Adjusting to the Pace of a Startup
22 February, 2022
Making an Unknown Transition
A few years ago, I moved from a corporate employer to a fast-growing startup. I would describe the emotions I felt as both excited and scared. I knew what I was getting myself into – or at least I thought I did. I had never worked in a startup before, although I read, heard, and watched others make the transition. When I made the transition, it was a lot different from the experiences I heard about, and I learned a lot from that career jump.
Learnings From the Startup World
The Theme of Isolation:
As soon as I moved from my large corporate enterprise, I noticed how isolated I was in the startup. It wasn’t even that the company was half the size, but rather there was nobody with the same experience or mindset that I had. I will say that I think my feeling of isolation was amplified – since I was the first product person in the organization.
It was difficult to collaborate and spitball ideas with others in the startup. I struggled to get validation in some cases, as I was the only one in the org that was focused on the product.
To mitigate the silo that I felt I worked in, I leveraged my own network of product managers. I spoke with my previous colleagues and discussed my thoughts and ideas so that I wasn’t the sole individual making decisions. I felt that having another person to lean on in a decision made me feel more secure and validated.
To grow my network, I would go to events based around product management and network with the other individuals there. I had many product leaders provide me with actionable advice that one could describe as a mentor relationship.
This skill of networking and collaborating between peers outside of my direct organization has continued to help me in my career as I grow. When I’m stuck on a decision, speaking with someone that can be pragmatic about the situation allows me to make an objective decision.
When I joined this startup, I knew that the internal operations would be quicker than I was used to. It still surprised me how fast decisions were made and how little red tape there was on bureaucracy. I found it incredibly energizing that decisions were made in this fashion – in fact, it was one of the reasons I left big corporate.
Hitting an Executive Role:
I contribute my success and quick growth to working in the startup world. It’s challenged me personally as it has professionally. I’ve grown more in the past three years in terms of title hierarchy, as well as my skill set as a leader. I moved from a sole contributor to becoming an organizational leader – heading the product org and a team of product managers.
I don’t think I would have been able to grow my skills and role this quickly working in big corporate. I wasn’t able to wear as many hats or gain as many opportunities, so I recommend joining a startup for everyone – especially those that work in the product. Startups allow team members to have touchpoints all across the organization, meaning that individuals have a say in how it grows.
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