People ask sometimes what it’s like to be active in a (3D Printing) company and how it compares to a regular job. The answer is that it has some resemblances, but it’s definitely not the same. In the words of the Matrix: “There is no spoon“.
Some spoon facts
It’s a utensil with a fixed shape that is primarily used for the preparation / consumption of food. The spoon is mostly used at home or in the work place. The taste of your food is not influenced by the your choice for a particular spoon.
Shallow bowl at the end of a handle
The spoon has stood the test of time, its global utensil dominance is a testimony to its superior design. While using it might not be a particularly exciting experience, it works. When applying for a job, there tends to be a list of required skills. The fortunate ones amongst us get to adjust themselves to this mold during high school, university, and internships. By the time you are expected to use a spoon you are already a specialist (at least on a theoretical level) of sorts.
In contrast, entrepreneurs tend to – and should – be “T-Shaped” people. While specializing in a field – in my case that would be 3D Printing & Design – you are able to work in a wide variety of (non-) related fields simultaneously. Being an entrepreneur is “… like being a goal keeper”, my business partner always says as “… you are required to solve problems regardless of where they come from”.
Eating soup with a fork
Some endeavors are just impossible or – in case of the above title – plain stupid. While the spoon might be multi functional – I have scooped the occasion dead fly out of my soup – it is primarily meant to consume (liquid or powdery) food hygienically. The primary reason for having a job is often quite straightforward: making money. If your job isn’t paying the bills or, even worse, noting at all you will either make it into a hobby or quit.
Obviously, I don’t want to argue that we entrepreneurs don’t want to make money. Actually, there are many of us that start a company for one soul purpose, the mula! This was never the primary incentive for me though and I have a “no-salary-for-18-months” diploma to show for it*. Call me a romantic, but I just wanted to work in 3D Printing and make cool stuff with amazing people. Ofcourse I look forward to making money, but most importantly I just love what we do at UCreate3D. It’s a blessing to do work which feels like a hobby even when it equals “shuffling shit up hill” at times.
You belong in the kitchen
This could have been the most sexist start of my new paragraph, but no! While spoons are used in different places you usually find hem in the kitchen for obvious reasons. Even though it’s true we are living in a digital age of clouds, big data, and hyper digital inter-connectivity most of us are still working out of an office. There are clear benefits such as control over the workforce and the joy of interacting with your colleagues.
I have one confession to make, UCreate3D does have a physical office in San Francisco. In Hong Kong, however, we are office-less and for good reasons. Working in China requires a high level of flexibility such as running across the border on moments notice. When problems arise they need to be dealt with, regardless of your location and time. I still remember sitting in a club on Wyndham street (Hong Kong) and getting a call from San Francisco. One minute later, I whipped out a tablet, read contracts and signed it.
The cook is mightier than the spoon
No matter if you have a 3D Printed spoon or a regular one, your food will taste the same. Sadly, you are always at the mercy of the cook. In an effort to minimize risks, we often go to places that we are familiar with. Similarly, people prefer to get a job with a company (or under a manager) that has status and/or is reliable. Even so, while your your boss might be the reincarnation of the Buddha, there will be times that you are required to do crappy work.
People will often salute me as they assume I can do whatever I want. Sadly, the opposite is true both internally and externally. On an internal level, you are required to do many mind numbing things that lead to cool stuff. Externally, most of the ‘cooks’ that work with / for us don’t really care about the taste of their food. Moreover, asking the chef to come to your table for a good verbal beating is also pointless. So regardless if I have a spoon, working in a startup gets messy and frustrating at times.
* I have to admit that this mind state is also – to some extend – a luxury that most people can’t afford.
DISCLAIMERS: All the views that are expressed in this post are my own. The insights I share are based on my personal experiences within UCreate3D. I have never held a regular job, but obviously have many people around me who share their experiences. This is my first start-up. With any story come stereotypes and these don’t have to apply to all.