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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

10 Career Lessons from 10 Years in Silicon Valley

I published this first on LinkedIn. 

Ten years ago this month I drove across the bay bridge in a full-size truck with everything I owned in the back, to start my first post college full-time job. I was a bright eyed, recent BYU grad, that did not know hardly anything about San Francisco.

Fast forward to the present and I feel extremely fortunate to have spent my whole career thus far in the bay area, working with many wonderful people at some pretty amazing companies. I recognize that it has been a privilege to have a career that I've enjoyed immensely.

There are a few lessons I've learned over the last 10 years that have really stuck with me and I wanted to share them here. Some are unique to Silicon Valley, some are not, but I hope you can enjoy what I've learned.

You're smarter than you think. I remember the first time I was in a meeting with a fellow marketer that went to Stanford. I was extremely nervous, to me, he might as well have been able to read my mind. I'd never met anyone that went to Stanford. I was extremely intimidated. A few months later I realized that he was of course very smart, but I realized I could keep up. I think that is so often the case, we think others are smarter or have some talent we don't have, but it's often not the case.

Work is important, but not THE most important. It may seem strange that I learned this in a place that is known for promoting the "hustle". People here do work hard, but I've also seen so many examples of people that can have a ambitious career and still take care of the things in their lives that are most important. It's not easy, but I'm grateful for mentors that have shown me it can be done.

Find managers who believe in you.
Looking back, almost all my managers have encouraged me, believed in me and given me opportunities to grow. If you are not in that situation, my only advice would be to find a way out as soon as possible.Your career will be greatly limited under a manager that does not believe in you.

Dream big. I think the biggest advantage of Silicon Valley is people here believe they can do crazy things and they just do it.

Find managers who tell you the truth. The most rapid personal career growth that has happened to me is when I've had managers who have told me the truth. At first it was uncomfortable and hard, the millennial inside of me would sometimes prefer constant praise, but with constant feedback you can learn so fast. If you're manager is never correcting you, you're not growing as fast as you could.

Manage your reputation like your career depended on it. The world is small, especially in Silicon Valley. Back channel reference checks are happening constantly, word gets around. Your reputation is either helping you behind the scenes or working against you. Work hard, treat everyone with respect and build those up around you and you should be fine.

Trust your gut. The first few years of my career I'd see a decision be made or something happening that deep down in my gut, I thought it was the wrong decision or disagreed with. I rationalized that they were more experienced or smarter, but hindsight is 20/20. In those situations, I now know to trust my gut and bet on myself. I remember getting that advice from the CEO of a start up I worked for in college, but did not have the confidence to follow it for the first few years of my career.

Be a missionary not a mercenary. If you are lucky enough to have the choice, I've found that I've felt much more fulfilled when I really believe in the product, the mission and the leaders of the companies I've worked for.

Leaving good in pursuit of great. In terms of roles and companies, I've seen that the people that push themselves when they get comfortable and leave a good job or role in pursuit of greater opportunities are happier. Companies in Silicon Valley have become masters of helping you feel comfortable and fulfilled in jobs that maybe don't push you to your full potential.

There is power in diversity. I truly believe that I've learned more being surrounded by a variety of people, ideas and background.

Thank you for reading and humoring my walk down memory lane.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

When to Sell Your Company Stock

For the last 2.5 years I've been working for Zoom, which before April 18th of this year was a privately held company. Before Zoom, I had always worked for large public companies. Now that we are public I've been doing a lot of research about when to sell company stock. Prior to my current gig, anytime I had company stock I was using it to pay for grad school, pay off debt or build an emergency fund. This is the first time that I have company stock and all those things are behind me.

I'm fortunate to have many friends and mentors who have gone through this before and I've been relentlessly bugging them and getting their advice. I've also been doing my own research linked out below to some of the best resouces I've found on the topic. I've always felt the best financial advice is not easy to find so I wanted to share what I've learned about when to sell your company stock.


If you have debt, sell baby sell. Earlier in my career I primarily used any stock I had to do two things, pay off debt and to build an emergency fund. The general conservative financial wisdom would seem to agree that this makes the most sense not just for stock but any sort of windfall or extra income.

Assuming you have no debt and a solid 3-6 month expenses in an emergency fund. Here are some other ways you should think about your stock ranked in order of most conservative to risky.

Sell everything as soon as you can and diversify. Even with no debt, there is solid data to back this one up, check out this article from Wealthfront. Another article walking through why this could be a good idea.

