Don't Accept Crap Rules

Don't Accept Crap Rules

Aubrey Blanche

Devin Miller

The Inventive Journey

Podcast for Entrepreneurs

9/29/2020

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Don't Accept Crap Rules

Don't believe all the crap rules they tell you. Most of it is made up. Ask for whatever you want.

My job title is "Head of Equitable Design" which was NOT the job that they were hiring for. I have a history of literally making up my own job. That's the thing about tech. It calls itself very innovative, but it's actually a very risk-averse industry.

And so one of the lessons that I've learned is that there is a lot of facades about what is possible, and what you are told is possible. But if you can punch through that, hopefully non-violently, and just say, "Here's what I want!" I have found more often than not that you'll bring folks to you that want to give you that thing & share that vision.



The Inventive Journey

Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.

ai generated transcription

don't believe all the crap rules they tell you most of it's made up ask for whatever you want okay go ahead um yeah i think um you know my job title is head of equitable design which was not the job that they were hiring for um i have a history of like literally making up my own job uh and and i think that's the thing about tech is it calls itself very innovative but it's actually very risk-averse industry um and so and so one of the lessons that i've learned is that there's a lot of facades about what is possible and what you're told is possible but if you can punch through that hopefully non-violently um that uh if you can punch through that and just say here's what i want um i have found more often than not you'll bring you'll bring folks to you that want to give you that thing or share that vision hey everyone this is devin miller here with the another episode of the inventive journey and i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's built several companies to uh seven eight figure companies as well as uh built or founded miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and today we have a great uh guest on the podcast and is aubrey and uh aubry is now working at uh culture amp and uh as that going for today and then she'll give a little bit of a backstory of working in maybe a little bit of a predominantly male or male industry and how you navigate that and investing in finance and building companies and everything else and so with that much of an intro welcome on to the podcast aubry thank you so much for having me i'm super jazzed to be here so uh for folks who don't know who i am uh which would make sense for most of you um i'm aubrey they call me the math path uh which is math nerd plus empath um and in my day job i'm the director of equitable design uh at culture amp which is what i think is the new hotness and what we used to call diversity and inclusion so i look after organizational justice in their in their business operations but in my not day job um i'm the founder of the math path um which is sort of my startup and then i'm also a venture capitalist and startup advisor so i have the incredible luck uh to work with really really brilliant underrepresented founders in all sorts of areas of tech so all tech lots of math lots of lots of empathy and justice is my jam awesome well perfect so with all of that is kind of your intro then as we always uh go through with you you know talk a bit about the journey and the steps that led up to where you're at today and what you have going on today so with that let's take those couple steps back and uh tell us a little bit about kind of the journey that led up to where you're at today yeah so i think um the my story sounds like perhaps like the most classic entrepreneurial story although i think i started as i i heard this word and it resonated with me which was intrapreneur um so sort of taking this entrepreneurial spirit but doing within the context of an existing organization and so i am i dropped out of stanford a bit ago uh as as one sometimes does although i certainly didn't think i ever would um and i landed in texas hold on that's an intro what stanford so a lot of people work very hard to get into good schools stanford is obviously a good school you know it takes a lot of time whether it's good grades it's an expensive school it's you know you have to take the elsa or the aect or their sat down where you at everything else you get through what made you decide after getting into stanford doing all that work that you're going to drop out or go a different path yeah so i was uh i was uh working on a phd in in political science and to be totally honest i had some really great collaborators um but i saw white male professors stealing ideas from black female grad students i saw male professors who refused to advise me um for reasons that were not related to my work and i just kind of realized i went to help ask for help for professors and it didn't come and so again very entrepreneurial of me i said fine i'll take the masters and leave i don't perceive that the institution is going to shift so i'm going to go find somewhere else um sort of do interesting stuff i've been lucky to have a lot of opportunities so being able to do that is is absolutely a privilege and um let me just be real as a latina woman in academia it's rough and so i went to tech which is not like meaningfully different from a demographics point of view but uh but what was important and i think very different about tech and the reason that i've stayed despite the fact that we're still dealing with trying to get the tech industry to be the meritocracy it um believes itself to be is is that i