September 2, 2021
A professional swimmer turns public servant, turns startup mentor, turns a startupper. This is the career trajectory of Herol Marjak, an Estonian who got his double Bachelor's degree (International Relations and Affairs + History) in the US. It sounds like serendipity that he is now working at an American-Estonian startup.
Let's get to know the man, shall we?
What made you join Brainbase?
It was serendipity, really. I was among the people who lost their jobs during the first wave of the pandemic. I worked for the past couple of years as the project manager at the European Innovation Academy. The Academy provides entrepreneurial education in the form of an accelerator. It is an Estonian venture but aimed at foreign universities and students. The program enables students to build their first startup within 15 days. My job planted in me the desire to work at a startup one day - I met so many inspirational mentors and speakers that I wanted to get my hands “dirty,” too. So getting laid off was a lucky strike. I set a goal to get a job as a product manager at a startup company. I was looking around for a couple of months, and I was picky, too, until I saw a job ad by Brainbase. The ad wasn't too revealing; I read through their webpage and some interviews with the founders and decided to apply. My main reasoning was:
- Global reach - meaning an international team, global clients, and a global ambition. I do love Estonia, but I do not see myself working where Estonians are making products or services for Estonians only.
- Innovativeness - to boldly go where no man has gone before and make one's path. Licensing industry isn't exactly known for innovative companies. But now there is Brainbase, and I love the feeling of being ahead of the curve, of being a pioneer.
- The will to put my theoretical knowledge to practice. European Innovation Academy gave me an excellent base on how to build and grow startups. I itched to put it to practice in real situations with real consequences.
How long was the hiring process?
It was swift. From an application till getting an offer - around 2.5 weeks, I´d say.
Did the licensing industry part speak to you?
Well, the client base did - Hello Kitty, Buzzfeed, Moomin, MGM, to name a few. I also noticed Brainbase is (partly) an LA-based startup, and the idea to work in the US appealed to me. I also knew the intellectual property and its importance in the tech industry - so I saw the market potential.
How do you think Brainbase is changing the licensing industry?
In lack of a better word - we are disrupting the industry. Companies use several tools for licensing, and it is time-consuming and messy, and a lot of them have clunky UI and UX. We have aggregated these tools in one place and put a friendly UI and UX on top of it.
What motivates you?
Our team. We support each other. Of course, sometimes we´re all Negative Nancys, too, but overall we are all great team players - the job is done when the team has finalized a project, a deadline, a task.
What makes you passionate about Brainbase?
Our impressive client base. And also the challenges this job offers day-to-day. The startup lifestyle means that you are out of your comfort zone constantly. It is not easy, but you have to realize that this is where the development happens. So all that you achieve gives a real kick - I did it!
What does a typical workday look like for you?
I am managing one product out of three that Brainbase has. My product is called Assist - it is software meant for corporations to manage contracts, partners, their IPs, sales, product development, etc. I started at Brainbase more like a project manager, but I´ve morphed into a proper product manager now - with a mission to find out what our clients want and see whether other clients could use the same features.
If we are talking agenda-wise, my days mostly look like this:
7:30 - 8:30 - Workout, mostly gym;
8:30 - 9 - Breakfast;
9-10 - Standups and team rallies;
10-12 - Focused work, this is the most productive period hence the hardest things I plan here;
12-13 - Lunch and a short walk;
13-15 - Second focused work the day;
15-16 - Lighter pockets and a short walk;
16-17 - Replying to messages (Slack, email), summarizing the day;
17-20 - Speeches and rallies with the United States, a few days long, a few days shorter, but generally something every day;
22 - Workday wraps up, dinner + spending time with my partner (TV, theater, cinema, going for a walk, etc.);
22 - 23:00 - Setting up to sleep and reading in bed.
The best book you read lately and would recommend to others?
Favorite place to eat, have a drink, or enjoy some culture in Tallinn?
Well, if you´d ask where our team goes for lunch the most, I´d say Kochi Aidad because this is where you´ll find us 80% of the time. But my recommendation is the Viru burger - once you try it, you won't want anything else. I'm hooked on it, which is quite tragic. Another great place to hang out, eat and grab a drink is the Põhjala Tap Room.
Do you have any after-work hobbies/activities?
Working out. I don't practice anything exciting; I just go to the gym. But I used to swim professionally for seventeen years. And I try to squeeze some walks into my working days, too - even if it is only 15-20 minutes.
Another cool thing I recommend is trying out the Pomodoro technique - it is a time management method using a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.
Why would you recommend someone to apply to Brainbase?
If you want to have a job that provides you significant challenges in the tech field - then Brainbase is for you. Plus, we will be having a very cool office near the port soon with all the bells and whistles one would expect in a startup - resting areas with Playstation, therapy dogs (joking!), and whatnot. But on a more serious note, I think we have unicorn potential, so you should hop on before the ride gets really fast!