The Commons Digest (02/08/2023)

The COmmons Insider Newsletter

This Week's Discussion

Can AI Convince You To Work At A Startup?

Learning at The Commons

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Your Weekly Level Up

🔥Hot Topic: Optimizing SQL queries

✏️ Career Resource: CFJs with Introductions to Hiring Managers

✅ Community Reccos: Getting up to speed on Looker

💭Thought Starter: Insightful questions on company culture

💡Brain Teaser: 🍳

🚀Community Share: #swag


Can AI Convince You To Work At A Startup?

To say there’s been a lot of hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI) recently would be an understatement. AI has been around for a long, long time, though it broke through to the mainstream in recent months with tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT offering a free preview of the chatbot to the public. Widespread media coverage followed and has not slowed down. It seems everywhere you look, companies are figuring out ways to incorporate AI into their products.

With all the AI hype these days, you might be thinking, “hold up, can I just see what AI looks like in action?” Well, today’s your day. This week we hosted a Speaker Series with Matt Hammel, co-founder of AirOps, and he gave us a demo and access to their tool that uses AI to help operators in tech write flawless SQL queries, and if you are a community member you can view the recording here. To further explore the capabilities of AI, we put together a quick case study below 👇

Creating content is one of the most accessible ways to see AI in action. You can sign up for a free account with ChatGPT and begin creating content within minutes. For the following test, we used a tool called and asked it to write us a blog post. To generate content with you input a title, keywords and the desired tone, and the tool does the rest generating an outline, talking points and then full-fledged content. At any point in the process you can tweak what the AI is suggesting and it will adapt to your feedback. We created the following article using these inputs, and some light human editing:

Title: Why everyone should work at a startup at least once in their career

Keywords: startups, tech, career journey, professional development

Tone: Convincing

Editing time: 30 minutes

Below, we break down the raw AI copy and edits we made, plus we’ve shared the original AI version and our fully edited piece. Check it out and let us know what you think! Did AI convince you to dust off the old resume and cold-DM some founders on LinkedIn?

Why everyone should work at a startup at least once in their career


I've always been a fan of startups. I've worked in companies of various sizes, from small to massive, but I have found that startups have the best learning experience possibilities and biggest opportunities for advancement. When you work at a startup, you get exposure to every department in the company because there are so few people working there. That means you'll learn about operations (and how they differ from other roles) and finance (and how it differs from other roles). You'll also gain an understanding of marketing strategy and sales tactics by working with these departments directly—which is something that's hard to do when working with larger companies where each group is separated into silos. Another benefit is simply having access to more senior leadership than you would as an individual contributor at a larger company.

➡️ Our Take:

  • The AI-generated copy touches on a variety of important topics, but it’s an overwhelming word vomit - like an eager 6-year old telling their parent everything they did that day (“and then….and then …. and then…!!!!”)
  • As an intro, there’s too much information for the reader to easily understand what to expect next. It would be more effective with a little structure! We decided to skinny the intro down (plus, we added a little context so that it tied back to our audience)

Here’s our edited version ⬇️


As many in The Commons will attest, working at a startup can be a career-defining experience, regardless of what stage of your career you are in. There is no place like a startup to learn how to work efficiently, gain a cross-functional skill set and see what it takes to run a successful business.

Here’s A Subsequent AI-Generated Paragraph Example:

You'll get cross-functional experience in a short amount of time.

Working at a startup is an excellent way to get cross-functional experience. You'll learn how to work with different departments, teams, and cultures. You'll also get exposed to new technologies, processes and people. This is invaluable if you're interested in moving into another role or company later on in your career; it gives you a better understanding of what it's like working for other types of organizations.

➡️ Our Take:

  • This paragraph is much easier to follow than the intro - ideas are concise and flow logically. Plus, since the content is focused solely on the sub-heading topic, the ideas are more concentrated
  • However, the advice is a little simplistic and could benefit from real-world examples to increase value and differentiate it from the plethora of other content on the internet!

Here’s our edited version ⬇️

You'll get cross-functional experience in a short amount of time.

Working at a startup is an excellent way to gain cross-functional experience. You'll be working on projects that touch many different parts of the organization and will learn how to work with different departments and teams. You'll also get exposed to, and figure out how to navigate, the technologies, processes and people used by those teams, while building your stakeholder management skills.

An example of this would be as a BizOps team member, you might be tasked with testing a new paid product offering. This would require you to have (or build) cross-functional expertise like:

  • Understanding customer personas + buying journeys
  • Financial concepts like pricing, ROI and modeling
  • Sales and comms strategies
  • Go-to-market execution

And would require you to cross-collaborate with teams like:

  • Marketing / Sales
  • Customer Success
  • Product

Learning by doing is an invaluable way to grow a generalist toolkit and build cross-functional collaboration skills, which can be applied to a vast array of future roles in your career.

