My journey of intrapreneurship

by aishyza

370 days in. Believe it.

Who would have expected that I’d last so long in a corporate environment, let alone in a government institution. But let’s take that conversation about my uncorporate habits offline. One thing I’ve learnt in corporate life is that, contrary to popular beliefs, some things are just better off undocumented.

When it comes to learning, nothing beats being thrown into the ocean and expected to learn on-the-job. [PS: This is not a recruitment gimmick. We are not desperately hiring at the moment.]

An average of 4 new start-ups I see in a week. Watch them give the most confident pitch that gets brutally torn to pieces, struggle to articulate the viability of their business, present poorly designed demos/mockups.

For those that I care enough about, I do what women do best. Listen. Then, advise on everything design, and throw in some tips and tricks to get grants. For the few golden start-ups, I’ve personally grown alongside them from idea to early-growth stage and it’s been an eye-opening journey. I have enjoyed crafting experiences that hopefully enabled startups to reach the next stage on a myriad of fronts, from storytelling to fund-raising to UI design.

So I’ve given you some context. Here are some thoughts on what it takes to be an intrapreneur, and I’ve thrown in some hacks to help you along the way.

1. Entrepreneurs typically work a 100-hour work week. Expect the same for intrapreneurs.

If you do the math right, the couple of hours discounted a week because of the support system in corporate offices like rubbish clearing, dish washing, document filing, more expensive coffee machine, gets piled back by the amount of paperwork to submit to HR when you get sick, go on a weekend vacation, attend a conference. So if you’re often bringing your laptop home and over the weekend, you’re pretty much slogging as bad.

USEFUL HACK: Best timing to email at night is between 10-1130pm. That’s when big bosses are also checking emails. People would typically auto-schedule emails to send at 830am the next morning, but I prefer to send at 1030pm when I get full attention from anyone crazy enough to be checking at the same time (i.e. directors and C-levels).

WARNING: Do not send anything after 12 midnight. Some phones are synced to mobile and you never want to be the reason why someone didn’t get beauty sleep.

2. Intrapreneurs seek to create change within the company, and the benefits trickle to society.

Although the scope of the problem seems small (ie within the company ecosystem), the solution will impact all stakeholders of the company (ie customers, sponsors, and partners). Also taking to account the kind of hierarchy evident in big organizations, an intrapreneur is faced with the challenge of coming up with a solution as well as a strategy to execute, within extremely harsh constraints. The intrapreneur is one who is creative in aligning all proposals for change to the bigger mission and strategy of the company.

USEFUL HACK: For every ‘change-making project’ you are strategizing, first identify the decision maker (there is only one) as well as reviewers (up to 3). It will be a mess listening to too many reviewers. The bigger strategy to align to is usually articulated by the decision maker. This person is the approver, and will put the dough on the table. The 3 reviewers are your credibility sources, and advisors who can help you cover more perspectives within the proposal.

WARNING: Never look/sound like you’re asking for help, people naturally shun anything they perceive as extra work. Choose your reviewers based on relevance, meaning what you are getting them involved with is directly related to their KPIs. Impress the decision maker by showing how you are able to mobilize people and gather perspectives.

3. Intrapreneurs need to learn to love KPIs, rather than dread it.

KPIs are there for a reason and they are often linked to the expectations of the funding body or sponsor. Get to know the KPI, understand why it is what it is, love it enough to chase it. Simply because that’s what’s gonna keep you hired, and better still, respected and promoted. Challenge here is that you may not be able to manipulate all change-making projects to have instant impact on KPIs. Time management and attention switching skills are crucial to strike the balance in priorities. All these done while adhering to bureaucratic protocols.

USEFUL HACK: Know when is the right time to do what. At the start of the week, write down 3 broad goals or focuses, and set a to-do list everyday. Hide when you have to work without disturbances. Most importantly, optimize meetings -> watch how the folks at google conduct meetings that don’t suck.

WARNING: Understand that it is more difficult to influence team KPIs so do not get too affected if the team falls short. Focus on the problem at hand and gather as much support both within and outside the company. Rope in people from your own personal network to help out with ‘change-making projects’ because you’ll always need unbiased input and social support in new ventures.

I take this chance to encourage the 9 out of 10 people in the world who choose not to be entrepreneurs to also create change. I believe an intrapreneur is one who is result-driven and have, in particular, creativity as well as good inter-personal skills to drive the message through layers of hierarchy in a big company.

So have you got what it takes to create change from inside-out? :)

Disclaimer: This is a personal post of my experiences so I do not represent any views of anyone in my company.