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What I learned at the Startup Institute

By Janeiro Digital | June 29, 2015

On June 1st, I jumped on board here at Janeiro Digital, joining its marketing team. Coming from a history of mental health counseling, non-profits, and office furniture, it’s safe to say that for me, Janeiro wasn’t just a career pivot.  It was a triple axel that landed me smack dab in the middle of the Boston tech startup scene.

How did I pull this off? As it turns out, there’s a nifty place called the Startup Institute right here in Boston (as well as in New York, Chicago, Berlin, and London). Here, a dynamic curriculum imparts the knowledge, skills, and mindset one needs in order to find their individual path to a job they’ll love.

Now, I won’t be able to encompass all that I gained at the Startup Institute within a blog post — not even in a book. However, I can highlight the three ways it prepared me for working in a startup.

Practice Working on Teams

All of my previous jobs entailed some form of working together in a team, toward a common goal. But, I never experienced working on specific projects in smaller sub-teams, for finite increments of time – something typical of startups. The Startup Institute curriculum granted me several such scenarios, and through them I not only came to understand the process by which an idea becomes a tangible deliverable, I got to experience each stage firsthand. From brainstorming and researching, to rough drawings and outlines, to mockups and working prototypes, to presentation and implementation, I learned it all.

I also learned – sometimes the hard way – the importance of executing. A group of energized and creative thinkers must always be aware of the brainstorm vortex. The ideas will go on forever, so you must be able to recognize when to conclude the brainstorm and establish the next steps. These steps do not need to be the best or most perfect steps; they just need to be steps. It is on this initial action that all subsequent action, refinement, and success rely.

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Insight Into Myself

I think there’s an element of truth to the “I” in team. If everyone does the same exact thing, the result isn’t going to be very strong. The purpose of teamwork is to combine diverse skills and strengths to produce something greater than any one individual could. Of course there will be overlapping roles and times when you’re doing completely foreign tasks. But, the success of a team grows significantly when each member comes in knowing what their authentic specialties are, and the Startup Institute helps you find yours. The workshops and debriefings taught me how to extract insights from each experience about myself as a team player and professional, and to harness and apply my specific strengths.

Prioritization

The Startup Institute throws a volume of tasks and projects at you that you can’t possibly complete, unless of course you’re a robot (which a future class will probably build). This is intentional. They’re not looking to drive you insane, but to simulate the startup environment, which is filled with endless work and infinite possibilities. At the Startup Institute, I didn’t just learn about the importance of prioritizing in this type of environment – I learned how to prioritize. That is, to identify your long-term goals and weigh short-term goals and actionable tasks accordingly. Success lies not in completing it all, but in aligning specific actions with the overall goal.

Also, trust in yourself and your team members. You cannot perform all of these priorities yourself, and you need to be able to relinquish control and share responsibilities with team members. This is what will ultimately yield the best output.

The Startup Institute didn’t just educate me on the operational structure and pace of startups – it immersed me right into the culture. It revealed to me the skills I already had to tackle it, and taught me new skills to truly thrive in it. Like I said, it’s a nifty place. And, its multifaceted impact on both its students and the greater startup community will continue to inspire and grow.

 

CATEGORIES: Thought

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