Cogniom and our family of four are 12 months into this journey with the TANDM Suite, and as we wind up the year and prepare our adventure for 2020, it has become pretty insightful to reflect on just how far we have come. And not just as a business, but as individuals.
Robert, Bryce, Zoe and Chris all come from incredibly successful careers and gave it all up to jump on the start up rollercoaster.
Because that’s what all the sane people are doing!
So what have we learned? What is different between then us and now us? We reminisce about where we’ve come from, reflect on what we’ve learned and muse over whether we would have actually hired old us!
“12 months in, I wonder if I would’ve hired me to be a CTO if I had been interviewing myself? The culture fit would’ve been fine, but if I were to interview myself on technical knowledge, I imagine that conversation would’ve gone something like this
** Warning: Tech speak ahead! **
Old Me: “I created an automation toolset that helped eliminate millions of dollars of man hours over the span of a decade that is still in use today.”
CTO Me: “Sounds great! How exactly did you do that? Walk me through your architecture.”
Old Me: “It was actually pretty straight forward, a basic LAMP VM but connected to several other managed APIs to allow the toolset to integrate across the organization.”
CTO Me: “So, you built it manually? Not with a Docker container or even a VM Image?”
Old Me: “No… I’ve heard of Docker but haven’t used it.”
CTO Me: “Was there any reason you stuck with Apache and PHP over Nginx and maybe a more streamline language like Python?”
Old Me: “Those were the things I’d already taught myself, so I stuck with those.”
CTO Me: “What about scalability, was the VM clustered in any way?”
Old Me: “No, we didn’t ever really get to the point where we needed to scale, it was able to serve 2,000 CCU without an issue.”
CTO Me: “But what if it hadn’t? If you didn’t use Docker, then did you consider something like K8s (Kubernetes) or even a load balanced Apache setup?”
Old Me: “Kuber-what? Sorry?”
And on it would go. “ColdFusion”, “Security maintenance”, “Reverse Proxy”, “Schema management”, jQuery components and Vue.js, all would’ve been stumbling blocks. And that’s just the coding side of things, I would’ve bombed on the Architecture side: Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, Azure Services, Azure CLI, DevOps, Iterations, Sprints, Agile v Scrum, choosing features to align with your business needs, the list feels endless.
But here I am, a few months in and every day just a little more aware of what SaaS (Software as a Service) really means.
In the end, depending on other applicants, I would’ve at least put myself in the running.
My heart was in the right place, I got the result (time savings for the Org) I was after, and I was able to do things manually others would’ve given up on.
However, I would’ve lectured Old me that we can’t afford to do everything the hard way, and that I still had a LOT to learn.
“When I started talking with Robert, we were throwing ideas around for MedWatch, which was going to revolutionise the way medication rounds we completed for Nurses.
I never thought we’d end up where we are.
Over this past year I have learned so much about myself, and what it means to have a technology business in general. I learned just how vital market research is to get firsthand information from clients, customers and target audiences.
Just because YOU think something is a good idea doesn’t mean everyone else will! It was humbling but also inspiring to get the idea right. “Challenge accepted!” – not that I’m competitive at all! At our core, we just want to help others and we knew we were close.
For me personally, this past year has been huge for learning new technologies. Having been an “old school” programmer and shifting into the latest realm of new languages and methods, has been a massive challenge. I feel like I embraced it with the spirit of an adventurer, which was a surprise to me as I thought that sort of enthusiasm was long dead after years of working for “the man”.
There has been a pretty equal share of frustratingly ‘choice words’ moments and dancing around the office in celebration of successes. The new lease of life this experience has breathed into my career goals and creativity is not something I saw coming when we started, but something I’m incredibly grateful for, nonetheless.
Thinking on whether or not I would’ve hired myself back in the beginning of all this…
Where else are you going to find someone with this much experience who loves writing new and crazy stuff, with a requirements list that changes so rapidly?
Ok sure he might not be the gun coder he once was (ah who am I kidding, I was never a gun).. but man can he solve problems!
And who knows, forcing this old dog to learn some new tricks might be the best thing for him and Cogniom. It’s a win/win, hire that man!
“It’s hard to imagine that it has been nearly two years since I leapt into entrepreneurship headfirst.
From a very comfortable full-time career (that paid very well) to a job I’m constantly learning everything from scratch (and does not pay often or ever).
The two years has taught me more than I have learned in the last ten years combined.
But what would I ask myself as a new founder/CEO if I was interviewing for the position again? If the newbie entrepreneur was being interviewed with my current understanding for the CEO position of Cogniom, how would that conversation have gone…?
Current me: Thanks for applying to the role of CEO, can you describe to me what you think you’re daily tasks will be?
Old me: Sure, I will likely be helping code our software and making the product our customers want to use. I’ll also be responsible for leading the team and telling them what needs to get done.
Current me: Well, not exactly. The value you bring to the CEO role won’t be based on outputs like software code or keeping to-do lists for the team.
Old me: Oh. Well, um. What do you want me to do then?
Current me: Well as CEO, your primary functions are pretty much the following:
1) Ensure the business doesn’t run out of money.
2) Talking to a LOT of people and intimately understanding what is causing them pain and look past symptoms to find the root cause they need help fixing.
