From Intern to CTO – An interview with 10gen’s Eliot Horowitz

April 17, 2013 in 10gen, Coding, Community Internship, Guest Post, Intern Advice, Intern Guide, Intern Training, MongoDB, Networking, Pictures, Slideshow, Technology

It’s one of the many reasons I love the working culture at 10gen; where else would you find the CTO of the company happily sitting down to chat to the intern?

Eliot Horowitz, co-founder and CTO of 10gen, knows all too well the perks and pitfalls of intern life. Though now head of a 75-person engineering team, Eliot began his professional life when he was 19 years old, when he undertook a summer internship with DoubleClick, a company co-founded by Dwight Merriman, 10gen’s Chairman and fellow co-founder.

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Before he jetted back to New York, I had the chance to ask Eliot about his time as an intern, and to enquire about any advice he would offer prospective and current interns of today:

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Welcome To Miami – 10gen All Company Meeting

March 8, 2013 in 10gen, Afterhours, Community Internship, Conferences, Intern Guide, Intern Training, MongoDB, Networking, Personal, Pictures

An Intern Goes Snorkelling

Just a over a  month ago I was catching my flight back to rainy London after a week in Miami. The 10gen All Company Meeting, and the mixture of work, sunshine, sea, sand and new friends afforded me one of the most enjoyable and eye opening experiences of my life. 

The concept behind an all-company meeting, especially for a growing company like 10gen which boasts an ever-increasing global presence, is to bring together all staff in one place for an opportunity to share new initiatives, company victories, upcoming challenges,  highlight employee accomplishments which reinforce the company’s values and culture and, vitally, unite the team around a common sense of purpose.

As an intern, the meeting allowed me to understand my placement company in more depth and to finally put faces to the names of those I interact with on a daily basis via email. It was great to be able to talk at length with members of the team in different departments, and to find out exactly what their jobs entailed – I was overawed by the enthusiasm and dedication I witnessed from all areas of the company. It forced me to think long and hard about where I’d like to be in 5 years time, and how I could use my degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Bath to forge a career path about which I would feel just as passionate and empowered by my work as those I met in Miami.

Of course, there was a huge amount of silly fun to be had too. The annual team building challenge did not disappoint, as we were tasked with building Lego sumo robots. Really.

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I was in a great team (though rather light on the engineers) whose robot, named LegoLass, came in at a nifty second place. Our robot’s special move won it particular support from the crowd, and earned it the nickname ‘Humper the HR Violation’ – I’ll leave that to your imaginations.

There’s not much more I can write without potentially violating company privacy policies, so I’ll leave you with some photos from my time in Miami.

A Job of Many Hats – Interning for a Startup

February 13, 2013 in 10gen, Afterhours, Community Internship, Community Marketing, Intern Advice, Intern Guide, Intern Training, Introduction, London Living, MongoDB, Networking, Slideshow, Social Media, Technology

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Deciding to pursue a position within a start-up can be a nerve-wracking choice. Before you accept an offer, examine the positives and negatives of startup employment. With these issues in mind, you can make a sound decision – oh, and be ready to spend a lot of your time explaining to relatives/friends/strangers just who exactly your company is, and what you do. Repeatedly.

No Job Description

Fond of having a structured role with set tasks and responsibilities? Then working for a start up probably isn’t for you.

If, like me, you are walking into an entirely new role, then chances are you will have the opportunity to carve your own position and influence the direction of your internship – you really do receive a great deal of autonomy. Great for those who flourish in a more haphazard environment, but not so good for those who look to organisation and structure to guide their working day.

Learn By Doing

Unlike larger companies, where  you may have to endure hours of official training, in the start-up world it’s ‘sink or swim’. I absolutely love that from the moment you walk in through the doors, you’re treated like an integral member of the team and are expected to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty.

In a start-up, everyone must pull their weight for the company to succeed, and as an intern you will be no exception to this rule.

low-pay-packetLow or No Salary

Young companies are generally unable to offer the same kind of financial package that a large company can, and you’ll tend to work harder and get paid less while at a startup compared to your comparable role within a larger company. Of course, this isn’t always the case – many start ups offer a competitive internship wage, and many larger companies neglect to pay their interns at all.

Many Hats

It seems the ominous phrase “other duties as required” becomes the norm, and you may find yourself performing duties that are not even close to your expected responsibilities  – for example, I have just taken over the role of Office Manager after coming onboard as a Community & Marketing intern. It’s all hands on deck, and thus startups offer fantastic opportunities to wear multiple hats and really get to know what it’s like to run an organization.

