Alexis Ohanian on Grinding for Experience Every job is an opportunity to learn.

Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman began to pursue the monumental idea of building the front page of the Internet in 2005. Within a year, Reddit was born and Ohanian was a multimillionaire after being out of college for less than six months. How did he do this? To know that, you have to go back to some of Ohanian’s earliest employment experiences.

“Low paying jobs in the service industry helped me bridge that gap between empathy and service; that I use every single day as an entrepreneur.” – Alexis Ohanian on the Joe Rogan Experience

The Reddit co-founder’s first job was when he was 13 years-old, demonstrating computer hardware at consumer electronics retailer, CompUSA. Every thirty minutes, Ohanian would put on his headset microphone, stand on a raised platform with his products displayed behind him and present to an audience of zero.

Doing the presentation to an audience of passerbys was nothing compared to when he would have a few people who would stop to heckle him. He fondly remembers the frequency to which a customer would sit in on his presentation just to shout, “No one is listening kid! Just stop.”

Before he started working at CompUSA as a product demonstrator, Ohanian was shy, doing everything he could to avoid speaking in public. Rather than learning from a course in a traditional education setting, Ohanian states that “(I) got all my public speaking fears out of the way cause I spent 2 years being ignored every 30 minutes” while at work.

Ohanian found that most of the fears that would usually prevent him from doing something he was passionate about would dissolve if you are willing to “get up, get awkward, and embarrass yourself,” since no one expects you to perform exceptionally well the first time you try something out.

This is sense of experiential learning was a common stream in Ohanian’s life as he learned how to start his own business by building one. Learned how to provide a service to his customers through an empathetic lens while working as a server at Pizza Hut. Of course, you can learn about entrepreneurship from a lecture, but you can also learn by experience.

“…Waiting tables and cooking at Pizza Hut will teach you so much about entrepreneurship, because at the end of the day your are on the front lines. Your pay is coming from that tip.”  – Ohanian on the Joe Rogan Experience

Where there was once a shy teenage boy that didn’t believe in his own voice, now stands a man who co-created a platform that allows all of its users to have their voice amplified to the millions of people who frequent Reddit.

Through an experiential mindset, Ohanian was able to take advantage of opportunities for learning and development that may surround you on a daily basis. While he didn’t go into these jobs expecting to learn skills that would benefit him in the future, he benefited from the constant practice and patience. While some jobs may only seem like a holdover until something better, they are still opportunities to learn and grow.

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Image Credit: Alexis Ohanian’s About.Me

Omer Ismael

Born and raised in Scarborough, I worked within varying arts organizations serving Toronto’s youth, while attending York University for Development Studies and Political Science. Throughout my work and education I strive to shift the ways in which youth engage with traditional education, and help guide them as they make their learning, their own. When I am not trying to channel my inner Horace Mann, I could be found basking in the auditory brilliance in the form of stand up comedy, podcasts, and good ol’ Hip Hop.