The Pay-Off of Joining a Start-Up.

The digitization and globalization of everything has made the career seeking process quite a daunting one. Of course, it’s a positive dilemma to have a world of options; however, the paradox of choice would tell us that we could become stuck by too many options. I can attest to this.
Before settling into my current role at Left, I felt nervous about the seeking process. Not because I was nervous about interviews, but because there were various paths I could choose to go down and how was I to know which one was right for me? It’s a big commitment to decide which path will bring you the greatest pay-off, whether you dedicate your life to getting a job at one of the big players like Google, finding a job abroad, taking a chance on a small start-up, and the list could go on.
Where things get interesting is the pay-off I mentioned. Everyone thinks they’ve got us millennials all figured out, and don’t get me wrong: many of their claims I can completely relate to, but realistically we’re all very different. Naturally, as you are discussing your job hunt experiences with other fellow job hunters, you realize everyone is seeking a different pay off. Some people want the resume enrichment a big player brings, others want the experience of travelling, others want autonomous responsibility, and again the list could go on.
Truthfully, I was conflicted by the benefits of all three, and I wish I had someone to steer me in the ‘right’ direction.
Luckily for me, I was introduced to the start up scene that is gaining traction out in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. I feel very lucky and compelled to share with you the immense benefits of working with a start-up. With the right attitude the opportunity to work in a start-up is like a regular job on steroids. The growth potential is so big it’s almost scary.
Here are just a few of the offerings that can lead to immense learning and development if you are prepared to take responsibility for getting yourself involved:

  • You can be involved in the day-to-day processes and practices of the entire business that you might not see in departmentalized businesses elsewhere
  • You have a larger impact on the company as a whole
  • You’re joining a family, not just a group of co-workers
  • You get an insider perspective of each department, because sometimes it’s just one person
  • You can probably help in every area of the business because you are a family and if something needs done, it’s all hands on deck
  • You’re learning many important life and business lessons that textbooks often can’t teach you because you are in arms’ reach of your CEO, CMO, CFO, etc.
  • The like-minded individuals around you are passionate about making a disruption and that’s why bumps in the road are really just an opportunity to prove your team’s strength and ability
  • These like-minded individuals that you are constantly surrounded with are extremely talented and it’s an inspiration to be your ‘best self’ as well
  • As long as you aren’t afraid to speak up, your opinion will be heard
  • You’ve got to act quick because the flat structure and the time pressures for output mean a lot happens in a short period of time. This means a plethora of opportunities to gain experiences and expand your abilities
  • If you want to learn something, you just have to ask
  • You’re trusted to be a responsible adult and get your work done in a way that best suits your productivity style
  • Because budgets can be tight, it’s everyone’s job to consider financials, embrace your entrepreneurial spirit, and do what you can to do more with less

So as you hunt for your next job, consider what you really want to get out of the next chapter of your life. The potential for continuous learning and the opportunity to expand your pool of knowledge, skills and abilities is invaluable.
So particularly, if you’re looking for a co-op position, why not take a chance on a small start-up so that moving forward in your life you can pipe up about your ability to take initiative for your learning and capitalize on every opportunity. To quote Sheryl Sandberg’s favourite piece of career advice she received from Eric Schmidt, “if you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, get on, don’t ask which seat. Look for growth, look for teams that are growing quickly, and look for companies that are doing well.”
I am four months (what already!) into my yearlong contract and the payoff has already been immense.  I feel grateful I have found a position that meets all my expectations of a job: it brings me joy, challenges me and in turn provides opportunities for continuous growth both personally and professionally. I am a firm believer of the old saying, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’-Confucius.
Photography by Alan Bailward Photography - http://bailwardphotography.com

