Tag Archives: job

Silicon Alley

There were days when I felt like I was part of something so special that I never before had and never would again be part of anything that worthwhile. The feeling usually came after getting up at six in the morning and doing a number of tasks that had nothing to do with my job title or at the end of a day when we’d accomplished some seemingly insurmountable goal. We’d sit on mismatched office furniture, beers in hand, and smile giddily at one another. A little later, when we’d taken it to the bar and moved on to liquor, we’d break off into pockets of two or three. The groups seemed distinct, but we were all tipsily whispering the same thing… “I mean, if this thing gets big… and I think this thing could get really big.

Hibben once described start-ups as the type of place where they “make you drink the Kool-Aid.” If you don’t get the reference, she’s referring to that death cult where they all wore the matching sneakers and drank cyanide laced Kool-Aid and waited for some alien god to come rescue them from their miserable lives. Ok, after wikipedia-ing the Jonestown cult I may have referenced another cult when I brought up the sneakers and the aliens (Haley’s comet… I think?).
Whatever, “Drinking the Kool-Aid” is the best description of start-up culture ever. Don’t get it? Here’s the formula used to get a group of individuals to drink the Kool-Aid:
Make them believe that (insert here: something more amazing than anything else) will happen so long as they all do (insert here: something others would find insane).

Cult: Make them believe that the aliens will save them; Jesus will accept only them to heaven; they’ll die and be reborn as a Coppola so long as they all kill themselves; kill other people.

Start-Up: Make them believe that they are working for the next Amazon/Zappos/Facebook so long as they all give up their relationships/social life/ health/free time… basically their 20s.

New York’s growing start-up scene is referred to as Silicon Alley. In a city where 80% of the people on the street from 7PM to 7AM are drunk, the start-up employees of Silicon Alley are drunk off the Kool-Aid 24/7. If you haven’t worked for a start-up, you might not know what I’m talking about. Let me break it down for you – anytime you see a frantic 20-something wearing a blazer and flip-flops carrying a venti cup of Starbucks and an iPad, talking on her cellphone in what seems to be a strange language but is actually just a bunch of acronyms… that’s a start-up employee. Her dreams are big, her ambitions are high, her idea of disconnecting from her job is the anxiety-filled 20 minutes on the subway when her iPhone can’t connect to her Gmail.
I remember the first night I drank the Kool-Aid. I’d been working at my start-up for a couple of weeks and was trying to get used to working a ‘grown-up’ job. I was exhausted, but concerned I’d get fired for sucking. So, when the co-founder needed someone to stay late and do data entry, I jumped at the opportunity. He bought us some beers, we listened to rap and we talked about personal things – not things so personal that they were inappropriate, but things more personal than you’d expect to talk to a boss about. He was a cool boss… how novel! That night I was drinking Corona light, but I was also drinking the Kool-Aid.
The next year was a blur of hard work and excitement. I was in a leadership program, I was starting a department, we were raising more capital, the New York Times featured our CEO. Fuck, it was exciting. At the same time I was working weekends, holidays and only for enough money to barely survive my first year in the city. The funny thing about a start-up is that you’re not working that hard because your bosses are mean or they demand it; like a cult, you believe that this is The One True Way to your success as an individual. I felt so incredibly lucky to be able to work all day Saturday or to answer emails at 3AM.
These are the type of stories you hear from people who started at Amazon, at Zappos and at Facebook. They were so enthralled in what was happening (and so sleep-deprived) that everything felt cinematic. Everyone in Silicon Alley is sure they’re working for the Next Big Thing and that’s what keeps the effects of the Kool-Aid lasting for months and sometimes years through all sorts of unfavorable conditions and roadblocks.
The thing Kool-Aid drinkers never anticipate is that the delirium might wear off. For me it was almost overnight. One day I woke up, went into the office and instead of feeling SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED I was SO INCREDIBLY EXHAUSTED. I no longer believed that all of the other things I’d given up were worth it. I hoped it was just a phase at first; for all of the insanity my job brought to my life, I’d never imagined that I’d want to leave. But I couldn’t stop feeling that way – I was off the Kool-Aid and I’d developed some sort of resistance to it. No amount of company happy hours or national press mentions could make me want to stay there, even though I so badly wanted to want to stay there.
There was one feeling that didn’t wear off immediately: the feeling of impending doom I got every time I thought about my life outside the start-up. I worried they’d create the position I’d been killing myself for right after I left or that I’d find my new job so stuffy and boring that I’d miss the chaos. I had this list of fears, the biggest of them being that I’d regret leaving because I’d miss start-up culture.
After a month of being at a non-start-up, I’ve had lots of time to think about start-up culture. It’s this mystifying combination of Kool-Aid ingredients. For every awesome Kool-Aid ingredient, there’s also a little bit of bad. I’ve started compiling a list, and I’d like to think it applies to most start-ups… Ok, maybe some of the bad ones are limited to my experience, but I know a couple other ex-start-up employees who tell similar stories.
Here’s what I’ve got:
Awesome Kool-Aid ingredient: We drink together! All the time!
Hangover-inducing badness: Drinking with your bosses = telling your bosses stuff you tell people when you’re drunk. Do you want the CEO of your company to know that if you hadn’t gotten THIS job, you’d probably be a stripper right now? No, I can assure you that you really don’t.
This shit is strong!: Everyone is so smart and talented and driven! The energy here is great!
Wait, is this everclear?: Everyone is battling to prove that they are the smartest, hardest working, and most in love with the company by putting in as much face time as possible. Have you ever sat in a room at 7:30 PM on a Friday when you’re completely done with you work, but you’re so determined to not be the first one out of the office? I used to try willing my coworkers to leave.  My friends would be texting me all the fun things they were doing and I’d be glaring at the person in front of me yelling with my brain, “JUST FUCKING LEAVE!”

