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Considering Your Impact In a Career




This month’s article focuses on exploring the wise words of Kobus Jooste–Co-Founder and CEO of Syllable, and former Director of Software Engineering at Google. Reflecting on Jooste’s interview with our Founder, Helen Wang, the author shares her perspective on Jooste’s experience in creating successful startups, insightful advice about finding happiness in your career, and his journey through contrasting smaller and larger companies. Keep reading to learn more about passion, happiness, career decisions, and what truly keeps the soul of a startup running.

Career Considerations

One of the most important factors to consider when going down a career path is weighing whether to be part of a smaller startup or a fully developed company. Jooste shares his own story of being the former Director of Software Engineering at Google, and how this massive company taught him innumerable lessons–including ones that led him to favor startups with smaller teams.

In such a big community, it’s difficult to make a bigger impact. You’re able to easily become a smaller opinion, and your effect on a project lessens as an overabundance of perspectives are added on. However, working for a larger business is a great opportunity to grow in a community surrounded by mentors. Especially if you’re still in university, Jooste notes, it is key to have a network of advisors to assist in figuring out your career. Networking is definitely an integral component in business. And most times, it’s not about how much you know, it’s who you know. Learning from those in more senior positions–possibly even roles you aspire to be in one day–is something to take advantage of.

Startups are the opposite. In such a young establishment, your input holds more weight. “Startups are almost like snowflakes,” Jooste says. Each one differs from the next, but each also has a 90% chance of failing. When involved with a startup, the team is very likely to be understaffed, and each member likely needs to perform different roles and work quickly to meet goals. Mentors are not aplenty, and personal growth usually stems from self-learning and self-teaching experiences. The better part of juniors become frustrated, as they lack access to many resources from these types of companies.

Yet, Jooste still prefers the latter. After realizing that Google wasn’t the place for him to create the biggest impact, he has been a part of and expertly initiated his own successful startups. He mentions how Google management would want to innovate–adding to the company and making changes–but with the success of Google Search and Ads, it was difficult to propose newer concepts. Now being the Co-Founder and CEO of Syllable, Jooste is able to see the impact that his artificial intelligence technology has made on the healthcare community. The company expertly utilizes AI to enhance healthcare experiences for both the patients as well as understaffed workers. With almost three trillion dollars spent on healthcare annually, healthcare workers have an immense responsibility to shoulder the three main parts of healthcare: pharmacies, insurance companies, and the health systems that deliver the care. Syllable makes communication and scheduling easier overall through artificial intelligence. “I don’t think there’s a future where you would go into a room and talk to a box, and it’s replacing a doctor,” Jooste said, but he saw an opportunity to lift some costs from healthcare and accelerate the process for patients to get proper care.

“I do want to see the needle move. You have to ask yourself the question: Did I really have an impact?”

Measuring Up

How do you measure your impact though? How do you truly measure success? Startups begin as a result of passion. Founders have an idea, a project, or an innovation that they want to bring to life in a market that was designed to be competitive. Every invention is a result of the startup process. Even at major companies like Google, every product pitched is like a startup. But passion doesn’t ensure the success of a startup, and a successful startup doesn’t ensure happiness. There is no direct correlation between passion and happiness, is what Jooste says.

Moreover, Jooste emphasizes that there is no right or wrong way to get into a field. There isn’t a code or “right way” to successfully obtain a career in an industry. However, in the long run, entrepreneurs and workers have to consider what their end goal is. Every founder has dreams of taking off and gaining traction, becoming famous and earning revenue. Ultimately though, is that the end goal? Imagine you succeed in everything you do. What do you do then? This is a scenario that even Jooste is working on discovering for himself. 

When a small startup evolves into a big brand name, it’s difficult to hold onto the message that initially fueled the passion for innovation. Keeping in mind the purpose of why your startup was born is what will sustain its success. So there really isn’t a right or wrong way to start a venture, but what truly is important is how you personally measure your happiness. And this varies from person to person. Some measure happiness by the number of lives they’ve changed, or how much they can see their impact on an industry. Some measure it through the numbers of commas and zeros in their bank accounts. In the end, life is about the journey not the destination.

Leadership and Failure

What ignites a startup is passion. What the soul of a startup is, according to Jooste, is its leadership. Being a CEO, he says, is difficult and can truly be a lonely job–especially since in the beginning, a leader may not have a team or the people to perform certain tasks professionally. Being a decision maker is an exciting role, but incredibly exhausting. Making all the significant decisions, raising money, and pushing an agenda for funding an investment are all responsibilities to consider in this position. Leaders often have fiery passions but failed products due to underestimating the amount of funding and effort needed for a project. A team can build the perfect product, but without the right money to support it, the idea is a loss. Don’t undervalue the cost of building your business’ regulatory function–the component that keeps your startup on track. Although it’s exhausting and countless warning sirens blare when beginning a journey like this, the payoff is also immensely rewarding. 

Founding a company isn’t the easiest task, of course, but a common misconception is that a founder is void of resources to begin with. There are plenty of firms that you can utilize, and as you delve deeper into the industry, networking becomes a much simpler feat. Jooste’s advice is to not be discouraged, particularly if you’re a leader, as your confidence is what will keep a company running. How can you measure your own success? The answer is to take it one day at a time, and focus on making it past your company’s first birthday. 90% of startups fail within the first year, but for those that push through, the chances of a victorious takeoff gets closer and closer. And in spite of the fact that you may not succeed, part of the process of learning is to fail. Take risks, because learning something new is the biggest reward you can have when launching something original. 

Kobus Jooste

Jooste was introduced to computers at a young age, and originally intended to be a doctor before pursuing his passion of software engineering. He’s had his fair share of startup failures and triumphs, with one being successfully acquired by a large software company, and the second unfortunately being put to a halt. Kobus Jooste is currently on his third venture, a business that has been alive for seven years and continues to thrive. A question answered in the interview is why he decides to spend his time being a mentor to others in the industry, as a guide to other engineers and designers. Jooste pays tribute to the managers and mentors before him, and tries to give back to the community by having them learn from his own experiences.

It’s difficult to step back and see the bigger picture, but you overlook so many solutions if you don’t do it. Being pragmatic about educating yourself, discovering how to measure your happiness, and ultimately asking yourself how to make an impact with your profession is what will truly make the difference in growing a successful career.

If you're interested in hearing more insights from seasoned professionals in the industry, please follow us on LinkedIn and listen to our Oceanside Chat podcast.

Author's Bio

Sarai Garcia is a Business Management student currently still enrolled, with plans to delve into the world of Human Resource and marketing. She believes that a new wave of entrepreneurs comes with a plethora of opportunities to unite communities under change, and band together to create a brighter, more efficient future.

Sarai currently puts her skills in advertising, digital design newsletter publishing, as well as column writing to use in inspirational non-profits like O.P. She loves leading organization projects as well as debate. She additionally enjoys podcasts, historical fiction, music production, and theatre.

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