Rising Pro

Rising PROfile: Appstem CEO Robert Armstrong

Robert Armstrong isn’t afraid of a taking a risk. Appstem

Originally from Thousand Oaks, CA, Robert graduated from Chico State with a degree in Business Marketing in 2003. He got his first job in San Diego and then moved to San Francisco in 2005 to work at Oracle in applications sales. By 2009, he was looking for a new challenge and was met with an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

In 2010, Robert took a huge risk and left his comfortable job to start a mobile design and development firm, Appstem, with his friend and co-founder Hart Woolery. With a keen eye on the growing app market, Robert and Hart quickly established two offices in each of their respective cities, Robert in San Francisco and Hart in San Diego. Five years later, Appstem is a thriving company with an impressive client roster and plans to expand in other locations.

Over the years, Robert has learned a lot about what it takes to run a successful startup and notes the difference between working at a company verses running one.

“You do a lot more and get exposure to a lot more. At big companies you have so many different departments, which enables you to focus on the specific task you were hired for. At really big companies (like Oracle) you even have specialists within each department. At a startup you don’t have that kind of support, but you get experience doing a ton of different things, which enables you to learn a lot. Personally, I like it a lot better.”

Although running a startup comes with an extremely busy schedule and working across multiple departments, he cites freedom as one of the biggest perks.

“You make can decisions that drive the company. You have the ability to hire the people around you that you want and create the company culture.”

Robert runs a lean team of mainly software engineers and spends most of his time monitoring active projects and managing the pipeline of upcoming projects.

“A large majority of the work we do at Appstem is designing and developing iOS and Android apps. Some of our clients include Tesla Motors, Kaiser Permanente, Genentech, Johnson & Johnson, Caesars Entertainment, Hearst Corporation and Lionsgate to name a few. We also work with a lot of startups, which is exciting, sometimes creating their very first product.”

With a growing list of impressive clients, Robert says Appstem is currently looking to hire more mobile app developers (contact him here if you’re interested).

Robert has accomplished a lot in a short amount of time and says he is constantly inspired by anyone who starts their own company.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty leaving a paying job in hopes you’ll be successful. I didn’t have a mentor, but was lucky to have a partner who’s extremely smart and level-headed.”

His advice to Rising Pros thinking about starting their own company is simple.

“Do it! The sooner you do it the easier it will be. Life will happen and if it’s something you’re interested in you’ll wish you gave it a try. It may work, it may not and that’s ok. My advice; be lean and mean, and protect your cash. I see a lot of people spending money on unnecessary things.”

Outside of running a successful startup, Robert enjoys being active; exercising, snowboarding and golfing whenever he can, and he also loves to travel and watch documentaries. As a young, ambitious CEO of a growing company, Robert shows us how taking risks can lead to success.

Learn more about Appstem and its offerings here, and connect with Robert on LinkedIn to pick his brain about starting your own company.

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Albert Cheng Joins Rising Pro

Since 2010, I’ve been running Rising Pro solo. But I’m happy to announce that Albert Cheng is joining the team as a contributing podcaster.

Rising Pro

Albert is a Program Manager at YouTube, and is also currently getting his MBA at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Learn more about him here.

Albert is heading the new podcast section of the site, where he will be posting audio interviews with young professionals from all types of industries. In his first interview, Albert speaks with Wells Fargo VP Rome Thorndike about career advice, sports and investing. You can listen to these interviews by selecting the ‘Podcast’ tab at the top of the site, or by clicking here.

Check out the new section of our site, listen to a podcast and share your feedback with Albert in the comments section so he can continually improve the content.

I’m so excited to have Albert on the team and we’re both looking forward to providing resources and advice on how to keep rising in your career.

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Episode 1 – Career Advice, Sports and Investing with Rome Thorndike

In the inaugural episode of the Rising Pro podcast, I discuss a wide range of topics with Rome over a bottle of Japanese whiskey.

Sorry about the distorted audio – we’ve figured out the issue and it will be better next time.

Please send your feedback in the comments below!

Download – 36MB

Show Notes

Two minor errors:
1. Norwest acquired Wells Fargo in 1998, not 1997
2. The author of 48 Laws of Power is Robert Greene, not Tim Greene


Rome’s Recommendations:
Financial investing site: http://www.finviz.com/

Billionaire investment tracker: http://www.ibillionaire.me/

The 48 Laws of Power

How To Win Friends and Influence People

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Love Your Job or Break Up

Love is in the air. Heart

As Valentine’s Day approaches, the presence of love seems more apparent than ever and it appears everyone in a relationship is drunk in love. But is that really the case, or are some people just settling?

