Monday, January 30, 2017

Entrepreneurship on the side

I had a fun conversation with Paul Merrill for his podcast Reflection as a Service. As we were closing the discussion in the post-recording part, something he said lead me to think about entrepreneurship and my take on it.

I've had my own company on the side of regular employment for over ten years. I have not considered myself an entrepreneur, because it has rarely been  my full time work.

I set a company up when I left a consultancy with the intent to become independent. I had been framed as a "senior test consultant" and back then I hated what my role had become. I would show up at various customers that were new to the consultancy, pretending I had time for them knowing that the reality was that on worst of my weeks, I had a different customer for each half a day. Wanting to be a great tester and make great impact in testing, that type of allocation did not feel like I could really do it. I was a mannequin and I quit to walk away from it.

Since I had been in contact with so many customers, I had nowhere to go. According to my competition clause, I couldn't work with any of those companies. They were listed in a separate contract, reminding me of where I can't work. One of the companies back then on the list of no-go was F-Secure, and the consulting I had done for F-Secure was a single Test Process Improvement assessment. F-Secure had a manager willing to fight for their right (my right) for employing me, and just stepping up to say that they vanished from my no-go list and I joined the company for 6-months that turned into three years.

As I was set out to leave in 6 months, we already set up a side work agreement. And in my three years with F-Secure, I started learning what power entrepreneurship on the side could have.

In the years to come, it allowed me a personal budget to do things the company wouldn't have budget for - including meetups and training that my employers weren't investing in for me. It allowed me to travel to #PayToSpeak conferences I could have never afforded without it. Training for money a day here and there were enough to give me the personal budget I was craving for.

I recently saw Michael Bolton tweet this:
I've known I'm self-employed on the side, and it has increased my awareness that everyone really is self-employed. We just choose different frames for various motivations to do so. On the side is a safe way of exploring entrepreneurship.