Everyone learns in different ways. Some are book-learners. Others are more hands on. Some are visual learners while others are aural (audio) learners.
Every job, every loss, every weird experience is a teachable moment.
Take it from Tim Westergren, one of the founders of PANDORA. He wrote this for Linked-In and it was too good not to share.
My Road to Pandora: How I Went From Nanny to Founder
My first full time job after college was as a nanny. For five years I took care of kids, supplementing my income with a motley assortment of piano gigs (including a Holiday Inn lounge). I then began playing in rock bands, eventually giving up the “manny” gig for a more flexible part time job so I could travel. Years of rehearsing, recording and touring around the Pacific Northwest were followed by a stint as a film composer where I tried with very modest success to carve out a living writing scores. I commuted to and from Los Angeles, gradually moving from student films, to small indie projects, to finally a couple feature films. It was a patchwork life – long on learning but short on security.
By my mid-thirties, I’d developed my piano chops and could get around a recording studio, but I was essentially penniless and in many ways still treading water. If you’d told me then that I’d build a 1000-employee public company, I would have said you were nuts.
My experience with Pandora has completely changed my perspective on the notion of a career track. Having now traversed the entire arc from an idea to public company, I no longer believe that the skills you need to become a business leader can only be perfected in traditional vocations. Rather, I think the important skills are the basic ones, and those you can learn just about anywhere. I’m thinking of things like teamwork, communication, tenacity, problem-solving, creativity, etc. I don’t have an MBA or any formal business training. I learned what I needed to know by taking care of kids, managing a band, and fighting for work as a film composer.
I think for many people, the idea of starting a company seems foreign. It certainly was for me. When I first came up with the idea for the Music Genome Project it took me many months to act on it – mostly because I just didn’t have the notion that someone with my (complete lack of) professional experience was the kind of person who started companies. As I meet more and more entrepreneurs, I’ve learned that my experience is far from unique. People take all sorts of different roads to entrepreneurship. If you’ve developed those very basic requisite skills, it doesn’t matter where you honed them.
So when you start to think that you’re too old, or you didn’t make the right choices, or don’t have the requisite skill set… just remember that a 34 year old former “manny” founded Pandora.
Photo: Getty Images