I really love you guys, and I’m not just saying that because I’m drunk: You get to work with highly experienced department heads who pass their sage knowledge onto you.
Uhhh, my stomach doesn’t feel so good: Start-ups don’t always make the best hires and if they make the wrong one the “highly experienced” department head who becomes your boss may turn out the be a highly inadequate bitch from hell. You go from loving your old boss to wanting to jam pencils into your eyeballs every time your new boss says your name. You have nightmares about her asking you to step into the conference room and have a ‘quick chat.’ Even after freeing yourself from her reign of micromanagement and terror, you’ll never look at conference rooms the same way. Conference rooms are the place where your soul goes to die.

Wooooooooooooooo!: The office space is so open and unconventional!
Ugggghhhhhh: The lack of basic amenities. Do you have an office coffee pot? NO! NO! That takes away from margin! What about a fridge? There’s a mini fridge. It’s for 35 people. If you don’t like it, you can suck it up and go buy a burger at the McDonalds every day for lunch, because really, that’s all you can afford.
When you’re Kool-Aid drunk, you spend a lot of time telling yourself, “This will all be worth it!” You fantasize about being on the top floor of the corporate skyscraper. Sure, right now you’re doing manual labor while your friends are getting drunk at brunch, but you’re sure to be in the 30 under 30… or at least the 40 under 40. Is there a 50 under 50? You’re definitely going to be on that.
I mentioned earlier how scared I was that I’d regret leaving my start-up. I also worried that I’d regret putting in all that energy without it catapulting me to the top of the corporate ladder at an early age. In retrospect, I can honestly say that I have no regrets. In a year and a half I got an education I wouldn’t have at an entry-level job at some big company, and working non-stop helped me determine my own personal priorities.
Ok, so maybe there’s one thing I don’t love about my start-up past. I still flinch when my new boss asks me to step into the conference room for what has, thus far, only turned out to be staff birthday parties… but we all have our battle wounds.
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Valentine’s Day: Plan of Action

To start – this isn’t a post about being single on Valentine’s Day. This is a post about my job.

When I’m not on the internet writing about dating and sandwiches, I’m still on the internet, but I’m working as the only customer service representative for a fast-growing flower start-up. Oh yeah, I said flower start-up… have fun figuring that one out. When most people hear that I work in customer service, they either show me pity or expect me to start ranting about all the crazy things people say to me. When they hear I’m the only customer service person for my whole company, they all have the same reaction: “So… how does THAT work?”

Well, I’M A BOSS. No, that’s not really why. I don’t really know why or how it works, but somehow I manage to keep my ‘department’ from going up in flames, mainly by apologizing about 20 times a day and then giving people free flowers. I’m awesome at giving people free flowers.

You can probably imagine that working in customer service for a flower company on Valentine’s Day isn’t ideal. Particularly if you are single (ok, I went there). While I”m sure you can sort of imagine it, I want to give it some context: I’ve never liked Valentine’s Day, at least not since it went from being about eating a lot of chocolate to it being about whether or not some boy was going to give me flowers. See, I really, really liked the Valentine’s Day that involved chocolate, and so by the time it became about the flowers, I was pretty fat.

