The technology sector appears to be one always moving from one breakthrough to the next. One only needs to glance at the news to see the latest accomplishment in the field. But what about all the blunders made in this exciting and innovative field?
We never seem to hear about these, but Carlos Zimbrón – a Mexican tech entrepreneur – tells the BBC he thinks it’s about time this should change.
The Journey Of A Start-Up: F***up Nights
Is there any better way of connecting with people than through exposing your vulnerabilities? For Carlos Zimbrón, experiences of failure and shame in the business world should be shared, not closed in the closet.
Back in 2012, Mr Zimbrón came up with an idea he believed could change the narrative of how we view failure at work. Whilst at a barbeque, the idea came to Mr Zimbrón of a conference that discussed the lows, not just the highs, of life as a tech entrepreneur.
Here, whilst surrounded by friends, Mr Zimbrón expressed how boring he found it to attend a “typical conference with keynote speakers talking about their successes, and how it was rare to hear the B-side of that story”.
His friends rallied to the idea and soon, the first F***up Night was held in the very same backyard in Mexico City. At the event, attendees shared some of their past failures at work, and how they feel they learnt from these mistakes.
Word of this unique event spread like wildfire and it wasn’t long before entrepreneurs in other cities decided to hold their own parallel night. 80 countries around the world started holding monthly talks coupled with Q&A sessions for the speakers, each of whom would expose some of their past failures to the crowd.
Now, more than 250 cities participate in these conferences wherein entrepreneurs and business leaders, mainly in the tech space, talk about their past blunders.
But what has attracted this amass of attendance, and is it proof that failure can really be a friend?
Can Failure Really Be A Friend?
The idea of sharing your failure with a bunch of strangers may sound like your worst nightmare. But individuals like Vithushan Namasivayasivam have decided it’s high time to change this narrative.
Mr Namasivayasivam recently proved that the global movement F***up Nights initiated where people share their past gaffes can be an almost cathartic experience.
At the Toronto F***up Nights event, Mr Namasivayasivam shared a mistake he made whilst working as a software engineer seven years ago.
Whilst working for a main global music streamer, Mr Namasivayasivam was tasked with the job of ensuring 10-second-long looping videos would accompany songs played on people’s mobile phones.
Alas, he blundered the operation. This resulted in these videos being downloaded onto people’s phones every 10 seconds, something that rapidly ate away their data and storage.
Angry complaints from users quickly followed, with one even stating: “I hate this feature so much. Whoever came up with this, should be fired and shot.”
Just think back to your worst day at work and it’ll become easy to imagine how bad this one would’ve been for Mr Namasivayasivam.
“It was at this moment that I messed up, and this is where the feelings of imposter syndrome and anxiety and shame came flooding in”, Mr Namasivayasivam explained at the event.
Despite the difficulty that came with facing up to his tech error, Mr Namasivayasivam revealed it to hundreds of strangers at the F***up Nights conference. Why? Because he believes it’s important to show “how someone can bounce back from that embarrassment”.
Today, Mr Namasivayasivam is living proof that things can get better. He is now the founder of Skillify, a Toronto-based provider of software coding training.
By sharing his error from seven years ago and where he has got to now, Mr Namasivayasivam believes he can teach tech entrepreneurs an important lesson of resilience and determination in the sector.
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An employee of Canadian software firm Padiem resonated with Mr Namasivayasivam’s story. Mr Murray is yet another firm believer that the tech industry would benefit if they didn’t only celebrate the wins of the field.
“If you’ve never made any mistakes as a coder, you probably weren’t innovating enough,” says Mr Murray. “When you study someone’s success, it’s almost like asking them what lottery numbers they played to win.”
“Of course, you can learn lots from successful people, but to me, the concept of openly talking about your failures felt like there was much more to learn from.”, he continued.
Regarding how the F***up Nights events could benefit the tech industry, Mr Murry said: “Most people want to hide their embarrassing moments or failures, but because the speakers open the floor with some of their toughest moments, it sets the stage for everyone attending to let their guard down and really get to know one another.”
Marsha Druker organises the failure talks in Toronto. She looks for speakers who are not just willing to talk about their failures, but how they’ve learnt from them.
Ms Druker believes that a common theme of what tech entrepreneurs face when they fail is “a story of resilience and coming out at the other side”. She thinks that “recognising that failure shouldn’t be a taboo topic we don’t talk about openly”.
Instead, Ms Druker believes that opening the floor and welcoming tales of failure and how these have been overcome can be hugely rewarding for young tech pioneers.
This is a sentiment shared by Lead Edwards, director of US investment fund Lighter Capital and lecturer on leadership and innovation a Berkeley.
Ms Edwards has gone on record as a huge fan of these worldwide failure talks.
By talking about failure in business, Ms Edwards believes we are “normalising the fact that something is hard and that it takes several at-bats in order to find the right combination of teams and market opportunity, and the right product or service”.
Ms Edwards points out that these talks are taking a step in the direction set by Silicon Valley, which has held a longstanding tolerance for start-ups not succeeding.
“There will always be entrepreneurs whose companies don’t work out in the end, but they pick themselves back up and try again,” she says. “I’m excited to see this recognition of that kind of resilience spreading into other geographies and cultures.”