Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

CATEGORY: Consulting

Do you regret your past career decisions? Here’s why you shouldn’t.

Career regret

Studies have shown that workers can have up to seven careers in their lifetime. If you’re one of these people, this means that you may have had to take a few steps back and completely start over with little experience in your new job or industry.

Thus, when thinking about your career trajectory, it’s easy to say “I wish I had done that sooner,” or “Man, if I knew then what I know now, I’d totally be killing it today,” or whatever else people say about the career and life decisions that they regret.

Many people who have made career changes wish that they realized sooner what they wanted to do with their lives. They think that they’re really late to the game and regret not doing things differently in the past.

My career has been a winding, swerving roller coaster, and I think this way sometimes. But it’s bullshit. And when I do think this way, I always call myself out, because things change all the time, and you never know how past experiences can help your current or future prospects.

Here’s what I mean.

My convoluted career path

I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Materials Science and Engineering in 2000 but had no desire to work in that field after graduation. After all, life wasn’t to be spent in a lab or steel mill.

Thus, I pursued my Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering (IE) to hopefully start my career in the consulting industry. After obtaining that diploma in 2001 and getting a consulting gig, I wished I was interested in IE sooner. I felt that my four years of undergrad could have been better spent pursuing an IE major, and I wouldn’t have had to attend grad school.

Oh, regret.

The consulting career then ran its course.

When I started my career in sports business a few years later, I then wished that I had jumped into that industry sooner.

I was living the dream at my marketing job at the Washington Capitals. At that time, I couldn’t even imagine working in another industry.

Even when basking in the glow of my dream sports marketing job, I thought about how far up the corporate ladder I would have been had I started working in sports business after undergrad, instead of seven years and two graduate degrees (and lots of debt) later.

Oh, regret.

Until, of course, that career ran its course and I became an entrepreneur.

Do I wish that I had pursued entrepreneurship earlier in my career? Not at all.

You are the sum of your experiences

Your experiences make you the person you are now, and your current career is the aggregate result of your past careers. Even if your past careers seem completely disconnected from what you’re doing now, don’t ever regret the path you took nor take your past experience for granted.

I never came close to using materials science and engineering concepts in any of my careers, but that degree laid the foundation for the analytical thinking I use everyday.

I actually did use my IE degree in my consulting career, which is a plus. And even though I don’t directly apply IE to my current job, the concepts of efficient work, project and time management, and process analytics certainly influence each task that I execute on a daily basis.

And looking back, the MBA that I attained isn’t a necessary credential for an entrepreneur; rather, many say the degree is a detriment. But do I regret getting that degree? No way.

Although I attended NYU Stern to pursue a career in sports business, I learned so much about marketing, branding, and management, skills that I use every day. And much of my professional network stems from my time at NYU, which has helped and will continue to benefit my career in the future.

Conclusion

Sure, everyone wishes they had pursued certain career paths earlier, but hindsight is always 20/20. Don’t even waste time looking back and regretting your choices.

Just know that your past experiences make you who you are now, and that’s a good thing.

Your turn

Have you made career decisions that you regret? How do you think those decisions have impacted your career trajectory? I’d love to hear more in the comments.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article, sign up for my email list below, and connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

What do you do to get out of a rut at work?

Man Sitting In Valley

I’m kinda stuck in a rut with work. Everything is fine and I’m still getting things done, but lately I’ve felt a little uninspired and unmotivated.

At my past jobs, there was always a set schedule, strict deadlines, and a clear cadence, so even when I felt a bit down, I was forced to stay on track and productive. Being surrounded by colleagues helped, too. And while I’m still meeting client deadlines and producing good work (I think), it’s been much more of a grind to do so. Additionally, I’m a little less excited to do some of my non-consulting projects, such as blogging, programming, working on my startup, and other tasks.

What do you do when you’re feeling a little uninspired at work?

One of the things I’m going to do is change the scenery. I’ve been pretty productive working from home for a while but I think I’ve hit a wall. So I’m going to get out more during the work day. I’ve joined a co-working space (Cove on 14th St. since they have really flexible plans) and will also work at coffee shops more often. My commute will be a little longer – 10 minutes as opposed to 30 seconds :) – but I think my productivity will increase.

Other than that, I’m not sure what else to do. I’ve gone through peaks and valleys before but typically just rode them out. This time, I’d like to gather some concrete ideas, be a little more proactive and try some new things to get myself out of this rut.

So what should I do to find some inspiration? Please let me know in the comments some of the things that have worked for you.