could create change so i landed at a company called palantir technologies and um so i'm mexican american and i'm from the midwest and i was in california and i just looked around like where are the rest of the mexicans like we're in california why is you know why is this industry so white why are the meetups i'm going to but what was really cool was you know when i said here's actually where we can tackle that we can raise the hiring bar we can improve the experience for everybody right white men included and and you know i have a lot of my training is in social science i know how to do this the difference between sort of academia and tech was tech said cool let's do that and so that was that was really it i made the jump to atlassian and i spent five years um so pre-ipo through um sort of them becoming a 4 000 employee multinational business um and really i founded um you know and scaled their diversity and belonging practice so um so i worked across the you know in the talent operations but also because they're a collaboration company on things like product accessibility um i even built my own technical product to actually automate a lot of the analysis i was doing by hand um so i have a little bit of product manager in me although it wouldn't show up in a job title and then you know after five years excited for the new thing and super super passionate about building cultures where people thrive and so culture amps seemed like the obvious place to go and you know australian startups are apparently my thing um but yeah so you see dropped out of stanford and then you went to remind me the name of the company again that's called calendar technologies so big data analytics um aggravator and aggregate or sorry uh data analytics and headquartered in palo alto okay and then over to atlassian so enterprise sort of sas collaboration and and now we've taken a pivot to hr tech and then within sort of my investments um on my investment thesis before we jump so just to get it so stanford then you went to the current company or not to the current company but to the the company that you worked with for do you say about five years did hr it was yeah so started actually um when my first job in tech was in business development um so i was doing like green field uh government and and corporate biz dev uh moved into hr when i decided i wanted to be professionally gay um and then and then um and then you know atlassian called with a really compelling offer i just couldn't say no to and so i had the luck to spend five years uh on that team before i jumped a culture amp just in february so you worked with you know you mentioned that you built you know the company went from and you know i don't you built or helped build or the company as you're working with and helping to build it from scratch build it from the ground up so to speak went from 1 000 to 4 100 employees is that right and so how you know doing that that's you know that's a pretty sizable company by any measure to have that many employees so you know going from that what made you decide okay we've that it's grown to that now i'm going to jump out of that and go do something different yeah i think for me it was it was more about i was ready to um i'm very much you know there are people who are like builders and scalers and people who are you know maintainers and sort of really great at those big orgs and i think i'm um i'm someone who doesn't fit into very many boxes and as you get bigger you tend to specialize and i love i'm a problem person you know i care about a problem and whatever skills or tools you need to throw at it that's what i pull together and so i realized that to keep growing myself i wanted to go back to a smaller company i felt like we we built something incredible i did lassie and you know sort of hand it off and put it in the right hands and you feel good trusting the team to carry it forward and so going to culture amp for me was an opportunity to um incorporate the lessons for midlassian like build it better the next time but also because paul trump's products and i've been a customer for years i'm like the world's biggest super fan um i wrote a game theory model to the ceo to like get him to hire me it was very absurd um like i'm so passionate about it and i have used the products and gotten so much value out of them that the idea to get to work on the products and support their customers like you shouldn't go into a job search with only one job you want but luckily it worked out so if you would do it really it was it wasn't necessarily you were unhap unhappy with the current job or that it wasn't going well but it was more because i and i i tend to see that that resonates and it's interesting and i've talked about it on a couple of previous episodes you know if you look at the the story of what would be netflix and you go through and read all of that and there's a great book out there that's called that will never work and um kind of goes through for mark randolph which is the original founder you often hear hastings which is a person everybody associates with netflix but when randolph started it was you know it was bad this was back in the day many people don't maybe even remember that they sold the bb or they did dvds in the mail right so before netflix today but when they did that um they kind of got to the point to randolph you know when they started out they kind of have all generalists right and that's a lot of what you do when there's a startup you have to have someone that can wear multiple hats they can do a lot of different jobs you know you don't have to necessarily be an expert in one area but you have to be good at a lot of things and as the company grew in transition