I Don’t Do That Job Anymore
Something has changed, permanently, in me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to express it, because the transformation has been so interesting, unexpected, and meaningful to me. If you are a first time founder, or planning to be, this might resonate. I’d love to know if you’ve had a similar experience and what that was like.
Jobs I Don’t Do Anymore
These aren’t job titles, but roles I’ve played in the past that I no longer care to play. During YC (Summer 2012) I made a clean break from a lot of these things in order to totally focus on building Referly, and after letting those activities go for a few months I discovered something cool: I don’t want them back in my life at the same level of importance as before.
For 3 years I was paid to be many things at Twilio, and one of them was what Mark Suster calls a “Conference Ho”. I’m not cynical about it, it was necessary and I made sure I was damn good at it. I did that job so that the three Twilio founders could completely focus on building the company, but I don’t do that job anymore.
I don’t feel like being around people all the time, and never have. Friends who know me understand that there is a deep divide between my public face and my private life. People who don’t know me that well assume I am so transparent online that there couldn’t possibly be more below the surface. I was paid to be extroverted, and I loved it, but I don’t do that job anymore.
I love hackathons and always will, because they were the first place where I really felt the warm embrace of the hacker community. I came to developers I respected, hat in hand, and asked for help and advice and a safe place to ask stupid questions and I am so grateful. I didn’t have to worry about my code being elegant, and I only built little prototypes to demo the Twilio API for cool videos and live demos at conferences. Now I write code 50% or more of my time, and it has to work. So I don’t do that job (of being a professional hobbyist) anymore.
I sometimes thought I knew how to pick the startups that were winners, but as time passes and companies I referred to investors or invested in myself struggle, I realize I still have no idea. I could say that picking Twilio was my stroke of genius, but in truth it was a lot more of luck meeting preparation. I like mentoring founders, but more to help them with personal struggles than company struggles. Lately I’ve taken a big step back from mentoring and decided to double-down on people I already have relationships with. I don’t do that job anymore.
Twilio was the first place I ever had a marketing job. I’m not a marketing guru, and when Jeff hired me it was to do customer support and make blog posts and video. I told him we should put a reasonably senior job title on my business card so I could get meetings, so we did. I wasn’t really operating like a true Director-level person until probably the last year I was there. I was an avid student of marketing, and I wanted to earn that title and stop feeling like the business card was a lie. I achieved that, but I don’t do that job anymore.
I’m Taking Me with Me
When I say I don’t do these jobs anymore, it isn’t that I don’t take their lessons and skills with me. I carry them every day, to every conference, conversation, interview, coding session, morning walk, phone call, lunch with a founder, late night freak out. I loved those jobs, and when I did them I believe I did them well and gave them my all. But now I am learning to do new jobs, and I have new interests. I am passionate about making things – both with code and with prose. I’m either building Referly or using it to create content, and that’s all. I’m working on being a good CEO, good product person, and better developer.
So if you’ve pinged me about stuff related to any of the jobs I don’t do anymore, and haven’t heard back, I hope you understand why. I don’t do that anymore.
This blog post doesn’t really convey how strange it feels, to let go of things that were so important to me. Things I worked on and worried about and shaped my identity. But if I hold onto them and stay the same, and just get better at those things and lean on them then I know I won’t grow… so I’m putting them away for awhile. It kind of feels like breaking up, that’s the closest experience I can compare it to.
This video kind of sounds like what it feels like:
Damn that song is depressing.
That is so lovely.
The part that hit home the most is almost a mirror reflection of what you’re describing. For me (lifelong engineer) as I work more an d and more in this industry, I’ve sought to grow beyond just a great coder.
This translates into learning more about business, product, marketing, etc. So while I still do my “main” job, I’ve tacked on and grow many other skills, and sometimes it’s hard to break free of that “well, that’s a nice marketing idea, but you’re the engineer, not the marketer, so….”
I think the only way you get respect for the new skills you learn is by doing them well, repeatedly, in view of others.