New Consulting Partnership with WiserAdvisor.com

Wiser Advisor LogoI’m happy to announce that I’ve entered into a consulting partnership with WiserAdvisor.com, a startup based in Fairfax, VA, that helps connect people looking to better manage their wealth with accredited, pre-screened financial advisors (FAs). WiserAdvisor.com is part of Respond.com, which is a similar but more broad-based site that helps consumers find and hire local businesses for a number of categories such as home improvement, insurance, photography, and many more.

WiserAdvisor is building tools and processes to better engage and educate people about personal finance with the eventual goal of connecting them with FAs to help them achieve their financial objectives. My role is to help lead content strategy and marketing, which means I’ll be acquiring, creating, and reviewing this educational content and leveraging technology to deliver the right content to the targeted audience at the right time.

Murtaza Amil, the CEO of Respond.com, reached out to me last September via the contact form on this blog (I knew this blog would pay off someday!). After a few meetings and phone calls, he brought me on board to help. He has put together a strong team that has a solid grasp of technology, strategy, marketing, and operations and how it all works together to acquire new clients.

For me, this is a great balance between consulting and startups. I’m looking forward to contributing to this project and helping WiserAdvisor grow.

And if you need a financial advisor, please check out WiserAdvisor.com!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Looking back to 2013 and forward to 2014

Happy New Year! Though I believe we should continuously think about where we are and where we’re going, the new year is always a good time to summarize it all. So here goes!

Recap of 2013

Mike Vicky Vows

This past year was really eventful on a personal level. I attended seven (!) weddings in 2013: two were mine (the Best Wedding Ever in Mexico and an awesome family reception in Queens), my sister got married in September in NYC, and four other friends got married in New Jersey, California, and Florida. Combine those weddings with traveling to New York and New Jersey for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s pretty clear that Vicky and I have been a couple of weary road warriors. But it was a year full of great celebrations.

Cute

One of the tougher parts of the year was when our dog, Sweet Dee, was paralyzed in her hind legs by a compressed spine. We had to cut our vacation short to take her to the neurologist, get an MRI, and have her undergo surgery. The aftermath was really difficult, as we had to frequently express her bladder (she didn’t have much control of anything in the back half of her body) and retrain her on how to walk. Regardless, she’s a tough cookie and made a full recovery! She probably has no idea that she was even paralyzed. Silly dog.

Regarding my 2013 New Year’s resolutions, I pretty much shat the bed. While I accomplished not drinking for two weeks, I failed to run at least two Tough Mudders (I only ran one) and didn’t make much progress on launching a startup. While 1 out of 3 makes for a good batting average in baseball, it really sucks for New Year’s resolutions. On the career note, some positives included taking a more active role in Startup Weekend DC (I became an official co-organizer), and blogging for the CEA, which has been fun and has increased my visibility.

Onward to 2014

While 2013 was an amazing year, I’m really looking forward to 2014. There will definitely be fewer weddings, so I’ll travel a bit less this year. This should keep me fresher to accomplish my resolutions, which are:

1) Seriously get my startup going

While I didn’t make much progress launching a startup in 2013, my co-founder and I did narrow our list down to three ideas to potentially pursue. Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to run some experiments to figure out which may be the most viable idea and work towards it. I’m excited!

I stress out everyday about the lack of movement on my startup, but making a little bit of progress everyday will help, and that’s what I intend to do.

2) Drop five pounds

I’m blessed with the high metabolism that many Asians have, so I haven’t had to worry too much about my weight. I work out a good amount but I think being more disciplined with my diet, which I’m pretty horrible at, will help me stay healthier and keep my energy up. Dropping five pounds will be the result of this discipline.

3) Avoid alcohol for two weeks every quarter

While it was tough (for me) to not drink for 14 days straight, I’m going to do it 4 times this year. This should also help me achieve resolution #2.

4) Start a family

Whoa! This is a big one that may have a detrimental impact on all of the above resolutions, but it will be totally worth it. I should let Vicky know about this one. :)

If all goes well, 2014 will be an unbelievable year in both my personal and professional lives, and I can’t wait.

How did your 2013 go, and what are your resolutions for 2014? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

If you found this interesting, please connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

My first guest blog post for CEA – My Path to Entrepreneurship

I’m proud to announce that I’ll be guest-blogging for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) about entrepreneurship and startups! I’ll write about my ups and downs, lessons learned, and any other experiences as an entrepreneur.

Check out my first post where I talk about my journey to entrepreneurship and how there’s no one path to becoming an entrepreneur. I hope you like this article, and stay tuned for the rest of the series!

I’d like to thank Sean Parker, Jamie Carracher, and Lindsay Bianco at CEA for this opportunity.

Enjoy!

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New Partnership with Exhilarator

Exhilarator Logo

I’m proud to announce that I’ve forged a consulting partnership with Exhilarator, a unique “startup factory” based in DC, and will provide them with marketing consulting and business development services.