Want to keep reading? ⬇️

Check out the full AI post, plus our edited version!

What’s happening at The Commons

Upcoming events

Go-to-Market Workshop

Join community members Liam (Director of Operations - Canada, RenoRun), Luis (GM at Alto, ex-GM at Shef), and Rachel (Strategy & Operations at Google) for this session covering the basics of developing a go-to-market strategy including Market Sizing, GTM strategy & adaptability "on the ground"

Wednesday, February 8th at 7PM ET
Community Members Only
Register here

Speaker Series: Evaluate a Startup like a VC ft. Banana Capital

We're excited to host Turner Novak, founder/GP at Banana Capital! Turner will give us insight into what a VC looks for in a startup, so that you can better evaluate startups that you're looking to join! We'll also have an open Q&A.

Monday, February 13th at 7PM ET
Community Members Only
Register here

Past events

ICYMI we recently hosted these events. Members can find recordings on our platform.

  • Speaker Series; Matt Hammel from AirOps. Matt Hammel is the Co-Founder and COO of AirOps, which aims to make technical work easier for less or non-technical people using AI such as converting plain english into a SQL query or scanning SQL queries for errors. He joined us to share more about his career experience, as well as walk through a demo of AirOps, and how it can help you as an operator.
  • Writing Bootcamp: Our community writing bootcamp has officially wrapped up! Stay tuned for more hands-on skill-building workshops coming soon.
  • Company Showcase ft. Jobber: The Talent and Business Analytics teams at Jobber joined The Commons for a company showcase. We heard directly from them about the work they're tackling and roles they're currently hiring for.
  • Open House: Our mentors provided an overview of The Commons Sprints, and critical skills to succeed in generalist roles in today's tech landscape. Missed it? Check out the recording here.

New memberships are currently closed. Applicants on the waitlist will be prioritized when we re-open admissions.

Here are some admissions dates to keep in mind:

  • February - Admissions will be closed. We will not be accepting new members to join The Commons.
  • March - Admissions will reopen for the March cohorts. Existing community members and waitlist applicants will have first priority to secure a seat.


Below are the Sprints running in March. Based on the sell out of our January Sprints and the number of early bird seats secured, we expect the remainder to go quickly when we re-open admissions. By joining the waitlist, you'll have priority access to join us. Here are our March Sprints:

We're also now accepting a limited number of Community Only members. If you're interested in joining the community only (instead of participating in a Sprint), you can also apply via the waitlist below.


Explore Sprints // Join the Waitlist


Our January Sprints have officially kicked off 🎉

Join the Waitlist

Documenting Customer Onboarding Flows

There's nothing better than having an entire community to rely on, when you're tackling something new at work. ⚡️ Here's one of the many topics the community tackled together this week...

Big thanks to Shane, Pranjal, Zayn, and Saumil for sharing your advice! 💚

Some thoughts:

  • A lot of SQL implementations have built-in optimizers which are actually quite sophisticated, that will iterate through possible explain plans in advance and solve for the most efficient use of resources. In those cases, it’s mostly irrelevant whether you pre-filter with a subquery and do a smaller join, vs. doing a big join with a where clause - the optimizer will end up picking the same path in the back-end anyway
  • There could be tons of other optimizations happening as well, depending on how your company handles and load-balances query request traffic. There may be intermediate systems that consolidate similar requests and serve cached results from intermediate processing layers as well.
  • I often find that I make very different choices when solving for query performance vs. utility.  For example, the most “efficient” way write a query from a performance perspective, is also likely far more difficult and less intuitive to audit / explain to another user, and/or is much harder to change/manipulate or flex to new contexts using parameterization or something like that. Are you writing efficient queries just ’cuz, or you hitting resource limits / timeouts due to complexity?
  • Hypothetical example: I want to do analysis on how a specific set of user segments are transacting with a specific set of products.
  • The most “efficient” way to do this would to do a single join between users:transactions and do all my math or comparisons in a single SELECT
  • The most “useful” way to do it might be to create a bunch of subqueries qualifying user segments and transactions in logical buckets and calculating summary stats per segment, and then combining all the segments together at the end. This approach is far less efficient because I’m replicating the same large table join multiple times in the subqueries, but it’s the most useful because it’s easier for me to see which qualification criteria apply to each user segment, to change criteria within a single segment, to add more segments later, or to toggle segments on/off in my final output without rewriting a bunch of case/when statements, etc.
  • ➡️ Sometimes the best answer is to ask your data infrastructure team for more quota and keep being inefficient with query resources because it means you can be more efficient with your own time

