Finding your fellow ‘weirdos’

October 14, 2015 Alissa Ampezzan

Recently, I was invited to give the alumni address to the graduating cohort of the Startup Institute Chicago (yes, that’s a large image of me on their site). Startup Institute is an immersive eight-week bootcamp I attended before joining Civis Analytics that helped me further develop some of the technical product design skills I had built in grad school and previous jobs. But, more importantly for me, it gave me the opportunity to focus on and craft my career in technology.

My talk centered around the feeling that so many of us who have come to Civis Analytics–and startups in general–share: I don’t feel like I fit into “normal” work environments. Am I a ‘weirdo’? The answer is a loud and proud “yes!” Being a little different is something to be embraced. Who wants to be normal anyway?

What is a ‘weirdo’? Unlike the connotation we all grew up with, our definition of ‘weirdo’ in the Civis Analytics world, is actually a good thing. It means:

  • We care deeply about the work we do and its impact on the world. In other words, we feel compelled to do work that is worth doing.
  • We must do this work that is worth doing with people who are worth doing it with. After all, “Half our waking lives is a terrible thing to waste.”
  • We aren’t afraid to try new things–we’re smart and daring. We like taking risks.
  • We’re creative. And I don’t mean we’re great artists (though some of us are!). We feel inspired by challenging problems and find innovative methods for solving them.
  • We don’t view work as a ‘punch in at 9 and out at 5’ job; our work is an integral part of our lives. We want to make a difference and will do what it takes to make that difference.

My fellow millennials and I are often spotlighted for this ‘weirdness’. But, it’s not just the millennials. As Civis Analytics continues to grow rapidly, we find great people coming to us from business, academia, non-profits… And they’ve all got that something special: a passion for the people they work with and the work they do.

And I’m not the only one who thinks about the culture I work in and the people I work with. Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871 (Civis Analytics is an alum!), also spoke–about the 5 P’s needed to succeed in a startup: Passion, Preparation, Perspiration–yes, sweat, Perseverance and Principles. While maybe not as kooky as what we call a little weird, we think alike — we’re driven by the work we do.

Watch my talk here (warning: iPhone videography) and follow along with slides here). Howard also posted photos of the event on his blog.

Ready to embrace your ‘weirdness’? Consider joining us:

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