Brendan Rogers is currently the Founder & Managing Partner of 2 a.m. [Ventures x Talent]. 2.a.m. is a pre-seed, industry-agnostic micro fund investing in ambitious founders from all over the world, as well as placing 10x talent in early-stage, high growth startups.
Previously, Brendan Co-Founded Wag! the mobile dog walking app that disrupted the global pet service space. Wag! has raised over $360 million in venture capital, most recently $300 million from Softbank's Vision Fund.
Brendan is an active advisor and mentors many companies, accelerators, and universities in the LA/Silicon Valley area. He is a frequent contributor to Forbes, a speaker at national conferences, and has appeared on some of the top podcasts in the industry.
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From Vyten career coaching. It's How I Got Here. A show about business leaders, their resilience, and the stories behind their career moves. I'm Vincent Phamvan, and I've interviewed thousands of job candidates over the years in both recruiting and as a former corporate executive.
Now I'm on a mission to help you take the next step in your career. A corporate job opening attracts an average of 250 resumes and just one person is going to get hired. It wasn't all that long ago that I was nervous and frustrated by my job search, but it doesn't have to be this way.
You can navigate your career with confidence, spend everyday learning and drive to better yourself. You can be excited about the future. And welcome back to an episode of how I got here. I'm so excited to have Brendan Rogers on the show today.
Now, previous Brendan, co-founded wag, it's the mobile dog walking app that has disrupted the global pet service space. Wag has raised over 360 million in venture capital. Most recently, 300 million from SoftBank vision fund.
Now Brendan Rogers is currently the founder and managing partner of 2am, which is ventures tons talent they're pre-seed industry agnostic, micro funds that invest in ambitious founders from all of the world. So I couldn't think of a better guest to be able to have on this show, who has gone through the experience of working in a startup, working in tech, and now is helping others do the same.
I would say I'm a mistake that I've made at least early on in my career is not being, uh, organized and not taking ownership of my work and just letting things like happen. So I would encourage everyone, like really be the CEO of your job and your role, um, take ownership of things, you know, make sure that like, um, you're organized and you're following up with people and you're not letting things slip through the cracks.
And you're really like showing others that you work with side by side, that you can take ownership and that you will not let things slip through the cracks and you will move needles. And I think when you build trust like that with others, people will start respecting you and gaining respect where they're like, no matter what this person's going to execute it and they're going to get, they're going to get it done. Brendan, thanks so much for joining us today.
Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. And looking forward to being on the show, when I grew up, I really wanted to be in just business. Like I wanted to be a businessman and I know that's very broad, but I really love, um, like the hustle of just life in general.
But I love just the grind of like, you, you know, you have goals, you have aspirations and you need to achieve them. And I just am very driven by that. Um, I love setting goals and I love, you know, trying to achieve them and stuff like that.
I just always want to grow and learn. Um, so every day I wake up and I just love the hustle. And that does that. That means like, not just a business, but just life in general. Like I love like being dedicated to, you know, trying to make sure I work out, you know, dedicated to making sure that I get everything done that I need to get done.
Like I just love the hustle. My parents are some of the most supportive people that, um, I could ever have in my life. I'm very, very lucky and very, very fortunate that I was.
I grew up with parents that always were very supportive of me, what I wanted to do, but also pushed me in a positive light. Just really be that personable person where I can go up to people, talk to people, introduce myself to people, always had manners. And I really respect that now because that, I truly believe that your network is really everything in life and like your, um, the folks that you know, and the people that you keep close in your life can really help shape you and your career and continuously do this to this day.
You know, I, um, my parents live on the East coast and I get text messages probably two to three times a week from my father. He'll text me and he'll be like, come on, Brandon, let's go. Like, it's, it's, you know, just get after it today. And he's like 65 years old.
That's awesome. It sounds like your dad's been a big influence on you. What would you say is the most important thing that he's taught you?
One of the most important things that he's taught me is like, really treat everybody with respect and really like be a team player and help out people around you. Um, and I think that as you give off great energy and you are a good person, good things are gonna happen to you.
So early on in your career, you've obviously learned a lot of things along the way. What's one thing that you wish you would've known when you started your career?
