How I entered and exited a real estate tech startup in 2 years with zero industry experienceFeatured

Hi there! I’m Michelle Shin and worked as an operator in a rapidly scaling real estate tech startup for nearly two years. But before that, I was a professional golfer. With eyes wide open, I transitioned out of the golf industry into a tech startup. Even though my resume was blatantly lacking industry experience, culture fit was the deciding factor in joining my current company.When I decided the traveling golf life was not for me, I transitioned back into the classroom to finish up the degree I left unfinished for professional golf. A friend asked if I wanted to work part time as an office coordinator at a new startup she just joined. I met with the GM, shared my story, and she offered me the position that same afternoon. Thanks to good timing, great managers, and rapid growth, less than two months later, I onboarded full time as an operator in a new role. Though I was hesitant at first, I was supported by my team as my leaders provided me the flexibility to work around my afternoon and night classes. I was exposed to a whole new world outside the sports industry, but interestingly enough, all the skills I accumulated as a traveling golfer transferred so easily. I quickly realized that relationship building, process creation and improvement, being detail oriented, flexibility, and the ability to work in an autonomous culture were all skills that helped me thrive amidst instability of a growing startup. It was exciting to be a part of an organization as it began to scale and to truly have a voice in certain ways. Since I was part of the team setting precedent, our constant feedback for process creation and improvement was taken seriously. We were always encouraged to share our ideas and suggestions with our leaders. The communication among the C-suite, operators, and everyone in between was open and transparent. We were part of an industry disrupting movement, and it was pretty cool to have a front row seat. Our company was providing an online experience for buying and selling homes, a completely new experience for homeowners. Throughout my time in this organization, I came to understand and acknowledge my own value despite my lack of industry experience.Top 3 things I learned:1) The Gift of Feedback. Our organization really emphasized this, and I took it to heart. As cliche as it sounds, the ability to be my unashamed self helped me grow in my role. Any time during meetings or 1:1s with my leaders, I jumped at the opportunity to share my genuine thoughts, questions, and concerns regarding all topics of culture and work. I believe that one of my greatest strengths (also seen as one of my weaknesses) is my lack of corporate experience. I felt like I had a substantial amount of life experience, but on paper, lacked in the sense of “work” experience. Since my managers always allowed me to feel secure in my role, I never feared for my job in the context of sharing my thoughts and suggestions when addressing even negative issues.2) The Importance of Culture Fit. As we were scaling, our hiring was on fire. We were hiring people left and right, including a new manager. A challenge was presented to our close knit team in the form of a new manager that was hired by national leaders but was blatantly a terrible culture fit. My team and I continued to provide honest feedback in which we continued to share and voice our concerns. As a result, leaders saw the importance of maintaining a healthy culture for the sake of the team and let this manager go. I was genuinely surprised to witness such transparency and openness taken seriously, and politics were not an issue. This kind of work culture does exist! 3) With rapid growth, comes with growing pains. As we scaled, the perks began to go away and the culture took a hit. The tradeoff of growth and culture was real. The growth was undeniable, and change became necessary. Our operating markets were centralized, and relocation became an issue, and thus I looked toward a different path. My community is rooted in where I live, and though I am open to new opportunities in the future, I am also looking into Remote jobs currently. Honestly, I feel very blessed and thankful to have had the opportunity to work with some of the smartest people I have ever met. They were leaders who were successful in so many ways, yet still understood the importance of authentic relationships. Transitioning out of a growing company and searching for a new role in tech with same culture values has been a struggle. As I continue to navigate my next steps to stay in tech (even remotely) and build my story, I remain hopeful!
What a great story, @MichelleShin. Thank you for sharing. I feel that often, recruiters screen candidates for “hard skills” when often, if people are just given a chance to learn and grow into a new role, they can be highly motivated and work out great. It’s different from transitioning from professional golf to a startup, but I’m thinking about recruiters who hire for skills like “knows how to code in C#.” What about someone who has great fundamental programming skills but has only coded in Java? Often a recruiter will screen those people out because “Nope, they don’t know C#” even though they might have been highly motivated to learn and would have been great. Maybe transitioning from pro golfer isn’t really that different, actually. Relationship building... figuring out how to work effectively in an autonomous culture... I do think we need to do a better job of giving motivated people a chance. Good luck with what comes next - it sounds like wherever you land, they will be lucky to have you!