After years of life as a fat adolescent, I started to emerge from my awkward stage only to be dumped by my first boyfriend a month before Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, I went to a really small high school and I ended up spending Valentine’s Day on my senior year of high school at a party with the same ex-boyfriend. I cried. A lot.

Then there was the Valentine’s Day where the object of my affection made out with another girl in front of me at the school dance. The explanation for his behavior was possibly more insulting than watching the make out… he told my roommate he made out with the other girl to show me what he was like. When I saw him in the hallway after, he greeted me by saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day… are you upset?”

Then there were the two years in a row that I did spend Vday with my significant other. The first one involved him talking to his mom on the phone, in front of me, fighting with her about why I wasn’t worth his buying flowers/candy/dinner for. The second year involved us driving to a Jason Mraz concert while he yelled at me the whole car ride there. Both years I cried. A lot.

After all these experiences, I was pretty sure I could handle anything February 14-related… and then came my job. I will spend Valentine’s Day knowing I’m not going to receive any flowers, taking orders for flowers, calming men who are angsty about the estimated time of arrival of their flowers. I’ve never been able to decide what’s harder about my job – dealing with angry men, or taking orders for men who are head-over-heels in love. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter. There’s something really strange about dealing with these sweet, sweet men who are so appreciative of my help, that brings me right back to being that fat adolescent helping all my friend’s boyfriends get them the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

——–

Valentine’s day is 12 days away and I’m already starting to crumble. I’ve cried at work twice this week. Today I realized someone in the office ate my carrots and I briefly thought about laying on the floor in the middle of the office and throwing a temper tantrum. BUT, I cannot afford to crumble. No literally, I can’t. My net worth is somewhere around $2, and if I have a ginormous existential meltdown on the second largest flower holiday of the year, I will have to move back to Georgia very soon. So in the same way that my flower company forms a Valentine’s Day Plan of Action, I am forming my very own Tiffany-Can’t-Start-Crying-On-The-Phone-With-Customers plan of action.

Here’s what I’m using so far to keep myself sane:

#1- Diet: Along with the fact that I’m already vegan and gluten-free (I’ll get to that in a future post), I’ve devised Tuesday/Thursday diet plans, where I try a new crash diet each week. This week I ate only raw foods. Next week it’s juice. This works for me in two ways. First, I don’t go back to fat Tiffany. I really don’t want to revert to fat Tiffany through stress eating. Second, I get to control ONE aspect of the next few weeks. An additional benefit is that crash diets are kind of fun because you can spend hours wondering whether or not hummus is raw. Is it raw? Does anyone know?

#2- Alcohol: Tonight I purchased the expensive vodka AND my favorite juice. I feel pampered.

I feel like a baller. Is Skyy vodka raw? I’m gonna say yes.

#3- This picture of a chinchilla at the pet store near me:

LOOK AT HOW HE’S HOLDING THAT PIECE OF FOOD. Chinchillas have thumbs. DID YOU KNOW THAT? I made this picture my phone background so I’m calmed every time I look at my phone. I’m pretty sure the guy who sits next to me at work thinks I’m crazy because of how often I look at this picture.

#4- Planning to break my diet: On February 14, I will break all of my diets. I’ll be sitting at my desk, answering the phone, and, in between frantic calls, stuffing my face with every single type of food I love. Oh yes, I will eat lots and lots of Laut’s drunken noodles.

#5- Focusing on the good things: Sure, I have cried at work twice this week AND someone took my fucking carrots (why, why did you take my carrots, unknown coworker?!) but I’ve also had some good things happen. Today I went to the liquor store with the bright pink sign, the 1 train got to the station 30 seconds after I swiped in and I saw some little kids fighting each other with really big sticks while their moms were getting their hair done at an awesome barber shop.

——-

I’m interested to know if any of you have any Valentine’s Day anecdotes. As Angela always says, “You have a fucked up story? I want to hear your fucked up story!” So, please, tell me your fucked up story about the most romantic day of the year. OR, possibly better, if you have a piece of advice for getting through, a job you think is more stressful, or a type of food I should eat (or diet I should try) let me know.

Also, if you know who ate my carrots… I’m taking names. If you see something, say something.

Best of luck to all who are trying to avoid cupid.

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