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Working from Home: Week Thirty-Two

Friday marked the end of my thirty-second week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week thirty-two:

  • Pitch events – This week was busy because of events. Techstars, Venture Atlanta, and others gave companies opportunities to pitch to investors and the community. I wasn’t able to attend everything, but I enjoyed what I did make it to. These events are a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to introduce their companies to a wide variety of people. Lots of companies present when they’re raising capital.
  • Outlander event – Our team is working hard to bring interesting events to the Southeast. We have some great stuff in the pipeline. I’m excited about our pitch competition for female founders. Can’t wait to see what problems they’re solving.
  • Progress – I couldn’t make progress on everything on my list this week. I guess that was to be expected because of all the events. I’m looking forward to getting back on track next week. I’m going to try Jean-Michel Lemieux’s “1, 3, and 5” approach.
  • Relationships – Relationships came to the fore this week. I helped a few connections with projects they’re working on, and others did the same for me. Healthy relationships are bidirectional, and I enjoy helping others however I can. It’s great to see someone become successful and know you played a small role in helping them get there.

Week thirty-two was full of events. I’m looking forward to putting my head down and focusing next week. My goal is to wrap up a few big things before the holiday.  

I’ll continue to learn from this unique situation, adjust as necessary, and share my experience.

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Virtual Learning: Venture Atlanta

Today I attended Venture Atlanta. It’s the first year they’ve done a virtual event, but I was impressed. One of the conversations I enjoyed was with Jean-Michel Lemieux, CTO at Shopify and former VP of engineering at Atlassian. Shopify’s platform has made it easier than ever for small and medium-sized business to have an e‑commerce presence. It’s grown tremendously during the pandemic as traditional businesses look for ways to sell online quickly. Jean-Michel shared a few great things:

  • Shopify’s leaders realized they couldn’t recruit the talent they needed in Ottawa, Ontario, from tech havens like San Francisco. They opted to hire young and focus on developing talent quickly. They’ve been intentional about connecting their junior team members with more experienced people in the local community from large tech companies like Blackberry and Nortel. And they’ve gone as far as hiring full-time coaches to ensure that the team has the support it needs to develop quickly.
  • Jean-Michel begins his week by figuring out what his “1, 3, and 5” are. What’s the one thing that has to get done this week? He won’t leave the office until it’s been completed. What are the three things he should be able to get done? What are the five things it would be nice to get done? If the top thing gets done and some of the should-get-done ones are addressed, it was a good week. Anything more is a bonus.
  • He allows zero meetings on Wednesday so he can have an entire day to focus.
  • Figure out what’s unique about your location or city. When you know, leverage it. Lean into it. Don’t try to be like other cities. Create your own identity by playing to your strengths, not comparing yourself to others.

Jean-Michel has hit the start-up lottery twice by working in senior roles at two of the larger publicly traded tech companies outside of Silicon Valley. He shared a ton of nuggets, and it’s clear from today’s conversation that he’s a talented person. I’m a fan of Shopify and will be excited to see how it continues to help small and medium-sized businesses thrive digitally!

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Virtual Learning: Techstars Atlanta Demo Day

Today I attended Atlanta’s Techstars Demo Day. Techstars Atlanta is a partnership between Cox Enterprises and Techstars. These demo days are held in cities all over the world and historically they’re hosted by each city’s local Techstars accelerator. Accelerators are three-month programs in which entrepreneurs receive “funding, mentorship and access to the Techstars network for life.” Because of the pandemic, all 2020 demo days are virtual (I’m not sure if virtual attendance used to be an option). These virtual events are a great opportunity for people to learn about new companies that are solving problems in interesting ways.

Techstars accelerators give entrepreneurs access to a lot of really smart people—including past and present entrepreneurs in the Techstars network—who can help them fast-track their progress and otherwise support them. Demo days are a great way for entrepreneurs to get introduced to customers and potential investors.

Feel free to check out the latest Atlanta Techstars cohort (and pitches) here.

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Working from Home: Week Thirty-One

Friday marked the end of my thirty-first week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week thirty-one:

  • Month seven – Hard to believe it’s been seven months . . . but it has. Writing these weekly posts has[ been a great reminder of how much time has passed. I’ve settled into working from home at this point, but the lack of separation can still be a challenge. My workday wants to creep into the evening. I’m actively trying to consistently end it at a certain time.

I was happy with week thirty-one. I was more intentional and managed my time better, which helped a lot.

I’ll continue to learn from this unique situation, adjust as necessary, and share my experience.

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Working from Home: Week Thirty

Today marked the end of my thirtieth week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week thirty:

Email management – I’ve written about my struggles with email here and here. This week, I began using Superhuman. So far, I like it. I’ve even gotten to inbox zero, which is a big deal to me. I’m not familiar with most of its features yet and I’m looking forward to learning more about them in the coming weeks. I hated responding to email from my phone, but Superhuman has changed that. I’m now aiming to handle most email by phone.

Next chapter – I caught up with a few founder friends this week. The next chapter was on the minds of a few of them. It seems that this is the season for people to ponder what they’ll work on next. I shared my experience—as I’m happy to do anytime—and I hope it was helpful.

September reflection – September was a month of transition and lots of new things. It was a bit hectic and, at times, overwhelming, but energizing as well. I’m looking forward to settling into my new normal in October.

Week thirty was a good week. The pace felt right and I have a better handle on things. Next week will mark seven months of working from home, which is hard to wrap my head around.

