Hey all you obsessively dedicated CPE blog readers! Here’s an update about last night’s meeting in case you missed it. Yesterday, we had a really cool opportunity to hear from a different type of entrepreneurial speaker than usual: start-up employees!
Typically, CPE draws in a variety of guest speakers who are in some phase or another of the business life-cycle. Usually we get former founders or current founders/co-founders to come give a talk. These people are great and they always have important insights and experiences to share, but sometimes it’s a bit hard to relate to the success stories of these start-up ass kickers. We recognize that, while there are hordes of awesome and ambitious members in CPE, not all of us want to start a company at this point in our lives. In fact, many of the founders that have spoken at meetings have actually emphasized the value of getting a job and gaining industry experience before trying your own venture.
Because of this, we invited a panel of one employee and three interns from a local start-up called iFixit to talk to us about the benefits of working at a smaller and less corporate company. We wanted to hear what the work environment was like, and why they decided to choose a place like iFixit instead of higher paying jobs in places like the bay area. Together Taylor, Thomas, Chris, and Bob shared their different perspectives on how satisfying it can be to work at a smaller company.
Here’s a quick bit of info about the panel:
iFixit Project Manager:
Taylor Arnicar – Taylor works predominantly with a team of uber-rad programmers
Bob Somers – 7th year Masters Student @ Cal Poly in Computer Science
Thomas Soria – 3rd year @ Cal Poly (CSC)
Chris Patton – 2nd year @ Cal Poly (CSC)
What is iFixit?
Click this link for quick details: http://www.ifixit.com/Info/background
iFixit is a company located here in SLO that resides in the back of Pacific Coast shopping center at the intersection of Higuera St. and Madonna. They provide free online guides about how to repair basically anything, and make money by selling parts and tools to people around the world. It is the largest online repair community and they’re completely bootstrapped. No Venture Capital funding whatsoever. The community is strong, and users are constantly uploading their own content.
“The thing that is different about iFixit, is that it’s like a family. Everyone is excited and passionate about the projects they’re working on, and everyone emphasizes the importance of learning from each-other. You can walk up to someone and say, I have this crazy idea, what do you think? Immediately your co-workers will want to help you by trying things out and seeing what happens.”
“Working at iFixit is really empowering because it is a place where you’re actually excited to go to work and you know that your project will affect and help thousands of people. Working here has totally re-created my perception of what I want for the next job I take. I used to want the big job, make loads of money, and then have fun in my spare time. That is not longer what I want. iFixit has shown me that it is possible to work somewhere where your job is truly fulfilling and you’re able to make a real impact.”
“You’re given a huge amount of autonomy because you’re trusted that you can make things work. On my first day at work, I wrote code for a feature that was actually pushed live to the site that day. In bigger companies, that doesn’t happen. Also, while I don’t know how long I’ll be working at iFixit, I don’t feel the compelling need to find a different job because I like it here so much. Other friends of mine take corporate jobs to make money and pay off student debts, but then quickly move to a different job that is something they’d actually like more.”
What does iFixit look for in an employee?
“We’re looking for smart people who have been involved with awesome projects and who are dedicated to solving interesting problems. There are definitely certain people who fit in really well here, and we have different criteria for finding those types of potential employees. 70% of the time, we aren’t even hiring for a specific skill, instead, we’re interested in people who can learn a lot in short amount of time. You want to hire good people not just a list of skills.”
“Building off of that idea, there’s a catastrophic mistake that a lot of software companies are making right now. In larger companies H.R. often goes to the department or team that needs staffing, and asks for the requirements and a delineated skill set. Then when they hire, they just try to find that ‘skill list’ and they don’t find people who are good at learning new things.”
“The company definitely tries to see the what the person’s type is like and what they’ve done in their past. We like people with really cool projects and who are totally off the middle line of normal. We look for people who take their own initiative to do really cool things, tell people about their awesome project, and then actively look for feedback about how to make their next iteration better.”
“I actually spoke with Kyle and got an interview because I shared a youtube video with him. I set up a display of Christmas lights every year that is set to music. Kyle thought it was great and that was how I started my dialogue with iFixit. Awesome to say the least.”
“iFixit’s work environment is incredibly unique. It is like a huge family and it didn’t happen by accident. It was carefully and masterfully crafted by our co-founders Kyle and Luke. With the way it is here, I’m always passively working on stuff in my mind. I think that is because it’s a lifestyle and not a daily grind.”
“I know that I don’t want to work here for ever, and that in the future, I want to try to start a company of my own. With that in mind, I constantly think the way I feel as an employee here, and about how I would want to emulate Kyle and iFixit at my start-up.”
“After being here, I can never take a job and go to ‘work’ if you know what I mean. It has been invaluable to be able to experience the fulfilment and sense community at iFixit.”
CPE’s Key Takeaways
- The satisfaction of small company work environments can often be well worth lower pay.
- Strive to find a job that gives you the freedom to take risks and make impactful work
- iFixit is awesome! Check them out! ifixit.com
Our Favorite Quote
Bob on Cubicle Farms:
“Cubicles are the worst thing ever.”
Next week we’ll be hearing from Polly Mertens to talk to us about Search Engine Optimization. Hope to see you there!