Why I Heart Working at a Startup

March 11, 2016


Libby Johnson has worked at Gravie since December 2014. She is responsible for coordinating and implementing strategies specifically related to B2B marketing. In addition to her marketing responsibilities, Libby takes great pride in entertaining her coworkers with her witty and sarcastic situational humor.  

These days it seems that everyone’s a critic. By the masses, people are turning to the Internet to share their negative experiences about everything from restaurants, to the people they’re dating, to their jobs. This got me thinking. Why are we so quick to share our negative experiences, but not the positive ones? In effort to increase good vibes on the World Wide Web, I want to share why I love my job at a startup and how I ended up there.

I moved back to Minneapolis last winter after spending nearly ten years away. Prior to my return, I spent five years living in Albuquerque, NM. I was excited to be home, but memories of shoveling my car out of three feet of snow while trying to make it to my internship on time flooded my mind. As a native northern Minnesotan, I’m no stranger to cold weather, but you’d be amazed at how quickly you become acclimated to warm temperatures and year-round sunshine.

Upon my abrupt return to Minnesota, you could say that I didn’t exactly have a plan. As a type A person this was a completely new way of life for me, but I decided to embrace it and I’m so glad that I did. I had spent the last four and a half years working in marketing for one of the largest health systems in New Mexico. I felt like it had been a great fit for my type A personality so I spent my first month back in Minnesota applying for any corporate marketing job I could find.

I had interview upon interview, but nothing felt quite right. I was beginning to get discouraged and proclaimed to my parents that I would “NEVER find the right job” (I’m nothing if not a little dramatic), and then I stumbled across a posting for a marketing position at a healthcare startup called “Gravie.” The weird name caught my attention so I thought what the heck, and I applied. I received a call a few days later from a friendly young woman in HR. I had a phone interview and then was invited to the office for a second interview. At this point, I still wasn’t sure if startup culture was a good fit for me (see comment above about being type A), but intrigued and nearly desperate, I took the interview.

Driving to Gravie’s office, I contemplated what I might find. I imagined it would be similar to Pied Piper’s live-in startup incubator on HBO’s Silicon Valley. Obviously I assumed I’d find a bunch of techies sipping energy drinks programming around a kitchen table. But what I found at the Historic Lumber Exchange Building in downtown Minneapolis was much different. I walked into a very modern and high tech office space where I was greeted by the same friendly, and very professional HR woman I had spoken with on the phone. She kicked off the interview and then brought in Katie, a sharp, young marketing specialist who was at least five years my junior, but seemed years wiser. After I met with Katie, I was interviewed by Jill Prevost, co-founder and head of brand experience. I was a nervous about this. Jill is well known in the Twin Cities business community for her role in pioneering successful healthcare startups. Upon meeting Jill, I was blown away by how down to earth and kind she was.

After my interview, Abir Sen, Gravie CEO and co-founder stopped in to give me a tour. I was impressed. It’s not often that a CEO takes time out of his or her busy schedule to meet with marketing candidates. On the tour I witnessed the lack of cubicles, free snacks, a Pac Man arcade machine, conference rooms named after Thanksgiving foods, a putting green, and a sign that read “No Jerk Policy.” I thought to myself, I hate jerks too! This is the perfect place for me! I knew I had to work at Gravie. I received a call shortly after the interview offering me the position and I jumped on it.

Working in healthcare marketing for a startup has been drastically different than working in healthcare marketing for a large corporation. I narrowed down the differences to a top 5 list: 

1. Plans Change so get over it

 At large corporations, budgets, projects, goals, etc. are planned sometimes years in advance. For the most part, you know what to expect. Sure we plan ahead at Gravie, but being fairly new with high growth and constantly changing our trajectory, plans can change daily. A project you’re working on may get cut or change at the last minute and you have to be okay with that.

2. Must be a Jack/Jill – of – all – trades

On most days you will be expected to do things outside of your “regular job duties.” You need to be well-rounded and willing to pitch in. Your opinion and ideas are valuable and you will regularly be involved in projects outside of your department.

3. 9am to 5pm doesn’t exist 

The schedule is flexible and PTO is unlimited, but you may be expected to travel, work on the weekends and be available at all hours of the day. Work goes everywhere with you, but that’s okay when you love your job.

4. Responsibility 

At Gravie, our founders trust us immensely. This trust comes with a lot of responsibility, which can be intimidating, but when people truly own their projects instead of being micro managed, they are empowered to do their best. 

5. No jerks allowed

I think this one speaks for itself. I’m not saying that there are tons of jerks working at corporations, but I think it’s harder to get away with being a jerk at a startup. Our success is so reliant on our culture. I can honestly say that I like each and every one of my coworkers.

It turns out that startup culture is a great fit for me and my type A personality. I’ve enjoyed the last year and three months I’ve spent working at Gravie and look forward to many more years contributing to its success. Click here to learn more about our team

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