I was originally trained as a graphic designer atin Miami Shores, FL. I entered into the ‘workforce’ straight from graduation in 2011 into a graphic design role, so at no point leading into my 2012 move to New York City and co-founding , did I have formal marketing or business training. Equally, I had no experience. So my journey has been less than conventional, but I suppose that is what makes for a good story!
When I moved to New York, I absorbed information from a number of different sources, including, but not limited to hands on experience, on the job training, mentorship, online courses, and a spattering of other life ‘trial and error’ moments. And believe me, there have been loads of challenges along the way and my fair share of flops. Through all of this, though, I’ve managed to push the limits by staying at the edge of my comfort zone.
On the marketing front, my ‘self education’ started in the same way as our business: with a completely blank slate. We had limited resources, an inexperienced team, and an unwavering need to stay lean and efficient. We started by establishing a strong identity and positioned ourselves to become a leading FinTech provider, reinforced with our steadfast mission to empower the underdog financial institutions in the United States. Much of my early involvement in marketing, was just brainstorming and executing on ideas with whoever was around. And at that point, everyone contributed. During the early days, I taught myself about managing events and making the most of our attendance, running efficient and aggressive PR campaigns, and having a well-rounded approach to digital marketing. The repetition and evolution in those areas forced me to learn and adapt, based on the changing needs of the business.
On the business front, this entire seven-year experience has been an education in itself. And it’s one that I would not have found anywhere else. I’ve been fortunate to have met and networked with so many amazing individuals. That alone has been invaluable. Teaching myself how to better engage was something that took practice and diligence, even as an extrovert. It takes a level of persistence and confidence that is not natural for many people. I’ve had to teach myself how to review contracts, build and run teams, and create strategies. I’ve had to be a young leader, learn the power of non-stop selling, and negotiate pricing and contracts on various levels. The list goes on-and-on.
I had to learn how to leave my ego behind and allow those more capable and specialized in their areas to help grow the business. As a young co-founder and individual starting his professional life, it’s a hard realization that you are so reliant on those around you. Knowing when to step aside can be a challenging thing, but it is so necessary for the overall success of a business. Stepping aside and encouraging collaboration and interactions to take place have allowed so many amazing things to happen within our organization. Checking my ego, and fostering an environment that allowed others to flourish, was the steepest learning curve of all.
Because of my belief, I have learned how to be perseverant and steadfast in my resolve. I also learned that sometimes you need to pivot, and knowing when to do that can be challenging. Sometimes you fail, and you need to completely rethink your strategy, or in the most extreme cases, walk away. Making the challenging decisions is something that business leaders do often, and well, and that’s been a part of the mix. Finally, it’s knowing how to build trust through unstable times and trusting the women and men next to you. Without that, it’s all for not. So trust, fall, and keep running as fast as you can.
Not too long ago, one of my life mentors instilled a major lesson: to determine what brings me joy in my work and specifically what those things are. I am now at a crossroads, eagerly working toward my next evolution in a relentless pursuit. But this time, it’s to take a long and hard look at what it is that makes me tick and drives the good in every day, so that I can focus my intent on those qualities, rather than the noise. My advice to anyone working through challenges, whether you are starting your career or in the thick of things, is to determine what brings you joy in your day-to-day work, and allow those things to increase, and let the noise dissipate.