💡 Tip: You should connect with someone from your data engineering team if you want to go deeper on how to optimize for performance on your specific infrastructure (Sometimes the best answer is to ask your infra team for more quota and keep being inefficient with query resources because it means you can be more efficient with your own time)

Annnnd...since we started today's post talking about ChatGPT, here's another community suggestion: "Curious if you have ever posted your SQL query into a ChatGPT prompt and asked "write a more efficient version of this query"? I've seen on Twitter a bunch of examples on how ChatGPT helps programmers out so maybe it could be applied to SQL too?"

Check it Out + Add To The Thread

Your weekly level up

CFJs (cool f'ing job) 🔥 🌶

There's no better way to get your foot in the door than by being referred directly to the hiring manager (or meeting the hiring manager yourself!). Our job board has been filled with tons of exciting roles lately, with the opportunity to be referred directly to the hiring manager.

Non-community members can apply directly via the links below. Community members - be sure to reach out to the individual listed in Slack so that you can learn more about the role and secure that referral! Not sure how to make an intro? Check our our outreach template at the bottom of this post.

And now, onto the roles ⬇️

The biggest CFJ of all ... we're hiring for an Operations Manager!

  • You’ll be leading Learning Programs, Community, and Mentor Operations. These are the three core pillars of our business - to say this is a big and critical role is an understatement!
  • Remote role, Canada only - Preference for Toronto.
  • We’ve built a 1,000+ person global learning community of ambitious professionals in Tech, who learn & build connections through interactive learning experiences. We raised a pre-seed round from awesome investors including Turner Novak, Panache Ventures and Eric Ries. We’ve reached product-market fit and we’re entering an exciting growth phase (see below for what lies ahead).
  • We're hyper focused in scaling a highly engaged community, expanding our learning experiences, and launching new growth channels and we're looking for our next community-obsessed, process-driven, analytical teammate to join us!

And the other awesome opportunities...

  • roserocket, transportation management software for trucking and logistics, is hiring across a number of roles, including Senior Product Manager (Series A) | Toronto, hybrid | Community, ping Mia for an intro!
  • Clio, Cloud-based legal technology, is hiring a Pricing Analyst (Series E) | Canada, Remote | Community, ping Anna if you're interested (she works there!)
  • Fondue, a Shopify app that is helping ecommerce brands grow profitably, is hiring for an Ops Associate | Remote - eastern US | Community, ping Abraham (he's the Founder + CEO and a member of The Commons!)
  • Anthropic, a competitor of OpenAI, is hiring on their BizOps team | SF, hybrid
  • BizOps at Figma | SF, NYC, Remote | 2+ years of relevant experience in investment banking, management consulting, private equity, corporate planning, business finance, analytics, or related fields + SQL

Looking for more opportunities? Head to the community job board!

Getting Up To Speed on Looker 🔎

Here's what the community has shared so far  ⬇️

  • Google Cloud Looker Documentation - "This is pretty comprehensive.
    I've learnt best by tinkering, it should be quite intuitive if you've used other BI tools.appointment schedule should work" - Joel
  • Bytecode IO - "We used Bytecode IO to help us get started —
    I found the looker docs / help weren’t that helpful to me, but I was flying very solo and couldn’t have done it without them" - Haley
  • "I got up to speed pretty quickly on Looker during my time at ResQ. Here's what I did / recommend:
  • Asked for a walk through of the UI / how to actually build reports. I think the building is very intuitive and easy, but knowing where to drag and drop is difficult.
  • Asked for "homework" from my more experienced team members. Spent the night working on it and then reviewed together. Did this 2-3 times
  • Tinkered with it. Understood what all of the different tables told us, what was even in the realm of possible.
  • Volunteered to build looks for different folks. I was partnered with the customer experience team and hosted office hours as a part of my job. If they wanted a specific view, I'd commit to it, and then was forced to figure it out
  • Review advanced dashboards / looks and try to understand their logic. Being able to understand the logic and rebuild really helped me feel competent at this." - Raza

Have some other ideas? Add them to the thread.

Don't Ask "What is the company culture like". Instead ask these ⬇️

Thanks Qahir for the share! Any other questions to add to the list? Share them in the thread here.

Two mothers and two daughters sit down to eat eggs for breakfast. They ate three eggs and each person at the table ate an egg. Explain how.

Check out the answer here.


Want to share the 💚 ? Pop into the #gratitude channel!

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