How to quit a shiny/shitty start up world and be a human again

So last year I quit a small, “boutique” agency and joined a massive company instead. I even moved cities. I went from 8 people in the office to the X amount of people in the office that has lost the count and is increasing rapidly.

My digital career started rapidly too, I trained as a scientist but decided that lab life was not for me, too boring, dull and underpaid. National Health Service completely drained me and I wasn’t as excited anymore. Somewhat saving human lives didn’t seem as important as it did few years ago when I started university. After shamelessly declaring that I want a career change without having a decent career already, I decided to follow the biggest trend of the year and started to look for a job in Marketing, something that I was so repelled by before.

However, me being me, didn’t just want a well paid job in marketing. Conversion rate optimisation caught my eye and I realised that I’ve just hit the jackpot. I’ve had a Masters qualification in Psychology and CRO seemed just like being a psychologist online, playing the mind games with the users, make them buy, make them forget their dignity.

It didn’t take long to find a job in a small agency with 3 people working in there. Let me mention that it was the only job I applied to and the only interview I had, which eventually turned out to be a success.

My first day at work flew by. In fact, my first month at work flew by, I felt like I was back at school. Learning everything from scratch wasn’t something I considered when I made that decision to change my career. Not even close to my imagination. What did fascinate me was the whole concept of working in a place like that: Everyone is using their shiny brand new Retina display Macbooks for everything. Residing in a co-working space rather than having a real office was a shocker too, a nice one. Going for all-team lunch every Friday and not having to pay for it because “company will”. Travelling to fancy events for no reason. I felt like I have finally put my foot in the business-y world.

However, no matter how determined and ambitious I was, I felt as if I’m not moving anywhere. My boss wasn’t happy with anything I was doing, apart from sometimes exaggerating how “great” my presence was.

What got me thinking was the mentality of people that I worked with, we were only told certain things that the boss wanted us to know at the times he wanted us to know it. I soon realised that the boss is playing a mind game with all of us, he was telling different things to different people. He would make everyone feel really special about their work but sometimes will have a rude reaction to something he personally didn’t like (even if the client loved it). The man even thinks that his knowledge is the best (way better than anyone else’s in the industry) and the way he does things are the best. He would give out a lot of criticism but could never take any.

6 months down the line I found myself as a completely different person from who I was when I started this magical, unicorn digital world.

I was angry, upset, frustrated, disappointed, stressed out, depressed, anxious. I hated the Macbook, the Prosecco Fridays, the fake smiles, the pretending that everyone likes each other. The pretending that we are “saving the world” by doing that job. We weren’t. Start-ups are just an illusion.

They hired someone who had more than 5 years of experience in the industry and to my surprise was extremely amateur. I ended up doing most of her work, covering for her and, worst of all, was undermined by her. In the meantime my knowledge grew out of the window and I found myself knowing how to use and interpret different tools, data, segment, analyse and repeat. But still got the criticism for my own work. It quickly became very obvious that I was never going to be as good as someone else.

I soon realised that I cannot stay there and find my happy place, because that place was taken by someone else. Favouritism kicked in and I knew that I have to go.

I left and haven’t got a single bone in my body that is regretting it.

But I’ve learned some key lessons:

  • You don’t need a Macbook to be a good CRO/UX/digital designer or analyst.
  • You don’t need to go to every event in the industry
  • You don’t need to suffer the bullying and undermining from anyone. Ever.
  • You don’t need a Free Friday lunch from your boss to be happy.
  • You don’t need no fake promises about how “good you will get”. But, hey, not just yet.
  • You don’t have to be sucking up to anyone if you’re good.
  • You don’t have to do anyone else’s work. Ever.
  • You don’t have to give away your ideas.
  • You don’t have to be a nasty human being just to satisfy someone you work for. They’re only paying your wage.
  • Stand up, speak out, walk out ( only if needed).