Exhilarator Overview

Exhilarator is so unique because it is part accelerator, part services company, and part events company, all focusing on scaling startups.

The accelerator accepts 4-5 consumer tech startups on a rolling basis, houses them in their offices in Georgetown for four months, and provides them with business model refinement, customer acquisition, mentorship, and anything else that will help these companies grow.

The services part, with which I’ll be most involved, helps entrepreneurs execute on their vision. Whether the entrepreneur has an idea that needs validation or looks to grow her existing company, Exhilarator can provide these services on a fee basis. I’m partnering with Exhilarator to both bring in new business and help execute client projects.

Finally, Exhilarator runs SwitchPitch, a series of events that helps startups enter into strategic partnerships with large, multi-national corporations looking to get projects off the ground. If you’re a tech entrepreneur in NYC, check out the upcoming SwitchPitch NYC event on October 1.

The company is all about scaling startups and it’s doing it three different ways, two of which that actually bring in revenue. Really smart.

How This Opportunity Unfolded

I first met Exhilarator Founder Michael Goldstein last year at a startup conference; at that time, I was working on my failed smart calendar company Dokkit and he was running his accelerator named Endeavor. After the event, we immediately connected on LinkedIn but didn’t interact with each other too often after that.

Then a couple of months ago, Michael reached out to inquire about my consulting work. We met for coffee and chatted about the projects that I was working on and what he was building at Exhilarator. I thought the concept of Exhilarator just made so much sense and I was really interested. We met twice more and decided that a partnership would be a good fit, and recently pitched our first project together.

This is a great opportunity because it combines the two worlds that I’m involved in and passionate about – marketing and startups. I’m really looking forward to a long, mutually beneficial relationship with Michael and the Exhilarator team.

And if you’re a startup or small business and need help launching and growing your business, please reach out!

Like this post? Then follow me on Twitter – @mikewchan – for future updates.

My First Year of Entrepreneurship – What I Think and What I’ve Learned

entrepreneurship01

Just over a year ago, I left my job at the Washington Capitals to become an entrepreneur. It’s been a valuable learning experience and a great ride, but like any other job, there have been ups and downs. I wrote a post last August about what I learned after one month on my own, and this article augments those thoughts.

While I’ve learned a ton over the past year, I think I’ve broken even in terms of progress. In the corporate world, that’s unacceptable. In the entrepreneurship and startup worlds, depending on the situation, it may be a bit more common. Regardless, it’s kinda depressing.

Consulting

On one hand, the independent consulting work I’ve been doing has been going really well. I currently have three core, long-term clients for which I hope I’m doing a good job and we’re making solid progress toward our goals. I’ve also successfully executed two other short-term projects. Additionally, I have a couple of other potential clients in the pipeline. The best part is that all of these clients and projects have come through referrals, with no formal sales or business development processes. I can’t complain one bit about my consulting work.

Startup Stuff

But consulting is not why I became an entrepreneur. I want to build a technology startup, and on that front, I haven’t done much at all.

I wrote about what happened with my first startup, Dokkit. Since then, I’ve made only a little progress in my second at-bat. But a big takeaway I learned was that ideally, the startup team should come first, then the idea (for other opinions on this, see here and here). I am working with a couple of developers on a startup, and one of the team members is a consulting client of mine, so we know how each other functions and work really well together. We’ve thrown around a ton of ideas but haven’t been able to agree with one that we all want to execute. This process can be really frustrating, but I think the hardest part, assembling a founding team that you know you can work well with, is out of the way. We’re taking our time with developing the concept and being really diligent about pursuing an idea that we’re all passionate about and has the potential to be a real business. Though it’s moving slowly, I think we’re going about it the right way.

An exciting endeavor I’m involved in is volunteering as an Up Global (formerly Startup Weekend) DC Organizer, where I coordinate events and workshops that help entrepreneurs get their companies off the ground, learn about startup frameworks and resources, and connect with fellow entrepreneurs. I’ve only been doing this for a few months but it has allowed me to give back to the DC entrepreneurship community and meet many smart, talented, and driven entrepreneurs who may build the next great company.

Overall, there’s been a lot of activity but not so much progress. I’m working to change that.

The Struggle

Yeah, I’m going through ups and downs, but I’m not yet going through The Struggle. The Struggle sounds horrendous, but part of me wants to feel that stress and have that kind of responsibility. I am lucky to be in the situation I’m in – I have a really supportive wife, family, and friends and stable consulting work – but those blessings may be hiding the urgency that many startup entrepreneurs face that forces them to move at 100 miles per hour and really get shit done. Don’t get me wrong, I count my blessings everyday, but sometimes wonder about the other ways they impact my work.

