Spotlight

The lesson known side of a leader

As a startup co-founder, Jani sheds some light on the key attributes of a leader and how she bounced back from a mistake she made previously.

Lynette Chua

May 21st, 2021

In this week’s Potato spotlight, meet Jani, the co-founder of Jala! In 2016, she brought the idea of a translation platform to life and put together her team from scratch. As a startup co-founder, she sheds some light on the key attributes of a leader, and how she bounced back from a mistake she made previously.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m the co-founder of Jala – an all-in-one translation platform, tool and marketplace connecting translators with anyone needing a translation.

2. What are the challenges you face at work as a young founder?

Just running a startup has its plethora of challenges. I wouldn’t say age has any significant impact on my current work, however as a young person in an executive role, I guess it can be challenging to ‘hold your own’ around people who are older and more experienced. My tip would be to take skepticism and criticism in your stride, and not to take things too personally.

3. What’s a mistake you made early on in your career and what did you learn from it?

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was not having spoken to my target audience sooner. Since then, I’ve learnt the importance of engaging with the people you’re solving for as frequently and as early as possible. Getting constant feedback is essential if you’re trying to achieve product-market fit.  That said, I’d like to think I’m still very much in the early stages of my career and that I’ll continue to make mistakes. If anything, the most important thing I’ve learnt, is to not be afraid to fail and iterate. Having the attitude to try things and learn from it is important, no matter what stage of your career you are in.

4. What advice would you give someone who is putting together a team from scratch?

I had the benefit of convincing a friend of a friend to join as my first designer. We both had an interest in startups and were able to share our findings and communicate with each other openly. My advice would be to form your team not just based on abilities, but to find people who are on the same page. I think it’s kind of a given, but you also want to make sure that whoever joins your team is willing to learn and willing to grow the idea with you.

5. What are some important attributes that you think a leader should have?

Empathy. This may sound like a textbook answer, but it has a lot of truth. You can be highly capable, but you’ll struggle leading a team if you can’t give them the same consideration you’d give yourself.

Another attribute I think good leaders should have is the ability to strategize and communicate it well, especially when it comes to delivering a clear and unified vision. Throwing a group of people together and getting them to work towards a common goal is no easy task. If you’re looking for more reading material on leadership specifically, I’d recommend reading Radical Candor by Kim Scott of which it’s cover boldly claims, ‘Be a kickass boss without losing your humanity’.

6. What impact do you hope to create with your company?

I think Jala still has a long way to go before we can fully measure our impact. Jala was created to put peoples’ idle language skills to good, and we’ve certainly helped a fair few organisations since we started. In the next year or so, our goal is to be the go-to platform for translation services and translators looking for paid work. It would be great if we can support those that need an extra income, particularly during this time.

7. How has working in Potato changed your perspective?

Potato has an open working culture and you get to meet people from all different backgrounds. Pre-covid, we ran a lot of company-wide events like ‘Geek Out’ where people could share their geeky hobbies or passion projects. Having that really opened up my perspective on the importance of having good company culture, and how it can foster creativity and collaboration.

8. What’s one of your favourite memories from the past year?

That time I surprised my boyfriend in Melbourne at the beginning of last year. He thought he was meeting up with my friend for a coffee, but I had actually orchestrated an elaborate surprise visit. The look on his face was priceless.

9. What’s one song or artist that you are embarrassed to admit you like?

I have unashamedly been listening to a lot of Doja Cat lately. She’s very talented and all her music is ridiculously catchy. There’s nothing embarrassing about liking an artist who knows how to be different and owns it.


If you would like to have a chat with Jani for more information on Jala’s translation services, click here!