminder to just like catch up with them or have a touch point with them. But yeah, I, I think one thing that it helps with is definitely having that touching point where you do see the person reoccurringly every, let's say increments two to three months, um, to really build that connection and, um, really help that space. So it is a form of investment. If you think it from that point of view, Yeah.

James Fricker:

that's cool. Yeah. I I'll have to look into it. Cause I think people have done them in like, even in like notion or like, you know, simple like tools like that. They've kind of got their own like CRM and there it's

Elaha Gurgani:

lemme know how you go. If you do end up

James Fricker:

yeah. I'll have to look it up. I think there's some guys that have them, like, I don't know if you've heard of the Derek scissors, um, before, but I think he has, he's like a, I think he's sort of like a Tim Ferris type type guy. I don't really know too much about him, but I do know that he. Some kind of a thing like that. where it's like, I think he, he like categorizes people into that. There's sort of like an, a, a, B or a C or like there's certain degrees. And then like, there's certain date, like, uh, maybe like the CS are like once a year, BS might be like, once, like twice a year. And then the A's might be like once a quarter or like something like that. So it's really quite like quite,

Elaha Gurgani:

So systematic

James Fricker:

yeah.

Elaha Gurgani:

asked me in like a year or so. When, when my connections grow, I, I might have a different system

James Fricker:

Yeah.

Elaha Gurgani:

on my memory.

James Fricker:

yeah, true. Well, that's the thing, but, but then you have like your container event. So like people could still kind of, you can invite like 200 people at whatever it is like, and there's no real like size, you know, maybe it's it's capped at like extreme levels, but certainly you can have like quite a big one and you know, you don't necessarily have to meet everyone there for them to still

Elaha Gurgani:

Yeah, but also like, even if you know, like five people and you have like close friendships with like two of them, I feel like that's even worth it. Right. that's like relationship building. It's not about like the number of people that, you know, I mean, great. If like you have you authentically connect with them all, but even if you end up with like, knowing two good people and like you stayed in touch with them and you see them. Even that's a big win in relationships, right? It's about the quality and long term games rather than the quantity and how many people I, I can know of in terms of just names and not know their story. Right. the

James Fricker:

True. No, I, I agree with that. Absolutely. Um, one, one thing that's an interesting question is like, so common networking advice. I wonder if there's any advice there. things that you've heard about how to approach being a networker that you would disagree with or perhaps someone that's looking to build their network should not listen to, certain advice.

Elaha Gurgani:

I would start with not calling it networking to begin with and kinda like reframing it as connection, reframing it as making new friends, um, or reframing it as, um, relationship building. I think. A lot of these networking tips and stuff like they're great. Um, but I feel like the best way to learn how to build those relationships or kind of like learn all these like networking tips and strategies is to just go out there and follow your curiosity when it comes to other people. So when you do, uh, go out there, follow your curiosity with other people, end up chatting to them. Naturally, things will just unfold. Naturally. You will start to like build these relationships and you, you end up just using those tips or strategies that are out there when books kind of as a reference point, rather than. Oh, this is like the holy guidebook of how I should react, which makes you very like robotic in the, in the sense that, oh, like that's wrong. That's that's that's right. It's like, go out there. Like you will make mistakes, but you will also learn from it and grow and you will grow so much as a person. And those networking advice will just be a reference point rather than a guidebook. Um, so I would say reframe, networking as a word

James Fricker:

Yeah. Yeah.

Elaha Gurgani:

and follow your curiosity.

James Fricker:

A hundred percent. Yeah. I agree. Like the word networking almost. Yeah. It's almost like a transactional type thing where it's like, yeah, I'm building people that are gonna ask for favors and then that's it you know, which maybe is true on some level, but it's not really the kind of Like not really how you wanna go about it. Like it's, it's, it's,

Elaha Gurgani:

Even like I even asked Sahi bloom when we had him on a panel, because he's one of the best connectors and best people, person, community, person. And we asked him about networking and he was like, I hate the word networking. I. True. And he's, he was a, also very big proponent and how he met his mentor. Um, the CEO of apple team cook was just being a curious person, um, just going to the gym 5:00 AM or in the morning sometime, and just having a chat with this person who ended up being team cook and just like being curious about him. Um, so it really, when, if you see, if you look at the patterns of people who are the best connectors or relationship builders, they're very much like authentic, very much like. Very curious people, uh, about other people. And that really opens up another door and opportunities for them in life. So it's really interesting to see that in patterns and people like that.

