If You’re Young, Don’t Be Arrogant and Other Thoughts from Jeff Bajayo (KAI #2)

Hey guys – welcome to Kick Ass Interview Number 2. Up today is an ambitious young guy who covers tech news, is a firm believer in NYC geeks and has already learned some good lessons to share with us. I hope you enjoy meeting Jeff!

Can you briefly introduce yourself to us? What you’re all about, where you came from, etc?

My name is Jeff Bajayo, I was originally born in Manhattan, I’m a first generation American, my family originally hailing from Israel. I love technology, this love sort of stemmed from my family’s first computer; I was around 10 years old and very curious. Running Windows 98 and a not much else it was more than a “problem child”. I put more than a few hours of my childhood fixing and experimenting with it. Over the years, I got more and more into technology.

About three years ago I discovered TechCrunch. I saw them while they were attending CES and they were doing what I only had dreamt of; Playing with the latest and greatest technology, and meeting the brilliant minds behind it. A few months after that I was determined to be just like them. I taught myself how to configure a server, use Wordpress, and I honed my writing skills. I then started my first blog called JeffOnTheGo. It was my testing ground, and I learned how hard it was to get page views, readers, market the blog and most importantly use the resources around me.

From there I went on to apply and get accepted to write for a few different tech blogs. I now write for several sites, each focusing on a different aspect of technology.

Why do you like writing about the technology and startup space? What’s more important/engaging for you – the writing or the tech?

I absolutely love meeting startups and the brilliant minds behind them. I guess I enjoy finding out what makes this emerging breed of people tick, and I also try to learn from them. I’m young, and seeing a group of ambitious young people fresh out of college creating extraordinary things inspires me. People like Dave McClure and other folks I’ve spoken to through Y-Combinator are the true entrepreneurs. They work hard, use their brains and they do not give up. For me, it’s the tech that is most important. The tech and the people behind it.

Every day in high school I see people who are not ambitious, they slide through school and life like it’s a breeze. Being a part of the tech community, even in such a minor way has really helped shaped who I’ve become as an adult, and what I’ll do in the future. It’s a great example that with hard work and common sense, people can still succeeded in the US.

You know, I think the American Dream is most strongly held by immigrants and their children – like you and me. Awesome. Outside of blogging – what’s your biggest project right now?

In this past year I’ve branched off from blogging into actually trying to make some of my own ideas come to life. I’ve recently gathered a team for my biggest project yet. It’s called ProjectInterns, still in stealth though!

Exciting! Hopefully you’ll keep us updated as that evolves… You’re a young guy who’s going after some ambitious things – and doing quite well. But this path can’t be easy. Can you tell us about some setbacks, rejections or scary moments you’ve had when tackling on this stuff?

Well I think much of what set me back from the start was experience. I am young, I’m not as experienced as older folks and I think that is something that has really hurt me in the past. But as I go through different situations, I learn from them and apply what I’ve learned so I don’t make the same mistakes the next time.

One blog I wrote for in the past taught me many lessons after the fact. I was too ambitious and I wanted to take on the world instantly. I jumped at every opportunity to request to attend this conference or interview some person etc… I was a bit arrogant, I did not listen to much of what my editors had to say much of the time and I wasn’t being very professional.

But later on I understood my errors, and why at the time I felt they were maybe being a little too hard on me. I wasn’t experienced; I was just a kid trying to run with the lions.

As someone who’s young you have to realize that you aren’t invincible and that you don’t know it all, and when someone gives you an opportunity to learn something new or gain experience, you just have to embrace it.

Ambition is a good thing, but you can’t run unless you learn to crawl.

How do you feel the NYC tech scene differs from that of the Valley? Are we Bay Area people really living in a bubble that’s just foolishly obsessed with check ins, game mechanics and photo sharing?

The NYC tech scene is not so different then the Valley, just less open space and larger buildings. People here are just as obsessed with check ins and technology. While not being such an active member in the tech scene in the city, NYC like the Valley has a tremendous amount of talent, but not near as many startups as San Francisco. Geeks are geeks, where ever they may be, were all tech crazy.

What advice do you have to young people who are trying to do expansive work but feel stuck – without resources, connections, credibility etc? How can they overcome that and be more successful?

First off I guess I’d say don’t count your chickens before they hatch. I’ve had project ideas with the hope that they would become reality, but not to dash people’s dreams, tech is a harsh environment, just like any business, you have to fail a few times before you can succeed.

As far as resources and connections, signup for Twitter. I can’t begin to explain just how valuable a resource it is. Many of my friends, both online and off have stemmed from Twitter. It’s a place where relationships are formed and invaluable connections are made. Network, meet people, you never know when that person may be interested in something you’re doing and want to be a part of it; or vise versa. Tech is about being a social butterfly, and some may like you, other’s may not. That’s just how it goes!

Credibility comes with working hard and at a constant pace. Don’t start something (like a blog for example) and then a week later quit. Have a social presence and use your brain. If you do good work then people will notice eventually, if not, well then you have to work a little harder.

Some great people that I follow are Robert Scoble, Dave McClure, Loic Le Meur and Hiten Shah. All great resources for tech and entrepreneurial content.

If you’re looking for cool startups to check out, both Betali.st and Startupli.st are phenomenal resources. I also post all of the new and cool startups that I come across on my designated startup Twitter List (Updated a few times a week).

Finally just some general suggestions:

  • Be a news addict, I check it every day, multiple times a day, both tech and general  (Go Pulse!). One of your most valuable assets is to be informed.
  • Be easy to contact. When someone asks me for my contact information, I can easily hand them a business card or forward them to my website. I reply to emails within a few hours, not a few days and If someone leaves a message, I usually call back very promptly.
  • Always, ALWAYS be professional. No matter what the circumstance is, be polite and professional.
  • Don’t be afraid to meet new people, it’s awesome.
  • Something my mother has told me practically every day. Your name is the most valuable thing you have, never ruin your good name.
  • Don’t give up, I’m not successful yet, you may not be either, but if you give up you’ll never know will you?
  • Also don’t forget to check out my blog and follow me on Twitter!

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and talent expert. He is CEO of a performance hiring platform called Headlight, a Fast Company contributor, and an advocate for Asian American men. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonshen and subscribe to his private newsletter.

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