I would say like early on, really like try to network and meet more people in like-minded industries. I think that as a founder, you know, I really was heads down and I was built, helped building like, you know, multiple businesses and that's great, but you also need to like come up for air network, meet people, um, always be hiring great talent. I think for me, I was like just, I kind of ignored all that and I was focused, which is great, but I think that you also need balance as well, too.
I think that I was very much in a place where I didn't have balance, you know, I'm a very somewhat some something that I really value is being active and I love working out and I didn't do a lot of that. And it was, I think like, you know, your mental health and clarity and having balance, especially in the early stages of startups. Uh, and also like when you do get, you know, have your first job, you definitely want to be able to have some sort of balance. And I think I lacked that a little bit.
Yeah. And I think w I didn't realize as well as whenever I'm consistent with exercise, I perform better at work a hundred percent. Right. And then as soon as I drop off, man, it catches up with me quick.
I agree with you on the
Networking. So you mentioned, you know, the importance of networking, a lot of folks, when they think networking, they're thinking like cocktail hours, mixers, these things that you have to go to where the right things and they're like networking events. What, what does that networking actually look like to you?
I think like networking and like cocktails. I think that's a lot of, that's all like BS. Um, I think it's more so like having, having a presence, whether if it's like, maybe like having an outlet, maybe writing, like, you know, short, medium blogs, or maybe having some sort of LinkedIn presence or connecting with people that are in your industry. Um, I think from a networking perspective like that, um, you're killing multiple birds with one stone by building your personal brand.
Um, and you're like also, you know, helping your company recruit and like, you know, not that necessarily doesn't mean you have to be going to all these like mixers and cocktail hours and stuff like that, but just putting yourself more out there and, you know, like having a presence, writing what your thoughts are on medium writing, what your thoughts are on LinkedIn. And eventually people will want to connect and really build your brand. And that way I think can really have a longer like ROI and stuff like that for yourself and your business.
Yeah. That makes a lot of sensitivity. So I looked on LinkedIn right before we started recording this and you and I have 65 mutual connections on LinkedIn. And a lot of these relationships were built by, yes. Maybe I met that one person at some type of in-person event years ago, but I mean, the things I remember more so from those relationships are kind of our short digital interactions and touch points along the way, way more than I remember whatever we might've said in a short conversation that we had in person at the beginning of the relationship.
Yeah. I think like, especially like on LinkedIn, um, LinkedIn is turning into a platform now where it's, it's going from people used to write long form articles to now short form, text, quick videos. Um, it's getting more of like a social platform and I think that you can really connect and build meaningful long lasting relationships, and they may not provide value to you in the short term, but connecting with people that you look up to seeing posts and engaging with those posts, um, you can really start building a personal brand in people are, I feel like since they're very sensor, like a lot of the, a lot of the people on LinkedIn that engage on LinkedIn probably also engage on Instagram and Facebook and stuff like that. People are receptive to like engaging and whatnot. And I think it's a great way to you do not necessarily need to go to these happy hours in cocktail parties and stuff like LinkedIn is a great way to, um, to really like, you know, get to know people and connected with like like-minded people.
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So you have about 30,000 followers on LinkedIn. And so as somebody is early in this journey, building their profile, starting to put out posts, starting to comment on other people's posts, what are like the top two to three things that they should do as they get started?
I would say, um, a have a very great, like a photo where like, you're looking into the camera smiling and it's a visible photo of yourself. And then also like have a, a bio that talks about like, what you like to do as hobbies, what you did in your previous job. You know, what, in some of the needles that you move, that you're proud of and what you're currently doing, um, and really like have a fully built out profile where you can like see your, your work history and stuff like that. Um, I would say definitely make sure that you have that completed. And then for LinkedIn posts, I mean, you definitely want to, the way I tell folks is like, you want to have pillars of what you want to talk about and what your content is. So if you do decide to start wanting to build a personal brand on LinkedIn, I say, identify two to three pillars that resemble who you are and what your background is.