James Fricker:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah. That's quite good. I think like, yeah, the curiosity is, is an interesting part. I think, I think that's where a lot of this stuff starts. Cause you, I, I guess in two, you probably don't know, like, if you are in an event who you're speaking to really, or like, you know, the curiosity or you don't know at least like who's gonna be someone that in six months you might be friends with. Like, it's hard to know. So the curiosity can be quite cool when like just kind. Going going deep in trying to understand more about this person or what they do. Uh, it can lead to, uh,

Elaha Gurgani:

for sure. And we're looking back like the biggest opportunities, or even like the things that have come away all come because. Kind of explored my curiosity. I was like, oh, what's out there. Ooh. How, what can I help with, Ooh, who is this person? What's their story? It's like, curiosity is definitely one of the biggest things that kind of hits you with a luck or gives you that serendipity, um, as well. So it's, it's just so underrated, but it's like, it opens up so many doors and opportunities.

James:

thanks for listening to this episode of graduate theory. If you haven't already subscribed to the graduate theory newsletter you can do so by at the links in the show notes, the graduate theory newsletter comes out every single Tuesday morning with my thoughts and lessons from each episode. But without further ado, let's get back into it.

James Fricker:

Yeah. Yeah. Spot on. Amazing. Well, let's, uh, change the, uh, the tone of this. I'd love to kind of talk about your. My experience with startups and in particular, I, it's probably not even a, a topic change, but maybe just a different question. you know, so you, you got into relevance, AI, like pretty early on you, you know, you sort of in some way, networked your way into this role. I'd love to hear perhaps, like when was the first time you heard about, uh, this opportunity and then what were kind of the steps involved from, from then to ending up with a, with, with, an offer

Elaha Gurgani:

For sure. Um, very good topic, um, change, cuz it's related to kind of curiosity. so um, I graduated, so it goes back to me graduating uni, I studied finance and management and I was kind of just exploring my curiosity. So I was playing around with no code tools. Uh, I was just like geeking about no code and I kind of decided to. Through a workshop of no code. And I posted on LinkedIn and I was like very active on LinkedIn. I was posting what I, what my interests were. And at that time it was no code. I was like, Hey guys, I'm drawing this no code workshop. And I, I made really cool graphics for people to just like join, um, the event. I was also at that time. Very. Much known for contributing a lot in the early bird community. So one of the founders, Jackie co, um, who's a founder of relevance, AI. He reached out to me, he was like, Hey, I've been following your work for a while. Let's have a chat. Uh, let's see, what's out here. We could do at relevance for you. And, uh, had a chat with, uh, with Jackie, loved his mission, loved the team. And I pitched him the role. I was like, Hey, I, I think I'll be perfect for your biz ops role. Um, and I would love to just contribute and help you with that. What do you think? And he was. Let's do it. let's go. Um, so I, when I, if I reflect back on how I got this or how I broke into my first ops role, it's following my curiosity and sharing, sharing it with in the public with, with other people. And people notice you people. Really do notice when you do start contributing, when you are a help helping person, it comes back to you in terms of opportunities and people reaching out for opportunities to you and you not being afraid to put yourself out there and letting that luck hit you, but also, um, pitching yourself just like I did this.

