I'm not going to lie - leaving Smartex was really hard.
Initially, I joined Smartex to develop electronics for what would become Smartex CORE when we were only 15 people. After that, I watched Smartex grow month by month to around 80 people in a little less than two & a half years. If we were in the office we would all have lunch together & after returning from a 2 week vacation, there were so many new people that I didn't know half the people on my lunch table. It was truly a rocket ship! 🚀
I loved a lot of things about Smartex at the time: we were a very tight-knit team (pun intended), communication was easy, we knew more-or-less everything that was going on, & the culture was amazing - you could really feel the momentum & the energy was electrifying.
Despite this, I was feeling overwhelmed.
As the company grew, I ended up accumulating responsibilities. Although we've been trying to hire someone to help for quite a while, it was really hard to find the right kind of profile we were looking for. I also felt that one of the most high-leverage things I could do was to train new team members that recently joined & make sure they understood the culture, what's expected of them, & tried to make sure they can be productive as-soon-as-possible - although we are remote-friendly, I felt I needed to be in the office with the team mostly every day. That, alongside with a very long commute took its toll.
So, I decided I needed to slow down & try a change of scenery. I ended up joining another startup on a similar growth stage, with more mature processes, but now closer to home, I also tried to set better boundaries on what kind of work I wanted to do & overall took better care to manage my mental health.
During this year I had the chance to improve some skills I wasn't as exposed before. I mainly worked on manufacturing & ensuring the quality of the electronic product we were manufacturing at the time. Dealing with larger manufacturing batches & a larger fleet offered the opportunity to look at quality with statistical tools that provided many actionable insights to improve the development & manufacturing processes.
Despite me joining another project, everyone at Smartex made sure I still felt like part of the team (it was "my team" after all) & I truly felt at home the couple of times I visited the office during my year away.
Although I had left, I still really wanted Smartex to succeed.
At this point, I had a conversation with one of my old managers (the one which ended up taking over my functions when I left) & they asked me to come back. Although not truly unexpected - they have been not-so-subtly hinting at my return ever since I left -, it was still a roller-coaster ride!
So, why return to Smartex?
Having left previously, I now had a difficult decision in front of me.
On one hand I knew - & am good friends with - most of the team, I knew there was a skill gap for which I was a good fit, the company worked hard on solving most of the problems that initially led to my departure, & I knew I would feel right at home at Smartex.
On the other hand I was in a comfortable position at the startup I was in, the company I was returning to was most certainly not the same company I left, &, finally, I wanted to avoid making some of the same mistakes that led to my first departure.
After a lot of soul searching & a few hard conversations I decided to rejoin Smartex.
Now after a few months back, it's evident that while things aren't flawless, there has been significant improvement. We've gained additional resources, achieved better team balance, and implemented more robust processes—clearly a positive development. There tend to be breakpoints at startups, & quickly increasing the headcount is definitely one of them. Despite this, there is a conscious effort on ensuring that we stay true to our culture.
The energy is contagious, the execution speed is blazing fast, the team is stellar, & you can really feel the momentum - there aren't many hardware companies around, but I know that if any company is going to succeed, it will be Smartex.
Besides all that, there is something very unique about Smartex about the way we try to shape our culture, the care we take with our people, the transparency & knowledge sharing, & our care for the client & solving their pains.
If I'm allowed to give one piece of advice to anyone in the same spot: look well into where you want to be professionally in the next 5 years - Which company will take you further in your own goals? Which has the best shot at surviving and thriving? Where will you learn more? Where will you be more fulfilled? Which company gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling? - chances are that you've gave the same answer to all these questions and when the answer's this clear, you know where you need to be.
Going through the onboarding process again, I happened upon a quote by Sheryl Sandberg that really struck me:
"If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat!"
The mothership does call home.
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