So for an example, my pillars that I always write content about is startups recruiting and culture, because I love startups. My background is startups. My whole life is startups. Recruiting is what I love to do. I have experienced in it. And then culture, I love culture. And I've been a part of great cultures and I've been a part of bad cultures. So I, I identified my three pillars. And then I write about those three pillars consistently. And a lot of my followers are also like-minded that loves startups, culture recruiting, and I'm providing value, add content to these folks that will engage in this type of content. So I tell people, identify your colors. If you're an engineer, talk about engineering, talk about your startup experience. Talk about, you know, when you were in college and you were going through your engineering classes, like, and having those, those con those content pillars, um, will provide you a clear track on providing value, add content to your followers. And that's a great way to,
Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more. I think a lot of folks, when they're starting a job search, it's so much about like me, me, me, me, that then they have this kind of like apprehension about asking other people for introductions or asking somebody else to pass along a resume. Or like, what I like about what you just said is focused on giving value to others. And what that ends up doing is just creating reciprocity where other people are going to feel like they want to help you. And they're going to go out of their way to help you, because they've seen that you've done the same for others. And it almost goes back to exactly like what your dad was talking about of, you know, be the person in the world that goes out and helps other people and makes the world better. And eventually all of that will end up coming full circle. If you believe in it,
100000%, some of the best things that have happened in my life have been because I've reached out to people cold. And I was like, Hey, do you have five or 10 minutes to chat? Um, and you know what, a lot of people didn't get back to me, but some people did. And like, some of them changed my life. So, you know, thing magical things can happen if you put yourself out there and you're consistent and you're persistent in a positive way.
Yeah. And those doors won't open. If you don't go try to open it. Right. Right. And reaching out to people cold, I think can be uncomfortable because nobody likes rejection. Right. When you expect rejection from 95% of the people that you reach out to, it means that 5% are going to say yes,
Most people, uh, you know, have some sort of a network and like, there's nothing wrong with going to people that are close to your network and saying, Hey, do you know anybody for X, Y, and Z? If you don't mind, could you intro me like the best jobs you'll get. I feel like the best people, the most value add people that you'll probably meet, majority of those people will be coming from warm intros or people that you've reached out to LinkedIn. You built that reputation with or whatever the case may be.
Yeah. And you've been on the other side of the table, right on the inside of the company as you've gone out and, um, been on the recruiting side. Tell me about the difference in the candidates between your passive candidates and your active candidates are first actually for the audience to find what is a passive and active candidate,
A passive candidate is someone that's not looking there. Um, you know, either in their job or they've, I'm sure they've thought about other places. They're just not actively like, um, putting their resume in, or going on job interviews. And then active candidates are candidates that are actually on the job market. Um, and there's no right or wrong. I think that the difference, um, is a lot of people say passive candidates are always like the best candidates. I don't necessarily agree with that at all. And I think everybody's always looking, you should always entertain something that is of interest to you. Um, and I think that the difference from the passive candidates and the active candidate I see are, um, a lot of passive candidates. Um, there's, there's some passive, there's some candidates that are just like, I'm very happy from where I'm at, but there is something that they're, they still don't like about their current employer. I S I feel like this active candidates are obviously from a communication standpoint. Um, obviously they're, they're more receptive because they're actively looking
When you, as you've taken a look across your own job search or the job search of others, what are the common mistakes that you've seen other people make?
I would say that their resume is not tailored a resumes and opportunity to essentially kind of blow your ego. And I know that sounds kind of wild, but you want to put, like, you want to put on your resume, like, what needles have you moved at the company and why would this company want to hire you? And I think a lot of people don't put like specific needle moving things, and I think they're actually hurting themselves. Long-term
Hey, Brendan. See, you mentioned, you just mentioned something that's called an ATS. So just to define that for the audience, ATS is an applicant tracking system. It's kind of a way for companies to be able to keep organized different candidates and the communication with them. But I think that one of the great points that you just made though, is it shouldn't be the starting place and how you reach out to that company. Tell me a little bit more.
Yeah. I mean, like, I think, you know, applying to, um, a company and replying on their job board is a black box and, you know, a lot of these recruiters do not come through resumes. They do not scan resumes appropriately. And the candidate experience could be very poorly if I was a candidate and I was applying to a, what I would do is I would find out who the recruiters are, who the hiring managers are, all of that company. And I would send them a connection request or, uh, you know, a LinkedIn message. And I would tell them why I want to be a part of their business, how I can move needles for this company and why I'm the perfect fit for this role. And I promise you that, you know, they either, they may get back to you. They may not get back to you, but, um, you will definitely stand out from everyone else that is applying, um, you know, just on a regular job board.
