Running a Start Up vs Working for a Multinational

This week, I had an opportunity to be a speaker at the Nocash event in Bucharest, Romania. I am always grateful for chances like that, – because of the conversations they bring and because the other presenters introduce topics, or certain angles of topics, I did not think about before. (And I like presenting, too, fine). As every respectable event in the Financial Services industry these days, Nocash was largely about the Open API Economy – which ultimately means fintechs. Watching many of them in the room and on the stage, I could not help thinking about my own experience of running a company, and, listening to the Nocash fintechs stories, comparing my past to my current situation: starting a business versus working for a multinational.

Funny enough, most people do these two things in the reverse order: start in large corporations and then switch to their own business. So I thought I would lay out my two experiences, comparing them on a number of parameters that matter to me in a wholeheartedly biased way.

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Racoon Cafe in Busan, South Korea: What’s Life Without a Friendly Fur

October is an exciting time for me at work. I start new projects, bring up new topics to the discussion on Digital Innovation, and even introduce a couple of new full-bred solutions. I fly for weeks straight (actually, I am set to fly through the entire month), and put all my energy into my job. Then comes a weekend. During the week, I am looking forward to it as a time when I can finally switch gears and create, read, do sports. I somehow picture it as 48h charged up with useful and exciting activities for which I can’t set time aside during the week. And then, on Saturday/ Sunday I spend most of the time in my pjs, watching series, ordering food and doing rare bicycle gigs around the city, mostly to go to the movies. (I do read books though.)

I now I think it it’s okay. I used to feel sorry for these unused stretches of creative time, but then I got to a point in my life when I understood the value of planned downtime (hello, “How to Have a Good Day” by Caroline Webb). This time around, I am embracing my racoon weekend personality, swiping the dust from my August photos (made with Fuji, by the way, my go-around-the-city camera, instead of my Canon 5DIV), to spread some more love for South Korea, the country of my eternal vacations.

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This post captures my visit to a racoon cafe in Busan, South Korea. Today Korea – a small country with no natural resources and a landscape made up by 70% of mountains – is one of the world’s leading economies. I have been coming there for 13 years by now, and could witness their economic ascent. I gave a lot of thought about what made Korea what it is now, and being humble and eager to learn is one part of it. Take Apple vs Samsung battle. Some years ago, Apple used to be the number 1 phone in Korea, the high earner’s trade mark and a sign of (be)longing to the Western sophisticated civilization. Most of what Samsung did these days was to mirror Apple’s design and functions, first to a very modest success. With years, Samsung caught up with Apple, offered their own progressive techs, and now very few people in Korea still have an Apple device. Samsung there is all the rage now (despite the fact that Apple offers a very appealing price level in Korea).

The same about animal cafes. Koreans have been excited about cat cafes, even launched a few dog cafes (where dogs are wandering and playing around, not what you could have thought), and now introduced a racoon cafe.

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Come explore.

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Quitting Sugar and Other Happiness Hacks

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It was a fantastic summer. Parents visited for almost a month, and I took them to the coldest place in France I could find, Bretagne (such was their wish). The next weekend we spent discovering Brussels and Bruges, a small city in Belgium that was on my travel map for a long time. Mom and Dad were happy. The same day I left them at Charles de Gaulle, properly escorted by all the priority lines I have access to, Louveteau and I took off to our own adventure, to St Petersburg and Moscow and then to Athens and Santorini. A few weeks later, we closed the summer in Croatia, in between Dubrovnik, the setting of The Game of Thrones’ King’s Landing, and the island of Lopud. I was breathing sun, summer, salt water and the distinct spirit of adventure.

And all this time, in the background, I was working on my happiness project. You might wonder, what’s there to work on during the summer holidays, when everything around inspires happiness. Time economics. I am a big believer of doing things when you can afford doing them versus when you need them to be done and all the alarm systems are on. I knew that when the work fully restarts after summer, it will probably take 90% of my focus and my most ambitious aspiration would be to have some kind of control over it. It is true: with my next week’s schedule looking like Croatia –> Geneva –> Paris –> Prague –> Moscow –> Paris, the time my happiness hacks becomes very limited.

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When You Don’t Get What You Want (Like A Job)

I really like my job. I work in tech, I drive innovation, I change things for the better. I see the results of what I do. My customers come from the industry probably the most on fire for this change, not to find themselves out of business tomorrow. I work for a multi-area, I travel a lot, I meet great people. Colleagues, customers and partners.

Yet a few months ago I applied for another job. As it has always been the case with me, I was not looking for one. However, a position in Western Europe (another multi-area) has opened up for exactly the same role, and I saw it as a great opportunity. I would work with customers and partners at a different maturity stage, I would have new challenges, I would learn from new brilliant people. And it would strike my passion of geographies: I would reconnect with the Nordics and get to know new cultures. It just felt right, 101%. From the moment I learnt about this role, I knew I should go for it.

So I did. I thought that my interviews went well, but then learnt that the hiring manager changed his search criteria and was now looking for a different profile. That happens.

It does feel bad not to get what you want, for sure. Especially if you are generally used to winning. Winning most of the times makes good salesmen, entrepreneurs and other risk takers. It also does make bad losers. It stings not to get what you want. Especially when you are 101% sure that’s the right thing.

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To Be Happier

I started this blog a little bit more than a month ago with a post on the importance of doing what you LOVE. It was my strategy to change my thought track from work-work-work, to reboot and to take a moment to appreciate all the beautiful things that were passing by with the speed of light. In a way, it was my own happiness project. Since then, I was keeping a promise I gave to myself to post at least once a week, usually on Mondays.

A lot of amazing things have happened. I have started taking pictures again. Not only that, I was actually going though them afterwards: editing, arranging, uploading here. With my edits, I wanted to do something more tailored than Picasa, my usual editing app, could offer, and I have downloaded Lightroom. I have played with my DSLR camera to see what it was capable of outside of the comfort zone of the auto mode. I got so excited about it that I have bought a new lens and upgraded my camera. Sharing my travel experiences made me live through them again, to my delight. Taking time to write and post pictures gave me this space for reflection which I was missing.

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Stocking up on energy: do what you LOVE

A few weeks ago I reached out for a Harvard Business Review’s book “On Managing Yourself”. You know, a type of a book you buy after a year in a great business school, when consuming tons of a high quality content on self development becomes a habit. The school is over, you don’t want to lose the habit (and an addicting feeling that life is full of great things, and most lie ahead), and so you get books which you never read, because life does not slow down after school. On the contrary: life, real life with a new job and its ambitions, new projects and their bills, new friends and the old loved ones, just begins. One of the senior executives in the company I work for calls that a constant quest for balancing act, and I kind of sympathize with this life view (hence the tag). Because now, once MBA is over, life’s setup becomes sort of fixed. And somehow self development goes on a shelf, right next to the book.
Nevertheless, I have reached out to this book. Why? I was feeling pretty much dead. I live in the city I was dreaming to live in since I first stepped on its streets ten years ago. In my personal life, I am happy to the extent that I don’t want to write about it not to jinx it. After my studies, I got a job exactly in the type of company I wanted to be – and in 1,5 years managed to get to do there exactly what I wanted to do. And yet, I was feeling pretty much dead.

So I reached out for the book.

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