Not too long ago I moved on from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science to come work for Base as a Product Specialist. Up until then, I had the incredible opportunity of leading the field hockey program at Michigan (go Blue!).
The thought of taking a break from training from division 1 athletics was certainly refreshing when my field hockey career came to an end, but the idea of sports no longer being a part of my day-to-day honestly scared the daylights out of me. The skills I’ve developed through sport make me who I am: the student, the leader, the motivator, the impact player. I was walking away from the tight-knit, transparent sports culture I identified and was comfortable with. Adios, athletics; hello, real world!
I came to Base under the impression that I had surrendered sports to my past life – no more long practices, game days, championships or teammates. I quickly realized that I was kidding myself – in a good way. Division 1 field hockey came to an end but I didn’t surrender any of these things; they’re just presented to me in a different way at Base.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stoked for 6am conditioning sessions and two-a-day schedules to come to an end, but it was difficult juggling the idea of no longer working that hard to separate my performance from others. But while I’m no longer striking a ball with my field hockey stick 1,000 times to perfect a particular skill, I’m training in a different way at Base. The unlimited number of opportunities to learn more at Base was and still is shocking.
To me, the term “training” means working toward something to improve performance and/or reach goals. At Base, we’re given “hungry money” each month that can be used toward our professional development – coding courses, conferences, you name it. I’m constantly searching for ways I can do my job better and with more efficiency; between the nature of my role as a product specialist and the ongoing changes that occur at every startup, the opportunity to train presents itself constantly.
“Get on the end line!” The words of death. Training a skill collectively with my line of defense in field hockey often led to this dreadful call that indicated we weren’t executing something the right way. One of the most challenging pieces in sport is figuring out how to execute a skill or strategy in the right way, because when it’s not performed correctly there’s feedback expressed in the form of sprints.
We’re not quite running sprints at Base, but we’re challenged with a different set of responsibilities and expected to figure out a way to get things done. We must be creative, innovative, efficient, and do things the right way the first time. Falling short of this means transparent feedback coming your way, alongside the challenge of approaching the problem you’re faced with in a more strategic way.
Facing raw competition was something I did not want to give up when my sports career came to an end. There is no better feeling than working toward a goal and having your reward in the form of victory. I laugh at myself for thinking that my competitive nature could simply subside when moving on from sports – a quality that makes you a threat in sports doesn’t just go away.
I compete with my colleagues to be the most efficient product specialist and produce the highest quality of work, so that as a team we can accomplish our ultimate task of providing the best support a product can have. We’re compared in metrics, but competition exceeds far beyond the support team, because as an enterprise startup in the CRM market, we are constantly working to challenge the status quo and move ahead of our competition.
The combination of emotions that blend in the pit of your stomach because you understand what’s possible but haven’t quite figured out how you’re going to get there – bring on the pressure! Anyone will likely feel pressure in their first job to do well, get promoted, and find the right path. But checking off a list of tasks when you’re a fish in a massive pond is substantially different than working for a startup. Everyone at Base has an innate drive to work toward producing meaningful work, set the highest of expectations to do the job in the best way possible, and influence by providing constant positive impact on the company.
Once an Athlete, Always an Athlete
What makes someone an athlete? When I think of an athlete, I personally think of the qualities of dedication, self-motivation, talent, etc. In other words, the idea of sport or physical activity is secondary to the true meaning of athletics. Instead, it has to do with the mentality one has toward an overall goal, which ultimately allows for the development of invaluable skills that define what it means to be an “athlete.”
In sports you’re often working with a group of athletes to outsmart the opponent, coming up with new plays and strategies or perfecting a different approach, finding a way to keep rivals on their toes. At Base, we are a team of athletes competing in the CRM market, relying on and honing a sports-like skillset needed to bring Base to victory.
Others who set the bar unfathomably high and work toward a collective end goal.
In sports, this is the teammate who challenges your strategy to uncover the best solution, shares honest feedback around your game decisions, and supports you. At Base, this is a colleague who challenges your thought process and ideas to find the best solution, collaborates to share insight and become better problem solvers, and comes up with creative solutions that continuously raise the bar for creating the best product and customer experience available.
Buying into something bigger than yourself.
Seeing a vision and believing in a vision are two different things. Seeing a vision means you understand what it takes to buy in and the steps necessary to get there. Believing in a vision goes beyond understanding the direction and end goal to finding ways to further impact, refine and drive that vision. An example in sports is seeing and thinking of winning a championship, versus staying after practice for another 100 reps everyday to perfect a shot that could win you the championship game.
The ability to overcome adversity or changes with poise.
At startups, big changes happen frequently right before your eyes. The ability to have extreme awareness, refocus and reprioritize, make good decisions under high pressure situations, and optimize under suboptimal circumstances is agility. For sports this could mean tearing your ACL, quickly refocusing to get healthy as quickly as possible, temporarily redefining your leadership role (i.e. off the field) and still creating impact to drive the team’s vision to be the best.
Striving to be the best.
Untouchable work ethic is a trait you can’t overlook anywhere – sports, work or school. Honing in on what it takes to become a true competitor and never losing sight of why you’re dedicating your time to something is what separates one who is motivated from one who is not. Here’s an example of the motivated versus the non-motivated in the workplace:
Non-motivated: Come into work, get coffee, check off the list of things to do, get more coffee, twiddle your thumbs through some meetings, leave work, collect a paycheck.
Motivated: Come up with a better process for doing something, strive to impact the company vision, challenge others around you, proudly represent and strive to improve the product you work with.
Finding Your New Sport
As you can see, the aspects of sport that I expected to say my farewells to have gone nowhere. It’s beyond a pleasant surprise to discover that I haven’t lost this “sporty” side of myself, but have instead polished and expanded my athletic skills through working at Base. It could seem like a stretch to compare a workplace to a sport, but I like to think of being incredibly passionate toward achieving something and collaborating with others to get there as the art of sport, and I’ve found that at Base.
Finding a job where the day to day is enjoyable and the benefits are good is called “work.” Becoming a part of a product or service – the vision, culture, and movement – is called “sport.” In case you’re interested in finding a job that enables you to channel your inner athlete in the ways that Base has allowed me to channel mine, I’ve come up with a few tips.
1. Find something you’re very passionate about. For work, this can require some exploring in areas you’re unfamiliar with, but finding a workplace where you truly believe in the product or service you come into work for everyday is critical.
2. Like the people you work with. If you’re seeking teammates, during the interview process, try to speak with someone (multiple people if possible) in the role you’ll be doing to figure out whether these are the people you want to collaborate with day-to-day.
3. Understand your strengths, weaknesses, and values. Figure out what your greatest threats are – what do you bring to the team as a colleague, student, or mentor that doesn’t come quite so easily for others? Learn what is keeping you from being at the next level. Where can you show improvement? The values that drive you to be your best shouldn’t conflict with your company’s values. In fact, they should align.
4. Apply to Base – we’re hiring! Join this team of Base athletes, or at least reach out to me in the comments section below to have a conversation and learn more!