Passionate People

There is a certain energy and determination present in the start-up environment unlike anywhere else I’ve worked. Startups are almost invariably made up of passionate, excited people who are working there because they truly want to be working there, and it’s something special to be a part of that.

Flexible Schedule

Regular office hours? What’re they? “Nine to five” is a fiction at most startups. This is really a ‘glass half full/empty’ situation, because although you may find yourself still sat in the office at 10pm, you are equally as likely to enjoy the prospect of a lie-in on days when you just need that bit extra. Holiday also works on a far less formal, more flexible basis.

Working for a start up also means you’ll probably have the opportunity to attend a plethora of events – there’s not many people to go around, so even as an intern you will be counted as a crucial part of the team.

Out Of Business Riskclosed-out-of-business

Time for a reality check; an overwhelming number of start-ups will not survive past the first year. Obviously this is a substantial risk, but one which can pay off far beyond what you might expect, but can also leave you updating your CV and trawling the internet for vacancies within a breathtakingly short time.

Wealth Of Experience but Less Specialisation

Though you may not be pulling in the big bucks yet, working at a start up is valuable in another way; your hands-on, multi-functional experience will be a real asset for your long-term professional growth.

However, one thing I’ve certainly found is that you may experience some frustration when it comes to honing specific skills – when you’re doing a billion and one different things, it’s difficult to become the marketing/sales/engineering/consulting/etc guru you expected.

Friends, not Colleagues

The nature of a startup means you will continually be meeting new people and building relationships – and you’ll grow to see many of your colleagues as friends.

Feeling Valued

It can be frustrating being a little fish in a big pond, and start up culture, generally, removes many of the hierarchical barriers experienced in larger companies. For example, when the CEO of 10gen came over from California, he ensured that he and I had an in-depth one-to-one; probably a very unlikely situation in larger companies.

I also have the chance to travel a lot more than I might otherwise – during my internship so far I have been lucky enough to take business trips to places such as Aarhus and even Miami. Being  part of a smaller team means playing a bigger role.

Little Perks 

The dedication seen at startups comes hand in hand with the need to curate an enjoyable environment, and an attempt to cultivate a healthy company culture (read more about that here). It’s the little things that make life worthwhile, and in 10gen those include jeans, popcorn, beer, and office juggling competitions.

Personal Pride

The exhilaration of being part of a successful startup produces pride and a sense of accomplishment that is extraordinary. You will never regret the long hours, hard work and smaller paycheque.

6th, 7th & 8th IOAI.com Articles Published by the Huffington Post

January 2, 2013 in 10gen, Activism, Huffington Post, London Living, Meetup.com

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Though a slightly delayed announcement, I’m happy to say that  IOAI.com’s ‘Top 5 London Apps‘, ‘Preparing for a Job Interview‘ and ‘Clicktivism: A Model for 21st Century Activism?’ articles have been published by the Huffington Post.

Placement Tutors, Chocolate Biscuits and T-shirt Ties

December 17, 2012 in 10gen, Community Internship, Intern Advice, Intern Guide, Intern Training, Interview advice, Pictures, Slideshow, University of Bath

Today a little piece of Bath came to London.

As part of any University of Bath ‘sandwich’ degree, students are allocated a placement tutor, whose role it is to provide a range of support, advice and guidance to help placement students.

It was my turn. My tutor popped into the 10gen London offices to make sure everything was going smoothly for all parties, and that I wasn’t being held captive or sold into slave labour.

Oddly, although everything has been going swimmingly here during my internship, I was nervous. When you’re fully immersed in a placement year, it’s easy to become disassociated with university life, forgetting the routine of tests and assessments that go with it, as well as the mountains of paperwork. To be suddenly reminded of it was strangely unnerving.

I needn’t have worried however, as upon welcoming my tutor to the offices I found myself greeting a warm and easygoing Clare Wilson, Faculty Placements Manager.

From the off, Ms Wilson noted that my placement was different to the majority of my university classmates’; many find positions working for larger companies, accustomed to taking on interns and thus having clearly defined and fixed roles for their interns.

10gen, on the other hand, offers a true ‘start-up’ experience; all hands on deck, everyone mucking in and the chance to gain experience in a wide range of capacities. During my time here I have worked on projects with marketing, sales, outside companies and, of course, the community team. Each time I gain a fresh perspective and accrue new skills to help me in the future, as well as having the chance to work with a wide variety of wonderfully interesting people. It’s certainly something I love about my internship, and can recommend to anyone thinking of interning for a start-up.

