How to build world class products & achieve success in life with Punit Soni

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Punit graduated from an engineering college (NIT Kurukshetra) in India in 1998. He wanted to pursue higher studies so he gave GRE and moved to the U.S. for his masters. He did not want to take money from his parents so he ultimately got a scholarship from a relatively lesser known school which is the University of Wyoming where he did his MS in electrical engineering. He was lucky enough to graduate during internet boom days and got good opportunities to work in the bay area which is the Mecca of technology.

He started with an entry level QA engineer job at a company called Avanti Corporation. He worked there for few months before moving to Softface Inc. which was an early stage risky startup. He was fascinated by the internet boom and by the fact that people were starting their own companies everywhere, so he took

a risk to work at the startup. He was one of the early employees at Softface. The company soon got acquired by Ariba and he subsequently moved to Cadence Design Systems. At Cadence, he worked for almost 5 years across multiple roles and projects.

During this time, he decided to go to a business school. The first time he applied to a few of the top 20 schools in the U.S., he got rejected from all of them. According to him, he was an ordinary guy who graduated from a little-known engineering college in India and later did his masters from another lesser known school in the U.S. There was nothing special about him which could help him get an admission in a good MBA college.

In order to change his story and make it appealing for the MBA application, he decided to distinguish himself from the rest and work on the overall personality. His sole purpose was to get into the best business school in the country. He started taking child psychology classes and mentoring kids, he got interested in mountaineering, running and started training for marathons. Soon he was doing all sorts of interesting things so that he could round up his personality. He had fun doing all these things and so he got genuinely interested in them. At the end of the second year, he again got rejected from the business schools. However, he kept on working on his personality. Finally, in the third year, he applied to the best schools in the country and got into almost all of them. He ended up going to Wharton and there was a critical shift in his career path.

The process of applying over three years probably taught me more than what I would have learned from the business school itself

Until now he was following a linear path with few shifts in between. Like everybody else, he did his engineering but moving to the U.S. for M.S. was a shift in his path. He then started his job in the Silicon Valley and was slowly moving up the corporate ladder which was another linear path. Going to Wharton was a shift in his linear path. After MBA he got interested in venture capital and he even did an internship with Intel Capital. However soon he realized that he was not the right person to do venture capital. He was still learning to build companies and he was a player and also he did not get into best VC rms. So he ultimately decided to spend time operating rather than going to venture capital.

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