Yeah, absolutely. One of the things is that many people don't know until they've, or if they've been on the recruiting side is some of these roles get like 250 or plus applicants. You've got four to six people who are into who are going to end up getting an interview. And just one person at the end of that is going to be hired and reaching out directly to the recruiter is one of the ways where at a minimum, you know, that there's going to be some eyeballs on your profile and your onto your resume.
I think that also, like a lot of people apply to the wrong jobs, you know, if you're going to apply to, um, let's just say like, uh, a product manager role and, you know, in a product manager role, you know, there's responsibilities for you're working closely with engineers and designers and you're working on specific features to help the product and the customers engage with the product, et cetera. Um, you know, really make sure that you have a, a background or you have some sort of skill sets that maybe the job description is asking for. And you actually fit that mold. I've seen that, like a lot of people will apply to two roles where they don't have like really any experience at all. And they have great backgrounds. It's just not relevant to the job. And I feel like that can hurt you because a lot of recruiters want to see, you know, like minded skills in things in the past that you've done that match the job description.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the ways of doing that, the, the we've shared with some of our clients is have two different resumes and a lot of people don't, uh, take that extra effort. We had one person recently who was interested in product manager roles, but also on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, also interested in HR roles. And this person ended up putting together two different resumes. And even those the same bucket of experience that they had in the past one really focused on how they worked with people, how they worked with growing a nonprofit or a student organization that they were involved in. And the other one really focused on an internship that they had that was at a tech company and put more emphasis there and they ended up being able to get interviews in both. And then ultimately after learning about the companies, learning about the roles, they got a chance to be able to make a more informed decision as to which path they wanted to take.
That's super cool. Yeah. I totally agree with that.
Tell me about the, uh, common myth about working in tech or working in startups in general,
Um, that, you know, as you join a startup, you're going to get rich. Um, I think that, uh, you know, a lot of people will join startups thinking that, you know, since they have shares in a company that, you know, they're gonna work at this one company, and then they're going to be able to retire for the rest of their lives. Um, startups are especially early stage startups. Um, once you go to like a, if you go to like a later stage startup, like say like an Airbnb, they're so big now pre IPO, but they're not a startup, but specifically early stage startups. It is, it is, it is cool. It is fun to be a part of stars, but it is really, really hard. And I know everybody in every podcast in the world says that, but startups are like specific people can like thrive in startups.
And then there's some people that can't, there's like different people that thrive in different stages of a startup. And I would say, um, if you are interested in startups, I would definitely join an early stage startup. And if it's not for you, maybe join like a later stage startup or something like that. But, um, I've seen people thrive like one through 50, and then I've seen those people that can thrive one through efficiency, just not care for anything over 500 people. And they love that early stage. So, um, yeah, I would just, startups are really like, it's, it's a rollercoaster, it's a, it's an emotional, it's a, it's a, it's a gut-wrenching roller coaster and they're fine. I don't get me wrong. I think it's the coolest thing in the world. Like I personally could not be in a 50,000 person company. Um, and you know, if you're joining a startup, it's, you know, I think of it as like, you're, you strap yourself into a roller coaster and you don't know like when the tracks are going to end and you can't see where the tracks are going. And there's a lot of ups and downs and there's a lot of twists and turns. And, you know, it's, it's a journey
As somebody is going through kind of like the calculus in their head of, should I join the fortune 100 or should I join a startup? What are the different considerations that you think they should think about?
I would say like, if you are someone that like does not like risk and like you want to, you know, settle down and have more of a, like a work-life balance and, you know, have that family. And, you know, I think people that have families can do startups, but I think that like, if you are having that, if you want more stability, I think that the fortune 500 companies are a great Avenue. Um, so startups are great for two reasons. So like, if you're just starting off in your career, I'm re I recommend every single person to join a startup because a lot of people have no idea what to do. And startups are a great way to figure out what you like in early stage sharps, you configure it, you wear all these different hats. You can figure out what you like or you don't like.
