By Dany Warman
Alum - Julian Fishman (a.k.a. Jules or The Curls) C17
Location - Bay Area, CA
Company - Citrix Startup Accelerator
Title - Director of Strategic Partnerships
Over the Summer I reached out to alumnus Julian Fishman (C17) to learn more about the company he was working for and what his role was. We met up at the Mission's favorite Dynamo Donut and Coffee, and enjoyed some creatively-foamed lattes and some bacon-maple-apple donuts in the back patio. It was a great way to start a very insightful morning with Julian, and getting a glimpse into what is like to work with startups 'round-the-clock.
Who do you work for and what is your role?
I go out to the external facing world to spread the word about our Citrix Startup Accelerator, specifically for those who are interested in innovation, start ups, corporate innovation, and in technology. We are trying to build interest around our 12-week market validation programs. I get to go into new cities like Miami, Raleigh, Santa Barbara, New York, and Bangalore to find all these people and get them to come on board as a partner to our innovators program.
How did you leverage your PGS network to find your current position?
If it weren’t for PGS I wouldn’t have this job now, I’m certain of that. Coming into PGS, and getting my degree was transformational, and then at the end I got a job wrapped up in a nice bow for me. Casey Schultz (C17) first got a job through Devon Crews (C1), they were looking for a bus development person, and Devon really liked to tap into her PGS network. You don’t realize the power of the PGS network until you actually start to tap into it. Now we were able to return the favor through a great Experiential Learning (EL) experience this last Spring, we will probably have more EL experiences at the accelerator. It got paid forward to me, and now I can do the same.
What types of partners come into the accelerator?
It’s really broad, there’s certainly a tech focus with everything that we do. Increasingly, we are seeing technology enter our lives in all sorts of different ways. When you look at sustainability for example, it is inextricably linked to technology. A lot of the most sustainable developments that have happened in the last ten years have been based on technology. Beyond that, we have a methodology around design thinking, lean start-up, and modern leadership. This 12-week program we’ve developed is agnostic to industries and market verticals. Whether you have a great new consumer facing app, or building a new service for consumers, or if it’s an enterprise technology play, the methodology is still the same. At the end of the day, the main reason why any business fails is because it was unable to find customers that were willing to pay money for the product/service. We help businesses avoid failure by pinpointing their weaknesses and helping them use technology in an efficient way to address and avoid these pitfalls.
Part of my job is to find corporate partners that are interested in these types programs, and depending in their particular interest we will structure the themes of the program on what Citrix is interested in but also what the partners are interested in. For example, in Raleigh, we have a clean tech track with three to four tech companies that will go through the program.
In terms of Social Entrepreneurship, we are in some discussions with Social Venture Partners (SVP), who are basically business people who’ve done pretty well for themselves, have a strong social conscience, and want to tackle meaningful projects to them. In Bangalore, we are working with an SVP to come on board with some waste management and renewable programs. The goal is to put early social entrepreneurs through our programs hoping that we can get them into the right trajectory in such that in two or three years they can be financially sustainable. In terms of the curriculum and framework, there’s many different ways that we can tailor the program so that it meets the needs of our partners, and concurrently creates some good in the world. At the end of the day, is not about creating another app, we have no shortage of different apps in this world. It is about creating a positive impact.
What skills that you acquired at PGS do you now use in your role at Citrix Accelerator?
PGS has given me a lot of the skills that I need to be successful in my role at Citrix. At risk of sounding cliché I would have to say that Systems Thinking, and understanding the emotional climate in which we are operating, is one of those skills. We are a scrappy team and have four people working on a lot of different things. When it gets really busy, there’s a bit of a head-down mentality and this can be at the expense of team unity and taking the time to celebrate our successes. PGS taught me and Casey Shultz (C17) to take on the role of the emotional barometer. When things aren’t going particularly well, we are the first to call it out, get a few voices in the room, and talk it out so we can work more closely together, get up to speed on what everyone is doing, and have a little fun along the way.
