Startups can be incredible levers on personal growth, but they are generally bad at investing in junior employees. We’re fixing that with the Member Advisor role, through steps including a $5000/year educational stipend.
In the winter of 2010, I left North Carolina State University and went to work for David Tisch and Adam Rothenberg in New York. “Work for” was a loose term — I essentially begged David to let me run their coffee and donuts for three months, and against his better judgement (he told me to stay in school — I told him I was leaving whether he took me in or not), he agreed.
By sitting down and working hard, I could learn at an incredible pace as the portfolio companies around me made decisions on fundraising, product, and hiring. This exposure turned into remarkable leverage for my career — within four years, I had the experience and access to start Even. One of my cofounders was a former colleague, and David and Adam were among our first investors.
I’m comfortable acknowledging that getting to this point required elements of luck, hard work, and privilege. There’s a fourth element though. It’s one that, as a founder, I now have the ability to pass along to others — the mentorship and support I received — my seat at the table.
So now, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can create the same circumstances for others. For people who don’t have the money saved to move to a hub city without a guaranteed job. For people who don’t already speak the language of tech (I had never heard someone use the word “iterate” until arriving in New York). Most importantly, it means thinking about that access in a structured way — and investing in making it broadly available. We are doing this in a few important ways with our Member Advisor role:
- Transparent Hiring — No hiring process can be perfect, but we’ve taken steps to remove sources of bias while also making the entire process as open as possible. We start by refusing to accept resumes, and not asking if and where you went to school. The next step is a blind survey screen, focused on questions that can be answered based on experience in a wide range of environments — from a retail job, time spent volunteering, or a job/internship at a large corporation. Successful candidates move next to a simulation of the day-to-day service responsibilities of being an Advisor, again with name, gender, and other identifying information hidden from the person administering and evaluating the results of the test. We focus wherever possible on your ability to do the job, and ignore your credentials and connections.
Even if you’ve never thought about working at a startup, or never had a family member or mentor give you advice about how to approach a job interview, you can thrive in this process. You can give yourself a further leg up by reading what we’ve written about the company, paying close attention to how we describe the job, and preparing for interviews by studying our interview process.
- Investing in Growth — This is what I believe is most critical, and where most companies fail in developing their junior employees. To solve that, we’re starting by making a $5000/year educational stipend available to every Advisor. This might be something directly applicable to your current job, like an online class on SQL or a payments system workshop. Or, it might be applicable to the job you want to have — a programming class, or one on product management. As part of this stipend, each Advisor has up to 5 days of paid time off, separate from the company vacation policy, to attend a course or work on an individual project.
- Internal Transparency — As I mentioned earlier, part of what made that first startup job so valuable was that I was in the room for the critical decisions early in several companies lifetimes. That used to be hard to maintain as a company grew, and companies like Stripe have in the past gone to admirable lengths to make their internal communication transparent. Fortunately Slack makes our job much easier there — all employees have full access to discussions and debates on everything from partnership negotiations to fundraising.
- Compensation — Stock options are often poorly understood by employees, and companies do little to fix this. At Even, every Advisor receives a grant of options. Even will also reimburse up to $500 in consultation time with a financial planner to help you make strong long-term decisions on everything from paying off student debt to managing the tax implications of your options.
The promise that we make to Advisors is simple: we will do all we can to support your growth, both as a contributor to the team at Even, and as an individual with a fantastic career ahead of you. The expectations will be high — being an Advisor will almost certainly be the most difficult, fastest moving job you’ve ever had. You will take on the responsibility of acting with extreme autonomy, knowing that you’ll be surrounded by a team of people sharing in the same burden of pace and expectations. If that sounds like a challenge you want to take on — come join us.