I’m proud to say I checked something off my bucket list recently: Participate on a panel.
When you hear ‘panel’, you might envision an auditorium filled with eager listeners, an MC and microphones, but this one was on a much smaller scale. Sitting in front of a group of 30, between two other panelists, I held a Goose Island IPA and shared my own stories with an unintentional smile plastered to my face throughout the whole talk. The beer and the smile come with the territory, I suppose as the panel took place at one of my favorite places in Chicago, 1871, and I was surrounded by the kind of people I enjoy most - startup enthusiasts. The panel was being held by the Startup Institute Chicago (SIC), a casual, yet informative event held a few times a year for folks to learn more about SIC’s 8-week-long accelerator program.
Narrative Science has been involved with SIC since Fall 2012, from instructing to interviewing to partnering on research and development projects . Along the way, I’ve fed off the energy of SIC and the community they’ve built. The panel presented a special opportunity (not only to check an item off my bucket list) but to also allow me to share my positive experiences with people who are on the brink of joining the Chicago tech startup scene. Here are my top key takeaways:
Be deliberate in who you surround yourself with.
He didn’t know it yet, but our CEO Stuart Frankel hooked me on a quick visit he made to his alma mater, Miami University (Ohio). After attending his entrepreneurship talk, I quickly realized he was the type of person that I wanted to learn from and Narrative Science was the type of company where I could grow my career. After a few (okay, a lot) of emails, I wound up interviewing for an internship. Three years later I am still at the same company, working with Stuart, and as excited and passionate as I was on the first day of my internship. I was quoted during the SIC event saying, "People who are positive, terribly humble & terribly intelligent," make for an awesome work environment. I truly believe that deliberately surrounding yourself with these types of people will help you to be a better person.
Don’t underestimate the impact of your network.
Every traditional job I’ve had has been because I was either introduced to a hiring manager, or I made friends with one myself. I told the panel audience that it’s amazing how many people want to help you once you make a connection, and nowhere is this more true than Chicago’s startup community. Recognize the value of building your network, always be willing to help others and good things will come.
Understand the importance of great management and a great team.
Startups don’t always make it. In fact, about 9 out of 10 startups fail. While failure isn’t always a bad thing and it is impossible to predict the future, it is easier to spot bad management and a toxic work environment. I haven’t experienced it personally, but I’ve heard horror stories where bad management tainted an otherwise viable company. Relatedly, startup teams are usually a very close-knit group and if you don’t get along with just about everyone there, life is going to be hard. If you can’t see working alongside them for 60+ hours a week for several years, think twice. I’m lucky to say I don’t know any different than the company I’ve worked within but when researching your options, understand that the startup’s product is only one part of the equation, who you’ll be working for - and with - is often more important.
Chicago’s startup community continues to grow, and it is easier to plug in than ever before. Get inspired - attend a MeetUp or schedule an exploratory coffee date, and you’ll be on your way to hanging out with some of the most open-minded, ambitious people in Chicago.
Interested in joining Narrative Science? Check out our open careers here.