Make a plan and put it on autopilot. This takes the emotion out of when and how to sell. Emotion seems to be the biggest enemy to wise stock selling decisions. There are so many variations, but the key is to decide in advance how much stock you want to sell in what time period. For example you can have a plan to say that 4 years from now I want to have left 25% of a specific stock grant, so you would schedule regular amount of shares to sell each month to sell 75% of your shares. You could also say you'll sell everything over 12 months. The possibilities are endless, but should be influenced by your networth, what your financial needs are in the near and long terms as well as your risk tolerance.

You don't get rich by diversifying. I had a mentor and someone I really respect tell me this. I think I would modify it a little to say "you don't get REALLY rich by diversifying". Think about the employees who followed all the previous advice at Apple, Google, Facebook and all the other stock super stars. They got rich, but not nearly as rich as the would have had they held on for a long time. Most companies are not going to be in that category...but some will be. General conventional financial wisdom suggests you should almost never have more than 10-15% of your network tied up in your company stock. Personally, I think the key is being able to be realistic about the risk and comfortable with it. Can you take on that much risk? Are you more worried about winning big or losing big? Do you have enough money outside of the stock position to do what you want to do for the next 5-7 years? Any big purchases you need to make in the near future? How are you tracking for retirement, kids college savings etc?  If you are in a solid position to have a concentrated position in your company stock and want that to be a high risk/high reward part of your portfolio, then that makes sense.

As I've been talking to experts on this topic and reading up on my own, I keep coming back to one important thing to consider. No matter what you decide to do you need to make a thorough enough and smart decision that no matter what happens with the stock price you can look back and maybe not be happy with the outcome, but be happy with your decision.

In my opinion, what it takes to get to that place is to have a solid plan, get good advice, be realistic about your risk level and have a solid financial foundational.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Podcast Interview: Why Marketing Podcast

A few months ago Rusty Pepper asked if I'd join the Why Marketing Podcast to talk about how I became a marketer, what I'm working on and much more. It was a fun experience. You can listen to the whole thing below on YouTube.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Beyond an Emergency Fund: Making More Money with a Financial Cushion

As I was considering leaving my last job, which had a very generous 401k match, I realized that it was unlikely that my next company would have as generous of a match. As soon as I decided I was serious about finding a new employer, I cranked up my contribution to 50% of my salary until I got the full match in a few short months before I quit. We lived off some extra savings we had set aside to be able to pay the bills. That extra savings we lived off of, essentially made us $1,000's of dollars.

Over the past few months, I've noticed even more places that if you have some extra financial cushion, you can use it to make even more money. This is good motivation for having a cushion beyond an emergency fund. I'm talking about money set aside not for emergencies...but opportunities. This principle reminds me of this quote from the Richest Man in Babylon.

“The man who became of his understanding of the laws of wealth, acquireth a growing surplus, should give thought to those future days. He should plan certain investments or provisions that may endure safely for many years, yet will be available when the time arrives which he has so wisely anticipated.”
George S. Clason, The Richest Man in Babylon 

Here are a few ways I've seen this in action. 

1. ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Plan). If you work at a publicly traded company and they offer this is a perk, if you can do without 20% of your salary for 6 months, you'll get a >15% guaranteed return on that money you set aside. Read this link for the details on how it works.

2. Exercise early options. A very tech example, I know, but if you believe an IPO is eminent at your company you can exercise early and lock in long term capital gains and save a lot of money in taxes. Read more here.

3. Pay in advance discounts. There are many products, like car insurance, where if you pay in advance they give you a discount.

4. Strategic charitable contributions. Consult a tax professional, but especially if you give a regular percentage of your salary, there might be some tax advantages to paying for the next year in December of the previous year depending on how near you are to exceeding the standard deduction. 

5. A great deal. This is a very dangerous one, but if used with constraint and it's legitimately something would have bought eventually, the financial cushion an let you pounce on a great deal.

6. Tax moves. The most common way is making a contribution to a traditional IRA or pre-tax 401k, but you might be surprised at the answer if you have an accountant and ask them the question. "How could I move some money around to lower my tax bill?".

Bottom line, if you can set aside some money apart from your emergency fund for opportunities, I'm confident each year you'll find more ways to have even more cash in your pocket that year. 

Disclaimer...these are just some ideas, consult a professional

Monday, December 31, 2018

Supercharge Your Networking in 2019 With These Tools and Tactics

As 2018 comes to a close, I'm guessing more than a few of you are thinking that working on your networking skills would be a good new years resolution. Networking is something I enjoy and I'm always working on improving, so I thought I'd share with you all a few applications that will help you take your networking to a new level.