Staying in a job that’s not right for you is like staying in a relationship with someone you’re not in love with.

You want to get out of it, but you’re comfortable and afraid of the unknown. This mindset can be crippling and can lead to settling for a job that’s ‘good enough.’

My advice: never settle.

Don’t get stuck doing something you don’t love for years on end; be brave and move on to pursuing something that you know is right and can pour your whole soul into.

And don’t feel bad, your company will move on too. Now they will have the opportunity to find an employee who is actually passionate about working for them.

If you know in your heart that a job isn’t for you, don’t settle and stick with it because you’re too afraid to move on and see what else is out there. By doing so, you could be missing out on better opportunities and end up regretting your decision down the line.

If your heart’s not in it, break up with your job and find your true passion.

Tell me about a time when you refused to settle and pursed a better job (or relationship). 

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Be Kind

People can be really mean, especially in the business world.

Over the course of my young career, I’ve worked with a lot of really kind, helpful professionals from many industries. However, there is also that occasional ‘professional’ who can be rude, condescending or just plain mean, for what appears to be no reason.

I absolutely hate conducting business with people who act this way. It’s extremely stress inducing, unpleasant and down right frustrating. But working with difficult people, whether clients or colleagues, is a reality in every workplace. Since you can’t avoid them, it’s essential that you always keep one important principle in mind:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

This goes both ways.

If you start to snap at a coworker, client or even your Barista for getting your order wrong, stop yourself, take a step back and consider what’s going on in the lives of the people around you. Maybe they’re going through a health issue, relationship problems, a death or maybe they’re having a rough day. You just never know, so always treat others with kindness, no matter how frustrated you get.

On the flip side, if you’re the one taking the heat, simply respond with kindness. I was once yelled at in front of some coworkers for making a small mistake. I responded by listening to my colleague, and responding in a calm, friendly voice (without being smug). This immediately changed the tone of the conversation and helped her see my point of view. Nine times out of 10, being kind will work in your favor.

Everyone gets frustrated with others at work and we all occasionally find ourselves on the receiving end of someone’s bad day, but remember that a little bit of kindness can make all the difference.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

 Are you kind?

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Three Thoughts from Joe Garvey

This week, I had a nice e-mail exchange with Joe Garvey, founder of San Francisco startup, Clash, a JoeGarvey_headshotcompany that challenges the status quo of team building for the likes of Apple, Google and FitBit with city-wide scavenger hunts that get coworkers out of their comfort zones.

I asked Joe three quick questions for my new series ‘Three Thoughts,’ which gives readers a peek inside the minds of smart and talented Rising Pros around the world.

 What podcast are you listening to and/or what book are you reading right now? 

I’m listening to the Serial podcast. It’s the first podcast I’ve ever listened to and it makes long drives seem short. I’m reading the book Raise the Bar, which is the foundation for bar economics. I opened a bar last year and there are countless nuances to running a successful venue that it harps on – how lighting drives sales, that liquor reps will pay you not to carry a competitors brand, what the goal of interior design is, and how important security is.

What was your worst job, and what was the best lesson you took away from it?

My worst job was as a legal assistant at an immigration law firm that dealt with asylum cases. I was fired after 3 weeks. It made me realize I’m not meant for a desk job.

What do you want to be remembered for 4o years from now?

I’d like to be remembered for being unpredictable and kinda crazy.

Check out Joe’s company Clash for ‘Team Building That Doesn’t Suck’ and grab an expertly crafted cocktail at his bar, Romper Room, the next time you’re by Union Square in San Francisco.

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Rising Pro

How to Be Successful by Staying Healthy

I always leave work right at 5:30 p.m.

It’s not that I’m a clock watcher or don’t have more work I could do. It’s because I know my downtime is one of the most important aspects of being successful.

We all want to perform well, stand out and get respect from our boss. But that doesn’t have to come at the price of your personal well-being. This concept is especially hard for young professionals to grasp because they are hungry to learn and want to prove themselves in the workplace. But not allowing yourself the time to take care of yourself can work against you.

Deepak Chopra, M.D., an American bestselling author, public speaker, and prominent alternative medicine advocate, recently wrote on the topic of mastering self-care as a busy professional.

“…don’t let the work overwhelm you. Don’t compare yourself with others to your detriment. Avoid unproductive stress, the kind that has no beneficial outcome. Don’t let your relationships suffer from the job. Don’t bring your work home if you can help it.”

As a renown physician and businessman, his advice makes you think twice about what really makes you successful in your career.

I believe you need to work hard, but also allow time to recharge so you continue to stay productive and passionate about your work. Here are a few ways I manage to stay healthy and successful.

