5 Takeaways On Life & Work from Tech Investor & Entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian

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On Wednesday night, the Her Campus UFL team hosted a second watch party to catch the latest edition of The New York Times' Get With The Times, featuring tech investor and entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian. You might recognize his name as the founder of Reddit, a widely popular online platform to share everything from links to images. During the interview, Ohanian cracked jokes and delved into detailed anecdotes, making it apparent he is just like us (especially in college): a person trying to find his way. Let’s get into a few key takeaways from this refreshing interview.

On communication: “If your goal in one way or the other is to change the world, being able to communicate effectively is part of that.”

If anyone understands the importance of code and computer literacy, it’s Ohanian. But he also made it a point to emphasize that having strong face-to-face communication skills is just as valuable. Like Ohanian said, we all have innovative ideas and the potential to be changemakers, but we must be able to understand complex ideas and effectively communicate them. For Ohanian, coding is important, but we have to remember the social part as well.

On supporting the future changemakers: “The really big ideas are the ones that really push the boundaries of what feels normal.”

When Ohanian was starting his company, he didn’t really have anyone to mentor him and teach him the ways of entrepreneurship. It was a lot of hit or miss (although clearly, the hits won in the end). Ohanian made it clear during the interview that he wants to change this. As he points out, no one blinks an eye when an athlete has a whole team of specialists and coaches to help them learn and grow. In the same way, mentorship should become a part of the business culture to help entrepreneurs just starting out. There are many young people with new and bold visions for the future, and the world would only benefit from giving them a little guidance.

On recovering from a failed idea: “Come up with 10 more.”

Failure is a part of every process, especially when you’re in the tech industry and everything relies on innovation and investment. Instead of looking back on past failures with a negative perspective, Ohanian regards them as vital learning experiences. When he was first starting out, he had positive thoughts to help him when he considered starting a business: Even if he failed, he had spent time learning different skills that would be applicable elsewhere. Ohanian thinks that everyone who wants to should give entrepreneurship a try, regardless of fears. He commented on how great it is to see all the new startups popping up: “It’s like a band. Everyone’s got one."

On removing the stigma surrounding family values: “Part of changing the culture is about normalizing this behavior.”

When asked about how he balances work and family life, Ohanian commented on the question first. He loves being asked this type of question. Women get asked all the time, so why shouldn’t men? As more and more individuals broach the subject with him, he realized that peeling back the stigma of family values and gender roles is slowly undergoing a shift –– a shift that normalizes prioritizing family.

Ohanian brought up the difficult birth of his daughter that resulted in dangerous complications for his wife, Serena Williams. The lengthy and difficult recovery process prompted him to think about the many families who go through similar situations without job security. For some, there’s a fear that taking too much time off for your family can result in losing your job. This ties into his values on the topic of paid parental leave. According to Ohanian, “People shouldn’t have to worry about job security when their family needs them.”

To Ohanian, normalizing men taking time off helps women who too often have to deal with the stigma of getting pregnant and taking time off work. He continued on to say that he doesn’t "know how we in good conscience allow that 1 in 4 women to go back to work after giving birth."

Talking “hustle porn”: the balance between hustling and resting

Ohanian touched on something that probably affects all of us, especially as young adults in college: hustle culture. During the conversation on this topic, he brought up what he calls “hustle porn,” which is essentially people glorifying grinding and hustling on social platforms or in other forms. He understands that in any industry, working hard is a given, but there is a distinct difference between hard work and grinding. Because of this, he believes “there has to be a respite from that; there has to be a balance or else it becomes self-destructive.” Ohanian made it a point to dispel the toxicity that comes with hustle culture and has done so in his own endeavors. In his own company, Ohanian is conscious about sending employees home if they need to rest.

Ohanian may have millions from his various business endeavors, and he may be married to one of the greatest athletes of our time, but he’s still just a normal person. In all his tidbits of advice, it’s clear that Ohanian is a person who wants to be with his family, be healthy, pursue great ideas and support others with even greater goals. The world might be a better place if we took some of his words to heart.