May 17 2012

The emotional side of being an entrepreneur and the values that drive me day-to-day…

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I’d done a fair number of interviews lately, mostly about Facebook Analytics and EdgeRank.

So it was a refreshing change when Dale from TrekDek asked for an interview about the emotional side of being an entrepreneur (hint: big highs, big lows) and the values that drive me day-to-day.

Read the full interview.

8 responses so far

Apr 16 2010

Speaking at TEDx Zagreb in a few hours…

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Here’s the rather random backstory about how I found myself in Croatia preparing to speak on “business networking.”

tedxzagreb

Eighteen months ago, Ryan Stephens graciously asked me to do a guest post on his blog about my approach to networking. (I don’t pretend that I’m an amazing networker who can solve all your problems–I’m very upfront with people that, “I can’t solve your problems, but I might know someone who can help you.” ;-))

Click here for the original guest post.

A number of people tweeted the post, and I received some attention for it. However, I was completely shocked when few weeks later, I received an e-mail from Nenad Maljkovic, saying that he saw a tweet linking to my blog post, and liked it… and would I be interested in speaking in Zagreb at TEDx?

Not every day you get invited half way around the world to speak on a subject near and dear to the heart!

Thx Ryan, Nenad, Zjelko, and my other hosts here–I’ve had a FANTASTIC time so far, and hopefully tomorrow I can provoke the audience to be more creative and thoughtful networkers. (If you’re curious, here’s my TEDx bio–IGNORE THE HYPE.)

2 responses so far

Dec 04 2009

Virtual Assistant Needed: How to Hire And Work With a Virtual Assistant

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I have a virtual assistant…. And we’ve been successfully working together for almost a year. (She keeps my frenetic life as a Facebook marketing specialist tied together.)

My explicit instructions for hiring a virtual assistant, including copies of my templates are below.

It all works–when my virtual assistant Katie went on vacation for  the entire summer, it took thirty minutes of my time to train someone else–fifteen minutes to explain things the new VA didn’t understand from my templates, and fifteen minutes to give her an e-mail on my Google Apps account. And she’d never worked as an assistant before!

What I’ve learned from having a virtual assistant:

  • How to be very explicit with my instructions
  • I know better what should be outsourced (hint: it’s almost always faster for me if it’s a one-time thing. But if it’s a repetitive task, it’s probably worth teaching her.)
  • I get a heckuva lot more done–she not only removes time, she removes annoyance–that mental friction that comes from having to do tasks that I downright hate (like scheduling meetings.)
  • She not only takes care of things for me, she does them better and faster than I ever could. Face it–just as you’re uniquely talented at some things, you’re uniquely flawed in others.
  • How to teach my employees to teach themselves–it’s rewarding when my VA says she’s learned a ton from working with me!

Computer keyboard with female hands

————————

How I setup my virtual assistant system.

First–who to hire?

  • For a personal assistant, trust is PARAMOUNT. Katie has full access to my Paypal account, credit cards, calendar, e-mail, etc. She could REALLY mess up my life…
  • Reliable college students are a great fit because you’ only need to pay them more than the minimum wages they’d be paid for washing dishes… $8-$15 an hour depending on whether they’re an independent contractor or part-time employee.
  • (Despite the naysayers in the comments below, the two college students I’ve hired have said they learned more by working for me than any other boss they’d ever had… plus they valued the flexibility and part-time nature of the job.)

What tasks are you going to have them do?

How are you going to communicate with them?

I recommend before you start communicating with an actual VA that you take some time and roughly draft out your guidelines for how to manage your calendar, meetings, travel details, and contact and account information. For examples, see the end of this blog post.

Update: A friend of mine–the Executive Admin for the CTO of a major company–clarified that an executive admin does far more than simply schedule meetings:

It is part of my job to sit in on [CTO’s] staff meetings, and to know the direction and goals of our company… I am [the CTO's] partner – it is my job to make sure that the meetings I allow onto his calendar fit into the bigger picture of what we’re doing.

