Marc Andreessen's Career Advice

I'm starting April strong with career advice by Marc Andreessen, cofounder of a16z, VC firm in SV.

He wrote a four part series on career planning below:

below are the ideas that struck me.

p1: opportunity

  • don't plan your career, career planning = career limiting
  • focus on developing skills and pursuing opportunities
  • opportunities fall into two buckets: 1) those that present themselves to you and 2) those that you go out and create
    • for 1), they come and go quickly, be alert to them and ready to jump on them
  • look at your career as a portfolio of jobs/roles/opportunities. Each of them has a potential return. When evaluating risk of a new opportunity, look at your entire career and decide whether it fits strategically. If you're young, it's not the time to play it safe. Join startups that optimize for skill development and valuable experiences.
  • working at FAANG = only gaining skills relevant for that particular FAANG / other big companies

The world is a very malleable place. If you know what you want, and you go for it with maximum energy and drive and passion, the world will often reconfigure itself around you much more quickly and easily than you would think.

What I listen for is someone who really wanted something that could be obtained only through taking the risk, whether that risk was big or small. ā€“ Aaron Brown

Seize any opportunity, or anything that looks like opportunity. They are rare, much rarer than you think... ā€“ Nassim Taleb

p2: skills

  • the best way to maximize your impact on the world is to continuously develop and broaden your base of skills
  • become very good (top 25%) at two or more things
  • make yourself rare by combining two or more "pretty goods" until no one else has your mix
  • All successful CEOs are top 25% in a set of the following skills: product vision, sales, marketing, finance, manager, technical, etc.
  • five skills to focus on
    • 1) communication: become good public speakers. you'll have a hard time changing the world if you can't communicate well.
    • 2) management: learn how to manage people. best way is to learn from a great manager
    • 3) selling: getting people to do/want things by offering them something they should want or don't realize they want.
      • this can help you recruit, raise money, talk to investors, create business partnerships, and even help in your relationships
    • 4) finance: financial theory, financial statements, budgeting and planning, corporate structure, equity and debt markets
    • 5) international: spend time in other countries and other cultures
  • get into the real world and really challenge yourself, expose yourself to risk, put yourself in situations where you'll succeed or fail by your own decisions and actions, and where that success or failure will be highly visible.

If you're going to be a high achiever, you're going to be in lots of situations where you're going to be quickly making decisions in the presence of incomplete or incorrect information, under intense time pressure, and often under intense political pressure. You're going to screw up -- frequently -- and the screwups will have serious consequences, and you'll feel incredibly stupid every time. It can't faze you -- you have to be able to just get right back up and keep on going.

That may be the most valuable skill you can ever learn. Make sure you start learning it early

p3: where and why

  • pick an industry where founders of the industry are still alive and actively involved
  • be in an industry where there is a lot of growth and change and flux and opportunity.
  • Never worry about being a small fish in a big pond. Being in the opposite means you'll hit the ceiling on what you can achieve quickly and nobody will care.
  • optimize at all times for being in the most dynamic and exciting pond you can find.
  • which company? go to the one where all the action is happening.
  • starting a company? aim at the largest and most interesting market
  • which startup? look for one where you understand teh product, see how it might fit into a very large market, and really like and respect the people who are already there
  • Every job, every role, every company you go to is an opportunity to learn how a business works and how an industry works.

Think strategically: how would I start a firm like this today? Or, if I were starting a company in this industry today, how would it be different than this firm? Why is this firm and other firms in this industry doing what they do? What are the assumptions underneath their behavior? Should those assumptions be changing? How might this industry work differently? Which customers are being underserved? What new technologies might change things completely? How were things working 10 years ago, versus today, versus 10 years from now? And, my favorite: if the creators of this industry were starting out today, what would they be doing now?