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Coffee With: Breaking Into Startups Podcast Cofounder Ruben Harris

Estimated reading time ~ 4 min
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Breaking Into Startups podcast cofounder Ruben Harris records an episode of the technology focused show.

Ruben Harris
Location: San Francisco, CA
Job: Cofounder, Breaking Into Startups podcast
Education: B.A. in Business Administration and Music, Southern Adventist University
Twitter: @rubenharris

How did you get your start?

I’ve been a cellist for more than 25 years. My cello teacher once told me that artists often don’t think about business, but artists who achieve a certain level of success are forced to become their own brand and have to master it. So, I decided it was important to develop an understanding of business while working as a classical musician. During that time, I met a private equity executive who told me that pursuing investment banking would be the best means by which to learn a lot about business in a short period of time. But, I went to small schools my whole life and didn’t have access to many resources that offered insights into that world. So, when I graduated, I had to figure a lot of that out for myself. I got a job as an investment banking analyst by studying a blog called Mergers and Inquisitions, completing all of the online course videos for Breaking Into Wall Street, sending out more than 1,900 emails to prospective employers, and crashing career fairs.

Tell us about your transition from finance to tech.

After three years in banking, as I was trying to decide whether to move into private equity or go back to school to pursue an M.B.A., I connected with a venture capitalist named Balaji Srinivasan of Andreessen Horowitz on Twitter. He helped me realize that reaching out to people of color and the poor worldwide to get them into technology was critical because of AI / automation. After that conversation, I thought about how I taught myself financial modeling online and the fact that there are more roles in tech than just engineering. So, I quit my job and moved to the Bay Area.

What inspired you to create the podcast you cofounded, Breaking Into Startups?

My friend Jason Mayden left me a voicemail sharing his thoughts about how people outside of tech don't read tech news in addition to some other things. After thinking about this with my Co-Founders Artur and Timur Meyster, we realized that many ambitious working-class people don't have much time to read blog posts because they have so many responsibilities. They do, however, often spend time commuting to work each day. So, my cofounders and I set out to create inspiring audio and video content designed to be consumed on-the-go. Josh Kahn, who helped us write The Reality of Breaking Into Startups, helped us think about Video and our aim was (is) to offer an unprecedented look at startup culture from a traditionally underrepresented vantage point. From there, Breaking Into Startups, our podcast featuring inspiring stories of people who broke into tech from non-traditional backgrounds, was born. A favorite recent episode is with Ysiad Ferreiras, VP of Sales at the messaging app Hustle, who talks about overcoming barriers and shares his tips for landing a job in Sales.

What sort of stories do you feature on the podcast?

Our aim is to break down stereotypes and help people from non-traditional backgrounds pursue a variety of careers in tech. We release subject-focused episodes on topics like salary and equity, mental health, negotiation, and the future of work. We share stories of experienced people who broke into tech from outside the industry so that people who are just starting out can glean new insights and chart their own paths. A favorite recent episode is with Rodney Urquhart, a Senior Engineer at Slack who dropped out of high school at 16 years old to work at Burger King, Sears, Best Buy, Comcast, ThoughtWorks and Microsoft (Yammer).

What advice do you wish you could have given yourself on day one of your career?

Don’t climb the wrong hill. The view from your current location might be nice, but think about your purpose and take the risk of climbing back down to restart if you aren’t reaching your goals. Also, remember that you can't climb Everest alone. Listen. Take time to get used to different altitudes. Work together. Make sure to throw the rope down to help others.

How do you stay productive?

I start the day by focusing on my personal needs before reacting to my workload. I try to be in bed by 10pm and to wake up early – around 5am – in order to make the most out of the day.

What have you read recently that you’d recommend?

The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. As a company’s sales gets more complex, the gap between high and low performers widens dramatically. This book pinpoints the reasons for this gap and how to ensure an efficient sales team across the board.

Do you have a favorite motto that keeps you motivated?

Trust your struggle. There are things in life that you can't control. The only thing you can do is wake up with a smile, do your best, and watch your journey unfold.

Images by Maxwell Hawes IV / Breaking Into Startups

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