I think it's fun to trace back significant events/people in my life and see how random or inevitable things were. Here are 8 ways I met people with whom I later had a significant business relationship, in rough reverse chronological order.
- Waiting in line for mix drinks at SXSW.
I met Leslie, the newest Rubyred team member (welcome to SF, Leslie!) in line for drinks at a very late party at South by Southwest, just a few minutes after I offended all of Austin at an open mic event. I was more than a little drunk and thought it was fun to ask people interview questions instead of party questions, and her answers were actually pretty good.
- At a fake product launch party. I met Cameron, a long time Rubyred team member (6 months!) at the fake launch party for a fake company called Supr.cilio.us.
- Through my friend Shawn.
I met Patrick (and dozens of other people) at Vodafone when my friend Shawn asked me to come in for a short design contract. I stayed at Vodafone for about 3 years and got to travel a lot and meet some great Europeans.
- Through my former-manager Patrick.
Patrick contacted me when he went to Yahoo after leaving Vodafone. I went to Yahoo and stayed for a few years. Shawn also recommended me for the Yahoo job, making him partly responsible for the 2 jobs that established my career. (Shawn eventually went to Razorfish, where he helped bring on my friends Rebecca and Lizzie, and is now at Organic.)
- Through my sister's friend Rebecca.
When I moved to SF my sister Flora was working at bSource.com with Rebecca, who helped me with my resume and introduced me to Thor. I worked with Thor at Trapezo and, on my second day there, I went to his house to watch the ill-fated 2000 presidential election results. There I met his wife Amy. Thor and Amy are now my partners in Rubyred.
- Through my dad's cousin Tony, and his business partner James.
I met Shawn when we both started working for Tony & James around 1997 near Philadelphia. I also worked with Ted there, who is now at Rubyred.
- Through the guy in charge of my college dorm, Brian.
I somehow impressed Brian in my first week at college, and he recommended me for a job with my dad's cousin Tony, who I had never met before.
- Through my sister Flora's friend Christi.
Flora told her friend Christi how I was smarter than other high-school students, and Christi introduced me to her boyfriend Chipp, who owned a company called Human Code, which later sold to Sapient. Chipp gave me a summer job the day after my high school graduation, and gave me a good reference when I went to work for Tony & James.
Is there a point to all this? Lets find a point.Point 1:
Having a few strong advocates can make a huge difference in your career. My sister Flora introduced me to some of the people who had huge effects on my life, and she isn't especially connected in my industry. She just constantly talks about how great I am, and some of the people she talks to turn out to be great business contacts.Point 2:
You can run into great people anywhere. Don't spend all your time scheming for business contacts like a smarmy salesman, but just because someone is a sloshy drunk bothering people at a bar doesn't mean they're not also a brilliant engineer or marketing genius. I like to force people into uncomfortable conversations about their life motivations as soon as I meet them, thus eliminating boring shallow people quickly.Point 3:
Business relationships last a long time. I'm barely 10 years into my career, and I expect to keep interacting with these same people for the next 20-30 years. When hiring or recommending people I always prefer those I've worked with in the past.
Side note: I think the worst thing you can ever do is personally insult someone. If you're lazy or you fail to deliver people might forget after a few years, but if you personally insult someone they'll remember forever. If that person happens to be well connected, or has a blog, their negative impression of you can effect you for many years.