More people work on the same floor as me than at any individual company I’ve worked at before. More people work for CNET than the cumulative sum of all my prior endeavors. To say my (not-so) new job is a different environment would be quite the understatement. And while I haven’t managed to get back on the blogging train, I can say, in a nutshell, I’m loving it.
It seems this journey of “startup to big company guy, and happy” is the less-common one these days. But last week I hit the six month mark, and thought it was a good time to reflect and share my learnings and observations thus far.
- Bureaucracy: Not Actually Everywhere
Probably my #1 fear going into joining CBS (parent company of CBS Interactive, parent company of CNET, etc) was the notion that I’d have to put in triple the work to get the same kind of output. TPS reports, etc. And sure, there are approval processes for many things, but I’ve yet to find something radically get in my way of doing my job.
- Startup Thinking is Alive and Well
Growth Hacking? A/B Testing? Cohorts? Check Check Check – we’ve got em. Fail fast? On it. Basically there’s a tremendous energy to go out, solve problems, build great products, etc. I think the biggest difference is the reality check of being a very established company that makes a lot of money, which leads me to…
- Mo (Any) Money, More Problems
Because so much of the things that happen at CNET already work, and work well, it can be challenging at times to want to push the envelope. I recently conducted an A/B test on a thing, and I had to face the challenge of knowing that, regardless of outcome, it could impact revenue/profits. Which makes me think much harder about when and where are the right times to do a test, what are the business / product / user consequences, etc. I don’t think of this as a bad thing (at all), but adds a new dimension to a lot of decision making.
- Status Quo is an Enemy
The other hidden challenge in a successful company is people get set into routines, and there’s not enough “Why?” being asked. Which leads to all sorts of nuanced inefficiencies in how we do things, such as the “too many people in too many meetings without clear agendas, goals, etc” types of problems. But there’s an upside…
- Change is Very Possible
The upside is a lot of openness to improving process, eliminating redundancies, speeding up flow, and more, across the organization. I obviously am not speaking to all big companies at this point, but at CBSi there’s a clear and obvious desire to improve anywhere and anytime. I believe the management here is very well-attuned to not resting on laurels, and instead aggressively chartering a path forward.
- A Different Kind of Busy
I fundamentally believe most people at most jobs are pretty busy – I’ve never considered myself not busy in the past. But my job now has me ending the day feeling like I actually do a lot more than I have in many previous roles. Not sure if this is simply a matter of the increased scale of the product itself, or bigger org, or what, but instead of avoiding afternoon caffeine for insomnia issues, now I’m seeking it out to recharge the batteries to get through the day (in a good way). It’s a hard nuance to describe, as I don’t feel negatively “worn down” from work, but more like I’ve just expended a lot of energy to get a lot of things done. Also, I’m having a much harder time keeping my inbox in my comfort zone, though I’m still not drowning.
- Having Resources is Awesome
At a startup, if you want to to analyze stats, or run a usertesting analysis, or plan a CES visit, or any other project that isn’t necessarily core to you, but isn’t core to anyone else either, pretty much you just roll up the sleeves and get it done. Having teams of people, who are experts at what they do, available to get things accomplished, is just amazing. Not only do I use my time more effectively, the work itself is done at a very high quality.
- Welcome to the Show
Between products like the Slingbox, Dropcam, Boxee, VUDU, NextGuide, and others, I’ve built a lot of things that a lot of people have used – which is nice. But at CNET I’m running a website that measures up in the billions of things. Most of America has visited CNET at some point this year. It’s insane. That rush I used to get watching a new site launch is just dwarfed by the scale here. And it’s a blast, as a product guy it’s as if I’ve been given the world’s largest toy to go play with. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s also kind of fun to be able to say you work for the biggest tech site in the world!
So, for the myriads of examples people have about how much inertia, slow-moving, politicalness and other challenges the aircraft carriers face, I’m thrilled that I’ve instead found myself at a gigantic speedboat. I’ve had a ton of fun with tweaks all across CNET.com itself, not to mention spearheading some new storytelling formats (like we used on our amazing Q&A with John Boyega from the new Star Wars movie), building new interactivity into our annual Holiday Gift Guide, some major new things for CNET in 2016 (our CES coverage is going to be insane), and my one more thing: the right-around-the-corner launch of our new amazing auto site: Roadshow.