6 Things I’ve Learned Working at a Start Up

June 22, 2015 • By


Start Up is not a regular structured company. There is a specific culture and workflow, which you can’t find anywhere else.

December of 2014 I began a job search. I worked as a creative director at my church and enjoyed it a lot, but due to my growing family and financial needs I knew I had to find a new workplace.

January of 2015, after going through several stages, I had a personal interview with the biggest Pepsi distributor in north west. I already pictured myself getting a bike and riding it to work. But at the last interview I found out that one of the responsibilities was to design materials for another, sister-company which sells alcohol. Due to my strong anti-alcohol beliefs, it didn’t work out. So I was back on my search game.

A few days passed by and I remembered that one of my friends just got a job as a creative director at a new company. I asked him to let me know if they’ll be looking for a designer. Soon enough, I got a text from him saying they would like to see me for an interview the next day (more proof that connections are one of the most valuable things). Excitement was going through the roof, and I was getting ready for an interview.

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Wikipedia gives a good definition for what a start up company is here; but I assume if you clicked on the title of this article you already have a general idea, so let’s begin:

  1. Learn to Learn

Since the very first day you’ll realize that what you know is not enough. The amount of information released to the world every day is indescribable! Software you just learned will probably be outdated in less than a year, and if you don’t just want to keep your head above the water but catch the wave, you have to be able to continually learn, and learn fast. As example, during the first few weeks, because I was working with our iOS developer on designing an app, I had to get out of my comfort photoshop zone and dive into learning a new program (Sketch). Now when I am involved in marketing as well, the amount of different tools, programs, site, etc. is just crazy.

  1. Boss is not a babysitter

One of the reasons I wanted this job was the leadership who interviewed me. I say that not because they probably will read this, but because at the interview I realized they know so much of what I want to learn. A start up is not your regular 9 – 5 job. No one counts your hours or checks what time you came and left. Your boss or manager won’t babysit or gendarme you, what matters is the result!

Freedom requires discipline!

And while it might sound like a sweet deal, if you don’t have the discipline and organization skills, you will start slacking and end up way behind on your responsibilities, which can lead to the end of your fun ride.

  1. Overdeliver

007(photo: Alain Delorme)

This can be applied to a regular job as well, but I still wanted to mention it. Overdeliver. If you got hired as a secretary, graphic designer or programmer, find something else you can be helpful at; event planning, social media management, copywriting, etc. I wasn’t thinking about it in the moment, but I was so passionate about what we did that I start offering any help in marketing, social media, even creating some texts (which probably wasn’t a good idea with my English skills and grammatical mistakes). Two months in, our CEO offered me the Project Manager position.

But don’t try to fake it or do only things your management will notice. That’s not what I’m talking about. I learned this principle from one of my mentors, pastor Chris Estrada. When he used to work at a luxury dealership in Dallas, TX he would pick up garbage as he was walking on the dealership’s territory. Not for somebody to notice, but because of his attitude towards the place. Sure enough one of the bosses saw it and promoted him. The sooner you will own your position and treat it as if it would be your own business, the sooner it will be noticed and rewarded.

  1. Who you know is more important than what you know

005(photo: Dimitri Shpak)

My dad often says, “Languages are keys. The more of them you have, the more doors you can open.” While he is referring to foreign languages, the same principle applies to knowing people, and not necessarily “the right” people. You never know in what ways people you know can be helpful. Even before getting this job, working on the Never Give Up project, I started connecting with different people who inspired me or had something I wanted to learn from (Dale Partridge, Danny Owens, Kirill Didenok, etc.) and as you can guess, these people were very helpful when I start getting involved in marketing and social media.

  1. Tell me who your friends are

..and I will tell you who you are. This famous saying has its place in the startup world as well. Success has many important factors here, and quality of the team is one of them. You might have a great idea, but if your team is not strong you won’t be able to execute it in full potential. From CEO, programmers and designers to copywriters, admins and managers – everyone plays an important role and either pushes company forward, or slows it down.


  1. Work can be fun

It’s become a cliché, but almost every startup office has a ping pong table. Some go as far as dj turntables or nap rooms, but one of the main things startups are known for is free and creative spaces. Here are a few examples of creative spaces in different startup offices:


(images from: Dropbox :: 99designs :: Pinterest :: Quirky)

Don’t be fooled by first impressions. These spaces were created not to chill or waste time, but for opposite reasons: to increase productivity of the employees! Yes, you read it right, to increase the productivity. Scientifically it was proven that if you take little breaks, stretch or do something different from a regular routine, your brain will get a recharge and you’ll be ready to work in a very short time. Sitting in one spot and doing the same kind of work for a long time makes your brain go to sleep.

Besides, those ping pong breaks after lunch help sharpen your skills 😉

In conclusion, I must say, working at a start up seems easier than in some well-established but boring government organizations. Not because all we do is play and have creative meetings, but because everybody loves what they do! I hope my thoughts were entertaining and helpful! Please feel free to ask me questions or leave a comment! I’d love for you to subscribe to my email list and would be grateful for social media share by clicking on icons below!

I’ll leave you with this quote: