About five years ago I had a thought; I would get an MBA. I felt I had piqued, or topped-out of my technical knowledge. I was a developer in a small company. I enjoyed the work. But I found it increasingly more enjoyable to help the wider business. I had more impact when we were deciding big changes for the organisation or strategising big deals for the B2B sales team. I felt my years in the business merrited more impact there than when I cut code to build a system for a customer, or fixed up our website.
I met with some lecturers and students of MBA’s around the city. Mainly Trinity College, which was about 25 seconds walk from our office. Everyone was affable, knowledgeable and realistic about the challenges of getting an MBA. As expensive as it would be, talking to these folks made it feel like a natural step. Everyone was confident that they’d land a good job. My only fear was that everyone wanted to work for Deloitte, Deutsche Bank or somewhere similar; the kind of place that has a uniform featuring grey pastels and an utterly bored-to-death expression on everyone’s face.
One particular day is vivid in my memory. Our office had a nice outdoor deck we could sit on. And it was a fine summer’s day (a rarity in Ireland). It was the smoking area for some, and a sneaky drinking area after hours. Despite constantly adjusting our shiny laptop screens, it was worth sitting out there to get some vitamin D. It was on this fine day that I got a call from a recruiter. It was a good thing I was outside as anyone overhearing the conversation would have had a heart attack.
It was a recruiter whom had reached out via LinkedIn a few days prior. I hate those inMail’s. But this recruiter used my name. This one had a typo. It wasn’t spam. It wasn’t a mass-message. Or at least, if it was, it was cleverly done. So I told him to call me. I wanted to make sure that he hunted me & not the other way around.
The recruiter had two jobs for me: an iOS developer at a weird gaming studio startup, or a “Sales Engineer” at a well funded startup based out of the US.
I had never really done iOS development, and knew the challenge creating video games presented. However, I wanted to parlay out of pure development. “Sales Engineering” was a phrase I had never heard before, but I decided to go for it. Cue research into the business & the job role itself. About 9 interviews later, I had the job. They were meticulous about hiring me because I was the first non-consultant hire they made (that consultant now runs global recruitment and we have a battle-to-the-death about who was actually first in). I was now a founding member of a startup-within-a-startup.
It’s a good thing I went for that role and poured my heart into the process because the other company turned out to be a front for a porn business based in Canada that needed to diversify their assets in order to go public. That would have been weird.
It’s nearly four years later now, and I coudn’t be happier in my role. I’ve seen the business in Dublin grow from about 10 people to over 200. Next week we move into our new office space to allow us to keep growing aggressively. We now have offices in Sydney & Singapore, and we’re in late planning stages of opening in Tokyo (I’m hiring!).
In those four years I’ve done whatever I could to help grow the business: refer smart friends, convince leaders that there are hiring opportunities outside of normal sales/marketing (we now have developers and support thanks to those conversations), do my job as best I can, assist the sales & marketing team to grow, speak at events, say ‘yes’ where possible and leverage whatever semblence of talent I might have to get the ball rolling wherever that ball needs to roll.
And in those four years I’ve seen the business do many amazing things: grow aggressively, grow customer businesses aggressively, build a partner network, hire lots of amazing people, build an amazing alumni network, go public (the “going IPO” struggle is real, and a worthy book in-and-of itself) and so much more.
Four years ago a random recruiter changed the course of how I approach the world. I now manage a team of people in 3 offices around the world. I’m writing this post from a hotel in Australia, where I have two direct reports. Last week I was in Singapore. And in a month (after I get married), I’ll be in Tokyo to interview candidates for my team. All on top of the handfull of talented men & women I have in Dublin.
In short: I got a practical MBA.
Looking back, I’m definitely a benefactor of a business with big, lofty goals. I’ve never stopped being in learning mode. Which is good because a business like this doesn’t really allow you to switch that mode off. To say I’ve thrived in these conditions would be an understatement of the millennium. I definitely have a consistent feeling of impostor syndrome, but in my mind that’s turned out to be a benefit.
This post is inspired by a few things. One is boredom as I await a flight to bring me back to Dublin. Another is that when I return to Dublin, I’ll go to a new building and sit at a new desk. I’ll never see my old desk again. It’s a good moment to reflect. And to wonder what will happen in the next four years. Certainly, my goals are different now to what they would have been were I a developer in a porn conglomerate or working in a small Irish company. Or maybe even as an MBA graduate in Deloitte. Either way, I wouldn’t know nearly as much as I do now.
If you want more information about working with an ever-growing team of talented, passionate folks: see our jobs board. If you want to chat to me about the business, jobs or whatever tickles your fancy, send me a note on LinkedIn!