Do ask, do tell: My first month in a tech company

Jun 2019

As part of London Tech Week, we hosted an informative breakfast panel session, discussing the issues which hold tech companies back from progress. Attending was a wide range of people from both our own portfolio companies and from other technology businesses around London, ranging from tenured tech heads to industry newbies.

One such new recruit was Justin, who recently joined our BC Pioneers programme – an initiative set up to nurture the future leaders of Blenheim Chalcot ventures. He wrote this blog article as a reflection on his first month within the BC technology community.

4 weeks ago, the direction of my career did a full 180-degree turn when I joined the Pioneer Programme at Blenheim Chalcot. As the end of my first month at BC coincided with London Tech Week, I wanted to share what I’ve learned in this short space of time. Not just about working in a tech business, but also about my own understanding of how a digital product is shaped and improved via end user feedback. 

My previous job was in investment research at a firm in Central London. The progression plan seemed obvious and followed the same pattern since leaving school – go to university, choose an industry (finance or law), find a job, get some experience, one day move to a competitor and so on.  Gradually I would be given greater levels of responsibility and in turn, watch my salary rise. This all seemed pretty great and I was quite enjoying the ride, so for the most part, I was happy I’d bought my ticket.  

Separate to my professional life, but equally as important when giving context to my career change, I’d become interested in how the digital revolution has given people a truly global platform for airing their opinions on literally everything. I was particularly fascinated by how active people seemed to be on app stores, reviewing anything and everything about a product. Why would they take the time to do this? Did they have a point to prove, or are they just seeking some kind of validation? This type of feedback loop seemed at odds with the “don’t ask, execute” approach I had grown accustomed to since leaving university. 

I admired the way people constantly pushed for answers and proffered active working suggestions to help improve the products they used. It got me thinking about how organisations handle this process internally when launching a product to market and instead of vilifying the reviewer for being an insufferable know-it-all, I had a shift of mindset and realised their importance.  

This revelation strangely coincided with me second guessing my own career path. I wasn’t entirely sure the linear professional route was the way for me. Instead, starting with an idea and adapting it, not just once or twice with feedback as I would a research paper, but as an evolutionary process with new iterations making digital products seem more like living and breathing creatures. The idea of working in an environment which offered the chance to be part of that was attractive. I can’t think of a better method of learning than through direct feedback, something I think the tech community does better than any other. 

My biggest takeaway from my first 4 weeks has been taken from this lesson in community collaboration. Before anything I have learnt to ask if people would genuinely want what I am trying to offer, before my imagination runs away with itself. I have also made it my personal mission to be better at providing the feedback for others trying to navigate their product through a market. Unfortunately, this might mean me dropping an online review for you and your product or service in the not too distant future!