——————————————————

Here are the 10 documents I use. (I just stick them on my personal wiki under a single folder titled “Reference: Assistants”.)

  1. General Information About Being My Assistant–Start Here [Self-explanatory]
  2. How to Add Events to My Calendar [Covers my five calendar categories and reminders]
  3. How to Schedule My Meetings [Addresses the people side of scheduling meetings]
  4. How to Add Someone to Jeff’s Contacts [Self-explanatory]
  5. How to Process My E-mail–Ignore For Now [For now, I find it simplest to handle my own e-mail]
  6. How to Use my Wiki [Explains my folder architecture]
  7. Press Kit [My assistant is responsible for getting press passes to events I want to attend--these links prove that I'm eligible]
  8. Travel Information [Self-explanatory]
  9. Jeff’s Contact Information [Lists contact information for me, my family, and my housemates]
  10. My Accounts [Lists my low-level usernames and passwords for different accounts across the web]

General Information About Being My Assistant–Start Here [Self-explanatory]

(as my VA, feel free to add stuff here as you think of it–ultimately, I want to have a VA document that is clear/self-explanatory/concise…)

Very First Things E-mail: [I copy and paste this into the first e-mail I send to FirstName@jeffwidman.com]

  1. I created a mail account for you – FIRSTNAME@jeffwidman.com.
  2. That account also provides access to your own Google Calendar and Google Docs on the jeffwidman.com domain
  3. I added that e-mail address as an administrator on my wiki.
  4. Go to wiki.jeffwidman.com and login to the wiki using your login instructions.
  5. Find the folder called “r: Assistants” and read the document “General Information About Being My Assistant–Start Here.”
  6. Read everything else.
  7. Go add yourself as a contact in my address book–be sure to include your mobile phone number.
  8. Setup a meeting with me in the next few days–schedule it on my calendar using the wiki instructions.
  9. (Come prepared with an agenda of things you don’t understand from reading the wiki.)
  10. Over the phone, I will give you the secure version of my password–please be VERY careful with this.
  11. We’re off and rolling!

———————–

Start by reading these articles: http://delicious.com/jeffwidman/virtual-assistant

My vision of a successful VA relationship:

- You not only handle my administrative tasks, you do so better than I ever could have.
- I tell you what I want, and you figure out how to make it happen.
- You handle my calendar, schedule meetings, and occasionally other tasks.
- You do not prevent people from contacting me, but instead force them to clarify rather than “chit-chat”.
- We both teach each other to collaborate better–suggest technology, interpersonal skills, marketing advice, etc.
- Never make it look like I’m soooo important that I need an assistant. (You’re freeing me to focus on what I do best.)

Task information:

- Deadlines are important. ‘Nuf said. (Let me know if a deadline is unrealistic.)
- Unless specified, assume time zone is Pacific Standard Zone.
- When you first start working, I NEED confirmations that you received the task (”on it — will be done at Xpm” is enough).
- When you complete tasks don’t require sending me anything, all I need is an e-mail that says “XXtask done”

Communicating with me:

- Skype: to clarify questions, quick status update, or confirm you received a task
- Phone: Don’t worry about calling me at a bad time. If I don’t want to answer the phone, I won’t.
- E-mail: I generally assign tasks via e-mail–easier to track over time.
- Urgent questions–use: Skype chat, phone, SMS text message. NOT e-mail.
- Non-urgent questions: just e-mail/SMS/skype chat if simple. Call if complex.
(How to leave voice mails: http://delicious.com/jeffwidman/voicemail)

Communicating with others:

- Never masquerade as Jeff.
- If someone wants to talk with me, that’s fine–see the page “How-to Schedule My Meetings”
- Be honest, be tactful, and be yourself.

Decisions:

- You are empowered to make decisions under $50. (Please notify me what you did.)

Billing:

Paypal is preferred. Let me know if you want something different.

E-mail Signature:

(Note: I’m always open to suggestions. I currently list my Google Voice #, up to you whether to change to your personal #. You are welcome to include your personal website and twitter handle as a way of advertizing your services.)