Photography by Alan Bailward Photography – http://bailwardphotography.com


The Women Who Inspire Us

I have been writing this blog post for a while. In fact, it has almost been one year that it has been in development. Last Spring, when LEFT (then still Left of the Dot) moved into our new offices, we created an “inspiration wall”. Basically, every employee was asked to suggest five men and five women who inspired them, and we would put their photo up on the wall in a central location to inspire themselves and the other Lefties.
The guidelines were very vague: “Name five men and five women who inspire you. The only rule is that you actually had to think of them, and when you did think of them, thinking of them made you want to be better.” In other words, they had to have impacted your life in some way or made you want to be a better person.
Given where I was at that moment of my life, I gravitated towards business leaders initially. That sounds simple right? After all, we all have people in our lives who made a mark on our outcomes, or people that we admired. The hard part would be narrowing it down to only five. And then I started. I listed off five men easily. In fact, I probably had a shortlist of about 15-20. I could go on about these men, who they were, and point to certain passages in books, blogs, or TED talks that inspired me.
However, this post is not about my list of five men. It is about the women.
When it came to trying to identify my list of five women—particularly business leaders—I was stumped. In fact, I kind of panicked a little bit. When I broadened my criteria to include leaders in fields outside of business (Science, Sports, Politics, Community), it became an easier task. But there were very few that jumped to the forefront.
However, that little voice was asking a heartfelt question: why did I find it so difficult to identify five business leaders or entrepreneurial women? And in my panic, I asked myself one other very important question: am I biased towards men and against women?
Normally, this is not a question that one talks about, and definitely not one that one blogs about publicly. Gender bias, even if it subtle, is one of those things that gets pushed aside and rarely brought up in water cooler talk.
I looked at the small, but growing team that we had assembled both in Canada and in Bangladesh. Yes, in Canada the first seven hires we had were all men. Yes, in Bangladesh, we had a disproportionate number of males in technical roles over women. I had never thought of myself as biased. In fact, I actually kind of thought that I was the opposite, perhaps even somewhat of a feminist [a term itself that had been manipulated over the years].
So I shared these thoughts with both my wife and our Employee Experience Manager [female]. I told them that this concerned me. I know I don’t intentionally judge anyone on whether they were male or female, white or brown, Canadian or Bangladeshi, but on their ability to do the task at hand.
Eventually, I did create a list of five women, but more importantly, I made a pledge to try and learn more about all ten of my nominees—male and female—by reading books or stories, or watching TED talks, or simply browsing beyond the headlines. And this is where my personal exploration got interesting…
You see one of the women on my narrowed down list of inspirational women was Sheryl Sandberg. For those unfamiliar with her, Sheryl is the COO of Facebook and currently sits on their board of directors. And in my introspection, I started to read and learn more about the ‘Lean In’ movement and her book: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.
While I would encourage all who are reading this to read the book in full, at a minimum everyone should read these Tips for the Workplace. As summarized by Wikipedia, “the book looks at the barriers preventing women from taking leadership roles in the workplace, barriers such as discrimination, blatant and subtle sexism, and sexual harassment.”
In society, we often slap each other on the back and say 'Good Job' and 'Atta boy!', praising each other about how far we've come since incorporating anti-discrimination, diversity, and inclusion policies in the workplace. I have often thought that these were unnecessary as you simply hire, compensate, and reward the best candidate regardless of all factors. If you do this, there should be no need to have such policies. However, when you look at the grand scheme of the business world and in particular the tech/startup world (as modern as we portray ourselves as being),  I do believe that gender stereotypes are holding us back from our potential of achieving what is possible.
What I learned about myself and my personal interactions -- and I am somewhat ashamed to admit it -- is that like many, I was probably guilty of passive/subtle/subconscious sexism and bias. One statement really rang true with me, “Women are often hired based on past performance while men are hired for their potential.”
Maybe reading some of this book did change my actions, or at least maybe it opened my eyes a bit to how I should approach things in the office and at home. We have always tried to hire for potential and fit as the most important criteria, but if our society is more prone to hire men for potential and women on past performance, did we miss out unknowingly on great female candidates in the past? It is quite possible.
I debated about whether I ever would share this blog post, but as I wrote earlier: gender bias, even subtle biases, are all too frequently pushed aside, or if they are talked about at all, it is done in cliques of men and women – rarely together. I even shared a nearly complete version of this post with my partner Chris as well as Melissa, our Employee Experience coordinator who does our recruiting, as I was worried about potential fallout from the simple act of admitting to a past subconscious bias created potential legal issues down the road. But it is too important a topic to suppress, and it needs to be brought to the forefront.
Earlier this month, we saw both a celebration of International Women’s Day  and the third anniversary of the Lean In movement that Sandberg started. I figured that it was important for me to finally publish these thoughts, and I would encourage you to share with your colleagues. It is important conversation to have.
Causation or correlation: 2.5 years ago, we only had one woman working for us in our Maple Ridge office. Today, we are almost 50% female and six of the seven most recent hires have been women. None were hired because they were female. We hired them for their skills, their talents, their passion, and yes… their potential.
Things can change quickly.
John
Note: In my final edit of this post, I removed the names of the five women and men that made it onto my list of inspiring people. Stop by our offices, we will give you a tour, and I will point out the people who inspire me. However, I will not point out the individuals on the wall. I will, instead, introduce you to the women who are helping drive our business forward. And to this end, I leave you with a few photos of the women in our offices, both in Canada and in Bangladesh. You are the ones that inspire.
Photography by Alan Bailward Photography - http://bailwardphotography.com
 
