Life at a Startup

I’ve been networking with a lot of job seekers lately who have expressed their frustrations about finding good jobs in corporate America. Some of them have considered working for startups even though they know that sometimes working with a startup could be unstable. Others have even considered starting their own. Regardless, many of them were curious to know more about life at a startup to determine if it was the right choice for them. Luckily, I have recently connected with an individual who lives in Silicon Valley and has worked in different startup environments. She was happy to provide useful information about this.

Jocelyn Aucoin, who currently works at WorkSimple in San Francisco, has been kind enough to answer the following questions about startups. Here are some details to help give a realistic idea about it:

Ashley Perez (AP): How did you get involved with startups?

Jocelyn Aucoin (JA): “A good friend of mine originally approached me about helping him out with a startup he was working with, knowing I had a background of running my own business and knowing how key an autonomous work ethic is to working at a startup.  I was immediately hooked. Startup life really feeds my love of building and creating.”

AP: What are some of the most interesting lessons you’ve learned?

JA: “I’ve learned to be just as proud of my failures as I am my successes. If I’m not pushing myself, if I’m staying comfortable, then I’m probably pretty safe, right? But if I’m working to constantly do more with what I know, challenge the status quo, and think ‘sideways’, then I’m going to fail. It’s inevitable. And I’m totally fine with that. I’d rather try and fail then never try.”

AP: What are some examples of things that go against common belief in terms of starting a startup?

JA: “I think there’s a misconception that people ‘settle’ for working at startups. This is just not true. The brightest, bravest, most creative people I’ve met in my working career are the ones working for startups. If you want to be inspired – daily – it’s where you want to be.”

AP: What are some of the challenges that startup employees face?

JA: “The biggest challenge for me personally is the extreme ebb and flow. The work pace is unpredictable and things happen fast and without warning. That means you have to be on your toes at all times, ready to go. And whereas that’s difficult in terms of planning out a week or a month, it’s a catch-22 because it’s also what keeps me from getting bored.”

AP: What are some realistic situations that employees can deal with when accepting a position with a startup (i.e. lack of benefits, lack of stability?)

JA: “Well, there aren’t always a lack of benefits. That can be the case – but not always. It depends on the type of work you’re in and the level of the startup. But yeah – it’s realistic to expect a bit of instability. Again I’d say that’s what makes it exciting. It’s a bit like walking a tightrope. It’s not for the faint of heart.”

AP: What is the difference of a startup environment vs. an established company?

JA: “Established companies typically have ways that things have been done and they require things be done in this way. Startup culture is built around innovation – and that shakes down to every level. They will generally welcome new ways of thinking and new ideas which breeds energy and creativity. You notice the difference from the moment you step foot inside a startup. You can feel energy.”

AP: What is some advice you can give to job seekers who are considering working for a start up?

JA: “Practical advice? Identify the companies where you can see yourself and start connecting with the people who work there via in any way you can. Don’t send a blind resume. Instead, say you’d like to chat and share ideas. Remember, startup culture is about collaboration and ideation. And things move fast.  Also, these places don’t have big HR systems in place, so don’t expect process to move in an overly processed way. General advice? Buckle. your. seatbelt!”

I was thankful for connecting with Jocelyn because this seems to be a hot topic out in the working world. Her answers proved that startup life can be exciting. Also, working for a startup can have an equal share of failures mixed with successes. If your personality and work ethic match some of the things Jocelyn had mentioned, I’m sure you will find your experience rewarding no matter what the outcome may be.

 More about Jocelyn: Jocelyn Aucoin is the Community and Social Media Manager at San Francisco and Minneapolis – based startup, WorkSimple. Find her at Blue Bottle Coffee or on Twitter at @jocelynaucoin.

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Will Your Company Benefit from Social Media?

Recently I was involved in a discussion regarding social media in the workplace. Different individuals in this discussion had debated whether or not using social media would be beneficial or counter-productive. Although I do agree that some organizations wouldn’t find social media helpful, there are plenty of other companies that could use it as a useful tool. Today’s post will help educate companies on how social media can be functional.

The individuals debating that social media would be counter-productive mainly thought that it was only for personal use. They wondered how “gossip” or quirky status updates would help and believed that this would distract employees from doing their jobs. Although those are true points, there are also different social media sites that are geared towards business use. For example, Work Simple, Salesforce, and Yammer are three companies that come to mind.

If utilized properly, social media could be beneficial to companies for the following reasons:

Collaboration is easier. Technology is allowing businesses to be able to reach audiences on a global scale. To be able to keep up with this: employees are now available around the world; are working remotely while traveling; or are working different shifts to be accessible to all time zones. If all employees can’t participate in business meetings, it can be very hard for teams to effectively work together. Social media can allow employees to collaborate at any time and in any location so no one ends up missing out.

Employees get more exposure to executives and managers. Social media allows managers, HR, and executives to easily see which employees are influential. Many employees can have a hard time proving they are worthy of a promotion or raise. This tool will allow management to see employees’ documented efforts. It will display their progression and contributions in a way that validates their eligibility for promotion or rewards. It is a social recognition and performance management tool.

It can increase employee engagement. Social media can empower employees by giving them a voice. Additionally, having a tool that keeps a record of employees’ suggestions or ideas can make them become accountable for following through.

It can allow employees to communicate in a way that creates a solid community within the organization. Employees might work in different departments, locations, or time zones. Or, employees might work in a role that has them strapped to a desk or on the road. With those being realistic factors, employees can’t always converge in a way to get to know each other. Social media can allow employees to communicate throughout all levels of the business-spectrum. This is a team building tool that can create stronger cross-departmental teams and company community.

Employees will know who the correct point of contact is. I know I’ve wasted so much time trying to figure out who I need to contact for more information or assistance. This tool can allow employees know who does what in the business so they can get what they need faster. It can also help employees follow up easier by letting them to see who else was working on a project/task. This feature permits them to contact that person for clarification, status updates, or help. Pictures can also help employees put a name and job function to a face.

It can encourage learning and development. Employees can connect with others throughout the company and set up mentoring sessions. Additionally, this can be used as a knowledge base in which employees can find information faster so they can do their job more efficiently or help customers quicker. In addition to this, those using the tool can expose other users to helpful information by posting useful resources, invites to webinars, and so on.

It is a brainstorming tool. Great ideas don’t always get formulated right away. Discussion boards can be used as brainstorming meetings which will let employees provide thoughtful, innovative, and creative ideas when it comes to them. Having suggestions easily available can allow other members to jump in, build off of it, and develop it into something functional.

There are so many benefits to using business social media that I could go on and on about it. I feel that majority of companies could use it to their advantage if they utilize and customize it in a way that suits their industry, mission, and culture. Hopefully this information can open up minds to the endless possibilities that can come from using this tool.

If you want to read more about the benefits of business social media, please click on the following links:

Yammer-Business Benefits
Work Simple- Performance Management for Social Goals
Salesforce- The Social Enterprise Solution