then you had randolph which is a good ceo for when the company was growing when his building having vision and that but then they got to a point where really they needed the specialists and as they moved into the specialist that's where hastings came in kind of took over ceo and randolph moved out and so i think there is for a lot of companies and you know whether it's companies is the the culture you know sometimes it's necessitated by the company being that way and needing to transition from generalists to specialists and sometimes it's the people are saying i like startups i like to have that multiple hats when i get too specialized it kind of loses some of the fun and excitement because now you only do one thing you can do it very well but you don't get to do all those hats so i think that certainly resonates with a lot of people yeah and and like and i think one of the things um you know is is it's just about a different type of leadership i think the other thing was i looked at i looked at the function i looked at the team and i just couldn't say with honesty that like i was the best possible leader to take it on the next phase of the journey and so i think it's important um especially as you think about you know some founders aren't meant to scale their companies to 5000 right that's not and so i think as a leader part of part of uh like the maturity curve and the growth is understanding when like you're no longer the right person and and trusting that you've made the right choices along the way and put the right people in the right seat such that they can actually bring the right person in um to be that sort of next driver and so i think that's what it is like startups always embracing change but sometimes that means change in our roles too so you bring up a ninja how do you so how did you get to the point you know how do you get back in it's hard when you're working you know you're so close to something and you know you built it you've seen it grow it has become expanded and a lot you know a lot of blood sweat and tears kind of go into that how do you how did you or you know get to the point you're saying i don't want to you know it's not necessarily i don't want to say i want to do something different or i'm not the right person to drive you know to continue to drive the company because that's a lot of times a hard thing you're saying hey i've put all this time and effort and you know help to grow and done all these things and now i'm stepping away and you know a lot of times that's a hard pill to swallow and especially you're saying i want you know this is kind of like a baby or child that i've seen grow so how did you come to that realization or what was that process for you yeah so um i would say that i i listened to past aubry and so this is my strategy uh we all have our own um also a therapist just always as my general recommendation like take that stuff to a professional but so when i walked in i did lastly in the first month i actually wrote down five metrics i wanted to hit and i called them my five year metrics like in five years atlassian these things are going to be true and it was um representation of women in technical roles women in engineering um black latin and indigenous folks in technical roles uh women in leadership and then a specific metric around uh attrition for women in engineering where i wanted those numbers to go based on where they were and it was a set of metrics that at the end of every fiscal year i looked up and i said like how close are we to these these aren't the official reporting metrics like this was for me and like my personal leadership reflection and in sort of june which was the end of the fiscal year of year four when i was there when i did my checkup i realized we had hit every metric a year before i had written down the goal and so and i didn't even realize it because there was so much going on and it's such a dynamic company and that for me i said okay you did the thing that you said you were gonna come here to do so now the question is what's the neck and then i ask myself what's the next thing i want to do um and my answer was work more deeply on product work at a higher like a click up in terms of scale and then i went back and and i sort of looked at atlassian and i said is this the place that gets me that thing and i landed on no not because the company wasn't great but just because where i wanted to go ended up diverging and so i stayed you know for another quarter to kind of get the year kicked off and and everything so i felt like i part of for me the moving on was actually that that quarter that i stayed after um to sort of you know give myself the space and time not only to process my own leaving but also to wrap it up so i didn't feel like i was just dropping the baby if we're going to go with your metaphor which sounds a little weird linguistically but hopefully emotionally recommended no i i i get the metaphor it makes sense to me so um so as you did that you decide okay we're kind of taking the virgin pass or the path that i want to take to verges from where they're headed it doesn't you know now i want to go out accomplish new things could take a different direction get back into startups get back into investing so made that jump made that transition how has it gone so far or how's that our journey to air been for you yeah can you say that one more time your sound cut out just a moment this is uh pandemic life no i was saying so as you you see you made the decision okay i'm going to make that shift i'm going to go in a different direction this is where i want to head after i cut or accomplish all my goals he started to get more into startups starting to get more into investing