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!