Jack Jenkins, a hip-hop loving father of two, works remotely from New Zealand as a Customer Support Engineer for Intercom. In this piece, he shares with us some of the worst career advice he’s ever received. Got some bad advice you wanna share? Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was working in customer support for a small, but relatively well established (15 successful years) Project Management SaaS company in Auckland, New Zealand and I loved my job, but was desperate to move to the other end of the country. After speaking with my manager, our CTO and eventually our CEO about sticking with the team while working remotely I found myself less than persuasive. I had to give up on that idea and begin looking for a more flexible position with a different company. At this stage I wasn’t looking for a perfect job, just a remote job, and after a couple of months I found one.
It was establishing and leading customer support with a brand new Practice Management SaaS company out of Brisbane, Australia. Fast forward through the application process, a stack of interviews and I had my offer. To me, this meant two possibilities: I’d soon be making my move south, and starting work in my first remote job, for a brand new company; or my current CEO would change his mind on remote work, make me a counter-offer and I’d stick with the team I loved from a new location. In all honesty, I was hoping for the latter—this was my first job in software and I had reservations about leaving to work for a company I knew little about.
When sitting down with my manager and CEO to hand in my resignation, I did receive a counter offer, but not what I’d had in mind. He promised me a pay increase and the “guarantee” that within a year I’d have someone reporting to me, as long as I stayed in the same city, worked in the same office, and kept wearing the same suits. (Yep, we had to wear suits…to do phone/email support.) What came next was the worst piece of career advice I’ve ever received:
“You probably shouldn’t leave to work for such a young company, a lot of them fail.”
Aside from the obvious logical flaws in this opinion, it said so much to me about his mindset, and immediately crystallized my decision. The risk was no longer in leaving for the unknown, but staying for the stagnation. Older companies fail too, and often it’s because they can’t keep up. Perhaps their leaders share a similar viewpoint to the man giving me this advice? I declined his offer, and drove home to pack. Three weeks later, I started work at the least pleasant, most stressful job I’ve ever had. I quickly found myself doing sales calls, customer onboarding, UX testing, prioritising a year’s worth of feature requests and bug reports, re-writing ~150 help articles, all on top of doing 8 hours a day of supporting actual customers (phone, email, tickets and live chat) and defining processes for this support in the future. Organisation at this new company was an utter shambles, precisely because it was so young.
Damn. Was he right?
It certainly didn’t feel like we were on our way to success, (or anywhere in particular). Reflecting back on it: no. I don’t believe he was right. Here’s why: While my days were spent dealing with chaos, my evenings were still full of hope. I became a regular on weworkremotely.com and continued applying for jobs, with companies young and old. Each day spent in this job I was learning more, and my resume continued to improve, as did my interviewing skills (perhaps it was all those sales calls), until I found and applied for my current job 4 months later.
I’m now a Customer Support Engineer at Intercom and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a young company and things move incredibly fast, but it’s an amazing place to work, with some solid and constantly improving processes, and the support of an incredible team of people. I am confident I wouldn’t be doing this job if it wasn’t for the lessons learned during those four, very trying months. I will forever regard them as invaluable.