It’s been just over 2 years. I must admit it definitely feels longer than that. So much has happened within that timeframe, in an environment where a day feels like a month. I mean, what could possibly make someone want to leave a safe, stable job building teams and solutions within the Enterprise to start from scratch? Glad you asked.
The glory certainly exists in start-up land and the feeling of contribution is immense when things are going well. The highs are superb. But with the highs come the ‘waking up at 3am in a cold sweat’, the ‘constant obsession to make things better’ and the ‘all rational thought would indicate this should work well, but analytics is clearly telling a different story’ moments, which can test even the strongest of characters.
As CTO of an automotive start-up, Autoguru, I thought I’d share some key learnings at which the experienced amongst us can have a laugh and say “I’ve been there before!” And to those (less?) fortunate newcomers to the startup world, hopefully you’ll learn a little something from these words of wisdom.
Here are 3 things I learned from working in a Digital Startup:
Lesson 1: Don’t build what’s already been built
Need a way to track customers effectively and ensure the right offers are sent to them at the right time? Don’t build it. There are countless CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems out there you can integrate with.
Does your solution need to scale massively, have millisecond response times and be fault tolerant down to a micro-service level with monitoring to the nth degree? Again, there are a myriad of options available in AWS, Azure and Google Cloud that will provide these features without your development teams ever having to break into a sweat.
Do you have an existing product that’s inflexible and refuses to play nicely with other systems? Ok, so this is where you should consider other options, and if there’s no ‘off the shelf’ product available it’s time to consider an API platform or custom build.
This was precisely the scenario with our call centre application at AutoGuru, and by replacing it with the Twilio platform we were able to tightly integrate all our communication touch points into back end systems and create a framework where we control the roadmap for improved customer interaction.
The key point is we’ve never been in such a fortunate position where AI, Chatbots, advanced analytics, CRM, CMS, (the list goes on), are all available and at our fingertips for a fraction of the cost compared to just a few years ago.
Development teams should be intent on building your product. That thing that differentiates you from your competitors. Your secret sauce. Your delighter. That’s where your focus should be.
You can save a lot of time and effort in finding the right products, so if you want to check out what other successful tech companies are using, check out StackShare.
“Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo
Lesson 2: You don’t have 6 months, see what you can build in 2
Your product is new, unproven and there are a thousand ideas floating around to improve it and make it better, faster, more user friendly. When it comes to larger ideas that perhaps take your company in a new direction or into a completely new marketplace or partnership, it can be easy to sink a lot of resources and time into these kinds of initiatives.
Time is something you don’t have. And if you do, you’re amongst a tiny percentage of very lucky startups! Smart people possess an uncanny ability to look into the future and foresee every variation and edge case for what may or may not happen when a feature or product is built.
The difficult part is rationalising the probability of these various outcomes eventuating, so you’re essentially not wasting energy (in many cases) on improbable events.
If you give a product team 6 months to build a product they will take 6 months as they fill time with small probability edge cases – the ‘what if’s’ for want of a better term.
Taking the same product and seeing what can be built in 2 months will focus everyone’s energy on the core of what’s being built and how it can best serve a customer. The edge cases will most likely come, but at least you’ll already have a product in market!
Lesson 3: Shortcuts will come back to bite you…eventually
It may seem contradictory to Lesson 2, but there are some shortcuts you will most certainly come to regret in the long run. Here are a few standouts I think it’s only right to mention:
- Failing to have effective analytics
Analytics is sometimes the poor cousin of a feature but if you can’t measure you can’t learn.
- Automation is key
Code deployments? – Automate
Server environments? – Automate
Unit/Integration test? – Automate
Ok, you get the picture. It may take longer initially but you’ll save time in the future by making these investments.
- Failing to Prioritise
All team members are super busy and working hard. Congratulations! However, by not investing the time in continual, harsh, cold blooded prioritisation using methods such as MoSCoW or ICE it could all be in vain. A handy comparison of prioritisation methods is available here.
