Be a Start-Up Superstar
Ignite Your Career Working at a Tech Start-Up
Foreword by David Meerman Scott Introduction
PART I: The Best Opportunities Are In Start-Ups
Chapter 1: Use the Tech Start-Up Boom to Zoom
The Unprecedented Opportunity in Tech Start-Ups
Why Work for a Start-Up Over a Big Corporation?
Fewer Barriers to Entry Versatility in Roles Access to Leaders Financial Rewards Culture
Chapter 2: Pick the Right Start-Up for You
How to Find Start-Up Opportunities Five Criteria to Choose a Start-Up
Quality People Who Share Your Values Concept Fills a Big Market Need
Great Product You Believe In
A Role You Can Fill Today with More Opportunities Tomorrow The Start-Up Is Well-Funded
PART II: Seven Keys to the C-Suite
Chapter 3: Develop Your Leadership Skills and Self-Confidence
Visualize Your Success Until It’s Real
Use “Co-Opetition” and Competition to Stand Out Become an Expert and a Constant Learner Develop Strong Communication Skills
Embrace Accountability Show Humility
Believe in Yourself
Chapter 4: Stand Out from the Herd
Differentiate Yourself Ask More Questions
Take Calculated Risks and Challenge the Status Quo Find the Courage to Make Tough Decisions
Call out the Elephant in the Room
Be Known as an Idea Person Who Executes
Chapter 5: Act Like a Leader (Even If You Don’t Have the Title Yet)
Set Clear, Inspiring Goals
Everything Can’t Be a High Priority Create Order Out of Chaos
Make Fact-Informed Gut Decisions Earn Your Stripes
Chapter 6: Adopt Winning Work Habits
Work Hard without Feeling Overworked Show You Know Your Customers
Be Part of the Solution
Pay Attention to Details (Without Being a Control Freak) Add Value Through Simplicity
Persist and Be Patient
Chapter 7: Choose Carefully the Company You Keep
Surround Yourself with A-Plus Talent Find the Right Mentors
Know When to Stay and When to Go
Chapter 8: Embrace the Power of Kindness
Walk in Others’ Shoes
Say Thank You and Mean It Create Fun and Joy
Exude Energy and Optimism
Chapter 9: Take Care of What Matters
Protect Your Calendar Put Your Family First
Make Health and Fitness a Priority Live Life to the Fullest
Acknowledgments About the Author Index
“This is a damn fresh, innovative approach to start-up career success, and I wish all of my hires over the years had read it. It simultaneously inspires while laser-focusing on the leadership traits one needs to succeed. Steve’s book is an honest, insightful, well-written career guidebook.”
“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I hve got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
—George Bernard Shaw, playwright
I invite you to imagine you and I are meeting for a dinner appointment. It’s a warm evening and we are seated at an outdoor rooftop restaurant overlooking a bright, big city. As the sun sinks into a soft orange glow, and the lights from the buildings illuminate the deepening blue of the streets below, we talk about your college experience. Your face lights up as you tell me about the recognition you received; the camaraderie you experienced with professors, classmates, and friends who challenged your thinking. You express a longing for the structure of the educational framework where success surely comes to those who work hard.
And then our conversation shifts to your current job situation.
You inhale deeply. During college, you had imagined so much success and income in your future, but here you are, full of knowledge and ready to put it to use, ready to prove yourself—but you’re stuck. You’re stuck in a job where advancement seems long and far away, and your life lacks the richness you desire and expect. You think about your peers, and while there are a few lucky ones who already seem rich and happy (according to their social media posts, anyway), you and most others are still getting by, trying to mitigate risk due to those aforementioned student loans you can no longer defer. You’re hoping for a big break or a lucky streak, or a mentor to take an interest in you and help you to navigate through this career conundrum in which you and other young professionals are caught.
I am that mentor, and I’m taking an interest in you. This book provides the insider perspective of a mentor who has been in your exact situation and found a way forward, not just to a great job, but to a great career and massive success, both financial and personal. I want to help you discover your own path to becoming a brave leader in a world that you might have previously overlooked or written off as too risky: the tech startup world.
While working for a startup might seem riskier than working for a large corporation, the potential rewards far outweigh the risks. And, if you’re smart, you can mitigate the risk. I will show you where the opportunities lie, how to take advantage of them, and how to choose a start–up with the best chance for success—whether you’re aiming for a tech or non-tech role.
