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Lob Culture
January 30, 2018

Humans of Lob: Nikil Balakrishnan

Humans of Lob is a project dedicated to getting to know our Lobsters on an individual level. For our sixth entry, we sat down with Senior Account Executive Nikil Balakrishnan.

Let’s go back to your beginnings here on this planet. Where were you born?

I grew up in the South Bay in a tech-oriented family, my dad's in tech and my mom's in real estate. My dad is the CEO of a semiconductor company called Power Integrations.

As I was growing up, my dad went through all these different stages in his career because he started off as an engineer and worked his way up. I got very interested in startups, building companies, and solving problems from that. I had seen his achievements and advancements and saw how hard it is to build something that the world actually needs. It’s what inspired me to get involved in a startup that’s building something from scratch.

My mom is a powerhouse. She's been an individual real estate agent and has been amongst the top agents in California many times. When my brother and I were growing up she was working full time and also a full-time mom. She made it look so easy: closing large deals while packing our lunches and driving us to school. She was my role model. She is an intelligent, structured, and very ambitious woman, but at the same time she is loving and caring.

What are your family roots?

Both my parents are from India. My mother’s father died when she was three years old, and her mother raised all three children by herself. That is kind of unheard of in India, where culturally a woman needs to have a male presence to do anything: take out loans, get insurance policies, or earn respect. That's just the way things were and sometimes still are there. I think that's where my mom got her strength.

My grandma passed away when I was 7, but she was a brick. She took care of all three of her daughters on her own, got them through school and made sure they always had a roof over their head and food on the table. She even sent them all to college and paid for their weddings, all on her own.

My dad was born in India. His dad was a bank teller and worked for the State Bank of Mysore, worked really, really hard and consistently got promoted to the point that he became one of the Managing Directors of the Bank.

How did your parents meet?

My dad moved to the US in ‘79 to study at UCLA. When he was accepted, his family had to take a loan against their property in India just to cover the transportation costs to get him into the US. It was up to him to get a job and figure out how to pay for his education.

Two years later when he was pretty secure at the end of his master's program, he got a job and was ready to settle down and get married. He went back to India to find someone, so he asked his sisters: ”Do you know anybody?” His sisters were like, “Yeah, there’s this really cute girl that you should meet.”, which was my mom. He asked her mom for permission to take her on a date. After two or three dates, he asked her mom for permission to marry her.

They both came to the US. My dad had been here for two years, he had a job and was already adjusted to the US. For my mom, who was 22 at that time, it was challenging. She was excited for the opportunity at first, but then, soon after she arrived, realized that she’s in a country where she hardly knew the language, had no friends and no career; she had nothing. She cried for four hours that first day in the apartment. Her entire life and home had been stripped from beneath her feet.

It reminds me of a poem by Rupi Kaur that captures this emotion really well:

They have no idea what it is like
To lose home at the risk of
Never finding home again
Have your entire life
Split between two lands and
Become the bridge between two countries

How did you get into sales?

Running a business has always been a passion of mine. The earliest example of that is when I was 5 or 6 years old and I’d to go to family parties. I would charge adults $0.05 or $0.10 to go get them drinks from the kitchen and bring it to them. I even hired a group of three other kids, had them do it, and gave them a cut of the profits. I had all sorts of plots like this: building custom computers, a cleaning business, a lawn mowing business, and in college, a sales team.

What project are you most proud of working on at Lob?

In general, the thing I am most proud of is every customer that I onboard successfully. The main reason I wanted to be an early sales hire is because I wanted to be the face of the brand for a customer. So when a customer thinks of Lob, they think of how I help them to utilize our platform to maximize their success. If I can do that successfully, and the customer has a positive experience, that's the best feeling.

What’s your fun fact?

I acted in a Hollywood movie when I was 11 or 12. The name of the movie is Bee Season with Richard Gere. I was an extra, but I had a few lines with an appearance of 14-15 seconds. It's always fun to say that I have an IMDB profile.

nikil balakrishnan swag
Photos by fellow Lobster, Anthony Chen.

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