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Rising Profile: Albert Cheng Switches to Startup

AlbertAlbert Cheng has a sweet spot for startups.

He got his first taste of the startup culture at Elemental Technologies, a video solutions company in his hometown of Portland, OR, after graduating from the University of Illinois in Computer Engineering.

Although he loved the fast-paced environment, when the opportunity to bring his video streaming knowledge to Google came along, Albert didn’t hesitate to make the move.

His first job there was to ensure Google was able to live stream the company’s most critical events, including executive all hands meetings and product launches. He transferred to YouTube less than two years later to collaborate with major sports leagues to showcase their highlights. Then he worked with an engineering team to design, build, and launch YouTube Gaming, a dedicated site and app for watching gaming content.

But after five years working in a variety of challenging roles, Albert had a realization. 

“In the back of my head, as much as I loved working at Google, I was itching to re-join a startup where I could impact the bottom line and drive the strategic direction.”

So Albert decided to make another move, but this time from a large, stable company, to a growing, San Francisco transportation startup, Chariot, as Head of Product. Although scary, Albert decided to make the move just a month ago and is already noticing the major differences.

“The day-to-day at a startup is very ambiguous. I have to be comfortable with writing specs, designing user workflows and shipping new features in the face of uncertainty every day. We use weekly sprints and constantly push the envelope. I enjoy moving fast!”

Although it’s been around since 2014, people are still learning what Chariot is all about, so I asked Albert to explain.

“Your work commute sets the tone for how your day goes, and chances are you’re unhappy with it. Chariot solves this problem by creating and operating a crowdfunded network of routes that are fast, reliable, affordable and comfortable.”

But how much does it cost and is it only in San Francisco?

“Chariot accepts commuter benefits and has monthly passes, which can lower your cost to under $3/ride. We are mostly in SF right now but are expanding throughout the Bay Area and will be launching in other cities soon. See if there’s a route for you, download the app, and use the promo code FREEWEEK to give it a try!”

Albert’s first order of business is building out the product and design teams.

“I want to create a collaborative environment where we can be highly productive and create a service that our riders love. Nothing I’ll do at Chariot is more important than hiring the best people possible and empowering them to succeed. The transportation industry is changing rapidly, and Chariot is well-positioned to be the best solution for commuters across the country. We’re only 15 full-time employees, so it’s an appealing time right now to set the foundation for how we’ll expand the service and grow the culture.” 

Aside from growing the Chariot team, he’s also working on some exciting projects, including Chariot Direct, a reverse commute option that serves even more types of customers. While many commuters head to SF’s financial district for work, the reverse commute opens up many new possibilities for other populations, like hospital workers and students who work at UCSF, retail workers in the Marina district, and firefighters in the Presidio.

It’s clear that Albert is passionate about what he does and is well-suited for the startup culture. As such, he has some advice for aspiring startup employees to consider.

“Startups will give a few questions more weight than big companies. First, do you believe in the mission of the company? Be able to clearly articulate the pain point that they are trying to solve and ideally how it has impacted your life. Secondly, are you able to do a lot of things reasonably well? Demonstrate that you’re a generalist and are able to provide value in lots of areas. Finally, is a startup the right thing for the stage in your career? Compared to a big company, you get paid less and work more hours. Make sure that you truly are prepared to grind it out in search of learning a lot and having a big impact.”

Whether it’s receiving his MBA from UC Berkeley, regularly meeting with mentors, reading articles on Medium and business books, like Chaos Monkeys, Play Bigger and The Outsiders, and even being a guest contributor on Rising Pro, Albert is always looking for new ways to rise in his career.

“I’ve always been anxious about making changes in my career, but they seem to work out and help position myself for greater responsibilities. It’s important to take stock of where you’re at and occasionally be willing to jump if the time is right. Here’s an interesting article on the four dimensions of job fulfillment, which is a useful exercise to go through. Sometimes you have to be uncomfortable to make progress. But anyway, I’ve got my hands full with Chariot right now doing what I can to make the company as successful as possible!”

If you’re interested in learning more or working at Chariot, take a look at openings here and e-mail or connect with Albert on LinkedIn

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