I’ll continue to learn from this unique situation, adjust as necessary, and share my experience.

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Working from Home: Week Twenty-Nine

Today marked the end of my twenty-ninth week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week twenty-nine:

  • Time management – This week I focused on being proactive about what I spend my time on. I noticed a big difference. I didn’t get as much done in certain areas, but overall, I’m happy with my progress.
  • Podcast – I was invited to participate in a podcast this week. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into (this was a first), but I accepted. The moderator made me feel comfortable, and the other participants were great. We talked about mentorship, which I’m passionate about. A terrific experience!
  • Students – As I said in a recent post, I really want to help entrepreneurial students reach their full potential. My earlier post led to a great conversation with a student today. I’ll continue looking for ways to help students.  

Week twenty-nine was a busy one (this seems to be the norm). Looking forward to refining how I organize my work next week.

I’ll continue to learn from this unique situation, adjust as necessary, and share my experience.

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Working from Home: Week Twenty-Eight

Friday marked the end of my twenty-eighth week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week twenty-eight:

  • Groove – This week, I felt like I was in a good rhythm and beginning to hit my groove. Looking back at my calendar, the week was busy with lots of meetings, but it felt less hectic. I’m starting to get used to this new pace and seeing early signs of balance.
  • Giving back – I write daily, mainly in an effort to help others. This week I had conversations with five unrelated people who mentioned that my writings are helpful. This felt great! It was encouraging. I’m happy that others find value in my thoughts and experiences.
  • Education – I participated in some meetings that educated me on topics I want to master. They reminded me how important it is for me to be intentional and seek out ways to continue to better myself and work toward goals I’ve set for myself.

Week twenty-eight was a busy week, but it didn’t feel as busy as it was. I’m looking forward to settling further into my new groove this coming week.

I’ll continue to learn from this unique situation, adjust as necessary, and share my experience.

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Teaching by Asking Questions

I had a good conversation with a friend today. We both advise early entrepreneurs. Today we talked about things we’ve learned and best practices. Since we’re doing the same thing in different ways, we can help each other by talking through our experiences and sharing our perspectives.

One thing I’ve learned that I told my friend about has to do with asking versus telling. When you’re experienced, you can see things that novices can’t. When someone’s in a difficult situation that you’ve been in, the natural inclination is to help them avoid the pain that awaits by telling them what they should do or shouldn’t do. This can be helpful, but it’s not the best approach. You’ve set them up for future pain. Yes, you’ve helped them avoid pain today, but you’ve scotched their opportunity to learn. The next time they have to deal with something similar and you’re not around, they won’t know what to do.

When I work with entrepreneurs, I ask questions. My hope is that by thinking through the answer, they’ll connect the dots and learn something that will help them avoid pain both now and later. If I’ve had a relevant experience, I share it with them, of course. But my questions have been more helpful. I’ve noticed that entrepreneurs who’ve answered them feel like they’ve figured out what to do themselves, through learning, which is powerful.

If you want to help people, don’t spoon-feed them information—encourage them to reason . . . analyze . . . think. You’ll be fortifying them against future tribulations.  

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Working from Home: Week Twenty-Seven

Today marked the end of my twenty-seventh week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week twenty-seven:

  • Strained eyes – I shared my challenges with this issue last week. I received my blue-light glasses and they’ve helped tremendously. Despite having three multi-hour Zoom meetings (one for four hours!), I felt minimal strain on my eyes. This is a major change from last week and I’m thankful. I’ll continue to use the glasses and may order another pair as a spare.
  • Writing – Writing quality posts was a struggle. I’m committed to writing every day, so not posting was never an option. I’m going to embrace the changes in my professional life and adapt. I hope that over time I can find the right adjustments to make daily writing fit more easily into my new schedule.
  • Founder energy – I had a marathon of meetings with founders this week. The energy and enthusiasm emanating from these founders is encouraging and contagious. I’m hopeful I’ll have the chance to work with some of them as part of an investment portfolio.

Week twenty-seven was a busy week but a great one. I’m relieved that I was able to reduce my eyestrain. I’ve been very worried about it.

I’ll continue to learn from this unique situation, adjust as necessary, and share my experience.

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Working from Home: Week Twenty-Six

Today marked the end of my twenty-sixth week of working from home (mostly). Here are my takeaways from week twenty-six:

  • Transition – This was the second week in my new role at Outlander. I’m doing a few things at once. Learning a new industry. Working with a new team. At a brand-new firm. All amid a pandemic. I don’t foresee any dull moments anytime soon. I’m excited about embarking on this journey and helping early founders.
  • Strained eyes – My eyestrain worsened drastically this week, resulting in headaches. I had to step away from my computer for long stretches, which limited my productivity. I researched and ordered some blue-light glasses. I hope they help. I think my eyes are over this pandemic.
  • Reflection – I had a few people ask about the new role (before I made it public) and how it came about. As I described the journey, I realized I wasn’t consistent and left things out. I felt like I was shortchanging those who were interested enough to ask. So I decided to think it through, document it, and share it. The process was more involved than I realized. Recording it for posterity took much longer than I planned, but I’m glad I did it. I hope reading about my journey of self-discovery is helpful to other people contemplating major life changes.

Week twenty-six was a hectic one. I’m pretty worried about the eyestrain issue. I hope I can figure out a solution quickly. Otherwise, work will be very challenging.      

I’ll continue to learn from this unique situation, adjust as necessary, and share my experience.

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