Reading time: 4min.

by Sanaa Siddiqui

Startups – the business-life battlefield

We don’t do things by halves at a start-up. I joined the frontline as a wide-eyed, nervous PR Officer. This was my first job, and within the clean-technology sector; all I had going for me was writing skill and three months of experience working in PR for a large car manufacturer. I thought it was enough.

I was wrong.

Through the next two years I’d learn how to create an on-the-fly presentation for the UN, to code, to be a lawyer, to an engineer – even how to be my CEO. I’d take on the role of a chameleon that could network in a ball pit, create ethernet cables from scratch, learn Romanian phrases in last-ditch attempts to speak to overseas clients and grasp the beautiful language of “corporate culture” [1]. I hadn’t accepted a Press Officer role as much as I’d accepted a role as the entire company — and this suited me fine.

Each day began with a coffee intake – true fact, 85% of all start-up employees bleed coffee instead of blood [2]. Unlike a larger corporation where interns and new employees are required to MAKE the coffee, at a SME we’re required to monitor the caffeine levels in the kitchen and declare a national State of Emergency when we run out.

(It happens. It’s grisly.)

The rest of the day is spent surrounded by people my own age, or younger – all our interns are hitting 20, and often I’m left playing the role of ‘teacher’ as I order them to sit up, quieten down, stop throwing things and bullying the girls … this rowdiness is only matched by their immense talent, and it’s great knowing that, in times of need, I have a group of highly capable individuals in my corner.

It’s a hectic atmosphere, where everyone is in the same boat – learning on the job and supporting each other. It’s so cliché, but working at a start-up is like joining a new family; it’s a close-knit environment, where everyone knows everyone by name, and the open-office layout is organised by department so I feel like I’m nose-diving straight into the cafeteria scene from Mean Girls.

The intimacy is super helpful – need a graphic for social media? I shout over my shoulder at the noisy design interns. Need information on an upcoming project? I scrunch up a ball of paper and throw it at the ‘sales desk’ – shouting doesn’t work, as the salesmen drown out the design team through headphones and loud music.

And finally – need anything from my CEO? I shout over my shoulder, throw projectiles, text, email, tweet, and send a barrage of emojis on Whatsapp. The advantage of working within a young team is that despite the hierarchy, you feel amongst friends – and if you’re playing every role in the company, you might as well be your own boss.

[1] – We’re apparently completing our first exit in this space. What did I just say? You tell me.
[2] – Did you know that 78% of statistics are made up on the spot?