What does a 10x personal growth environment look like?

I previously wrote about ways to secure yourself a seat on a rocket ship (find out how). The truth is that these articles are here to inspire you, and give you tips on how to get in, assuming you have a clear vision of this type of environment. In this article, I want to provide you with more insight on what it’s like to joining a rocket ship and get you excited about the idea.

Disclaimer: My opinions may be biased due to the fact that I have not worked at a large variety of companies. Shopify is the first BIG company that I have been a part of. Most of what I will be describing comes from my own experience. I thought it was important to mention this, as it will help you envision how such an environment can look like, and why Shopify could be a special place for you.

When looking up a new opportunity, it is sometimes difficult to get better context about an organization than its Glassdoor ratings and respective perks. This makes the process that much more challenging because it leaves you with very little knowledge about how your day-to-day might look.

Upon joining Shopify, my friends immediately sent me messages related to two things:

  • The perks
  • The office

It is true that these perks are awesome, but as you get into your day-to-day they eventually lose their shine. Yes, having an amazing office space makes it a pleasure to go to work in the morning, and perks are awesome and make your family envious, but, these are just the tip of the iceberg. What about all the interactions you have with your colleagues, the work itself, or the ability to immerge yourself into matters you are passionate about?

I found that these subjects are rarely mentioned and even less illustrated, yet I strongly believe that these are the most important things to keep in mind when deciding whether the workplace you are considering is one where you could do your life’s work. What I will do next is just that; show you what working at Shopify actually looked like, and hopefully make you consider there is more to a great job than perks and a cool office.

1. Learning

As I mentioned in my previous article, our CEO makes it a point to help employees unlock their personal growth. What does this actually mean? Ever since I joined, I look back and think to myself: “How stupid was I three weeks ago?”

It requires to ask people a lot of questions (as our Chief Marketing Officer explained here). However, when you do you might just find the help you need…

Being surrounded with people who are experts in their fields, and who are always willing to help is probably the most defining factor of a 10x personal growth environment. It means that anytime you get stuck, you can get a helping hand to find a solution and accelerate your learning curve. It does require you to be persistent, and willing to get your hands dirty. However, once you do, it’s up to you to decide how knowledgeable you want to be about this area. It also drives you to be the same to others, by looking for opportunities where you can pass this knowledge and leverage your existing knowledge to help. This process resulting in a virtuous circle.

It is great, but also very challenging. First, because you could very well feel like an impostor (I definitely did, and still partly do) being surrounded by people so much more knowledgeable than you, and asking yourself what your real impact will be. Second, because it is intimidating to face new challenges and constantly being reminded that you are new to everything.

2. Exposure

When joining a new company, one of the challenges we face is getting perspective and context of the projects we are working on. This challenge usually shows up when the exposure you are getting is limited to the immediate things you are working on. In a way, your growth potential depends on the scope of your projects, and how relevant they are to your existing skill set. However, your personal growth is not only about your professional projects; it also relates to your ability to understand how your industry works and your company’s vision.

Let me give you two examples.

On my second day, I sent a message to our Chief Platform Officer (Harley Finkelstein). We sat down for a 15 minutes chat and discussed his vision for Business Development … just like that. The exec of a $2B company, made himself available to chat with a junior employee to get to know him, and share his perspective … just like that.

A few weeks later, my lead sent me a quick note to mention that I was going to be flying to San Francisco to attend a three day event organized by one of our partners. This was another truly remarkable moment for me, because it showed how much my lead was willing to invest in me and how much exposure I was going to get in the future.

These are just examples, yet such strong ones. How much exposure you get from your leads, no matter where you are on the ladder (even if careers aren’t really ladders anymore), has a tremendous impact on your personal growth. Exposure will help you grow your perspective and understand why things are done in a certain way. THIS is something where 10x personal growth environments are vastly different from other places, they default to open and focus on transparency and exposure. THIS is a question you should ask yourself when you have to choose between two places: what’s the norm when it comes to sharing perspectives and what type of exposure will you be getting?

3. Ownership

The last point I want to illustrate about 10x personal growth is ownership. This point relates to the last one about exposure as they are partly linked in a way that an environment where you get very little exposure usually prevents you from ownership over the things you work on. Ownership is not only about the things you directly work on, it also relates to anything you’d like to get involved in. The challenge here is to find the right balance between showing interest and stepping on someone’s toes.

As a junior employee, ownership is particularly challenging. At the end of the day, you can only own so much before needing someone’s help or feedback. That’s, again, a factor limiting your personal growth. It’s a limiting factor but it also means that an environment where you can own things outside your scope is somewhere you will experience 10x growth.

This looks nice and sweet, but how would it actually look like? What if anytime you are passionate about something (a new language, a certain visualization model, or anything you want) you could present it to your entire company and gather people to work with you on it?

On Fridays, Shopify employees can go on stage and talk about a subject they care about. It can be anything they want, as serious or as silly as they want. Two weeks ago, I took a deep breath and went on stage in front of our 900 people-strong team to do just that.

The subject of my talk is not really what’s important here, what’s important is the fact that I could challenge myself and talk in front of a very large crowd about something I deeply care about (our internal culture). I am not part of the culture team or an expert in this subject, but it doesn’t matter. In a 10x personal growth environment, as long as you act like an owner and work with people, the scope of things you can get yourself into is set by yourself.

Do you have some feedback about this series of articles (here are the: first and second)?

Feel free to get in touch: fabien.mouvet at shopify.com