Do As I Do, Not Just as I Say

How a Startup that Offers Employees Life-Long Learning Practices What it Preaches (and Pitches).

If Larry Page needs to look something up, I wouldn’t expect him to use anything other than Google; If Jeff Bezos decides to shop for something online, he’s going to start his shopping-spree on Amazon first.

At Emerj we’re building a next-generation way for people in large organization to learn in a fluid, social and on-demand manner that fits the future’s (and let’s face it, the present’s) high-speed, high-growth demands from both employees and businesses.

But this is not a piece about our product. This is not a pitch. It’s a look into how we are trying to practice what we preach and embody the spirit of career growth and life-long learning in our own daily routine as a small (and growing) startup.

Mentorship and Upskilling on a Small Scale

As a startup, we do not have thousands of employees (yet) and so that means we still focus on one-on-one mentorship opportunities. I’ve been lucky enough to build a significant network of official and unofficial advisors, and it is important for me to connect them to my team members directly.

When we sign up a new advisor to Emerj, the first assumption isn’t necessarily that she or he will be working directly with me, but with whomever on the team that can gain the most from learning from them. This is something I learned from our advisor Lihi Lutan, and has stayed with us.

Since my belief is that mentorship and upskilling go hand in hand, that too is something I try to offer on a small scale. While harder to provide such opportunities within the framework of our small offices, it is something that I can encourage.

When our Head of Biz Dev, Gal, asked about taking a professional course, I was ecstatic about the initiative. Since it began, a couple months ago, she hasn’t only learned a lot but has also started sharing inspiration from her professors and the case studies they present to the entire team on our weekly all-hands, and we’ve all gained from those lessons.

This is just one of many examples of how doing “extracurricular” learning on “company time” has proven to be more exponentially productive than sticking to tasks-only. Another one of those is reading leadership books, and getting acquainted with the latest research in our field, whether it’s through reading or attending conferences. That’s why every new person in our company receives a copy of Alex Banayan’s The Third Door, and why in our office we have HBR copies by way of decor (ok, also an RBG action figure and a Groot plush toy. We ARE a startup after all…).

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New office. RBG approves.

A post shared by Chedva (Vivi) Kleinhandler (@chedvakl) on

As a startup founder, CEO and general workaholic, I realize that it is easier said than done to prioritize these things, however that is what leadership is about — it’s about knowing when to step away from the laptop and see the bigger picture; it’s about knowing when a person’s passion should be prioritized over their resume; it’s about giving growth opportunities for the sake of helping another person succeed.

Person vs. Professional (Why Not Both?!)

Something I get asked frequently is whether Emerj was designed to help people grow personally or professionally, and there is no single answer to that question.

When I discovered that there is an alternative to work-life balance, and that’s work-life integration, it felt like the penny finally dropped. The traditional work-life balance “evokes binary opposition between work and life” and so it inevitably breeds disappointment. A better, more fluid solution is to seamlessly integrate life and work in a way that creates and promotes synergy over all aspects.

Today we cannot, and should not, separate the personal and the professional.

This means showing empathy when the person on the other line is struggling to hear you through the sound of a baby screaming, bringing an extra cup of coffee because the R&D team worked day and night to meet a deadline, and speaking a little slower when the jetlagged CEO lands at 7 am after taking a red-eye flight and makes it just in time for a 9:30 meeting (guilty).

What Drives Us

This ability to see the person beyond the professional is what makes it impossible to care about professional growth over personal growth in the workspace. It does not matter if you are a millennial, Gen Z or Baby Boomer — today everyone wants to feel appreciated, have a purpose and be a part of something bigger.

That is why companies need to care, and care for, both, and that is why I make it a point to actively emphasis both.

I believe that, my incredible co-founder Hannit believes that, and the entire Emerj team believes that. And that is what drives us.We all could have chosen a more comfortable, stable and lucrative career paths, but we all believe that together, we can create a better workplace environment everywhere, and it doesn’t really take much — just a way to filter the noise to find the right solution every time, anywhere, no matter your position.

And that is what Emerj does.

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