Full Name

Remote Assistant [or Calendar Ninja] for Jeff Widman

(401) 217-4327  | YourE-mail@jeffwidman.com
YourWebsite.com   | twitter.com/YourUserName


How to Add Events to My Calendar [Covers my five calendar categories and reminders]

Be very clear about time zones.

Generally I will forward you e-mails for events to add to my calendar.

  • Unless I make additional notes, assume it’s for my day-to-day calendar.
  • E-mail me a simple “done” so I know you took care of it.
  • Do not create all-day appointments on my day-to-day calendar–either block out the specific time I’m busy (eg, 8am-6:30pm if evening free), or put in followup calendar for reminders. (Otherwise it screws up free/busy information that I share with others).
  • If duration unspecified–use your best judgment…
  • Reminders–I never use popups. E-mail preferred. Text message reminders to important meetings. Look over my calendar defaults to understand my preferences. Use your best judgment…
  • If I’m meeting someone, include the location and their phone number in the title. eg, “Meet Tim (123-123-1234) @ Location”
  • Do not use “Meet X” for community events–”meet” is a hot button for me meaning I need to be there.
  • If it’s a physical location that I don’t regularly visit, please put the physical address in the location so I can quickly Google map it. (If e-mail says “Jason’s house” just put that in the location–I’ll know where to go.)
  • If I e-mail you a link to an event, please put the link in the notes–often these events go under community, and I’ll attend if my schedule’s free (and want to check out the link ahead of time).
  • For tech conferences, I am normally eligible for a press pass because I write for VentureBeat. E-mail the organizers or PR contact, mention that I write for VentureBeat, and ask for a press pass. For specific links, see the page on my wiki called “Press Kit.” [I'm attending these less and less--just don't have time.]

Currently, these are my calendars:

Day-to-Day

For day-to-day stuff that I need to attend.

This is the only calendar I share with my family/key friends, so if I’m busy, it needs to be on here. If I may/may not attend, it’ll probably go under community events.

Default: e-mail day before and sms before any scheduled calls and meetings.

(If it’s important, change to e-mail 3 days before, and text message 10 hours before face-to-face meetings or 20 minutes before telephone chats.)

Community Events

Things I may or may not attend. Generally not important, but I want to know about. Basic settings: E-mail alerts 7 days before (I’ll make a decision then)

Followup

This is my tickler calendar to remind me of stuff I need to follow up on at a later date, or decisions I’m postponing. Never put actual events I’m attending here. Always phrase appointments with verbs. (ie, “decide on…, call X about Y, schedule…)

Default reminders: e-mail 3 days in advance and a text message the day of. (Goal: get my e-mail inbox under control, so I don’t have to get texted about stuff)

Birthday-Anniversary

Where I track family/key friend’s birthdays & anniversaries. These should be all-day events in Google Calendar. Default reminders: 7 day e-mail (I’ll decide whether to get a gift) and e-mail that day (so I can call/e-mail them).

Mentors

This is where I stick recurring monthly appointments to call specific mentors in my life. Reminders: e-mail the day of. Try to schedule these appointments at least two days apart.

Calendar for VA post


How to Schedule My Meetings [Addresses the people side of scheduling meetings]

Rule #1–use your best judgment, even in spite of these rules…

(I trust you, and I’ll let you know if I disagree.)

Rhythm:

  • I start my working day between 8 and 9am
  • I generally quit work between 6pm-1am
  • I work 6-10 hours per day
  • I go to bed around 10:30pm–although not uncommon to pull an allnighter.
  • I work best in three to five hour chunks–thus I prefer to batch a bunch of meetings/calls together.
  • As a strong extrovert, I’m normally quite energetic after a face-to-face breakfast/lunch meeting, and like to have the next few hours free to work off that energy
  • I prefer to keep my evenings (after 5:30pm) unscheduled
  • My life is full, but my schedule is currently very flexible (I like to attend lunch-time frisbee twice a week)
  • Optimum schedule: Lunch T/R, breakfast any weekday
  • You have full access to my calendar, so schedule wherever works best–we’ll refine over time
  • (I work hard to keep my calendar updated all the time. If something needs to be rescheduled, I’ll let you know.)

