Lessons from a 26 year old CEO
No seriously. How working for a millennial CEO taught me how to be confident, brave and a little bit crazy.
While the average age of a Fortune 500 CEO is 58, a growing number of millennials are swooping in to throw that off. Names such as Evan Spiegel of Snapchat (27), David Karp of Tumblr (31), Anthony Tan of Grab (34) and of course, wunderkind Zuckerberg (33) are redefining perceptions of CEOs in the digital age.
As a law student, I always imagined my future boss as a briefcase-toting, middle-aged man in a pinstripe suit. Fast forward to the present, I now work for an AirPod-wearing eccentric geek who is younger than me, and oversees operations in 6 countries and 80 members of staff. Meet Djoann Fal, CEO & Co-Founder of GetLinks, a Bangkok-based startup for tech talent matching across Asia.
When I announced that I was off to work for a 26-year-old CEO, everyone had their reservations, myself included. This wasn’t a shock. Just look at the typical job advertisement, and years of experience takes front and centre. It’s become a common theme through my, albeit short, career so far, to be greeted with a “sorry to interrupt, but how old are you?”,
I won’t launch into a debate about ageism, nor do I expect any sympathy for being/appearing young. What I will put forth is that there is a lot to be learnt from working under a young boss. Whether you have ambitions of becoming a millennial CEO, or just want to thrive in a working environment, here’s some tips and tricks I’ve picked up on.
1. Be your biggest cheerleader
Everybody and their mother will undermine you. After all, most meetings will be with seasoned top dogs with far more experience. You’ll not only need to live, breathe, eat and sleep confidence; you need to have utter belief in yourself and your company. Champion your vision and values beyond your organisation. Speak with confidence whenever questioned about your ideas. This doesn’t mean exercising unfettered discretion, but it does mean staying unfazed even when faced with snarky comments and backhanded compliments.
2. Make friends in high places
For a 26-year old, Djoann boasts an impressive network. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Southeast Asian venture capitalist, or someone in the tech / startup / recruitment ecosystem that Djoann hasn’t spoken to. After all you can’t get very far with limited knowledge, resources and experience; you’ll need the right people to guide you in the right direction. If you’re lucky enough they might even agree to mentor you, or even go on to become investors or advisors to your Company. Never be ashamed to ask for advice from your esteemed peers. After all they probably started off just like you; bootstrapping bright-eyed entrepreneur.
3. Focus and discipline
How do you cram 10 years of experience into one? Well, you can’t. But a lot can be accomplished with an unwavering focus and discipline. Every minute of Djoann’s calendar is meticulously planned, from weekly sprint meetings, to email housekeeping to personal reflection. Calls with mentors take place in commutes to appointments, and lunchtime is an opportunity to meet another person in the industry. Fourteen hour work days and a demanding travel schedule is exhausting for anyone. The main advantage of being young is that physically, you’ll be able to keep up with those demands if you stay disciplined.
4. Dream big
In the words of Superman himself ‘’So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” Even way before Djoann founded GetLinks in 2015, he dreamed that one day, we could change the future of work, creating freedom for people to work on things they are passionate about, as and when. Today, nothing as changed. This big, hairy, audacious goal is as big, hairy and audacious as ever. Except for every day, the company gets one step closer to achieving that goal. What started off as a pet project has turned into a 80 something strong organisation across 6 major tech hubs in Asia.
Interested in learning more about Djoann? Send an interview request via [email protected]