That’s a clickbait title, I admit it. I like working here at Infinio and it definitely feels like I belong.
But I am not a classic entrepreneur; my mind doesn’t work like great startup people’s minds work. Don’t get me wrong, I have some characteristics that are great at a startup – I’m creative, hardworking, willing to jump in to anything, comfortable learning in front of others, and a little bit irreverent. I’m equally facile in technical and business environments. Maybe most valuable, I’m invested in working on any interesting problem that comes my way.
I didn’t set out to work at a startup. Infinio just happened to be the place where I felt the most comfortable. I liked the people and the culture and the fact it was accessible by public transportation. I have a background in storage and I wanted to leverage that. But had I not ended up here, I probably would have ended up at a medium-sized established software company.
There are many, many good reasons I shouldn’t be at a startup: I’m (usually) incredibly risk-averse. My husband is the risk-taker in our family, and he’s already at an early-stage startup. I value work-life balance or blend or whatever it’s being called these days. I am trained as a mathematician and an engineer – to learn the rules of a system, exercise them to determine their boundaries, and then work within them. I don’t like change and I don’t like uncertainty.
I can see these characteristics come out in interactions I have here. Usually one of the most optimistic people I know, here I’m always thinking, “That won’t work” “We can’t pull that off” “Nobody will buy that from us” “We can’t support something like that.” It’s unnatural for me to think disruptively. I’m asking for unrealistic levels of certainty to do “clean” product marketing. I’m looking for a short-term, mid-range, and long-term vision that I can build a marketing story around. And it just doesn’t work that way.
When I first worked at Dell, I remember being beaten in the field over and over by EqualLogic. Sales management knew that I had worked for a reseller and represented EqualLogic, so they asked me to provide some insight on its Achilles’ heels. And I had nothing. Sure, EqualLogic wasn’t a perfect product and there would have been compelling reasons for a customer to choose Dell’s branded EMC gear as an alternative, but I couldn’t help but just say, “It’s a good product, it’s very hard to compete against.” And that’s not very enterprising, it’s not very entrepreneurial. But sometimes I can have a pure black-and-white meritocracy view of the world, and that’s hard to shake.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was able to change my Myers Briggs type and I think this is going to be that kind of transition. The opportunities that will be open to me if I can change my frame of reference in business to a broader one that accepts grey and “maybe” and luck and possibility is large. Plus, it’s fun.
I thought I’d come and learn “how to do product marketing” but that has been just a small amount of my education here. Don’t get me wrong – it’s taken a lot of time and I’ve made a ton of mistakes. But more of my energy is spent on “how to think like an entrepreneur” – that things are possible and we can succeed and the market might actually exist.
I am grateful to work with people who think bigger than I do, who make bigger bets more naturally than I do, and who take bigger risks more naturally than I do.
Because I’m learning to do all that, too.