Marsha Druker of Fuckup Nights Toronto on taking the risk, building community and why you shouldn’t take the first job that’s offered to you
Marsha Druker is the Founder and Director of Fuckup Nights Toronto, the Toronto-based segment of a global movement that enables entrepreneurs and business leaders to share their stories of success and failure so that they can inspire others. Marsha is a Marketing Graduate from the Schulich School of Business and has international experience working with a high tech startup in Israel. She is a talented content marketer and passionate community builder.
Looking back five years, where did you think you’d be by this point in your career? How did you get here?
I would have never seen myself where I am today five years ago. Being a graduate of a traditional business program, our school didn’t necessarily provide a balanced look of all the potential directions one can go after completing their degree. Since I focused in Marketing, I started off working in CPG but gravitated towards the tech start up scene. I learned a lot working in corporate marketing but tech was always exciting to me and was a space that I wanted to move towards over time. Since I didn’t go on exchange in undergrad, I wanted to live abroad, which led me to an opportunity to work at a startup in Tel Aviv. I loved it. Israel is a hot bed for entrepreneurship and tech and I got exposed to almost every facet of how a business operates while working there. I learned more there than I had in my few years within a corporate marketing capacity. Coming back from Israel, I decided to take a shot at community building by bringing Fuckup Nights to Toronto. Things have really picked up since our first event and I haven’t looked back since!
What gave you the big idea to start Fuckup Nights? How did you get it going?
Fuckup Nights is a global movement that originally started in Mexico City in 2012. The idea came from a few entrepreneurs getting together to share stories of business success and failures in order to learn from each other in a real and honest way. Six years later, Fuckup Nights now happen in over 250 cities across eighty countries all over the world. I experienced by first Fuckup Night when I was living in Tel Aviv and quickly realized that no one was doing them in Toronto when I returned home. To get it going, I applied for a license to run the events, went through an interview process and developed a vision for where I wanted to take the events in Toronto. While I had no previous experience in event planning or community building prior, my passion for what the event was all about really got me through. I figured that I might as well try to get it going. The worst thing that I could do is fuck it up right?
What have you learned about how to build a community?
The most important thing has been the need to really listen. You need to be taking input from the people who you are looking to engage and really get to know their needs. We do that through soliciting feedback through anonymous surveys and speaking with our community members one- on-one during events to make sure that we have a pulse on how our events are coming off. It’s all about delivering an experience that people are excited to keep coming back for.
What were some of the most important business lessons you have had to learn the hard way? How have they enabled your success?
Fuckup Nights has really taught me about the value of having a great team. When I first started, I did almost everything by myself, and while I was able to pull off the event, I ended up burning myself out in the process and it became more of an event than a community building initiative. Building a strong team who have complementary skill sets allows you to learn how to delegate effectively and manage larger scopes of work. That being said, you need to make sure you are working around what the team as a whole, and the team members as individuals, want to accomplish.
Secondly, whether you are in corporate, in a startup or have your own business, you need to make time to take care of yourself. Eat right, book time to think and have fun. If you don’t do those things, you are going to burn out and not be successful. I learned that first hand. After you’ve worked a certain number of hours in the week, you start to become less effective.
What does leadership look like to you and how does the next generation need to start thinking differently about leadership?
You don’t have to be in a position of authority to lead. No matter where you are in any organization, you can always find those opportunities to lead and take initiative. I think we also need to get very clear on what it means to be a leader and what it means to be a manager. A leader is someone who is going to be in the trenches with their team and be working alongside others to get hard work done. A manager is someone who mostly delegates the work and watches over their team in order to get something done. Always strive to be a leader, not a manager.
What would be your one piece of advice for those in the workforce today to get ahead and find work that is fulfilling?
Make sure to keep your mind open to different kinds of opportunities. Don’t necessarily take the first job that is offered to you or safest path. Always be focused on where you will learn the most. No matter what you end up doing, don’t simply just do what is asked. If that is what you do, you will never really move ahead. Also, continue to work on building your personal brand through things like side hustles to expand your learning. Lastly, find different kinds of mentors. They don’t even need to be people who you have real world access to. Books and podcasts are such great resources for gaining new knowledge. Some great advice around finding mentors which has helped me is that you should find two great mentors. One who is ahead of you in where you want to be and another who is just behind you. Doing that allows you to learn from multiple perspectives and give back at the same time.