From a Systems Thinking perspective, we have more projects than we can actually execute very well on. What’s been interesting is just to take a more holistic view of the world, and what Casey and I have seen in the last few months is that we have a marketing problem. You can get so busy trying to run around and putting out fires, that you can forget about stepping back to take that 30 thousand foot view. When we think about what's missing, we can put it back in to help us deliver far better results.
How do you celebrate failures?
Working with start ups, our methodologies built into this 12-week program are not so much on how to build the perfect start-up, but more about how do you avoid the common pitfalls or failures that entrepreneurs run into all the time, that can just render your business dead within six months.
As far celebrating failures, we operate like a start-up, and things don’t always go to plan. If you are going to work in the start-up world, you need to have the ability to roll with the punches. If you have a spectacular failure, you need to work out a way to laugh about it and go “Well that didn’t really work out! What can we learn from it, how can we do things better and make sure it doesn’t happen again?” That’s really what start-ups are all about. It’s about learning fast.
This is what we teach our start-ups: Fail fast, learn quickly, then pivot, and adjust or kill it off quickly and go and start something else. When you make a decision to be a start up, this is your life, it's probably seven days a week, there’s a lot of stress, there’s a lot ambiguity, and that can take an emotional toll. What our program is developed for is to get out there and learn from our customers very quickly, and if you are not getting the traction, then kill it quickly.
The last thing you want to do do is spend two years of your life, a million bucks, and end up nowhere. Learn from our mistakes, we don’t spend too long dwelling on them. You need to be able to move on.
Knowing what you know now, what might you have done differently before graduation?
Making use of PGS geographic advantage. We are in the epicenter of technology. About 80% of grads stay in the Bay, and about the same percentage of the jobs are in tech in some shape or form. I feel like we could do a better job of building a bridge into the tech sector a bit better. That is going to lead to better jobs, and allow us to have a better impact.We have a bunch of people generating great ideas that could have a massive impact. One thing I've learned quickly in Silicon Valley is that any 'schmo' can come up with an idea.... but it's all about the execution. Presidians bring a significant set of skills into the table, If we could find some way to better connect with the engineers, coders, the builders of the world (hardware or software), will allows us to take these ideas, validate them, build the proof of concept and BAM, you’re away!
I deal with a lot of engineers, and they are great at some things and are terrible at others, and I see it as a compelling advantage. My role is a people facing job. I ask questions, frame questions differently, LISTEN, and then tell them about my offering and how it can benefit them specifically. I operate in a really complicated part of technology, and I would be lying if I said that I understood all the technical aspects. But I have people on my team who understand that, so partnering with people offering a complementary skill set can be a powerful union.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
It’s kind of a little bit scary to be honest. I never thought I had a career path. I’ve always done things because they were fun for the time, when it's time to find something else, you move on.
For the first time in five or six years, I really feel like I have all of these equally amazing career paths, if I want to work in corporate innovation helping big businesses stay relevant and act like start-ups to be nimble and agile, I can do that. We work with very early stage startups, with just a couple of people and an idea and some additional work. To be a mentor or coach it’s a really great skill to have, helping people validate their idea before they go and spend a year or two and a million dollars along the way. Helping them get their first paying customers, helping them go raise some funding. The world is leaning toward start-ups and it’s a very cool place to be, I can definitely see myself working in that space.
Another part that is very interesting is the world of Venture Capitalists. VCs have a bad name because there’s some unscrupulous folks around, but I think there also some fabulous people who see the world in a different way. At the end of the day capital is so important, and if you can help early stage companies with the network and the money to enhance their chances of success, that can be a really crucial role to play in the future of society. We are actually trying to find the winners of tomorrow, today. At the moment I’m kind of wearing these three different hats. I love what I’m doing right now, and I could see myself doing this, or any of the three, for a very long time.
Interview Date: 6/9/15
The Experiential Learning (EL) courses at Presidio Graduate School offer invaluable opportunities for personal and professional growth. More specifically, as...