Tech Trends

Today, Tomorrow, and the Future: Navigating the Tech Landscape

We all know Tech Startups have many differences from traditional businesses but identifying them and how to navigate these differences to build a successful career can be challenging.  That is why we were so fortunate to have industry veteran and NDT VP of Recruiting Larry Kahn visit the Heights last Tuesday!  With more than 20 years experience recruiting for high tech, he brings a great perspective on how to break in and make it in the industry.  I have done my best to summarize some of his key insights here.

A huge thank you to Larry for taking the time to share his knowledge and experience with us!

On Interviewing

  • Companies are increasingly hiring on consensus, with more than just one “decider” you need to pay extra attention to how you come across during your entire time in the office and to anyone with whom you interact.  This can be particularly difficult as interview length is shorter now on average than in the past
  • It is key to let interviewers know all the relevant info about you.  If you cannot fit it all in during the interview, you can use your thank you email, second paragraph to pass on some relevant information that may not have come up.
  • Even if you don’t have anything else to add, send a follow-up thank you.  It really matters.
  • Video interviews are also becoming more common and you must treat it like an in person.  Dress like you would for an office visit, choose a quiet place, and make sure there are no distractions in the background.  Little things make a difference.
  • Make sure your shoes are shined, your clothes are clean and free of lint, in short-make sure you look good.  This does not mean wear a suit however.  For some companies you should–for others that will make you awkward and out of place…if you have any question at all, ask!
  • Companies will search you, look at your social sites, and your online presence.  See building your brand below.
  • Eat well beforehand, including protein.  You don’t know if the interview will last longer than expected and you need to keep your energy level throughout.

On Offer Letters and Job Choice

  • Startups offer a fair compensation package that may be lighter on salary but should have meaningful equity
  • Mid Sized companies should offer higher base salary and a bonus up to 30%, perhaps with some equity
  • Regardless, do not simply pick the highest paying job, but one that provides the best opportunities for work experience to put you on the right path to where you want to go.
  • Try to balance your experience between big and small companies–if you’ve been at enterprise businesses, try a startup and vice versa.  This will avoid becoming typecast.  Look for transferable skills.

Building Your Brand

  • You need to control your brand.  Have a professional photo on LinkedIn that is different from Facebook.  Post articles or work samples that reflect your strengths on LinkedIn.  Content is key!  Maintain an active and professional Twitter handle.
  • Companies are looking for interesting people so you need to demonstrate how you are different from you peers.
  • Don’t short sell yourself!
  • Company loyalty is not what it used to be on either side.  For most companies, 2-4 years is a good tenure and staying much longer will get you typecast.
  • You must stay current by reading voraciously, following trends online, and taking classes whenever possible.  Blog, Tweet, etc. to keep yourself relevant.
  • Give back!  Look for opportunities to mentor and help others

Finding and Maintaining Mentor Relationships

  • People are generally willing to help but you have to try
  • Reach out to a person three times before giving up, including over the phone.  Sometimes messages fall through the cracks.
  • Say thank you!  Send emails, follow-up with news, and generally emanate an attitude of gratitude.
  • It does not need to be an equal relationship.  It’s okay if a mentor helps you more than you help them, just pay it forward!

Growing Jobs and Trends in Tech

  • Product Management
    • A/B Testing
    • Agile
  • Digital Marketing
  • Social Marketing
  • Professional Services
    • Training
    • Consulting
  • Engineering
    • Ruby
    • Pearl
    • Java
  • Healthcare and Tech
  • Big Data
    • Companies that help other companies harvest and interpret big data are flourishing
  • Technology as a base for business
    • If you want to stay in Mass, work in SF or in the Pacific Northwest, get a job at a tech company because those companies are the ones who are going to dominate the economies in these areas

David LoVerme is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the President of the Grad Tech Club

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Two Hours at Highland Capital

Anyway you slice it, getting a meeting with a leading VC is tough, and getting to spend an hour plus is almost impossible. Yet as members of the BC Grad Tech Club and the overall BC Community, we have had the great fortune of having it become almost commonplace.  Only a few weeks ago, we were able to spend an hour with Spark Capital’s Bijan Sabet, and a number of our student entrepreneurs recently discussed business ideas 1:1 with Highland General Partner and BC Alum Peter Bell.

Last Friday was no exception as a group of us were fortunate enough to spend almost two hours in Highland’s Cambridge office on the top floor of One Broadway.  BC Alumni Dan Nova and Chris Protasewich hosted us, answered our questions, and dropped some serious knowledge.  While my notebook contains several pages of scrawled notes, I’ll do my best to distill it down to my impressions of a few key takeaways.  A huge thanks to Dan and Chris as well as the whole Highland team for being such staunch supporters of the school and our programs!

highland

Key Take-Aways

On what type of companies they look for and fund:

  • Highland is looking for revolutionary companies that seek to reshape an entire industry such as Uber with transportation, HourlyNerd with Consulting, and Rent the Runway with high end fashion.
  • This requires founders with big ambitions who are a little bit crazy.  In often cases, these are people with goals to start a movement or reinvent the future.  For successful entrepreneurs, opportunities to make a few million by selling early can be hard to say “no” to but can also hamper the potential of a company.

On Highland’s People First Approach

  • Highland evaluates opportunities with a People, Market, Product, and Deal Terms approach-in that order.  They sees themselves as selling a relationship based on trust and value-add and therefore the most important element is people.
  • Highland looks for solid, smart, and hard-working people.  They believe that if they find the right people, they will be able to adjust successfully to the changing market.
  • Of more than a thousand meetings each year, Highland will only fund about 15-20 companies after a great degree of due diligence on the people.  As Dan says, “There is no substitute for time when you are investing in a relationship.”
  • They look for people who can communicate well and honestly even when its bad news.  In Dan’s words, “We make a living dealing with bad news.”  Highland has a lot of experience and can often recognize patterns that allow them to provide sage advice as long as the founder comes to them honestly and in time to take action.

On Corporate Venture Funds

  • Dan is not personally a fan because there is often a disconnect in alignment between them and companies like Highland.
  • Corporate Venture groups move less slowly and they usually have a strategic interest that can alter the natural course of business development.

On Continued Investment

  • Highland recognizes that companies often require more than one infusion of cash, as a result they set aside a dollar for every dollar they invest initially to be used for further investment.  This allows the company to continue to support its portfolio companies as needed.

On the Future

  • “We are in the Golden Years of Major Marketplace Shifts.”  Transport, Housing, Fashion, Consulting, are all being rocked at the core and Dan believes this will continue to take place.  There are a lot of entrenched but ridiculously inefficient industries out there and the market and technology is now prime for disruption.  We can expect to see a lot more of this.
  • Immersive 3D Virtual Reality is here and will be huge.  Dan believes that the moment is here though he admits he is awfully bullish on it and my may be a bit early
  • VCs do not know all.  In an admirable moment of self honesty, Dan also admitted that VCs have a lot of experience and insight but certainly do not know all.  He asked about what are the most popular technologies on BC’s campus and was surprised to hear the anonymous social app Yik Yak was among the leaders.  He admitted he isn’t big on the anonymous thing, calling it “…the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,” but appending his statement with “but I said that about Twitter…”

David LoVerme is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the President of the Grad Tech Club