I blogged for my first Girl Geek Dinner on January 15th at Houzz headquarters. I took the train to Palo Alto at around five; when I got there, I realized I didn't have the address on me. Luckily, it only took a few minutes walking down University Ave to find the glowing Houzz HQ. Upstairs, the event was in full swing. Engineers, designers, product managers and more mingled; I melted into the crowd, taking notes and snapping photos. The Houzz office is stunning and playful. Riffs on common home design projects abound, including a children's bedroom and an indoor deck. I studied the details, nibbling on crab cakes and crudite, and made some small-talk. In a room full of the bay's top tech talent, I couldn't help but feel a bit self-conscious. Was I asking the right questions? Did I belong there?
Houzz founders and married couple Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen began talking, and my imposter syndrome melted away. The room buzzed with their passion for their product, its users, and its employees. There was something inexplicably authentic about the duo; it felt as though they were completely relaxed and in sync.
Stories of the early days of Houzz inspired me most. Working late nights and weekends, Adi and Alon bootstrapped Houzz for that first year. Building on their own time and budget without investors, the couple built Houzz for themselves and their friends. The fledgling product was rough, and it worked--Houzz's smooth user interface, bells and whistles and sophisticated design came later.
I felt humbled. There I was worrying about how I looked, when I had a shining opportunity to do work I love. It was yet another reminder: don't let ego win. If and when ego rears its ugly head, return to the work. The good stuff lies in the process: everything else is just a bonus. It's like Amy Pohler's "pudding switch" in Yes, Please: when you start to want prestige, worry over it, thirst for it, then it's time to throw yourself into something you love.
Adi and Alon put process over prestige. They didn't do everything possible to make their idea succeed. They didn't fundraise or hire big-name consultants. They didn't make their product pretty. Instead, they tested a raw idea under the harshest conditions--and it thrived. That's something to aspire to.