What It's Actually Like Working At A Startup

Hop on Techmeme any given day, and you'll probably read about millions of dollars being thrown at yet another app, product, or service.

The Startup Life Is Glitz And Glam

Swanky offices. Free catered lunches. Free snacks. Free booze. Free massages. Free laundry service. Free daycare. Free Ubers. Shorts and flip flops. Unlimited vacation (still not sure how this works). Equity. The list of perks are endless.

But chipping away at this facade, diverting your gaze from the highlights, you see a different picture.

For 10 months, I worked for a San Diego-based startup as their Head Writer. It was a great experience, one that I'm extremely grateful I had, and wouldn't trade it for anything.

Humbling, Not Swanky

Photo credit: Selena Smith

The office was located in an old building in an area heavily trafficked by the homeless. One time, a lady came stumbling in yelling that someone (?) kept calling her the N word. The entire building shared one set of restrooms, and the overhead lights would randomly turn off because there was another switch in the building that would also shut them off.

There were no snacks, ping pong tables, $3,000 standing desks, inspirational messages, or fancy decor. There was, however, a kitchen with unlimited Keurig use.

You're Not Always Your Job Title

Working at a startup, especially when you're in at the ground floor building things up, you quickly learn that to do your best, you will have to, at times, put on multiple hats.

It can get annoying, but it builds character and a skillset that is influential to every project you will ever take on.

I've always been a firm believer that no matter where you are in an organization, you should always be ready and willing to get your hands dirty. Over those 10 months, I was a writer/copywriter, email marketer, customer service rep, designer, HR (people have an easy time talking to me), painter, and motivational coach.

There Is No Easy Path

Even if you have an amazing product and an amazing team, there is no easy path to success. Shit will happen. Things will go wrong. But the beauty of a startup or more specifically, the startup mentality, is that you can move fast without jumping through a bunch of hoops. It's not how most businesses operate, but it sure as hell needs to be.


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