Saturday, May 23, 2015

SHOULD YOU WORK FOR A STARTUP?

Since everyone, their mom, and their dog seems to be doing a start-up these days, I thought it would be appropriate to write this piece.

Having been in the thick of things before as well as from observations and conversations, here's my two cents worth.



BAD

   Salary
In case you weren't already aware, here's news for you. The typical startup generally cannot and does not pay well. However, do not think you are being shortchanged or that the founders are taking home the fattest paychecks while doling out the miserable leftovers to employees. In fact, it's normally the founders (very nobly I might add) who take home the most pitiful amount. It is the usual to operate at a loss for a year or two as they need time to gain traction, break even, and become profitable. Count yourself lucky if what you receive is able to cover your daily expenses such as petrol, toll, parking, and lunch. 

   Workload
Startups tend to function on as lean a team as possible. This attributes to you being a jack of all trades. To add on to your duties as web developer / designer / copywriter / etc, you'll also be taking on the roles and responsibilities of courier, plumber, merchandise packer, handyman, and more. 

   Career progression & Job security
The percentage of startups becoming shutdowns is seriously substantial, so the path of your long term future is vague and uncertain. While you may be able to ride sky high if the startup you're with takes off and make it big, such is not a guarantee. 

GOOD

   Learning
As I said above, startups normally function on as lean a team as possible. While this does mean that you'll be handling a wide jobscope, it also serves as a valuable opportunity for learning and development. During my time I was not only a marketeer but also event coordinator, content developer, creative consultant, copywriter, and more.

   Mentorship
Similar to learning, but on a whole new level. A mentor is someone who guides you not just at work, but also further on a personal depth. When you work in big established corporations, people may be to disengaged to even bother to ask you how your day was. In contrast when I was at a startup, my boss was a close confidante and counselor to me through my roughest times. Up til today, his words of advice still resound strongly with me.

   People / Culture
From what I've observed, the culture in startup companies are incredible. People are young and energetic, enthusiastic and fun, hip and happening. As you'll be working very closely with everyone (what I said about startups being lean), the team is usually very tight knit. Who needs friends or a social life when you have such amazing colleagues? (Said in jest... well partly.)

   Dress Code
I was contemplating if this should be included but hey why not since it's one of the most obvious differences compared to working at a corporate company and something that matters as well. Starchy collared shirts or sharply creased slacks are out - jeans, polo tees, sneakers, sandals, and shorts are in. 

***
Personally, I feel everyone should experience what it's like to work for a startup at least once in their lives. As for the long run? 

That's for you to conclude. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

PLAY PRETEND

It was a weekend evening in Vientiane and I'd had the privilege of being invited for dinner with a group of expats living and working in the Laotian capital. 

Our table for ten had creamy porcelain plates and shiny silverware, a tablecloth with fringed edges and flowers on the table. Pleasant yellow lamps glowed above us and soft classical music sailed in the air as we placed our orders ; steak, filet mignon, salmon, goat cheese quiche, and more.

They were a diverse bunch, ranging in age from their mid twenties to late forties and hailed from different parts of the globe ; Germany, France, Sweden, etc.

As we immersed ourselves in conversation (and the bread basket) while waiting for our food to arrive, the nice English lady (she told me she was past fifty) whom I had the pleasure of sitting next to shared the intriguing story of her past.

   " I married my highschool sweetheart, studied finance in university, got a good job in a bank as soon as I graduated. We had a house in London. It was perfect. My life was perfect. "

   " One day, he just came home and told me that he'd decided that he didn't want to be married anymore! It came as a bit of a shock. This was about 5 years ago. "

   " We sold the house and I quit my job. I decided to head to Southeast Asia to travel and do a bit of soul searching and reflection. That was how I ended up working with elephants in Laos. I'm happy and I enjoy it now, but I can't say I'll still be here in three years, or maybe even one year. "

   " I always thought I had it all and would be quietly settled and content by now. Ha! Life is so different. Eeach day I wake up and it's an adventure. It's not what I'd expected at 50, but I feel so alive ; I embrace every moment. "

    " Life's too short to be 'what if'ing and 'hmm'ing and 'haa'ing and sitting on the fence. I don't know where I'll be next year, only that I'll get there a day at a time. People ask me what's the plan, what's next ; I tell them that I'll figure it out as I go along. "

   " Young lady, what do you think? "

Well.. I always thought that people pretty much have their lives figured out when they're adults.

Her face crinkled up pleasantly and she wobbled with laughter.

   " Sweetheart, you don't get better at figuring life out as you grow up. "

   " You just get better at pretending you do. "