Posted by Kimberly Bouton
My senior year at Fordham University I was doing what every other motivated, wide-eyed, and “wildly optimistic” senior was doing – making a spring class schedule that would best optimize my time for day-time drinking on Eddies, attending beer pong tournaments on Wednesday nights, spending money I didn’t have on some of the best Italian food in New York City, and basically making incredible (but down-right stupid in hindsight) memories with the best people I’ve ever met in my life. Oh yeah- I also spent the Spring of 2010 desperately applying for any job in any field I could find where I met even one of the requirements. At that point I was willing to take anything I could get.
Like a good little History major, I was sitting in the library “writing” my senior thesis and was no closer to being done with that 30-page endeavor than I was to finding a job when I got a call from SNAP Interactive, a social media networking start up company based out of midtown Manhattan in the online dating industry. “Hi, this is Darrell Lerner from SNAP Interactive. You applied for a job with us through Craigslist for the Community Manager position.” My response? “Oh yes! I’m so glad you called I’m so interested in working for your company.” The truth? I had no idea what company this was, what the position entailed, and if I had even really applied for the job on purpose. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t even have any idea what a “start up” was (For the record, Darrell is finding this out for the first time as he reads this. Sorry D! Update: he just threw a pack of gum at me).
Fast forward almost three years to the day from my first day with SNAP, and one of my close friends is telling me about a business they are hoping to start. Immediately, albeit unsolicited, my fingers hit the keyboard and I start handing out advice on social media strategies and its best practices. Programs they can use to create landing pages and test them for market research. How to take that data and analyze it for conversions. How to a/b test and why it’s so important. I start telling them about outsourcing companies for ad buying, SEO, initial programmers and designers. Tips on hiring programmers, what to ask, and what to look for. As I wrote this email, I was excited. Giddy. My fingers couldn’t keep up with my mind. I was excited thinking about how to shape their brand from the ground up and the strategies they can use to define it. Suddenly I realized that I had a true understanding of what it means to build a company and a brand and the 10,000 different things you need to implement, test, and consider when doing it. I realized that not only have I learned a TON since I was a wee History major, but I LOVE what I’ve learned, and I LOVE my job.
These realizations really struck me because when I was applying for jobs three years ago I saw working and a job as just that – simply a job. Nothing more. Something you wake up for every day, go to because you have to and should, keep for the paycheck, and see where it takes you, if anywhere at all. Most of us grow up with this viewpoint toward jobs- just something you have to do when you “grow up.” When I was applying for jobs, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do as a career, and had resigned myself to the fact that I would have to settle for anything I could get just to make a paycheck. And that was okay with me. Honestly, I would have been happy getting any kind of job in this economy.
Now, if I could, I would go back in time and kick myself for thinking that I should settle for “just a job.” And I don’t say that just because the start up world is full of ping-pong tables, work from home days, video games, and in-office happy hours. Those are some awesome perks for sure, but I would tell my 21 year old self that it’s actually possible to work for a company you love, believe in, and want to make your mark in if you open yourself up to opportunity and believe in yourself. Thankfully, over my near three years with SNAP, I forged a great working relationship with my boss Darrell who from the beginning took a chance on a history major with no social media experience, crucial for a community manager position, and has since pushed me well beyond my own expectations. And he is still pushing! I started as an entry level community manager and, after working many long hours, nights, and weekends, earned Darrell’s trust and found myself more motivated than ever to learn, perform, and exceed expectations. Over the course of almost three years, I ascended from an entry level position to becoming the sole Fraud Manager at the company where I was responsible for managing, iterating on, and helping to build a multi-layered in-house fraud prevention system while working with multiple developers and product managers. It’s pretty cool to look back and see how much I grew from where I started to where I ended as well as everything I learned in between. But it’s even more gratifying to look back and see that the trust I earned from Darrell led me to this brand new job with his new venture, full of new experiences, fun, and yes, stresses, that I would not trade for anything. Why? Because now I have the job I never knew I’d want!
If you had asked me three years ago “Kim, are you interested in or could you imagine yourself helping to build a business from scratch?” I would have laughed in your face. But now, I can’t imagine doing anything differently. Amazingly, I joined DCL Ventures on literally Day 1 (we went shopping for pens and paper clips that day) and am currently the second half to a company that is building something that will hopefully reach millions of people! Sometimes I feel like I live two different lives when I think about everything I’m experiencing. When I talk to friends and people I meet here and there about what I do for a job, their responses are generally a wide-eyed “wow” once I’m done rattling off to-do lists for brainstorms, discussions, designs, social media strategies, etc. So “wow” is right. I, a graduate of a small liberal arts university once content with just having a job and doing what I needed to do to get by, am now helping build something from the ground up. I am involved in the discussion on almost every decision, whether it’s site requirements, design requirements, wire-framing, you name it. And here’s the kicker- whether the decision is big or small, my opinion genuinely matters! As a result, the sense of ownership, even in these early stages, is overwhelming in an awesome way, and will certainly make it difficult for me to ever consider doing anything else down the road (Darrell will also probably tell you that it will be difficult to ever sway my opinion on designs).
Once a self-proclaimed History nerd (seriously, I’ll go on for days about World War II and Ancient Greece, try me), I now consider myself a tech nerd in the middle of Silicon Alley and am loving every second of it. I’ve gone from willingly reading history books and researching historical events I want to learn more about on my free time, to taking coding classes and being able to explain to my boss what Ruby on Rails is and why it’s becoming more popular than PHP. Curious about GitHub? Let’s talk for a few minutes. The best part is I get just as giddy explaining Ruby on Rails or GitHub as I do explaining Hitler’s “Lebensraum” policy (Google it). That’s how I know I’m in the right place. I’ve come a long way since my priorities were procrastinating as long as possible on papers while downing a few buffalo chicken slices from University. Now, I’m in a position, and will continue to be, where I actually get to be a driving force behind a company and its direction. Barely 25 as I write this, I think that’s pretty amazing. And I still sometimes can’t believe it is happening. I look at my journey from my first days in the working world to where I am now, and while I am grateful and proud of my time working so far, I get way more excited thinking about the future because I know that I, and DCL, have so much more ahead of us.