ProDev fireside chat with Matt Shobe
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the first of the ProDev event series put on by Young Professionals of Seattle. Guest speaker, Matt Shobe (currently Chief Product Officer at Spare5 in Seattle) shared his incredible history of working in startups, a few of which have been (and are) very successful.
During the “fireside chat” with Matt, he was able to give attendees a little bit of insight into what it is like to work in a startup environment, how to make yourself standout as a candidate, and what he has taken away from his career personally.
Here are a few of the takeaways I had:
Be willing to adapt
In the startup culture, things are always changing. You have to be willing to roll with the punches and be “secure in the insecurities” that come along with working in a startup environment. Obviously a majority of start-ups fail, so you need to be ok with the possibility that you will not be spending a large portion of your career working at that specific company. Although this sounds like a negative, it makes work an exciting and new challenge every single day.
Consider your personal values
The key to having a successful startup is hiring the right people. The values need to align. You can’t employ someone because you have a feeling that they are a fit, you have to make sure that they are on board and that their beliefs align with the mission of the company. These beliefs need to resonate top-to-bottom for any potential candidate and should be as clearly discussed and tested as possible in an interview cycle.
Write. Write. Write.
The ability to write is an incredibly strong skill. Not in the sense that you need to name yourself as an authority on any type of subject, but because you need to be able to express yourself professionally in a written fashion. It is a great indicator of what kind of a communicator you are. Honestly, this is important in any phase of your career. It is a skill that takes constant work, but will make everything you say more powerful.
Reliability and respect
If you are junior in your career, or at any point really, the best thing you can do is be respectful and keep your word. In collaborative environments, it is easy to get too comfortable. Always remember that even though you may get along extremely well with a superior, he is your boss first and your friend second.
Also, don’t make promises if you can’t keep them. From small tasks like sending out an invite to a meeting to the bigger tasks like meeting a project deadline, if you don’t keep the promises you are making, you are communicating that you are unreliable.
Working at a start-up means you are on a small team that is trying to achieve a large goal. You will probably be wearing many hats, and you will have to be ok with that. It also means that everything you do can have an incredibly strong impact on the company, in a negative and positive sense. Matt called this “the ability to single-handedly destroy the company.” Arguably, one of the most exciting parts of working in a startup is the large effect you can have on the bottom line. Knowing that you’re being counted on and that your work really matters to the people you’re surrounded by provides a special motivation to deliver.
It is so impressive to me that leaders in Seattle like Matt Shobe and even those at YPOS (Young Professionals of Seattle) are taking the time to advise and mentor the younger professional generation. It means a great deal and I am so excited about the incredible things that are happening in Seattle’s startup world. This is why I will be attending a few various events during Seattle Startup Week where companies like Rover.com, Porch, and even Spare5 will be diving into various entrepreneurial topics and celebrating the startup community that has been built here in Seattle!