Name: Adrienne Youngman
Job Title: Co-founder of Rize, a tech start-up in London.
My position in a nutshell… I am the co-founder of Rize, a digital career mentorship programme, set up to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We connect those interested in, or starting out, in tech with mentors already working in the industry. They can discover different roles, learn and develop new skills, create valuable networks and even be fast tracked.
How I got the job… I started my career in consulting and spent 10 years working in business and brand strategy before completely changing direction. My new husband and I decided to set up our own recruitment, training and coaching business – first in Mongolia, then in Singapore. Both are still going today, but we decided we wanted to move back to Europe, where we set up Rize. My degree was in English Literature, so not directly relevant, but I definitely learnt valuable skills that I still use today.
My typical day… That’s hard because as an entrepreneur you have to wear lots of hats, so you cover legal, admin, strategy, marketing and finance – the list goes on. Some days I’ll be focusing on writing a pitch to potential investors, other days I will be talking to my co-founder about developing a new product, or getting feedback from users to understand whether what we are building is going to deliver what they need. It is very varied.
My most memorable moment… The weekend that we left Mongolia. I was very emotionally connected as it was the first business we had started. We spent the weekend with an amazing team who were going to take over. We felt very confident in the future of the business and excited to be branching out and starting something else ourselves. Selling the business was also a high but of a very different kind.
The best and worst part of my job… The cliché of a start up is that ‘the highs are higher and the lows are lower’ and they definitely are! When you’re on a high you feel like you are unstoppable. You feel like you are going to change the world and make a difference – that energy is addictive. But the lows can bring you crashing down, for example when the people you hoped would love your idea, don’t. But negative feedback is a valuable gift in disguise –and one of the hardest to take. When it is your own business, everything feels personal and and you can start doubting yourself. You’ve got to be able to bring yourself out of the lows and surround yourself with people who believe in you.
Advice / key skills needed for anyone wanting to start their own business… Do it! But get some experience beforehand. Think about what skills you want to build and find or create opportunities that help you to build them – this could be paid work experience opportunities or building a portfolio at home.
I was told that the first decade of your professional life is about building the experience that you’ll live off for the rest of your professional life and there is a lot of truth in that.
To be an entrepreneur you need a good eye for money, to be able to build good relationships, be a good problem solver and to listen to what people need and want.
Focus on who you are going to work for – not just the organisation but the people – an amazing manager is an incredible gift. If you find passion in what you’re doing and develop skills, you learn and you grow… and then maybe you set up something of your own.