Adjusting to Startup Life

August 15, 2013

Topic tags

Mercer Smith Looper

Customer Happiness

When I was first hired, I came to Wistia with the understanding that I was going to be challenged — not something that I’m used to. I know this sounds like bragging, but I was one of those kids that everybody hated. I didn’t have to study, I finished homework quickly, new hobbies were pretty passively easy to pick up. I never really had to try.

Acclimating to Wistia was a little bit difficult. I wasn’t used to being allowed to work on whatever I wanted. At my past jobs, there was a constant requirement to check in – to make sure that you were meeting your metrics, that management knew what your goals were moving forward, that you had had at least one “development” conversation that day, and so on.

“Just do what feels right for you.” Jeff, who had been my major contact during hiring, smiled and nodded at me on my first day at Wistia. So, I sat. How am I supposed to know what feels right for me when I just got here? In the past, although I had been driven by my own internal compulsions to be the best (Wistians are super duper competitive), it had ultimately been the praise of my peers and superiors that validated what I was doing as awesome or worth my time.

Wistia’s culture, instead, is about trusting one another and pushing past what’s comfortable to reveal what is best. We work hard, play hard, and are sometimes hard on ourselves. There is no automatic validation — you are your own validation machine, and there isn’t anyone there to hand-hold you through your workday. I thought I’d share a few ways that I’ve acclimated to being, as we affectionately termed it, part of a “small pond filled with whales.”

Ask for what you need.

Yes, I know, it can be really scary to step up to someone who you see as a superior and ask them for something. For me, it was feedback, but it really could be anything (If you think there is a lack of peanut butter in the office, tell them. There’s nothing worse than no PB). If you need something that you aren’t getting, or think there are things that could be done better, providing that feedback will help both the company and yourself grow.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

I’m not saying to rush forward without considering the ramifications, but if you have to have your hand held through the entire process, you probably won’t be very happy once the metaphorical training wheels get taken off. Try to do things on your own: there’s a reason that mother birds push their chicks out of the nest when they think they’re ready to fly. The company hired you because they thought you were totally rad, so believe in yourself!

Modesty is the best policy.

Don’t think that just because your coworkers haven’t thrown you a party because you did an awesome job on your first day that they didn’t notice. I found that once I did finally get the feedback that I pestered everybody about, it was all basically positive. They notice you and the great things you’re doing. Trust me.

Treat yourself with respect.

Nobody wants to be around somebody that is a General Negative. Try to be positive about yourself and avoid self-deprecation. Even if you feel like you’re constantly making mistakes, chances are you’re just being hard on yourself. It’s better to keep that inner, maybe-biased scrutiny under wraps, and keep the real productive feedback out in the open.

Be open to recommendations.

When I started working at Wistia, I thought I was the shit and that I had the best opinions about certain things. Tame your hubris (if you, like me, have it) and learn to listen to what other people have to say. Ultimately, I’m a good listener as well as a blabbermouth, so it all worked out in the end. Also, take every piece of feedback into consideration. Even if you don’t agree with it, try to figure out where it came from and how you can apply it.

Believe in the people around you.

I know I already said this, but Wistia hired me (and your company hired you) because they believe in me and what I have to offer. Even in my darkest moments of self-doubt and confusion, I (and Jordan and Max, my lovely fellow Customer Happiness teammates) reminded myself that I was here for a reason. Even if I didn’t believe in myself, they believed in me, and that meant a lot because they are Smart (with a capital “S”). Sometimes, just remembering that there are people around that love you can make all the difference. :]

I know that these steps may sound hokey and cheesy and maybe a little bit preachy, but honestly, I’ve moved from self-loathing to self-loving and I owe it all to these few realizations (and the wonderfully patient people that I work with that deal with my idiosyncrasies and neuroticism).

August 15, 2013

Topic tags

Mercer Smith Looper

Customer Happiness

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