Around the end of 2014, I was working as a design lead of product development for Magyar Telekom, the Hungarian Branch of Deutsche Telekom; by definition a big, multinational company in the telecommunication sector. I was making the most of it. My role was to facilitate design thinking, but throughout my stay I felt like an outsider. The issue festered and parting ways started seeming like the next logical step so I gave myself 6 months to see where I’d go next.
Fortunately, I was approached by the co-founders of the Lab.Coop in the early months of 2015 with an innocent request to chat about an idea of a new company they were constructing and whether I, as an employee and a potential owner, could articulate what an ideal work environment would look like. The question did not catch me off guard; it was around this time I had been thinking about a change and had collected my ideas of what kind of a place I would want to work for. I pulled out my list and walked them through all items one-by-one. I did not doubt their sincerity in moving forward and their dedication to building something new, but little did I know how quickly it would become a reality.
In the following months, I had a few more meetings with the Lab.Coop guys. I attended several events in which every potential member was invited to meet and to be kept in the loop of the future company’s developments. Through this, I learned they wanted to build a true end-to-end product house and were lacking in-house design competences. I was not yet convinced: I do not consider myself a pixel-fighter, but rather a holistic, design strategist with skills that come in handy when having a task-force at hand. This was a company in which direct contact with clients and hands-on execution is crucial and I was not sure I was the one for the task. On the other hand, they were convinced-- more than anything, they wanted to build a good team and they wanted to start from the top-down with someone who provides a vision.Expansion and other logistics come later.
I had been contemplating the change for months but there were now other offers on my plate. Primarily, I got offered a promotion at my company-- a step up in scale to international decision making and production leadership. Then there were offers at agency leadership and seniority levels.
The middle of summer was approaching and with it, my decision deadline.Time to put an end to this process. But how am I supposed to choose between a budding, multinational career at a well established company versus a new, up-and-coming experimental place? How will work be judged as a whole in the long run? When will be happiness found? What things are lacking and what things can be learned? What can be accomplished in the long- and short-run?
The deciding opinion came out of a friend’s advice who has followed my career path from the beginning, “Look, this is a good group of people with good heads on their shoulders. If you look at it from an administrative point of view, you will become an entrepreneur. You will embark on an adventure and will put all you know and more into creating something new. Something you can believe in, something you can directly shape. This will look nothing but convincing on any paper: it shows courage to take risks. I think you should do it in a heartbeat.” In a world in which taking a risk is well promoted but not accepted by our parents’ generations, this is not an obvious direction. We are still not America.
I was invited to a countryside team-building weekend where the question was raised: will I join them. I proposed to go for a walk. We discussed every question my heart desired and I got my answers
I made my decision. I will do it.
We returned and the next week, I quit my job. I had one month to go until my new life began.