One year in, it’s been an amazing ride so far. But I stress out everyday thinking that I’m not moving fast enough, learning enough, or making enough progress. Regardless, I wouldn’t change a thing. And when I write another post like this in a year, hopefully I’ll have a lot more to say about the technology company I’m building.

How Does Confidence Affect You?

confidenceIt affects me a lot, in a few parts of my life. For me, confidence is many times linked to motivation, and they both impact my performance. Here are a couple of examples.

Confidence in Sports

You hear the word “confidence” thrown around a lot when people talk about pro athletes and sports teams. Sportscasters and analysts will say things like, “He’s playing with a lot of confidence” and “They have a lot of momentum and confidence heading into the playoffs.” Confidence is a completely intangible aspect but an important one nonetheless.

I play basketball twice a week but I’m not very good. I’m short, not as quick as I used to be, and can’t jump. But I do have a decent jump shot. And if I make my first couple of shots in a game, my confidence rises and I tend to shoot (and hopefully score) a bit more often.

But when I miss those early shots badly, I sometimes get into my own head and lose confidence in my shooting ability. I become more hesitant to fire and pass up shots that I’d normally take. Then I look like a worse player than I already am, and it just gets worse from there. It’s ugly.

Confidence at Work

Confidence affects me a lot at work, too. In the last ten months that I’ve been an entrepreneur, my confidence has been riding a roller coaster.

When I resigned from the Caps last July, my confidence was really high. I had a good five-year run and I left the Caps/Monumental Sports marketing department in better shape than when I joined. I was leaving to work on my startup, Dokkit, and I was so motivated to change the world. I also secured a couple of consulting contracts that allowed me to take the leap.

Just a few months later, Dokkit was no more, and my confidence tumbled. Dokkit was the primary reason why I left my awesome job at the Caps, and a lot of thoughts ran through my mind – anger, regret, disappointment, self-doubt, and a little bit of fear. I was lost for a while, unmotivated, and felt like I didn’t have much of an identity in the startup world. I did have some wins, as I completed a consulting engagement and scored another, which gave me a little bump. But in the larger scheme of things, it didn’t help much, as I wasn’t trying to build a consulting firm; I was trying to create a startup.

Forming a partnership with Thorn Technologies in December has been a real positive for me. Not only do I get to use my marketing skills to help Jeff grow his software development business, but we’re working together on a startup as well. I have clear deliverables and timelines (my confidence increases when I execute discrete tasks well), and I have a newfound identity in startup land. It’s been a great partnership so far, and one that has definitely helped me increase my confidence and motivation on a daily basis.

Still, everyday there are highs and lows. Some days are tougher than others, but that’s all part of the struggle.

Getting Out of the Rut

Things are easy when your confidence is peaking. It just feels like you’re smarter, things move more quickly, and you worry less about the little things.

But what about when you’re in the valley? Everything seems to move too slowly, every task is a bit more difficult, and you tend to stress more about insignificant things. Motivation drops, which then lowers your confidence even more. It’s a vicious cycle. How do you get out of that rut?

I try to add value in other ways. In my basketball situation, I’ll pass the ball a bit more and play better defense. When an easy shot opens up, I’ll try to take advantage of that to build my shooting confidence. At work, I’ll delve into a task that doesn’t take too much brainpower. Maybe I’ll take care of administrative work or write a personal blog post to get some things off my chest (like I’m doing now). Sometimes even those tasks are difficult but it helps me make a little bit of progress when I’m not at my best.

Does confidence impact you as much as it impacts me? If so, how do you take advantage of the peaks and deal with the valleys?

New Consulting Partnership – National Bid Network

NBN LogoGreat news! I’ve just finalized a consulting engagement with National Bid Network (NBN), a company that sells an extremely valuable database of government contract information and provides services to help consulting firms and manufacturers do business with the government.

I’ll be helping NBN with all aspects of marketing with a primary focus on lead generation. Together we’ll work on a website redesign, setting up and executing inbound marketing practices (SEO, content creation, social media, etc.), email marketing, CRM, and any other advertising and marketing projects that we need to drive sales.

I met NBN’s CEO, Kim Harwell, at a Salesforce.com conference in 2012. He sat right next to me during the keynote speech and was wowed by what CRM and online marketing can do for a company. He filled me in on NBN and what he was building and asked to stay in touch to see if we can work together in the future. We’ve been discussing a partnership for a while, and now that it’s been finalized, it’s time to get to work!

I’m looking forward to learning about a new industry and applying my marketing knowledge to help Kim grow his business. And if you are or know a consulting firm or manufacturer looking to do more business with the government, please reach out to me!

There are no more results.