James Fricker:

yeah. no, that's, that's super cool. Yeah. Cause I, I think. Yeah, very syrup. What's the word syrup serendipitous. serendipitous moment. uh, no, it's super. I, I, cause I think many people like have a, have an interest in, you know, getting into SARS, obviously like especially early on and at and out of the startup. It's actually quite cool when it's doing interesting stuff. Um, so it's a pretty cool story. Um, yeah. How did you, when you were saying that, okay. I'm like, I think I'd be good at this particular role. How did you think about like, which. Role you'd be best suited to, and perhaps like matching that with what you felt like the company needed at the time. Was there any sort of process

Elaha Gurgani:

good question. Um, for me, I, by that point, I've had talked to a lot of people about what they do. From like management consulting to like, I don't know, sales executive and all of that stuff. Um, and I was trying to figure out what I'd be good at. And one of the biggest things that I see myself doing was being a generalist. I was like, what's a good generalist role that would help me figure out what I want, but also that I'm really good at. Um, so one of my friends that broke into a Bizos role, um, I just had a coffee chat with her and kind of figured out that, oh, This could be something that I would be interested in. So let me just, let me just try it out. Let me just focus and Bizos, or operations is a very generous role. It gives you the flexibility to kind of work across functions and kind of like zoom in and zoom out, zoom in and zoom out in each function. And that's what I saw myself really contributing a lot of time, especially like starting out. Where I'm trying to find my niche, trying to find out what is actually like what I'm good at. I mean, I am an all around generalist you can say, but also I have this T-shaped kind of strength that comes to community building. So that kind of helps me like stand out, um, in terms of what I can contribute. So it's all about like, Following your curiosity, trying different things out, talking to as many people as possible and just picking something and starting from there. And, uh, ops is a, is a good way to start, cuz it gives you exposure to all those functions, just like a management consulting, right. Management consulting. You're not tied to a specific industry, but you kind of become an expert one day and next in different industries, that's like the startup version

James Fricker:

yeah, yeah,

Elaha Gurgani:

yeah. Yeah,

James Fricker:

Yeah. Cool. Well, I'm curious what advice let's say someone is sitting there and they're like, man, I really wanna do what Maha's done and, you know, get into a startup at an early stage. And perhaps one that, um, you know, is perhaps slightly competitive or, you know, it's maybe difficult to get into. if you had to kind of redo that. What advice would you give someone that's yeah, kind of going through that

Elaha Gurgani:

that's a great question. Looking back what I could have done more. I could have done better. I would say, if I were to give advice for someone starting today, it would definitely be. Um, put, put, uh, put your share, share your learnings out there. Like try to put yourself out there. Like if you wanna get into, I don't know, let's say ops or be a generalist. Start to share articles or your learnings from articles online. You don't know who's looking at your content. You don't know who's gonna like give you the next opportunity. Right? That's how you're increasing your surface level. Look. So first would be, don't be afraid to share your learnings or put yourself out there in terms. What you want to do are your career aspirations and all that stuff. The second thing, um, that is not as much talked about and I called it, um, kind of breaking into a role through a third door and this third door could be, Hey, you see a startup that you really like, let's say there are an AI machine learning and startup, and you're like this data scientist. So something that you're good at that you can help with. Coming up with a data science, data science kind of idea, or project, or helping them with something really to the data science. So in that situations, what you could do is kind of on a notion, go build a solution to a problem that they're facing, have a coffee chat, find out what their biggest challenge is, and kind of like come up with a solution of like, Hey, this is what I think would be really best. Here you go. Here's a solution. If you were to pick someone with a resume, uh, or going through a standard application phase or someone who's like already giving you like solutions or coming up with you and being proactive, of course, you're gonna choose someone. Who's already thinking like an employee, um, and being proactive like that. So I would call that strategy as like the third door strategy. It's how can you stand out? But also, how can you provide value from day zero and be like, Hey, this is what you can do. Um, I can think of a story of like, I, I was really. Wanted to break into this particular high growth startup. And I had a, and I through a warm intro, I had. Um, kind of like I wanted to connect with the founder and with the founder, I kind of like noticed this gap in their community building side. And what I did when, before we had a coffee chat, I kind of drafted on notion a community building strategy for them that they could really leverage. And I just. Pitched it, uh, when we had the chat, I just pitched it to the founder. I was like, Hey, this is the gap I saw in your community building side. And this is where you could do better. And this is the outcome, most likely outcome out of this. Like if you do adopt this strategy and he was impressed, he was like, Do you wanna start like working with us? of course I couldn't take the opportunity, but it, that experience taught me like, Hey, how can I add value from day zero? Um, if I wanted to get into the startups, but, um, caveat with this, it may, may not always work, but it does guarantee you standing out from like all these applications that are out. Yeah.

