I was on my way to a press conference in Vienna and recalled how I’d been kindly asked to wear a suit since they’d seen my PR picture where I wear a hoodie. They thought the Austrian press is too conservative for such a startup cliché.
I said no. I wear whatever I want.
Then I started to think about this absurd arrogance. Why is it so important for me to rebel against suits? My guess is that I’ve been poisoned by the “Think Different” cult. My motto is: Stop conformity, be somebody. This has been my own career advice too.
I did my Master’s thesis in theology. I never wanted to become a priest. It was just the easier path for a lazy guy to get into university and study philosophy. My curriculum was built around studies in philosophy, business development, leadership, and corporate law. When I graduated, I was never fully able to highlight my core expertise based on my studies, so I learned early on to focus on what I can do or desire to do. My education doesn’t prepare me directly for any particular job, but on the other hand, it may give the impression of curiosity and an ability to connect different skills.
I never looked for a job based on a single title (e.g., VP of something or Content Marketing Specialist). I’ve rather chosen interesting job descriptions or companies to contact directly. Currently, I hold three different titles: COO, Head of Marketing, and VP of SignHero business. It’s a horrible combination of titles, but the only thing that really matters is the content of my work. For the past decade, I’ve sort of slid into a path that combines business development, design, and marketing. I still don’t know if there’s a title to specifically describe this, but I’m able to fully operate in this triangle. My work shifts from UI design decisions to blog posts, as well as from the investor meetings to team member coaching.
I’ve got over ten years’ experience in business development and management consulting, which was a useful way to learn about different industries and organizations. I’ve always been curious to look for inspiration from outside my domain and expertise. For example, it was valuable to learn UX design from early eCommerce platforms when everything was so new that you could only display a core message and bring in new features in a slow and iterative manner. That’s exactly the way we design SignHero today – if you add something, you probably need to remove something else.
I’m a child of the “Apple generation”, which brings a natural emphasis on design and customer experience. I’ve never fully adapted to a fragmented division of tasks where one person creates back-end magic, and another person polishes the visible product just before shipping. Everything is constantly combined and mixed. Last but not least, a great product is never enough if you’re unable to tell your story in a meaningful way. That’s why I’m always a marketer too.
Did I want to be some kind of executive when I was a teenager? Nope. I wanted to be a rock star and, in a way, I still do. I pursued my music career firmly for a decade, but eventually, it turned out to be more of a hobby than a full-time job. However, being an artist plays a massive role in everything I do. Whether it’s business development, creation of a brand slogan, or composing a song, a creative process is pretty much the same: (1) Play with an idea to see if it sticks, (2) Iterate and finds your focus, (3) Commit and execute (4) Be loyal to your vision.
I’m pretty allergic to corporate stuff where your days are an endless loop of meetings, and purchasing a new app requires a three-month-long approval chain. I feel more comfortable in a small company. SignHero’s brand says it all: Choose lazy. I can’t over-emphasize how much company culture and the team I work with impact my motivation. And reciprocally, I’m able to contribute my upmost in this kind of environment. So, whatever I’ve achieved to this day, I need to give a lot of gratitude to my colleagues.
Is my career a story? I don’t think so. Retrospectively, it’s easy to create a logical story of how every dot was connected because of deliberate decisions and actions. But that’s not the way it goes in real life. I believe that every career is a combination of ideas, courage, and pure luck. A career climax could be anything. It’s never a rejection from one school or the one job that got away. Every day you miss and gain multiple opportunities. To simplify this belief, I’ll quote Placebo’s song Slave to the wage: “All it takes is one decision, a lot of gut, a little vision”.
My advice for career planning? Don’t follow someone else’s career because who would then lead your career.
Jere Vento is a business designer, marketing geek, and professional coffee drinker based in Helsinki. He holds the worst ever job title ever: COO, Head of Marketing & VP of SignHero; and it’s his own fault. SignHero is fast & free eSigning for lazy people. www.signhero.io
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