My Toughest Professional Year
I’ve spent my entire professional life working in the tech industry. And let me tell you, I’ve seen some shit. I’ve helped extinguish PR fires over the course of legal battles. I’ve watched (TWICE OVER!) a startup transform into a chopping block and slaughter its employees just to stay afloat. I’ve had someone hired directly over me with absolutely ZERO notice. I’ve countlessly worked against unexpected and unfathomable requirements. However, none of those moments compare to the last twelve months of my career.
Where’s the Content?
First, there’s something you need to know about me. Maybe it’s because of my journalism background, but whether it’s consuming it or creating it, I LOVE content. When I felt like I was doing a great job, chances are my team and I were cranking out articles, landing top-quality press coverage, moving our long-form content through the pipeline or even creating a snappy new ad. For me, it was always about producing output. My success was measured by the tangible fruits of my labor.
You see, in each of those previous examples I referenced in the beginning, it was business as usual as far as myself and my work was concerned. It might have been turbulent times, but I knew I could always provide and prove value by producing quality content.
So what happens when you’re asked NOT to do what you enjoy most about your job? Well, that’s precisely what I’ve been confronted with over this past year. At Yieldr, we’ve been in a quasi stealth mode, remaining hard at work building our demand intelligence platform for airlines. That means after making a bit of a splash with our rebranding last summer, we’ve been relatively quiet with our external communications.
Oh great! So I must have been sipping Mai Tais on the beach for the last year, right? Not exactly. When you’re working for a small company focused on scaling up, there is always work to be done.
Since my time wasn’t occupied with my typical To Do List, I had the opportunity to get my feet wet and grow in other areas. First and foremost, immediately after feverishly working towards the launch of our rebrand, we were confronted with planning our inaugural user event. Although event planning is something that typically falls under my domain, I wouldn’t exactly call it my forte. We had to fight against a tight schedule and scrap together a number of requirements in order build the “MSP” (minimum sellable product) of our event.
Not Just Point A to Point B; Everywhere In-Between
This event was an important table setter for us as we collected invaluable first-hand insights from airline professionals. After that, it was all about development for us, inside and out. Not only are we dedicating time to build our product, but also ourselves.
That’s meant improving our office and how we work. That’s where I came in. Over the last year, I’ve taken a more active role in our support team (what we call our management board) with a focus on company culture.
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Now let me tell you, I’ve always been a person fixated on simply getting the job done; it didn’t matter how or what obstacles were blocking the path. I never worried about the little details along the way as long as the task was completed. You can see how this mentality would make me a less than ideal candidate when it came to improving things around Yieldr. That meant challenging myself to think differently.
Let me also say that culture isn’t something that can be created. It’s something that organically grows from the people that make up a space. With that being said, I’m very proud of my colleagues for what they bring to the table each and every day. That’s what makes working at Yieldr special. Maybe that sounds like BS, but I’ve been in organizations where this isn’t the case, and trust me — it makes a world of difference.
If there’s only one thing you take from here, let it be this:
People = Culture!!!
One of our foundational tasks was constructing a set of core values that are both representative of who we are today, but also aspirational enough to guide us to where we want to be in the future. While, I won’t go through each of them now (I’ll dive deeper into that subject in a later post), I will reference one pertinent to this discussion — Lead by Serving.
This is something I’ve taken to heart. I believe the sole responsibility and true measure of a leader is the success of others around her/him. That means putting your teammates in the best possible position to flourish and removing anything that is hindering them from being their very best. This is where I’ve shifted my value mentality from feeling the need to always create some sort of tangible output and instead, tried to think, “how can we make everyone at Yieldr better?”
Legs Feed the Wolf
This “team first” attitude is really a focal point at Yieldr. This was a major consideration when we decided to become a 100% agile team. That’s right! Everyone from the development team to the finance and sales teams are using the scrum framework. With the marketing team being included here, I’ve even become a certified scrum master!
Having a 100% agile organization all working within the same framework has increased our inter-team collaboration, allowing us to tackle bigger, more complex projects. Personally, I’ve found myself so much more involved on the product and business development sides than I’ve ever been (I literally NEVER even talked to product and engineering teams at my previous stops).
Some of my new tasks included helping to produce business plans and investor pitches, defining high-level strategy sessions, leading recruiting efforts and mapping our own customer journey and user flow, among a host of other things. This has been a tremendous growth opportunity to cut my teeth in other areas of business.
Now here is where I’m supposed to spew something about finding strength through adversity blah blah blah. But the fact of the matter is this, either you learn to adapt and constantly rework yourself or you get in line at the unemployment office.
To advance my career and continue to be a valuable asset, it was clear that I needed to expand my scope beyond day-to-day marketing and communications efforts. In order to hit that next level, it meant taking on new responsibilities and becoming a more well-rounded professional.
This industry moves so fast. You can never rest on your laurels. This gives me the opportunity to present another core value of ours Legs Feed the Wolf. Maybe you know this reference made famous by U.S.A. Hockey Coach Herb Brooks. In short it means you need to continuously put in the work and effort to be successful.
If you want to make it in this game you need to constantly evolve, improve yourself and above all else, stay hungry.