James Fricker:

Yeah, a hundred percent. I think. Wait, folks are listening. Third door, Alex. Benay I think is the book. I think the third door that you're referencing there. Um, but yeah, I, I totally agree. Cause I think that there's so many, like there's kind of this, the normal way of doing things. And in, in, in a lot of cases that is like the most competitive, most difficult way of doing things. Like it's often the work around, or the somehow you managed to meet like what you were saying, like meet the founder or like whatever it is, like these kinds of ways. And then being able to show that your, your value and. Through something like pitching them something or whatever, um, you know, really sets you apart.

Elaha Gurgani:

Exactly. 90% of the people will kind of apply group resume, which is okay, but your thinking should be, Hey, how can I stand out? Maybe it's also like starting a side project that's related to, I don't know, machine learning AI, that's your interest. And that happens to be the interest of the startup that you wanna work with as well. And that would win over a regular resume. Right? It's like someone who is. Proactive who initiative builder, who has already started side projects within our interest bound. It's like those little things, um, that you have done or accomplished will definitely set you.

James Fricker:

Mm, a hundred percent. And one of the things I'm thinking a lot about at the moment is this idea of like really having a clear vision for yourself. Um, you know, what your, what you want your career to look like and then sort of working back. And I think, I think you've done this really well. Cause it's like, you can really see. In a lot of these cases, it's like, I wanna work. Like really bad and so here's what I'm gonna do to make sure I end up working here. Uh, and I think that's really important to have some kind of a vision just so you can it's it's and then it allows you to be like proactive and you can go and start doing these things. Cause it's like, I want my life to look like this. What am I gonna do to get there rather than just like, oh, I wonder what's gonna happen today. Like you know, and kind of being reactive instead. I wonder has. Have you thought much about what, like that kind of planning side of things where like, like, do you think about that a lot? Like let's say where I want my career to be in five, 10 years or things like

Elaha Gurgani:

That's a great question. Um, I had a, actually a big, even though I'm a very proactive initiative builder to be wonderful. I did have this like, challenge of. Setting long term goals, because I was Al always afraid of like, what if I fail? What if I failed to achieve that goal? Um, that would kind of break my heart and something that is that, that challenge and how I'm going about reframing that is being surrounded by other ambitious people who are not afraid or very unapologetic about. Where they wanna be in life. Um, I think that rubs off on you and also gives you the, not the ability, but gives you this unconscious permission to also be ambitious and unapologetic about where you want to be in life. For example, let's say I wanna be a CEO in the next five years. Like. Okay, good on you. How can you take the first step to make that happen? Right. But I did have, if I'm being vulnerable, a lot of like, kind of like I had, I had this feeling that I had to stay small. I can't really say my goals otherwise, like I would fail and how, like I would be heartbroken. Um, so something that I'm navigating right now is definitely like, okay, this is where I wanna be in the next five years. Um, how can I own my ambition? How can I own. Goals and go after them. And something that has helped me, like I said, is being surrounded by other people who are also on the same path. Um, cuz you asked me about mentorship, but I think the most underrated form of mentorship is the peers around you that have the qualities that you have, um, have the qualities that you want to have, have the goals or have the roles that are two years ahead of you that have the wisdom that you want to adopt and cultivate within yourself. I think that's the most underrated form of mentorship ever. That's gonna help. Goal setting system in the long run.

James Fricker:

I a hundred, like a hundred percent agree cause I, yeah, I think like, you know, if you were like deep inside, you were like, yeah, I really wanna be like the CEO of like this company or whatever, but like all your friends are like, nah, like I just wanna be, you know, like ground level and really have no aspirations, then it makes it very difficult for you to be vocal and say those kinds of things. Cause it'll, there's no real. Like, what are you, what are you gonna do? Like you know, makes things hard. But then if you're friends with people that are like gonna do things like that, or they're gonna even pursue goals that are even more ambitious than what you thought your ambitious thing was then it's, it's, it opens up a whole thing and totally gives you a lot of permission to say, Hey, actually, I'm gonna interview this person or I'm gonna get a job here, or I'm gonna try and do this with my career. Um,

Elaha Gurgani:

Yeah, it gives you that unconscious permission to also be great to also have the space to be ambitious, but also, um, yeah, just all, all around. Good kind. People who just support you along this journey of called through the goal setting process.

