Why you should work at a Startup
An introduction to the startup environment and an overview of the positives and negatives of working on one from a Software Engineer’s perspective.
What is a startup?
A startup is a company in the first stages of operation. They normally expect a high growth rate fueled by multiple investment rounds starting at a pre-seed up until series C and beyond in some cases. They are characterized by being innovative and having a high failure rate estimated at 90%.
How does it compare to a large, established enterprise?
Working at a startup will feel very distinct from working on a large enterprise. You will be more of a generalist than a specialist (at least in earlier stages). There will be a lot less bureaucracy. Something that would take months to get taken care of in a large enterprise can be a matter of days in a startup as you can easily talk directly to the people in charge to get things done.
More responsibility, opportunities to learn new tools and technologies, and flexible time schedules are other benefits.
Things will move fast. In one year the product can change drastically or the team can scale to double its size. It is an unpredictable environment with exciting stuff happening all the time.
Sure it isn’t all roses — You might need to work more hours sporadically or the startup may fail and you will lose any compensation in the form of equity. Also associated with the responsibility comes more stress.
Some may also dislike the lack of structure and the instability but those are debatable. In terms of structure and processes, you get to help build it from the ground up. In terms of instability, the market for Software Engineers in 2022 is booming with strong professionals being sent multiple interview requests every week in work-related networks like LinkedIn. So even if the company fails for whatever reason, you probably will not be left in unemployment for long.
My first-hand experience is that it will be as rewarding as it is challenging. I had less than a year of professional experience and had to figure out things like how to do technical interviews, or how to build a CI/CD pipeline from the ground up. It is fast-paced and you learn like you wouldn’t anywhere else. The downside is that you will have less guidance from more experienced people — you will learn more by doing your own research and carefully planned attempts than by anything else.
What is expected from you?
If you are planning on having someone telling you everything you have to do, working at a startup is not for you. You are expected to be proactive. Bring a new angle to the discussion and be acquainted with the problems your company’s product is facing at each step. You are not there to be just one more, you are there to be innovative and impactful.
How to assess a startup before joining?
Some of the factors you can look at when assessing startups are:
- Their product and how it fits the market
- Current market evaluation and funding
- Years since it was founded
- Number of employees
- Earnings and Revenue
- Percentage of people by department: tech, legal, marketing, sales, etc.
All of these together will give you a perspective of the phase the startup is in and how well it is growing. Try to understand how these factors changed over the last few years to make a decision before joining a new adventure.
As in any other company, there are some better than others. To make a good decision you will have to make sure you interview the company as much as they interview you. Additionally, make sure you are going to be paid at market value. This can be in base salary or with added equity and benefits.
The big question: Should you join a startup?
As always, it depends! Are you a driven person who loves learning and investing in your professional growth? Do you like to have a close feel of the impact your work makes on a product and its clients? Are you willing to put in the work and have the responsibility to grow with the startup?
If the answers are yes, well, then maybe you should give it a go and see how it feels. For me, the advantages surpass the disadvantages. I would love to know what you think.