My First Year in a “Start-Up”

One YearWell, I survived my first year at Nutanix, and while we are not really a “start-up” any more, I have certainly learned a lot about myself, and about what hard work in the world of a Silicon Valley Pre-IPO company really looks like. It isn’t anything like what I expected, and I am not sure anything I could have done to prepare would have properly prepared me for the past year. 

  1. Don’t bring ANY expectations with you other than the knowledge that you’ll work hard – Some people come to companies like Nutanix because they are looking for the quick payout. Let’s be real for a moment. There is NO such thing as a quick payout. Yes, you get stock options and such, but after the IPO you need to let it mature before…you hope…the stock is worth anything. As of the writing of this article Nutanix has still not gone public thanks to a turbulent market. But we will, and I fully expect to sit on the stock for a while. And that’s ok because I’m in this for the long haul. Also don’t assume because a flight is over six or eight hours you’ll be in Business or First Class. If your CEO and President can fly coach, you can to.
  2. It doesn’t matter how you did it at <insert name here) – This is not your last start-up, your last Fortune 500 or whatever. This is now. This is the latest and greatest. There is a reason you left your last company, so why in the world would you compare this one to that one, unless you want to compare how much better it is. Sure…if your last company did something really, really well that you think would work well at your new gig, share it with someone who can do something with it. If they decide not do, don’t push the issue. They may have insight into why that would not work at this company, and that is why they are in the position they are in.
  3. Your job title is really just a formality – Nowhere in my job title is the title “Blogger”. I do it because I love to write…it’s my outlet after talking all day. But I do it because I want to help the company and those on my team. When you can contribute doing something you would do anyway, why the hell would you not do it without expecting anything in return. As I see it, I get paid to write, record videos and well, about anything that supports the overall mission of your team and the company. The truth is that in a Pre-IPO company, you will wear many hats, and very few of them look like your job title. But chances are pretty good that you’ll love the extra responsibilities.
  4. Your family takes on a new look – I could write an entire article on this one subject, but when your boss calls you and just wanted to ask about how Mother’s Day, your vacation, etc…and never once asks you how a project is coming along…that says a lot. When your boss calls you after your mother passes away and asks when the memorial service is because they want to attend (flying across country to be there), how do you respond to that? I have worked for a lot of managers. Some were really good, and some were probably in the wrong position. But the three managers I have had since going to Nutanix have been, without a shadow of a doubt, the closest thing to “family” that I have ever had at work, and I am grateful for that.
  5. You CAN candles from both ends – If you say you can’t do it…you’re right. If you say you can, and you will, you’re right. You’ll find a way to get it done, even if it means no sleep. Even if it means over-committing. We are much more capable of accomplishing than we think we are. You just need something and someone to motivate and encourage you to push beyond what you thought was possible. Here’s the good part. When you love what you do, it won’t seem like you’re burning that candle. And when you do what you do for others, you’ll find a way to make it work for everyone involved. You can’t go non-stop forever, but in short bursts you can do ANYTHING.
  6. You CAN have a work-life balance – It has taken me more than twenty years, but I can tell you that while I have never worked harder in my life…and I sincerely mean that, I have also never had a better work-life balance, because I know when I can relax during the week, and how to balance checking emails and such on the weekends where it doesn’t impact the family or the job. This balance allows me to accomplish more in less time giving me the ability to have more time with those I love.
  7. Your manager, director and your CEO can, and will, become your closest friends – Several of my coworkers, including my CEO are my Facebook friends. They know me as a person…the guy outside of work, because they made an effort to get to know me. They invested in me. I did the same with them, and it was the best decision I made. Each of these people I count as family that I work with have caused me to strive to be a better technologist, a better husband, and a better father. They know the investment we’re all making and the sacrifice that our families are giving. We’re in this together. We win together. We lose together. We celebrate together and we cry together. While it is not the brotherhood that you build in the military, it’s pretty darn close.
  8. You learn humility – I have worked with some amazing people in my time, but the people that change the world are the ones that are crazy enough to believe in achieving the impossible. When I was at another company that competed against Nutanix…a company that is well known for their significant level of overconfidence, I was always amazed at how much everyone thought they would put Nutanix out of business. Guess what…it didn’t happen. All you need to do is look at the Gartner Magic Quadrant, the increasing market share, customer testimonials…you know the real story. Humility is believing in yourself, but not believing you are better than anyone else. Humility is competing on facts, not FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Humility is knowing when to admit the competition has a pretty good product, not bad-mouth them because they kicked your butt in a customer bake-off. Humility is a manager who is more interested in his guys looking good and making more money than he does. Humility is being willing to take a bullet for a teammate rather than pushing them in front of the bus. Nutanix is full of humble people, and that is a big reason why we are where we are today, and it starts at the top. Our CEO leads by example, and so does the rest of the management team.
  9. You never stop learning…EVER  – I have worked at several companies that you could get comfortable. Comfortable is why great companies become good companies, and why great companies eventually get bought out or go away completely. You want to surpass the competition? Never stop learning. You want to make yourself recession-proof, never stop learning. Education never stops. My boss said something last night I’ll never forget. When you become the smartest person in the room, it is time to change the people in the room. I like teaching…don’t get me wrong. But I like learning just as much. Learning is giving back to the company and the team that has given so much to me, and ultimately, my family. Learning should be a constant goal.
  10. You MUST have a thick skin, and a flexible heart – The job can be tough on everyone. You work hard and you play hard. But in the course of working hard you will, from time to time, end up on the wrong end of a conversation. But that is OK…because from time to time we all need a re-direction. A team that truly cares about each other will be willing to call each other out when the time comes, because when the team suffers, YOU suffer, and they are as interested in your success and you are. A team needs all cylinders firing to make it go and to reach that summit. Don’t take anything personally. You must also have a flexible heart, because while you are going 100 miles per hour, life still happens, and people are still people. You need to be willing to show grace at a moments notice. People make mistakes. People get hurt. They say and do things in the heat of the moment they may not have otherwise. Be someone willing to extend a second or even third chance to someone who needs it. Someday you might be on the receiving end.

My year at Nutanix has been everything I had hoped for, and so much more. I have never worked so hard in all my years in this business, but I can’t wait to see what this next year brings. It’s exciting to be here, and I am grateful for the opportunity. I take that back. I didn’t survive my first year. I thrived in my first year.

1 thought on “My First Year in a “Start-Up””

  1. Really good post. Dheeraj should keep it as an standard answer to “Why you should work at Nutanix?” 🙂 Google search for “Work Life Balance Nutanix” brought me here. You may want to answer few of the questions about Nutanix on Quora. My Favorite from the Blog: 4, 6 and 8.

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