James Fricker:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. No, I think it's so important. So important. Um, yeah. Cool, cool, cool. Cool. One thing I wanna ask too, is like how you balance, like, you know, this idea of goal setting and. Really sort of saying, Hey, in, in, in this amount of time, I wanna be doing this and working hard to getting that because it's, when you, when you do have like ambitious targets and things you wanna do, you do need to, you know, be at least on some level, you do need to be a little bit serious about, okay. I need to sort of really like, try and do this thing, but how do you balance that level of like seriousness. Drive with also like the fun. And, and I wonder if this is a sort of thing that you've thought about, or, uh, you know, even like how you kind of balance those things where it's having fun, but also really

Elaha Gurgani:

Yeah, absolutely. I kind of see them both hand go hand in hand and I don't see, don't see them as separate things. Um, one of my favorite quote is from Naval is like, um, pick something that. is like play to you, but works what looks like work to others. Um, and something that I'm doing in my career right now, and what I'm pursuing, pursuing is something that's like true to my nature and authentically I'm curious about and something that I wanna be best at. So let's say community building and ops, um, I pick those because those actually, I have the most fun doing them. I have the most fun getting shit done. I have the most fun bringing people together. So even though on the outside, people say, oh, ilaha, you're like doing a lot. I'm like, for me it feels like play play. It feels like fun. It feels like I could do this forever. And it gives you more energy to get to do more and more and more. So I would definitely say in terms of like how to navigate that or how to harmonize both is. Pick something or pick one or two things that feels like play to you. Even if you're full-time job, it it's constrained and you can't really do the things that is in your control. And you love to work on pick a side project that feels like play to you. That feels like you enjoy, even if you don't get paid, uh, or monetize it, it's like, I don't care. Like this is what brings me joy and gives me energy. Um, so I'm really focused on picking things and working on things that feels like play to me. but looks like work on the outside. that's the trick. That's the trick to balancing clothes.

James Fricker:

Yeah, definitely. No, I think that's, that's cool. And I, I love what you said there about like, even doing it, you know, without any sort of expectation or without. Uh, immediate reward, whether it's like financial, um, in particular or, you know, perhaps it comes with different kinds of reward around like the joy and, and enjoyment and energy benefit of doing it. Cause yeah, that's equally, if not

Elaha Gurgani:

Yeah. And I do believe that we all have unique talents. We all have unique set of skills and all of that that feels like play to us. That we're, we can't be the best at, um, something that I wanna be the best at is ops in community building. Right. And those feel like play to me. So going back to ambition and kind of like serious goal planning, like, yes, I am serious about like being an ops best ops person being the best in terms of intersection of ops and community building. But also it feels like play to me. Like if I work, if I put a certain number of hours, if I work on it, like, it feels, it feels joyful. It feels like really fun. So I could do this forever. So that could be a really competitive advantage in terms of. Where you want to go in life and Naval is the best person to reference is like your competitive advantage is just being authentic to yourself and your skills. And I believe everyone has those unique set of skills or intersection of one or two things that they're the, they can be the best at, in life.

