Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Do you view your career as a startup?

I first met Reid Hoffman, nearly six years ago (Thanks, Kay!) as I was being interviewed by the then executive team at LinkedIn for my role as social media guy. Since then, what has always struck me the most about Reid is his simplicity coupled with his enthusiasm in debating complex topics, whether it’s a philosophical discussion on social media to something as simple as the importance of adding commenting to our blog.

 One of my favorite pics from the old days – Reid Hoffman (center) with Jean-Luc Vaillant (left) and Allen Blue (right) at our old Palo Alto office

Working at LinkedIn during those early days was a great opportunity to watch, discuss and learn from him on a slew of topics and it’s great to see that Reid’s now shared many of his learnings into his recent book – “Startup of You“.

There are tons of valuable insights that Reid and co-author, Ben Casnocha, have assembled in the new book. Insights that are simple on the face of it, but you’d be surprised at how unheeded some of them are. Here are some:

  • How to establish close professional alliances who can help you and whom you can help in turn.
  • Why the most powerful networks include a mix of both allies and looser acquaintances.
  • Why you should set up an “interesting people” fund to guarantee that you spend time investing in your network.

The other parts of the book that I also found fascinating include the anecdotes, like this one:

I [Reid] first met Mark Pincus while at PayPal in 2002. I was giving him advice on a startup he was working on. From our first conversation, I felt inspired by Mark’s wild creativity and how he seems to bounce off the walls with energy. I’m more restrained, preferring to fit ideas into strategic frameworks instead of unleashing them fire-hose-style. But it’s our similar interests and vision that have made our collaborations so successful.

We invested in Friendster together in 2002. In 2003 the two of us bought the Six Degrees patent, which covers some of the foundational technology of social networking. Mark then started his own social network, Tribe; I started LinkedIn (LNKD). When Peter Thiel and I were set to put the first money into Facebook in 2004, I suggested that Mark take half of my investment allocation. I wanted to involve Mark in any opportunity that seemed intriguing, especially one that played to his social networking background. In 2007, Mark called me to talk about his idea for Zynga (ZNGA), the social gaming company he co-founded and now leads. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to invest and join the board, which I did.

An alliance is always an exchange, but not a transactional one.

Now, some folks may think that these alliances are an exception:

All of which prompts a question: in a winner-takes-all world, do the networks of the rich and powerful become self-reinforcing? For all Hoffman’s claims that the lives of successful Silicon Valley zillionaires are a useful model, one cannot escape the sense that he moves in a rarefied world in which a you-scratch-my-back chumminess excludes the less fortunate.

I beg to differ. These mutual alliances model is one that all successful professionals follow. These alliances can be found everywhere in our careers. And, we do it all the time.

Now, some professionals may have an old-school way of thinking where they stop looking at professional enrichment once at a job. Though this may have worked in the past, I couldn’t agree more that in today’s economy it’s imperative that we not only keep our skill sets updated constantly but more importantly, that we also actively nurture our relationships that matter so much. As Reid shared with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times last year:

The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone. No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach your career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.

I highly recommend this book if you believe the world of work is undergoing a dramatic change and if you’d like to learn some of the basic lessons to equip you to deal with those paradigm changes successfully. So, I wanted to share some reasons why I think it may be worth your while to take a read. Tweet me your reactions to the book.

I look forward to your stories.

Follow me @mariosundar

Filed under: Linkedin, LinkedIn Colleagues, ,

Good Times with the LinkedIn Wizard

Readers of this blog know that though I focus on social media marketing and PR, there’s always room for a personal post or two filled with pictures.

I guess this is as good a time as any (and frankly long overdue) to share some thoughts on workplace and friends, so here goes… The main reason I love working at LinkedIn are the awesome people I get to work with. And, in the past 4 years, it’s been such a pleasure to work with Adam Nash, who just recently moved to Greylock.

Adam with his LinkedIn LEGO sculpture. Click pic to read about its making.

Adam and his teams have been behind a lot of exciting LinkedIn products over the years, most recently the huge mobile revamp among others. Adam’s also been instrumental in building out our developer platform as well as creating a culture of energetic hackdays internally (in my mind, LinkedIn Hackdays will never be the same again) — all, while building other cool stuff.

Personally, Adam’s been a huge champion of his teams communicating to our members on social channels even before social media became cool. He made my life easier, with his huge support of the LinkedIn blog from Day One, set a great example by being the most prolific author of posts on our blog and has inspired countless posts from his team/s as well.

He’s everything a social media strategist can expect from a colleague at their company. Plus, he’s one heckuva nice guy with whom I can discuss politics and still be good friends with. So, here’s to a great colleague! A trip down memory lane.

And, one more thing. Adam, you’re welcome for this “fiiiine” coverage… cue Bart Simpson laugh. lol

Story time with Adam at the (then new Product team space) in our Mountain View office (2008)

Adam chatting with Kay (my former boss / mentor who hired me at LinkedIn in 2007) right around the move to our Mountain View digs

One of the first product blog posts Adam authored (profile pic launch in Sep 2007) with his team

The first Hackday judging competition hosted by Adam

Adam in his traditional LinkedIn Halloween Costume

Adam prepping for a marketing photoshoot in his Halloween attire

Post photo-shoot chat with Adam (seemingly still fascinated by the costume) & Kay

Another look at Story time with Adam. That'd be (from l-r) Adam, myself, Steve Ganz (standing), Hillary from HR, Jerry Luk, and Erin Hoffman (Team engineering)

Wishing Adam the very best in his new role at Greylock! Check out his blog here.

Filed under: LinkedIn Colleagues

What’s it like to work at LinkedIn?

I get that question some times and I felt Mashable recently did a great job summarizing what it is to work at LinkedIn. Check out similar posts they’ve done in the past for other companies. I was happy to share my thoughts on LinkedIn (where I’ve worked for ~4.5 years now) and glad that Erica Swallow chose to quote me in it. Thanks!

Good Times: That's me, Richard and Krista (Marketing / PR team) at LinkedIn's 5th bday party!

Back to the Mashable snippet:

Here’s what Mario Sundar, LinkedIn’s senior social media manager and chief blogger, told Mashable about the monthly shindig:

“One of the elemental pieces of our culture is the monthly inDay where folks from across the company are given a ‘No Meeting Day,’ to focus on projects they are most passionate about. This ranges from the very productive Hackday (started by Adam Nash) to the TED-like Speaker Series where we bring in transformative professionals ranging from MLK III to Suze Orman to speak. Education is an oft-repeated theme as we get to hear from the game changers in that space like Sal Khan (Khan Academy), Charles Best (DonorsChoose.org), etc. Many times these events lead to our colleagues contributing towards some of these worthy causes. For example, one of our engineers, Alejandro Crosa, built DonorsChoose.org’s first iPhone app after listening to Charles Best, the CEO, speak at an inDay where Charles announced their internal hackday contest.”

“Frankly, I think projects like inDay actually translate well across different cultures, languages, etc. and get teams working toward a common cause outside of the daily work environment. This lends to a more collaborative environment when it comes to work as well.”

While we’re on the topic of InDay and culture, I’d urge you to check out a video tour that Jeremiah filmed 4 years ago, at LinkedIn’s Lunch 2.0 — right after we moved from Palo Alto to our Mountain View offices.

Check out a 5 minute video tour of LinkedIn’s offices 4 years ago

If you’d like to work at LinkedIn, stumbled upon a role that you think you’d be great for, ping me and I’m happy to chat.

Drop me a note @mariosundar.

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Latest at LinkedIn, LinkedIn Colleagues,

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