The Power of Not Knowing

When you start in a new job, most of the time, you pretty much don't know what you're doing. Yet this naive attitude is usually the one that turns what it would seem like a fool's errand into an amazing opportunity you can't miss on.

It is almost a cliché that, sometimes, when you start up in a new job you pretty much don’t know what you’re doing. Which is not in itself a bad thing — if you are eager to learn and aware of your limitations. You just put yourself in the right spot, about to start walking on a path to personal growth and professional development.

But looking back at my firsts days at Ironhack, this idea of “not knowing” was maybe, just maybe, a little bit too literal.

While I was no strange to start things from scratch, I was a total newcomer to the education world. Yet that was not “the” problem.

Not many people know about this, but by the time I joined Ironhack, I was the first to hold the Campus Manager “job title” (or GM, for General Manager, as others prefer to call it). There were not, neither had been in the past, other GMs in other cities. The reason being was that the only two operational cities at the time were Madrid and Miami, both held respectively by the company founders themselves.

In some ways, Barcelona was the third addition to the Ironhack family, but the first “founderless” city. An operational experiment nobody knew how to handle entirely.

This is important to note because one might think that I was handed a “city launch playbook” and told to deploy it step by step. On the contrary, what I was given instead looked more like a pad in the back and all the luck in the world.

I would never say I had no support since the whole company and its amazing team was there to (remotely) help me out if I needed it. But it is also true that, during the firsts six months, I was literally alone, handling operations, marketing, sales, customer support, even teaching and assessing coding exercises!

In other words, looking back I’d say that my job was to establish the city operations, true, but at the same time assembling the playbook that would serve for the future GMs in other cities. The one I would have killed to have in the first place.

Along these lines, Gonzalo — one of the company founders — uses to joke that he was afraid I didn’t fully acknowledge the trouble I was about to get myself into. This is because when we were interviewing for the position, I was asking plenty of questions about how success would look like in such a role. To me, essential priorities any sane person about to launch such a venture would like to get straight. But surprisingly he was answering none of those questions, not because he didn’t want to, but because not even him had figured them out at the time!

It is funny to look back and acknowledge the asymmetry of the situation: he was setting me up for a crazy ride, and I was not even aware of where I was getting myself into. I was even excited about it!

It is curious though, that in the end, this clueless attitude turned out to be a great thing. Because if that very moment I had been told, objectively, every single thing I had to overcome in order to succeed, maybe I would have thought it was impossible and dismissed the opportunity altogether.

Yet the fact that I was completely naive about the job to be done, turned out a fool’s errand into an amazing challenge I couldn’t miss on. Which totally reminded me of the experience I had with iomando. Same thing: if somebody had told me, step by step, all the things that had to be done to start a company that would manage accessibility through mobile devices in 2011, I would have thought that it couldn’t be done.

I would have missed all the fun :)

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not advocating for ignorance as a key entrepreneurial asset. I’m just fascinated that inadvertently, the same story has repeated all over again without me even noticing it. The fact of not knowing what was behind the door is sometimes the necessary spark that causes you to open it in the first place — which sounds kind of twisted but it is as real as it gets.

The lesson learned here I assume it goes something like: the next time you’re faced with an opportunity like this, run some security and sanity checks, so you don’t get hurt, do your research, but not too much. Don’t get discouraged by the fact that it “seems” impossible, maybe this is the reason why nobody has yet given it a try.

First published on June 15, 2016