30 ConsenSys 1-Year Retro Items

Random Observation/Comment #628: Time flies when you’re having fun.

Why this list?

In Sept 2018, ConsenSys had a Solutions off-site in Dublin with 200+ professionals greeting each other with open ears, arms, and hearts. I wrote a 30 lessons learned for that offsite. One year later, I find it fitting to do retro of these ideas in practice.

ConsenSys is different. It’s a unique experiment of self-motivated Ethereum entrepreneurs. The immersion into the company culture open and free – like that of any social community. Since these social norms aren’t officially written anywhere, I wrote my own guide on how to be a good meshian which includes advice on how to navigate the mesh.

The “dream job” view of ConsenSys is that we are like a VC accelerator sandbox/ecosystem of brilliant minds. The shortcomings come from the lack of a standard tribe-based productivity and focus on profit. I gladly accept the trade-off that steps back from the rat race, but I also know an opportunity is only realized when you make the best out of it.

Note: The first half of this list is about relearning how to work efficiently with self-organizing remote-first meshy culture. The second half is about business development / client delivery lessons learned.

  1. Don’t stop meeting new people – I met 30 meshians within my first 60 days at ConsenSys, but it tapered off when I started getting sucked into deliverables. Donut app is a great slack addition.
  2. Don’t forget to make friends – ConsenSys isn’t best optimized just for arms-length coworkers. I think it’s most powerful as an ecosystem of trust and accountability based on not disappointing friends.
  3. Build a reputation of trust – Being decentralized means your transactions with others in the mesh are often propagated in an overall unspoken trust score. You will be asked to be included if you’re known to do good work.
  4. Remember why you were hired – It’s easy to forget what you were hired for when there are so many interesting distractions. Spend a majority of your time on making impact and contributing.
  5. Control your notifications – This means reducing the number of slack messages to only the most important and knowing that you’re never going to be in everything.
  6. Implement productivity hacks early – Find your inner clembot. Unsurprisingly, I’ve written a list of 30 clembot productivity hacks.
  7. Follow remote working best practices – Also unsurprisingly, I’ve written a list of 30 remote working tips.
  8. Establish your environment – In a remote first company, make sure you know when you’re productive and when you can take advantage of traveling to a client location.
  9. Say “No” when you can’t commit – People will appreciate it when you’re honest with what you can contribute.
  10. Don’t just attend all meetings – If you’re attending weekly meetings, then make sure you’re paying attention and adding value during those meetings. If you don’t think you can add value, then you’re better off working on something that does.
  11. Be a coach to your peers – The mentor/mentee relationship works with hierarchies constructed from age and experience, but the Mesh tends to have more coaches. Coaches are vital for giving a 3rd party perspective by listening and asking questions.
  12. Set your own punishments and sense of urgency – It’s easy to slip on deliverables if you don’t have a boss following up with you, so make sure you hold yourself accountable. As with (2), I see it as not disappointing your friends.
  13. Setup meetings to remind people of deadlines – To hold other people accountable for things they’re delivering with non-product focused activities, make sure you set up short 15 minute check-points.
  14. Be clear on your priorities – I personally like to work on completing things where I’m a bottleneck. I have a long list of “side projects” that have less of an impact if they don’t get completed.
  15. Clean your “side projects” list – This one is a big one for me. I context switch way too much because of little ideas off of fun conversations. Most of the time, I can get material out the door within a few hours and contain it. Over the course of a year, however, there are a lot of phase 2 and phase 3 side project ideas that need more attention. My rule now is to shelve things if they stay on my to-do list for more than 2 weeks.

Specific Business Development / Solutions Architect Lessons Learned:

  1. Closing deals is hard – Just because there’s verbal interest doesn’t mean they’ll want to pay beyond a workshop session. Projects are big commitments and it takes time to complete logistics like legal or internal resourcing.
  2. Work hard on maintaining a healthy pipeline – It’s a full time job managing relationships and opportunities. There are a lot of slow burns out there, but they’re all needed because you never know when they convert.
  3. Write about your profession once a month – While you may not be added to the ConsenSys official Medium newsletter, someone might read your work and publish it on the weekly emails. Writing often adds to your own reputation and is being encouraged as a personal brand for many traditional companies.
  4. Take advantage of conferences, but don’t overdo it– Conference-going once a quarter is extremely important for business development. It used to be just hanging out with the usual crew of crypto/blockchain goers, but they usually aren’t signing checks.
  5. Meaningfully follow-up – This is true with all things in life, but much more so if you can provide a service for a potential client. Keep things punchy and make sure they see immediately value.
  6. Watch out for “extended trials” – Free trials of information is often how people get a product ingrained into their convenience or habit. If you keep giving away free information then they will likely not pay for anything. This will also lead into extended sales cycles (which happens, but you need to judge your closing probability and speed accurately).
  7. Learn how to judge people’s character – I’ve given my opinion on scenarios and have been proven to be gullible to a good salesperson’s techniques. Most likely my lack of experience.
  8. Take into account budget cycles – Enterprise companies ask for budget a year ahead of time for their own headcount or spending for an engagement specifically for a business line. Some groups also tend to forget to spend their budget by Q4 and pay for completing projects (use it or lose it).
  9. Speaking engagements open doors – Building your personal reputation and your company’s is free advertising and contact building. While we all can’t be year-long circuit conference speakers, we should all be comfortable pitching this material for the right audience.
  10. Show your approach and work – I assume people look at my deliverables and material with no context, so I try to give as much reference to the project background as possible. Send them a project running log.
  11. Create a project running log – This is a base document summarizing the project purpose, problem, solution, team, delivery, timeline, cadence, etc. Super useful to just send a link to this as a starting point for adding new parties.
  12. Respect people’s time – Whether client or internal, it’s important to only add people when they’re needed. We also want to give clients a proper heads up on pre-reading material and follow-up reports.
  13. Have your pulse on the market – This is crucial because sell cycles change based on a dozen or so clients willing to do underwritings. Keep updating your view of what people are asking for by informally talking to clients is important. You must be an expert in demand.
  14. Feedback is a gift – This is key for your peers and yourself to get better and work better together.
  15. Have good Salesforce hygiene – While I’m not officially BD with a sales quota, I do feel like this tool (like all reporting and management tools) becomes vital to showing your work.

~See Lemons Love ConsenSys