Don’t specialize! Be good at many things, especially nowadays
October 20, 2015
Have you heard the saying – “Be the best in something and you won’t stay without a job.”? I have and for sure you heard it, too. But how many people can be the best in something? The saying has truth in it and it’s good to follow this advice if it was 1996 or your plan is to work for a corporation. Working for a big company isn’t bad but most of the money and especially excitement nowadays is in the startup world (US startups has raised $48.3 billion in 2014 which is up 61% from 2013 according to Bloomberg). And I mean startups you’ve founded or ones you join when they
re in a really early stage so that you can get enough equity, feel the vibe and learn how to build a company.
Be good at many things
If you are a founder or an early employee (as such you’re as important as the founders. Why? Read this TED talk!) in 99% of the time you’ll be responsible for many different things every day. Let me give you an example with my day today, October 8th. As a founder of Grajdanite and Biz Dev director at Dreamix, my previous day ended at 01:00 am with a rejection from a prospective US partner for Dreamix. This morning started with a live TV participation explaining for 20 minutes what is Grajdanite. Then, immediately after that, I had a meeting with Sofia municipality with which we work to solve the problem of bad road behavior. In the meantime, I had to reschedule an interview with a talent that we may hire at Dreamix as he fell sick. After this two meetings, I went to the office where I had lunch with my colleagues and was immediately called to go to a meeting with a member of the Turkish parliament who is visiting Bulgaria and who was interested in starting Grajdanite in his home country. After this, I came back to the office to prepare a partnership offer for the CEO of a company I met two days ago. Then I sat down and updated the company's’ Twitter and LinkedIn accounts as they are great to hear and engage with your users, and to get new prospects for your product. In short, I spent some time on inbound marketing. Then it was time to clear the mailboxes and now (it is 18:26) I am writing this article as I hope it may help someone on a crossroad. Oh! And by the end of the day, I must take my French and java lessons.
Why am I sharing my day with you?
To begin with, because it may help someone make the right choice when considering on what to focus. Secondly, because I believe that we can learn from each other if you share the story of your day, too. And most importantly - because I felt so good despite having this super busy and a mentally exhausting day that I want to inspire a desire in you to experience such emotions. By writing what you did, you structure everything in your head to analyze and understand the pros and cons of your actions.
I realized that by doing so many different things, I constantly feel alive, excited and motivated. I cannot imagine only selling and sending requests to the devs. I want to participate in the development so that I can understand better both customers and engineers perspectives. Cannot just develop the product and not listen how the users interact with it via social media. And can’t just code it without speaking and deeply understand our partners’ needs (Sofia Municipality) so that I know what is needed for the process to be great.
Finally, you as a founder or early employee represent the company. You are the company and must know how to write blogs, communicate with the media and hire the needed talents. However, one must educate themselves about using Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. One must learn how to behave before going live on TV. One must be prepared so that they can ask the right questions and find the fish under the rock. You should know how to promote well, inspire and lure the talented people to your company. For sure, practice helps but don’t go barefoot. There are books and great articles written on all these topics. But, here comes the time issue – if you want to be the best in one thing you will be totally devoted to it and won’t have time to study, learn or do the above-mentioned activities that are necessary if you want to experience such an excitement. A tradeoff must be made which is super hard.
The person that epitomize this article is Parker Conrad’s. Here’s his amazing story. He even learned Python to build the early version of Zenefits:
"I was non-technical at the last company, and I’m still obviously a sh--y engineer." Parker Conrad
How can you be a visionary if you dont participate in most of the activities especially in the beginning when the company is formed. How will you know what really happens if you don’t communicate with all the stakeholders? It will be really hard to address issues if you haven’t participated in almost all the company’s affairs. My advice is to go and acquire new skills, become a learning animal and you’ll experience the excitement all this will bring to your life.