They say joining a startup can be a fun, smart and even life changing move. One month in, and I feel like my life has been a whirlwind. Everything moves so fast that you have to always be alert and proactive. I totally understand what Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, one of the largest e-commerce site meant in this inspiring video. He encourages young people starting out in their careers to work in a small company and follow a boss.
This totally makes sense to me now, because working in a startup gets you out of your comfort zone. You develop a certain level of curiosity that makes every moment a learning opportunity.
It offers the unique opportunity to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of building a business from the ground up putting in mind all aspects of the business. This is one of the things I am experiencing first hand working in one of the coolest startups in Kenya: Node Africa. I got the opportunity to work at Node Africa through the Microsoft Youth4Afrika Internship Program . My role as an Internal Account manager includes largely driving sales at Node Africa. I also handle on boarding of clients and ensuring they’re satisfied with our services.
When I first started working at Node Africa, the thing that stood out for me is the team work. Team collaboration is at great play and everyone has a sense of responsibility for advancing the business to the next level. Everyone is an expert in their own field, such amazing personalities and always available to offer a helping hand to each other when in need. This I must say has been very significant in making my transition easy in joining the wonderful team.
Working in a startup environment has made me open minded because you find that hardly one person has only one specific duty. Therefore you need to be open to other roles as this is the way to learn outside your core line of work. I see this as an opportunity. An opportunity that you don’t easily learn in just any other workplace especially a huge organization. I have had the opportunity to work in one of the biggest companies in Kenya and I must say the experience was very different.
Working in a large corporate firm allows one to focus mainly on what their main job involves and narrows down your duties to a single responsibility and already laid out processes and procedures. One is stuck in their own task and has fewer chances to branch out into other fields. It is structured but it is monotonous too. Doing different things is definitely exciting, especially when starting out in your career.
However, when you get to work in a startup it’s totally different as more often than not, you might be required to help in a department that’s entirely out of your line of work. My most thrilling experience outside my line of duty so far has been working in finance and accounts. This has really expanded my mind and outlook on what it means to start a business and helped me understand the financial aspects of it.
My key takeaways from this is that debt is a key part of growing a business. Also, raising capital is a more gruelling than glamourous experience and definitely the fact that teamwork makes everything way better.
Immense opportunities to learn are presented to me on a silver platter and I feel more than ever at this point, I’m at a pivotal growth phase in my life. Moreover, it’s not just about building professional skills but also getting to be part of an amazing family. The beauty of a small team is that you get to easily build a company culture that’s entirely involving and allows you to explore your creativity and abilities. You get to discover yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and even explore your potential in hitherto unimaginable ways.
Node Africa has an amazing company culture I have to mention. It’s all new to me but yet so awesome, something I haven’t experienced anywhere else. Sometimes it’s all games and ping-pong but when it comes to work, everyone puts in their effort to the maximum to ensure the company is moving forward. Everything from having a swear jar (where one gets to deposit some cash if they mention inappropriate words) to fun Fridays ( TGIF) to community give backs as well as the company values. It’s all amazing.
However, it hasn’t been so rosy with everything. My main scope of work is one I have had very little prior experience in so it hasn’t been easy getting work done at the same time learning. This has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and driven me to triple my effort in learning new things thus the growth.
Just one month in and I have learnt some pretty good lessons here. For anyone starting work in a startup, this could be really useful:
- Gear yourself up for rapid changes. You need to be able to adjust to new situations and processes quickly. Everything moves so fast that you need to keep up as the company grows.
- Learn to be creative and innovative. There’s always going to be constant change to improve, make working easier and solve problems. The startup environment welcomes any kind of perspective. The novel approach of everyone around, especially the founders will help you to see the other side of the coin and approach things in an unusual way.
- Be open minded when it comes to working in a small company. Always be willing and ready to do more out of your scope of work and honestly this is the best place to offer learning opportunities as things are not too uptight. They’re always open to ideas. At some point you will probably do everything. So dive right in, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. The upshot of that is that you learn loads of skills and discover your passions and your strengths along the way.
- Dump that fear. Always ask when in doubt, confused or lost. There’s always someone willing to help.
- Be part of the process and embrace it. Embrace the environment, the relationships you build, company culture, the work and the growth process.
I’ve had my fair share of good and bad times too. I’ve had moments of doubts, confusion, fear and failure but It’s all part of the learning curve. I’ve had some good times getting to know the team, taking part in the fun activities and learning, everyone is incredible in their own way. There’s hardly a dull moment at work. Having studied IT, I had little knowledge of the business side of technology, but Node Africa has given me that chance to learn and understand how a business works.
I’ve had to face my fears and I must say the 1 month has been an interesting journey of self-discovery, I couldn’t be more grateful. The future looks exciting, as we are just getting started. Nevertheless, the joy and pride of being part of the founding team, building something from scratch sure fills me up with a positive energy.