Today marks the 2nd year anniversary from when I first met my co-founders, Stan and Maria. This is the story of how I remember it .
I have always admired people who wake up one day and decide to turn their life upside down; to stop everything they are doing and move on to doing what they really are passionate about. Like my dear friend and yoga teacher Tammy, who if I remember correctly, decided to quit her career in finance to pursue one as a yoga teacher, because yoga was what really made her happy. It takes a lot of courage to do something like this, since you need basically start from the bottom again and things may not go as one might think. It is a massive risk, but usually one that pays off, since, after all, you end up doing what really makes happy.
About 2 years ago, after a long time working at Mendeley and a few more working in tech, I found myself doubting whether computers really made me happy. For as long as I remember, computers had been part of my life and it was after all, what I chose as a career without any doubt a few years back. Not only that, tech is challenging(1) and it pays well. But I still found something was not right. I felt in a stalemate. I needed a change.
So one day, I woke up, fed up with feeling like I was not in charge any more and I decided that not only I wanted to move on from my job, but that I wanted to be one of those peoples I admired so much and decided to quit tech and computers all together.
I then decided to become a musician. Music has always been my real passion, but because of different circumstances I never really was able to pursue it. I started learning how to play the piano a few years ago, but nothing serious, just a few classes here and there after work. But at this point, I was so decided nobody could stop me. I was gonna do the crazy thing and pursue my passion!
The circumstances were great as well: Mendeley just got acquired and I got a little bit of money from it to bump my savings up a notch. Enough to live off work for a year and study hard. This was my moment!
Two weeks after my big revelation and countless attempts I kept ignoring from my boyfriend(2) to persuade me to not throw away my career just yet, he sent me a link to a job post that caught my attention…
This is (more or less) how the IRC conversation went…
- Jesper: “I know that you have already made up your mind about what you want to do and are not actually looking for a job, but a friend just sent me this… <link to post>”
- Me (before opening the link): “Nah.. I really don’t feel like going through the hassle of finding a new job, interviews, etc…”
- Jesper: “At least look at it! It’s basically your entire CV written down in a job spec, for a music tech startup. They are looking for technical lead / CTO”
- Me: “Hmm, interesting…” (3)
- Jesper (after a few minutes of silence): “So, what do you think?”
- Me: “This Bandwagon thing looks certainly interesting. Not sure about jumping into leading the development of an already created product though, it’s always tricky…”
- Jesper: “What are you talking about?! That’s what you have been doing at Mendeley for the last few years!”
- Me: “Yes, but… I took the lead at Mendeley after a year working there, I knew the codebase like the back of my hand. This would be jumping in the deep end…”
- Jesper (starting to lose his patience): “You don’t know that! Plus, you are awesome at your job! Could you at least apply and find out more before making up your mind? It looks really good.”
- Me: “Fine, but then you leave me alone!”
The job ad was post in workinstartups.com, pretty cool site to find jobs, but at the time it was really testing my patience. It was forcing me to sign up with my LinkedIn account, but then to apply for the job I had to manually enter my CV again…”wait what?! I just gave you my LinkedIn credentials! Why the hell aren’t you pulling the info from the API?!”
A few minutes later…
- Me: “This site is not working! Screw it, I am not applying through here. It didn’t pull my data from linked and I can’t even upload a PDF version of my CV! I have to go through 1000s text boxes and enter it all manually… screw this.”
- Jesper: “Seriously? Just copy and paste it! It will take you, what, 5 minutes?”
- Me (annoyed): “It’s the principle of it Jesper! Why force SSO if then I need to do this all again? The whole point is to make it convenient, and instead it’s annoying me” (4)
- Jesper: “Ok, how about you find an email address and just send them your CV?”
- Me: “Pff, too much effort”
- Jesper: “Seriously… Here’s the co-founder’s email address <maria’s bandwagon email>, took me 2 seconds to find it on Twitter”
- Me: “Oh genius! I will send her an email straight away! Thank you babe”
- Jesper: “¬_¬”
- Me: “:*”
I wrote the best cover letter in my life. Three sentences. There was not much to add, as my CV was speaking for itself. At this point I was feeling confident and excited. I haven’t abandoned my musician career idea, but this could be an interesting opportunity and I certainly didn’t lose anything to find out more about the position. And I ticked all the boxes they were asking for.
But then…one day passed, and another, and another… and I didn’t get any reply from Maria. I started doing some due diligence (aka Googling) on who was behind this cool company called Bandwagon. And then I instantly thought that the power business genius woman behind it, didn’t like me.
