Last Friday I spoke at a lunch with the judiciously awesome students of Columbia Women in Computer Science on what it’s like to work for a startup. I spent a week searching the internet and my soul in preparation… I learned some history: women dominating computing at its advent, their decline in numbers in the 70s, and evidence that they (we) are making a recent comeback.
I also came up with one pressing piece of advice. Never compromise yourself for the sake of fitting in with a group. It’s not worth the effort. Why? Because 1. it’s obvious to others (it’s unnatural, which is bad when you see the same people everyday) and 2. you will lose a part of yourself that most likely had value to begin with.
When I joined my company in April, I was one of the more social people on the app development side of the business. I was new to the industry, and almost immediately and subconsciously, I took on a more composed, quiet demeanor to match the people around me. I continued to socialize, but at my desk I sat quietly and worked like everyone else. (Credit is also due to our open office layout, but that’s another post). It begot more reclusive behavior, and by November I was uncomfortable — my teammates had seen little of my personality, and it became a habit not to voice what I was thinking. I had sold myself short.
Don’t accept an offer without getting to know the people you’ll be interfacing with regularly. Period. Have a conversation, have lunch — just talk enough to get a sense of how your personalities jive. It’ll save you in the long run.
Startups are fun; work at one especially if you want the opportunity to make an impact somewhere and gain valuable skills. We’re often willing to make riskier bets, including hires. As Sam, another speaker at the lunch and founder of Hopscotch said last Friday, startups are one set of employers that value candidates based on their potential.
Graduating WICS: go forth and conquer.