2016-03-24
 


2015 Community Days – A Year in Review

A Look at Left's Community Involvement in 2015

We have had a busy 2015 here at Left with our Community Engagement Program. Our Lefties have been busy in their community volunteering their time, knowledge, and giving back in those areas which mean the most to them.
Our award-winning Community/Team Engagement Program was recognized as ‘Best in BC’ by the BCTIA at the 2015 Technology Impact Awards in June. In winning, judges cited our:

  • UNLIMITED Community Days
  • Personalized Volunteering
  • Social & Charitable Volunteering

However, it is not just the award that we are proud of, although that was a pretty incredible night which we may have celebrated pretty big, we are amazed at the dedication of our Lefties, who have volunteered over 544 hours in 2015. As a team of 20 in Maple Ridge, our Lefties are each volunteering a considerable amount of their time. Although we are proud of this number, we know that we can do better and have already begun planning some new and exciting group volunteering initiatives for 2016.  Please be sure to “LIKE” our Facebook Page to see all of the ways that we work to support our local and the global community.
Perhaps the best way to share our impact over this past year is with pictures.  As they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words”…


Our 2014 Year in Review – Community Days

As you may have read in our post last year, Reflections of 2013 – A look back at the Left of the Dot ‘Community’, we all share the belief that community is important. It is one of the reasons we love working in Maple Ridge; we are able to live and work in our community and not waste countless hours of our life commuting to downtown Vancouver. This translates to a better work-life balance and gives us the opportunity and time to give back.
We all define “Community” in different ways and Left of the Dot honours these beliefs. Some of us with families enjoy the opportunity to volunteer at our kids’ school, others volunteer and give back with their photography skills, and others take time to step up as civic leaders. The list is open and is constantly changing as all Lefties volunteer their time to improve the community around them.
Here is a brief glimpse into some of the great things that we got up to in 2014:
Meadow Montessori – Joe, Alan, and John volunteered their time to build the school a new website. The response from the School Administrator definitely made their day, "... it’s freaking amazing, I have tears! It’s perfect." - Ms. Kristine Lande

Meadow Montessori Website

Donating Blood – In February, on Valentine’s Day, Sarah and Brandon gave the gift of life by donating blood at one of the local rotating clinics.

Sarah

Brandon4

Pull for Parkinson’s – John and Mike spent the day volunteering at an ultimate Frisbee tournament open to high school teams which was created as a means of raising money for Parkinson’s disease.