3) Knowing what solutions are available in the market and be imaginative enough to create a new version of the world in your mind that has eradiated those reported pain points in a unique/new way.
4) Build a team that covers a wide variety of backgrounds and strategic skills sets to make the vision in your head a reality.
5) Keep a family of similarly passionate people working together in the same direction and helping remove barriers in their way until your vision exists.
Old me: Oh, well. I haven’t done any of that yet.
Current me: Well luckily, we won’t be paying you a salary for a very long time so you should be able to learn. Speaking of which, you’re already failing at job #1 – we can’t pay you, so you’ll need to invest a substantial amount of savings to take on the role and cover all the business expenses.
Old me: Wait, huh?
The newbie me would take the role, stumble, get up, fail, get up again, fail again, and keep going.
The biggest shock was adjusting my entire life to a new reality. In school, college, and my career we are reproached for shortcomings – failing was inexcusable. Getting an “F” on that report card was a death sentence for scholarships and promotions.
However, from the moment I took on the role of entrepreneur – it was critical to fail hard and fail often and try as many things as possible in a very short time frame.
After several failed attempts, too many chai lattes consumed over numerous conversations and a billionty books read about anything relating to business and start ups, I realised I didn’t need to know everything. My circles and networks of friends and mentors began to lend a hand simply for the desire to make the vision a reality. I’ve learned more than I ever dreamed possible in 12 months. From navigating investment conversations and documents, effective networking, identifying personality traits and fostering a positive team culture I know I still have a lot to learn.
Would I hire then Robert? More than likely. He has an entrepreneur heart and has more ideas and drive than most people, but I’d quietly feel sorry for him. Poor kid has no idea what’s about to come!
“I spent the majority of my career in an industry that rarely put importance on “behind the scene” staff.
If your face wasn’t in the paper earning the big bucks, did you even exist? I got lucky though and found myself with a company that strived to think differently.
My boss taught me grace and compassion and how to be a successful woman in business. To this day she is still my mentor, one of my greatest inspirations and when faced with
a challenge, the thought “What Would Lenore Do?” is still front of mind. I arrived at her office as an angsty 20 something receptionist and left 10 years later an award winning and accomplished Business Manager.
12 months into being a founding member of a start up I’ve realised it was time in that supportive and positive working culture that set me up to be a successful COO at Cogniom. I was gifted so many opportunities to expand my knowledge, experience and strengths that gave me such solid foundations of understanding and the ablility to navigate the uncertainty that comes with entrepreneurship.
Now that I can see what I’ve actually achieved in my career to date and the impact a positive environment and supportive mentors had, it’s so important to me to give that gift back to others, and hopefully be to someone else what Lenore was for me.
This world is too full of people who are so readily willing to tear others down. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Can you imagine what we could achieve if we actually worked in support of each other?
12 months in, what have I learned?
PATIENCE: Make your plans, but know that your business will also have plans of its own and the patience to adapt and recognise right timing will get you through
POSITIVITY: Surround yourself with people who believe in you and are there to grant you the space and support to help you achieve your goals
PASSION: Life is too short to be stuck in something mediocre that you’re not passionate about.
BACK YO SELF!: Take the chance and do the thing that sparks fire in your belly. Be open to the constructive criticism but don’t let the naysayers kill your dreams. Haters gonna hate.
BALANCE: I can hear my Cogniom family laughing at me for this one. (Hi Kettle, my name is Pot!). This is still something I struggle greatly with, but keeping a work/life balance is so important for your own health and wellbeing and the longevity of your success.
LEARNING: Never stop learning and never stop exploring. It’s ok to not know it all and if you think you’ve learned everything then its time to step off the plate.
Would I hire ‘then Zoe’ knowing what I know now? Damn straight I would.
Does she know everything about be a start up? No
Does she know everything about being a COO? Nope.
Is she going to be successful at both? You bloody betcha. That girl has determination running through her veins!
One piece of advice for her though: You too often work too hard! “STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER! This is a marathon not a race!”
From Data Rooms to Kubernetes, Vue.JS and how to use Pie to split equity fairly, we have learned more than we could have ever possibly imagined. 12 months on, would any of us have changed the decision to dive head first into a start up?
Bryce: No regrets, but definitely grateful I have my corporate learnings to back me up
Chris: Being a developer makes every project I’ve worked on seem like a “startup”, but this has by far been my favourite adventure!
Robert: Hell no! But with many previous start up attempts I wish I’d have known where to look for help sooner!
Zoe: No way! I’ve never worked so hard in my life, but I’ve never had so much fun doing it!
We got pretty lucky with our team, each of us bringing unique skills and personality traits which still mange to complement each other perfectly.
We aren’t without our faults, but at the end of the day we have become a family with an abundance of love, support and respect for each other.
As we prepare for the new year, we do so armed with a far greater amount of knowledge and understanding than we had at the beginning of this year. We’re ready to encounter even more lessons, and feel confident in sharing those lesson with the rest of our start up community.
‘Then’ Cogniom team have worked their butts off. ‘Now’ Cogniom team couldn’t be prouder of what’s been achieved. ‘Future’ Cogniom team, the world is your oyster!
We can’t wait to continue sharing our journey and learnings with you!