One issue which was driven home pretty hard during the meeting was the importance of prepping for final year – numerous people, including my head of year, my line manager, former students, my placement tutor and even my parents have tried to press upon me the importance of using placement year constructively — in particular to prepare for dissertation writing. The reiteration of this fact was yet another reminder to prioritise this in the new year.

After an hour of nibbling on chocolate biscuits and chatting to our Community Marketing Manager, James Chesters, and 10gen’s EMEA Engineering Director, Alvin Richards, Ms Wilson seemed satisfied that I had found my perfect internship, and went on her way — like some kind of academic Mary Poppins, flitting her way between placement students in need all over Europe.

If nothing else, catching up with my placement tutor reinforced in my mind just how lucky I am to have landed such a great placement, with such fantastic and supportive people. Not only are my colleagues interested in ensuring I get the most out of my time working at 10gen, but also that I make time for my academic studies and am in good stead for returning to university next year. Bring it on!

James even wore a tie for meeting my tutor

 

Photos: 10gen London Office Warming Party

September 18, 2012 in 10gen, Afterhours, Community Internship, London Living, MongoDB, Networking, Personal, Pictures, Technology

Some of my time here at 10gen has been spent planning and organising the London office warming party, as we moved into our new offices only a few weeks ago. The party coincided with a special visit from 10gen President Max Schireson, who is normally based in our CA office.

A blog post on event organising is sure to follow in the next week or so, but for now I wanted to share some of the photos from the event itself – it was a great success, with a turn out of over 100 people.

The cupcakes which myself and a colleague made the night before seemed to go down a treat as well…

Photos: 10gen London Office Warming Party

September 18, 2012 in 10gen, Afterhours, Community Internship, London Living, MongoDB, Networking, Personal, Pictures, Technology

Some of my time here at 10gen has been spent planning and organising the London office warming party, as we moved into our new offices only a few weeks ago. The party coincided with a special visit from 10gen President Max Schireson, who is normally based in our CA office.

A blog post on event organising is sure to follow in the next week or so, but for now I wanted to share some of the photos from the event itself – it was a great success, with a turn out of over 100 people.

The cupcakes which myself and a colleague made the night before seemed to go down a treat as well…

Community Managing – What’s It All About?

September 3, 2012 in 10gen, Afterhours, Community Internship, Community Marketing, Intern Advice, Intern Guide, Intern Training, Introduction, Meetup.com, MongoDB, Networking, Personal, Social Media Marketing, Technology

Being a Community Manager isn’t what you might think…

You may have guessed that I’m somewhat of an internet addict, though my interest in all things www extends beyond your usual Facebook and Twitter fandom; instead I remain fascinated by the possibilities arising for individuals, organisations and businesses in seizing opportunities to network strategically, create targeted and sustainable campaigns and raise brand awareness.

One thing which I keep coming up against, however, is a confusion surrounding the concept of online community – and thus of community managing. In fact, even my own mother knows little of what this sector actually entails, which makes describing my internship to our friends and family rather a vague task.

So, Mum, hope this helps…

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Tea with the Mayor of New York

August 16, 2012 in 10gen, Afterhours, London Living, MongoDB, Networking, Pictures, Technology

Sometimes I think I must be in a coma, lying in a hospital bed somewhere creating fantasies in my head about interning at an impossibly great company in London, because some days it seems too good to be true.

Yesterday we had tea with the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. 

Mayor Bloomberg visited the NY office for a meet and greet with the entire staff – including all of us around the wonderful 10gen water cooler.

The move was part of his ongoing initiative to encourage growth in the tech sector in NYC, for which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne and Internet Week New York Chairman David-Michel Davies unveiled the “Made in NY” Digital Jobs Map; an interactive guide to the City’s startups, investors, incubators, and co-working spaces. Incredibly, nearly 500 tech startups have launched in New York City since 2007.

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The 10gen Penguin Challenge

August 15, 2012 in 10gen, Guest Post, Intern Guide, Introduction, London Living, Pictures, Prizes

Most workplaces have their own ‘traditions’, from company lunch days to initiation tasks. 10gen is no different…

Just when I thought they couldn’t throw anything more wonderfully odd my way, I found myself sat in the office, filming as one of our new Senior Account Managers attempted to eat 15 penguins in seven minutes.

The 10gen London ‘Penguin Challenge’ is notorious in the office, though I am still struggling to find anyone who can explain the potential gain for completing it – I know it has something to do with getting consulting time allocated.

Here, in his own words, our brave challenger recounts his experience:

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