Fortunately, I learnt some of these lessons prior to working at AutoGuru, however, in a startup environment it’s wise to keep referring back to base principles, as every day counts.
What are your experiences in Digital Startups? Please leave your thoughts below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com
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5 Hacks to Improve Your Writing Skills in English for ESL Learners
Studying in college is hard for everyone, but ESL learners arguably suffer the most. Moving to a foreign country, learning a new language, and keeping pace with the rest of the class may seem like an unbearable burden. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but you have to pull through and not give up.
In moments like this, it’s always a good idea to seek help. Whether you go to WriteMyPaper to order an essay or just talk to a friend, admitting vulnerability is an important step towards improvement. In this article, you will find some tips on how to get better at essay writing, even if English is not your native language.
Control Your Environment
Improving your language skills is all about constant practice. Living in an English-speaking community is the first thing you should do to start your practice. It might be tempting to surround yourself with people who already speak a familiar language. However, this way, you won’t be practicing English on a daily basis.
You need to make those lessons almost intuitive in a way that you don’t have to do anything to learn the language. If you live in an English-speaking community, for example, if your roommate speaks English, you will have to practice the language, whether you want it or not.
Still, make sure you don’t take it too far. Taking care of yourself is still as important as ever. Feeling like an alien for the sake of education is not worth it. Remember to keep in touch with your friends and family, talk to them as often as necessary.
Practicing language is not just about doing your homework. You can make practicing English a normal part of your daily routine by watching TV, listening to music, and reading books in this language.
Yet, this is a bit tricky. When being surrounded by white noise, people tend to learn not to notice it. You need to ensure this doesn’t happen. As you watch movies or read books, maintain your attention on what you’re doing. If you hear or see a word that you don’t understand – translate it and write it down. Be mindful and remember what you’re doing this for.
Writing Is The Answer
If you want to specifically learn to write, you need to do one thing, and that is to write. Continuous practice will help you understand what mistakes you often make and, in time, eliminate them. Focus on your goal, and don’t get discouraged when something’s not working. After all, even Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Get a journal and write in it daily. Pick a new topic every time and note everything you can think of. It’s also important that you write by hand, a spelling checker in your computer is tempting, but it will not help you remember how to spell words correctly.
Besides, journaling as a habit has multiple health benefits, and it can be therapeutic. It can help you get in touch with yourself and process your emotions better.
Learn In a Group
It’s proven that learning in a group is more efficient due to the sense of competition. Find a bunch of like-minded people who want to study with you or join an already existing one, like a speaking club.
The benefit of such activities is that you get all these people from entirely different backgrounds who are all good at various things. This will help you exchange experiences, which is impossible if you’re alone.
Schedule regular meetings, come up with topics to discuss and activities to do. You could watch videos or movies together, or talk about common things. Having assignments like describing an event can also be beneficial for the entire group. This way, while one person speaks, the rest think about how they would say the same things differently.
This will help you feel more confident in your skills and, consequently, speak and write better.
The most important thing about learning a language is not to be afraid of making mistakes. It’s inevitable; you just have to take it as a natural part of a learning process.
A child that is learning how to walk doesn’t give up after falling once, and you shouldn’t either. It’s most likely that your friends understand that you’re just learning a language, and they won’t laugh at you for misusing a word or a few.
Get over that fear of error and make as many mistakes as it will take. Treat it lightly, and don’t beat yourself up for it. On the other hand, try to attend as many events as you can that will expose you to the foreign language. Not only will it boost your English skills, but also improve your social confidence!
Learning a language is hard; there’s no arguing about that. However, it’s going to get easier with time. Take every hard thing that life throws at you and turn it into a lesson.
Watch your favorite movies in English, converse with native speakers, and you’ll see the improvement very soon!
Remember to be patient about it. Don’t give up, and don’t beat yourself up over something that you have so little control of. Good luck!
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