Sometimes You Have to Ask Twice…or Six Times

I’m three weeks into the new gig as CMO, and whoa…what a whirlwind it’s been. There’s a lot to learn when you start a new job. Admittedly, I underestimated how much there is to absorb and process. A new product. A new industry. A new team. A new set of processes. A new philosophy. So freaking much. While it’s been fun to completely envelop myself in newness, one thing has stood out as harder than the rest…

Asking for help. Yup. I said it. I have had to ask a lot of questions. And perhaps even more annoying to me…I’ve had to ask the same question twice, or three times…fine maybe even six (some of this is really hard!).

I like asking questions. Or I thought I did. I’m realizing I like to ask questions in tandem with people. I like asking questions for exploration sake. Like, “what are our options for the new homepage story” and then we banter. You first. Then me. Then you. Then me. It’s my favorite thing. That dance of creativity.

You know what I [apparently] don’t like? Asking for help, and then asking for it again. It disarms me. I hate interrupting someone else’s flow for my own reasons. I hate not being able to wrap my head around something when a smart person explains it well. But you know what I realized in the last few weeks? 

That’s so ass backwards.

Asking someone smarter than you to explain something (once, or twice, or in 100 bullets if need be…which I have in fact done this past week) is exactly what we should be doing, particularly in startup land – where time, and momentum are critical. Me slowing down to “go to the Googles” (as we have all done a thousand times) is detrimental for a number of reasons. One big one being — context in startup learning is everything. I think we like to generalize the path to success at a startup, and I think its dangerous.

While we can lean on the models or knowledge we come with, nothing is more valuable than learning each startups context, history and specific challenges. And to do that anyone would have to ask questions…maybe a few times.

Today my CEO asked me if the new gig has been what I expected thus far, and I answered honestly — maybe 80% of what I expected. That 80% being crazy fast paced, limited resources, amazing product, awesome team, big challenges, and big goals. The 20% I didn’t expect really is around it being so hard for me to ramp up, and bridge the knowledge gap. He made a really good point that starting a new job can be very disarming. Yuck. Not my happy place that is for sure. 

It dawned on me though that being disarmed is exactly where growth happens. It’s in the “this feels uncomfortable” that we find our footing, and establish new skills, learn new things, and frankly…push ourselves.

The last few weeks have reminded me just how much I have to learn. I like to think the “eternal student of life” role is one of the best roles out there. Sign me up. I also learned that maybe I should cut myself a little slack in all this. Maybe asking twice…or six times isn’t the worst thing ever. I’d go as far as to say as it might be one of the best things you can do.




  • Rebekah

    Great post Joanna, you are an inspiration :) I couldn’t agree more – I don’t feel you have a chance to grow until you are pushed into new situations that force you to acquire new skills or be left in the dust. Every time I’ve been in an “I don’t know if I can do this” situation, I learn I can do it and I can kick ass. Now if it wasn’t so difficult to purposefully go after these situations to put yourself in :D

  • Jon White

    Can relate to a lot of this. For me I learn the most when I am out of my comfort zone. It is uncomfortable for me, but when I look back on my first weeks at Moz, or any new thing, my learning velocity is highest when I am out of my depth. I just don’t realize at the time!

    Glad to hear you are enjoying the new gig.

  • Jesse Landry

    You’re gonna kick this job’s butt and you know it! That said, I’m bookmarking this article to reassure myself when I finally take my inevitable next-step. :)