Spotlight on Nafis Azad

Meet Nafis Azad: Product-focused technology entrepreneur, serial venture developer, and Principal at Waker, Nafis is inspiring others to have heightened commitment towards reaching goals.

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Tell us about Waker!

I founded Waker to set new industry standards for digital product development for both startups and corporate clients. Our team has decades of experience in software development, user-experience (UX) design, and product strategy. I've personally led the development of multiple mobile and web app startups which has shown me the need for a firm with a holistic understanding of what needs to be done to build and scale on a venture's vision. We are a fully American team with global expertise, but with a more boutique style of partnership and pricing. We are excited to work with a ton of new clients this year in many global verticals. 

A big part of our vision is to develop some of our own ventures in an almost "incubator" style. We have three product ventures internally in development at different stages now (from concept stage to post-revenue) that we are excited to see scale this year. 

We welcome anyone to feel free to reach out to us - even if you aren't ready to partner up yet we could provide some valuable mentorship.

If you could go back in time and give your younger self advice, what would it be?

The best piece of advice I can give my younger self is to "put the work in and be very, very patient". Looking back, the success I've had in my life has been a pretty simple formula... well - I will try to oversimplify it here for you. 

The formula is: "work in = results out". The caveat is we don't really get a prescribed timeline for those results. Success, however, is a long-game and should be treated as such. If you keep working without expecting anything in return, time will reward you sooner than later. Sometimes your reward is education (which is a very expensive commodity nowadays), and sometimes it's much, much bigger.

How do you create a work/life balance?

When I first fully dove into growing my businesses around 18, work/life balance was the last thing on my mind. Honestly, I think we all need to experience what it's like to have a 120% commitment, tunnel-vision level of focus towards your goals. This process forces you to develop self-awareness and independent thought free of any other desires or indulgences.

As thankful as I am for the lessons I learned when I was only thinking about my work and goals, developing work-life balance has been one of my highest priorities since then. A few things are key components to structuring that balance and ensuring I take care of my own personal development and mental health - I can't start young just to burn out early!

- I look for a consistent element in my life that not only provides positive value but gives me something to indulge in and build separate from work. For me, it's spending at least an hour at the gym 4-5 times a week. I also take personal boxing training once a week to switch things up and learn technical skills. It's important to have something you feel is building that is detached from the ups and downs of business. If you can find that consistent element in something that is beneficial to your wellbeing, whether through exercise or creative pursuits, then even better! 

- I believe it is important to keep a close-knit group of people that understand your goals and are able to support them without displacing their own opinions about it onto you. In my circle, we all support each other on our journeys and make sure we are growing positively, even if we are in our own lanes and are trying out different things. I look for the same unbiased support in my relationships. The nature of being an entrepreneur invites an openness to change that is best left uninhibited. Building my consistent support system has allowed it to be there when I don't even realize I need it. Lastly, seeking diversity in my circle gives me freedom from always "living" in my work. Even though a large percentage of my friends are fellow entrepreneurs, we try not to just talk about business all the time. Stimulate your mind and open conversations about art, culture, society, music, travel, etc to give your brain the balance it needs! 

- We all can control ourselves, but it's much more difficult to try to control others. Thus, I am very serious about the standards I set for my life and expect those that wish to interact with me, both professionally and socially, to respect those. These standards differ per person, but you can never expect to setup a healthy work-life balance without them (especially when you get really busy). For me, I have a structure to schedule calls only during certain hours for certain days of the week, with clear "cut-off" times. This gives me days in between to "breathe" without being on the phone all day to either unwind or catch up on other work! I also have learned that there are some things I can "deal with tomorrow". It can become too easy to get stuck on your emails, texts, Slack, and calls until midnight every day. For me to find clarity in my daily routine, I had to learn the point where I was able to set the standard of what is "non-urgent" and address first thing the next day. Control your schedule, don't let it control you.

Words you live by: "People help you when they see you help yourself."
Apple or PC: Has to be Apple (the UX, while not perfect, is very intentional and connected)
Spirit animal (and why): The tiger - which to me represents power, determination, and independence.

Alex Gordon