So that's a great point. And another thing is in startups, you can really grow within the organization very quickly. Um, you know, I've seen people specifically at wag that went from like, you know, interns to three years later being directors and they, you know, you can grow very fast through startups. And I think that's a very, it's very, it's a lot more challenging, um, in their companies to really kind of scale that ladder and stuff like that. If you have no idea what to do, join a startup. And if, you know, maybe do, if you like design, maybe get into design role, or if you're like operations, just join a startup and do whatever ops you can. And, you know, then you'll find a lane in ops. Um, so yeah, that's, uh, that's what I recommend.
I agree with that. Uh, you know, I've seen, I've worked at a 50,000 person company more than 50,000 person company. And then I've also worked first 10 employees inside of a startup in the startup space. It's ambiguous, there's less process and structure where on the other side with the large company, it's highly repeatable, a little bit more predictable. So I think personality traits, depending on which you gravitate towards in a startup, you almost have to love the chaos a little bit. And you, you have to like being the person that can make things better and to solve that. And if that's your personality trait, then it's perfect. Yeah. There's are a lot of the upsides where I've seen somebody, you know, join an entry level role and an operations position. And a few years later they're on an engineering track and they learned how to code because they just happened to sit next to a software engineer for the past year and every week they were just kind of learning things. And along the way before they knew it, they could code.
Yep. I seen that. Yeah. See crazy stories like that. It's amazing because people's lives change
The purpose and the mission of the startup, I think, is so important. I mean, the reality of it is no VC firm can accurately pick which ones are going to be the successful. Some have a better track record than others. So as a job candidate, you know, your motivation to really grind and to work hard at that company is going to be strongly tied to whether you're passionate about the organization's mission and for so many job seekers today, fundamentally it goes back to, do you believe that that company is going to make a difference in the world and making the world a better place? So you talk, we talked about funding a little bit, and there were some kind of terms thrown out IPO. And we talked about different types of investors. If somebody doesn't know anything about that, how do they know about a company's investors and different stages to even understand whether it's good or bad?
I would like so one thing that I still do to this day, but I really, I read a lot of like the tech blogs, like tech crunch, uh, business insider. I go on Crunchbase, it's a directory to find like information about startups, angel list.co is a great platform to learn more about startups and investors. Um, and just really, um, you know, use those tools in research and, you know, really get familiar with, you know, you, you pretty much see a lot of the same tier one VCs investing in a lot of companies and, you know, go on tech crunch and you'll see a lot of articles, um, and just kind of getting familiar with the, uh, with the community, by reading, you know, on these different blogs and whatnot. That's how I get started. I, um, you know, I was always reading tech crunch. I was always reading at the time. Mashable was huge. I'm sure you remember Mashable, um, things like that. So that's a great way to kind of, and then new new tools like Angeles have come out. So you can really like, learn more about like the, the newer, early stage company.
Yeah, absolutely. And on Crunchbase or PitchBook or any of the sites, you can look at different stages of roundings or funding. So you have your seed round, which is your earlier. And then after that, it goes through your series, a, B, C, and D, and each of those as Brendan and I are talking about different stages, basically a D would be a later stage startup, then a series a and that's kind of leading up to, uh, at least for most of the companies that are an IPO or an initial public offering where they go public. So that's when you can like buy the stock on NASDAQ or the New York stock exchange, or another path that a lot of the companies, uh, take to be able to create a liquidity event is they get acquired by another company. So Brendan, the, the compensation package in a startup is different than other companies, right. So you've mentioned kind of this whole risk reward type of scenario. Walk me through like, as a job seeker, if I don't know much about that, like how does that offer work with things like equity?
Yeah, so usually, um, in privately held businesses, um, especially if they're pre, you know, maybe series series D um, they offer stock options where usually it's at like a very, very low price, um, you know, a couple of dollars per share and you have the option to buy these options, these stock options. So you're compensated in a salary. Um, and then in those stock options, and typically those stock stock options are a lot lower price. So when the company does get bought or the company does go public on a New York stock exchange, et cetera, those shares will be worth a lot more money. And then there will be some sort of liquidity event with those shares. Um, if you look at it from a public company experience or a larger company, those companies are already public to shares are, you know, pretty much around the they're not going to grow exponentially like in a privately held startup.
