Making Magic at Memphis

September 2, 2016 by Nilanjana Dey

My 365 Days with Knowizards


If you love somebody enough

You follow wherever they go

That’s how I got to Memphis

That’s how I got to Memphis.

                                                      –Tom T. Hall

Why Memphis? After all, it’s just a small town in the US. Why not New York or DC, where dreams are made? And then you realise that Memphis is just a stand in for wherever you are now, wherever you have landed up as you followed your heart.

This is the story of how I got to Memphis.

Now the story starts sometime in March 2015, long before I knew Knowizards existed. My entire batch was in the throes of ‘placement fever’ and so was I. But somehow, things just didn’t seem to go right for me. Things hit a real low when in response to one of the interview questions; I gave a completely ridiculous answer. I knew how unconvincing it sounded even as I said it. And in the follow-up question, I just managed to dig myself into a deeper hole.

I came out of the interview and felt my chances of getting placed plummeting from ‘fairly decent’ to ‘abysmal’. Oh, what wouldn’t I have given to go back in there and give a better answer. In fact, the ‘smart answer’ hit me the moment I stepped out of the interview (funny, how you never find the right words when you need them!). Anyway, what’s done was done, and I sunk into my pool of self-pity.

So my usual routine used to be ‘wallowing in misery’ followed by ‘brushing things under the carpet’. But surprisingly, for the first time, I decided to pull myself out of that zone and do something worthwhile. So I started a blog.

Now, I know it might not seem earth-shatteringly worthwhile, but for me it was a big step.

Because I had been thinking of starting one for the last four years but never gotten around to it. Come to think of it now, I was quite a pro at procrastination!

So the blog got started and I was posting stuff from time to time. But my Masters were over and I still didn’t have a job. ‘What next?’ was haunting me every waking minute. In my parents’ silent stares, in the neighbouring aunty’s well-meaning questions. And I had no answer.

And then, for the first time in my life, Facebook actually proved to be of some use. I came across a post saying Niswey needed a ‘reporter’. Now if there is one thing I am decent at, it is writing. So I decided to check this out.

I read through the careers page and they were talking about a lot of stuff that the applicant should be able to do. But they also talked about how you could skip all that and just come with the ‘willingness to learn new things’. So I filled out the form. In my super excited state, I also sent them a mail, thus applying twice for the same post. I then read through all their blogs, and discovered that they call themselves Knowizards. Now, a place with wizards would have to be awesome, right?

Anyway, an impromptu flight, four killing flights of stairs, and a fun interview later, I was at Niswey.

As I would discover in a few short weeks, this was a place filled with people who were just the right kind of crazy. A place that would give me the courage to go chase some of my biggest dreams. And none of this would have been possible if I had given the ‘smart answer’ at that interview. I would probably be leading a very different life, with none of the knowledge, wisdom and joy that I have found here.

I had always wanted a job where each day was different. And in the quest of that, unwittingly enough, I got to Memphis.

It’s been a year at Niswey, and 365 days have kind of become a milestone for all Knowizards, because of one person’s epic blog. And rightly so, because the last one year at Niswey have brought about phenomenal changes in how I perceive life.

Look, Listen and Learn

Everyone here has something to teach you, be it the CEO or the intern. Every new experience we have, every new thing we learn, is shared with the rest of us.

So we have sessions on client-handling and time management, keyword research and content strategy.

You are entrusted with responsibilities that force you to learn new things every day. The goal is to evolve into the best at your job and good at every other job as well.

But this flow of wisdom is not always somebody sitting you down for a session. This learning is also an intangible part of the life at Niswey. I learnt when I saw Suma subtly but firmly refusing to play the client’s blame game, and focus on finding a solution instead. I learnt when Abhinav was ready to hear me out whenever I was stuck with a problem. I learnt when I saw Daizy working away late into the night, finishing a client proposal. I learnt when Akhil offered to help me with a task, even though it was 9pm and he was just about ready to leave.