Responding to Meeting Requests:

  • Currently, most meeting requests from others are people reaching out and looking to connect via phone…
  • I love talking with them, but want to make sure they’re serious about the call.
  • Ask which topics they would like to discuss, and put in the calendar description notes.
  • Here’s a sample e-mail I’ve used before:

Name,

This is YourFirstName, Jeff’s virtual assistant–I manage his calendar and schedule meetings.

Jeff said he appreciated your reaching out to him–he would love to chat with you.
He normally finds a 20-30 minute phone call most efficient.

However, Jeff doesn’t want to waste your time, so he asked that you e-mail me 3 potential discussion topics/questions.

Please send me your phone number, and two good days/times to call you this week (include time zone). I’ll set an appointment on Jeff’s calendar and get back to you.

By the way, I checked out your blog–very nice! [totally optional--only if true]

Thanks!

YourFirstName

Scheduling meeting requests I’ve confirmed:

  • If they respond, email Jeff the confirmed meeting time and location–BCC’ing often works well.
  • If they ignore you. Send a 2nd e-mail three days later, and ask if they saw it–often, they just forgot to respond. Ask me if you don’t hear back after two e-mails.
  • When you communicate with anyone, be clear you’re merely facilitating a meeting–you’re not trying to make Jeff seem busy/impressive. Never be pushy.
  • Here’s a great sample e-mail:

Options:

1. How about <meeting place> at <time>?  (You initiate the meeting place.)

2. When would you like to get together?  (Let him set the date.)

Face-to-face:

  • See the “How to add events to my calendar” wiki page
  • ***Important*** Make the title “Meet w/NAME (PHONE #)”
  • Give them my  Google Voice number
  • If we’ve never met, they can see a picture of me here: http://www.jeffwidman.com/blog/about/
  • While most lunch meetings last 1 hour, I prefer to build 1.5 hours into my calendar just in case things are going really well.
  • I’m not rich, but don’t want to meet in McDonald’s either–and I try to always pickup the check. (I find having them suggest a place solves the problem.)
  • I prefer lunch meetings within fifteen minutes drive from where I work (shorter is better–currently I work from home). This way I’m gone from work for a maximum of two hours.

Restaurant Preferences:

  • I enjoy all types of food–ask if they have a favorite.
  • (Sushi, and other semi-adventurous foods are always fun.)
  • I prefer to have them suggest a place–unless they’re from out of town, then ask me.
  • In my Google Docs, under Reference, there’s a spreadsheet of Bay Area Restaurants–please add to it when I visit a new place.
  • If they don’t know, call Jason XXXX or Andrea XXXXX (in my address book), tell ‘em you’re my Assistant, and ask for ideas–they’re both foodie’s and know me/my style.

How to Add Someone to Jeff’s Contacts [Self-explanatory]


How to Process My E-mail–Ignore For Now [For now, I find it simplest to handle my own e-mail]


How to Use my Wiki [Explains my folder architecture]


Press Kit [I still write irregularly for VentureBeat. My assistant is responsible for getting press passes to events I want to attend--these links prove that I'm eligible]

http://delicious.com/jeffwidman/articles Examples of articles Jeff has written, useful when applying for press passes.

http://delicious.com/jeffwidman/press-kit for random stuff. (Website with articles/content by or that mention Jeff.)

http://delicious.com/jeffwidman/interviews for when people have questions about interviewing me.


Travel Information [Self-explanatory]

(Right now, I travel infrequently, so we’ll handle plane tickets, hotel rooms, etc on a case-by-case basis.)

All travel related emails–like itineraries, hotel rooms, conference registration numbers, etc–should be labeled with the “Travel Details” label–that label maps to a folder on Jeff’s iPod and phone so that Jeff can easily pull them up on his phone when he needs them.

Whenever you buy plane tickets, please forward the itinerary information to “plans@tripit.com” (Unless I specify the trip is to surprise someone–my Tripit account makes my travel plans publicly available.)

