No Fancy Name
Thursday, August 17, 2006
modifying Guy Kawasaki's Silicon Valley employment how-to...for academics
I will bet good money that the academic folks who read this blog don't know Guy Kawasaki. That's ok. The short answer is that he's a venture capitalist. But the longer answer is that he's one of the few business and technology folks I like. Actually, I think he's pretty cool. Take that for what it's worth, or read his "about" page and check out the list of books he's written. A long, long time ago (6 years) when I was embarking on an ill-fated build-a-company project with a liar and a cheat, I used a significant amount of the Guy Kawasaki/ info that was available. It's where I learned about the elevator pitch, which has served me well even in academia!

Let me digress and tell the story...

Briefly, an elevator pitch is an overview of a project (or an idea for one) that can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride. For instance, Jane Entrepreneur has a great idea for a business and stalks runs into a venture capitalist at their office in a random office building. Seizing the opportunity but constrained by the elevator ride from the ground floor to, say, the third floor, Jane pitches her idea from start to finish. The door opens at the third floor, but the venture capitalist doesn't step out immediately—instead, the VC reaches for a business card and tells Jane to call the office for an appointment. Money flows, everyone is happy, they change the world, and it's all because of the elevator pitch.

During the final class period of my lovely seminar in the American Romantics, as we handed in our seminar papers the prof said we should chat about them if we had time at the end. I said, "hey! we can do elevator pitches."


[people looking at me like I have three heads...]

So I explained the elevator pitch and then made it applicable to a bunch of grad students in English: "limited to 30 seconds (or so) each, it'll only take 10 minutes and boy won't we look like experts by being able to distill our papers in just 30 seconds." My thinking was that if we bled, sweat, and cried over these essays for a semester, we damn well better be able to present our thesis and findings in 30 seconds or less!

You will not be surprised to learn that the people who ended up with As on their essays were those able to complete the elevator pitch, and those who were still talking when the elevator was on the 48th floor and we still didn't know what the paper was about...well, they didn't do so well.

Back to my point...

A few days ago, Guy wrote a post called Everything You Wanted to Know About Getting a Job in Silicon Valley But Didn't Know Who to Ask. Having spent several years in the mid-90s being a contractor, meaning every six or eight weeks I was off on an interview with someone or another, I can tell you his post is spot-on.


All you academics who have been through the job market, how would you amend his list for academics?

For instance,he says:
1. Love what the company does. Passion for what a company makes or does is the most important factor in getting a job in Silicon Valley. Companies here are built on passion—indeed, perhaps more passion than reality. Hence, they hire passionate people who are already in the Reality Distortion Field. The question is, How do you show your passion?

The best way is to profess your love of the company's product or service, and I literally mean "love" not "read about," "have used," or "looked at the web site." If the company is at all enlightened, passion can overcome the lack of a "perfect" educational background and work experience.
How do you do this in academia without looking like a crazy person? I'm thinking "OMG, the undergrad requirements for the major is teh r0x0r" won't go over well.

I assume Guy's point #4, "Expect the funny farm," is the easiest to modify.


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