Pull for Parkinsons

Yuen’s Tournament of Fun – Chris helped to organize and coordinate a tournament in May and November for 120 students from 3 schools to get together for a day to show their skills in board breaking, sparring, patterns and weapons. The students range from Gold Belt to Black Belt and age 4 to Adult. The idea is to create a fun and safe atmosphere so that everyone has a good time and the parents can see their child perform in front of an audience. It’s a great learning and character building experience and has grown over the past 4 years from 50 students to the current numbers.
yuens 4
Tough Mudder - Our entire office started training in January with our twice-weekly, morning boot camps. We had 100% commitment from the staff to do the Tough Mudder challenge: no one was being left behind. Annette, our bootcamp trainer, made sure that we—those who make a living sitting in front of a computer screen all day—were ready for every obstacle that we encountered. From crawling around in the mud to pulling ourselves up and over walls, we were physically and emotionally ready. The event pushed the team to its physical limits, but I can proudly say that all 10 of us completed every obstacle and all 19.2 km. Yes, some of us were hobbled by the end. But we made it and we were smiling throughout. Thanks Annette and Fitness Unlimited for the training. You helped us change our company and the lives of those we care about.

Tough Mudder

BCTIA Tech Report Card Unveiling – John represented the Invest North Fraser region at the BC Technology Industry Association event.

John - Oct. 31 2014

Christmas Hampers – All members of our staff adopted 2 families over the Christmas season. Through generous donations by employees and Left of the Dot, we were able to provide both families with gifts to enjoy over the holiday season.

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Maple Ridge Economic Advisory Committee – John volunteers 5-10 hours per month through meetings and advising as a member-at-large for our city.
Clothing Donation – Diana was able to help out a local high school by coordinating with the Youth Worker and donating some much needed boys clothing for those who are in need.
Invest North Fraser – John was invited to be a part of Invest North Fraser’s table at the BCTIA Technology Impact Awards gala dinner. He was able to connect with Tomorrow’s Tech Titans and offer some advice/suggestions in a mentorship role.
We are proud of our Lefties involvement in their communities and can't wait to see how they contribute and give back in 2015.


Reflections of 2013 - A look back at the Left of the Dot 'Community'

Reflections of 2013 - A look back at the Left of the Dot 'Community'


Impacting The Community We Live In!

When Left of the Dot was first created back in 2010, Chris and myself sat down and spoke about what was truly important to us. This conversation has led us to create a set of company values that we live every day, and thus, baked into the company’s very DNA is the value of COMMUNITY. In fact, it is even incorporated into the company’s Mission Statement:

At Left of the Dot, we’re turning million dollar domain names into multi-million dollar businesses by being the best at acquiring and monetizing traffic that takes advantage of market inefficiencies. This will allow us to capitalize on the value of these businesses and better our communities.

With every new hire, we enforce the importance of our company values and the role that each Leftie can play within his or her community
So, what is ‘COMMUNITY’? We empower everyone to define their Community as they see fit. It is helping out at a child’s school; it is standing up and being a civic leader; it is becoming an expert in your field and contributing knowledge at conferences, meetups, events, and even as a mentor to those up-and-coming in the field. It is volunteering your time, even when (especially when) you are busy. It is supporting the local economy and becoming active participants in it, not just passive observers. It is volunteering at Little League, it is captaining your beer league sports team, and it is offering encouragement where encouragement is needed. It is showing up at community events: farmers markets, local parades, and town-hall meetings. It is setting up your company offices in the suburbs of Maple Ridge where people live, rather than in the city of Vancouver, where people simply commute to. It is getting out to vote, or exercising your right not to vote as long as you have participated in the democratic process and learned the issues. It is about taking pride and making a difference to make your world a better place. It is about sharing your time and talents with others in the hope that those gifts can make the community better.
Every Leftie is offered and encouraged to take ‘Community Days’ throughout the year. Thus, rather than coming in to work in an afternoon or morning, they are out bettering their Community. The one caveat that we have is that we want to know about it. The equivalent of “Facebook Official”… if there are no pictures, it didn’t happen.
Going forward, we will be sharing these in a special ‘COMMUNITY’ category of this blog. In reflecting back on 2013, here are a few things we did to improve our Community.
 
