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.


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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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


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. – Now A Featured Blog

February 12, 2013 in Afterhours, Community Marketing, Introduction, Networking, Personal, Slideshow, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, Technology


I am happy to announce that has been selected as a Featured Publisher by Shareaholic –  the leader in making content discovery & sharing on the web. Look out for appearing in their Careers Channel as of tomorrow!

UPDATE: UoB Responds to ‘Spotted’ Page

January 18, 2013 in Activism, Personal, Politics, Sexism, Social Media, Technology, University of Bath

In the face of increasing pressure from sections of the University of Bath community and beyond, the University of Bath has responded by posting the below statement on the ‘Spotted: University of Bath Library’ group page.

UoB Response

Details of the UoB Dignity and Respect Policy can be found here

Clicktivism: A Model For 21st Century Activism?

November 28, 2012 in Activism, London Living, Personal, Politics, Slideshow, Social Media Marketing, Technology

A war is being fought. Its battlefields are the pages of social networking sites across the globe, and its soldiers are armed with placards and computer cursors. This is the battle of traditional activism versus clicktivism.

As a politics student who recently co-coordinated the launch of Peace Of Paper, an online community peace project, and who works within the field of online community management, this topic is one which continues to perturb me, often leading to my changing opinion throughout any discussion about its intrinsics.

Despite what you may think, the conflict between traditional activists opposing the online marketisation of social change and digital activists (often referred to derogatively as ‘slacktivists’) is not a particularly new one. Back in 1987, a husband and wife team sold their California-based software company for $13.8m, allowing the politically left-leaning founders to start an online political organisation called ‘MoveOn’. This site combined the principles of modern marketing with the technical skills of computer programming, and has been referred to as ‘the model for 21st century activism’.

Not everyone shares this optimistic view, however. In 2010, Micah White wrote “we’ve come to rely far too heavily on a particular form of internet organizing…we have become so dependent on digital gimmicks that our revolutionary potential is now constrained”.

In many ways this rings true; we have become obsessed with the digital marketing measurements of click-throughs, retweets and likes, assigning value only to that which we can quantitatively record. By doing this, we neglect a vital human element; that spark behind activist movements and revolution which ignites and inspires each individual to stand up, raise their voice and be heard.

Micah White goes on to argue that ‘clicktivism reinforces the fear of standing out from the crowd and taking a strong position. It discourages calling for drastic action. And as such, clicktivism will never breed social revolution. To think that it will is a fallacy. One that is dawning on us’.

Could this be right? In 2012, are we completely turning our backs on the trend of online petitions and ‘click causes’? If not, should we be?

Contrary to what I’ve written in the past, I would argue not. I’d like to speak out in defence of clicktivism; a bit of online activism for online activism, if you will.

Whilst it is certainly true that clicktivism often lacks the traditional gusto and media-friendly frenzy witnessed in ‘real life’ activism, such as protests and marches, it shouldn’t be consigned to the scrapheap of irrelevancy quite yet. In fact, in many ways it is doing a service for traditional activism by piquing the interest of those who might not otherwise have noticed a cause – clicktivism places the issues of today slap bang in your face(book) and makes them hard to ignore.

Critics of digital activism are often quick to loudly dismiss it as ineffective and inefficient, but often they are referencing only the ‘passive clicktivism’ tactics such as online petitions and Facebook status campaigns. They fall into the trap of overlooking the more proactive (though not necessarily positive or indeed completely successful) digital projects and organisations, a handful of which are outlined below.

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NaBloPoMo Entry 1: Tell us your favourite quotation and why?

November 1, 2012 in Afterhours, Intern Guide, Introduction, London Living, NaBloPoMo, Networking, Personal, Technology

‘Strong animals know when your hearts are weak’

– Hushpuppy, Beasts Of The Southern Wild (2012)


Words have a profound effect upon me; I can be sat on a crowded subway train, catch a fleeting glimpse of a phrase on a station advert, and have goosepimples for the rest of the journey. They can ruin my day, or lift me up in a moment of need.

Thing is, I tend to get them wrong. My interpretations of such verbiage, particularly those which mean the most to me, are often later revealed to be misconstrued and misinterpreted; as was the case with my latest literary scavenge – you may agree with my interpretation, or take from it your own.

Taken from Benh Zeitlin’s beautiful debut feature ‘Beasts of the Souther Wild’, this ambiguous line is spoken by a six-year-old African-American girl named Hushpuppy (a stunningly committed performance from newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis, I might add) during apocalyptic events set at the time of Katrina – though fittingly reminiscent of recent weather crises, as well as the potential catastrophic effects of climate change in the future.

At an incredibly emotional point in the film, this utterance jerked me into a state of clarity; it spoke to me of the true strength of character required to admit vulnerability. That in order to be a ‘strong beast’ (interpreting this as inner strength) you must first learn to open yourself to the world around you.

Something which, I admit, I do not find comes easily to me. The importance of vulnerability is one which I’ve only recently began to discover. In the past, I have been quick to see vulnerability as a weakness; a state of exposure which opens one up to manipulation and hurt, and only for those with too little backbone themselves to remain stoical and secure.

