David Edelson on life before Stripe

Dec 7, 2018 · 2 min read

Small businesses are a lot like startups: you don’t always have resources to buy what you need, so you learn to build.

Before Stripe, I worked almost 20 years for an independent bookstore chain — first as a cashier, then a store manager, and finally becoming part of the company’s leadership team. Having worked in every part of the company, I really honed a sense of end-to-end responsibility for the business.

The people I worked for weren’t trained software engineers; they were ex-phone-company employees who’d become scrappy entrepreneurs and did whatever had to be done. When we needed bookshelves, we built bookshelves; when we needed new point-of-sale systems, we coded our own with books about programming open on our desks.

The part of my job that was most challenging and interesting was the work I did with our technical systems, and I wanted to challenge myself to do more, to jump into a new domain. So I packed a bag and flew to San Francisco.

I did not have a college degree, or any experience or network in tech, but I had decades of customer focus from working in retail. I had real-world business experience. And I was fairly technical for someone who didn’t work in tech.

I joined Stripe’s User Ops team, working directly with users who were getting started with Stripe or who had questions that needed answers. I knew what it was like to be trying to get something to work that wasn’t working, with your business on the line, and I knew how to work through a problem with complex business and technical elements. As Stripe grew, I grew with it; I’ve since moved on to other domains, but the User Ops team gave me my first opportunity to apply my experience in a totally new environment.

My background in brick-and-mortar retail did not suggest tech as an obvious next step. But at Stripe, the value of my skill-set was a more important predictor of success than fitting into a tech archetype.

Interested in learning more about opportunities at Stripe?

Visit www.stripe.com/jobs

Life at Stripe

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