I’ve been fortunate enough to take a mid-career break for the past few months that has allowed me to recharge and reflect on what is important to me in my personal and professional life. I’m now beginning to come up for air and actively explore what’s next for me in the professional realm.
I’m currently exploring opportunities across the spectrum, from evaluating several startup ideas, to venture-backed startups on their seed, series A, B, and C rounds, to established larger tech companies. As I’m evaluating these opportunities, I’ve put together the following list of vectors that are important to me in my next professional endeavor in order of priority:
I’ve been evaluating this vector as an “altruism quotient” of sorts. Does the mission help others? Does it leave a lasting positive impact on the world? Where does it fall on the spectrum of “selling cigarettes to curing cancer”? The romantic aspects of this view have me interested in spaces like healthcare and green energy. The practical aspects of this view have me interested in cloud and technology infrastructure companies in service of a greater good given that I’ve had a natural affinity towards this domain throughout my career.
Integrity is paramount in this vector. Does the team do the right thing when no one is watching even when it’s hard? Are they kind? Do they pass the “no-asshole rule”? Are they exceptionally talented and passionate about their craft? Are they intellectually curious? Do they have a growth mindset? Are they humble? I’ve been fortunate to work with numerous folks over the years that exemplify these traits and behavior. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to constrain my scope to those I’ve worked with previously. That said, I’ll need to find the right way to test these traits in those new to my sphere.
I want to work at a company with a relentless focus on delighting their customers, not at a company where the team is excited to build technology for technology’s sake. I want to work at a company where diversity and inclusion are front and center and ingrained into the team’s ethos, not at a company where I have to convince the leadership team about the merits of investing real energy here. I want to work at a company that looks at their employees as human beings and invests in their growth, not at a company that looks at their employees as “resources” or a means to an end. I want to work at a company focused on building a sustainable business for the long term, not one that is focused on optimizing for the short term. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for companies that align well with many of these values thus far in my career, and I’d like to carry these forward into the next phase.
I’m looking to join a team that has complementary skill sets to mine. I know how to build and scale an Engineering organization. I’ve built and managed enough technical projects to understand how to execute well and empower the team to get it done. I’d like to come in and provide immediate value in this area and allow myself to flex more back into the Product direction and Business strategy that I got to do more of earlier in my career. I want to do more building and less caretaking. It’s easy to understand how this happens in a cofounder position, as that’s something I’ve never done before that I’m sure would challenge me in many ways. In a larger, more established company, perhaps the learning opportunity is a new domain, operating mode, or set of constraints.
One of the magical things about the startup experience earlier in my career was our company value of “hire great people and trust them to do great things.” I thrived in this environment. It taught me to be an owner, owning the problem and the solution and eliminating blockers along the way. Throughout my career, I’ve proven that I’m capable of carrying the weight of impactful decisions on my shoulders because I have the skills and character to do it. I want to make sure I can flex this muscle in my next endeavor. For smaller companies, I’m seeking CTO and VP-Eng like roles. For larger companies, I’m looking to own and drive Engineering for an impactful part of the business.
I want to build a real business with real customers that has a realistic chance of positively impacting our employees’ financial lives. That said, I want to balance this by actively discarding opportunities where those involved are looking to make a quick buck or are focused solely on the exit. I want to build something sustainable and durable for the long term again.
If what you’ve read here aligns with your worldview and you’re looking for a leader to help scale your engineering team and business, you can learn more about my background here and reach me at ewryan [at] gmail.