Behind the “cool” start-up life

PREDICTIVE BI on AWS PREDICSIS AI

Our HR specialist, Barbara Turpin, has experience in a variety of different companies, large and small.
 

So, Barbara, what is it like to work in HR in a technical start-up? 

 I first met PredicSis on 5th June 2013, 2 days after the company was created! Looking back on those four years of working with a start-up has given me a lot of interesting insights.

 We hear all the time that the most important element for a start-up to succeed is its strategy relating to product, value proposition, raising funds, etc. But what is a bit less put forward is that HR is the one of first things you should consider as part of your strategy! Understanding the culture of a start-up and understanding what drives its employees can ensure you make the right decisions for the future of your company and help prepare it for success.

 I’m intrigued…. Can you share some of your learnings with us?

 For a start, new companies need more passion than experience. From this passion is born desire, the desire to learn, the desire to continuously transform and adapt, the desire to do things well and the desire to advance the whole. It’s then the role of the new company to transform that group of passionate people into a team of talented people. Identifying what talent looks like is key to hiring the right people for the company.

 It’s my experience that the most talented people choose who they want to work for, not the other way round. So getting your offering right is primordial whether the job is open for PhD Machine Learning, developers or sales profiles.

 And this is the case throughout the employee’s tenure. As the project changes, evolves, goes back and forth – as it invariably does in a start-up – the employee needs to remain convinced it is all worth the effort. The concept of a job description is meaningless; what actually matters is contributing and adapting. So the employer needs to keep the employee on their toes at all times; and at the same time, the employee needs to play the start-up game.  By that I mean being prepared for every eventuality; being able to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in; use your initiative; do the dirty work; make the coffee!

 We must also accept that people will leave. At the start, a candidate is attracted by the idea of working for a start-up; but this could also be the reason someone might wish to leave. The rhythm, the uncertainty, cash flow challenges and the sentiment this can create can instil in one person the desire for excitement and change, but in another a sense of instability.  So it’s important for the employee to always remain aware of what motivates them at a particular time and to be honest with themselves and their employer about whether the role is still right for them. This personal responsibility on the part of the employee is key to maintaining the delicate balance of the start-up machine; and similarly, a good employer will respect the decisions and evolution of its team.  This is what keeps everyone 100% focussed on what is right for them and guarantees the company can move forward in the most efficient and effective way.

 We each have a personal responsibility to ourselves but also to the company to decide when it is right to stay and when it is right to leave.

 Often imagined as a nice place to work with friends, sitting on a couch, drinking coffee and working on cool projects, the start-up is, in reality, far more complex.  From the very beginning, we must change our mind-set. It’s all very well to imagine we’re a bunch of mates working on a common project towards a common goal, all in it together… but the universal understanding of a hierarchy still has to prevail.  There will be decisions that management might need to make without sharing them with everyone in the company. It could be more stressful for the team to know everything and not everyone reacts to situations in the same way because everyone has their unique set of questions and expectations.

 And then you have French law, which is also a challenge! 

Under French law an employee is constrained to work a certain number of hours a week.  This can make the concept of working in a more relaxed way – when you want, how you want, for as long as you want – a difficult matter. There are also insurance restrictions governing where and when you work and the responsibilities this places on the employer. It can be a quagmire.  We come up against it regularly and it can be very frustrating, so instead we try to use the law as an opportunity. 

 Something that has impressed me since I first joined has been the number of job offers the team members receive on a weekly or daily basis. It tells me that for every job offer they have received, they have made the choice to stay. This is an incredible show of confidence in PredicSis, the self-serve predictive analytics startup on AWS .  

 It certainly makes my life as an HR professional very interesting!! I am never bored!

 So, what do you think, audience? Do you agree that HR should be the first consideration when deciding your future start-up strategy?

Barbara, HR Manager PredicSis

Barbara, HR Manager PredicSis


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