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Want to work in a Startup? We chat to career professional and self starter David Jackson

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by Startacus Admin

Work in Startup David JacksonBeing a self starter (this is Startacus - the Self Start Society after all) isn't just about starting your own business and making a small fortune. Don't get us wrong, that's a nice knock on effect for some and one we regularly like to celebrate here at Startacus HQ.

But before all that comes to fruition (fingers crossed) being a self starter is fundamentally anyone doing something positive with that big or small idea and turning it into a real life, living and breathing reality. *And take note -  that's not just the startup or business founder. Of course, and it makes sense really - if you want your startup to be successful, you really need all of your employees to think like and act like hungry ol’ self starters too. Agreed?

But how does someone go from being an established career professional or a recent graduate to an essential startup employee? Keen to find out how someone becomes employable as a key startup employee, we chatted to self starter David Jackson who has recently taken the career leap into the startup scene, to find out more:

David, looking back over your career history - you've certainly had some excellent experience at a senior level, so with your recent step into the startup sector, give us some immediate observations on how it differs from working for a more established business / corporation?

I think the immediate difference is that there are no rules, agenda or strict process. On my first day, the founder asked me what I wanted to get done, rather than dumping a three-month induction schedule on me. I chose to run a session exploring our vision, values, and core beliefs as company and brand, which will form the basis for how we tell our story. In a large organisation, this piece of work would have taken monthsworking in a startup and cost tens of thousands of pounds, but we did it in a day. That felt awesome.

How different is the skillset and mindset needed to work, and be successful in working, for a startup business?

From my experience, and in large corporations in particular, gaining agreement and consensus from large groups of people with varying agendas is key to getting anything done. I used to spend a lot of time having meetings about meetings, and planning where and how to get consensus. Working in a startup business, you just need to get it done. Decisions get made very quickly and the focus is on delivering what really matters, because there's so much to do. There are some key drivers for our business to be successful and we focus our attention where we can have the greatest impact on growth.

Without wanting to pry, what led you to make that career leap?

I'd been working in fundraising with not-for-profits and charities for a long time. I loved the feeling of doing something positive - my guiding philosophy to life being that if you can leave the world in a slightly better place than when you found it, and enjoy yourself in the process, then you're onto a winner. However, I'd felt for some time that the systemic problem with a philanthropic approach to solving some of the world's problems was scale.

In my personal life, I'd been working with a community in rural Kenya for a number of years, helping them raise funds for a school. I came across this same problem where they wanted to grow but couldn't sustain career in a startuptheir programmes on donations alone. So, this year I spent three months working with a team to launch a social enterprise; a public bus service where locals pay to ride a shuttle between towns. We raised $17,000 from investors who received a share of the profits; the other half was given back to the community to spend on their programmes. It was super challenging, but I loved the freedom and the buzz of starting something from nothing.

In doing this something clicked in me and I realised that I wanted to work for a company that could quickly scale, but that would have a social purpose.

How did you prepare yourself for this change and are there any places or spaces that other job-seekers should make use of from your experience?

It was by complete chance that I came across the StartUp Institute, but having been through the programme I would recommend it strongly to anyone trying to move into this kind of space. They helped me in lots of startup instituteways, but key to me getting into a new role was a shift in mindset. The notion that you should be as proactive as possible - go to companies with solutions to their problems and focus on getting it done rather than making it perfect. The second way they helped me was to make countless introductions to people that I otherwise would never have had the chance to talk to. In doing this, you get a real insight into what it's like to work in this kind of environment, which is crucial.

Leading on from this, you are joining a growing group of Startup Institute alumni - what value do you think that this collective network will have in years to come, both for you personally and on the wider world?

I think it will be immeasurable and I feel very privileged to count myself part of this select group. The combination of the spirit of collaboration mixed with a group of enormously talented people who have all shared a startup institute learningunique experience is going to create a very strong bond that I expect will last a long time.

Tell us a little about the company you now work for and how you found this position?

Well, in short I sell bins. But it's really MUCH cooler than that.

In the UK alone the hospitality sector wastes £2.5bn in unnecessary food waste every year. This is obviously terrible from a business perspective as well as from a sustainability standpoint. Winnow has created a kind of smart bin that helps kitchens measure what they waste, giving chefs the information they need to make them more efficient and minimise unnecessary food waste. We've proved that we can save businesses significant sums of money whilst addressing a truly global problem that affects us all. My role is to lead on our marketing efforts, helping us build our customer base and grow our business quickly.

Like most jobs in the startup world, the role wasn't advertised. I met one of the founders at a social enterprise conference, they were planning expansion after a successful fundraising round and we just clicked. I think one of the main reasons they decided to hire me was that, when I came to meet the team, I came prepared with a plan for growing their business. I'd done my research and came with an idea. I think that would be my piece of advice for anyone looking to get a role in a small company-- don't wait to be asked. If you have an idea, don't wait to be asked to pitch it.

And finally what one piece of key advice would you give to a recent graduate, or a 'changing career' professional, aiming to work for a startup?

Ha! See the last answer . Like I said - don't wait to be asked.

Agreed David and cheers for your insightful and helpful answers too!

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Published on: 17th December 2014

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