THE BLOG

The First 30 Days Inside a Startup: An Interview With Sheila Darcey

05/22/2013 06:38 pm ET | Updated Jul 21, 2013
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Part of "Freefalling Ethnographer," a series about life inside a digital innovation Startup.

BeyondCurious recently had a new addition to our team: the fabulous Sheila Darcey, who brings tremendous depth and perspective from 15 years as a senior leader in the digital agency world. We are very lucky to have her. Since Sheila has such a fresh perspective on what it's like working at a startup, I wanted to get her thoughts on her first 30 days at BeyondCurious. Sheila not only answered my questions, she also illustrated her biggest lessons learned with a self-portrait diptych. Read on to hear what motivated Sheila to join a startup, the challenges she has faced in the startup environment, and lessons she has learned in her first 30 days. Welcome, Sheila!

Tell us about your background and prior experience.
I bring a broad spectrum of experiences from my 15-year career with large established companies. Prior to joining BeyondCurious, I was part of a global advertising agency connecting brands with consumers across multiple touch points. Over the years, I have worked in a variety of roles that include Program Management, Client Relationship Management and even HR Lead. Regardless of the role I play, I am always hungry to learn new things, achieving the impossible and delivering tangible results in everything I do. I guess I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit within me.

STARTUP HOPES AND DREAMS

Why did you want to come to a startup?
To put it simply, I wanted to step outside my comfort zone. In a startup, the magnitude of impact is greater. Achieving business results is only a part of success. The real entrepreneurial challenge is how to drive to results in the fastest, most efficient and meaningful way given all the constraints. It was a leap of faith to leave the familiarity of the old for the experiences of the new. The timing seemed right, and the opportunity for learning and growth was too good to pass up. I have also been passionate about supporting women in business. So joining BeyondCurious, a woman-led entrepreneurial venture was very compelling.

What were you the most excited about before you got here?
I remember meeting the BeyondCurious team for the first time and hearing each person talk about the impact joining the company has had on their lives. They all spoke about feeling fulfilled in their work, having fun along the way, and their shared connection to the purpose and vision - creating impact in the world through innovative digital solutions. Their unique outlook of 'entering optimistic' made me feel immediately connected and contributed to my growing excitement of being part of this stellar team.

What were you the most afraid of?
You hear a lot about the importance of the first 30 days in any new role or organization, so my initial fear was making sure I could create measurable and meaningful impact.
But, in general, there was fearlessness in my decision that made this leap of faith an easy decision. It has carried me far in my short time at BeyondCurious and will allow me to weather the many ups and downs of being in a startup.

sheila darcey

REAL LIFE STARTUP

Now that you've been here for 30 days, what are the top lessons you have you learned?
Discomfort comes with the territory. It is also a measure of how often and to what degree you are stretching.
Know when to let things go. Don't hold on to an idea or outcome if it doesn't effectively achieve the right results.
Separate emotions from ideas. This leads to better innovation and a higher quality product.
Make bold choices. Put yourself out there and take risks. You can't succeed if you haven't tried.
Know your personal value. It doesn't matter whether you're a big fish or small fish in any size pond; know your core competency and its unique value.
Failure is relative and not absolute. Fail often. Learn quickly. Pivot when necessary. Knowing when to pivot after you have failed and learning from your failures is the key to success.

What do you love the most about your new job?
There is an immediate cause and effect in small companies or startups. There is an implicit expectation that everyone contributes ideas and has the ability to follow through on those ideas.

What is unique about a startup is the resourcefulness that is required to bring ideas to life. In large organizations, you have an extensive network of experts you can call on to help you understand things quickly. But in a startup, you pretty much learn how to fish each day. This results-driven mentality and constant state of learning is what I love the most.

What do you find to be the most challenging thing about working at a startup?
The biggest challenge is a personal one. Staying present and being able to quiet the mind is an important part of being a productive member of a team. But a constant state of disruption and flux is the reality in a startup. As a working parent and self-proclaimed 'mom-preneur', it is a challenge I seek to overcome each day. If only to show my 5 year-old daughter that success isn't measured by the milestones achieved, but the fulfillment and enjoyment of how we get there.

What advice would you give to people interested in joining a startup?
• You must have a deep hunger for learning and growth, resourcefulness and tenacity.
• The unpredictability of each day requires you to have mental agility and strength.
• You will always question whether you are doing enough. It's the nature of being in a startup. I've worn many hats as a consultant, but at a startup the hat that matters most is that of business owner.
• When you start thinking like a business owner, you learn to let go and trust the collective strength of those around you. You have the ability to experiment with the possibility of failure as an option. This freedom provides an environment of accelerated learning and growth.
• And lastly, expect the unexpected and let your instincts guide you.

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