Serial entrepreneur Turochas Fuad did not begin with a silver spoon in his mouth, but started his career deep in the trenches of IT as a developer punching out COBOL code and living a life governed by a beeper that goes off when the mainframe requires attention. He eventually became an expert in electronic data exchange and coauthored the ebXML standards as part of a team effort, only founding his first company after he was retrenched in 2003.
What transpired next saw Fuad stepping between multiple startups and the hallowed corridors of corporate life; the latter when the startups that he founded are acquired, or as he says tongue-in-cheek: “to make ends meet”. Today, Fuad is back in the startup race as the founder of Spacemob, a Singapore-headquartered startup that is looking to shake up the co-working spaces in the region. The plan? To blitzkrieg the region using an asset-light operator model and an eye to expand the fledging firm to a mind-boggling 30 spaces across Asia Pacific in three years.
With a unique perspective honed by stints at successful startups and the largest tech giants including Yahoo and Skype, how does he hire?
An interview is a two-way street
The biggest mistake that anyone could make when applying for a job is failing to do their due diligence on the organization or the people they will be working for, says Fuad. Indeed, he spends a “good 50 percent” of the time describing their roles to ensure that potential employees know what they are getting before they start.
“Hiring someone is a two-way street. You want to make sure that you spend the most amount of time telling the employee what the culture, role, company is about,” he said. “It is very important for employees to know what they are getting into. You know you can learn, you know you will be able to make a certain amount of money, but at the end of the day… it is important that they are happy there.”
This means he gets worried when candidates fail to ask questions either about the company, their role, or seek clarifications about aspects of their job scope. Fuad explained: “People make mistakes of not understanding what they are getting into. They just go for a job. I think there are always ways to make money, but it is important to get a [good] job.”
Job satisfaction and being happy working for the organization is a recurring theme of our conversation, and was also the reason Fuad himself had left some roles in the past. “I left a lot of money on the table,” he said, referring to unvested stock options and hefty pay packages that he gave up.
Ultimately, Fuad notes that the best candidates don’t just focus on the remuneration, but takes a longer-term view: “They ask questions about the philosophy of the company, about [plans] five years from now, the leadership process, and where [the firm] is heading.”
Traits he looks out for
And if you are thinking of quitting school just to join a startup, you may want to think again. The basic checklist that Fuad looks at includes a candidate’s qualifications, education, and a good “80 to 90% fit” in terms of skill-set and competency.
“Once we have gone through those checkpoints, it boils down to how they describe themselves, and how they want to work with the company. You can tell if someone is genuine or [they just] want something,” he said, alluding to a coveted position or remuneration.
Communication skills features high on Fuad’s list of traits he looks out for: “I look for the ability to communicate. To express oneself, I think gives me a wider insight into this person’s intellect, this person’s drive, this person’s motivation.” He acknowledged that interview candidates are sometimes nervous during interviews, which is why he takes the time to make them feel at ease.
When it comes to red flags he looks out for, the one that worries Fuad the most would surely be the know-it-all candidate who claims to “know everyone and everything” and who is apparently ready to roll up their sleeves to solve every problem. This is tied to a possible lack of humility, he explained. Other red flags would be an inability to communicate well and a lack of maturity.
Maturity is important because it influences their mindsets and how they work, Fuad noted. Unfortunately, it is also not something that correlations with age. “I had interns who ask better questions than someone who has worked for 10 years,” he said.
Building the dream team
It takes a top-notch, driven team to help propel the startup to the next level – and towards an acquisition. And as far as Fuad is concerned, the building of this dream team is a team effort.
“What I do is have a lot of different people talk to the candidate, and talk to them. I find that to be important, as this person will be working with everyone. The [startup] family has to be close-knit, and you are trying your best not to put a bad apple in. It may disrupt the team,” said Fuad. “I try to interview every single hire here.” And of the inevitable bad hire: “Everyone is to blame, including myself.”
Fuad prefers “grinders” as part of his team, and avoids those with a “diva-like” attitude – snobbish candidates who expect preferential treatment because they hail from a prestigious school or an established firm. He said: “I like the one who talks more about what they do and how they do it, [and] less what companies they come from.”
His most memorable hires
Fuad spoke fondly of an intern who sought work at one of his previous startup. Despite having zero experience, she exceeded all his expectations with an undeniable motivation to excel and “grind away” at every challenge she was given. This included tasks such as analytics, SEO, SEM, and even include helping to assemble the new office furniture. Needless to say, the intern found herself hired as the head of search engine monetization upon graduation.
He spoke of another hire who impressed him with his analytical mind and ability to look at data from different perspectives – despite coming from a creative background. Another grinder, this employee would also step in without fanfare when certain community events were not doing according to plan.
“[The best employees are] driven by passion and are happy doing what they do. The latter to a point where they are willing to do more for the success of the company. If it means washing the cups left in the sink, or setting up the furniture, then so be it. Happiness is not about the highest pay,” summed up Fuad.
Wantedly Singapore currently operates out of Spacemob's flagship space at Claymore Hill. Want to join the Spacemob family? Check out their job posting here.
Learn more about the culture and work environment of companies before you join them with Wantedly's “Want to Visit”.