Blog post by ELP Student David Kobrosky (Computer Science & Business Admin | Class of 2021)
To be or not to be employee number 16,789
When thinking about impact, a few things come to mind. First, I consider whether or not I care about an issue and secondly, I think about whether or not I can do anything about it. The next step is considering, “could another person replicate my work and could they have the same influence over the company that I would have”. If the answer is yes to the second piece, I question if I’m spending my time in the right place.
Based on these series of questions, the beauty of working for a startup is that:
- I can chose the issue I’m fighting for.
- Since I’m on a small team, I have a say in company direction.
- Since I have influence over the company as a whole, an idea I bring up has potential to pivot or drastically improve the company I’m working with.
Now, let’s use this model for Google.
- Yeah, sure. Bringing billions of people together over the internet is something worth fighting for.
- Perhaps I can spend my summer developing a single button that will be clicked a thousand times and have at least a marginal impact on the platform and therefore the world.
- There is no chance that as an intern or employee number 16,789 I’m meeting someone on the executive board let alone doing an action in a way that another individual couldn’t do. If I were to quit that job, the stock price of Google would continue to grow.
So, in conclusion, don’t be employee number 16,789.
Landing your startup
Now, where does that leave us? It leaves us with finding a mission worth fighting for, on a team you can impact, where your voice matters.
This takes me to my experience as employee number four at a small blockchain company called Turing.
Turing is based out of New York City the founding team is made up of three leaders in the blockchain space coming from CoinDesk, Smith and Crown, and the Ethereum Foundation. Yet, as a super early stage startup, with a mere landing page that described the company before their initial pivot, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when shooting a cold email (briefly mentioning a mutual connection). Frankly, I wasn’t even expecting a reply.
And so, it never came. After all, I had EECS183 (intro to computer science) as my credentials along with a few extra curricular activities. So, I shot another email.
This time I heard back: “Hey David – We’re heads down on some things. I can talk in early to mid February.”
I got this email on January 4th.
So, as mid February came along I reached out and asked to chat. Surprised I followed up, one of the founders was happy to take a quick call. That quick call turned into an interview which then lead to a second interview with the cofounders.
By the end of the week, they asked me to write up a quick few paragraphs on governance in blockchain systems. Since I was convinced I wanted to be their first hire, I wrote up an 8 page comprehensive study on multiple governance systems within blockchain and my opinion on how each could be implemented within their platform.
A few Sundays later I received a call asking for when I could start. I was the fourth member of the team as Freshman from UMich and the ELP 3 cohort and I couldn’t have been more psyched.
So, what problem did they seek to solve? Fandom. More particularly, the lack of interaction between an influencer (Youtuber, celebrity, musician) and their fans. All I can say is expect something exciting with a few people you may know before early 2019!
Wait a second, what about finding a mission worth fighting for?
This is the fun part. You can create meaning regardless of the startup you work for. Yes, I care about bridging the gap between an artist and their supporters, but I don’t think it’s my life’s mission. You can do projects for your company in a way that helps you build skills so you can hustle on the side. With a smaller company, you can request to explore a topic further and really dig in on something that interests you because you see potential in it
In particular, I did this with Non fungible tokens, or ERC 721 tokens, that can create digital scarcity through the ethereum blockchain. From digging into ways we can use these on our platform, I found a side project that dealt with trading scarce software licenses on a blockchain so you can transfer the ownership of your Adobe, CAD software, and other subscriptions seamlessly. While we’re still building it out, this is just a small example of how regardless what internship you land, you can always find ways to further your experience.