GL as you continue your journey of CEO, product, and code hacker!
I like mentoring founders, but more to help them with personal struggles than company struggles.
^^ Love it.
This is weird, you are the second person I read about online who left Twilio. Something isn’t right there…
I disagree, I left 9 months ago and Daniel left this month. The reality is that with ~150 employees at Twilio now folks are going to come and go. I don’t think it is an indicator that anything is really broken.
Agree with Danielle on this. I left Zillow in early 2010 when they were roughly 150 employees…and the company is doing just fine 3 years later. Some people just grow out of their roles/companies and want to do something else with their lives…
Thanks for posting this. It’s a nice way of putting it. I can relate.
Especially for those of us that aren’t just in specific titled roles at companies, it’s strange to have to say what you do now and don’t do anymore.
I can imagine this being something on the back of a business card: a succinct list of former roles that you no longer do.
I’ve never met you, have only read a few of your blog posts… but this was lovely. Best to you.
Enjoyed the post. You don’t need to be a founder for it to resonate.
Thanks for going first. I need to write this too.
Any luck on the product side of things? I’m working on it myself and wondering if you’ve found good books or resources on the topic.
Wow…umm, I feel the exact same way about my career progression.
Woah, awesome post Danielle. Thank you.
Re: Mentoring – do you plan to drop the link in the upper right of your blog “Request a call”
Fast forward ten years and you’re running a company of ~100 and super successful. You decide to dip into all of the above for the sake of nostalgia and the world has changed.
You’ve become *that* boss.
Wherever you go; there you are.
Definitely know what you mean Danielle.. wonderful honest post! i think it’s what happens when you fall in love with your startup 🙂
I can definitely relate. Congratulations on making a decision to grow, and expand.
Great post-couragesous to break beyond your current comfort zone
Thank you for this post — I’ve never been able to articulate this.
Great story. I felt the same a few years back and it resulted in finally quitting my job and become half freelancing programmer, half entrepreneur. My “new life” feels like clean spring, I constantly scratch of “job roles” from my life. My trial phase is shorter these days, I don’t want to stick to long to things which I don’t like.
This is a great read for anyone that needs the support as they fail forward! Cheers to you and your ability to be real… we all need more of you in our lives.
Incredibly inspiring post.
Thanks a lot for sharing and all the best for your journey. Reminded me of the Polymath Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymath
*bow* & cheers,
The last para is spot on! I’ve realized that too and I’m glad I was able to let go off things. I haven’t reached anywhere closer to my destination, but at least I’m happy that I started.
To paraphrase Marianne Williamson … our imperative is to become all that we can be. Your post resonates with this truth, and it is always inspiring to see people embrace the grand task of being true to themselves. Well done, embrace and enjoy your journey!
What you describe is the outcome of your own personal evolution. Probably all of these things you no longer do helped you grow in satisfying ways for a while… and now your circumstances have advanced such that you have better options for how to invest yourself, your energy and your time.
May your “choice churn rate” stay satisfyingly high.
Great post, really hit home for me. This is how I feel about my entire life history, where there are distinct separations between what I do now and what I did then, or even who I am now vs. then. Sometimes people don’t understand that because they think you’re completely throwing out what you’ve learned in the past.
All those things shape your identity today. But you don’t have to be slave to every role you’ve ever been for the rest of your life. I think one of the most exciting things about life is seeing how we can grow and change and slip into new skins depending on what the circumstances require.
Thanks. I like the writing a lot. It feels inspiring in an unexpected way, for the future that is already coming on just a moment from now. It helps me look forward to the next part of my life when I will say the same: “I don’t do …” anymore and I will be very proud and happy about it all. The image of a photo-negative came to mind. I always liked looking at those to get another perspective. Our experiences will always be part of us but we just don’t do them anymore. Thanks a lot!
Such a great post! It took me a year or so to realize and hone in on what I would be willing to do. Im still evolving and with the great minds in the start up world I continue to learn and apply. Keep writing and inspiring!
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