It all began with a Phish concert on December 29th, 2011. I was planning on seeing my favorite band that night. Before the Phish concert I was interested in getting a copy of a recently released book from my favorite Phish author Mr. Miner, and then planned on going to the show. The book was a bit pricy ($50) and I didn’t want to carry that much cash on me so I tweeted at him and asked if he would be accepting credit cards. Mr. Miner’s response was yes and I thought nothing of it.
When I arrived to buy the book and went to pay, I immediately saw Mr. Miner take out this small white device and plug in into the headphone jack. What is that?” I inquired. “Oh it’s this thing called Square.” I was completely floored. This innovative gadget was literally the coolest thing I had ever seen. A device which had the ability to transform a phone to accept credit cards?! I went back to go see the Phish concert and enjoyed the rest of my night (phenomenal “Sloth” > “You Enjoy Myself” 1-2 punch to open the show! … but that’s for another time), but this Square contraption was still on the back of my mind.
That next Monday, I read up on Square and was very excited about their product and what they had to offer. I looked online for a position that would be a good fit and sent out my resume for a “Risk Analyst” position. Much to my happiness I was immediately asked to submit a writing sample. I did and was asked for a phone interview scheduled for that Friday. I was very excited and thoroughly prepared for the interview and I thought it went well. I was on pins and needles the entire weekend waiting to hear back from them and finally when I did on Monday… I was rejected.
I was crushed. So much so that I decided to write my first blog post about being rejected. At time I didn’t mention the company that I was referring to, but it was Square (admittedly, I have to start blogging more).
I really, really had wanted to work for Square. Originally, I was merely interesting in entering “the start up” world. But after researching Square and it’s mission, it immediately struck a chord in me. Their revolutionary approach to the payment industry to make transactions quicker, smoother and friendlier was exciting and looked like the way of the future. Square seemed prime to not only disrupt the entire payment industry but to literally change the world- and I wanted to be a part of such an amazing revolution. I applied to other places but the company I really wanted to work for was Square.
This was further enforced when I saw Square co- founder Jim McKelvey demoing Square during a commercial in this year’s Super Bowl. I was thrilled that Square had reached an audience of 111 Million people, and it reinforced my desire to work for them.
Re: getting a job, some people say “it’s not about what you know; it’s who you know” so I opted to go this route but to no avail. I tried contacting a few people with “connections” but they unfortunately weren’t able to help. As I was looking into and researching new jobs I was interested by a few, but I always had Square on the back of my mind. It was around this time that I got advice from Ari Teman (and my good friend Benjy Epstein) who advised me that I should show Square that I could be an asset and to create value for the company, which I took to heart and set off to do.
I decided that I would try and further grow Square’s presence in the NYC area- free of charge. I was inspired to take this initiative from Tristan Walker, Biz Dev at foursquare, who wrote a famous blog post about how he landed his job at foursquare. Tristan offers excellent advice, noting that when people ask him how he’s able to secure such cool spots at awesome companies he responds:
“be so enamored with the product that you would work for the company even if they didnt hire you….more importantly find where the needs are within the organization and be willing to do whatever it takes to help them fill the need (work for free even!) ”
I decided to follow Tristan’s advice and shoot for the stars. I determined that I would give myself about 3 weeks to further build up Square in the NYC area and show the results to Square. What did I have to lose? If they weren’t interested I’d obviously be disappointed- but would understand and move on. So that’s what I decided to do and the 3 weeks began.
I went around the city into stores and different merchants and told them about the value of Square and why it would be the right move for them- I was completely honest and never lied to anyone, I answered all their questions to the best of my ability (I had researched and read up a lot about Square online) and if asked I told them I didn’t work for Square but was a big enthusiast. Furthermore, I even spent my own money to buy card readers to hand out to people on the street and at trade shows so they could benefit from using Square.
After realizing the incredible potential that existed in NYC (after one day alone I was able to sign up roughly 10 merchants with many more expressing interest!) I did research online and tried to figure out who would be the right person to contact. I reached out to several people in the company about opportunities that might exist in NYC (among them Director of Product Development Megan Quinn, and CEO Jack Dorsey).
My big break came from one of Square’s co-founder’s Tristan O’Tierney who I was in correspondence with, and we engaged in conversation back and forth. First I asked Tristan if there were any jobs available in NYC. Tristan responded that unfortunately there were not, but told me that there was a college program called Square U (essentially a program for college students or recent grads). Technically since I was still a student (I was enrolled in a double Master’s program in Yeshiva University) I thought that this was an opportunity that I thought could be a great fit. I asked Tristan about this and he told me that he would look into it and get back to me. I did some research online and reached out to Ryan Delk and Joel Ponce both of whom were enrolled in the Square U program, and they both were extemely helpful and described what it was like to work for Square (short answer: it’s awesome). I really have to thank both Ryan and Joel for their time and kindness, and they both saw that I was eager about Square and put in a referral for me. I also was in touch with Tristan and touched base with him as things progressed- and was happy to hear when he told me “someone will be contacting you in a couple of days.”
On February 29th I was contacted by Square. They asked me why I wanted to work there and were impressed by the fact that I had truly made an effort to get noticed and be a part of the team, and in the midst of our conversation they offered me a job! I was thrilled! I officially started working for Square on March 9th, 2012 and feel tremendously fortunate to be a part of the team (an added bonus is that the Square U program that I’m in is full of awesome people and that both of my bosses are very cool).
I absolutely love working for Square- so much so that it doesn’t even feel like work (and I can honestly say I know what that feels like since I was technically “working” for Square before I was even hired!)
The moral of this story is that I always heard people say “connections, connections it’s all about connections and who you know etc.” The only purpose of me writing this blog post is to debunk that myth and show that this is 100% not true. Sure connections help, but as Walter Sopchak (quoting Theodore Herzl) in the “The Big Lebowski” put it; “If you will it, it is no dream.” I definitely had guidance along the way during my job search but at the end of the day no “connection” helped me get my job. Thank you to everyone who helped me and of course Square for presenting me with such an incredible opportunity!
there are many people who’d I have to thank but I specifically have to single out:
my uncle Michael van Bemmelen- words wouldn’t do justice to all the thanks I owe him
James Savas- who’s store, YoBoys Ice Cream was the 1st Square merchant who I signed up!)