Embracing Risk and Growth: Wrapping My 2022 at Replit

$ when December 2022

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hey gang — long time no speak.

2022 has been wild.

As you know, earlier this year I joined Replit, one of the most exciting (and promising) startups in the world. The last 9 months have been absurdly intense, with high pressure — higher than I originally anticipated when they first reached out.

See, Replit is impressively lean. We’re still sub-100 employees, despite over 100m of funding. This has a few implications. The biggest: things happen fast. Way faster than your traditional series B co.

I joined with the expectation of being an Individual Contributor focused on analytics, instrumentation, acquisition funnels, and ad attribution, working on what was essentially a marketing-led go-to-market motion.

Less than two months after I joined we decided to pivot, and bootstrapped a product-led growth team instead, centrally focused on testing its own hypotheses. Less than three months later, we evolved it once again, making it a cross-functional growth team that supports product engineers scoping MVPs, going to market, picking lead metrics, and growing them through experimentation.

This meant for me going through an immense professional growth in a direction I was not expecting.

I had never coded professionally before joining Replit. Today, I almost exclusively ship code. I wrote my first Javascript line in February, just weeks before starting this job. Six months later, I re-wrote Replit’s entire feature-flagging infrastructure across the backend, frontend, and edge workers.

I became a product engineer without realizing it.

Why? Because Replit values shipping things fast, wants to see visible things happen consistently, and needs engineers to be self-directed as much as non-engineers to bring their ideas to life.

I embraced change, I embraced risk, I hunkered down and worked hard. And I'm loving it. Yes, the pressure is high, but that doesn’t mean I resent it. On the contrary. It makes me happy, nurturing that part of me constantly chasing a new challenge.

It’s not been all fine and well, though.

The first few months have been a bit of a cultural shock. I’ve never worked for anyone before, let alone for an American company, let alone a Silicon Valley-based one. Coming from the European tech scene, the biggest shock was how easy it is to let people go. To lay people off when they’re not performing. At any level, even leadership. At first, it made me slightly paranoid. But then, I realized that this is how they keep the culture innovative and it’s arguably one of the key reasons why US startups consistently outperform their EU counterparts. I now think that’s the a healthy and fair way of managing early companies, where people are kept accountable for their actions and impact. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that it still makes me subconsciously nervous and insecure, though.

I have been consistently working 50 to 60 hours a week, and I’ve written on this blog less than I wanted. The only in-depth analysis I wrote this year, Why Ed-tech Startups Don’t Scale, has been shared around and I’m quite prod of that one. But that’s mostly it. Hopefully I’ll manage to carve out more time next year, but for now I’m just happy to be alive.

Oh. One last thing. I decided to pursue an O1 visa to move to NYC.

Replit is supporting me in this endeavour, and many people from my past life — college professors, VCs who invested in my old company, VCs who didn’t, even politicians — helped me with the application. Fingers crossed. I understand that taking this risk is a significant gamble on many levels, but if you know me, you can see how I can't help it. I have one shot. I have to try.

That’s it. Will keep you posted. Let me know your thoughts, if you have any — I read all replies.

Take care, Gian

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© Gianluca Segato 2024