and kind of go back in that direction how has that gone for you has it gone great been perfect it's been a tough slog or how has that gotten kind of gone forward yeah um so i love it um i see like my investing work so startup wise um i like go to work every day and i'm just like thank goodness i got the job um like i have the coolest kindest co-workers i've ever had in my life and i already felt like i had a really high bar um so i think the thing about culture amp that's so incredible for me is that it's like the people who think about data and like human experience all day and um you know to have to have a place where you walk in and you have your technical leaders who already have their own articulated philosophies on organizational justice and like how that relates to technical products is right like i am expanding and i'm getting to learn so much um from my peers and and so that's amazing for me and i was lucky to sort of catch uh you know sort of catch the ball from from culture amp's first head of diversity and inclusion um so that was amazing in the culture there was so much foundation built so it was a different experience than a build from scratch where there was a lot already built but now it's about what does it look like to scale it because you know culture had been a smaller company so that's great and then the investing honestly i love it because you know trying to make you know money for brown folks in capitalism is a great goal anyway but for me getting to work with founders it's such a special sort of mindset of person who can envision the future and then has the audacity to demand that it's built um i get so much inspiration from the founders that i talk to whether i know you know something deeply about their business model or not and like it's hard to not be in awe of the privilege of having the opportunity to contribute in some way to people that are just trying to make a world that's the one that we all deserve rather than the one we're saddled with at the moment so that for me is just luck and you know often it's just jumping on a zoom call for 30 minutes but suddenly you know my mind's expanded to what's possible and i get to sort of cheer from the sidelines um in many cases or when i'm on the calf table very much not the sidelines um and so and so that's it for me is like i get a lot of energy and joy out of seeing other people bring what they're supposed to bring into the world so yeah i get to do that all day like who gets to say that that's like their dream job is they get to create the stuff they wish existed hey that that sounds like a dream job to me that's always a fun job to have so now for you to take so that kind of brings us up to where you're at today nick take the next six months to a year kind of where do you see things heading where is that what's the goals or where do you what's the what's it what do you want to achieve in those next six years so um what do i want to achieve i think the the two big projects um or i think it would be remiss of me not to sort of name that we're in this this huge cultural shift um right now and the way that i describe it to folks who aren't in the industry is it's like we've suddenly gotten the permission to stop calling it unconscious bias and just talk about racism and it turns out it's a lot easier to solve when we you know when we describe a thing as as what it is because then we can go and here's another option let's do the other option and and so really my my six month plan and for folks who want to check it out and keep me honest i'm big on transparency and accountability is um you can check out the plan that um i worked on with with my peers at to do culturenbc evolve as an anti-racist organization so a lot of the back half of my year is uh intensive coaching with each of our executives working with our managers and hr leaders to help them deeply personally own and drive anti-racism within their their lives and their work practices um and there's a whole lot of programs in between those things that haven't gotten to you you can check them out online um but so really delivering on that plan and not just delivering the plan but making sure that those programs have the impact we intended which is creating more racial justice at culture amp that's sort of my north star um and i have i should say i as if there are not hundreds of people who are sprinting right alongside me to get it done right it's always a team effort and then the secondary piece is um making some some uh bigger moves in terms of investment and startups so there's a couple of startups um that i'm working really deeply on that i'm really really excited about um in terms of where they're at so going deep with a couple of underrepresented founders to help them hit that next sort of uh moment in their growth trajectory if you will uh so keeping my fingers crossed that i can provide as much value and we can we can see them sort of hit the exit velocity that um that quite frankly only people from a certain group in this industry tend to get to okay no i that sounds like a great uh great uh next six to 12 months in front of you and i think that there's a lot of great things to accomplish so well as we get towards the end of the podcast and i always ask two questions at the end so maybe we'll jump to those now and talk about those for a couple minutes so the first question i always ask is what's the worst business decision you ever made oh that's so good um oh uh not hiring like a brilliant biz ops manager so if you're listening i'm hiring um no uh so in the math path i think um like that's not my forte i'm not amazing at it and i i uh with my side business i feel like i'm always a step behind on like the