8 employees (plus and minus a few along the way).
5 Fernandos (you’d understand if you worked at Libboo).
1000 beers (at least).
I can’t believe it’s been well over a year since I first went to my “interview” with Libboo, which consisted of a picnic with beer, sausages, and cheese outside the MassChallenge space, followed by a ping pong tournament which I proceeded to gracefully lose. Thankfully, the team looked past my then-horrendous ping pong skills and saw in me a talent that I didn’t yet know I had. I will be forever grateful to Libboo’s founders for giving me my first shot, and following through with praise when I deserved it and pushing when I needed it.
The past 15 months have been an exciting blur of product decisions, redesigns, learning to code, and living the fast paced and ever-changing life of a startup employee. I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed every minute, but out of 60 minutes per hour, I definitely have enjoyed 59. I fell in love with the Libboo product first, and the team second, and both have gone through substantial changes since I joined in August 2012. And yet, I find myself even more in love than when I started. It’s hard to imagine being anywhere else doing anything else. But…realistically, I won’t be at Libboo forever. Much as I love it, I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and the time will come for me to move on to different ventures and adventures.
There are a ton of things I’ve learned in my 15 months at Libboo, especially about working at startups, and the greatest lesson of all is that you absolutely have to TRUST YOUR TEAM. Much as I may want to, I can’t do everything. I know that there are 7 people around who have my back and will balance out my weaknesses. They will challenge me, not because they’re smarter than me, but because they know it’s how I come up with my best ideas. They will make me bust my butt to produce the best things I can. They will help me when I truly need it, and tell me to figure it out myself when they know I can. My coworkers have evolved from strangers to some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and some of the best mentors I could ever have asked for. It’s brilliant. When you find a team that can do this for you, that’s when you know you’re in the right place.
Another thing I’ve learned is that in startup life, there’s a very fine line between being patient and “waiting.” Sometimes, things feel like they are moving slowly. Sometimes, it’s for a good reason, and you need to be patient. But when you know that there is something you can do that will move the process along, you have to do it. This time last year, I was going crazy because 1) it was taking forever for my designs to be implemented, due to our small developer team, and 2) there were often little deviations from my designs in the interface. This wasn’t because of a lack of talent – we have some super smart, talented engineers – but because they just weren’t looking at designs and thinking user experience – they were thinking like developers, and wanting to move on to making things actually work, which is totally fair and valid. Though I had pretty much zero coding experience, I took it upon myself to learn and master HTML and CSS so that I could build our interfaces, and our developers could focus on doing what was more exciting for them – making it work. And, much to my delight, I fell in love with front-end. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made and one of the best things that could have happened for our team. Everyone’s happy, and I got to build on my skill base and personal brand.
That’s another thing – you’re never done building your personal brand. Working in a startup means anything can change tomorrow, and it’s really important that you have the references and network to back you up, should, god forbid, you need to move on. It’s also awesome to be continually building on your skill set, so that when you move on, you, the company you are leaving, and your next company are all better than when you started.
Who knows where I’ll be in another 15 months. I could be still at Libboo, working with an awesome team to do big things and make big changes in an industry that really needs it. I could be traveling the world. I could be working at my second, or even third, startup. I could be a web designer at an up and coming Boston firm. I can clearly visualize any of these possibilities, and know that wherever I’ll be in 15 months, I’ll be enjoying it. That’s the beauty of startups – you never know what’s going to happen next – all you know is that it WILL happen.