Bad Assumptions: Corporate Canada vs. Startups

Who was I?

In my last post I left off with 3 questions:

  1. Is making the most money for a company that tests on animals really being the best?
  2. Is being the best writer or marketer or programmer worth the social sacrifice?
  3. Is getting the best grade worth the knowledge you actually receive?

I ended with “I don’t know.”

I should rephrase.

What I meant was “I don’t know, it depends on the person”. I wholeheartedly know the answers to these questions for myself. Zane challenged me to use these questions as a jumping off point into my values, but I think a better way to go about it is to tell you how my values have changed over the years.

I’m a childhood immigrant, and a child of single, divorced mother. I like to think my mom instilled good values in me from the start but when most of your time is spent away from your mom, those values tend to skew towards what your friends, what society, and what other people expect from you.

I was a quiet kid, highly-technical, highly-creative, and not entirely sure about anything. I was heavily-bullied in elementary school for my poverty, for being quiet, and for not having a father.

For a long time afterwards, I had bad assumptions about people.

Not in any specific way… just whenever I would meet a new person or even – see someone on the street or in a movie – I would immediately start thinking the worst of them.

I was a pessimist in the worst sense.

My values in that time and afterwards – up until very recently actually – were selfish.

I knew that being right made me feel good so I valued being right. It didn’t matter if it was about a random fact, or something I studied, or something someone else said. I would argue with them about it and then if it didn’t fit my definition of “right”, I would tell them I don’t care and stop the conversation.

This was the process for a lot of my values at the time: beauty, wealthy, sex, self-indulgence.

I didn’t feel secure about any of these so I was living in a pool of bad experiences which I myself created.


How was I?

So what does this have to do with my career?

2 years ago I went to my first conference – YEC or the Young Entrepreneur’s Conference, run by the Digital Enterprise Management Association (at that time, the Digital Enterprise Management Society).

The only thing that fit well at the conference was my blazer.

I was a ball of nervous expectations.

I remember an old white guy in a suit – one of their speakers I believe – coming up to me and saying that he thinks he’s met me before.

I got so nervous I started mumbling about being interested in apps until he said he said something to the tune of “I think I’m gonna get lunch”, and walked away.
I still cringe thinking about that moment.

I think I’ve always had a preconceived notion of corporations as evil or dangerous or monolithic – I assumed they would change me to be uncaring or evil in some way. And I found reasons to confirm it.

For example, in that experience, instead of saying “wow I was pretty awkward, I should learn to communicate better and find a focus and not be so nervous”, I assumed that he didn’t understand me because he was a corporate suit and didn’t like what I was saying because it didn’t conform to what he wanted.

Which is also true on some level – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Employers don’t want to talk to people who don’t offer them value – but I took that personally.

Thinking about it now, if an employer doesn’t want to talk to me, then I don’t want to talk to them either. But I realize that may also be a bad assumption.

I need to be able to go after what I want and make people want to talk to me.


Who am I now?

When I started meeting more people from corporations – and when my friends started working at corporations and when I started questioning some of my assumptions – I realized I could see myself in a corporate environment.

This feeling was short-lived and fueled by the values I described earlier.

I liked corporations because they felt like they had power and wealth – not towards any specific goal, but just because power and wealth and status felt good.

I felt the converse effects of these whenever I applied for a corporate job and received a nameless, faceless reply. Or when an executive would give me a business card and I couldn’t get a hold of them even after calling for a week straight.

I think I stopped pursuing corporate connections just for the connection at this point.

I started focusing a lot more on what I wanted to do and what stimulated me – data analytics, being personable, being focused, being disciplined, and finding the benefits in everything.

This is where my new values formed: honesty, trust, care, and vision.


What do I want?

As I mentioned in my last blog, I organized an office tour at 500px for students in my program (Digital Enterprise Management and CCIT).

Out of the 23 who signed up, only 3 (myself included) showed up. At first I was stressed, but I decided it was a good opportunity to get more one-on-one questions in.

My friend who was running the tour – a young graduate out of the UTM Management department – spent some time talking about how he started there doing marketing and switched around for 9 months, now doing growth. I immediately noted that I wanted to do that. I wanted to switch and learn as dynamically as he did – even if it didn’t pertain to my responsibilities. I love the idea of having access to talent and experience to learn from in a personable environment.

In a corporation, it feels like I would have to have someone introduce me to someone else and follow up with 11 emails before we got anywhere close to connecting. In a startup, I could sit in on a meeting or watch someone do work and ask questions or get involved directly – which is much more conducive to my learning.

During the tour I was also introduced to a Data Analyst whom I had some questions or – it feels like talking to a friend whenever we email or call.

She’s so passionate about the work and about my questions that it inspires me to keep learning and pursuing what I love.

Maybe I’m biased – but I’ve never had that kind of exchange with a corporate contact.

But that may also change.


Where am I going?

I find reasons now not to talk to employers not because I take what they say or do personally but because I value myself more as a person with several valuable sets of skills, the ability to learn quickly, a personable attitude, and I need to meet people who can identify with my values as well.

I enjoy communicating with others, I enjoy learning, I enjoy responsibility, and I enjoy making people feel – on a personal level – like they matter to the world. Whether that be through their job, or otherwise. And I use that energy to think about what I can do for the world – how can I help the world? Or more to the truth – how can I help the world help itself?

And I think startups are the way to do more of that while wasting less time on procedure and administration.