Tripit( www.tripit.com ) Account information:
UN: email
PW: normal insecure password


Jeff’s Contact Information [Lists contact information for me, my family, and my housemates]

Public Contact information-Can give to anyone:

E-mail: jeff@jeffwidman.com

Google Voice Number: (401) 217-4327

Private – Do not give to anyone:

Skype:
GChat:

Jeff’s personal cell phone:
Dad’s cell phone:
Parent’s home phone:
Sister cell phone:

My home address:

Housemate #1 Cell Phone:
Housemate #2 Cell Phone

My parent’s home address:

Time where I live:
[I used a Google Gadget to insert a clock that shows the time and date where I live. Super useful when your VA lives in a different time zone!]



My Accounts [Lists my low-level usernames and passwords for different accounts across the web]

51 responses so far

Dec 03 2009

I’m officially a college graduate!

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Hey all–I officially graduated college in the middle of September. Thx for all the support, encouragement, and friendly ribbing… :-)

PS: Out of all the time I’ve spent learning how to negotiate, this was by far the most useful 90 minutes: Stanford Podcast with Joel Peterson.

3 responses so far

Jun 30 2009

The 21 questions my friend asks me every night over the phone

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Several months ago, I attended the GTD Conference, where I heard Marshall Goldsmith describe what he called “Peer Coaching”:

Every day Jim asks Marshall the same 24 questions. Every day Marshall asks Jim the same 17 questions. Marshall and Jim each have a spreadsheet of each other’s questions where they record for each other the answers: ‘yes’, ‘no’, or a number. Structuring the questions in this way keeps the phone call moving. Each phone call lasts only a couple of minutes.

I thought it was a fantastic idea, so for the past three months, Brian Russell and myself have had a similar phone call every night.

There were three rules:

  1. We each wrote our own questions.
  2. We committed to call each night (except for when Brian was in South America)
  3. All the questions had to be specific–answerable with a yes/no or number between 1-10.

What we learned:

  • Writing good questions is hard
  • Honestly answering these questions is even harder–I’m confronted with failure on a daily basis
  • The emotional connection of a phone call is SUPER important for accountability–when Brian was in South America, we tried using a spreadsheet, but I never remembered to update it.
  • Focus on simplicity. If you can’t finish the phone call in 5 minutes, you’ll start dreading it (of course, most nights we end up talking for fifteen minutes, but that’s just bouncing ideas around and being friends.)
  • The call is a great way to celebrate successes and reboot from failures–on a daily basis.

Brian and myself became friends in middleschool, and we’ve built a VERY close friendship since then. I respect his reliability, his advice, and his sensitivity. Reliability is also a function of interest. Brian spent some time thinking about it, and decided this was something he was interested in enough to commit to for a month, and we’ve just kept going strong since then.


Jeff’s Questions:

  1. Did you accomplish the three most important tasks on your todo list for today?(Have you set three todo’s for tomorrow?)
  2. How many hours did you work on tasks that would directly make money?
  3. Did you spend time reading/learning for the long-term?
  4. How much time did you waste on e-mail/the web?
  5. How many times were you late to meet someone?
  6. Did you compliment at least three people today?
  7. How many times did you criticize?
  8. How many times did you try to prove how smart you are?
  9. On a scale of 1-10, were you a non-interrupting listener, relevant storyteller, and intentional conversationalist today?
  10. (If Fasting day) Did you fast today?
  11. What was one way you failed today?
  12. How many times did you have a lustful thought about a woman?
  13. How many times did you worry today (like about the future)?
  14. Did you read your Bible today?
  15. Did you spend dedicated time in prayer today?
  16. How many people did you witness to today?
  17. How many pushups?
  18. Did you brush your teeth?
  19. Your plan between now and bed?
  20. By whose power did you live and for whose glory?