Um, so the risk reward is if you join a startup, you're getting an opportunity to get a lot more shares at a lot lower, lower price. And the hope is that these companies will grow and fruition and either get bought or go public. And there is some sort of liquidity event, but you're seeing now that a lot of these companies that are, that, you know, that if you join a little bit later on, you have a base salary, plus you get equity and it may not be that much equity, but there's a lot of these companies that are, um, you know, turning that those options into, into, you know, liquidity is like that. Yeah.
So the earlier that somebody joins an organization, it sounds like there's more risk, right? The earlier that you joined and therefore the reward or the upside could potentially be there, if the company does really well. And if you're looking to join a company that's already publicly traded, already has thousands of employees. And the company has been around for a few decades, then things are a little bit more stable and the upside isn't necessarily, uh, usually there at least for non-executive,
Right? Yeah. It's like going to be more of a, a cash heavy position and maybe a bonus, if that is your at a specific level. And that's pretty much it, um, you know, at early stage startups, you really have an opportunity to, from a financial perspective, you know, make a, a lot bigger return than if you were at like a larger business. Okay.
That makes a lot of sense. So we've talked through, you know, how you would apply working at a startup. So you reach out, you get a PO, a favorable response from a recruiter. Typically the next step is to set up a phone interview or zoom, like what we're on, uh, today. Um, what advice would you have for somebody preparing for that next step?
I would say, like, really understand, like, look at the job description, look at the job description and understand what the job is and what the responsibilities are. And then previously to that first screening call, you know, talk the rug, write down, um, things that you've done in the past. That's aligned with those jobs, with that job and their responsibilities, um, and also do your research on the company.
And so I think perfectly great advice is go take a look at what the company is putting out there. And it's really going to make you stand out as a candidate. I know somebody who applied to work for a job at Uber in San Francisco, at their corporate headquarters, not as an Uber driver, but one of the first things that they did when they found out that they were going to get an interview is they signed up to be an Uber driver. And they went through the experience of doing a couple of rides and giving a couple of rides on Uber. And, Oh boy, did they have something to talk about in that first conversation with Uber smart? That's so smart. Yeah. And focusing on learning through that journey, as you've talked about is oftentimes the way to success is actually by making the mistakes and learning a hundred percent.
I can't tell you enough that like the journey that I've had from 2011 until this moment in time has been so crazy that you couldn't buy the journey. You couldn't buy the experience that I had. You couldn't buy my failures. Like you couldn't do that. And I'm just like, I think that success, I think success is in-between like from like individual success from when you start until like when you finish and in that, between is what the success is. So you mentioned up at the top of the podcast and we haven't talked too much about it, but 2:00 AM talent and 2:00 AM ventures. That's a little bit about what you're up to now and where can our listeners connect with you online? So obviously LinkedIn, please catch me on LinkedIn. We'll love to, um, chat with everyone. I do post a lot of, uh, content around like recruiting and culture. Like I mentioned, startups, uh, feel free to message me. Um, and then, yeah, so 2:00 AM talent is a talent from that. I started about two months ago, um, where I work with early stage startups, all the way up to series C series D startups and placing amazing talent from IC to executive, um, you know, startups in LA, San Francisco. And yeah.
And then 2:00 AM ventures is, um, a small micro, uh, pre-seed fund. Um, I'm currently raising four where it's industry agnostic investing in all types of industry maintenance founders, um, where I also invest my own personal capital into startups as well. And, um, that's what I'm working on now. And yeah, I think, um, you know, I, I have a huge passion for recruiting, but I think I fell in love over the last year and a half with, uh, angel investing and really advising and mentoring startups and really getting in the trenches. So we'll see where, uh, we're both of them take us, but, um, but yeah, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn, always available and would love to, you know, give any questions about like your startup or any specific questions around your pitch deck, or even career, or how to find jobs, et cetera, more than happy to help. Brendan, thanks again for joining us and, uh, hope you enjoy the rest of your time in sunny, Florida. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Thank you so much for listening to the show this week. If this podcast was helpful to you, the best thing that you can do to support is please consider rating and reviewing the show on Apple podcasts. This helps us help more people just like you move towards the life that they visit our podcasts on Apple podcasts. Then score to the bottom, tap the rate with five stars and just leave a sentence or two about what you loved most about this episode. You can subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts, or you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Vincent Phamvan, and you've been listening to How I Got Here. This podcast is brought to you by Vyten career coaching.