After a fun day in Boulder attending the TechStars Investor Day, I thought I would share some thoughts on why I would sacrifice a vacation day to drive to Boulder and listen to a bunch of presentations by startups run by people I’ve never met.
Your career can be 2 things: a job that you go to, make money, do some interesting things, and have a few laughs along the way OR it can be your Opus.
“The entire process — not just the finished product — was known as the “Opus.” The word means “work,” and was often capitalized to distinguish it from the more ordinary sense of the word. The “Work” was the long process of refining raw material, going through many phases identified by colors — blackening, whitening, reddening, yellowing — and reaching an end point described variously as a peacock’s tail, the philosopher’s stone, or the elixir of immortality.”
– taken from Thomas Moore’s A Life at Work
The more years I get under my belt working, the more I appreciate people’s ability to do great stuff. This is my first reason for following TechStars, Motivation. I am constantly referring to “the way TechStars did that” when I am talking with people at work. The crew that runs the Project and the companies that are participating really do quality work…..being surrounded by this gives me energy to improve what I’m working on.
I have always admired traditional careers like Doctor, Lawyer, etc and have never felt “Businessman” fit into that grouping even though you hear the term grouped with traditional career tracks a lot. My admiration for these careers likely stems from a grass is greener viewpoint, but nevertheless I respect some of the formality that accompanies these careers. Conferences, titles, certifications….all known and passed down from generation to generation.
When I began as a Software Developer for SPSS after college I never quite felt like I had that legitimacy in my profession. As I worked my way through small businesses, startups and contract gigs the stress over career validation continued. I was this weird combination of “Businessman”, even though I wasn’t really….“Engineer”, even though I would never compare myself to a “real Engineer”…..and “Entrepreneur” even though I felt starting a little tiny business that wasn’t going anywhere didn’t count. With that said, I didn’t feel like a failure rather I didn’t quite understand how the Opus I was building fit into the grown-up work world.
Projects like TechStars bring legitimacy to a career path that many people like myself are either on or are just starting. Their Mentorship approach showcases examples of individuals that are deep into building their Opus and serve as excellent examples to follow. The TechStars Demo Days and Events they put on bring Investors together with Entrepreneurs in an exciting atmosphere that is much much cooler than any other industry gathering that usually depress me (ie: Industry Award Banquets).
After observing a TechStars event you get a good sense that this is a Community in which you belong and legitimizes the professional career you’ve chosen.
“Oh yeah, what I do is actually really cool, I’m surrounded by brilliant and successful people, and this is actually very fun. I’m lucky to be a part of this.”
– how I felt walking out of the Boulder Theater after the TechStars Investor Day
During the Investor Demo Day the Ignighter presentation joked about how hard it is to meet people after college. There is truth to this as well in the tech community. I have been to a variety of conferences, tech meetups, etc but never quite click with the people I meet and talk with. The Community around TechStars, both the people that are involved with the Project and the people that follow it for fun (like myself) are cool and fun to talk with. I have learned a ton from simply following TechStars on Twitter and reading blog posts from the TechStars Community. As lame as that may sound I consider the TechStars Community a valuable asset that is part of my career growth.