November 21, 2013

DORSETT: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Startup

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Douglas Adams, the man behind A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, ranks high among my favorite authors. For years, his words have hung above my bed: “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” These are words that I live by; wisdom that succinctly describes not only my personal experiences, but also my academic and professional life. I was impressed, when I first interviewed at Rosie, that these words hang on the office wall, followed by another Adams quote, “Don’t panic.”

Sound advice.

Alone or collectively, few of us ultimately end up where we expect. Many college students apply to a different college or to a different major than what they graduate with. Equally as many end up in jobs that they never would have imagined pursuing. In fourth grade, when I started thinking about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I decided that my dream was to become a mathematician for NASA. 10 years later, I’m an English major concentrating in creative writing.

I didn’t forsake my NASA dream to get where I am now. I nurtured it, and it grew, adapting as it did. I discovered that I’m not a fan of numbers or calculations, but I love logic and problem solving; I have little desire to work behind the scenes myself, but I’m fascinated by the idea of telling the stories of those who do. The jump between fourth grade and now was not a jump at all, but a series of small steps — a slow evolution. My path once I chose English was similarly tangled. I thought at various points that I wanted to attend graduate school, wanted to enter the publishing industry, wanted to pursue writing. Working in marketing for a tech startup was never on that list, and yet here I am. My goals have evolved, and my path has changed course.

Startups, I’ve learned, work in much the same way. Even big companies often started out doing something different. Marriott began as a root beer stand. Nintendo started out making playing cards. Facebook was initially intended to be a social network exclusively for Harvard students, and Toys “R” Us once sold only bicycles under a different name. Not one of these companies necessarily ended up where it originally intended, but all are inarguably successful. They evolved with the times to meet changing demands in budding markets.

Since its conception, Rosie has evolved at an astonishing rate. In my single semester of involvement, I’ve watched the firm grow more than I could have imagined, in more ways than I know how to describe. In the same way that I didn’t arrive where I am by a direct route, neither has Rosie. The logo, the literal face of the company, has changed; so, too, have the employee faces behind it. We’ve discovered that customers are more interested in delivery than predictive lists; that our data analytics capabilities represent huge potential. We’re learning as we go, adapting into the best possible version of ourselves as a company and as a team.

In the end, no one writing our history will be able to sum us up with a straight line. Our story is the sum of a dozen different detours, a hundred obstacles and a thousand opportunities that are more connected than one might think, a single constellation more beautiful for its complexity.

Individually and as a company, I am confident that we will continue to adapt and succeed. I consider myself privileged to be along for the ride. I may not have ended up quite where I initially intended to go, but I have ended up exactly where I need to be.