Brigitta Puskás

Brigitta Puskás

fellow of Bridge Budapest, Prezi, San Francisco, 2016

Changes, changes, changes

A lot of changes were happening at the company at that time, and on top of everything, I was told on my first day that a new product would be released in a couple of months. This was Prezi Business, which had a different name back then and had not been completely finished yet. Everybody was working on the preparations, the new website was under construction, new design and new press materials were being developed, while the software itself was getting newer and newer functions. The result? A chaos full of excitement, expectations and a lot of overtime hours, and I had already been a part of it.

When I asked my colleagues what had changed inside Prezi during that one or two years since which they had been working there, the answers I had got can be summed up like this: everything, but the essence had remained. Prezi is not a startup anymore but its much larger, more sophisticated version that thinks in a more purposeful and more market-oriented way. It is still Prezi, there is still a vision and mission, but there is also responsibility and pressure, it must expand and a long-term perspective is also required.

I must admit that I was surprised but at the same time amazed by the professionalism that I saw only as an “American” characteristic but is much more complex in terms of its organisational origins and one could see this at the meetings for instance. If one tries to imagine a Hungarian startup in San Francisco, then one would expect an unlimited amount of snacks, constant noise, programmers brainstorming in shabby jeans, a lot of long evening hours in the office and chaos. Though you get all that, but the whole thing is much more structured than one would expect—at least at Prezi. Meetings are run in nice order, there is an agenda to go through, there is a reporting order and everyone is very polite. They do not cut the others off and nobody belittles the ideas of others. Everybody has his/her own Google Calendar, meetings start and end on time and people always try to focus on the point.

I have attended a brainstorming session concerning Prezi Business, which was moderated by my mentor, Susannah. The question was rather broad, though it mostly related to the work of the online marketing team. The composition of the attendees seemed completely random to me: there were one or two persons from every team from programmers to sales, about 10-12 persons in total. To me, who had not really attended such things in practice so far, it was refreshing to see how different it is from the thing we called brainstorming at university where three persons threw in and then rejected three different ideas. At the beginning of the session, the moderator informed us about the rules and then we had 5 minutes to come up with as many ideas as many had come to our mind. While I was anxiously playing with my pen while crouching over my post-it notes, being afraid of writing down something stupid, the developer guy sitting next to me had already used up at least 10 notes and he did not seem to be running out of ideas within a short time.

So many ideas had come up by the end that hardly any place had been left on the board. Then, everybody could look these through, and we were given 5 additional minutes to come up with new solutions based on the ideas of the others. So many ideas had indeed come up by the end of this round that we could not find any more place to stick them. And what did it all take? 15 minutes and a great deal of openness and acceptance towards the others. This is what will make you not afraid to write down the 10 things out of which 8 are for sure absolute commonplaces or impossible ideas. Because it might happen that someone else will draw inspiration from your idea to find the real solution. All this is facilitated by the open and accepting atmosphere in which my colleagues dare speak even in front of the whole company, they ask questions and dare make remarks even if the question does not necessarily concern their own field of expertise. This was the reason why I was also given the floor and my colleagues were listening to my report with interest already at the team meeting following my first week there.

I spent a month at the company. During this period, I had the chance to sit at two new places, we had three newcomers, two left the company, new teams were set up, we started to use new software products, the platform was given several new features, the designer team was transformed, several articles came out about Prezi in the American press, they started to organise a new conference, there was a security alarm, a whole-day all leaders meeting, we had a lot of birthdays and a baby shower as well. Some of these events are obviously related to the new product, but the company does not do anything else but just run most of the time: it is developing and changing all the time.