My first five weeks at a startup

we work bourke street melbourne co-working space

Is this my life?

… is what I think most days several times a day.

These five weeks have been my toughest career transition since leaving university and getting a real job.

I joined a startup.

Where was I right before this?

I was in a place where work attire and gym wear morph into one.

I worked from home, for a university, for an entire year, doing web content strategy. It was blissful.

Now, I’m starting all over again. The subject matter has switched from higher education to sports, and the game has turned from bureaucracy to autonomy.

And, I’m not watching the clock, I’m watching sports.

Half journal entry, half call for understanding, this post is a public acknowledgement of how fucking tough it can be to transition from corporate to startup.

Week one, this’ll be fun

  • Shiny new co-working space
  • Jeans
  • Kombucha on tap

It’s the golden week. You can’t touch this. People are pumped to have me onboard. My brain is in overdrive and my thoughts swirl like dodgem cars of possibilities; running into each other and creating a wonderful chaos. I can do anything and everything. I lap this shit up. (As well as the co-working space perks.)

Week two, so much to do

  • 90-day plan out window
  • To-do list for days
  • Wait, where was I?

Terrifying and thrilling all at the same time, I’m in the thick of it. The MVP needs some TLC. Existing documents, passwords, resources; they’re fucking all over the place, but I have time to figure this shit out.

I think, “It’s only week two, I’ve got this.”

Week three, if they could only see

  • Priorities don’t change, they multiply
  • Lots to give, nought time
  • Who needs lunch anyway? I’ve had three coffees

I’m trying to prove myself. I’m spreading myself thinly. There isn’t a wonderfully complete team with individual experts working on their piece of the campaign, project, ‘always-on strategy’.

I’m tired all the time. I’m constantly doing rather than planning.

Even at the ripe old age of in-my-thirties, I feel like a noob.

Me: But, I have all the things.
The Day: Good for you, though right now, I need four things you haven’t done in years or at all.

I think, “It’s only week three, I’ve got this.”

Week four, pick myself up off the floor

  • Success is up around the bend, standing next to imminent failure
  • Control is elusive
  • How does everyone else have it so together?

I’m sick. It breaks me. Sickness leads to burnout and burnout leads to breakdown. That control I felt I didn’t have before is now unreachable.

I used to put my head down and GSD. That’s not how this world works. My work is not lost in corporate hierarchy, it has an impact on everyone else (all two, three, four people in the startup.)

I loathe myself for not performing to my regular ability. “Who are you? You’re better than this.”

I think, “Shit, it’s week four, have I got this?”

Week five, will I survive?

  • Imposter syndrome like never before
  • People ask, “How are you feeling?” a suspicious amount
    All that kombucha I’ve tapped to my veins apparently eats away my your insides if I haven’t, like, eaten broccoli or something. I stopped listening somewhere there, but I did cut back
  • I start to figure out some shit. One: I’ve been working like I did in corporate and falling back into taking direction from others. Two: miscommunication is real – even in very small teams. Three: ‘You do you’. If I’m going to both ‘make it’ and build a company, I need to believe in (and be) myself.

I’m on the hero’s journey.
I’m in the belly of the whale.
I’ve caught my breath after drowning in not-sure-edness about my ability to own this.

Week six? Everything clicks


Is this my life?

Fuck yes.