Motivation – What drives you will make you or break you

Geetha Vallabhaneni & Andy Belk – Motivation & Startups – What drives you will make you or break you.

Geetha Vallabhaneni: You have to truly, when you’re talking – especially in a small startup environment when you’re hiring – don’t focus on what they can do because we have a lot of smart people around here. And, in general, people are smart and, if you give them a direction, they are good at executing. But, literally talk to them on a basic level… understand their motivations… because a startup, at any given point, has 90% of slogging through, 5% of failure and 5% of success so you cannot, in all honesty, guarantee this bright, brilliant future, right? So, at the end of the day, even if the venture fails, do you, as an individual, benefit from this?… is a great question to ask, right? If they sit back and say, “Yes, I want this experience; I want to work on this technology,” or, “I’ve done something and this is a completely new, different thing for me, so I want to come in and have this experience.”

Andy Belk: Yes, I mean, I think the thing that differentiates coming to work at a startup, from coming to work at a larger company, is that the startup is just this sort of bottomless pit of… you could end up working on all sorts of different things… a lot of it will be somewhat monotonous… “Oh, I’ve got to reinstall my operating system again; I can’t have the IT guy come and do it because there is no IT guy.”…

Geetha: You weren’t the IT guy? [Laughs]

Andy: … but you’ll do this wide range of things; you will learn a whole bunch of different skills that, all of a sudden, will be valuable to you down the line. At a larger company, you’ll probably get the benefit of focusing more on something that probably suits you better and it’s sort of tailored to your skill-set but, as a result, you won’t get, necessarily, as much flexibility and you won’t necessarily grow as much. It all depends. Now, some companies are large enough that, over time, you know, you can flip between different roles, as I’ve done. And that’s one way of accomplishing the same kind of thing if by, you yourself, sort of forcing yourself to go and do different things as opposed to, in the startup context, where you’re out of necessity… you’re jumping around and doing a bunch of different things. So, I mean, each is beneficial at given points in time. You know, you don’t necessarily have to do startups perennially and never anything else.. or do big companies and never do a startup. I would observe that, one of the things that was great about Azul – in that it was a very mature startup – we were doing… because as I had described earlier, it was quite a complex startup with lots of deliverables – silicon deliverables, hardware deliverables, software deliverables – it required a certain amount of discipline that was over and above a typical 5-person software-web startup.

We also had people who’d been and done startups before; and we had people from larger companies; and we had fresh graduates. We had this, and I think that was, again, it was one of the key things that we had this great mix, where it was a bunch of people with different mixes of experiences, plus lots of fresh ideas, and they all kind of gelled pretty well together.

Geetha: Azul’s founding team should use this video as their…

Andy: … recruiting tool!

Geetha: I know, right! [Laughs]

Andy: But I think the other thing that’s true is that…

Geetha: But you get the point, right? that when a culture is great, people don’t forget it easily. I mean, I still say Azul is a great company I have worked for. Sun Microsystems is actually, in a way, it’s the same, too; it fosters such a great, individual… respecting the individual… I mean, Sun had 35,000 people, right? but I still felt like I got very good education out of it, very good recognition out of it… I went through a mentoring programme at Sun that really opened my horizons a lot. They assigned me mentors from various business units, which eventually got me into the sales and business development side of things. Again, going back to how you decide to foster that culture… make that individual feel part of this big entity. Sun, yes, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a very good experience for me.