Meet the team

How E-Commerce Startup Gooten Sets Its Employees Up For Growth, Leadership and Success

By Chinue Ellis

Last updated: Feb 15, 2023

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The Org sat down with the President of e-commerce technology company Gooten to learn more about how its team helps their employees navigate career growth and leadership at an early-staged startup.

Setting up first-time managers for success

Today, Alcala leads a department of 55 employees, and she likes to take what she’s learned from her own experience growing at the company and use it to help her direct reports achieve their career goals. “As much as possible, particularly when we're looking for more senior positions, we try to look within our team first before hiring externally. So there are definitely a lot of internal growth opportunities at Gooten,” Alcala said. “At this point, I think I have eight people on my team who actually started as junior customer support agents, answering tickets and are now in senior positions.”

In 2022 alone, Gooten has promoted three more people of its total 87 employees into leadership roles. However, for many employees at startups, climbing up the corporate ladder gives way to a new challenge: learning how to lead as a first-time manager. “I love working with first-time managers because it is a thing very near and dear to my heart because I got the opportunity to be a first-time manager and a lot of people helped me and so I want to pay that forward as much as possible,” Alcala said. One of the biggest challenges that she often sees first-time managers face is combatting imposter syndrome as they transition into a leadership role.

Many times in smaller companies, first-time managers are moving to a position where they're managing people who were previously their peers. At the same time, they usually don’t have a peer group because there aren’t multiple team leads who have the same responsibilities. This presents the difficult challenge of navigating being an authoritative figure while still wanting to be liked in the workplace.

“I spend a lot of time with confidence building and giving people the tools to be more comfortable stepping into a position of authority,” Alcala said. “A large part of that is helping new managers to trust their instincts, letting them know that it’s okay to make mistakes and encouraging them to ask for help.”

One of the first things that Alcala helps new managers to do is set clear expectations with their team around individual performance measurement, team goals, working hours and their preferred communication style. Another way that Alcala supports newly promoted team leads is by helping them to identify support systems and peer groups both internally and externally. Lastly, Alcala always encourages her employees to realize that management is not one-size-fits-all. “All managers need to figure out their style and that's going to take time. Not only that, but they also need to figure out how to adjust that style to every person that they're leading because everybody likes to be managed in different ways,” she said.

At the end of the day, every working professional has a job because they need a paycheck. However, being able to work at an organization where there is a good level of personal support, consistent growth and strong relationships being built is what makes many employees truly find the work rewarding. “I love the industry that we're in and I believe that we're really solving big problems in the space,” Alcala said. “But I show up to work every day because I like who I work with and I want to see them successful.”

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