  • Don’t be a slave to your e-mail 
      Unless I have a specific client matter I need to attend to, I don’t check e-mail on my way to the office or after I leave for the day. This helps me unwind and eliminates unneeded stress.
  • Take breaks
      Don’t stay in the office all day. Get out for at least 30 minutes and take a walk, window shop or grab some lunch. Taking some time to recharge will help you be more productive throughout the day.
  • Reward yourself after a long day
      I give myself something to look forward to every day after work. From a relaxing yoga class, to dinner with a girlfriend, to watching a few of my favorite shows, I make sure to reward myself for working hard.
  • Exercise
      I cannot say enough about exercise as a stress reliever. There has never been an instance where I have regretted working out after a long, stressful day. It’s one of the best ways to reenergize and prepare for a new work day.

Being successful doesn’t mean long hours and constantly being plugged in. If you work hard during your normal hours, but also make the time to take care of yourself, you’ll always come out on top.

How do you take care of yourself and stay successful?

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Tips for Hosting a Successful Networking Event

Last week, I hosted my first networking event for PRSA San Francisco at MSLGROUP, and the feedback was unanimous; it was one of the best PRSA networking events.

As the organizations’ new event’s director, I wanted to start the year off with a bang and host an event that would get people excited about networking and come to more PRSA events in 2015.

When I started planning, I thought about all the best aspects of each mixer I’ve attended, and developed a must-have list for the event. After meticulous planning, and a lot of help from MSLGROUP, I was hopeful my event would be a memorable.

I was right.

Within 10 minutes, I knew this networking event was a success. Attendees were coming up to me left and right saying how much fun they were having and how the venue made networking more pleasurable.



After the event, I took all the feedback and compiled six tips for planning a successful networking event:

  1. Pick an appropriate venue: I hate networking in a cramped bar that’s loud and dark. I hosted my event in an office because it’s quieter and you have control over the lights and space. This proved to be one of the biggest pros of the event. We piped in ambient music, introduced colored mood lighting and set up the networking area in a large space were people could wander between conversations. It’s also important to pick a place that’s easy to get to from public transportation.
  2. Help promote the conversation: I made sure to help people connect in two ways. First, I created colorful name tags that included two blank spaces; one for ‘Name’ and one that said, ‘Ask me about…’ to give attendees an icebreaker. Secondly, I personally introduced attendees I knew had similar interests, which resulted in long conversations and follow-up meetings.
  3. Get your food and alcohol covered: Since MSLGROUP sponsored the event, they footed the bill for food and drinks. That meant endless beer and wine poured by staff and delicious appetizers, which wowed guests and made them stay much longer. Even if you don’t have a sponsor, using your budget for alcohol and food expenses is a good way to get people to come and stay longer.
  4. Establish a flow: If you have enough room, don’t put all your food and drinks in one place. We had the bar at one end of the event space and the food at the other. This forced people to circulate and meet more attendees to get the most out of their experience.
  5. Don’t do everything on your own: I made sure to enlist the help of MSLGROUP in ordering food and drinks, setting up and overall logistics. This made my life so much easier and freed me up to check in with attendees, jump around the event and not feel (or look) stressed out.
  6. Document the event: I was fortunate enough to utilize MSLGROUP’s resident photographer who helped capture the event. The next day, he provided me with beautiful photos to post on social media and PRSA’s website, so everyone could relive the night online. This is also a great way to encourage those who missed the event to attend the next one. If you don’t have a photographer for your event, document the fun with a smartphone camera and encourage attendees to take their own photos and share them online.

Hosting the first PRSA networking event of 2015 was so much fun, and I’m so glad attendees had such a great networking experience. I’m excited to apply these tips to all my upcoming events and I hope you find them helpful too. (See more event photos here)

 Do you have more tips for planning a successful networking event?

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Rising Pro Celebrates 5 Years with a New Look

I can’t believe it’s been five years since I started the Rising Pro blog.

I remember writing my first post on a friend’s couch as a student/intern in college. I felt like it marked my entry into the professional world, and I was excited to see where it would take me and how it could help others.

Five years later, I’m now writing my blog as a professional with extensive work experience in marketing and public relations. Over the years I’ve noticed that as my career has evolved, so has my content. Therefore, I decided it was time for a change in 2015.

In celebration of Rising Pro’s five-year anniversary, I completely revamped the look and feel of the blog. Get the full experience here. I really hope you enjoy the new format and I’m excited to bring you more insightful posts in 2015, inspired by workplace experiences and challenges.

I’m also open to content suggestions. If you have a post idea or want to write a guest post in 2015, submit your ideas here.

Thanks for your continued readership and I look forward to another five years!

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