Q&A with mentor Michael Bastos

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Michael BastosMichael Bastos, mentor for Startup Weekend One Team and past participant in two different cities, sat down with the SWSD team for a quick Q&A about Startup Weekend, how a military background influences career choices, and what he has learned from Startup Weekend.

SWSD: How did you find out about Startup Weekend?MB: I had known about the event for some time but never had the opportunity to attend because of work and school, it wasn’t until I was done with college that I finally had the chance to attend one and see what it was all about. As a developer I was hesitant on attending because I was worried that I’d spend my weekend coding a project that wouldn’t go anywhere and time was the one thing I was in short supply of. In the end though I was wrong about my apprehensions and I benefited more from the experience than I had originally thought.

SWSD: Tell us about your first Startup Weekend. What was it like?

MB: Well I’ve only been to two: the first one was the military event from last year and we did a Crowd Funded Kickstarter for Disabled Veterans which came in Second Place. I got so excited about the process that I attended Startup Weekend Riverside and that’s where my current start-up Pricels.com [price·less] came out out of. We do product analytics and I can honestly say that I would not have pulled the trigger if not for attending a few Startup Weekends. I definitely learned a lot from the business development side that I just wasn’t familiar with from my USMC background.

SWSD: Why is it important to have a Startup Weekend that focuses on military veterans?

MB: I spent 8 years in the Corps before getting out to finish my degree in Computer Science; regardless of what I did or how well I did when I was in, by the time I left the Marines I literally felt behind the curve ball in everything. Most of the guys I had gone to school with were all finishing their Master’s degrees and well into their careers and I was still finishing my Bachelor’s in my late 20’s. This drove me to push myself to learn more faster and to try and grow in my career sooner than what was possible; this included late night study sessions on coding with friends and attending every event I could network at. Folks that served do feel behind the 8 ball when they get out regardless of the opportunities available to them so a focus on military especially in something like this gives them a sense that they can push harder and faster to accomplish more in less time, it let’s them know that their military careers weren’t simply a distraction. I know I did and it paid off for me in a big way.

SWSD: How can a civilian who has never served learn something from Startup Weekend One Team?

MB: Every branch of service has a different motto for working together as a team, yet when you hit the civilian world you tend to see those ideals fall apart and people tend to seem more competitive when in teams and less willing to fall on a sword for each other. I think a lot of that has to do with circumstance but to me it really just means learning to give folks the benefit of the doubt; as a Marine I had to give my team the benefit of the doubt that they were all trying to accomplish the same tasks I was and there wasn’t any ulterior motive. Even if there was, I couldn’t focus on that because in the end my job as a Sergeant was suppose to be dispensable if something were to happen to me. In the civilian world if you give yourself that same mentality  – “I’m always replaceable and that’s okay because what I do is needed anywhere” -then you tend to not care about office or team politics and you tend to be more pragmatic with your team decisions.

SWSD: What does “One Team, One Fight” mean to you?

MB: Well I’m not a Navy Seal, so I’ll apologize ahead of time for having a different take or motto in mind when I think about team dynamics, “Semper Fi” or “Always Faithful,” which is the motto I grew up with over the last decade, sort of means the same thing: to give your team the benefit of the doubt when you work together, when you fight together, to not let distractions hinder you from your shared goals of kicking ass and taking names. Regardless of which branch of service you came from or what you did, I think the military as an organization is one of the best things a man (or woman) can do in their lives; it gives you a sense of focus, self esteem and team workmanship that is unlike anything I’ve seen in any fraternity or sorority.

SWSD: What have you taken away from Startup Weekend?

MB: Don’t wait; start building something, regardless of what it is, regardless of whether it’ll do well or poorly. Just start building and get the experience early on, good or bad, even if you have to hold a job or two while you do it. If you think of something that you have to ask for someone’s permission to do (like use someone else’s content or copyright) then you’re already in trouble – build something that doesn’t require anyone’s permission, anyone’s say-so. Build something that you would be willing to work on for free for the rest of your life if money wasn’t an issue – you’ll find yourself building a company or business or product or service that you love, and money is just a bi-product of a job well done and some old school perseverance.

About Michael: Self & School taught C++, Java, PHP, Perl and Ruby Open Source Developer working as a Ruby Software Engineer for SPAWAR Research (G2 Software Systems) with a BSCS degree. Founder of Pricels.com in 2014 and the AdvancedWP.org community in 2011 which now has over 4,000+ members world wide across 3 social networks. Has spoken at over half a dozen or more developer events on a range of advanced topics. Message him on twitter @bastosmichael.