Startup Jobs: How I went from hell to heaven
Chaos — cha·os
TL;DR: thinking about joining a startup? Think twice. I don’t want to discourage you, I only want to be sure that you take your time to make up your mind. It’s hard work. But, it might be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
Working on a startup isn’t the fairy tale that you probably listened to from what I call fake-preneur — those guys who talk non-stop but really have nothing concrete to tell. Please do me a favor and forget them. Working on a startup is very hard and a task that not many are able to take on.
I don’t consider myself a startup expert and I’m not at all a successful entrepreneur. However, my experiences throughout 2013 gave me a lot of valuable insights that (I’m sure) will be interesting to someone else reading this.
Throughout 2012, I’ve worked in a huge company with expanding resources, well-established and good career opportunities. What I call today the ‘dark side of the force’ seemed to me a good place to be. But, that ended with me quitting even before the internship contract ended.
So, within just 3 months, I gave up a promising career that I’ve studied for many years and my family and friends were expecting me to walk on. This break was one of the biggest decisions of my life. And one of the best too.
Fortunately, during the short period I was taking the master, I started out as intern on Playnify. I already knew that the ‘dark side’ of the corporate world wasn’t made for me. On the other hand, I was avid to learn and create new things. This opportunity timing was neat and I took it.
During 4 months I worked essentially to hack growth (crucial tasks as the platform was launched in the first days of my internship). For the very first time I understood what meant working on a startup:
- Chaos is constant. You’ll witness founders going nuts with each other (not about yesterday’s football match but about their company’s life);
- You won’t even know what to do next (you and every single person in the office) — welcome to the startup world!
For the first time I felt that I was doing what I liked, at the right place and with the right people. What I learned in four months was well beyond what I learned in my short corporate experience. Probably it was even beyond what I learned during all the years I spent at university. There’s nothing better than getting your hands dirty and feeling what the real world is like.
Startups are underdogs. Usually competing against big companies. So, if the founders want to be successful they have to run faster than their competitors. As you work side-by-side with the founders, you realise that you’ve got to keep up with their strong pace. It hurts but makes you grow, more than ever.
My second experience working in a startup was a short-term contract with a full-time hire possibility. For the first time it was paid work on a startup. Yes, there are startups out there paying salaries! It was also the first time where I exactly knew what my job description was — managing everything digital and most of the customer relationship (community management). Plus, one of the founders and CEO of Vertty is a good friend of mine.
Once again, it was an incredible experience. A couple of months looked like a whole year as so much stuff took place within this short period of time. Believe me: this feeling is almost impossible to get outside the startup world. However, do you remember me saying that this isn’t a fairy tale? Yes, I ended up quitting the job. But the important thing to takeaway is that this is hard — this was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve already taken and it’d never happen in a corporation since it happened as a result of my strong involvement in the company.
By this time I was mingled inside the Portuguese startup community as result of other initiatives that I got involved in the past months. And so, in spite of having second thoughts after quitting a job that I really liked, I was sure of two things:
- I wanted to help out another startup;
- It’d not be so difficult to find a startup job through my private network.
Boom! Many folks contacted me. My previous work was good enough to show my professional value. I found the right challenge for me quickly. A recently pivoted and invested startup, GetSocial, convinced me to join their ranks. Just 2 or 3 weeks after the first contact, we closed the deal.
The team is small (and still is) and the tasks and responsibilities are huge. The odds are overwhelmingly against us — typically just a small percentage of the startups that receive seed investment succeed within a 5-year period; we aren’t running a company, we are scaling it — the amount of effort from our team is great. And, there are no fixed roles — one day I’m supposed to do a certain task, on the next day it changes drastically and what I did the day before becomes unnecessary. Still, I keep on fighting!
Today I’m able to say that I do what I love with people I like and respect. Despite the fact that I’m wearing multiple hats many times and of having no idea of where I’ll be 5 years from now, I love it.
So, do you really want to work in a startup? Yes? Start by exploring your own connections and asking for referrals. Groom your network by joining the startup community, introducing yourself and talking with awesome people, offering your help and making things that reflect your true nature and value. I guarantee you that after a while you will not remain invisible. And, after that, everything flows just naturally.