In the typically cliched way, I want to write a short post of things I feel grateful for in 2014. These are the things I’ve done well and what I’ve been happy to achieve, my thinking out loud on the year 2014.
Gained a job at a venture backed company
I left university knowing I wanted to work for a tech startup and after a short stint at a marketing technology company I got my role at YPlan. Initially I was an intern and after impressing over 3 months I was offered a full time role. Its been an important part of my growth for many reasons. First, its put me in a working scenarios with many, many intelligent and hard working people. Graduates from Cambridge and Oxford, former Google and Apple employees. This is a big deal, I want to work with and learn from the best. Second, its exposed me to the challenges of building a high growth tech startup. I now know whats easier to manage, what can be really difficult and the decisions that go into defining company strategy. Finally, its helped me to deal with imposter syndrome. As someone who wants to start a company, its easy to have self doubt. Working for a startup like YPlan, generally regarded as one of London’s hottest startups, has shed some of that self doubt. Once you have worked for a high growth tech startup its is less of a jump to imagine yourself building one.
Met interesting people with similar ambitions
A year ago I did not have any friends or peers who were interested in tech startups. For me, this was a huge problem. With a view to building my own company this meant I had no one to work on side projects with, no one to brainstorm ideas* and no potential co-founders. After reading the power of your personal network by Mark Suster, I made a promise to myself that I would make an effort to meet and build relationships with people who had similar interests and ambitions. I’ve managed to do this pretty well. My colleagues at YPlan where an obvious starting point but beyond that I went to events, reached out to people on LinkedIn, met people through Twitter etc. I know at least 30 or 40 people of a similar age who also have ambitions to start their own company or are currently doing so. I now have a network of people who I can bounce ideas with or share interesting articles. I hope that in the future I can work with some of them to build cool things.
(I actually had one friend for this, a designer called Andoni, but like me he is non-technical and well I was just emphasising the point.)
Gained a clearer idea of where I see myself in 5 years and how to get there
Having ambitions is a strong motivator. I want to start my own company and make an impact in the world, that is my ambition. The thing about ambitions is they are general, somewhat vague and lack a timeline. A more powerful way for me to look at my ambitions has been to think in a timescale of 5 years, and even a year in order to define the smaller steps and goals I can work towards as part of a larger over arching ambition.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about these shorter term goals for next year and I will write them soon and share them here. For me, the two points above made up two thirds of my main goals for 2014. The third one, which I haven’t achieved, was to launch a project, site or side project. I’ve missed that one for 2014, but hopefully it will be coming in early 2015. I feel confident that through my experiences to date I have a much clearer picture of what I want to achieve, why I want to achieve it and the steps I need to take to do that. For me this sets the foundation for a productive year in 2015.
The underlying concept behind ambitions and goals is really self awareness. You have to know what you want to do and why you want do it. Furthermore, you have to understand what you are currently capable of, what people think you are capable of and optimising for the skills you have or compensate for the ones you don’t. Every good leader in one way or another is constantly looking at themselves in this way. An increased sense of self awareness has definitely been a feature of 2014 for me and one that I am proud of. Maybe it is just part of growing up, but it certainly has had an impact on the way I view things and how I approach my day to day tasks.
Graduating from University in the summer of 2013, I felt like I was in a rose tinted world. In the smaller world of Nottingham University it could feel like you knew everyone, everyone knew you and things were very comfortable. One of my biggest fears was that when I was removed from that environment would those friendships somehow falter? Would I somehow no longer know those people in the same way? I think this was a healthy fear, as a lot certainly does change when you leave the small, somewhat forced University lifestyle. I am happy that the important friendships I made at University have stayed with me; the people who I leant on, the people who make me laugh, the people who I make plans with to see on the weekend.
This is important to me as the one thing people fail to openly say about being ambitious is the fear and the self doubt that in periods comes with it. It is a real thing and no matter how confident or strong minded you are, there are definitely times when you get down and feel as if things are slipping away. I am grateful for my friends who are able to shine some perspective on those moments and bring humour and fun to my life.
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