Brian’s Questions:

  1. Have you kept your eyes pure?
  2. Have you kept your thoughts pure?
  3. Did you read your Bible?
  4. How many times did you pray?
  5. Did you read a book?
  6. Did you procrastinate your 3 priority tasks?
  7. Have you set three tasks for tomorrow?
  8. How many hours did you work for money?
  9. How many times were you late?
  10. During conversation, were you proactive? (leading, affirming, exhorting, rebuking)
  11. How many pushups?
  12. Did you brush your teeth?
  13. Your plan between now and bed?

No responses yet

Jun 12 2009

Lean Manufacturing + Software + Startups: Profiling Palantir Technologies

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Currently, I’m spending much of my time in Mountain View, CA, but finishing my last few classes at WWU in Bellingham, WA. This involves a lot of tap-dancing, several independant study and distance learning courses, and some very flexible professors (Thx guys!)

Dr. Stella Hua worked with me to design an independent study examining how software startups can successfully integrate lean manufacturing techniques.

I posted one of my case studies over on VentureBeat: “Palantir keeps it lean and mean on five-year journey from zero to 150 employees.”

2 responses so far

Jun 01 2009

Questions for which I’ve heard neither concise nor comprehensive answers…

Published by under Uncategorized

  • Where can I read more about feedback loops in models?
  • If you heavily rely on analytics, you might miss breakthroughs because you’re so stuck on gradually evolving… how do you balance learning from feedback loops and simply taking a leap with your gut?
  • In the tech world, I see three stereotypes: engineers who are clueless about the bottom line, artists who don’t care, and venture capitalists who think of nothing else. How do I balance the underlying motives?
  • How do you decide on your hobbies?
  • People always talk about the hype bubble in Silicon Valley. What are things you see missing/underhyped in today’s Silicon Valley?
  • How do I as a student identify what to learn that will be of value in ten years? (today’s pop marketing focuses on social media, etc–for my long-term education, how do I know what’s fundamental and what’s just noise?)
  • In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore talks about pragmatists versus visionaries in the adoption curve–do you have any tactics for getting them to quickly self-identify so you don’t waste time on customers who aren’t ready for you?
  • What’s your advice about hiring sales/marketing folks? (I was intrigued by “When he said, “about ten percent,” I knew by the embarrassed look on his face I had found the right guy.“)

6 responses so far

May 29 2009

Painting corners: How do you make decisions when your choices have unknown pros/cons?

Published by under Uncategorized,Wordpress

(My secret sauce for decision-making. So simple… I must be stupid to benefit from this.)

The background:
For the past three summers, I’ve spent a week in the outdoors with my friends Ryan and Matt (one of those rare types with zero Google presence). We’ve gone backpacking, canoing, overseas, etc. These trips were great fun, rebooted my perspective with a week completely offline, and helped me build some incredible friendships.

That is, until last summer. Matt was starting school at the end of August, and Ryan was working until early August. And it just so happened that I’d been offered the chance to spend August at TechStars.

Decision: TechStars or my friends?

I spent two weeks agonizing over the decision, knowing that I was picking between two extremely attractive options–and the worst part, I didn’t know exactly what would be the outcome of my TechStars experience, nor whether the three of us could get together over Thanksgiving (the only potential compromise.)

How do you make decisions when your choices have unknown consequences–you DON’T know the pros/cons?

You paint the corners. ‘Cause you almost always know the absolute best and absolute worst. You just don’t know the probabilities.

paint-the-corners

A binary decision has two outcomes: What’s the best and worst possible consequences for each outcome?

Eg, if I go to TechStars, the best outcome included massive learning, extending my network, and connecting with Matt and Ryan over Thanksgiving. The worst outcome was a month in Boulder minus the opportunity cost of staying home.

If I go with friends, the best outcome was making money for a few weeks, plus spend a week with friends. The worst that happens is I make a little money, spend a week with friends, and forgo opportunities from TechStars.

The Pros/Cons are unknown–or rather, known outcomes with unknown probability..

I chose TechStars, and was also able to connect with my friends over Thanksgiving.

(Note: I first read about “Best-worst case analysis” in Ben Carson’s book, Take The Risk–thanks Jerome!  I’ve found these four questions make most of my decisions very easy.)

