If I had not joined erstwhile startup Chikka Asia back in 2004, I most probably would not have had the inspiration and mindset to start my own firm. Back in those times, I only had one mindset – climbing the corporate ladder. My experience in Chikka broadened my career horizons and got me thinking, “hey, maybe I can do it!”
Previous to Chikka, I was working with companies which had really “corporate” cultures, where we had to go to work in ties and all. As I started in Chikka, I quickly noticed some differences, such as:
1) a hatred of formality (yep, it’s a strong word, but I’m sticking with it)
2) there were no special rooms for “Management,” everyone had the same table and chair like and with everyone else
3) there were interesting perks (beer after 6, lechon feasts during birthdays of founders, etc…)
4) LOUD meetings
5) approvals were A LOT faster
I mean, some of these might seem run-of-the-mill now, but during that time, and especially with my very corporate-conservative background these were all NEW.
And I loved it. I thought the lack of formality made for a more creative atmosphere.
Most importantly, I sucked up the entire experience like a sponge, paying attention to stuff like: how the CEO thought, how the COO just EXECUTED, how quickly ideas were turned into action, how problems were handled, how employees were empowered, how ambiguity was handled, how open the Management team was to new ideas, and very importantly, how the company grew from its very humble roots.
Actually, when I joined Chikka, I was already talking to Pao about forming STORM. In retrospect, joining Chikka was precisely what I needed at that time – I needed to understand firsthand that a Philippine startup COULD work. (thank you, God) My experience in working for a startup solidified my intention in building one. If I had joined that apparel company which also gave me a job offer, I remain convinced that I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now.
If you are hesitant to dive headlong into starting a startup, joining one provides a very strategic bridge. Startup life and corporate life are SO dissimilar. Corporate life does little to prepare you for the challenges of running a startup. Joining a startup can provide you with a great way to experience startup life with minimal risk (you still have a salary). You can ask some of the founders to mentor you (If they are open. If they are not, then that might not be the right startup for you – startup founders are typically quite enthusiastic with mentoring newer startups). At the very least, I can almost guarantee a great learning experience.
(7 slots remaining for JuangreatMEET on March 27! Do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a slot!)