Two years ago when I took the job as the Office Manager at The Gifts Projects (TGP), I must admit – I was hesitant. I didn’t want to be doing something administrative, but I knew it was a foot in the door to the exciting world of startups, which like every other good Israeli my age, I was dying to be a part of. So, when I was offered the job, I decided to dive in head first and give it a try. After all – what did I have to lose?
I of course never let my hesitation on, because they were hesitant too. I was over qualified and during the interview Ron (my boss) basically told me that he knows my type – I’ll get bored after a few months and leave – he gave me two years at most. And he was right, I am the type to get bored, but I promised I was there for the journey and that he should take a chance on me. It was one of those sliding door moments for me, because if he wouldn’t have offered me the job I was going to head off to Southeast Asia to travel or look for a place to volunteer in Africa. Self-fulfilling or just spot on, his prophecy came true and I finished working at the ISC after two years (and a month to the date). I am thankful every single day that they took a chance on me because the experience of working with Ron, Erez, Matan, Maya, Ziv, Miki, Yon, Danni, Gartner, Adam, Itay, Ido, Shay, Ariel, Guy and Marty was absolutely priceless.
On my first day of work, Ron had a long list waiting for me to do of odds and ends that he hadn’t gotten around to. He thought it would take a few months, but after about 6 weeks I finished everything and came to him and asked him for more projects and to start working full time (I was originally hired to work 9 AM- 3 PM). And that basically describes my two years at TGP/ISC. The more I got involved in the ins and outs of the company, the more projects and work I wanted. I discovered that being an office manager at a startup is about being an entrepreneur and the bigger you dream the more opportunities you have.
I could have easily spent two years working 9-3 and focused on the administrative aspects of the job, but I made a choice to look beyond the job description and with the support and encouragement of my boss I turned my job into a multidisciplinary and far reaching position with a lot of responsibility and variety. Removing overhead from founders in and of itself is a huge contribution at a startup, as it allows them to focus on the core activities of the company and that should not be taken lightly. But focusing on administrative work wasn’t enough for me. The team’s love and dedication to their work was inspiring and I wanted in on the action (to those who know me, shocking, eh?). I wanted to understand what product meant and why things worked the way they did, how the business was run and basically how I could get my hands on what everyone else in the company was doing. Yes, even at the age of 28, I looked at the other kids on the play ground and wanted what they had, but how could I help myself? When spend the majority of your day with 7 people in an 80 square meter office space and they live, breath, and eat (well talk about when they eat) coding the most aesthetically appealing lean mean Group Gifting experience the internet had ever seen, you have to be crazy not to want to be a part of it.
And with a little bit of encouragement and an open minded boss I turned my position into an internship program for sales, marketing, product and programming. I thought I knew a bit about technology and social media when I started, but I discovered that I was borderline technophobe and an extremely conservative user. I would ask for every tweet that I wrote for TGP to be approved and couldn’t figure out why people would want to connect to Facebook to use an online service or even what that meant. The only item I had ever bought on eBay was a pair of UGG boots (which I still proudly wear by the way) in 2006.
At first Matan, our Head of Product would show me a new experience that they put together and ask me what I think and to give feedback regarding how intuitive the experience was and any content input I had. Then I started to write the content and at a certain stage due to sheer need for addition man power and upcoming deadlines, it became more cost effective for Erez, our CTO to teach me how to write the content directly in YAML files. So I got a GitHub profile and learned what it meant to push and pull code into staging and production. To someone who studied computer science or has coded their whole life it may seem trivial, but it was a huge deal – especially since I pushed broken code and knocked down the system right before important phone calls with clients once or twice – but hey, you learn way more from the mistakes you make and not by getting things right all the time.
In April last year, we revamped the eBay Group Gifts payment method. And guess who got the chance to define this from A-Z? One of the best parts about working with the programmers at ISC (or now IIC) is that they care about product almost as much as coding. Now I haven’t worked with other programmers, so I only hear rumors, but I understand that this should not be taken for granted. Planning this feature took up every free moment for several weeks – I totally neglected the refrigerator (that is when you know I was really busy – when I let the yogurt stock run out), but 2 sprints later, just in time for Mother’s Day, we rolled out a new and improved eBay Group Gifts utilizing PayPal’s pre-approval API.
Leaving the ISC to pursue my dream of living and working in Africa was not easy. I left behind people that were more than just co-workers. Clichés aside, they really were like my family. I don’t think there was ever a day in the two years that I worked there that dreaded going to work – quite the opposite. I loved coming to our secret hideaway above Rothschild’s Kitchen everyday and I loved even more coming to our dream offices on Rothschild 13. Even on the most frustrating and annoying days at work (and there were many), I loved being there. I learned something new every day and I was constantly inspired to learn more, try new technologies, encouraged to ask questions and they even tolerated me nudging the hell out of them so I could better understand what we did and why we did it.
I am certainly no guru, but I leave feeling comfortable with technology, have a huge appreciation for good user experience and aesthetically pleasing websites/applications, understand how challenging building a good product can be, but how satisfying it is when you get there, and most importantly recognize how important it is to be knowledgeable about technology and learn how to code (and no I still don’t know how to, but it is on my backlog of things I must do, just like moving to Africa). I will take with me for the rest of my career the things I learned about technology, cultivating creativity, how to build a successful startup, people management, project management, entrepreneurship, innovation, and friendship — and the best farewell video ever made.
Thank you for the opportunity to work with you – for the knowledge you shared and for opening my eyes up to the world of technology.