I learnt when Anubhav readily shared with me where he went wrong on a project, just so I could avoid the same mistakes. I learn when I see Shrishti or Sannidhya working hard on picking up certifications, or Deepak writing his first blog within a week of joining. I learnt ownership and dedication and empathy, and began to understand what it meant to be working with a group of people who truly love their job.

Mine, Yours, Ours


A photo posted by Niswey (@niswey) on

As I write this, I just went through a mail from Abhinav, where he talks about his vision for Niswey when he started it. And the mail ends with him wanting to hear our thoughts on it.

That’s another thing that you discover at Niswey: a genuine sense of inclusiveness. From what colours to paint the new office, to where do you want Niswey headed in the next five years, you get to weigh in on everything. And that’s because Suma and Abhinav have decided that Niswey is ‘our company’. And when it’s as much yours as theirs, wouldn’t you give everything you’ve got, to make it the best?

It is this spirit of inclusiveness which allows the team to put so much faith in you. This is a place where you are entrusted with bigger responsibilities and asked to make progressively more important decisions, all by yourself. You find yourself in a new role every few months.

And the team is always right behind you, helping you fill out your new shoes. It is the kind of faith that’s empowering and overwhelming, all at the same time.

Flying Beyond the Fear

Inclusivity engenders a sense of belonging. And this is what pushes you to step outside your shell and face your fears. To take one for the team.

As an introvert who couldn’t talk to strangers to save her life, I had no clue how I could ever handle webinars for one of our clients. The idea was preposterous and I wanted to run as far away from it as possible. But everyone else seemed to think I could do it. People were ready to help me get this right, they believed in me. And slowly, I did too. And today, let’s just say I can handle the webinars without breaking into a sweat.

As I battled the nerves on my first webinar, I remember Priyanka, who had handled this up till then, saying, “Do not think if you are doing this as well as me. Do it your way, do it the best that you can. And it will be better than anything I’ve done before”. And that is when everything transformed from being overwhelming to empowering. That is what this place does for you.

Failing Without Giving Up

We dare, we do, and we aspire to succeed. But sometimes we fail. And at those times, you will still find this team firmly behind you, letting you realise that it’s good to fail.

Not too long ago, I was given to handle a project, coordinating a team of six people. The project was ambitious and I was raring to go. And then, I was paralyzed with fear. I was so afraid of doing things wrong that I didn’t do anything at all for a whole week. Nothing got done, and that made me more scared. Oh well, you see the cycle here?

I knew there was a lot to learn here, even by doing the wrong things. Suma, Abhinav and Anubhav understood this all too well and started guiding me towards a less fearful, more productive mindset. And it worked, well, for about two weeks before descending into chaos again.

After a month of struggling through this, I didn’t know what to do anymore. I was just going through the motions. And that is when Suma and Abhinav decided that it was time for me to step back from this. I was relieved but also mortified that I had failed them. But they pointed out that while learning to lead a team is important, it’s not worth it if there is no joy left for me. There is a lot of fear to be worked through here and, and I can take a stab at it again, when I am ready.

Their acceptance of me failing this task, and their belief that despite this, I will be able to lead a team in the future, is what drives me now. This is what gives me the confidence that one of these days, I am going to get this right. And that is what sets this place apart. The reaction to failure is not despair or ridicule, but rather support and strength and confidence.

Transforming into a Better Version 

A year at Niswey transforms you in subtle ways, into a better and stronger version of yourself. There is definitely a lot of self-belief and discipline that you acquire. You understand terms like ‘goals’ and ‘visions’ and ‘spirituality’ not as some philosophical mumbo-jumbo, but as elements that will alter your reality. You channel your inner poet, writer, innovator, and entrepreneur, and discover yourself as someone who has so much to offer. And once you realise that, you can’t wait to get started. You choose to put yourself out there every single day and take the bouquets and brickbats in your stride, in your quest to create magic.

After all, as Albus Dumbledore, who happens to know quite a bit about creating magic, said:

“It’s not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.”

And I choose to be a Knowizard.