Weeknotes 21

About 7 months late but hey, I am now getting around to it. I used to love writing these and then I just couldn’t due to a few reasons: got sick, burned out, got a puppy and started training new staff!

I’m back though because, and I can’t believe I’m going to say it, just like your average influencer on social media, I, too have been asked by many a people about when I’m going to resume writing them and they love reading these.

So I’m back.

In this post, I’ll try to summarise what I’ve been up to. I’m also thinking about whether these weeknotes could be bi-monthly and therefore, more likely to be written? Forgive me, I’m a little rusty so this post will be short.

What I did

I’m going to give you the whistle-stop tour of my #Weeknotes absence:

  • Getting Chayn’s new Board into a working routine and running our quarterly meetings.
  • Applied for tons of funding. Many rejections, and a few wins. I went through a very intense interview process for a fellowhip which involved 16+ hours of calls and preparation work.
  • I started writing (see here and here) about Chayn’s strategy co-creation. Behind these blogs was a lot of planning and introspection on the best way of getting the team to think about the organisation’s future. I also facilitated all the planning sessions so far and that’s been fun! You’ll be reading a lot more about this.
  • Hired an Operations Manager, Movement Builder, Tech Lead and a few volunteer into becoming part of the paid team for Bloom.
  • Edited hundreds of pieces of content for the Chayn team. This part frustrates me quite a lot because it takes time, but also there maybe only two people who are also good editors in the team so I don’t have much choice. I hope to create more processes around this once our Communications Manager post is filled!
  • I started writing and documenting our approach to trauma-informed design as part of our work on Orbits with End Cyber Abuse. I’m really enjoying this. We’ve held four workshops to test out this work and we’ve got a last one coming up! I’ll talk more about this in the next one.
  • Was so happy to be included in this campaign by the World Wide Web Foundation celebrating the Web’s 32nd birthday. I’ll be 32 this year too.
  • Did a bunch of media interviews about current events. Here are the latest ones: Insider, Stylist, ITV and BBC.

What I learned

So much. I can’t summarise everything but I love this article I was interviewed for.

Reclaiming the entrepreneur philosophy

Building in public is a pioneering approach to developing products and services that challenges the established startup infrastructure, ‘programmatisation’ of venturing and the pattern recognition mindset that marginalises women and underrepresented identities. Blogging on social media, using collaboration software platforms and embracing the no-code movement, founders of open startups are declarative and unapologetically experimental.

“We need radical transparency about what it means to be an entrepreneur,” says Hera. She believes that building in public represents a specific opportunity for female founders to own their stories, rather than fulfil a misplaced persona imposed on them. Referencing the ‘girl boss’ culture, which artificially raises women up but in reality denies them agency and glosses over institutional misogyny and sexism, she reflects that “we had a whole class of entrepreneurs — women who failed in public and who we loved tearing down,” because they had to embody fearless ‘empowered’ leadership.

Whereas Hera, through her regular Weeknotes, shares everything from how she’s feeling to what’s happening in her personal life: “I laugh at myself — to demystify the cult of entrepreneurship.” She embraces the opportunity to publicly normalise the balance she has as a founder: “People can assume that if you’re a woman of colour you’re always struggling… that I must have imposter syndrome because I’m brown, but I actually don’t. I have a good work life balance. I’m not always struggling and I’m not always winning. It’s a mix.”

Building in public is a feminist act — by rejecting the protectionism and ‘warm intros’ of the lionised startup scene these builders are creating a platform that enables a new entrepreneurial philosophy: one that draws value from intersectional approaches; fosters community through respect and accessibility; tackles social injustice through frank sensitivity rather than a veneer of stoicism. Adopted by pioneering social founders — and not just those who identify as women — building in public can create an alternative startup where openness is power.

Something else

Puppy parenting is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and none of the online blogs or articles prepared me for this. The constantly being on the lookout for Ara eating stones, furniture, wires and her own poop. Her seperation anxiety is severe which means I cannot leave the room she’s in. We’re training her on the seperation anxiety with Julie Naimsith’s method but it’s a long journey. She doesn’t get a long with our cats so I spend the whole day away from them and only see them at night. Though we are slowly training her to not be so reactive, it’s really tough for the cats and me. We’re used to being in the same space all the time and they’re relaxed so they don’t mind me moving about. It doesn’t help my husband has to commute to work an hour away and he’s not at home from 7AM to 7PM, leaving most of the puppy parenting to me for a working-line German Shepherd. Me — someone who has never had a dog. Thanks to trainers and books, I’m doing OK on the training but there are other challenges.

As I write this, I’ve not left the house for 10 days without Ara. My husband has been working irregular hours and like always, as I work from home, I have to assume 95% of the responsibility of looking after her. Before we got her, I used to walk an hour every morning and then work out a few times during the week. It’s all gone. And only when this freedom is gone away from me, by my choice (no one forced me to get a puppy), I realise how important it is for me to be able to set my own routine. I got used to the waking up at 5AM rather than 8AM. I got used to somehow managing work while looking after her, and spending time trainer her including reading all the books, watching videos and spending time with trainers. What I’ve not been able to accept is the restriction to my movements inside and outside the house. It has devastated me to the point of feeling depressed, seeing no hope for a better future and completely isolated from the outside world. I sometimes wonder if this is a trauma response from being a woman born into a Pakistani culture where our movements are so tightly controlled, and therefore, any limitation on mine, really triggers a negative response from me. The fact that I can’t meet my friends because Ara isn’t ready yet (she gets too excited) or that I can’t walk to my cafe (it’s too far for her puppy body and public transport won’t allow her to ride) or I can’t even lie on the bed for a nap if I’m the only one at home (it’s on the cats floor) makes me feel so trapped. I know with training, that unfortunately takes far too long, these problems will disappear. However, for now, these are big problems.

Running an organisation where I’m responsible for the emotional and productive growth of the team while feeling so low from the inside has been devastating. I’ve not stayed in touch with friends or family because of being so emotionally and physical exhausted (I often wake up with muscle cramps). Ara is now almost 5 months old so a lot of the puppy nonsense is better but she’s about to enter her teenage months and I’ve heard it’s hell. Every morning she goes for a walk with a dog walker and that knocks her out for a few hours once she comes back.

I’m considering paying for a dog sitter just so I can spend a few hours without worrying about her but because of the Delta variant, I can’t do that right now. People tell me all of this will be worth it once she turns one and a half years. Wish me luck!

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Building communities. Feminist. Pakistani. Founder @chaynHQ & CEO fighting gender-based violence with tech. Championing openness. Forbes & MIT Under 30/35.

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Hera Hussain

Hera Hussain

Building communities. Feminist. Pakistani. Founder @chaynHQ & CEO fighting gender-based violence with tech. Championing openness. Forbes & MIT Under 30/35.

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