A Year at Cledara: a graduate’s reflections on life at a rocketing startup

With last week marking my first year working at Cledara (and my first year working after university), I couldn’t think of a better time to reflect, share my key takeaways and say thank you.
A Year at Cledara: a graduate’s reflections on life at a rocketing startup

A pandemic graduation

I’m not usually comfortable talking about myself, but for this blog to make sense, you need some context. So here goes.

Let me take you back a year...  

It’s eGraduation day (shame on COVID), and I’m facing the same worries as every other graduate: “What do I do now? How do I get a job? What do I need to learn?!”. 

So I started by asking what successful business people are interested in these days. And I kept getting the same answer: “You need to understand the digital economy and find a way to become a part of it”.

All right, I said to myself, let’s do it.

After a lifetime of classroom learning, I assumed that was the way to go. So two days after eGraduation (shame on COVID again), I enrolled in a digital marketing masters. The ticket to my digital education…or so I thought.  

Cledara’s first marketing hire

As it turned out, I found a much faster and better way to learn about the digital economy. 

Enter Cristina and Brad, the founders of Cledara.

I met them having my first beer after lockdown at the local pub and we discussed many things (like how crazy the world looked). But most importantly, they explained how they were building a platform to help companies manage their software subscriptions.

Something I understood very little about at the time.

They told me that the way companies interact with software was ripe for change, and that they were planning to shape how the world would handle that change.

And as my university friends know, the idea that “the world is changing” never fails to pique my interest. 

Plus, Cristina and Brad seemed like the kind of people who would help me learn a bunch of things, and their business was positioned right in the middle of this digital thunderstorm.

It was a no brainer! 

A week or so later, I found myself as the first marketing hire in a fintech startup that had just turned two years old. There was lots to do and even more to learn.

You’re in the right place, Pablo! I thought. Give it your all.

Working at a young startup: three key takeaways

Now that you’re up to date, I can get to the important part of this blog:

Other than a great dress code, what’s it like to work at a tech startup right after university?

I might be biased, but I think it’s as cool as it gets.

Tech startups like Cledara are vibrant places to work in, because everything is new, yet the majority of things haven’t been done, tried or tested.

And that means a lot of things, but here’s my three key takeaways.

Learn as you go 

First, for probably half of the things you’re doing, you’ll need to figure them out as you go, which I found very interesting. 

It’s like trying a black slope on your first day skiing. 

If you embrace it, there isn’t a more effective way to learn.

But don’t forget about strategy

The second thing, which I wasn’t expecting, is that working in a young startup is not just getting things done, one after another.

It’s very strategic. 

You need to figure out what the market wants, what’s the best solution for that and then get it out in a way customers understand and love.

And established companies may have their playbooks for that, but definitely not young startups in emerging categories.

And figuring it out it's really fun.

Learn to deliver

I’ve found that delivering good quality work, and doing that fast (and if possible ahead of time for the team) is key not just for the company, but also for your professional progression.

And learning that early in your career is important.

So learning how to work, and learning how to work hard and go above and beyond is something you can learn in a startup like Cledara.

Do I recommend working at a startup right after university?

Yes. A big yes. Why?

Speed is king

At a place like Cledara, decisions are taken quickly (I’ve learned speed is very important in startups) and executed even faster. You don’t get that in bigger companies. And the slower the process, the slower you learn. 

Speed is a theme that continues across the company, a feature that's beneficial for anyone who wants to learn. 

Since teams are small, information flows fast. That takes projects to another level. Plus, it’s easier to understand how different parts of the business work.

And that is a very positive experience for any graduate. 

The chance to learn everyday 

I think that as a junior employee, all you need is a willingness to learn. You can (and must) learn by yourself, but there are certain things that only experienced people can teach. 

And in a startup like Cledara, where everybody rolls up their sleeves and is available to help, inexperienced employees get the chance to talk to people daily that you wouldn’t even see in a big company.

And that’s exactly what you need as a graduate.

Is it for everyone? 

I think working in a startup like Cledara is one of those things that, the more you give, the more you get back. 

So, I would argue that if you’re the kind of person that gets into things, is comfortable taking ownership and is proactive, rather than passive, you’ll probably make the most of startup life. 

I believe it’s also really important to have passion. You’re testing ideas all the time. Ideas that you have numbers to support, but that are untested on a massive scale… Yet. And I think it’s hard to get to that point without passion. 

I can’t think of anyone at Cledara who isn’t passionate about what they do and what we’re trying to achieve. Maybe it’s different in other startups, but that’s my experience. 

Finally, thanks to everyone 

I’d like to honestly thank everybody that has ever helped me get to this point.

The first people that come to mind are my family. Especially my parents, who taught me everything I know and supported me throughout the years (which probably wasn’t very easy). Thanks guys, you’re the best!

I’d also like to thank the Cledara team.

To Cristina and Brad, for trusting me, answering all my questions and being willing to teach me not just startup strategy, but many more things. I can’t thank you enough.

To Rob, for mentoring me and supporting me along the way, as well as involving me in all aspects of startup marketing.

To Juanmi, for always taking my design opinion into account and answering all my questions in no-time. It feels like we’ve been working together for years.

To Sam, because even if it’s only been a couple of weeks, I feel I’m already learning from you. Oh, and for reviewing this blog!

To Oscar and the sales team, I honestly enjoy working with you a lot. You make it very easy and fun.

To Iñigo, who will always be my best first anniversary mate and always brings something fun and interesting to the table.

To Gerard, for all those great days at the office.

And to everyone in Cledara I don’t get the chance to work directly with. Thank you, it’s been one amazing year – I’m excited to see where we’ll be in another year’s time.

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