Manish Barnwal

...just another human

Top lessons I learned from 3 years at Walmart

Photo of life lessons

Having graduated from college, I joined WalmartLabs as Statistical analyst in the year 2014. We were a batch of four freshers, all from different colleges — one from IISc. Bangalore, two from ISI Kolkata, and I from IIT Kharagpur. We were the first batch of freshers to join the data science team. There were three seniors to guide us through the on-boarding formalities and getting to know the Walmart systems.

I clearly remember the first few days of the office. I used to be super excited everyday. I used to feel like there is so much to learn. There was a spark of learning that kept me excited. I worked at WalmartLabs for close to three years. People say, the first company is always special. And I won’t deny this. I have enjoyed my days at WalmartLabs. The stay here was packed with learnings, great friends, and wonderful experiences.

Today as I reckon how the last three years has passed, I think to myself what I could have done better? What were a few things that I took way too seriously. What could I have done better? What were my learnings?

Below are my learnings from the 1000 days I have spent working in a corporate job.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions.

When I had joined as a fresher, there were so many terms I had never heard of. WFH, WebEx, EDLP, EDLC were alien to me. Technology wise, I had never worked on R. But that never discouraged me asking questions whenever I got stuck. And the earlier you clarify these questions the better for you. You don’t want to ask the fresher-tagged questions after one year of your employment. Moreover, asking questions clarify concepts. So, ask as many questions as possible.

New phase. Write a new story.

This is a new phase of life after college. We all are excited about it. This is a chance for you get a better version of yourself. You are surrounded by new people. You have a fresh page to start with. You can write a new story or continue with the story you have been living in your college. If there is something you want to change in your life. This is the time. When everyone around you is new. You don’t have your old people to drag you down. It’s a great opportunity to overcome any challenges or weaknesses from your past.

Your 9-to-5 job is not enough for your learnings.

Do not be under the impression that your project will teach you all. There will always be gaps in your learnings. Bridge these gaps with your personal projects. I participate in hacks, read books, write codes for personal projects, and then blog about them. This keeps me motivated. Choose what you truly want to learn. This shall excite you and keep you on top of the learning curve.

First impressions are exaggerated.

First impressions are exaggerated — be it a good one or a bad one. Let time pass by and then decide. The bad thing about first impressions is that people forget to update it.

Don’t get busy in 9 to 5 cycle.

It is very easy to get comfortable in the 9–5 daily cycle and the weekly Monday-to-Friday cycle. Time flies week by week and you won’t even realize that you completed a year of your job. Learn new skills — be it boxing, guitar or anything you always wanted to learn. Weekends should not be looked upon as your lazy days.

Save money. Don’t waste all your money on beers, drinks, and getting yourself pampered.

After a year of job, I realized I had not saved enough. Saving is a practice. Inculcate it. It is up to you how much you want to save. It could be as simple as opening a recurrent deposit account.

Your manager should be aware of all your work.

Make sure you and your manager frequently connect to discuss the work you are doing. Always ask for feedback. Any improvement in any area that is required of you. If your manager doesn’t have answer to your questions, ask a senior you trust and respect.

You are the average of 5 people you spend your most time with.

If there is one mantra in life I follow whole-heartedly, it is this one. You are the average of five people you spend your most time with. So choose your group wisely.

Be the go to person.

No matter how many blogs or books you read, if you don’t solve real problems you won’t learn. Try to solve as many problems as possible. Become an expert of your skill. You should be seen as the go-to-person for this topic by people in your office. This will expose you to solve new problems and enhance your learnings.

Don’t get excited by hike. Let your work excite you.

This is easier said than done. I will be lying if I say that I abide by this. I try to find peace and excitement in the work I am doing. Always ask the question — Why am I doing this? How will this help in the bigger picture? Try to relate yourself to the learnings from the work you are doing. If you are interested in your work, hike will come automatically as a byproduct. Never work just for hikes.

Give chance to your juniors. Always.

Once you are a senior, you have a different responsibility of nurturing your juniors. Pass on your learnings to them. Don’t look upon your juniors as the resource to do your shittiest work. Once they become senior, they will realize this and hate you for this. When presented with an opportunity, give chance to your juniors to present the solution.

Find a mentor. The right one.

A mentor is one who knows your problems, has faced similar problems in the past, and has answer to your problems. There will be times when nothing will work in your favor. You want to come out of the muddle. But you don’t know how. Your mentor will be your hero. I was fortunate to have some of my seniors as best mentors — Jeeban, Pralabh, and Issac. You find yours. The right ones. Not the ones who become your mentor just for the sake of company’s policy.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list but for now this is what I have. I will keep visiting this page to add more of my learnings. Please share your thoughts in comments. Share it with people who you think would enjoy reading this.

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