Have you ever felt stuck in your job? Have you wondered how you will ever reach the level of success you imagined for yourself? You’re not alone. In 2018, amidst a robust economy and low unemployment, college graduates struggled to get hired. Upon graduation, 75% didn’t have a job lined up at all. It took the average college graduate almost eight months to find a job—all against a backdrop where the average student loan debt was $41,810. Add to that the fact that in the same year, only 31% of employees in the US and Canada felt engaged at work, and I believe this means we have a serious epidemic on our hands.
This epidemic is not new. It nearly infected me.
Many years ago, after graduating college and landing my first job processing claims in a large bureaucratic corporation, I realized that the traditional “safe” path from school to climbing the corporate ladder was not only high risk for my career, it almost felt like a death trap.
I dared to question my plan and ask myself, “What if I could earn a great living and love the work I do?”
Even though I had no skills or experience in technology, I left my boring, low-paying analog job and went to work for a tech start–up, and it afforded opportunities that would have never been available to me had I remained in a traditional corporate environment.
Since then, I have spent more than 30 years building my career within the tech start–up world. From my first start–up job as marketing representative at Database Design, to my current role as CMO of Thycotic, I have been blessed to work for seven tech start–ups. All six of my prior employers have either successfully sold or have gone public, generating more than$2.5 billion in shareholder value. I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of amazingly talented start–up entrepreneurs. I’ve learned about how they think, what they do, and the attitudes they hold that have helped them achieve extraordinary success.
My mission, and the purpose of this book, is to offer the underemployed, college-educated young person a way out of the death trap. If this is you, keep reading, because I’m about to reveal some of the massive opportunities available in tech start–ups today, even if you aren’t a “techie.” This book arms you with the knowledge of how to choose the right start–up, and how to succeed once you get hired.
If you carry a huge student loan debt, the reality is that you can’t afford not to work for a start-up. At a big corporation, pay is limited to incremental annual raises according to the company’s well-entrenched salary policies. On the other hand, in working for a start–up, the big payoff comes through stock options. Often, a start–up will offer you a relatively modest starting salary and an opportunity to own a piece of the pie for yourself. This could lead to extremely high compensation later on, assuming the company grows and eventually has a successful exit. I experienced this six times as of this writing, and it’s worked out very well, like millions of dollars well.
Working for a start–up won’t just help your bank statement—it will also help you grow professionally at a quicker pace than would be possible at a large corporation. Most start-ups don’t hire with a set idea of your potential or career path. It’s the perfect environment to try on different roles and find your zone of genius, and then move up quickly from there. You can come in at an entry-level position and end up working on big, world-changing projects alongside the founders where your contributions can be seen and noted. At the right start-up, you can quickly stand out and gain more responsibilities and opportunities to advance, both in your position of authority and compensation.
Finding exceptional opportunities is only the beginning—you need to be ready to seize them. This book provides you with the seven traits of successful start-up entrepreneurs—how they act and the attitudes they share in common—and how you can develop and practice the art of leadership until these traits become a part of your own success story.
Start-Up Superstar is divided into two parts. I recommend that you read the book in its entirety from start to finish, and then go back and reread and dog- ear the pages you need the most at any given time.
In Part I, I explain the opportunity: that tech start–ups need new and exciting talent of all kinds. Beyond tech skills, these companies seek people with all kinds of talents and creativity who have bold ideas and the leadership skills to bring them to fruition. Of course, the best opportunities often come with a side of risk. Most start-ups fail, so to give the reader the best chances for success, Part I wraps up with a chapter on the five key traits to look for when selecting a tech start-up before you apply for a job.
In Part II, I share the seven keys to the C-suite, which include dozens of golden nuggets about what you need to do to ignite your career in the start–up world, and how they are vastly different from the traditional corporate norms. You can begin to practice these leadership attributes and entrepreneurial mind–sets, and that can propel you to the top and keep you there. These are the traits they don’t teach you in college or in on-the-job training by a corporation’s learning and development team. These are the lost leadership skills that will help you break out from the pack and rise to the top. They will turn your potential for success into reality. They will help you learn the lessons that will empower you to make better decisions and get better outcomes in work and in life itself.
In short, forget climbing the corporate ladder; I’m going to show you how to rocket past every rung and land in the C-suite in record time. Never before has there been a greater opportunity to rise to the top at great speed. Now is the time to go for it.