CC#6: Wisdom on succeeding as a new hire at a large tech company

Marc Andreessen, one of the world's most successful tech investors (and the lead investor of clubhouse), gave us a list of the 5 things that any new hire can do to stand out within an organization.

Almost every night on clubhouse at 10pm PST, the GOOD TIME show takes place. It is hosted by Sriram Krishnan & Aarthi Ramamurthy, and typically features Marc Andreessen and Steven Sinofsky of a16z, Avichal Garg of Electric Capital and Garry Tan of Initialized Capital. On Tuesday night, the chosen topic revolved around giving advice to those early on in their career, who have just began (or will soon begin) working for a large tech company.

Marc, the general partner of a16z, the firm that lead a $10m seed investment into clubhouse, kicked off the session with his list of 5 things that any new-hire can do:

  1. First to work, last to leave. Marc said “It’s almost impossible to achieve extraordinary results without extraordinary effort. I’ve only come across 2-3 people in my entire lifetime who could achieve extraordinary results on a regular 9-5 schedule.”

  2. Step into the fire. Whenever a problem comes up, if you feel you have the ability to solve it, step forward, take the initiative and solve it.

  3. Always be the note-taker. Objectively record what everybody says during meetings, and then distribute the notes to everyone who was present. Nobody expects you to do this, and not only will it impress your co-workers, but you will always be able to know what others in your organization are working on.

  4. Research new technologies. Get in the habit of looking into new technologies that may be disruptive or impactful to the company. Put together reports on these and send it to your boss or anyone within the organization who might be impacted by this.

  5. Don’t drink alcohol, don’t do drugs. It’s a lot easier to be the first to work if you’re not hungover. Almost all drug use is destructive to productivity levels.

In response to #5 on Marc’s list, guest Garry Tan chimed in with a story from when he was involved with Y-Combinator (YC). He said that this was around the time that California had legalized marijuana, and YC had decided they would begin funding weed related startups. Sure enough, one of these had been selected: Meadow, founded by David Hua. David had sent an email to everyone in the cohort letting them know that they were now offering cannabis delivery to your home, and one of the co-founders of YC, Trevor Blackwell had something to say about this. He replied to the email saying “If you’ve never tried this, you probably shouldn’t start here.”

Steven Sinofsky followed up by agreeing with #2 on Marc’s list. He said to become known for doing small things with little friction. He also emphasized the importance of getting familiar with the products of your competitors. He suggested to test out competitor products, take notes on what works well and what doesn’t and to share that with your team when the time is right.

Sinofsky started his career at an entry level position at Microsoft in 1989. In the early 90s, he had the opportunity to work closely with Bill Gates and he later rose to be the President of the Windows division at the company. Sriram and Aarthi, who also worked at Microsoft recalled that Sinofsky was always intimately familiar with Apple products. He knew them better than anyone else at Microsoft and he would frequently remind employees what areas Apple was excelling at and where Microsoft needed to improve in order to beat them. Another piece of advice he had was to write things down (as Marc had mentioned) but to always separate facts from observations. Sinofsky’s final point was if you decide to go to another organization, move laterally instead of trying to move up. This piece of advice struck me as odd at first, but when he elaborated I thought it was brilliant. He added “If you start in a new organization at a higher position than you had before, you don’t have time to figure things out. If you move laterally, you’re giving yourself more time to learn and also understand what position on what team you would be best suited for.”

Avichael chimed in by noting that early hires do a lot of work, but most of it is not very important. He suggested to spend the first couple weeks deconstructing what things are truly important and what things are not, and focus on the things that are. Aarthi added that you should find your cohort of people who have a good personality match and fit the culture you are seeking.

Just about everyone on the virtual stage agreed that you should try to meet as many people as possible in the first couple of months. They suggested trying to set up lunch meetings as often as possible and even other meetings outside of work. This is a great way to find out what other people are working on and find areas where you may be able to contribute.