My girlfriend dislikes being called doctor.
A quick survey of the large stack of mail that typically resides on her coffee table reveals that none is addressed to “Dr.”, and if asked, she would show you that the cards in her wallet would indicate no such intitials. Furthermore, when asked by a stranger what she does, she responds by saying “I work at the hospital.” Her next response is typically, “Actually I’m a physician.” Of course, this response is required to correct a typical “oh, you’re a nurse” declaration by the stranger. I admire this modesty in her; perhaps even more than I admire the determination, intellect, talent, sacrifice, and grueling hard work that has entitled her to these initials. I reflect upon my own level of humbleness and the real face behind the “founder of a startup company” title I often mention.
After listening to a “White coat, Black art” podcast on CBC radio one exploring how MDs haul out their credentials to get perks; I reflected upon my own behavior. It seems as though in our software industry, to many, “founder in a startup company”, is viewed as a glamorous position. This was certainly reflected at Seattle Startup Weekend at Adobe. In contrast to obscuring these credentials, I take every opportunity to make them known. From my blog, business cards, collabomatic t-shirts, to conversations with my hairdresser, I far from hide my occupation.
Perhaps I just realize that the life as a founder of a startup is fundamentally fleeting …. subject to a ticking clock and the maturity of the company. Unlike a lifetime with a “Dr.” title, I am simply making the most of the small window of time. Furthermore, core to the success of your company is exposure of both the company and its founders, so on occasion self promotion is required.
Without a doubt, the effort and sacrifices in founding a startup are something to very much be proud of. However, I think there’s a line between enjoying the moment, being proud, gaining exposure …. and … bragging. I’ve probably stepped over this line on occasion.