One Month in the Land of Startups

An infamous date this past week marked one month since I started my new job. While I’m not fully confident that I’ve got my bearings – typically that takes six months for me, which means I’m either a perfectionist or an idiot – I think I’m doing pretty well. I haven’t been yelled yet, nor have I cost the company millions of dollars on a stupid mistake (that I know of, anyway).

I realize that this too early to come to any solid realizations, but so far, there are some things I like and others I don’t like about my new job, so if you ever ask me and my answer is “it’s okay,” here’s what I really mean.

What I Like About My New Job:

Although there are over 1,500 employees in my city alone and the company is kiiiiind of a big deal, it’s still technically a startup, which means that no matter how long you’ve been there, everyone’s learning and growing at basically the same pace. The normal growing pains means that no one stays entirely comfortable, new systems and applications are being developed every day, and what you think you know will likely change once someone figures out a better, faster, less expensive ways to do something Which happens, like, once a week. This can be a little troubling if you’re just trying to learn your job to start with, but it’s also weirdly comforting because no one else is very far from where you are now.

Because it’s a startup, it tends to attract the kind of people who are “self-starters,” which until now was just a dumb buzzword on a job listing and not even the HR people knew what it meant. But when you work at a startup, you have to know how to light your own fire and get the fuck moving. You have to learn fast, come up with ideas, and think on your feet. I’ve only been there for a month, but I have yet to encounter one of those people whose primary job description seems to be “taking up space behind a desk and just riding it out until retirement.” Which was nearly everyone at my old company, so this place is pretty refreshing.

I am treated like a professional, grown human being. This shouldn’t be such a big deal and maybe it sounds odd to some of you, but when you once spent 8 years toiling in the kind of place where your bosses treated almost everyone like a thieving fuckup or a mentally incompetent child (and you developed migraines and ulcers as a result), it’s remarkable to find yourself in a place where management assumes that you know how to do your job, you’ll ask for help if you don’t, and you’re working for the good of the company (ahem, your stock options). Essentially, the company expects and trusts me to know my shit. As they should, because I am an adult with a job. And while that was terrifying at first – I was shocked that I was allowed to work on my own so soon after being hired – it’s actually kind of liberating to realize that I’m not under the yoke of psychopaths who actively seek to undermine and belittle me every step of the way.

I am no longer leashed to a phone. I don’t even have to deal with customers. I mean, yes, I still have what’s basically a client list of adults who need constant prodding and hand-holding to get their fucking jobs done in accordance with their contracts, but if I need to step away from my desk to go to the bathroom, get coffee, or run to the store for another bottle of ibuprofen? Done, and I don’t have to beg anyone to let me do it.

I don’t have to drive to work anymore. I mean, I could drive to work if I wanted to sit in bridge traffic and spend $9.00 a day for parking (and that’s at a cheap lot six blocks away from my building), and maybe I will on a day when I’m running late and its pissing rain. But for now, there are express buses to and from work each day, and my schedule is flexible enough that I can usually catch whatever one of them can (almost) guarantee that I’ll get a seat. While I once spent over an hour each day in my car, I now spend about 45 minutes reading a book or checking Twitter. Plus the environment, saving on gas, etc.

My view. I’ve been meaning to take a photo but I haven’t yet, so unfortunately, I’m not able to show you exactly what I get to look at every day from my desk. So I found one from the Internet, and all you have to do is imagine that instead of seeing this from the top of the Space Needle, you are on the 4th floor of a building that looks towards the Olympic Mountains and sits between the piers on the bottom left side of the photo.



The only thing separating my building from Elliott Bay is a train track, a street, and the piers. And speaking of piers, my desk is directly across from Pier 69, which cracks me up every single day.

What I Don’t Like About My New Job:

One downfall of being trusted to know how to do my job is living in constant fear of fucking it up. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I just have a fatalistic personality (just kidding, I totally do), maybe it’s those 8 years of being treated like a fucking idiot that have conditioned me to suspect that I actually am one, but I am pretty much always afraid that the next thing I do will break everything.

Although a startup’s culture is constantly moving, learning, and developing new processes and technologies (and this is great), it tends to fall flat when it comes to training the new people who come on board. The company simply hasn’t been around long enough or stayed still long enough to have developed standard procedures that a new person can reference or learn from, or seasoned employees that know how to teach their jobs to someone else in a way that isn’t “uhhh, I guess this is how I do it?” And that makes former honor roll kids like me bonkers, because it’s one thing to be expected to do something that I don’t know how to do, and an even worse thing to be given the completely wrong answer by someone who’s supposed to know better.

Because of the startup and creative nature of the company, quite a lot of the people who work there are young. In my immediate department there are maybe four people who are older than me, and another small handful of people who are near my age (although usually one to two years younger). Everyone else is in their mid-20s, and for most of those people, this is their first full-time, corporate job. It’s not really a generation gap because it’s not like any of these people could be my children, but there’s definitely an age difference and that age difference is definitely underscored by a massive cultural and economic gap between my age group/background and theirs.

Theirs was raised in a time of general economic prosperity, and in parts of the country that weren’t dying Rust Belt cities riddled with crime. Theirs was presented with higher education as a guarantee rather than an option restricted by zero money and zero advisement on how to get it. Theirs was told that a college education guaranteed things like good jobs, frequent vacations, comprehensive benefits, and the ability to pay off student loans within a couple of years. Theirs is sloooooowly learning that this isn’t always the way the world works, and they can be a little bitchy about it.

They don’t yet know what it’s like to be laid off. They’ve never had to survive periods when it’s necessary to have two or even three jobs to simply get by. Their age group isn’t ashamed to move back in with their parents or take money from them. They are incensed at the idea of having to work on weekends, even though it’s only once a quarter and you’re only “on call,” meaning you stay home and just check your e-mail once an hour before logging off at 5pm and you get the next Friday off. They don’t know how lucky they are, basically, which my boss and I have discussed as a sense of entitlement and I think of as just not being old enough to have had your soul sufficiently crushed.

I mean, it’s fine. It is. They’ll learn eventually, and I can keep on with my older, soul-deadened-er person work ethic. It’ll be fine. Just don’t be surprised if you ask me about my job and my first reaction is shaking my fist and muttering “kids today…”

About erineph

I'm Erin. I have tattoos and more than one cat. I am an office drone, a music writer, and an erstwhile bartender. I am a cook in the bedroom and a whore in the kitchen. Things I enjoy include but are not limited to zombies, burritos, Cthulhu, Kurt Vonnegut, Keith Richards, accordions, perfumery, and wearing fat pants in the privacy of my own home.
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