basic biz ops um stuff internally and i i think uh i didn't properly understand and value like the skill and expertise that that brings to the business um or how much of like a truly specialized bit of knowledge it is to do it really well um so that was naivete on my part having not done that i'm grateful for the learning um but definitely something that i i sunk a lot of not very smart time and capacity into setup that i could have outsourced to someone who was brilliant um and then you know supported them and helping them learn and grow um so next time we'll get there all right no and i think that's that's an easy one i think it's if you're a startup or an entrepreneur love startups and small businesses first of all you always you're working against yourself in the in the fact at least a lot of people and myself are absolutely included that you think you can do everything and do everything better than everybody else and so oftentimes rather than things that you should hand off for people you could come in that would be an expert or that you could offload to you tend to either study it out do yourself or not pat or hand that off and i think that that sometimes can keep the business from going as quickly or you don't get it done as well and even on the off chance that you can do everything which nobody can do everything the other problem is you never have enough time in the day to get everything done yeah exactly and again you know thinking about it and that probably goes back to like the general leadership failure which is like control freak tendencies right we tend to get there that way and then you have to learn the lesson of like stop there are people better than you trust them um and that's a good lesson to hold that too so all right so now we'll jump to the second question so the second question always asks so if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or small business just starting out what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them uh don't believe all the crap rules they tell you most of it's made up ask for whatever you want okay go ahead um yeah i think um you know my job title is head of equitable design which was not the job that they were hiring for um i have a history of like literally making up my own job uh and and i think that's the thing about tech is it calls itself very innovative but it's actually very risk-averse industry um and so and so one of the lessons that i've learned is that there's a lot of facades about what is possible and what you're told is possible but if you can punch through that hopefully non-violently um that uh if you can punch through that and just say here's what i want um i have found more often than not you'll bring you'll bring folks to you that want to give you that thing or share that vision but you are unlikely to get it if you don't state that that's what you want so that's what say say it and if they say no move on and ask again i've been told no more times than i could possibly count okay now and you kind of answer the ques the follow-up questions are going to ask is the question let's say i hire x person for exposition and then they start to come and say well i'd like to do this or like to you know make your own position how does it get to where they're saying no i hired you for this go do this and how do you do it on the way in so right it's got to be full consent all the way which is um which is basically a and blessed didier uh that culture ceo for tolerating me as a candidate but i basically said i hate diversity and inclusion i want equitable design and impact and here's how the job is different than what you expect what do you think and we actually had a really great discussion about his vision for the role what he wanted with the company my goals and what i wanted to do and so even though i didn't get exactly what i initially laid out we came to this agreement point but it was actually a really constructive discussion that was more interesting than him just asking me about stuff i had done um and so i think that's the other thing is even when you don't get 100 of what you want there's a lot that you can gain and learn from going in and being really clear about what your expectations are all right no i think that makes perfect sense so as we wrap up if people want to get it or get in contact with you want to learn more want to get advice or anything of the any of the above what's the best way to reach out or connect with you yeah two best ways um check out aubreyblanche.com um hello at aubrey blanche if you want to get uh quick or i'm on twitter at a deep blanche i like to call it my digital soapbox uh so come say hi perfect well i certainly invite everybody to uh go go there check you out connect up with any questions or anything that uh check out culture amp and everything you're doing there and uh then certainly for everybody that anybody that's a listener that has a great journey to tell they'd like to come on certainly feel free to go to inventive journey get inventive journeyguest.com and apply to be a guest and then if you're a listener make sure to click subscribe so you can get this episode and all the new episodes as they come out and lastly if you have any um patents or trademarks you need help with feel free to reach out to us at miller ip line we're always here to help well aubry it's been fun to have you on it's been a great episode and appreciate your time and uh and wish you the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you so much i love this uh excited to chat again soon all right thanks [Music] English (auto-generated) All Podcasts Related From Miller IP Law Recently uploaded

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