- Me: “Pfff, why hasn’t she replied? I thought it was such a good email…”
- Jesper: “She must be busy babe, don’t read too much into it”
- Me: “I wouldn’t, but it’s been a few days now…”
- Jesper: “You know, you could always apply through that site…”
- Me (sarcastically): “Yeah sure! If she hasn’t read my email she surely will read my application through this great website – at least with the email the possibilities of being delivered are higher..”
- Jesper (losing his patience for real now): “Seriously, just do it and find out”
- Me: “Fine”
It took me less than 5 minutes to do it. I got a message from Stan
2 hours later (5).
- Me: “Good news! They want to meet me!”
- Jesper: “Oh! You see, in the end the site worked haha – I told you so”
We met 3 days later, on the 10th of February of 2014. It was a Monday afternoon. I was nervous. But also confident. I didn’t know what to wear. I just got my wrist tattoo 2 days earlier and didn’t know whether I should cover it or not. I wanted to make a good impression.
We were supposed to meet at Salvation Jane (what’s now Lantana) but I received an email from Stan telling me it was closed. So he was waiting at the Nero just on the opposite side of the street.
Maria, the business woman, wasn’t there (and repeating in my head, “she really doesn’t like me…”).
Stan and I hit it off straight away. Bandwagon sounded amazing, but there was a caveat…they were in the process of selling it…
I wasn’t sure if I heard that right, I didn’t understand Stan’s accent at times…
- Me: “Oh ok…”
- Stan: “But now that we have talked about Bandwagon, we have another idea that we want to pursue…”
- Me (puzzled, I thought this was all about BW): “Aha”
- Stan: “And this time we want a third co-founder that can take on the technical side of things. When Maria and I got married, we had real trouble finding good entertainment for the wedding for our budget despite working in the music industry for a long time. Agencies are crazy expensive and I was stressing out with a pile of cash on my pocket on my wedding day… not the idea situation. So we thought we could build a system a la Airbnb for hiring musicians for private events. This will also help musicians to take control of their careers instead of having to rely on agents…”
He continued explaining all the problems with the current agency model and the different solutions they had in mind. All this sounded like music to my ears and all I could think was how I would go about implementing the system. And so I explained it to him.
I could see in his face he was happy with what I was saying. Just before departing, we talked about the next steps…
- Stan: “I would like you to meet Maria, my co-founder. She’s amazing.”
- Me (slightly intimidated by the thought of meeting THE business woman): “Absolutely! When?”
I met Maria a week after. And as soon as we said hello, I knew we would get on well (6). All the preconception I had about her being an intimidating person was all created by my mind and the need to have certain state of stress to perform well at the interview. Still a proper business woman, but so approachable and nice. I felt almost a bit embarrassed of having thought otherwise.
I arrived home super excited and told Jesper that it went well and they wanted me to be a co-founder.
It didn’t take me long to decide. I already made my mind up by the first meeting. And it made a lot of sense.
The circumstances didn’t change from when I wanted to move onto being a musician; there was only one difference, I already had the skills to do the job. I didn’t have to learn completely from scratch. Yes, there were another set of risks, but somehow it didn’t feel as risky. Though it was a massive risk.
To start with, I knew nothing about Stan and Maria, other than the couple of hours I had met them and what I could gather from the Internet. But my gut feeling was telling me “Just go for it, it will work. It’s a great opportunity.”.
And it did. And I am glad I listened to Jesper. And to my gut.
Because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met these two absolutely wonderful people. I wouldn’t have come to grips with computers and coding again. And I wouldn’t have a badass startup, where I am constantly learning, I am proud of what we have achieve so far and what’s to come.
This same day 2 years ago marked an inflexion point in my personal and professional life. And so, it’s special day.
Thanks for reading.
(1) Which is great and what keeps me going; though it needs to be the right kind of challenge. The ones I was dealing with at the time were not.
(2) Jesper while being super supportive in pretty much everything I do, he saw it would very difficult, considering the cost of living in London and that career changes like this take a hell of a lot of effort. But I didn’t want to listen 🙂
(3) My other option besides pursuing a career as a musician was to start my own company or agency, but all the ideas I had already existed or weren’t viable. Not that Rosario becoming a musician in 1 year was viable, but hey, one can dream right?
(4) I am incredibly stubborn, and when it comes to implementing things properly even more. It’s the engineering mind, can’t get past it. Please note, for the time I spent explaining why it annoyed me so much, I could have applied like 4 times. shrug
(5) I dug up the old emails and it was actually 3 days. But I like to exaggerate the story just to wind Maria up a little. She claims she never received the email. And I believe her 🙂
(6) And now we happen to be best friends.