James Fricker:

Mm that's. I like that a lot. I like that a lot. I wonder, like, you know, with, with all the things that you do, like these events and your newsletter and, and Twitter and things that you're creating and, and your work and stuff, is there anyone that you look up to and, and perhaps inspires you, uh, uh, for the things that, all the

Elaha Gurgani:

Yeah. Um, two people come to mind currently, um, that I really love to emulate. It's Reed Hoffman, uh, the founder co-founder of LinkedIn and Ariana Huffington, the founder of Huffington post. Um, I know those are like the celebrity or famous figures, but I believe that we live in an age of information where content from like people who are higher up or like, 2030 years ahead of, ahead of us who are like doing amazing legendary things in life. It's so readily available. Um, contents are so available to learn from. So I look up to people, um, like that, and the reason why I look up to let's say Reed Hoffman, he's. I'm really fascinated by how he, how important, even though he's this tech person, he's this tech king, he has this venture capitalist. He puts a lot of importance in terms of like relationship building. And he, I was listening to a podcast where he was talking about his friendships and how friendships are really important to him because it's a very spiritual way. Kind of kind of cultivating or connecting to yourself because what we see in others or our friends that have the qualities that we want, we kind of grow from that and become the best version of ourselves through kind of associating with other people. Um, so I really look up to him, um, in terms of like relationship building and he is known as the ultimate connector. Um, and I think he's done really good, uh, partnership kind of stuff. B back when he was like in PayPal mafia. So, so someone who's like a Silicon valley figure who does have the same aspirations or same things that I like, which is relationship building authenticity, and like friendships puts importance on friendships. Um, so yeah, I, I I'm like I'm geeking out on his stuff. I just like. I read, read Hoffman content. I listen to his podcast and absorb as much as I can so that I can kind of cultivate, um, the qualities I see in him, in myself that I naturally emulate. So Reed Hoffman and the other one was Ariana Huffington. Um, Look up to her because I see her as this leader, as this feminine leader, who's like, I don't know who has this, like she, so the story with her was like, she founded this like, um, kind of like almost multimillion dollar, like media company, Huffington post. Right. Um, she worked herself. Hustle culture. Uh, but one day she had a wake up call to look after herself and her health crisis through health crisis. Um, and she started thrive global and she's the biggest advocate. I mean, she's a very successful person, as you can tell, but she's also a big advocate on wellness on taking care of yourself as you're going through this drive and journey. And I don't really see that in many leaders. So I'm really fascinated by the way she approaches success. Um, so I'm, I'm, I'm, we are really lucky to live in these kind of like in this age where people like that share their knowledge, share the way that different ways that they have built their success, um, and went through that journey. So those are the two people that I look up to Reed Hoffman, and a in Huffington. And if you mix them, you'll hopefully get me.

James Fricker:

Yeah, amazing. That's super cool. I think that's really interesting how you like try and almost like with Reid Hoffman, they've really sort of taken in a lot of what he has to say and, uh, and really sort of picked him as like, this is someone that I really wanna be like And tried to absorb a lot of that. I think

Elaha Gurgani:

Yeah. And it's like, I wish you could mentor me, but

James Fricker:

yeah,

Elaha Gurgani:

the best part of mentorship is the books and the content that he puts out. So I'm gonna make the best out of it. Yeah.

James Fricker:

that's it. Well, yeah, the sky's the limit and maybe one day you can like have a virtual copy with

Elaha Gurgani:

Oh, gosh,

James Fricker:

or even, I don't know if ever, I don't know if they, those kinds of people ever come to Australia. Like for any reason, maybe you go to America and see who knows.

Elaha Gurgani:

it. Yeah.

James Fricker:

Yeah. that's amazing. Cool. One thing I I'd love to ask too, is like a lot of times when we speak to people that have done really cool stuff, like, um, they it's often this, this path that they go on where it's like, I did this cool thing and then this cool thing, and then this cool thing, and now I'm doing this super cool thing. And it's like, just is like, whoa, like nothing went wrong for them. um, and so I'd be interested to hear yourself if there was, has been a time. Things didn't go so well, but ended up like working out well at the end, like where initially it, it was, it seemed like it, this was a disaster and like, oh no, like what's going on. And then perhaps as a result of that, things ended up going, going fine. If not better later, like, is there any is there any stories that

Elaha Gurgani:

