Front End Collision

Blog of software engineer Josh Beam

5 Things I Learned in My First Month at a Startup

11 August 2015 — Josh Beam — engineering

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In a departure from the normal content of this blog, I wanted to talk briefly about some of (what I think) are some important things I've learned so far in my first month working for a Bay Area tech startup.

In no particular order (and at a very high level of abstraction and with as little fluff as possible)…

5) Don’t come with a problem. Come with a working prototype.

A working prototype says much more about a proposed solution, than does talking about the proposed solution.

4) Be both purist and pragmatic

This is a careful balance of business goals vs. coding nirvana, ruthless pragmatism vs. lofty purism. In other words, it’s both good to know exactly what the perfect solution should look like, and to know what compromises you have to make to have a working solution based on business timeline constraints.

3) Conflict breeds results (but always listen)

As our patient, level-headed CTO says, “One person scores, but the whole team gets them there.” By “conflict” I don’t mean the bad type of conflict. I mean the conflict that arises from a group of passionate people all trying to arrive at the best solution.

The opposite side of the coin is: communication. “Today, I will learn nothing by speaking, but much by listening.” Beme engineer Matt Hackett (previously VP of Engineering at Tumblr) says: “Most important engineering skill: Humility.”

2) The pieces eventually come together

When working on teams of engineers (perhaps in an Agile environment), all the pieces of the product seem scattered, but eventually, everything will begin to cleanly merge back into the product that everyone has been imagining it would be.

1) Work hard

You’re it. You directly influence the success or failure of your company. Dwayne Johnson says, “always be the hardest worker in the room.” This is a tough goal when everyone else is already working harder than everyone else in the room.

Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.

— Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action