Well, better late than never I suppose. What a year 2020 was. Terrible for most, good for some. I sit right in the middle somewhere.
In January 2020, before the pandemic really hit us, I embarked on a new adventure as the 8 or 9th (I can't remember and I change this number every-time) person aboard Hopin – a startup aiming to take on the virtual events space.
And boy did we.
When we started building the new event application, we weren't planning on fully launching to the world till September 2020. We only had a few thousand users and a little bit of seed money backing us.Even back then, Johnny would say we're going to be the fastest growing company in the world (this is all before COVID hit us too). He was extremely optimistic, but we all believed in his vision, and just went with it.
Then it's March. The world is going up in flames. Everyone across the world goes into lockdown. Grocery store shelves are emptied of all the toilet paper and hand sanitiser. No more weekend hangouts with your friends, all trips cancelled, concerts post-poned and events cancelled.
This is why I sit in the middle of 2020 being shit and not so shit.
Organisations came knocking on Hopin's door, absolutely needing to get in. Once one person found out about us and booked a demo, they'd tell another, who would tell another, and the process just kept (keeps, really) on repeating. The waitlist to get a demo was in the 10's of thousands. It was crazy.Our founder, Johnny Boufarhat, recognised this once in a lifetime opportunity and said, we gotta get this live in a month.
I still find myself coding more than I ever have at any other company (even as an engineering manager.. but if you go back and look at the contribution graph on Github for March of 2020 for each member of our small team it'd blow your mind. As in, we haven't touched that codebase personally in over 6 months, and we've grown from 10 devs to 150, and no one is even close to beating us in the contributor rankings.
So we did what we had to. We all worked early mornings and late nights, and got Hopin to a decent place where we could start letting people use it. We started hiring account representatives to manage our enterprise level clients and give demos all day every day. From April, we've been hiring 20-40 ppl per month. The amount of new faces to keep up with has been impossible.
Fast forward to February 2021. Here's the stat sheet:
- PROFITABLE. We've raised money, but are making it just as quick.
- 400+ person family spread out across the globe
- 2 companies acquired (Topi and StreamYard)
- Valued at 2.12b (with a B!)
The pace has not slowed down. If anything it's picked up..With that being said let me dive into what's its like to work at Hopin and the work life balance...
To be completely honest, I don't have much of a balance. I put in between 10-14 hours each day, and often times a few hours here and there on the weekends. But! This is by choice. Hopin does not ask, or require team members to do this. Some work your standard 8 hour day, and that's totally fine. Why am I working this much? Well, remember, I was a super early joiner, I've got a solid amount of equity, and I just love the high I get from Hopin.I still take part in other activities on the side, like cooking with my wife, restoring my 87' E30, flying planes, playing music.. It's just not as much as I'd like is all. But it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. I don't have kids, and my wife runs her own business and is often very busy as well. It works for us.
What's changed for me while at Hopin? Well, I started as an engineer, and did so solely for about 8-9 months. Then once our engineering department started to grow, I was asked if I'd like to become an engineering manager. I've also played a lead role in the company and felt like I was doing a lot of what I thought an engineering manager does anyway, so I said why not!Wow.It literally feels like I'm learning how to code again. So many new things to learn. I love it though, I really do, but it was a TOTAL career change. Sure, having a technical background prepares you a bit, but there's so much more to it than just talking code.
People. People are not like code. There's no documentation. Everyone has their own needs, and their own style of working, and what they need to work successfully.At the end of my work days, instead of playing with new APIs or coding a side project, I found myself reading Psychology Today articles on personality types, and how they play into the work environment.
There's so much to dig and uncover here, but it just makes me laugh - I never thought when I started Hopin, I'd end up trying to learn how people best work by reading through their personality traits. So there's the people aspect of management, but also learning to manage expectations for the next level stakeholders (who aren't necessarily technical). As an engineer, it was easy to manage myself and communicate to the team - we all understood the jargon.
Now I find myself having to do a lot more writing and explaining, when our team runs into an issue, or makes a technical decision that will add a few extra days to our timeline. It's not that I didn't expect I'd have to do this, it's just a new area in my skillset that hadn't had much exercise.
What else - oh, delivering hard feedback. I like to think I'm an empathetic person. I can understand where an engineer is coming from if they've slipped up and shipped a bug that broke production, or had a slow week. I've been there, I get it.In the early days of Hopin (or most startups I've ever been apart of), we get over those hiccups quick. There are no post-mortems, multiple meetings to attend to explain what happened. We got over it quick, picked our head up and moved on.Now as a manager though, and as the company grows into more of a corporate structure, we do have to take issues more seriously. We've got to much on the line to allow the same mistakes to happen again. So when someone does mess up, or is struggling, I've got to actually have a sit down with them. Not that the sit down is the problem, I just haven't gotten used to the formality of it. Its the same feeling I get when I was in school and would get sent to the principals office - but I'm feeling what my direct report is feeling!
Enough of the challenging parts - let's talk about the fun stuff for a moment.
As Hopin was growing, I found myself further distanced from where top of the chain, product decisions are being made - which I absolutely hated it. The reason I love startups was because you have to wear many hats, and not be a code monkey. I want a say in what I'm building!By month 6 or 7 at Hopin (as an engineer) I was starting to feel that way. I had no idea why I was building out certain features, or why the decision to build it was made. I mean, a general context was given "it's for company X, to do Y".. but that's about it.
Honestly, being asked to step into the management role couldn't have come at a better tine. It was a breath of fresh air. At that level you get more context, and can give more push back, and have more of a spot to share your ideas.I also have an incredible PM, probably the best I've ever worked with (no shade to any other PM I've worked with who's reading this, you're great too!). They definitely allow for my feedback, probably even more than they need to, but it's great b/c I feel like my team is its own mini startup.
I'm currently managing a squad called "Hopin Labs". We work on anything that needs to get to market as fast as possible. Last quarter it was building a discovery and curation platform for events, speakers, and organisations. Now, we're working on an entire new registrations product that'll help pave the way for when the pandemic is over and organisations are pushing for hybrid events. This type of mini-startup environment is perfect - it keeps me from getting bored ;)
So what's next?
Everyday is different and changes, but what stays consistent is our growth. We definitely are the fastest growing startup in the world, and who knows.. maybe the fastest to hit $100m ARR and IPO? 🤞