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Complementing my last couple posts about my career path, I’ve held several job titles over the years that are not progressive. Heck, they’re in several different functional areas – sales, marketing, consulting / services, solutions / product manager. And usually, my job title reflected just a sliver of what I do.

A lot of folks move from company to company, job to job for progression in the job ladder. That can be:

  • Consultant > Senior Consultant > Project Manager > Senior Project Manager > Associate Partner > Partner, etc.
  • Sales Development Representative > Account Executive > Sales Development Manager > Enterprise Sales Manager > Director of Enterprise Sales > Vice President of Enterprise Sales, etc.

My path has been:

  • Consultant (IBM) > Consultant (Chainnovations) > Senior Consultant (Chainalytics) > Head of Business Development (Body Boss Fitness – co-founded) > Managing Partner (Five Points Digital – co-founded) > Head of Sales and Marketing (SalesWise) > Solutions Architect (Autit, current company)

Clearly, my roles at startups including my own has had an “inflation” of titles. My current role looks like a clear “demotion” if anything. And yes, if anything, it is.

However, what I’ve realized is that titles right now are meaningless. Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things sheds his thoughts on titles which are largely similar to mine. Though, he goes on to talk about why they matter including for employees’ career progression, for external recognition / structure of communication, etc. However, there is so much to be done at an early-stage startup, especially, that titles are fluid. The responsibilities can be focused in specific areas, but are still largely, fluid.

My role as a solutions architect is similar to that of a product manager but also with sales engineer responsibilities. I’m employee number 7, and I am one of the most seasoned in sales, marketing, and customer success – the growth roles of a startup. We also have no marketer at the moment. So, I’m the one building the website, the collateral, engaging the PR firm – being the one-man marketing band.

Going into the role and accepting the offer, I knew I had to role up my sleeves. THAT’S EXACTLY WHY I JOINED! I wanted to have a hand in more and to get sh!t done. My experience is less about having hoity toity titles and more about getting things done to accomplish the greater goal – to build a great company.

In a company where there are so few individuals, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of things to do both on a strategic, leadership realm as well as in the individual contributor, tactical realm. I’m good with that. And truth is, there will be attrition one way or another in an early-stage startup. At this point, not all hires are going to be the right fit for what needs to be done now. Not all hires are going to know how to execute without the support and clear focus of being in a large corporate environment. Roles and the job titles that go with them will be fluid. It’s best to focus on what needs to get done and build a great company. Being the Head of Business Development means nothing if the company is unsuccessful. Trust me. I know.

The other day, a real estate agent came by to look at my house. In my house, shoes come off and stay at the door. My real estate agent started taking off her shoes and noticed my extension collection of shoes.

“Are all of these your shoes?”

“Yup!”

I have about 14 pairs of shoes at the door. I realize that as a male, I buck the trend of most. Most of my shoes are function-specific, though. I have shoes for:

  • Running
  • Lawn/ yard work
  • Black formal
  • Sandals
  • Brown business
  • Soccer turfs
  • Soccer cleats
  • Everyday
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Etc.

I use specific shoes to help me be at my best. My running shoes, for example, are just for running. I’ve used shoes for running and “everyday”, and found my feet to be cramped or hurting after long runs before. Then, my hiking shoes are also for when I go up north with my girlfriend during the winter months and there’s snow on the ground. These shoes are waterproof and have traction for the outdoor trails — very different outsole required vs. normal street. My bike shoes are strictly used in tandem with my pedals on my mountain bike. My soccer cleats are, of course, for soccer on natural ground. My turf soccer shoes have a different sole to accommodate the turf fields I typically play on for some soccer leagues.

 

I’ve become a bit elitist in my shoes. It’s obviously an expensive way to live; though, each function-specific shoe lasts that much longer than having a general do-everything shoe. Sometimes, a general shoe just doesn’t work or could cause injury in a sport.

 

I mention this story because I’ve noticed a similar trend in my nomadic work life. I’m the typical mobile worker. I am at Starbucks this morning. There’s no plug nearby, so I’ve decided not to use my Microsoft Surface Pro, yet. It only has a battery life of 4-5 hours now, and I plan to be here for a while this Saturday morning. I’m using my iPad (non-Pro), my alternative portable device, to write this post and hammer out emails. I love having this device as I can take digital notes vs. the written notebooks in the past which, as an archive, is hard to review.

 

My iPad started out with 30% battery life. I noticed my phone only had 14% battery life. I plugged in my Anker external battery which has two USB ports — one for each of my iPad and my Galaxy S9. Now, my iPad is at 59% and my S9 is at 42%.

 

My Surface Pro is my preferred mobile driver as it’s hugely powerful and can do everything I want for multi-tasking to my heart’s (and brain’s) desire. But I love using my iPad for very focused, specific applications. My S9 is a diversion with limited professional application when my other devices are unavailable.

 

But at home, I also have a 2013 MacBook Pro. It’s very powerful as well. It’s hooked up to a 28” external monitor. It sits on a stand to elevate to eye level while Bluetooth Apple keyboard and trackpad give me added comfort. The other day, I had my Surface Pro connected to a 24” external monitor next to my MacBook workstation, and I had my iPad out to take notes. But for the most part when I’m home, I use my MacBook because it’s got everything set up for long-term comfort.

 

Thanks to cloud apps, I can do just about everything seamlessly. I save a file on my Surface Pro in my Google Drive while at the coffee shop and leave the device in my bag at home. At home, I can access the file on my MacBook Pro to continue working. I took notes earlier on my Microsoft OneNote on my iPad, and I need to remember what that was, so I pull up OneNote on my MacBook, too. They’re synced together!

 

I leave home for dinner. While waiting, a client writes me an email that I see on my Galaxy S9 via the Gmail app. I can retrieve the file I was working on via the Google Drive app. Oops, did I save the file on my Desktop and not on the Google Drive? No problem. I can access my MacBook Pro via remote desktop. I’ll just log in and drop the file into Google Drive now.

 

Meanwhile, I need access to a team account that I don’t have the password for directly. My teammate’s out for dinner as well. But wait, I can log in still because I can use my LastPass account that has shared account details for the team. I can log in!

 

Oh, and I still have a Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus ultrabook laptop from 2012. But because it’s an ultrabook, its internal organs are slowing down these days. So, I don’t use it much. It’s still next to my workstation at home anyways.

 

When it comes to having options, having flexibility, having the tools to do things better, costs can rise significantly. It makes us that much better than if we were to go the generalist route, doesn’t it? In this digital age, how much of that can I legitimately start cutting? I’ve added subscriptions to help keep my development code private. I am archiving more files in the Google cloud. Thus, I must continue paying for growing storage. I have services that keep my sites up and running like this one. Those costs will have to continue lest I give up sites and domains.

 

Costs are only rising. When I decide to build my next company, my personal burn rate will be higher. Should I take on another role full-time before my next venture? Will I be more comfortable with the new lifestyle? Will my desire for “more” and “better” handcuff me to a new, higher-cost normal?

 

This is what happens when I clear my head in the morning and ask the deeper questions. It gives me a chance to evaluate my direction.