Steve Blank provides another decision-making heuristic:

Think of decisions of having two states: those that are reversible and those that are irreversible. An example of a reversible decision could be adding a product feature, a new algorithm in the code, targeting a specific set of customers, etc. If the decision was a bad call you can unwind it in a reasonable period of time. An irreversible decision is firing an employee, launching your product, a five-year lease for an expensive new building, etc. These are usually difficult or impossible to reverse.

My advice was to start a policy of making reversible decisions before anyone left his office or before a meeting ended. In a startup it doesn’t matter if you’re 100% right 100% of the time. What matters is having forward momentum and a tight fact-based feedback loop (i.e. Customer Development) to help you quickly recognize and reverse any incorrect decisions. That’s why startups are agile. By the time a big company gets the committee to organize the subcommittee to pick a meeting date, your startup could have made 20 decisions, reversed five of them and implemented the fifteen that worked.

3 responses so far

May 20 2009

Why Corporations can’t use money alone to tempt smart young folks…

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Last Wednesday, I spoke on a SD Forum panel about “College Students & Technology”. Our moderator, Josh Lowensohn, asked about our thoughts on startups, gadgets, dealing with online distractions, how companies should recruit college students, what we did to land killer internships, etc.

During the Q & A session, June Bower from Cisco asked, “How much does money matter when college students are considering an internship or a job?”

monopoly money college students

Throughout the panel discussion, we had simply ignored the topic and focused on learning experiences and acquiring brand names for the resume… When June asked the question, I gave a non-specific answer that money mattered, but not that much.

But the truth is, money matters. A lot. One of my life goals is to give away $1 million dollars, and I think about it fairly regularly. Also, if I ever choose to bootstrap a business or do more traveling, I need to accumulate some savings…

Every single mentor and advisor of mine says, “At this point in life, value experience far higher than money. For internships and entry-level jobs, the salary spread is low enough that the long-term value of experience will more than compensate for a low-paying job.”

Here’s the simple answer: Because I value money so highly, the long-term earning potential of experience far outweighs immediate salary.

Already, I’ve seen my low-paying, high-learning internships pay off in really neat opportunities.
(Note: Low-paying, low-learning internships are the most common. Never take those!)

3 responses so far

May 14 2009

A thought provoking e-mail from an advisor…

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widman family

Recently, I met with a VP of a major software company (trust me, you’ve heard of it) and pitched him on creating a position for me as a go-between the corporation and the startup community.

In the weeks prior to the meeting, I spent about forty hours researching the company’s strategy, the VP (how do you pronounce that name?) and listening to numerous friends and acquaintances provide valuable advice.

While the guy didn’t have room on his team, I think we both enjoyed the meeting and that door might be open in the future.

Afterward,  Sean Murphy, a very thoughtful advisor, wrote me this e-mail–kinda out of the blue, but it certainly made me reflect.
Perhaps you will enjoy it as well…
(He gave permission to post publicly.)

———————-

Thanks for the update. You are too well rounded and spiritually inclined to become a billionaire.

I am confident that you are going to meet with considerable success in this life, I think you should be true to yourself. I have seen too many people compromise hoping that the right job or car or salary increase or big bag of cash will allow them to move to a better lifetime.

The Irish have a saying “there are no pockets in shrouds.” It’s one I try to keep in mind. H Jackson Brown’s 21 suggestions for success are a little trite, but having observed a number of folks at Cisco and some other firms become multimillionaires I must tell you that for the most part they become more of whatever they were before.

If there weren’t happy before it didn’t help a lot. Many many got divorced and became estranged from their children.

One of the saddest meetings that I attended was about five years ago with some folks who had been mid-level managers in a semiconductor firm, they were all millionaires, all divorced, none of their children had managed to graduate from college and once they stopped talking about how much money they were making in the market or as Angel investors their lives were dust. They all had had the expectation that they could ignore their children until about 14 or 15 and show up with a big bag of money to make it all better. Needless to say it didn’t work.

I know that you will find whatever it is that you seek, just make sure when you get it that it’s what you really want. /SeanM

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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