Three weeks ago I came up with this crazy idea with my boss to hustle my way to South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) at no cost. Easy right? Sort of. Anyway, with our goal in mind, it was time to figure out how to get it done.
What follows is a personal story of how I ended up on a train to Portland this morning as the first leg of a mission to Texas. I’m confident that you can take some learnings from my experience for ways to pitch your big shiny ideas, get them noticed, and green-lit.
Today I start a 5 day journey from Vancouver to Austin, Texas. Sure my main goal was to find a way to get to SXSW, but as I look out the window, i’m realizing it’s about the journey, not the destination.
SXSW is the go-to event for nerds and tech geeks looking to make waves in the industry. Major media brands like Twitter owe their fame in part to launching at SXSW. Every year, it’s a ners’ arms race to figure out which hot new startup will take over.
My employer, HootSuite, sent a team of 10 down last-year. And I knew this year would be similar. The handful who do get to go are the envy of the rest of the company because SXSW is a geek’s paradise.
Being the realest I am, I figured my name would not be on the list for 2013. The lucky chosen few tend to be more higher up established peeps.
That is where this crazy idea started. Could I hack my way to SXSW?
My boss, DaveO, is your modern day Jack Kerouac – the train idea was his. I remember him saying a month ago: “reach out to Amtrak and let’s see if we can train you down to sxsw.”
With that, I got my creep on and tried to find find someone at Amtrak who might be interested in hearing what I had to say.
The basic plan was this: if you provide travel arrangements, I will tell the story of my journey by blogging, producing videos, and just about every other form of media out there.
Once I found someone, it was time to extend the olive branch with the ultimate email.
When you’re in this situation, you need to take the perspective of the person you’re targeting with your pitch. What emotions are they going to feel getting a random email?
and how can you use this information to choose the right words in order to get a reaction?
Once you figure this out, you can start crafting the copy for your email.
The email you send isn’t about you. It is about accommodating the random person reading the email. Make it as short, concise, and as easy to read as possible. Bulleted lists, bold words, and short, well written sentences are your friend.
Learn about 5Run’s first charity event: the Bagel Chase, and a spontaneous 5Run thank you moment on the best five run of 2013.
The ocean in false creek is like glass, no wind, no rain – i’m running with Gerard. We waste little time firing up our respective running apps and get going.
Wednesday morning was your atypical five run. I kept thinking how perfect the weather was for running, and clearly others felt the same way. Barely 2 km’s in, we hit 8 high fives.
Then, something interesting happened.
We came across a pretty brunette girl running. In typical fashion, we fell into five formation and extended our hands. Something particularly awesome happened next.
While she enthusiastically high fived us, she said something i’ll never forget.
Shocked, we responded with your typical ‘woohoos’ and continued on. We sort of laughed it off… “hey that chick thanked us!” We finished our run, the best morning five run of the year so far, we hit 27 high fives.
Something about the encounter stayed with me. It wasn’t until later on that I figured out what the hell happened.
More on that later.
The last few months have been pretty amazing. I went from being a lost puppy without direction to fulltime employment doing what I love. I also graduated, finally putting an end to my six year arts degree marathon.
How did I pull off the transformation from intern to HootSuite employee status? A few things come to mind which i will lay out below.
School is starting to wind down. After a brutal week, I managed to get through the last two term papers of my illustrious UBC career. Classes end next week. One final separates me from freedom. My amateur hour undergrad is almost over. What happens next? That right there is a loaded question.
Soon I will be free from the burden of painful lectures, trivial exams and papers that I can barely get through reading in order to edit.
The so called freedom brings a future of uncertainty. The ability to use school as a scapegoat or excuse for why you haven’t accomplished anything yet is gone.
My amateur hour is almost up; the big bad real world beckons. This is great because now I can focus on the things that matter. Leading the charge is my internship at HootSuite.
The terms of my internship are 24 hours or three days a week. I will say that I look forward to every day I get to spend at work; I love it.
Work days I wake up giddy, much like a crew of pre-pubescent girls at a Justin Bieber concert. Days on campus have been brutal compared to days at the office.
The relief of classes ending means I can spend more time learning (wow that’s ironic). I plan on showing up to work every day, whether they like it or not. Why? I love it.
I have some exciting things on the go, my co-workers are awesome and I want to make the most of the opportunity.
At the end of the day I want what everyone else wants: fulfillment. I have a voice (perhaps a quiet one), I feel like I have something unique to contribute. I want to share. Basically I want to put myself in a situation to help people and inspire change.
Anyone miss being in school?
Life has been super busy since I started interning at HootSuite. I am working Monday –Wednesday-Friday. Mondays and Wednesdays I head straight from the office (love saying this) to practice at UBC. These end up being pretty long and exhausting days The Renaissance Man wouldn’t have it any other way.
The scheduling works out pretty well given that all my classes are on Tuesday and Thursday. I’ve been able to manage everything pretty well… Up until midterm season kicks around. Case in point was last week when a midterm came up. It was brutal getting home from work / practice at 7:30 then having to eat something and head to the library.
As I invest more time and energy into work, the burden of school lurks in the background, like this guy. I am stoked to be graduating at the end of April, but I wish it was over now. School feels like an unnecessary weight on my burly shoulders at this point.
The blog has taken a bit of a hit as well. My ambitions were to post three times per week. This is clearly a bit of a stretch at this point. Bi-weekly posts will suffice for the time being.
Midterm season is over; term paper season is in full swing. Time to see if my blogging prowess transfers to writing research papers.
No excuses, play like a champion.
Last week, I started interning at HootSuite. For those unfamiliar, HootSuite (Vancouver tech start up) is a social media management dashboard. It lets you use and manage all your social networks from one page.
How did I get the internship?
Seizing opportunity combined with some fortunate timing (luck) and help from some amazing people. Three weeks ago at the IMgroup Meetup, I got the chance to hear HootSuite’s VP of Community, DaveO speak about five unique days in their company’s history. Each day represented a defining event for their company. The stories resonated; I admired their transparent and unique outlook on everything from day to day business to crisis management. I was drawn to their gritty hustling culture.
I put myself out there. At the Meetup, everyone gets a 30 second elevator pitch style intro to the group. I broadcasted my aspirations for an internship. My announcement was met with smiles from the crowd that turned to laughter when Dave responded with: “you can’t spell internet without intern.”
I sent Dave a message the following day asking if he wanted to go for coffee. He obliged and we met later that week. I had no idea what to expect, but I received some great advice from a few friends and family. I wanted to cover my bases, so I printed off my dismal resume and cover letter just in case.
I made my way to the given address expecting a coffee shop. Instead, I got the HootSuite offices. Damn! I was fiending coffee as always, what a cruel trick. I walked in, stumbled through a stack of 15 bikes and a friendly dog. Dave was sitting where you would expect a receptionist to be.
We talked for a while. The word internship kept coming up, but I wasn’t positive he was offering it to me until the end when he made it clear. I was ecstatic.
Moral of the story
Social networks are driving hiring decisions everywhere. Be cognisant, but most importantly, be yourself! Deception is not sustainable. Why waste time convincing anyone you are something you are not? This applies not just to employment but to everything. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.
I am now taking names at HootSuite three days a week. I just have to figure out how school, sports and blogging fit in.
If anyone has some time management suggestions, I would love to hear them.