Postable. A thank you card is one of the most powerful ways to show appreciation when someone in your network does you a solid, like refer you for a job or give you some advice. Finding an envelope, stamps etc is a huge pain. Postable makes it so you can type it out online and in a few clicks and a few dollars later they mail very unique, seemingly handwritten cards. (even fooled my mother-in-law). Yes of course, doing it the old fashioned way is better, but this is a great alternative. Use my code "MRMKNB7Y" on Postable for some free credit.

Calendly. I'm a big fan of Calendly, it makes it extremely easy to find a time for a chat. It syncs with your calendar to only show people you want to schedule meetings with the times that you're available. Send them a link and people pick a time that works for them. Two pro tips. First, if you have a commute, set up a link dedicated to your commute. There is no excuse for not nurturing your network when you have a >20 minute commute, that's twice a day you can catch up with old colleagues or connect with new folks. Second tip, link Zoom and Calendly together to automatically create a Zoom link in the invite.

Amazon. Do not underestimate the power of a small thoughtful gift to someone in your network as a thank you or just to help someone out. You can't go wrong with one of your favorite books. If you have prime, you get free two day shipping for even low priced items. I often do this with students who reach out to me, I send them the Start up of You.

LinkedIn. Of course, the no brainer, but let me challenge you to think and use LinkedIn in two very specific ways when networking. First, on LinkedIn you get tons of updates from people on promotions, new jobs, being mentioned in the news. These are amazing opportunities to reach out, compliment, congratulate and touch based with someone who you may not have spoken to in awhile. Second, if you encounter a tough problem at work, chances are you're not alone, do deep searches and try to connect with someone in your industry who has faced the same problem. I've made lasting friendships by cold contacting people on LinkedIn and asking them if they are willing to share a few ideas one professional to another.

Best of luck in improving your networking in 2019, don't forget to give more than you receive when it comes to professional networking and you'll find an army of people around you helping you succeed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

How to Get a Job at Zoom

I joined Zoom in April 2017. At that time, Zoom was still flying pretty below the radar as a great place to work. In fact, I only found out about it because of a friend who encouraged me to take a close look at them. Those days are over though, the secret is out. Today Glassdoor released it's top companies to work for and Zoom is #2 for large companies on a list among many other great well known companies. If seeing the Glassdoor report makes you think you'd like to explore working at Zoom, here are a few tips to help you get a job at Zoom.

1. Do your homework on the culture. Zoom has a very strong culture that Eric, our CEO and the whole executive team works to cultivate it. Watch his interviews on YouTube, his keynote from Zoomtopia and read articles he's written to get a sense of our culture. This will help you in the interview process.

2. If you know a Zoomer, ask them to refer you. Zoom has a robust internal referral process, so if you know someone at Zoom who will vouch for you, make sure to ask them to refer you. That will help make sure you get a good look.

3. Use the product. If you're not already super familiar with Zoom, you can download a free full featured version on and experience it yourself.

4. Video interview like a pro. Most interviews will be over Zoom, make sure you use computer audio or VoIP, turn your camera on and for bonus points use a virtual background.

Hope this helps and I get to see you around Zoom HQ soon. :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

My Favorite Productivity Hack for Working Smarter

I'm always look for ways to work smarter. I've got two kids under three, a demanding job and just a lot of other stuff going on outside of work. I really want to excel at work, but reality is I will not be able to out work everyone hours wise.

Image result for working smarter funny
I've recently stumbled across a productivity hack that has helped me be extremely responsive at work to senior executives without constantly checking my email or working 24/7. I recently set up my work email to send me a text every time I get email for a very select group of executives. (article with a how-to) Here is an example of how it works in a real life example.

I'm working out at 8am on a Saturday morning, I get a text that my CEO just emailed me. I jump on chat to discuss it with him quickly, resolve it and he tells me " go and have a great weekend". 

I got him what he needed almost immediately at an odd hour. He seemed grateful and I was happy to get him what he needed fast.

I'm confident that these executives see me as someone who is very responsive and I don't have to be addicted to my phone or work non stop to be able to make that happen.

This has been a good thing for me, but it could go south very easily. A few reasons why I think this works for me.

1. Everyone that I have set up to send me a text does not email me frequently.
2. I only have 4 people whose emails will trigger a text message

If you have a ton of people and you get multiple text messages a day, I don't think this is going to help you. I probably get 1-2 a week.

Try it out and let me know what you think!