There are many factors to consider when deciding upon your next career move but one of the most important to consider is the type of company you would ideally like to work for. There are many different types of companies to consider when looking and just to highlight the key differences we will be examining the two ends of the scale, small start-up companies and the big global giants.
There are a few things to consider when looking at the experience gained from working within a small start-up software company in comparison to a recognised global company. The range of experience gained and the responsibilities held in that time are major factors to consider when weighing up whether to go for a big name rather than a start-up.
In a global company, they have targets to hit, and shareholders expect returns and more people working towards their goals. In order to do this effectively they require processes, clear progression paths and universal understanding of goals and targets. When you begin your role in one of these companies those values are instilled in you early on, you garner experience in thinking about a global identity which you cannot acquire in a small start-up company, at least in the early days. The skills they will teach you are tried and tested, there is a reason this global company has done as well as it has and they are experienced in maintaining this standard.
The issue with these set in stone practices is that often your career could be pigeonholed into a specific skill set. A large company usually hires people to do very specific roles and there may be limited opportunities to expand your responsibilities without spending a great deal of time in the role. In a start-up company it is completely the opposite. If you join the company early, you will often be part of a single digit team and have to pick up a range of responsibilities to fill a role that is ever changing and evolving. If you want to gain a wide set of skills in a short amount of time then a start-up company is the best for you. It is a steep learning curve as it is a continuously changing environment but you can hone your responsibility, knowledge and efficiency in such a demanding environment. The results can be a lot more rewarding than that of a global company, with the opportunity of being able to access more technologies and creatively solve problems rather than following an existing, repetitive process.
Start-ups often offer an alternative to the corporate world. The offices are generally more casual, with a more familiar feel to the working environment. The directors and owners of the company are usually working alongside the rest of the team, this means not only are the relationships between the entirety of the team a lot closer but you have direct contact with the highest levels of the company and opportunities to learn from them. This is often what people quote as a major factor for remaining in these companies. In a global software company, the environment naturally varies. The leadership teams will have little to no contact with an entry level employee as there are many intermediaries between them and this can lead to a disconnect within the company and the teams within. Corporate businesses often have more leisure facilities, better offices and social events than a start-up company can offer.
There is also the option of autonomy. Lack of autonomy is often cited as the main reason developers leave companies. Being micromanaged and not allowed to pursue creative solutions can discourage keen individuals who have a passion for what they do. Start-ups offer the opportunities to explore unique and innovative solutions as you are largely given the freedom to make the role what you wish. In a larger company, the processes are set in place and you have little room for variation, these processes are well tested so need for creative solutions is not usually necessary.
Something else to consider is the Work/Life balance offered in both settings. In larger companies you will have set hours that you will largely not deviate from, the same cannot be said for a start-up company. In the early days of a business, you might be expected to put in longer hours to ensure all the necessary work is done before you go home. The hours can be long and irregular as most individuals entering the company in this stage have a wide set of responsibilities and feel as though they must be ‘on call’ almost 24/7.
Security and progression
After examining various discussion boards the main concern with start-ups is that they lack security. A lot of them promise to be the next big name but it’s simply impossible for that to be true for everyone. One user noted ‘They are quick to hire and quick to fire’ because if anything goes wrong they will not hesitate to release recently acquired. Funding is often an issue with start-up companies and they simply cannot offer the consistent benefits and pay rises that a more corporate business offers. The draw of start-ups are not for the initial financial impact, there is obviously always a chance that this is the next big thing and by investing your time early on in the business it will pay off in the long run but it is a risk. This being said, if they want to attract the best talent then they still must offer competitive rates. If the excitement of uncertainty isn’t for you then a more established company can offer you better benefits. They have hired you for a very specific role and, so long as you perform that to their expectations, you can remain in that role for as long as you would like. They are able to offer the competitive salaries and benefits that some start-ups simply cannot afford. These larger companies wish for you to stay and they invest in you as an individual to ensure that is the case, from being able to encourage further study to fully funding further education in some cases.
The Power of a Name.
It would be foolish not to acknowledge the reputation that a big name attracts. Once that name is on your CV it makes it seem as though you are pre-vetted and have achieved a higher standard within your career. Working within these larger companies also gives you access to a larger network of successful peers who are often at the top in their respective fields. This is a risk when considering a start-up. It could be the next big thing but it is a very heavy ‘could’. If you devote your time in these early start ups and they do make it big you can often end up in a very senior position earlier in your career than you would be in a larger company.
Overall, both have their benefits and drawbacks. Start-ups offer exciting opportunities for creative individuals to really make a difference in their industries, but it comes with not ideal working times and not a lot of job security. Whereas the bigger, global software companies offer financial and job security over a longer period of time, but can lead to your skills being narrow and focussed on a very specific role. Both suit very different people and offer unique opportunities not found in the other. What are your own opinions on this? Are there other major differences that should have been included?