When is the Right Time in Your Career to Join a Start-up?
Small, growing companies like start-ups have a reputation for catering to the under-30 set and those just beginning their careers. Shield AI has broken this mold, with teammates of all backgrounds and ages.
Tell me a little about your career and what brought you to Shield AI.
I haven't had much of a career yet. I interned at Oracle and at Hewlett Packard while I was in school and following graduation I joined Shield AI.
I, on the other hand, have a very long work history. I did 20 years in the US Navy, all in helicopters, where learned a lot about mechanics, electrical work, pneumatics, hydraulics, and all these things that make a helicopter get up in the air and stay up in the air. After I got out, I worked for a number of companies -- large and small -- doing a lot of design, manufacturing and engineering.
I also have had a long career. I got into the game industry way back in the early 90s, and I've been really fortunate in that every project that I've been on has been the loggerhead for the companies where I worked. At the video game development house where I worked, all my projects were the titles that were number one projects for the company. At Connectix, whose IP was acquired by Microsoft later, I worked on Virtual PC -- and I actually worked on the device, the phone emulator or the Windows CE emulator, that certainly was a driver for Microsoft to want to acquire the company’s IP. Then I shifted to work on the Virtual Server product and XBox 360 backwards compatibility virtualization for XBox One -- and now, clouds with VM's are the thing now. I was there in the beginning, when VMs were single threaded. Those are just a few examples of some of the cool projects I’ve been fortunate to work on.
And what was it about Shield AIs that was the most compelling to you?
So, I had three job offers on the table table at the time I chose to join the Shield AI team. I knew that a small company, preferably a startup, would be a good place for me to go because there's a lot of expertise I could offer as the company grows. But I was also really hoping to do something that would make a difference.
When I came for my onsite, my last interviewer was Brandon. And in all the places I've worked, all the things I've done, that interview was the first time somebody wanted to hear where I stood on values. When you get to be a certain age, you live by a code, but having to articulate that to someone was really something. I think that that, more than anything else, convinced me to come here.
I was impressed that people care about values so deeply. You can tell when values are just words on a wall and when they are actually abided by. So that, coupled with the overall mission, made the decision pretty easy for me to come here.
Was there any one driving factor that pushed you to join?
I’m values driven and Shield AI met my values, I’ve also always really enjoyed working at small companies. Every small company that I’ve worked for has been a tight-knit group and I’m still friends with many of my former colleagues. So the combination of a small company and my values was really what drove me to join the team here.
I was really looking for a place where I would be able to wear a lot of hats, and have an opportunity to learn many different things. I wanted to be immersed in not just one part of the company, but in many. That was the primary reason I decided to join Shield AI -- to be a part of a huge learning and growth experience.
Is there anything about Shield AI that has surprised you?
I'm surprised by things every day, honestly. I’ve been surprised by everyone's really strong drive. It’s something that I saw that in the interview and it’s something that impresses me every day. Everyone is so inspired by the mission, and that, in turn, inspires others.
I feel like we have a really strong community here. I honestly didn't expect the sense of community to be as strong as it is, or to form a community of not just people my own age, but people who have had all sorts of experiences. Which is great… I also appreciate how you get to really see the end results of your work and you get to see how your work impacts everyone else every day.
For me, I think I was really surprised how cool everybody is. I mean, really absolutely everybody that you work with.
There are no jerks working here. I think that goes a long way. You could say everybody's cool, but look at the way I dress -- that's not that cool!
Haha, I mean personalities.
What advice would you give to students who might just be graduating or to someone considering making a career shift?
I would say, “Keep your mind and your options open.” You might find a great fit where you would not necessarily expect it.
And definitely evaluate the culture and the people who are working there. They're going to make the place where you work.