Since coming to Greylock full time in January, I’ve been talking to a lot of people. I did that before, of course — I’ve always spent a lot of time building my network — but in this role it’s significantly more than ever before. So I’ve been talking with tons of entrepreneurs, tons of techies, tons of executives, tons of students — for a variety of reasons, including funding, recruiting for roles here at Greylock, etc.
One of the things I’ve been really, really struck by is how significant the first 4 or 5 years of a person’s career seems to be on how they think and how they approach the world. It’s typically very easy to tell if someone started their career at Google or Apple or Microsoft or Paypal or a bunch of others, even when they’re 15 years into their career and well removed from that first job. You can just see it in the way they approach problems. These are gross simplifications and overgeneralizations, but Googlers tend to think about things in a data and machine learning sort of way. Amazon folk (Amazonians?) tend to think in terms of testing and yield. And other companies that shall remain nameless are notable in that their alumni have absurdly good PowerPoint skills. (Which, sadly, is not actually a positive indicator.)
So like I say, gross oversimplifications and gross generalizations, but you really can tell a lot about where a person started their career by how they act and think about things. (And I guess others have had this insight about organizational imprinting before — here’s an HBS study and here’s what Diego wrote about his early time at HP a few weeks back.)
Since I was in Austin this week, where I started my career at Trilogy, I reflected some on how I was imprinted by being there — and for all the weird, screwed up world views I developed there (and believe me, it was like 90% screwed up world view), the thing that imprinted most is an insane focus on recruiting insanely talented people. As a company, we were relentless about getting the smartest, most driven, most talented people we could. We were a tiny company, but going toe to toe with giants in on campus recruiting, for example — and I think we were probably about the best tech company at recruiting anywhere in the US in the mid-90s.
So thank goodness I went to Trilogy, because that intense focus on recruiting at all levels, getting ridiculously talented people to work with and getting out of their way — that’s something that’s been absolutely critical and foundational for me my whole career. When I tell people I worked at Trilogy, most people today don’t know what that is, even. But I’m very happy to trade off a brand name on the resume for getting recruiting into my DNA in a fundamental way. It changed everything.