See you, Buffer. Hello, ReferralCandy!

Alfred Lua / Written on 29 April 2021

Six years ago, I was a clueless college student, with no “professional” skills or even a degree.

But Leo, Caro, and Nicole took a bet on me.

Since then…

  • I’ve grown with Buffer as we grew from about $5m ARR to $20+m ARR today, from about 50 people to almost 100 now.
  • Nicole, Arielle, and Bonnie taught me about community building.
  • Kevan and Ash introduced me to content marketing and SEO and mentored me.
  • I was given the opportunity to explore product marketing and learn from Mike E., the product managers, designers, engineers, and advocates.
  • People invited me to speak at events.
  • Many teammates taught me about marketing, product, design, coding, data, life, and more.

I’m eternally grateful to Buffer and my teammates for this phase of my life. It’s incredible to think about how someone like me in a tiny red dot in Southeast Asia now has friends all over the world.

The time has come for me to embark on a new adventure.

I’ll be joining ReferralCandy to help with marketing and growth.

ReferralCandy is a Singapore-based SaaS company that is building technological solutions for small businesses. Our main product is an e-commerce referral app to help small businesses grow through word-of-mouth. ReferralCandy very much reminds me of the Buffer when I first joined about six years ago. About 50 people, small business focus, self-serve, and, of course, product and marketing silos. I believe my experiences at Buffer will be helpful at ReferralCandy. In fact, the team looks up to Buffer and wishes I can help turn the ReferralCandy brand into something like the Buffer brand. (Tall order!)

There's still a lot for me to learn. If you run an e-commerce business, do e-commerce marketing, or have a referral program, I'd love to chat and learn from you. Up for emailing me at hello@alfredlua.com?

A few thoughts on career changes

I always find it helpful to understand how other people, especially those a few steps ahead of me, think about things. Since I spent much time thinking about the opportunity, getting advice from friends, and reflecting on my life, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.

Why make this move? It's hard to simplify this into a few reasons. Top on the list is I have an end goal, and I'm optimizing for growth. My life goal has always been to build and run a successful startup. I try to make decisions that bring me closer to the goal. In February, I turned down a job offer and concluded I probably shouldn't take up any job offers unless it is to cofound a startup or it will give me even more free time. To be fair, I didn't even realize an opportunity like the one ReferralCandy offered me is even possible. The role is shaped such that I can figure out and experience parts of scaling and succeeding at a startup. I will share more about my role in the coming weeks.

I also feel bullish about the e-commerce space. I experienced firsthand the impact of being in the right space at the right time when Buffer rode the early social media wave. COVID-19 accelerated e-commerce adoption, and I believe the space will continue to grow quickly for at least the next three to five years. ReferralCandy is well-positioned to ride the wave.

How did I think about money and benefits? I chose to focus on the growth opportunity and not the numbers. And perks are not that important to me for now. I'm young (28), my wife and I are very thrift (no car, no kids yet), and we have saved up some money over the past few years. We don't have to change our lifestyle because of this change. I'm fortunate to be in this position to take up the opportunity, and I know not everyone is.

When did you realize it's time to move on? I had naively thought I would stay at Buffer forever. Some of my teammates also never expected me to leave. My Enneagram is a loyalist. I love the people I work with and found it really hard to "abandon" them. I think being loyal is a good trait to have but it can also be harmful for our career. Sometimes the company grows faster than the individual; sometimes the individual grows faster than the company. When the mismatch happens, it's probably good to move on. I'm grateful for all the things I've learned at Buffer but I also felt I was reaching my growth ceiling because of the team setup. I discussed the job opportunity with a few teammates, and they encouraged me to do what feels right for me and not worry about "abandoning" them. This essay, How to waste your career, one comfortable year at a time, also helped me think through this opportunity.

It is scary to make a career move. Few people talk about it but I think it's normal to be afraid of changing jobs. I'm confident about ReferralCandy and my decision. I'm just nervous because it's my first job change. Buffer is my first proper job, and I have been there for almost six years. I learned a lot and made many good friends. This move meant putting down what I know and am comfortable with to pursue something different. (And perhaps being too comfortable is another indication I should move on.)

I appreciate having a few people to talk to about this and past job opportunities. If you want to chat about a job opportunity or career change, feel free to DM me on Twitter or send me an email. I definitely do not have all the answers for you but I can try to be a sounding board.

Let's learn together

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