Here’s the caveat: The practice of opening to vulnerability is not for wimps – quite the opposite, in fact. It requires inner strength, discernment and clear boundaries.

In fact, the strongest and happiest people I’ve ever met are those who are comfortable in their vulnerability, who leave themselves open to all emotions and experiences which life throws at them, and do not shrink in fear from them as I so often do.

The state and strength of vulnerability does not mean taking stupid risks; it involves strong boundaries and a take-no-prisoners attitude toward challenging situations. It involves cultivating compassion for others, and opening yourself to empathy. It involves giving help when it’s needed, and asking for it when you’re in need.

At some point, most of us are forced to reclaim our vulnerability; whether we want to or not. It seems to me, if you don’t choose to consciously reconnect with your vulnerability, it will eventually come around from behind and wreak far greater damage than it might have if you faced it head on and took control of your own emotions and the situation. But when you allow yourself to consciously enter the state of vulnerability, you find that at its heart is peace; a self-confidence and self respect that can quietly turn your life on its head.

I still have a long way to go, but I will always keep with me that ‘a strong beast knows when your heart is weak‘.

Taking on the NaBloPoMo Challenge

November 1, 2012 in Afterhours, Introduction, London Living, NaBloPoMo, Personal, Pictures, Slideshow, Technology

NaBloPoMo November 2012 will be taking part in NaBloPoMo – National Blog Posting Month, which is upon us today.

The (hopefully) daily posts will be somewhat of a deviation from the norm for, as they will be inspired by NaBloPoMo writing promts, including the likes of:

  • If you could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?
  • If you had to get locked in some place (book store, amusement park, etc) overnight alone, where would you choose to be locked in?
  • Tell us about the worst trip you ever took.

Intern-oriented posts will continue to be published, and service as usual will resume come December. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the shake up, and come back for the daily updates and insights into a rather more personal side of my life.


Top 5 Most Useful London Apps

October 27, 2012 in Afterhours, Community Internship, Intern Advice, Intern Guide, London Living, Personal, Slideshow, Technology

Since moving to London I’ve learned a few home truths; squirrels may seem cute and fluffy, but they’re actually well-trained food-stealing thugs who won’t hesitate to mug you for a Tracker Bar; the cost of a round of drinks for you and your mates in Shoreditch would fund an entire night out and the taxi home in most other towns and; the guy on the overcrowded tube train with two empty seats either side of him is sat by himself for a reason.

That said, if it hadn’t been for the apps featured in today’s article, I would probably have learnt far more ‘London life lessons’ the hard way – such as getting lost in Brixton at 3am with no idea how to get home – and had a lot less fun.

I never realised how much I actually relied on my phone to help me muddle through my new life in London until, in true London style, it was stolen. Suddenly, I found myself adrift in a world of mystifying underground transport, place names which I only recognised from the Monopoly board and a frustrating inability to do work on the go.

With this in mind, here are my top 5 London apps:

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Re-Launch of

October 25, 2012 in Community Internship, Community Marketing, Intern Advice, Intern Guide, Slideshow, Social Media Marketing, Technology

Welcome to the launch of the new site – a website devoted to reaching out to fellow and potential interns, those who work with interns, whose who’d like to hire an intern and those who simply enjoy the occasional good ol’ rant.

The new site update includes :


What can you do to help?

I’m so glad you asked, you lovely person. There are 3 simple steps :-

  1. Subscribe to – this helps me to ensure that regular readers are kept up to date
  2. Follow me on Twitter – take a moment to say hello and share your thoughts about the site
  3. Spread the word – sharing is caring! Share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest; wherever you can.

Please be patient as I get all sections up-to-date and work through any bugs – in fact, you can help by letting me know if you come across any errors or dead links!

Women – Their Own Worst Enemies?

October 16, 2012 in Afterhours, Huffington Post, Intern Advice, Introduction, Networking, Personal, Sexism, Slideshow, Social Media Marketing, Technology

For years there has been talk of ‘men keeping women down’, but is it the bitter truth that women remain their own worst enemies?

With women holding so few key roles and leadership positions in boardrooms around the world, you might think we’d spend time building each other up rather than tearing each other down. But it seems that despite constant calls for more stringent gender equality measures in the workplace, it can often be women themselves sabotaging progress.

In 2010 Kelly Valen released a hard-hitting book entitled ‘The Twisted Sisterhood’, which revealed that almost 90% of the 3,000-plus women who took part in her survey frequently felt “currents of meanness and negativity emanating from other females” and that almost 85% of those who took part in the 50-question survey admitted having suffered “serious, life-altering knocks at the hands of other women”.

Valen went on to say that there was a distinct undercurrent of meanness and negativity plaguing our gender, and that these secret, social battles are waged, in many cases, by the very same women singing the praises of girl power, feminism, and female friendship in their lives”.

It’s a ‘Man’s World’ – so why aren’t we women helping one another?

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