One of the things I remember distinctly about the first day of Startup Institute came from Jenn, the director. She said very matter of fact, “Do you feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose yet? We do it on purpose. It’s exactly what working for a startup is like.”
She wasn’t kidding.
Below is a snapshot of my schedule this week. You’ll notice it’s devoid of all of the actual work, networking, coffee chats and interviews that have to be done on my own time. Wonder where I’m fitting “my own time?” Me too. But I’m loving every single minute.
Here’s what SIC life is like in a nutshell:
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are in-track days. For me, that means technical marketing and a whole heck of a lot of it. And we’re not talking reading and regurgitation tests here, folks. Try full-blown learning to do as you go. Getting a crash course in HTML and CSS and then going and building a website (here’s my spare domain that I’m noodling with to hone my skills). Installing Google Analytics on a site and creating conversion goals. Learning the latest and greatest in SEO (hint: meta tags aren’t it) and implementing a real life strategy on said site. And having about 48 hours to absorb all of this information before moving onto the next thing.
Mondays and Wednesdays are also host to what SIC fondly calls “Fireside Chats” or “Founder Talks.” Imagine if you got to meet your business idol and ask them just about any question under the sun. I get to do that nearly half a dozen times a week. Financials? Cool. Background? Done. Best part of the job? Shittiest part? What was it like to fire the last six salespeople he/she hired? All fair game.
Tuesdays are unusual in that they allow small windows to breathe and send that email, or write that blog post you left half-finished because you passed out on your keyboard from exhaustion the night before. The morning is usually reserved for project team sprint planning (which I’ll go into later), and the rest of the day is generally set aside for check-ins with the staff, and also some soft skill core programming (interviews, resumes, presentation skills, education on the funding scene, etc).
Thursdays (my favorite days) are for partner projects. At the beginning of the program, we all got split into teams, assigned a local startup and given a specific project to complete. I don’t know how it happened, but I landed an incredible team and my #1 choice startup – UrbanBound, a corporate relocation app that is completely shaking up a pretty stagnant and stodgy industry. My team consists of two sales and business development guys, a designer and another marketer – and we’re basically launching an entirely new sector of their business. Everything from market research and segmentation to a comprehensive inbound campaign. And on Thursdays we all work out of their office like legitimate members of the team.
It’s overwhelming at best and intimidating at worst – but there’s not one day where I regret joining this family. It’s taught me that I’m capable of so much more, that I’m so much smarter than I ever gave myself credit for, and that I’m absolutely heading in the right direction in finding somewhere to hang my hat that’ll actually make me happy.