Being an entrepreneur changed my life as an employee

The idea

In our 2-man startup, my official title was the CTO responsible for developing the first prototype for product/market fit.

The experience

Although I my main task was to work on the prototype, in practice a big part of my time went to market research, discussions about funding, usability tests and learning about the law. For me, the technical aspects of the job was the most interesting part. Anything else was the chore I had to endure at that stage. This experience helped me know my own interests and strengths better. It was distracting, to say the least.

  • I could focus on the interesting subproblems without having to worry too much about all the other aspects because there are other experts on the job
  • I had all the standard benefits (most importantly stress-free vacation) without all the drawbacks of overall business responsibility

Employee FTW

Working as an employee will rarely make someone rich but there are other perks. I get to choose where I work, how many hours per day and when to switch. Plus, there’s no point in sacrificing personal life for the job because I’m still going to get the same salary as if I worked “normal hours” at the end of the month. I didn’t want to miss my child’s development: her first step, her first word, going out to the park and playing without any worry about what the investors dictate to us or whether the stocks or market share is affected by this or that crisis that is out of our control.

The spin off story

So I decided to go back to being an employee but this time with more awareness and confidence about my priorities.

I was bolder, took more responsibilities and wasn’t limited by my title.

I was working on my personal brand. Instead of me applying for jobs, recruiters would chase me and I had the upper hand in the interviews. I learned all that mattered to me before starting my next journey.

  1. I stopped working for others and started doing what I though was right. I didn’t do things “because the boss said so”. I did it because it was the right thing. I was confident that if things stop to make sense, I can walk out without having to worry about shares and loans!
  2. I stopped focusing on money and started focusing on the business model and end user needs. This is a very empowering perspective. Turns out the more you care about the customer satistaction and ensure that the core of the business model is executed well, the more you get praise and promotion!
  3. I stopped solving large problems individually and started taking the lead and motivating others to work together. I love programming but for anything significant a team goes further. Equipped with this perspective I invested a lot into learning to work with people and leadership. It took a few years to get where I am today and I’m still learning but looking back and reflecting where I am coming from, the difference is huge.
  4. I stopped focusing on being rich and started focusing on being happy. I can’t emphasize this enough: there money and happiness loose relationship after a certain level. When you earn enough to live a comfortable life other things start to take priority.
  5. I stopped overworking and started improving my work/life balance. I still have a vulnerability to overwork when there’s something very interesting. But that risk is way lower and the stakes are much smaller when I’m just an employee. This reduced stress has really improve my quality of life.
  6. I stopped taking shit from others because at the end of the day, they were just another employee. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an employee too, but as a mental exercise I think about how I would treat or react to that person in a non-professional setting like in the streets or at a party. If that person is interesting out of context, they have my respect.

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