These days my life has gotten very busy. My weekends and weekdays have merged into a continuous stream of conversation via phone, text and email. Sleep is a luxury as I strain to get that last blog post up before the deadline. Many times my sleep is interrupted with an idea or a reminder as I quickly get up to make a note of it before I make my way back to bed. At the office, we have white boards everywhere filled with brainstorming notes, ideas for innovation, and user experience flows. And where we've run out of whiteboard space, the hallway walls post reams and reams of paper lined with even more ideas.
Our workspace includes a long table with a few movable desk drawers, and my co-workers sit beside each other. Think of it as a dinner table... except the tables display laptops, coffee cups and the odd pencil holder and strewn-about post-it note pad. Getting work done means you require the ever-handy headphones to drown out the conversations and the noise. When we have meetings, we simply remove our headphones. Private conversations necessitate the use of a vacant hallway spot or Google chat. We have no formal reception area because we need to make room for our burgeoning workforce. We all work in close quarters..... and I wouldn't have it any other way!
My days are filled with keeping up many balls in the air while continuing to ideate! Every day brings a new challenge and it is never the same as the day before. And I absolutely love it!
The Drone of Corporate Life
I came from corporate life and have felt like a cog in the wheel of a huge corporate structure. At the time I had a work-to-live mentality, so it didn't matter that projects I worked so hard to push through were suddenly "discontinued" or postponed till' later. The flexible hours were enough to justify the balanced life I lived. But soon it became frustrating. As I started working more and more on Internet technology, I became more and more constrained as the powers-at-be unwittingly put up roadblocks at these yet-unknown ventures, screaming "non-compliance" or "security risk."
I did not have the political strength to influence decisions so inevitably initiatives suffered. As I moved into social media later on, I experienced the same barriers as my passion for the space and my eagerness to spread what I had learned was met with mild acceptance and a desire to proceed with caution. This attitude stifled the many programs and the reluctance to embrace change resulted in less than stellar results. In each case, I witnessed this mandate from the top: Prove it otherwise maintain status quo i.e. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
The Passionate will Reap the Rewards
Start-up life is a very different environment. It has its challenges... but also its defining moments. What we lack in established environments, its perks and process, we more than make up in people and culture. If you can imagine a place where you alone have a chance to make a difference; where your ideas can generate into an amazing product; where change is not only embraced, it's rewarded.. this exists and this is why start-up life can be addictive. I often hear the phrase, "If you're doing what you love, then you'll never work a day in your life." It defines me and people like me. This is a place where all my "killed ideas" can come to the forefront. There is no one putting up roadblocks. In a start-up, no one says, "You can't do that." It's all about innovation and finding solutions.
The Quest to Change Culture
I spoke to a young co-op student the other day. He was given an amazing opportunity to work on the development a major mobile product for the company. His role was integral to the success of the product launch. He said to me that he would have never gotten this type of experience anywhere else and he was incredibly grateful for the experience. In a start-up you take ownership your work. You are given the freedom to test and fail (but as is the typical mentality, fail early and fail fast) and try again. Our founder talks about our business as a journey: it will evolve and the input will be derived from every individual regardless of status.
And that's the real crux of what defines a start-up: its employees. Encourage everyone to create and innovate. Every idea is listened to and evaluated. Those "serial-entrepreneurs" get it and they, in turn, fight to create the same atmosphere for those of us who haven't experienced this. This instigates a buzz and excitement that generates staggering productivity. At the end of the day, what a start-up is able to accomplish is the ability to develop a culture of passion, energy and commitment that is tireless and self-perpetuating. The corporate world can't touch this!
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