Source | LinkedIn : By Harsha Kumar
I have worked in startups in senior operating roles for a few years in the past. Some experiences were great and some not so much. In my role as an investor as well, I sometimes interview candidates for our portfolio companies as well as engage with founders on what they are looking for when they hire. Sometimes, even when there is a perfect match, it doesn’t quite stick. People end up quitting in a matter of weeks or months. If they don’t, often they are unhappy and don’t live up to their potential. The tell tale signs are generally there. Here’s a common pattern of the questions I have seen these people ask:
· How important/senior is this role?
· How many people will report to me?
· What specific piece is it that I will work on?
When I joined Ola, there was no other product manager. I was the first one. The scope of the role was undefined. I started out redesigning the app. The deadline was in 2.5 months and we didn’t have a development team yet to work on this piece. I had to learn app development and product design, find a solid designer and a team of star android, iOS and windows developers (when app development was still new to India) to work on the problem. Over time, I launched and scaled about 8 products in 2 years, all the while helping scale our tech and product teams as well. I was prepared for this hustle. It’s the reason I joined. I wanted to work with extra ordinary folks and be part of an extraordinary story.
I have come to realize that a person’s success at a startup (especially an early stage one) depends a lot on being self-aware about what they need in their career and figuring out whether a job at the startup can really help. These questions above, to me, are a reflection of a lack of understanding about what goes on at a company in its early stages.
I’m writing this post to outline what one can and cannot expect from a mid to senior management role at an early stage startup. Hope it helps readers make the right career move…
Rapid Career Progression
I have often found that people want to work with startups to accelerate their career. While startups are great at accelerating career trajectories, I believe that this is probably the worst reason for joining a startup.
Early stage startups are diamonds in the rough. Processes are not set, culture is still being figured out, day to day is chaotic and at times product-market fit is also still a question mark. For someone who has worked in a corporate environment before, this level of uncertainty can be quite painful. So unless your motivation is deeper than “rapid career growth”, you will likely be unhappy and hence be an average performer, at best. Why? Because the growth isn’t always obvious. One day you are doing well and the next day things are going to the dumps.