Tip Piumsomboon started off her career managing half a billion dollars in the stock market before deciding to automate her role in equities research at a fintech startup. She built the first natural language financial news site, which published automated articles on Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance and Google Finance. Tip recently joined Blackbird Ventures, a top Australian venture capital firm investing in high growth technology startups. Tip also founded Young Women in Finance, a movement to strengthen the pipeline of women in leadership positions in the financial industry with over 800 members globally, and was named 100 Women of Influence.
Each move has been a bit of a blind leap of faith. I'm drawn to a strong sense of mission and a great company culture, which are reflected in each of the places I've joined. I moved from corporate to startup because I wanted to automate my old role and be part of a high growth industry. And I moved from startup to venture because I wanted to invest in many great companies collectively making a large impact.
In hindsight the reasons seem pretty obvious, but before each leap there was a lot of uncertainty and the feeling of moving backwards or sideways. The deciding questions I always ask myself are “will I grow faster and learn more compared to where I am now?” and ”will I be a key part of the organisation and add more value than I do now?” if the answers are yes then I'm willing to take the risk.
For me, living a life full of “what ifs” is scarier than venturing out into the unknown.
Depending on how you operate, one person's pro can be another person's con. At a startup, you're endlessly learning and creating in a constantly changing environment. Your decisions tend to make or break products, which can be both thrilling and terrifying.
Startups generally require a lot of self direction in all roles, which is a pro if you love solving problems and independent thinking, but a con if you like structure and routine. The lack of hierarchy means there's a high sense of ownership in what you do. At a corporate, I felt like there's always someone to approve or double check my work. Whereas at a smaller startup, the buck stopped with me and my mentality changed to, “I have to make this work or no one else will.” It's more challenging but empowering at the same time. You're able to push yourself to your own limits without being constrained by someone else's expectations.
There's many types of people working at startups, which is the beauty of diversity coming together to solve a problem. But there are common traits shared between the type of people who gravitate towards the ecosystem.
The type of founders and joiners I admire greatly are those doing their life's work. People who have felt the pain of a problem first hand and have that sense of responsibility to solve that problem for the rest of the world. I admire people brave enough to deviate from the traditional path and do something unconventional and valuable. I'm drawn to those that put their mission above all else, the resilient, the-hungry-not-the-proven type of people.
When I interviewed for my first grad role, they asked me if I could build financial models. I said yes. But I could not. After landing the role, I was thrown in the deep-end (best way to learn) and the skill I found the most useful is the ability to break down and synthesise information quickly. This enables you to learn fast and adapt to changing environments.
Storytelling is an underrated skill. Whether you're a founder pitching for capital or a joiner interviewing for a role, being able to communicate your story and values helps align missions and attracts the right people. I recommend reflecting on what matters most to you in order to properly communicate your story and make good long term decision.
However, it's just as important to cultivate the right mindset as it is for skills to help prepare you for the future. Continuous learning from a growth mindset will always make you a future-proof millennial!
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