I would say, like, it goes back to one of my failures, which was when I was, uh, in the last year of my uni or the last two years, I was very focused on getting into management consulting. Um, and I was chasing that dream of like being a big forum management consulting. Um, When I look back and reflect on and I was chasing it for the wrong reasons, right. I was doing it because I thought it was prestigious. I thought that once I kind of reached the level of being a management consultant or those prestigious role, then I will be seen as the successful person. And during university, I try to like apply for the roles. Always got rejected. Like during application phase, like rejected literally. And I was an international student back then as well. So my chances of like getting into them was like, hi as hell. Um, so I was very heartbroken going through application process with management consulting. Um, but when looking back what it did, it. Those rejections really help redirect my focus on alternative pathways like startups. Um, I remember I had this mentor that I was kind of seeking help going through application and kind of like going the pathway of big four and one day he said to me like, Laha have you like considered startups? And this was back in 2019 where startups weren't cool or sexy as they are now

James Fricker:

Mm

Elaha Gurgani:

or like a graduate or uni student. I was. I got offended. I was like, he thinks I'm gonna go into startups. That's not prestigious. Um, but looking back, those rejections kind of redirected me to the path where I am today, um, which is so authentic to who I am. And it's something that I enjoy doing every day. So that's like one of my failures that kind of helped me switch to where I am today and getting where

James Fricker:

Yeah, that's super cool. that?

Elaha Gurgani:

Hmm.

James Fricker:

That's a nice story. I like that a lot. I, yeah, I think, yeah, it's, it's one of those things. Yeah. That didn't seem so good at the time, but has worked out probably better than if you stuck with doing like the original thing. so that's

Elaha Gurgani:

Yeah. And rejection is redirection,

James Fricker:

Yeah, no, a hundred percent. That's it? Um, well, yeah, one more question for you. Laha and that is a question I ask all the guests on the show, and that is if you could think back to when you were finishing uni and perhaps in your last year of uni, kind of about to go out into the world and do these things where are trying to get a job at X plays, you know, knowing what you know now and all the things that you've done, what advice would you give yourself if you were at that stage

Elaha Gurgani:

Yeah, I would say be bold, um, take risk and don't be afraid of the unknown. I think for so long, um, growing up, even with the society that we are in, it tells you to take this linear, safe path. It kind of lay down this path of like, if you do X and Y, then you will get Z. Um, and that's how you'll be successful. Um, and for so long, like management consulting, or even like other roles that kind was kind of chasing those, the paths that were laid out to me, because I was kind of afraid of taking risk. I was afraid of the unknown paths. Um, cuz if you do take unknown paths. Let's say startup or entrepreneurship, like you don't know what lies ahead. In five, 10 years, it's kind of unknown and very risky. So if I were to look back and, uh, look at my younger self going through kind of graduate or university, I would say. Take risk and don't be afraid of the unknown cuz once you do explore the unknown paths where the path isn't laid out to you, but you enjoy it. You're curious about it. You will meet the most interesting people. You will be challenged and grow so much. And the things that you always wanted, the um, the, the people, the tribe, the passion, um, the things that you always create for it will come to you through those unknown paths. That's where the magic lies. That's where the growth. So that's what I would tell my younger self.

James Fricker:

cool. I think that's cool. Have faith, the, uh, yeah, the magical eyes and the unknown. very cool. That's a nice way to finish. Amazing. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show today. Laha, it's been super cool hearing your story and, and your journey and all the things that you've achieved. Uh, but for people listening that want to find out more about yourself and connect with you and perhaps get involved in your newsletter and Twitter and all that kind of stuff. I'd love If you, could just plug that and tell

Elaha Gurgani:

Uh, thanks so much for having me. James Love your connect, curiosity. Um, love chatting with you, uh, where people could find me is I'm usually active on Twitter. I'm close to hitting one. K, so please help your girl out. I'm trying to be more active on LinkedIn. I'll be posting more content and sharing my journey in tech and startups. And you can always subscribe to my newsletter as well, where I share my readings on thought leadership and people in tech and mindset and motivation. Thanks so much for having me, James.

James:

Thanks for listening to this episode I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you want to get my takeaways, the things that I learned from this episode, please go to graduate theory.com/subscribe, where you can get my takeaways and all the information about each episode, straight to your inbox. Thanks so much for listening again today, and we're looking forward to seeing you next week.