Leaving an Incumbent to Join a Startup

Leaving an Incumbent to Join a Startup

Leaving an Incumbent to Join a Startup 150 150 Senex Global

by Clara Bickley
Director of Research


There’s nothing like graduating college, snagging your first professional job, and cashing that first salary check. Bonus points if you are in a nice, quiet office space and never feel too overwhelmed from work stress or conscious pressure of layoffs. That was me, I was living what I thought was the dream. I was learning how to be a data analyst at a market research firm while still living my life and paying my bills. The world was safe, which was perfect because I was way too anxious about my bills to accept any risk into my life or income.

Then something wild happened, the boss that created my position in the company left. It rocked my world. So much anxiety festered in my soul as I tried to figure out what my next move was. There are few anxieties quite like not knowing whether high-level decision makers know who you are, much less what value you bring to the company. How could I assert confidence in my value when I wasn’t even sure they knew my name. So, I started keeping an eye out for opportunities, hoping something might come up that really inspired me.

A year after my old boss left, I got an interesting call from him. He invited me to lunch and then proposed I join him in building a new company. I was thrilled and uncertain. A new company? One that could potentially flop and put me out of job? Something new that could take off and really skyrocket my career? There were so many possibilities and I was not sure it was for me, but I went to the top 3 people I knew I could call upon for advice. I was fearful they’d advise me to reject the offer, and fearful they would advise me to accept.

“Every job is always at risk; tomorrow is never promised.” My dad and grandfather blew my mind when they made me realize that it didn’t matter if I was at an established company or a start-up, there was no “safe” or “secure” position in the world, everything always had some risk whether you consciously knew or not. They were so incredibly right, in 2017 many companies had layoffs, large and small. No industry was safe, airlines, healthcare, food service, manufacturing—all had companies purge employees. So, who was to say just because I FELT safe meant my “stable” job wouldn’t find itself in jeopardy? I didn’t have intimate knowledge of the company financials or concerns; I was a blind worker bee subject to whatever consequences may come from decisions made above my pay grade. Beyond that, I am young, even with my financial obligations, this was the time to try new things and maybe even fail along the way. I wanted a stable income that I could always depend on, but that would simply be a job. I needed a career that would challenge me, give me purpose, and encourage continuous growth.

With unanimous support and a lot of excitement, I accepted the offer at Senex and started on my journey of being number 2 in a start-up company. The first year flew by, we had some busy months and some slower months. It was different being in a small office setting, so very quiet but so very conducive to focusing on projects at hand. We were trying to find our “why.” (This video helped) We saw flaws in the research industry, and we wanted to change them…but how? Where should we start?

It took time and adding a number 3 to really refine what we were going to do. The exciting thing about a new company is the number of possibilities are endless, there are so many paths you can take, there’s so much creative freedom and it can be a bit overwhelming but incredibly inspiring. Being a part of a small group creating something to revolutionize an industry is insanely valuable. There’s a true sense of purpose in what you’re doing day to day. Not a day went by that didn’t feel like I was on the cusp of making a huge change for people across the country.

I feel empowered every day. There are still mornings where I want to sleep until 10:00 AM, but early bird gets the worm, amirite? Still, being at my office has real purpose, something I did not always feel before. There’s constant buzz of excitement and anxiety. Our product is launching soon, how will the industry take it? How can we perfect every process in the development of this product? There’s something to discover daily, something to create or expand on, and something to proudly present to my colleagues.

Sometimes I try to imagine where I’d be if I hadn’t taken this leap. I’d be analyst, combing through data from assigned projects when that launch email hit my inbox. I’d definitely click on it, intrigued by “We’re democratizing Market Intel.” I’d see my old boss’s name in the header and then I’d recall that offer I walked away from. That’s where this daydream ends, there’s an industry begging for a revolution and reflecting on the road not taken isn’t going to get us there.

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