Fostered Cats – The elderly owner of these cats was paying $1000+ per month to have these cats cared for. We adopted them for approximately 2 months while she was in a long-term care facility. It took a while for them to get used to us, but soon they adopted us.

Fostered Office Cats
Meet Dennis and Tigger, our Fostered Office Cats

 
Vibrant Downtown Task Force – John was asked to chair the Maple Ridge Vibrant Down Town Task Force, helping these other community leaders make recommendations for improving the vibrancy of the down town region.
The Vibrant Downtown Task Force on a walk about through Maple Ridge
The Vibrant Downtown Task Force on a walk about through Maple Ridge

 
Help Portrait 2013 – Help-Portrait is a movement of photographers who are using their time, equipment and expertise to give back to those who are less fortunate. The goal is simple; find someone in need, take their portrait, print their portrait and deliver them.
Alan taking pictures as part of Help Portrait 2013
Alan taking pictures as part of Help Portrait 2013

 
Giving Blood – Sarah inspired us all with this selfless photo of her giving blood. A blood drive is being organized for early this year for the rest of us.
giving blood
Sarah giving “The Gift of Life” just before Christmas

 
Shopping Locally – OK, I could have chosen the local grocer or deli, or perhaps pictures of the farmer’s market, but we didn’t have any pictures of that. We did, however, snap this photo of our selection for Beer O’clock purchased from Firefly Fine Wines and Spirits
Shopping Locally
Shopping Locally at Firefly Wines & Spirits

 
Miracle Treat Day and Camp Day – Getting involved in one’s community does not have to be about self sacrifice. Sometimes, it is a regular activity in support of someone else’s good cause.
Sometimes helping can taste good too.

 
 
Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner – Yes, we are a high-tech company with customers who are not local, but that doesn’t been we can’t network with local businesses and share in the spirit of the community. This year, we were also nominated by an unknown person(s) for the “Most Innovative Company”.
Commuity Awards
Nominated for Business Excellence Awards

 
Bangladesh Office Visit 2013 – Left of the Dot opened a development office in Bangladesh shortly after we started. In April, a few of us were privileged to visit our team overseas (the entire visit deserves its own post). For those who went, the experience changed us both corporately and personally. Our COMMUNITY extends not just to Maple Ridge, but also to Khulna, Bangladesh. Here is a picture of us doing our 3-2-1 Lefties! cheer (which we do daily to end our huddles). We are very cognizant about not imposing Western values and norms on our team in Bangladesh. However, with all new employees there, we go over our company values, and the value of COMMUNITY knows no boundaries.
Making a difference at home and abroad
Making a difference at home and abroad

 
Thanks to the entire Left of the Dot team for working to better our community.  You make us proud.  Stay tuned for regular posts from our team members as they contribute to the community throughout 2014.


Left of the Dot at Community Job Fair

On Thursday, Left of the Dot did a little community outreach and participated in a local Maple Ridge job fair focused on the youth of the community. While most of the audience may not have been appropriate to hire within our company today, hopefully some of the youth (e.g., those in University or recent high school grads) get some exposure to the changing landscape of the local economy and emerging opportunities that will be available to them.
However, it should be noted that aside from a handful of the 200+ attendees, the youth today are not prepared for the professionalism that the "real world" requires. While our office environment is quite casual, the attire of most of the youth at the event was disdainful: from shorts and flipflops, to baggy jeans with their pants only half-covering their ___. Resumes (if they had more than one to hand out) were frequently wrinkled, covered in coffee stains, and poorly written.
Note to youth: if you are out applying for jobs... whether for an internship at a high tech company, or for a local clothing store, you should look like you care... just a little bit.